Thursday, January 14, 2010

Barry Ritholtz

Get Out The Pitch Forks

The latest WTF?!? news to come out of the swamp that is Washington, D.C. is this tidbit of official government incompetence and opaqueness:

The SEC, working hand in glove with AIG, agreed to keep bailout terms sealed, including information on the pass thru to counter parties such as Goldman Sachs at 100 cents on the dollar. This SEC granted “confidential treatment” was agreed to last May, and a “secrecy order” (WTF is that?) will stay in place until November 2018.

“It could take until November 2018 to get the full story behind the U.S. bailout of insurance giant American International Group (AIG.N) because of an action taken last year by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In May, the SEC approved a request by AIG to keep secret an exhibit to a year-old regulatory filing that includes some of the details on the most controversial aspect of the AIG bailout: the funneling of tens of billions of dollars to big banks like Societe Generale, Goldman Sachs (GS.N), Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) and Merrill Lynch.

The SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance, in granting AIG’s request for confidential treatment, said the “excluded information” will not be made public until Nov. 25, 2018, according to a copy of the agency’s May 22 order.

An SEC spokesman declined to comment when Reuters asked about the order.

Quite bluntly, it is astonishing that the SEC agreed to this. We are not discussing a typical SEC for confidential treatment — they receive ~1,500 if those to protect trade secrets, and grant 95% of these.

This is not one of those instances — no patents, no technological innovations or new drug molecules. Instead, this was a case of an insolvent insurer receiving 100s of billions of dollars in taxpayer monies, who then used the government’s regulatory agency to hide where the proceeds of the public went — from the same public who wrote the checks. This is the latest outrage in a series of outrages.

I’m no expert in constitutional law, but I would imagine that a President — especially one that campaigned on transparency in government – could override this shameful exercise in douchebaggery.

I continue to wonder if anyone in DC has the slightest clue WTF the they are doing. I was sick to death of the sheer willful anti-science, anti-logic ignorance of the Bush administration. I hoped that the new guys will be less overt hostile to the public, less secretive, more respectful that this is — or at least used to be — a Democracy. The stupiditiy of the Bush administration has been replaced by a new flavor of ignorance — the cluelessness of the Obama team. We might as well have given W a 3rd term, given the outrageous and embarrassing decision making we have witnessed so far.

Change we can believe? More like “4 more years.” Color me nauseous.

arthur.i Says:

I really enjoy seeing Mr. Ritholtz get on his high horse and rattle his saber.

I agree with his point of view.

The joy comes from seeing someone more articulate, informed and educated become ALMOST as pissed off as I am about these nincompoops who are missing the entire reason they are in Washington. If Obama (I actually donated money to his campaign!!!, – the first political donation I have ever made) does not grow a pair and do something that redeems himself I guarantee he will make Jimmy Carter (not Carter post presidency) look like Winston Churchill, John Adams and Harry Truman rolled up in one.

It will come down to us…the common people to stand up and fight for our rights. If Obama and his team don’t do what they should to protect us from tyranny…then we will have to do it ourselves. Really that can happen and that would be change Obama and his people will believe in.

I still have hope because (I may be an idiot) Obama has a real chance to make a historical game changing move. Unlike Bush2, he is not stupid. The lights of the big city may have dazzled him during this first year…let’s hope he will get back to his ‘roots’ and stand up to the fat cat overlords…

The Curmudgeon Says:

Bush then, Obama now, are only reflections of what we’ve become. We’ve willingly traded freedom and responsibility for security and dependency, helped and cajoled by along by a government whose stock in trade is fear-mongering, even when, nay, especially when, there is nothing to fear, particularly the fear-mongering in the fall of 2008 over the doom that would befall a financial system collapse.

What’s really incredible about this nefarious little stab at secrecy is that the SEC and all the counter-parties (Goldman, Societe Generale, etc.) considered it necessary. Why should they care if the people find out? They know the people are nothing but sheep to be sheared for their benefit for a few years until it’s off to the slaughterhouse. For Christ’s sake, we gave the fuckers $750 billion or so just two years ago to bail out their pompous overpaid asses and now claim they deserved that and today deserve their gargantuan bonuses, too. “God’s work”, eh? What a sweet gig. The bankers that run this country have utter contempt for the people upon whom their wealth depends.

It seems they believed they needed a little extra insurance policy to cover their crimes, and so easily cajoled the SEC into their secrecy order. It is the essence of chutzpah to a) force such a play by the government, nakedly revealing who is in charge, and b) to think that such a thing would be effective. In their view, the only reason for having a government is so they don’t have to directly manipulate the masses. It’s much better to do so through an intermediary.

The new boss is the same as the old boss. All you Obamaphiles that thought differently when you voted in the abstract for “Hope” and “Change We can Believe In” deserve every pang of despair and anger you are now suffering. Were you really that stupid? Did you really believe it matters who lives in the White House? Could you not see who really runs the show? Did any policy directed at the financial system change upon Obama’s election? Anything? For heaven’s sake, Timothy Geithner was promoted from money-running at the local level to the international stage, and where’s the anger?

This country won’t be fit for habitation again until the next revolution.

How the Common Man Sees It Says:

There’s a word for what the SEC did Barry. It’s called treason. They sold out their mandated interests of the American citizens to a group of people that are clearly aligned against the interests of America. They had no authority to do this without approval from their elected paymasters and it was clearly against their fiduciary duties. It was treasonous

The Curmudgeon Says:

” I don’t believe in efficacy of government, I just believe that it is better than the alternative. And I’ve got about 5000 years of human history to back me up.”

Yes, it was precisely why our forebears fled their homelands–because all those enlightened despots back home were really too good for them. The alternative to tyranny, either of anarchy or government, is perhaps, individual liberty and freedom, with all its attendant responsibilities? Why are people so afraid when they can’t impose their tyrannical ideas about property distribution upon their neighbors? Yes, a government is necessary for protecting and keeping the peace and enforcing laws directed at the same. Governments, to be legitimate, must always exercise a monopoly on the use of force. But beyond that, what if I don’t want to buy health insurance? What if I don’t want to subsidize corrupt bankers? What if I don’t wish to build empires in the Middle Eastern sand? We no longer live under a constitutional government–the constitution has lost all meaning. Intended as a limiting document against government’s innate tendency to despotism, it now allows practically anything, except, of course, the violation of individual liberties found in its imaginary penumbra. The government can do virtually anything it now wishes, besides limit the availability of abortions.

It’s time for revolution.

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