Friday, October 24, 2008

Are Jews Responsible for Financial Meltdown?

The high-profile role played by Jews on Wall Street has never been a secret. Many of the wheelers and dealers responsible for shaping the current US financial system are Jewish, including former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg, former Citcigroup CEO Sandy Weill, recently-retired Lehman Bros. CEO Richard Fuld, former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin, current Fed chairman Ben Bernanke,etc. One of the "weapons of mass destruction" described by the legendary investor Warren Buffet is the Credit Default Swap. Greenberg's AIG is the biggest purveyor of CDS. In spite of the warnings by Buffet in 2006, Greenspan and his successor Bernanke argued against regulating derivatives such as credit default swaps. Unregulated financial derivatives are now considered the biggest cause of the financial collapse.

Credit derivatives is one of the most successful innovations of financial engineering over the last ten years. The current active credit derivatives market has produced an array of new products. For example, credit-default swaps are an indicator of the cost of bond "insurance" that varies with the risk of bond default. Credit default swaps are privately traded derivative contracts usually bought by bond holders from CDS issuers like AIG, Ambac, FGIC, and MBIA and other entities. Like other derivatives, CDS are not regulated by government agencies. The CDS issuers are expected (not gauranteed or back-stopped by governments) to reimburse bondholders in case the bond issuing companies or governments default. A basis point on a credit-default swap contract protecting $10 million of debt from default for five years is equivalent to $1,000 a year. The buyers of CDS do not have to be bondholders. Any one can buy a CDS to bet on the probability of default by debt issuers. Many of these derivative contracts were bought to bet that the housing bubble would pop and many homeowners would default on their mortgages. That is exactly what happened this year. Once issued, the credit default swaps are bought and sold like any other contract. These derivative contracts have produced enormous profits for Wall Street firms in the last decade. But now the Fortune magazine calls these derivatives "a $55 tillion problem".

The world of finance is not unique in the dominant role played by Jews. Other businesses including media and entertainment and professions such as medicine, law and accounting have powerful Jewish presence. American Jews are disproportionately over-represented in the US Congress, the Senate and the Supreme Court as well. US policies in all spheres are heavily influenced by the Jewish minority in the United States. The exclusive club of Nobel laureates is dominated by its Jewish members, a testament to Jewish culture of hard work, commitment and achievement. Many significant levers of power are controlled by American Jews, a constant that does not change with election winners or losers in Washington. Both Obama and McCain teams boast of powerful Jews as key policy advisers on foreign affairs, finance and national security. Robert Rubin and Dennis Ross are advising Obama. Joe Lieberman is advising McCain.

When former President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan addressed a dinner meeting of the American Jewish Congress in September 2005, his Jewish audience were described as the American business, political and social elite.

When things go wrong in any of the major US businesses or institutions, people looking for scapegoats often blame influential Jews because of the large Jewish presence in each of them. The current financial crisis is no exception.

Abraham Foxman, President of Anti-Defamation League, has written in Jerusalem Post about the recent "anti-semitic" response to the financial crisis. He writes, "It never fails. Whenever there is a financial crisis or trading scandal in the stock markets, the anti-Semites come out of the woodwork. The classic stereotype of the Jewish Shylock out to have his Christian pound of flesh dies very hard, if at all. The Jew as economic opportunist sucking the financial life-blood out of a nation or of the whole world is continually reborn".

Mr. Foxman does have a point. Stereotypes, whether Jewish or Muslim, are hard to change. The reality is that there are only three Jews on the CNN's latest top ten list of the culprits of collapse even if one argues that these three are the most important of the top ten. They are: Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, Current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld. As some of us blame the few who made serious mistakes and happen to be Jewish, let us not forget that a large number of Jewish workers and investors on Wall Street are victims of the financial meltdown. Many Jews have lost their jobs while others are suffering major declines in their investment portfolios.


Related Links:

Jewish Lobby Blamed for Economic Crisis

The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy

The Rise of Jewish Power-Nothing Short of Astounding

Jewish Tribal review

Financial Crisis Brings Out Anti-Semites

Jews on Wall Street

Wall Street's WMDs

Credit Default Swaps

$55 Trillion Problem

10 comments:

Logi-call said...

I have written a post on financial meltdown and its impact on employee appraisal. Hope you will read it at http://logi-call.blogspot.com/2008/11/anticipating-appraisal-at-time-of.html

Riaz Haq said...

Jewish Blogging is reporting as follows:

Yes, Bernard L. Madoff is a Jew.

Bernard Madoff was arrested and charged today with allegedly running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, according to U.S. authorities.

According to Yeshiva University, "Bernard L. Madoff, a member of the University’s Board of Trustees since 1996, was elected chairman of the Board of Directors of Sy Syms School of Business in 2000. Mr. Madoff is chairman of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, one of the nation’s largest third-market dealers in New York Stock Exchange and over-the-counter securities. A Benefactor of the University, Mr. Madoff recently made a major gift to the Sy Syms School."

Forbes reports this 'UNFORTUNATE SET OF EVENTS':

"Bernard Madoff is a longstanding leader in the financial services industry," his lawyer Dan Horwitz told reporters outside a downtown Manhattan courtroom where he was charged. "We will fight to get through this unfortunate set of events."

A shaken Madoff stared at the ground as reporters peppered him with questions. He was released after posting a $10 million bond secured by his Manhattan apartment.

The SEC filed separate civil charges.

"Our complaint alleges a stunning fraud -- both in terms of scope and duration," said Scott Friestad, the SEC's deputy enforcer. "We are moving quickly and decisively to stop the scheme and protect the remaining assets for investors."

The SEC said it appeared that virtually all of the assets of his hedge fund business were missing.

Madoff had long kept the financial statements for his hedge fund business under "lock and key," according to prosecutors, and was "cryptic" about the firm.


http://www.jewishblogging.com/blog.php?bid=171027

Riaz Haq said...

From: Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

To understand reaction in the Jewish community to the growing scandal around investor Bernie Madoff, it helps to know a few words of Yiddish.

Yiddish was the language of Jews in Eastern Europe, with a rich history in literature, theater and music, until that community was decimated in the Holocaust. Today Yiddish is most common in communities of Orthodox Jews.

But for most American Jews it harkens back to previous generations and life in the old country, spoken more by “alta kockers,”
though “bubbie” (grandmother) and “zaide” (grandfather) probably don’t appreciate being referred to as geezers.

Madoff was a “macher” (a big shot, a mover-and-shaker) among machers.

Madoff also is - allegedly - a “gonif” (thief, embezzler). A few folks have used Yiddish words regarding parentage and body parts, but we’ll skip those.

The Jewish community is “farklemt” (depressed, distraught, grieving), but it goes beyond that.

The whole thing is a “shandah” (disgrace). For those concerned with image, it’s a shandah for the “goyim” (non-Jews, in front of whom Jewish community looks bad).

“Catastrophe” and “devastation” are English words being used.

“It’s an atomic bomb in the world of Jewish philanthropy,” Mark Charendoff, president of the Jewish Funders Network, an organization that advises wealthy Jewish donors, told the Forward, a newspaper that reports on Jewish affairs. “There’s going to be fallout from this for years.”

In the United States, at least one charity has closed. “It’s devastating,” Arthur Epstein, a major supporter of local Jewish charities, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, referring to the loss of the Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation near Boston and the programs it supported.

An American university professor e-mailed me from Jerusalem that the Madoff case is all that’s being discussed in the philanthropic world in Israel, where there is fear that more than 50 organizations that Madoff supported or that invested in his firm may shut down before “Shabbat,” the Sabbath that begins at sunset Friday.

That fear in the Jewish community extends from the Los Angeles to Boca Raton and Palm Beach, from New York City to Washington, D.C., to Boston and points elsewhere around the globe.

With losses ranging from tens of thousands to tens of millions of dollars, the casualties include national Jewish organizations; local Jewish federations, which support programs throughout their communities; charities and foundations supporting a range of causes; hospitals and schools, from elementary through university. Published reports say that one school, Yeshiva Univ., may have lost as much as $100 million.

Untold numbers of children, students, teachers and researchers, the needy and the disabled, retirees of modest means and some of wealth will suffer anonymously.

Some victims of the alleged swindle have well-known names: Spielberg, Wiesel, Lautenberg, Zuckerman.

Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, which studies Jewish philanthropy, told the Forward, “The Jewish philanthropic world depends on personal relationships and personal solicitations. Many Jewish philanthropies are dependent on high-end donors in very close social and economic networks, and this guy is right in middle of them.”

Writing in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Bradley Burston recognized that at least one segment of society would find advantage in the situation.

“For the true anti-Semite, Christmas came early this year,” Burston wrote. “Rich beyond human comprehension, he handles fortunes for others, buying and selling in a trading empire that skirts investment banks and other possible sources of regulation. He redefines avarice, knowingly and personally bilking charities and retirees in the most classic of con games. Even better, for those obsessed with the idea that Jews control finance, entertainment and the media, is the idea that Madoff’s greed was uncontrollable enough that he targeted fellow Jews, even Holocaust survivors, some of them his own friends, as well as Israeli companies who insured Jews, including Holocaust survivors. The beauty part, for the anti-Semite: Madoff’s machinations, which could have been put to use for the sake of humanity, have directly harmed Jewish welfare and charity institutions.”

Now that is a shandah.


http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2008/12/17/deep-embarassment-over-madoff-and-pain-too/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on Madoff scandal:

Some Jews fear Madoff case stokes anti-Semitism
Thursday December 25, 12:54 pm ET
By Jennifer Peltz, Associated Press Writer
Madoff scandal fits profile of `affinity fraud,' proves particularly wrenching for Jews

NEW YORK (AP) -- Of all the words that have been used to describe the Bernard L. Madoff scandal, the most emotionally charged may be "Jewish."

The disgraced investment guru is accused of orchestrating a $50 billion Ponzi scheme that preyed heavily on fellow Jews and ultimately drained the fortunes of numerous Jewish charities and institutions.


There's nothing new about con artists targeting their own kind. There's even a word for it -- affinity fraud -- and it has struck numerous religious, ethnic and professional groups.

But the allegations against Madoff are particularly wrenching for some in the Jewish community, who fear that the sensational case is fanning vicious stereotypes about Jews that go back to the Middle Ages.

The Anti-Defamation League cites a spike in anti-Semitic comments online after Madoff's Dec. 11 arrest. A columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz lamented the case as "the answer to every Jew-hater's wish list."

And the American Jewish Committee's executive director, David A. Harris, wrote a letter to The New York Times criticizing what he saw as "a striking emphasis" on Madoff's faith in one of the paper's many stories about the scandal.

The case is "fodder for the bigots," Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL's national director, said in an interview this week with The Associated Press. "It's both embarrassing and it's painful."

It's difficult to describe the case in any detail without mentioning Madoff's religion. The 70-year-old money manager and former Nasdaq stock market chairman donated hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, much of it to Jewish causes. And many of the known victims of his business, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, are big names in Jewish life.

Yeshiva University, one of the nation's foremost Jewish institutions of higher education, lost $110 million; Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, lost $90 million; director Steven Spielberg's Wunderkinder Foundation acknowledged unspecified losses; and a $15 million foundation established by Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel was wiped out. Jewish federations and hospitals have lost millions and some foundations have had to close.

Madoff is charged with securities fraud and is under house arrest in his Manhattan apartment with round-the-clock security. His lawyer has said he intends to fight the charge.

The damage to the Jewish community is psychological as well as financial, said Kenneth Bandler, a spokesman for the AJC. He said his organization declined to invest with Madoff earlier this year because it was unable to decipher how Madoff was producing his renowned returns.

At Jewish organizations and synagogues, Bandler said, people ask themselves: "How could someone who is held in such high esteem in the Jewish community knowingly rip off what were supposed to be his friends, the organizations he admired and supported?"

Members of churches, minority groups and various occupations have wondered the same thing after falling victim to similarly targeted frauds. Religious-based schemes alone swept up more than 80,000 people and nearly $2 billion nationwide from 1998 to 2001, according to the most recent figures available from the North American Securities Administrators Association, an investor-protection group.

The Baptist Foundation of Arizona told investors their money would build churches while paying returns. In fact, their savings were sucked into what authorities called a $550 million Ponzi scheme in the 1980s and 1990s. Several foundation officials were sentenced to prison in 2006 and 2007.

Chicago real estate investment firm Sunrise Equities Inc. had the blessing of Muslim clerics, who said its dividends conformed with Islamic laws against earning interest. Its owner disappeared this past August, leaving 200 of his fellow Muslim immigrants with losses that could total $50 million.

Whatever the circle, affinity frauds exploit trust. Victims are approached by one of their own and "therefore there's less suspicion, there's less concern," said Joseph P. Borg, the Alabama Securities Commission's director and a former NASAA president.

Adding to the sense of betrayal in the allegations against Madoff are worries about whether they feed into centuries-old, ugly caricatures of Jews.

Since Jews served as lenders in medieval Europe, where they were barred from many other occupations, they have sometimes been portrayed as miserly, greedy and obsessed with money. In just one example, Shakespeare's Shylock, the Jewish character who demands a pound of flesh in payment for a loan in "The Merchant of Venice," has become synonymous with usury.

In his letter to the Times about a Madoff article, the AJC's Harris wrote: "Yes, he is Jewish. We get it. But was this relevant to his being arrested for cheating investors, or so key to his evolution as a businessman that it needed to be hammered home again and again?"

(Comment inserted : Yes, some criminals are muslims too. Why are they referred to as "Islamic" militants/terrorists ? Why is this relevant ? The shoe hurths when it is on the other foot.)

The Rabbinical Council of America issued a statement Wednesday underscoring that "there is no reason to believe such terrible behavior is more common among Jews" than anyone else.

Still, anti-Semitic broadsides have peppered the Internet in the wake of Madoff's arrest, some in highly visible public-comment sections of popular news sites, Foxman noted.

Some get removed by the sites' administrators or draw replies noting there are bad apples of all creeds and in all walks of life. Victims also extend to all creeds and walks of life -- banks, insurers, pension funds and even the International Olympic Committee are among those who say they've been taken by Madoff.

Still, the scandal has reverberated throughout the Jewish community. This week, representatives of about three dozen Jewish foundations met in New York City to come up with a plan to help Jewish nonprofits that lost money with Madoff, said Jeffrey Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies. Solomon said the foundations agreed to contribute to a pool of money that will be distributed to hard-hit organizations.

"This is a tragedy by any stretch of the imagination but within the context of $300 billion worth of donations to American charities, we shouldn't lose sight of the larger picture -- both the generosity of Americans and the effectiveness of the nonprofit system," he said.

http://www.ajc.org/

http://www.hadassah.org/

http://www.acbp.net/

http://www.eliewieselfoundation.org/

Anonymous said...

Helpful to read, even in part. A continued balance of ideas will teach us that no one is an exception to being harmed financially; and we cannot assign one group, or even a nation the blame for the troubles of the world.

Riaz Haq said...

Recent focus on the alleged misdeeds of Goldman Sachs that contributed to the financial melt-down have caused cries of "antisemitism" by American Jewish groups. Here's an excerpt from a recent NPR interview with Michael Kinsley who is a Jewish American:

CONAN: And you begin with the question: when, if ever, are such accusations of anti-Semitism fair?

Mr. KINSLEY: Yes. The purpose of this piece I wrote was not to accuse anyone of anti-Semitism. And in fact, I haven't heard anything that I would call anti-Semitic but to help you think through how to recognize it when you hear it and more importantly how not to recognize it when you don't hear it.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. KINSLEY: And - because I think there's a real problem in our politics today of umbrage. People are very quick to take umbrage at things other people say. And politician use this to, I think, make bigger deals of things than they ought to.

Abe Foxman, who is the - he's the head of the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League, says that virtually any reference to Goldman Sachs alone in the context of this scandal smacks of anti-Semitism, because he says, you know, what about Morgan Stanley and other firms that aren't Jewish? I think that goes much too far.

CONAN: And indeed, there can be an inference that just as if some people say, well, we can't make any criticism of Barack Obama without being accused of being a racist, you can't make any criticism of Goldman Sachs without being accused of being an anti-Semite.

Mr. KINSLEY: Right. I think that's true.

CONAN: There is also - you say you haven't read anything that you would take as anti-Semitic. Probably the most controversial thing was a quote in - by Matt Taibbi in a much quoted article about Goldman Sachs...

Mr. KINSLEY: Right.

CONAN: ...where he said that the world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money - a phrase that set off alarm bells.

Mr. KINSLEY: Well, it's a heck of piece. And it's really written with brio. That passage, which has been widely quoted, comes very close to the line, because, you know, it never uses the word Jewish but it invokes a lot of images that are familiar in classic anti-Semitism: the bloodsucking monster, this -the other. And it's smothering the normal life of normal people. All of that has - Jews have been victimized - and I should add - I should mention that I am Jewish - Jews have been victimized by that kind of imagery for centuries.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is an interesting analysis by Eric Margolis of the consequenes of weak US economy:

One day, the king of ancient Babylon summoned his treasury overseer and exclaimed, “I need more money to wage war on those Hittite terrorists! “I looked in the great treasure chest and it’s nearly empty. There are hardly any gold coins left,” he thundered.
“Oh Light of the Euphrates,” groveled his terrified minister, “we are out of gold. Your wars have become too expensive.”

“But I have a solution, your celestial greatness. We will quietly trim the amount of gold in our imperial gold coins to make them go further. No one will notice.”

Fast forward to Washington, 2010. It’s no longer called “clipping coins.” Today, the name for debauching a nation’s currency is called “quantitative easing(QE),” but it’s still the same old fraud committed by financial flim-flam men.

Washington is flooding financial markets with $600 billion of worthless dollars, hoping a rising tide of Monopoly money will somehow lift America out of recession. The Fed’s first QE effort was a fizzle.

The US government is stoking worldwide inflation in order to lower its outstanding debt by repaying creditors with depreciated dollars. The rest of the world is boiling angry at Washington.

Just before last week’s G20 economic summit in South Korea, China’s state credit agency publicly downgraded America’s credit rating and questioned US leadership of the world’s economy.

In an unprecedented, stinging rebuke, China scolded Washington for “deteriorating debt repayment capability,” and predicted quantitative easing would lead to “fundamentally lowering the national solvency.”

Wow! This was a real slap in the face heard around the globe. China is the largest holder of US government debt. I remember the day when New York financiers used to sneer at iffy stock or bond issues as, “Chinese paper.” Now, it’s “American paper.” How the world has turned.

Washington has been blasting China for manipulating its currency to keep the value low – which is quite true. Embarrassingly, Germany and Brazil just accused the US of being as big a currency manipulator as China – which is also quite true.

A depreciated dollar boosts US exports and hurts nations exporting to the US. Economists call it, “beggar thy neighbor,” a destructive trade practice that played a key role in the 1930’s world depression.

This money flood is eroding the value of the dollar, the world’s premier medium of exchange. In the past two months, the US dollar has dropped 6% against other major currencies. Frightened investors are piling into gold, now up 17% in 60 days.

The Obama administration, just “shellacked” by voters in mid-term elections, and desperate to lower unemployment, is gambling more debt shock therapy will spark the economy back to life. But massive, unsustainable debt caused the US financial meltdown in 2008.....

Riaz Haq said...

Is AIPAC a WikiLeaks Op? asks Prof Juan Cole on his blog:

In 2003 Larry Franklin, the ‘go-to man on Iran’ at the Pentagon under undersecretary of defense for planning Douglas Feith, carried a draft confidential finding on Iran out of the building and gave it to Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman of AIPAC’s Middle East Bureau. They not only were happy to receive the classified document, but they ran with it right over to the Israeli Embassy and delivered it to Naor Gilon, the embassy official with the Iran portfolio.

Rosen and Weissman, and probably AIPAC in general, were under FBI surveillance on suspicion of espionage, and that is how they were caught. The FBI field officers were astonished when Franklin came into the picture unexpectedly. Less astonished, I suspect, when Naor Gilon did.

Franklin confessed to wrongdoing, and spent some years in jail was sentenced to the 10 months he spent under house arrest; he may still work for the Pentagon! But Rosen and Weissman maintained they had done nothing illegal, since under US law for someone who is not a government employee to receive classified documents from a third party is not illegal, nor is sharing them with others once they have been received. AIPAC fired them, so they had to fight their own legal battles. The prosecution was ultimately dropped. The Neoconservatives say that the case should never have been brought, since it just criminalized the routine horse-trading in information typical of Washington.

Rosen has now launched a $20 million wrongful termination suit against AIPAC. He maintains that his action of delivering the classified document to the Israeli embassy was standard operating procedure in AIPAC, and that he did nothing out of the ordinary, and that he should not have been fired. He is also threatening to name details of this routine spying.

Rosen, ironically, was hired by Daniel Pipes’ so-called ‘Middle East Forum.’ Pipes runs Campus Watch, which is a neo-McCarthyite attempt to intimidate US college professors into toeing the Likud Party line whenever they talk about Israel and Palestine. So it is only natural that an indicted spy for Israel, Rosen, should be on staff and energetically using dirty tricks to smear the reputations of patriotic Americans.

What Steven Rosen is alleging is that AIPAC, which arranges for millions to go to the campaigns of American politicians, is in essence a Wikileaks operation, only instead of posting the ferreted-out classified material to the Web, they channel it to the Israeli government. (Of course, the Israeli government sometimes acts as a Wikileaks as well; Seymour Hersh was told by US intelligence officials that Israel shared with the Soviets some of the intel it got from spy Jonathan Pollard.)

Whether the allegations about AIPAC routine spying are true or not, Rosen and Weissman certainly did exactly the same thing Julian Assange did, and yet they are free men.

Rep. Pete King (R-NY), who wants Eric Holder to prosecute Julian Assange of Wikileaks, hasn’t objected to the cases against Rosen and Weissman being dropped, and hasn’t asked for an investigation of AIPAC. One of the problems congressmen like this will have in crafting anti-Wikileaks legislation is that they may well be driving a nail into AIPAC’s coffin, as well. King, who keeps accusing Americans of being terrorists, is also known as a long-time supporter of the Irish Republican Army.

You have to love hypocrisy when it is taken to this Himalyan scale. It has a kind of putrid beauty.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times report about allegations by a resigning executive of Goldman Sachs:

That question is now out in the open, exposed anew by an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on Wednesday by Greg Smith of Goldman Sachs. It could reignite public suspicion that the culture of Wall Street has swung so sharply to the short-term side of the ledger that clients have not been coming in first, or even second, but dead last.

Even bankers who disagreed with Mr. Smith’s conclusions said the piece had struck a chord because it stirred up their own doubts, especially in the wake of the financial crisis. It is a sign of this anxiety that since then, one giant firm after another has publicly proclaimed it is putting clients first.

That much-advertised claim stands in sharp contrast to the world Mr. Smith depicted.

At meetings at Goldman, he wrote, “not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients,” Mr. Smith wrote. “It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.”

He warned, “People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/15/business/a-public-exit-from-goldman-sachs-hits-a-wounded-wall-street.html?_r=1

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/14/opinion/why-i-am-leaving-goldman-sachs.html

Anonymous said...

When discussing Israel we need to look at the root cause of the conflict - have a look at this video The Israeli General's Son – the video Israeli does NOT want you to see was made by the son of the general who lead the 73 Israeli offensive - and later turned against Israel's foreign policy

A real eye-opener, pass this around http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=TOaxAckFCuQ