How A Gang Of Predatory Lenders And Wall Street Bankers Fleeced America — And Spawned A Global Crisis
Michael W. Hudson, The Center for Public Integrity | Oct. 26, 2010, 1:03 PM | 2,750 | 11
This is an excerpt from the book The Monster, by Michael W. Hudson. It is republished with permission.
Introduction: Bait and Switch
A few weeks after he started working at Ameriquest Mortgage, Mark Glover looked up from his cubicle and saw a coworker do something odd. The guy stood at his desk on the twenty-third floor of downtown Los Angeles's Union Bank Building. He placed two sheets of paper against the window. Then he used the light streaming through the window to trace something from one piece of paper to another. Somebody's signature.
Glover was new to the mortgage business. He was twenty-nine and hadn't held a steady job in years. But he wasn't stupid. He knew about financial sleight of hand—at that time, he had a check-fraud charge hanging over his head in the L.A. courthouse a few blocks away. Watching his coworker, Glover's first thought was: How can I get away with that? As a loan officer at Ameriquest, Glover worked on commission. He knew the only way to earn the six-figure income Ameriquest had promised him was to come up with tricks for pushing deals through the mortgage-financing pipeline that began with Ameriquest and extended through Wall Street's most respected investment houses.
Glover and the other twentysomethings who filled the sales force at the downtown L.A. branch worked the phones hour after hour, calling strangers and trying to talk them into refinancing their homes with high-priced "subprime" mortgages. It was 2003, subprime was on the rise, and Ameriquest was leading the way. The company's owner, Roland Arnall, had in many ways been the founding father of subprime, the business of lending money to home owners with modest incomes or blemished credit histories. He had pioneered this risky segment of the mortgage market amid the wreckage of the savings and loan disaster and helped transform his company's headquarters, Orange County, California, into the capital of the subprime industry. Now, with the housing market booming and Wall Street clamoring to invest in subprime, Ameriquest was growing with startling velocity. more
How the Banks Put the Economy Underwater
By YVES SMITH
Published: October 30, 2010
IN Congressional hearings last week, Obama administration officials acknowledged that uncertainty over foreclosures could delay the recovery of the housing market. The implications for the economy are serious. For instance, the International Monetary Fund found that the persistently high unemployment in the United States is largely the result of foreclosures and underwater mortgages, rather than widely cited causes like mismatches between job requirements and worker skills.
This chapter of the financial crisis is a self-inflicted wound. The major banks and their agents have for years taken shortcuts with their mortgage securitization documents — and not due to a momentary lack of attention, but as part of a systematic approach to save money and increase profits. The result can be seen in the stream of reports of colossal foreclosure mistakes: multiple banks foreclosing on the same borrower; banks trying to seize the homes of people who never had a mortgage or who had already entered into a refinancing program.
Banks are claiming that these are just accidents. But suppose that while absent-mindedly paying a bill, you wrote a check from a bank account that you had already closed. No one would have much sympathy with excuses that you were in a hurry and didn’t mean to do it, and it really was just a technicality.
The most visible symptoms of cutting corners have come up in the foreclosure process, but the roots lie much deeper. As has been widely documented in recent weeks, to speed up foreclosures, some banks hired low-level workers, including hair stylists and teenagers, to sign or simply stamp documents like affidavits — a job known as being a “robo-signer.” moreSo how bad is it?
The Stealth Coup D'Etat: U.S.A. 2008-2010
Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds | Oct. 28, 2010, 1:30 PM
The Stealth Coup D'Etat in the U.S. (called "The Quiet Coup" by Simon Johnson) was begun long ago, but the takeover reached fruition in the 2008-2010 timeframe.
Please read these brief excerpts from the 1968 classic Coup d'État: A Practical Handbook (by Edward Luttwak) and see if they don't remind you of the United States, circa 2008-2010:
Insurrection, the classic vehicle of revolution, is obsolete. The security apparatus of the modern state, with its professional personnel, with its diversified means of transport and communications, and with its extensive sources of information, cannot be defeated by civilian agitation, however intense and prolonged.
(CHS note: Luttwak referred to the May 1968 general strike in France as an example; by coincidence, the failure of today's general strikes in France to change Central State policy offers a more current example from the same nation.)
Any attempt on the part of civilians to to use direct violence with improvised means will always be neutralized by the efficiency of modern automatic weapons; a general strike, ont he other hand, will temporarily swamp the system, but cannot permanently damage it, since in the modern economic setting, the civilians will run out of food and fuel well before the military, the police and allied organizations.
(CHS note: Napoleon famously dissipated a civilian uprising with "a whiff of grapeshot" long before modern automatic weaponry. Organized violence always has an advantage over informally organized violence.)
If a coup does not make use of the masses, or of warfare, what instrument of power will enable it to seize control of the state? The short answer is that the power will come from the state itself.
A coup consists of the infiltration of a small but critical segment of the state apparatus, which is then used to displace the government from its control of the remainder.
Luttwak's first point about the futility of direct insurrection informed my own Survival+ critique, which concludes that the only effective means to weaken the Financial Power Elites who have partnered with State Elites is to opt out and assemble voluntary non-privileged parallel structures which are independent of the Central State and its Power Elites.
As I have sharpened the Survival+ critique (with an eye on a future revision), I have come to see that the term coup d'etat is not cheap theatrics or an analogy for the capture of the Central State by Financial Power Elites, but the accurate description of a long, stealthy infiltration and dominance of the key ministries of the United States government.
In the popular view, a coup d'etat is a sudden event, over in a few hours or at most days, a drama played out in impoverished Third World nations. The stealth coup which has occurred in the U.S. is an entirely different kind of coup--one that has operated in stealth mode for the most part, a process of gradual infiltration and opportunistic grasping of key levers of dependence and control.
Simon Johnson, co-author of the recent book 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown, also wrote the May 2009 article "The Quiet Coup". Here are a few key excerpts:
But these various policies--lightweight regulation, cheap money, the unwritten Chinese-American economic alliance, the promotion of homeownership--had something in common. Even though some are traditionally associated with Democrats and some with Republicans, they all benefited the financial sector. Policy changes that might have forestalled the crisis but would have limited the financial sector’s profits--such as Brooksley Born’s now-famous attempts to regulate credit-default swaps at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in 1998--were ignored or swept aside.
The financial industry has not always enjoyed such favored treatment. But for the past 25 years or so, finance has boomed, becoming ever more powerful. The boom began with the Reagan years, and it only gained strength with the deregulatory policies of the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Several other factors helped fuel the financial industry’s ascent. Paul Volcker’s monetary policy in the 1980s, and the increased volatility in interest rates that accompanied it, made bond trading much more lucrative. more