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Opinion

Opinion

Film paints infuriating picture

June 1, 2011

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I don’t normally talk about films in this column because I am neither an expert nor do I get out to see very many in theaters. But this past weekend I watched the HBO film “Too Large to Fail.” I was immensely impressed by the movie and found it difficult to pause it even to use the restroom.

I was also absolutely infuriated. Even if the portrayal of the events involving the Lehman Brothers investment bank failure and the circumstances surrounding the bank bailouts are only partially accurate, they are far beyond anything which this nation has experienced in generations. That the principal players involved, ranging from the bankers themselves, to the Treasury to Congress, are still flourishing today is reprehensible.

As the final moments of the film pointed out, the United States is still experiencing massive unemployment while the investment bankers are reaping unprecedented financial rewards, the key congressional players are still making policy for the United States, and the Treasury and Federal Reserve officials, who so botched the crisis, either remain in power or have retired or moved onto lucrative new positions.

I came away from the movie thinking that Bernie Madoff and his giant Ponzi scheme were nothing compared to the financial maneuvers of America’s large investment banks. How is it that the men and women who literally brought down the American economy are still walking around free and continuing to be paid astronomical sums, having suffered no punishment for their misdeeds?

I wonder whether the film might more accurately have been called “Too Rich and Powerful to Be Punished?” Is there not something wrong with a legal and political system which puts people in prison for stealing $100 from a grocery store, but lets folks who steal billions from the nation walk around free? I found myself almost choking when the Treasury officials started to talk about “moral hazard.” It seems very unlikely to me that anyone involved in the 2008 financial crash even has any concept of morality.

The effects of the misdeeds of America’s investment bankers continue to be felt across the nation today. Unemployment is continuing at a far higher level than it should be. States and municipalities verge on bankruptcy. Much of the lost savings of those caught in the crash of 2008 has yet to be recouped. The American and world economies are beginning to improve, but we’re far from fully recovered.

And what of the so-called “moral hazard” that contributed to the events of 2008? Have the bankers and the traders paid a high price for their actions? Are there sufficient legal deterrents to curb “moral hazard?” The answer, of course, is “no.”

Americans have short memories. We tend to forget things we need to remember. But if we forget what happened in 2008 and allow the people who brought that economic disaster to continue in power and continue to reap profits from their misdeeds, then it will happen again. I think the new film may help us to remember. Perhaps, it may even spur the American people to force our leaders to finally do what is necessary. For this, HBO should be congratulated. If you haven’t seen “Too Big to Fail,” you should.

Mike Hoeflich, a distinguished professor in the Kansas University School of Law, writes a regular column for the Journal-World.

Comments

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

You commented: "But if we forget what happened in 2008"

Good one. But there's another one: "But if we forget what happened in 1929."

Or maybe: "But if we forget what happened in 1907."

Or of course: "But if we forget what happened in 1893."

Or: "But if we forget what happened in 1857."

"The more things change, the more they remain the same." "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" - Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

You certainly were correct when you commented: "Americans have short memories."

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

Although, I do think that this latest crisis looks like the biggest one of all!

Because, each citizen's share of the United State's debt is now $46,227.50.

And rising by the minute.

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

Here's what really bothers me: Some people (oh excuse me, I mean a lot of people) think nothing of walking away from a mortgage. What, their signature means nothing, and they don't even care?

Every time a piece of real estate is foreclosed upon or a short sale occurs, a lot of wealth simply vanishes. And, some people simply rack up their credit cards to the limit, and then quit paying. And, they consider that to be business as usual.

This can't end well.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

"There's nothing morally wrong with breaking a contract"

Really???

I guess you don't consider integrity an important moral principle.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 3 months ago

While there are occasionally instances where breaking a contract shows a lack of integrity/morals, in general, I have to agree with LO on this one.

As was noted, most contracts contain provisions for penalties for breaking the contact, and those provisions are just as much a part of the contract as are the rest of the provisions.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

The penalties exist because of the understanding that breaking the contract is a bad thing to do to the other party - that's why they're there.

Please give me some examples of contracts you feel it's fine to break.

If it's just a business decision, then I guess if the state reneges on their pension promises, that's fine with you?

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

I disagree.

A contract is a legally binding agreement on both parties - as such, to simply break it is to break your word and agreement.

Did you have a contract with McDonald's, one that continued indefinitely into the future, and specified the responsibility of both sides?

The fact that there are penalties for breaking the contract sort of makes my point.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

Nope.

A contract is a promise to do something in exchange for somebody else promising the same.

Breaking your promise is simply wrong, and often harms the other party - that's why you can be sued for breach of contract.

A lawyer's opinion about morality doesn't hold a lot of weight for me, sorry - they're experts on the law, not morality.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

Here's an example of "punitive damages" in a contract situation:

Landlords are supposed to return security deposits within 30 days of the tenant's leaving. If they don't do that, they often can face 2x or 3x the amount if taken to court. That does more than make the tenant whole, it punishes the landlord for the breach.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

More examples:

Contract for work done by contractors often includes penalties if the work isn't done by the date specified, which is a form of breach of contract.

If a landlord decided to renege on their end of a lease (which is a contract), can they not be sued for it, and made to pay damages?

What if a bank that lent you your mortgage suddenly decides to simply renege on it?

I'm really kind of surprised that you take the breaking of contracts so lightly - they're not worth much when people feel that way, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of them.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

That seems like a distinction without a difference to me.

"Breach of contract" is a claim that can be made in civil courts, is it not? That argues that breaking the contract is a bad thing to do, and compensates the other party.

Dissolving a contract when mutually agreed upon is a rather different matter, of course.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

Then you didn't have a clear contract.

If you have one, and breach it, you are doing something wrong, in my view.

A contract is an agreement, and a commitment - I take those sorts of things seriously.

Otherwise they're not worth the paper they're written on.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

I never had an agreement to work at a job for the rest of my life.

When I worked somewhere, I fulfilled my end of the agreement, which was to do the work.

I've never worked anywhere with a written employment contract, so I haven't had any experience with those, but I would be very careful to understand my obligations if I did.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

How is it that landlords can be made to give tenants multiples of their security deposit if it's not returned on time then?

Clearly punitive damages to me.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

By your logic, the following scenario would be acceptable:

You get a 30 yr fixed rate mortgage from a bank. Interest rates rise, and the bank says well, we can make more money now, so we'll just void your mortgage.

Absurd, isn't it?

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

Sure it would.

They void the mortgage, and demand their money back so they can lend it to someone else at a higher rate.

The contract was an agreement to lend you money at a given rate for a given time period - if it's ok to breach them, then they can simply change their minds.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

Technically true.

But, the contract is an agreement to lend money at a certain rate for a certain time period.

If breaching a contract isn't wrong, why can't the bank just change their mind, and no longer wish to abide by the terms of the contract?

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bad_dog 3 years, 3 months ago

Hmm, aren't Emanuel's legal outlines somewhat akin to the Cliff's Notes version of the law for students?

Punitive damages can be awarded in contractual cases where the breach is so egregious it arises to the level of an independent tort such as the breach of an insurance contract by an insurer, for example. This would require a finding such as the insurer breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, but plaintiffs allege, pursue and are awarded damages on this basis fairly frequently. Just ask Unum about the hazards of being found in breach of disabiity contracts or State Farm Auto about the Campbell case.

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bad_dog 3 years, 3 months ago

"Thanks for agreeing with me and restating things I've already said."

Yes, things you already said like: "No, it doesn't because punitive damages are not available." and "There's nothing morally wrong with breaking a contract. It's a business decision and nothing more."

The implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing disagrees with your opinion on the existence of punitive damages in contract cases and the role of morality therein as do scores of judges and juries.

Sigh. You're welcome.

Oh, and you had an employment contract to work at McDonald's? Really?

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bad_dog 3 years, 3 months ago

No apology due or tendered.

You took great pains above to explain that with respect to contracts: "Penalty is actually the wrong word and I should have picked a better one." You also stated above that "...punitive damages are not available." etc. as I've previously noted. Your words, not mine. So if there's any lying involved it's also yours.

Punitive or exemplary damages are "penalties" above and beyond the actual damages and are applicable to breaches of contracts that rise to the level of torts. They are there to punish or "penalize" if you will, a "wrongdoer" for their egregious conduct..

As for your career at McDonald's you had at most a verbal employment "agreement"-not a contract, per se. Your employee handbook likely took great pains to establish that the terms outlined therein did not constitute an "employment contract". Just how would you have enforced the terms of your "contract"? "Well Your Honor, Joe the night shift manager said I didn't have to clean the rest rooms"?

Face it. You've been caught with your pants down and don't particularly like the view.

Hasta la vista. I have no further interest in your prevarications.

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bad_dog 3 years, 3 months ago

"Seriously, it's infuriating..."

Good to know the shoe's on the other foot for once.

Once again, how are you going to enforce the terms of your verbal McDonald's employment "contract"? It's he said/she said, at best and I don't believe you will be any more persuasive there than here, no matter how many insults you want to sling.

If anyone is pompous and arrogant and likes to "parade around talking like you know something" it's you oh Prince of Pontification on everything legal, economic or politictal. I see you still refuse to address the punitive damages issue, yet you expect to convince anyone about your McDonald's "contract".

Now go back and read up on Emanuel's some more. Or is it "Emmanuelle" you've been perusing?

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bad_dog 3 years, 3 months ago

If anything, you should take a good long look in the mirror before labeling another as arrogant or pompous. From my perspective, you are nothing more than an egotistical, narcissistic, condescending, internet know it all. You post here solely to seek self-validation via exercises in verbal flatulence. You have no patience for the opinions or beliefs of others contrary to yours and those who differ are morons, idiots, arrogant fools, etc. You apparently exist here primarily to attempt to deride others with your inflated sense of self-inportance and psuedo-intellectualism.

Keep in mind, I didn't use selective quotes or lie about anything-I used your own words. The fact you don't like it is your problem and only further illustrates the world of denial you inhabit.

Tell you what. I'll make you a deal. You stop posting antagonistic blogs under the guise of "humor" and Clif Clavinesque comments and I will also stop posting comments. If that's not acceptable, then we know who the real troll is.

In the meantime, I really don't care what else you may have to say. Like I said above, you really need to take a long look in the mirror. If you can't stand the heat here, you'll never last in the real world. No Court will tolerate your behavior, antics or language and believe me, your patience will be tested much more significantly outside your dorm room.

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bad_dog 3 years, 3 months ago

^ Just what I expected. More name calling, more evasive denials, more BS from LO.

And you're correct about one thing; internet trolls like yourself can be annoying. Look in the mirror-if you dare omniscient one. I don't expect you to nor do I really care. Just thought I'd put it out there in the hope you would get introspective for once. Nah, not likely. In the meantime I'm still LMAO at you.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

Wow, looks like I really started something here!

"There's nothing morally wrong with breaking a contract. It's a business decision and nothing more."

Do you think that applies to marriage also?

And I wonder, what do you think the word "promise" means?

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

Oh, I misunderstood. I thought that the term "promissory note" somehow came from the word "promise".

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

He told me I was supposed to pay my bills.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

That's determined by the market at the point of sale, isn't it?

If you buy a house, and it goes down in value, you've been arguing the lower value is the "real" value.

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

Well, let's say you bought some stock in a company and borrowed some money in order to do it.

Is someone saying that if the value of the stock which you chose to buy on the free market goes down, you are not obligated to pay the money you borrowed in order to purchase it back?

Of course, you know that if you had a large capital gain on the stock that you bought with borrowed money, you wouldn't ever pay more than the agreed upon interest rate.

But, ever since the market crash in 1929, it's no longer legal to use stocks as collateral for bank loans because so many people had done it thinking that the market could only go up, exactly like so many people thought that real estate could only go up in the last decade. Although, you can still borrow money to buy stocks with a credit card.

Then when the stock market crashed in 1929, a lot of people didn't have any assets to cover their losses, just like the people that paid way to much when speculating on real estate did in the last decade. And, the bank losses begining in 1929 are directly attributable to that. And now, bank loss history has repeated itself in 2008 with the real estate crash.

So, if you had borrowed money on your credit card to purchase the stock, if it goes down, you expect the bank to cover your losses?

It's all a moot point anyway, because if you renege on a promissory note of any kind or a mortage on a piece of real estate, the lender can sue you and garnish your income or assets.

The only way out of that is bankruptcy. And that won't work for student loans or unpaid income tax, because debts to the federal government are not dischargeable through bankruptcy.

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

I don't work at a bank, I read history.

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

I did read an introductory Accounting text book, and was shocked at how simple of a subject it is. I should have majored in that instead of Electrical Engineering, because the concepts espoused in the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles are so very simple.

The Generally Accepted Accounting Principles are ever so much more simpler than 15 hours of Calculus, 3 hours of differential equations, physics, quantum physics, and then you are ready to begin your Electrical Engineering courses.

And then I read Warren Warren Buffet's letters to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, and then I was certainly convinced that I had made an incorrect decision so many years ago.

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Kendall Simmons 3 years, 3 months ago

There probably isn't a one of us who hasn't broken a promise at some point in our lives. We may have truly meant to keep that promise...but life intervened and we couldn't.

Breaking a promise by itself doesn't make us immoral people.

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

That's true, but it's immoral to consider intentionally doing that to be a business decision.

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jmadison 3 years, 3 months ago

Our political class in collusion with the big Wall Street money grubbers has been pulling the wool over the public's eyes for years, but more so since 2008. Consider that as part of the QE2 program, the Federal Reserve is paying large commissions to the investment banks so that the Federal Reserve can buy back Treasury bonds and bills that were issued a few weeks previously. The average investor gets nothing in return for buying Treasury bonds when you factor in the inflation that this program has caused. The big banks get an immediate return on investment courtesy of the commission fees they charge the Federal Reserve. Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan have followed in the footsteps of the robber barons of the early 20th century in their ability to fleece the public.

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cato_the_elder 3 years, 3 months ago

"I don’t normally talk about films in this column because I am neither an expert nor do I get out to see very many in theaters."

Mike, you should have followed your own advice and avoided watching this hatchet job of a "film," which, of course, poses as a documentary of sorts. For gosh sakes, you must know enough about Hollywood to know what kind of sensational propaganda is going to be promoted if HBO's doing it and Ed Asner's agreed to be in it. Wall Street's the enemy, and all the rest of of us are victims, right? How about the hundreds of thousands of "victims" who took out mortgages that they knew that they couldn't possibly afford to pay? How about the many "victims" who took out mortgages not only on homes they couldn't afford, but on second and even third vacation homes? These practices were rampant, but not because of Wall Street - it was because of government policy. And if you're incensed about how the Wall Street guys are doing now, it was government that allowed that to happen too.

I'm repulsed by the excesses of the large investment houses just as much as you are, but it must be remembered that none of this could possibly have happened without the grossly irresponsible lending practices of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, all of which was driven by politicians of both parties in Washington. The politicians knew full well that if you allow the money guys into the henhouse, you know what they're capable of doing. In reality, they were not only let in, but given a red carpet to walk in on. All you have to do is look up which politicians got the most Freddie and Fannie money and other favors (Christopher Dodd's Countrywide mortgage, for example) during the decades preceding the meltdown. While you're at it, check out how much money Obama got and where he ranked as a taker of Freddie and Fannie money after having served only two years in the U.S. Senate.

A previous poster reminds us that we forget about what happened earlier. What's most shocking about this entire debacle is that it took us virtually no time at all to forget about the S&L crisis of the '80s, which by the mid-'90s had cost the taxpayers $163 billion. Just as with the recent meltdown, everyone in the system played a part - but without government policy driving the train, the S&L train wreck never would have happened.

It must also be remembered that the one other act of government that most allowed the recent meltdown to occur was the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act - a repeal that was sponsored by Republicans and signed into law by William Jefferson Clinton.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 3 months ago

Yes, it was a failure of regulation-- but it was a failure that was bought and paid for by Wall Street.

And, yes, Fannie and Freddie were a significant part of the problem, but that's largely because each of them were largely allowed to go off on their own as de facto private organizations whose executives were allowed to function like any Wall Street executive. And Wall Street very consciously used them to launder all of the toxic "investment instruments" they were creating out of all of the bad loans they were making.

But it is encouraging that you recognize that Wall Street needs very strict regulation, or we'll be seeing more of the same.

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gkerr 3 years, 3 months ago

Just another...., Fanny and Freddy were not really allowed to go off on their own. Congress hired inside the beltway partisan hacks to run the quasi private quasi government corporations and several of the key policy makers were literally "IN BED" with principals hired by fanny and Freddy at the behest of influential congressional overseers. Lest you think I am partisan I have refrained from mentioning the Fanny insider who was instrumental in crafting lending regs that allowed for junk loans, sub prime loans to dominate the mortgage system, and his bed buddy who was chief of the House banking committee.

The partisan hacks who were political operatives of the party in control of congress after looting Fanny and Freddy of gynormous salaries and parachutes, and destroying the stock values with untenable loans, resigned quietly to Martha's Vinyard with hundreds of other political and corporate thieves.

Fanny and Freddy were backed by congress and uncle Sam's checkbook, oversight was by congressmen thieves and concubines who profited highly from the cozy relationships with the coorate types they hired. Gkerr

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 3 months ago

Freddy and Fanny were allowed to become launderers for corrupt Wall Street investment schemes. Sure, congress was involved, including members of both parties, but they were doing the bidding of Wall Street.

I'm not sure what your point is. Corruption is a serious problem, and I really don't understand why there is such resistance on the part of conservatives to accept that the meltdown of the economy emanated from Wall Street, with a good deal of help from the politicians they bought. Fanny and Freddy were part of the scam, but they were merely one of the tools.

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sundancewierdo 3 years, 3 months ago

If anyone brings up regulations of any kind, the far right screams SOCIALISM! Good luck with that. I'm all for the government staying out of our business, but when the world's economy runs on the financial industry, strict monitoring is absolutely necessary...

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gkerr 3 years, 3 months ago

just another,

The point is simply that congressmen and women were the initiators of subprime mortgages for grossly political reasons that catered to their underclass constituents otherwise unable to afford to own homes and for financial reasons of being able to regulate and control hundreds of billions of dollars. It was the politicians who were the movers and shakers on this issue.

Why can't you and sundanceweirdo understand that politicians have the power and are capable of using it in shameless corrupt schemes to enrich and empower themselves. The something reinvestment act agitated for by a certain party which will go unmentioned for risk of offending you required the subprime loans. Most legitimate banking establishments didn't want the bill enacted because it forced them to use risky lending practices. Gkerr

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

Sorry, but that is simply wrong.

The Community Reinvestment Act specifies that loans made are to be safe and sound.

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Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 3 months ago

Pul-lease -- the folks running the executive branch didn't forget the S&L train wreck. They remembered it fondly. They would dispute your characterization of it as a train wreck. They also dispute the characterization of 1929 as a "crash".

But here's a simple question -- you, then, support efforts to restore the tough regulatory environment that lasted over 60 years and took the US from a cycle of economic crash and depression once every 20 years to the greatest period of growth in human history? The strong regulatory environment that made the US the greatest nation on earth?

You support that, right?

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cato_the_elder 3 years, 3 months ago

I did not support the repeal of Glass-Steagall. Clinton's signing it was the second-worst act of his presidency.

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Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 3 months ago

So you support its reinstatement and have voiced that opinion to your members of Congress and your Senators.

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BorderRuffian 3 years, 3 months ago

I agree. and very worst act of his presidency was, of course, taking office.

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gudpoynt 3 years, 3 months ago

cato...

I'm not attempting to exonerate Clinton, but come on! Such blatant lack of willingness on your part to acknowledge that the repeal of Glass-Steagall was obviously a pro wall street effort introduced, and subsequently passed by Republicans in the name of "freeing the market" just goes to show that you don't have to win an election to be a "partisan hack".

Republicans who continue to fly their "no regulation" flags need to own this one.

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gudpoynt 3 years, 3 months ago

please tell me you understand that the repeal allowed the re-merging of commercial and investment banking. Please tell me you understand the implications of this.

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Kendall Simmons 3 years, 3 months ago

I get so tired of the argument "How about the hundreds of thousands of "victims" who took out mortgages that they knew that they couldn't possibly afford to pay?"

Why? Because it shows a total failure to grasp an important truth: not a single one of us can always recognize "if it sounds too good to be true..."

If you have a paid professional advising you on mortgages, most people will assume a degree of expertise on that professional's part...expertise that they, themselves, KNOW they don't have. Even if they ask about the professional's expertise, they don't have the experience and knowledge to assess that expertise.

And, if they sit there in front of you and "do the math" and explain how you can afford this house because of this technical term and that technical term and, when you ask "are you sure?" and they say "Absolutely"...most people in good faith will believe them.

And it's not just "stupid" people who don't know if something sounds too good to be true.. Ask Bernie Madoff's investors.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

If people give up their own ability to think about things and do the math, and trust an expert who is trying to sell them something, that's their own fault.

You should understand everything about the loans you get.

If somebody says, "Don't worry about your income", that's a pretty good indication that something's off, don't you think?

People who fell for Madoff are equally at fault - anybody who thinks you can get extremely consistent high rewards with low risk in an investment is nuts.

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

I have a brother in law who inherited well in I think 1984. I urged them to pay off their house, and consider it to be a gift from his grandmother. I was told that I was incredibly stupid, because they were going to invest the money instead, and become very, very rich.

Well, my brother in law found a man on the street that had an incredible investment. First off, you needed to decide on what return you wanted to get on your investment. You needed to decide if you wanted to go low risk (16%), medium risk (24%), or high risk (33%) annually. You would receive a check every three months.

But that was not all! For every invester that you found to also invest in the company, you would get a check for 5% of their investment. And, knowing a present investor was the only way to get in on this investment, because you needed to be sponsered by someone that had already invested.

Well, after thinking about this for a couple days my brother in law decided to go for "medium risk", which paid a 24% return annually. The company was honest, they didn't call it interest, nor did they call it a dividend, because it was neither. It was a "return", and that's all that was said about it.

The minimun investment required was $10,000. After thinking about what level of risk he was willing to accpet, he decided to go "medium risk", and get a 24% return on his investment. Out of a total inheritance of $97,000, he invested $80,000 of it in this incredible investmentt that he had been so lucky to find. Plus, he would get 5% of whatever anyone else he could talk into investing also. Pretty good deal, sounded like to him!

Well, that happened in California some years ago. One summer, he came to Kansas to find new investors, so he could get 5% of anything that they invested. No takers in Kansas, but in California, he convinced his father, his brother, and his mother to all invest.

I had two questions for him about his investment:

1) Is your money safe? "Oh yes, they've always sent out the checks."

2) Exactly what is your money invested in to give you a 24% return?" "Oh, shopping malls, real estate, and stuff."

I told him, "Something's wrong! Get your money out while you can!"

I don't recall exactly how he responded to that, but he certainly made it very clear to me that I was very stupid, and that I knew nothing about High Finance.

The Ponzi scheme lasted for 2 and 1/2 years, and when the state of California shut it down, there were no assets at all, just a lot of investors who were wondering where their money was.

Not a one of them had questioned exactly which shopping mallls were being invested in, nor even what type of real estate investments were capable of giving you a 24% or 33% return.

The 33%, box which was the one to check, because when it folded, it all folded at once.

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

Years later, Iooked him in the eye as he told me what was probably the stupidest thing he had ever said to me:

"You know Ron, I think you're pretty smart. I think you're almost as smart as me."

I thought about his Ponzi scheme that I had tried to talk him out of, but I didn't say a word.

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

Darn it, I should have used spell check!

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 3 months ago

Mike apparently hasn't gotten the memo from the RNC-- "The rich say we're broke, so the poor and the working and middle class must pay."

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jhawkinsf 3 years, 3 months ago

You've added the working and middle class to those who must pay.

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

And some are wandering around the grocery store, wondering what they can afford to buy.

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Flap Doodle 3 years, 3 months ago

It's okay to just make up stuff that supports our own private narrative and attribute it to others as a quote?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 3 months ago

There's a difference between making up a quote, and accurately distilling a very real policy goal down to its essence.

And if you can't see it, you're either dishonest or deluded, or both.

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

Sure! People do that in the psych wards all the time.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

I'm glad to see some comments about the S&L mess.

It's clear that the problems with government aren't partisan ones - they exist on both sides of the aisle, and in Democratic and Republican administrations.

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Godot 3 years, 3 months ago

Mike, if you care to do your own research, peruse these sites:

p>www.zerohedge.com www.tickerforum.org
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Godot 3 years, 3 months ago

William Black is worth listening to. Do a YouTube search for him. Here is an example.

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booyalab 3 years, 3 months ago

"How is it that the men and women who literally brought down the American economy are still walking around free and continuing to be paid astronomical sums, having suffered no punishment for their misdeeds?"

Unfortunately, that's how our electorate system works. Ba dum bum.

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

“In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve.” - de Tocqueville

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Godot 3 years, 3 months ago

Mike wrote: "I wonder whether the film might more accurately have been called “Too Rich and Powerful to Be Punished?” Is there not something wrong with a legal and political system which puts people in prison for stealing $100 from a grocery store, but lets folks who steal billions from the nation walk around free? I found myself almost choking when the Treasury officials started to talk about “moral hazard.” It seems very unlikely to me that anyone involved in the 2008 financial crash even has any concept of morality.

Call it what you like: regulatory capture, corruption, oligarchy. It all means the same. There is one set of laws for us peons; another set (or lack thereof) for the elites and the government hacks who serve them.

see:

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) won’t face criminal prosecution related to sales of mortgage-linked securities because such a move could threaten the U.S. financial system, according to Brad Hintz, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which is reviewing a Senate subcommittee report that alleged Goldman Sachs misled clients before the financial crisis, will avoid jeopardizing the fifth- largest U.S. bank by assets because it’s viewed as “too big to fail,” Hintz wrote in note to clients today.

“If an alleged violation is identified during a Goldman investigation, we expect a reasoned response from the Justice Department,” Hintz wrote. “In a worst case environment, we would expect a ‘too big to fail’ bank such as Goldman to be offered a deferred-prosecution agreement, pay a significant fine and submit to a federal monitor in lieu of a criminal charge.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-01....

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jhawkinsf 3 years, 3 months ago

It is with some interest that I note that the same people who call for the presumption of innocence when the criminal justice system prosecutes a poor person, yet they are more than willing to convict people without the benefit of trial if they are accused of crimes that they not even been charged.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

I'd be happy to see them even come to trial, but I bet that won't happen.

It's abundantly clear to me from what I've read that there are certainly good grounds for charging and trying a number of people involved with this mess.

But, it is extremely unlikely to happen.

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

I was absolutely amazed that Bernie Madoff got 150 years in prison!

He was just another one, as far as I'm concerned.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

If Madoff had owned a large investment bank, he wouldn't have been convicted, and probably never even charged.

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jhawkinsf 3 years, 3 months ago

I've seen examples of extreme greed. But I haven't seen people actually charged with a crime. We can be morally outraged, but until they are charged with a crime and convicted, I'll remain just that, outraged. But reading other posts, one would believe that people were guilty of crimes. Not yet.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

That's my point.

We won't see many, if any, charged with crimes, although I think there are clear grounds for doing so.

Part of the problem.

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jhawkinsf 3 years, 3 months ago

You say there are clear grounds for doing so. As I said, I've seen extreme greed and I am morally outraged by their behavior. And I'm no lawyer, but I do wonder, exactly, what crime would they be charged with? And while we're speculating that politicians have been paid off with campaign contributions and the like, we've also seen past examples of politically ambitious federal prosecutors makings careers off of these types of high profile cases. Surely there is one out there who would be willing to charge these people with crimes, advancing their own political careers. Since that has not happened, and again, I'm speculating, but I suspect what they are seeing is what I'm seeing, morally reprehensible behavior that does not rise to the level of being illegal.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

Much of the problem is probably as you describe, given that one of the causes is the lack of adequate regulation.

But, I'm sure there is some illegal activity as well - I'd have to do more in-depth research to come up with some good examples for you.

Isn't getting the credit rating agencies, who you are paying for their ratings, to rate a highly risky sub-prime mortgage backed security AAA essentially fraud?

Both on the part of the issuer and the agency?

They both know the investment is risky and doesn't warrant the rating (there's clear evidence of this, in the form of communications between employees at the agency).

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jhawkinsf 3 years, 3 months ago

Fraud may have been involved, I'm not sure. And if there was fraud, does it rise to the level of being criminal? I am no lawyer, so I really don't know the answer to that question. I recall Rudy Giuliani making a political career for himself after some high profile cases he prosecuted as a federal prosecutor. There have been many others. Surely there must be some prosecutor out there with the ambition to go after these people if crimes were committed. But in the absence of those prosecutions, I suspect that the behavior may not rise to the level of criminal activity. Or maybe those that did commit fraud were low level types that would not generate publicity. I'm just speculating. But the crowd that is calling out for us to throw the bums in jail, (the post below this one calls for Chris Dodd and Barney Frank), I'm not sure about that.

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jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

It fits the definition I can find, with a quick internet search.

I rarely, if ever, agree with cato.

There are other possibilities, of course, that might deter prosecution.

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cato_the_elder 3 years, 3 months ago

The one guy who ought to be in jail is Christopher Dodd, with Barney Frank a close second.

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jhawkinsf 3 years, 3 months ago

For what crimes? Should they go to jail before a trail, or simply with no trial at all.

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cato_the_elder 3 years, 3 months ago

Of course they deserve to be tried, but never will be.

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Godot 3 years, 3 months ago

They paid off the government lackeys to avoid trial. If you were Goldman Sachs executives, which would you rather see happen: stand trial or agree that your organization committed massive fraud and pay a paltry few million dollars (less than a finders fee) in exchange for immunity from prosecution? The latter, obviously, and that is what is happening under the Obama administration.

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gudpoynt 3 years, 3 months ago

are you referring to the Dodd-Frank act? Do you even know what it says?

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gkerr 3 years, 3 months ago

Politicians, corporate elites on Wall Street, Bureaucrats hired by elected officials have descended into a slough of corruption. We are being destroyed by our own out of control, greedy ruling class.

This accelerating cancer is worsened by an ideology riven journalistic clan that refuses to see the corruption among their own ideological soul-mates in high places. We need a viable and trustworthy fourth estate to help us ordinary citizens maintain insight into what our elites are up to.

God help us all. Gkerr

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Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

“Too Large to Fail.”

Hmmm. I wonder if that line would work in the chambre à coucher.

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gudpoynt 3 years, 3 months ago

+1

i'm sure it's been used, but it doesn't make it true. Being too large can directly lead to failure, for both sexes.

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devobrun 3 years, 3 months ago

When government, business, and organizing entities like NSF, Sierra Club, GE, Exxon, have dominion over you.....you are no longer an individual. You are part of the borg.

Mike, you are outraged. At whom? Government? Business? You should be outraged at the rank and file of U.S. citizens. You should be outraged that people in this time and in this place.....after the upheaval of the '60s and '70s has yielded .....their parents again.

Their parents, Mike. Those 60 somethings who are so conflicted by their need to be green and honest and open and investing in GE for their 401Ks and their attention to global warming and their stock in Exxon..........

Stop blaming Exxon, Mike.

The enemy has been engaged, and he is us. You want to change the world, Mike? build your own damn car...out of sticks and stones for all I care. Oh wait, you are a lawyer. You can't really do anything can you.

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verity 3 years, 3 months ago

And Senator Jerry Moran is trying to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and keep Elizabeth Warren from being appointed it's head---wants her to be replaced by a committee.

He knows that Elizabeth Warren will do what's right for the country. She scares the wits out of politicians who've been bought.

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gkerr 3 years, 3 months ago

Verity,

I know by your name that you will tell us true. Who is Elizabeth Warren? What is her philosophy of governance? How will she protect our collective liberty and improve our lives?

Why is Jerry Moran against her? Gkerr

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 3 months ago

"Why is Jerry Moran against her? "

Because Wall Street and the US Chamber of Commerce are against her.

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gkerr 3 years, 3 months ago

Just another....., Jerry Moran is not a Democrat is he?
The vast majority of Wall street insiders are Democrats, so are big Bankers who are overwhelmingly northeastern New York and big business corporate elites. Most big business corporate elites are Dem's. Silicone valley, San Francisco, Boston, New York, Hollywood, Madison avenue, Hamptons, Martha's Vinyard, Connecticut valley, Wall street are all pretty much Democrat enclaves. The US Chamber usually aligns with republican interests but it represents a more main stream mid size and small business clientele. You are about 60 years behind the times thinking that the leadership class is Republican. It's not it's Democrat and those folks have never had it so good.

Gkerr

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verity 3 years, 3 months ago

Look it up. You know, google it. If you really don't know who she is, then you haven't been paying attention.

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TopJayhawk 3 years, 3 months ago

IF it's a MIchael Moore or Al Gore film, or some other clown with a cause I wouldn't take it too seriously.

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Kontum1972 3 years, 3 months ago

LiZ Warren is no dummy....

Jerry Moran is a hillbilly inbred idiot if u put Liz Warren up against Moran she would eat him alive.....thats how stupid he is....flies have more common sense than he does..

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Kontum1972 3 years, 3 months ago

film is suppose to give that result......

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verity 3 years, 3 months ago

As for the veracity of the film, before you judge it do a little research. Since everybody who is commenting here has access to the internet it's not that hard.

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gkerr 3 years, 3 months ago

Verity,

Just what we need another Harvard Law professor to be regulator of banks and bankers on behalf of the Federal Government. Remember Barney Frank as chairman of the house banking committee? Chris Dodd chairman of the oversight committee of the Senate responsible for banks and mortgage houses like Country-Wide that gave him a sweet sweet sub market interest rate for his personal investment properties? There are currently five agencies overseeing banks. More Harvard law professors who are liberal elites are not the answer to our government growth and power which is already out of control.

If the present regime in DC is for her, Harvard law is supportive of her, Bankers, Timmy Geitner, and Ben Bernanke are for her, then what could possibly go wrong?

Tarp oversight which she was in part responsible for as an Obama Czar of consumer slight of hand, and as an advisor of Geitner these past 20 months has been a miserable failure.
Verity, let the scales fall from your eyes these people are thieves, he'll bent on destroying this country. Cut government spending and size, reduce politicians ability to make deals with special interests, protect the constitutional liberties of the citizens, throw the bums out. Oh, and if any more Harvard professors want to do something for you- run like he'll. Gkerr

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 3 months ago

So, all you've proven is that you know nothing about Warren, or what she proposes to do.

But she's a galldanged iibral prowfesser, so she must be really eeeeeevillll!!!!

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gkerr 3 years, 3 months ago

kontumacious1972,

Your 9am June 2 post is brilliant. So well researched and logically thought out. A liberal masterpiece of constructive criticism. You must have been one of those Verity would be proud of who digs deep into the facts before posting. Were you on Google for hours of tedious research before writing so cogent a defense of Ms. Warren and devastating take down of Senator Moran? Keep it up! Gkerr

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