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“She did a fabulous job,” agrees Aguirre.

However, the alpha male contingent still gets in its digs. Rubin complains that Born did not act “in a constructive way. My recollection was…this was done in a more strident way.”

And Levitt? He says that Born was “characterized as being abrasive.”

The macho males who resented Born for being “abrasive” (and for being right) went on to engineer other tragic errors. The Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act had barred a bank from offering investment, commercial banking, and insurance services. It had to go, declared the musclemen. So in November of 1999, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which overturned part of Glass-Steagall, permitting banks, insurers, and securities companies to poach on each other’s terrain and also consolidate. There followed a wave of acquisitions: banks, brokerages, and insurance companies joined forces under one corporate umbrella. The result? Ill-conceived and ill-managed hodgepodges, addicted to derivatives, that the government feels it must pump taxpayers’ money into.

Arthur Levitt is contrite about helping to create the derivatives disaster, but he is not contrite about fleecing San Diego. Certainly, he did far more damage to the world. Sums up Partnoy, “Derivatives are the most recent example of a basic theme in the history of finance: Wall Street bilks Main Street.”

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SurfPuppy619 April 15, 2009 @ 5:11 p.m.

I have dug up a Levitt speech from 1995. Although he admitted there had been some abuses, he told a group of derivatives dealers, “We must avoid the temptation to demonize derivatives, which are a vital tool in modern financial markets.… We must resist the siren call for stringent regulation.”

LOL...What a tool. Levitt ripped off San Diego in the biggest white collar scam ever perpetrated against a muni, IMHO.

Levitt reminds me of this guy in a famous speech from 4 years ago (FUNNY THING IS IT SOUNDS LIKE A THE SAME SPEECH HE IS GIVING TODAY);

"That is what our California Recovery Plan is all about.

We took the debt - that we inherited from the previous administration, the debt that threatens us with bankruptcy, and we rolled it into a 15 billion dollar recovery bond.

Then we tore up the credit card.

We passed a balanced budget amendment.

And we created a rainy day fund for future hard times and emergencies.

Never again will government be allowed to spend money it doesn’t have.

Never again will the state be allowed to borrow money to pay for its operating expenses."

By Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1/16/2004

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SurfPuppy619 April 15, 2009 @ 5:18 p.m.

BTW Don, you said a comment I have really caught onto, and that is complexity is built into financial instruments for the prupose of fraud, because without the complexity fraud could not exist.

Now I look at all financial dealings with that grounded rule in the front of my mind. It is 100% on the money.

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Don Bauder April 15, 2009 @ 6:59 p.m.

Response; Yeah, the Terminator has not lived up to the promise of that speech. Has any politician ever lived up to his/her promises? Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 15, 2009 @ 7:03 p.m.

Response: The essence of financial fraud is contrived complexity. As far as I know, I used those words for the first time, but, of course, somebody may have beaten me to them. This is why derivatives can be classified as certificates of financial fraud. They are deliberately complex -- so complex that even some of the smartest corporations haven't been able to figure out what they bought. Procter & Gamble in the early 1990s was one example. Best, Don Bauder

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David Dodd April 15, 2009 @ 8:11 p.m.

Mr. Bauder,

I don't think that you're doing a very good job of explaining what a derivative is. I challenge you to write a future column explaining derivatives (the different types, and how they operate), they aren't some form of magical theft-magnets. The premise of a derivative is useful to both the investor and the market in general. The problem with the current failure of some derivatives is from what they represented (mortgages in an inflated housing market is one example).

Also, much of what you write sounds Keynesian and yet here you seem to waffle on both sides of the fence (Hayekian in terms of the nuances of capital investment vs. Keynesian in terms of government regulation). This might not be the forum for you to elaborate, but then an article would be appreciated explaining your viewpoint.

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Don Bauder April 15, 2009 @ 8:57 p.m.

Response to post #5: Since I won't be writing another column until the middle of May, I'll try to give you some preliminary answers. First, let me give you a statement of my own: the essence of white collar fraud is contrived complexity. Please keep that in mind as I give some definitions. A derivative is a financial instrument that is derived from another security, such as a stock, bond, commodity, or mortgage, or on an index, such as the Standard & Poor's 500, or the consumer price index, or on something like the weather. Basically, there are two kinds: options and forwards. An option is the right to buy or sell something in the future. A forward is an obligation to buy or sell something. Properly, they are used for hedging purposes. But they have become basically gambling vehicles -- Wall Street gambling with other people's money and borrowed money. Wall Street hires M.I.T. mathematics PhDs to put together incredibly complex derivatives and peddles them to pension funds, governments, corporations -- suckers that usually don't understand them. One of the factors bringing the world's financial system to the brink is the billowing of poisonous derivatives: ones based on mortgages, ones guaranteeing debt or bonds. They are nuclear: one can go off and set off a chain reaction. People will say that a bank is too big to fail, but it's really a matter of the world's banks being too interconnected to fail. Wall Street, economists, analysts should have seen this possibility. Only a few did. Now the banks are sitting on these worthless derivatives. As to my own views. I used to be an Austrian School conservative. But non-regulation has utterly failed. Since the 1980s, greed simply overwhelmed the rational restraints that officials like Greenspan believed would keep the system from imploding. So I changed my mind. I was wrong to believe that an unregulated market could police itself. However, I must add that I was never for non-regulation in the financial area. I always thought Wall Street was too crooked to be given free rein. I'm no true Keynesian: I am concerned about the $12.8 trillion that Bush and Obama have thrown at the current crisis. I believe it will lead to inflation. We have several tough years ahead. I think it is wrong to try to force Americans to go back to the old, failed pattern of yore based on excessive debt and consumption. We have to evolve a system based on much less debt (consumer, corporate, government, financial) and less consumption. The financial side is now 20 percent of the economy and sometimes 40 percent of profits. That should be scaled back drastically. We need product and service engineering, not financial engineering. That is as conservative as it gets. Best, Don Bauder

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David Dodd April 15, 2009 @ 10:31 p.m.

Don,

As far as derivatives, the one factor that you've omitted is that they are ostensibly based on assets. Keep in mind that I am not a proponent of derivative investment because of the way that they are bundled, but there are true assets behind the derivative investment. Granted, the values of some of these assets are far below their initial investment level, but the assets exist, none the less. Also, you seem to be blaming incredibly intelligent people with how this was all put together, but I would rather you read this and reconsider:

http://nymag.com/news/business/55687/

I don't blame the derivatives, I blame the investors. Likewise, while I certainly am not defending Levitt, I question the wisdom in hiring Kroll in the first place. In other words, if we're at Del Mar in August, and I bet on a certain horse and lose, is it the horse's fault? Same thing with derivatives.

Regarding Keynes vs. Hayek, I'm sure that you're well aware that the Austrian school has not been considered as relevant (since 1930 or so) until very recently; that while ultra-Keynesians would love to believe that somehow laissez faire economists creeped in and performed some sort of voodoo and caused this crisis, that in actuality it was economists schooled in Keynesian thought ignoring government prodding to expand the demand for housing that brought on the bubble.

I think that the Hayekian model (Austrian if you prefer) is correct, and I predict that more Universities will seek to embrace it. This does not necessarily preclude regulation as necessary, but it certainly warns that Government intervention is not only dangerous, but ultimately evil. After all, Freddie and Fannie were blindly prodded by four administrations into giving more and more loans to people with no true means to repay them.

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SurfPuppy619 April 15, 2009 @ 11:15 p.m.

I am concerned about the $12.8 trillion that Bush and Obama have thrown at the current crisis. I believe it will lead to inflation.

It is guaranteed to lead to inflation, and we're going to see it in spades in 18 months or so.

You simply cannot print money like it's toilet paper, backed by nothing but the "full faith and credit" of a country that is fiscally bankrupt and starting to look like a third world disaster instead of the world leader it should be.

And let me tell you something else, if we don't stop shipping our middle class mahufacturing jobs to China, and expand those types of jobs here, we will never recover and eventually will be a third world country. A country that does not produce goods cannot survive in the world economy.

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Don Bauder April 16, 2009 @ 6:57 a.m.

Response to post #7: I think it will be several decades before the Austrian School, or the University of Chicago school, come back into favor. Greenspan believed that markets and market participants were rational and would keep themselves from self-destructing. It didn't happen. Greed killed that idea. Unregulated over-the-counter derivatives, half a quadrillion of them (notional value), have brought us to the brink. Would regulation have stopped the lemming-like activity? Maybe not, because, again, the derivatives are deliberately so complex. But, at least, the activity would have been monitored; we would have at least known who owned the damned things. On Wall Street, the only variable is money. Ergo, it can't be trusted. I agree that the liberals are probably more to blame for pumping up Fannie and Freddie than the conservatives, who saw problems with low interest rates that were subsidized. But the banking and regulatory agencies, along with the rating agencies, utterly failed to realize the chain reaction that was building. All are to blame. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 16, 2009 @ 9:47 a.m.

Response to post #8: There is another U.S. resemblance to third world countries. We have a cancerous mal-distribution of wealth and income, with Wall Street moguls, who contribute almost nothing to the economy's functioning, bringing home $100 million to a billion a year, corporate CEOs making 500 times what average employees make, while incomes from the middle to the bottom rungs actually shrink. Also, government bureaucrats enjoy high pay and benefits compared to similar jobs in the private sectors. These are characteristics of third world economies. Best, Don Bauder

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stupidflanders19 April 16, 2009 @ 10:41 a.m.

The US has free K-12 education, clean lakes and rivers, the Bill of Rights, the strongest military in the world, and strictly enforced child labor laws. It is also the country poor people throughout the world would choose to live in if they could. Are those 3rd world country characteristics? The US has many problems, but it is ridiculous to compare it to a third world country. Visit Mexico sometime and witness firsthand the real horrors of poverty, corruption and crime. Talk to a migrant worker who now lives in the US that came from Guatamala and ask him if the US is a third world country.

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SurfPuppy619 April 16, 2009 @ 11:36 a.m.

The US has free K-12 education, clean lakes and rivers, the Bill of Rights, the strongest military in the world, and strictly enforced child labor laws. It is also the country poor people throughout the world would choose to live in if they could. Are those 3rd world country characteristics? The US has many problems, but it is ridiculous to compare it to a third world country.

By stupidflanders19

We also have a level of poverty that is wide spread and growing as our manufacturing base has shipped literally millions of jobs overseas, and it's getting bigger everyday-where poor people cannot get access to medical healthcare, dental care, decent housing or other necessities of life.

As for the courts and the bill of rights which you speak of-how many people in America have access to OUR legal system-I'll tell you-less than 2-3% have the money to file and proisecute a civil lawsuit.

Don't tell me how great the country is when it is working properly-because when it is working properly it is by far the best in the world-but when it is broken then it is not better than North Korea, iran or China.

I'll tell you where to visit since you think you know so much-go visit Richmond CA, or Oakland or Compton or Vermont and Slauson in LA at 1:00 AM and see how "safe" it is.

It is ridiculous to NOT compare the US and the direction it is headed in relation to a third world country.

Just in case you have been asleep the last 25 years, our standard of living in the US has gone down, while the standard of living in China and India has gone up.

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realnews April 16, 2009 @ 1:33 p.m.

I watched Levitt's smug performance, at $900 an hour, before he left in his limo for his flight back. (Probably in first class for which the City of San Diego paid)

He was arrogant. He railed against the City Attorney and taunted the City Council. Said if they didn't like his work they should fire him.

But of course they didn't. They all sat and just watched this jerk's performance. They were rendered almost Mute.

San Diego deserves what San Diego keeps electing.

Speaking of elections....remember judges run for office too. See www.SanDiegojudges.com>

Don Bauder April 16, 2009 @ 2:31 p.m.

Response to post #11: The U.S. has many advantages, but they are slipping away as so much of our economic structure increasingly resembles that of third world nations. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 16, 2009 @ 2:33 p.m.

Response to post #12: Increasingly, in areas such as healthcare, we do not compare favorably with many other countries. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 16, 2009 @ 2:44 p.m.

Response to post #13: The irony is that Kroll/Levitt/Willkie Farr were brought in to pass judgment on two vastly different interpretations of the City's giving false information in bond offerings. First, Vinson & Elkins (Enron's law firm) was brought in to study the situation. As revealed in the Reader, V&E said it would provide a study favorable to the City even before it started. It did. The V&E study was a whitewash, as promised. It said no individuals were culpable. Then Mike Aguirre came out saying that city council was negligent. So Kroll was called in to decide who was right. Kroll took information from Aguirre, V&E and another report, came out with a copycat study costing $20.3 million, and essentially came down on the side of Aguirre. But because Aguirre was wise to the $20.3 million scam and had challenged Kroll, Levitt tried to beat up on Aguirre even though his study had come down on his side. Best, Don Bauder

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JustWondering April 17, 2009 @ 2:53 p.m.

Johnny says: "...while the standard of living in China and India has gone up." WOW, let's write that one down for posterity.

When your standard of living is lower than the open sewers in the streets what other direction is there to go?

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Don Bauder April 17, 2009 @ 9:07 p.m.

Response to post #17: You have a point, but don't dismiss the rapid growth of the China and India economies. China is financing the U.S. debt, remember. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 April 17, 2009 @ 10:48 p.m.

"...while the standard of living in China and India has gone up." WOW, let's write that one down for posterity.

When your standard of living is lower than the open sewers in the streets what other direction is there to go?

By JustWondering

Hey Einstein-

Our good manufacturing and solid job base has been going to both China and India and THEIR standard of living is rising, while ours has been falling the last 20 years-that's a fact.

Now, do you or do you not admit that fact?

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SurfPuppy619 April 17, 2009 @ 10:50 p.m.

Oh, and The US is the LARGEST debtor nation in the world now-while China is the largest creditor nation in the world, all this in less than 25 years when the US was the largest creditor nation in the world (thank Ronnie Raygun for that colossal fiasco of deficit spending, which has only gotten worse the last 25 years).

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Fred Williams April 18, 2009 @ 12:35 a.m.

Re: Hayek/Keynes

Behavioral Economics is what's going to be taught in our best universities, leaving both Hayek and Keynes looking quaintly outdated.

As Don says, we must evolve a new system. Behavioral economics doesn't tell you what, but it does give insights on how...

See:

http://harvardmagazine.com/2006/03/the-marketplace-of-perce.html

http://magazine.uchicago.edu/0502/features/economics.shtml

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Don Bauder April 18, 2009 @ 7:08 a.m.

Response to post #19: President Obama's recent speech suggests he has awakened to the U.S. problem. For several decades, we have been shipping good jobs abroad; we have become a nation of money changers, with financial activities becoming 20 percent of economic activity and 40 percent of corporate profits. This was all done for short term corporate profits. The concentration on financial engineering -- particularly of the fraudulent variety -- is our undoing. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 18, 2009 @ 7:11 a.m.

Response to post #20: Our monstrous current account deficit mandates that Americans save more and consume less. But that's good. There will be pain in the short run, but if we can raise the savings rate to 10 or 12 percent and keep it there, we will make a real dent in our problems. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 18, 2009 @ 7:17 a.m.

Response to post #21: Yes, behavioral economics -- or the study of why people make certain economic decisions, particularly marketing decisions -- is coming on strong and shows great promise. Best, Don Bauder

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JustWondering April 18, 2009 @ 8:08 a.m.

Hey Johnny Rocketscientist

Here's another one for you...what goes up must come down.

The standard of living in the U.S. has been on the rise since it began. Some believe it may have reached the pinnacle, but not me.

As Don stated it’s time for a consolidation where Americans will hopefully curtail if not end the overindulging excesses of the last 30 years. Is there going to be pain associated? Yep, we’re seeing it now with an abrupt change in world economics. Will we survive it? Absolutely! Will we learn? Only time will tell.

Remember Johnny you read here first…. What goes up has to come down. You can quote me on it.

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SurfPuppy619 April 18, 2009 @ 8:37 a.m.

Here's another one for you...what goes up must come down.

The standard of living in the U.S. has been on the rise since it began.

By JustWondering

Errrr...no it has not Mr SmartyPants-

In fact the standard of living for the average American has gone down the last 9 years-since 2000- because that is where wages stangated at and not advanced-add in inflation of 3%/year and Americans are pulling in 30% LESS!! than in 2000.......obviously this does not apply to gov employees.

Last, this is almost certain to continue for another 2-3 years- at least.

Here, let me relate a comment made to me by one of the dirtiest judges I had ever appeared before, who violated Constitutional safe guards and broke every rule in the book, and would then give this rather moronic statement when called out;

"America has the best justice system in the world", he would say as he would violate Constitutional rights left and right while violating every procedural rule in the book.

This was my response to this dirty judge(who was removed from office by the CA Supreme Court within 3 years of me saying this, and this also applies to how this country is being run today);

"America's court and justice system, when it works the way it is supposed to work and the rules are followed it, has the best system in the world. But when judges start railroading people before them, violating Constitutional rights and safe guards, then the American justice system is no better than the ones in Iran, China or North Korea, because the outcome is identical-someone gets railroaded."

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Don Bauder April 18, 2009 @ 12:26 p.m.

Response to post #25: What goes up must come down. Do you think that applies to the Padres? Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 18, 2009 @ 12:30 p.m.

Response to post #26: The San Diego judiciary is in serious need of reform -- especially Superior Court. But there are some bad judges in federal court, too. And you are correct to say that the average American's standard of living has declined in the last decade, and that the decline will continue for two or three years, at least. Best, Don Bauder

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JustWondering April 18, 2009 @ 3:57 p.m.

Response to #27: Sadly, yes. But I must admit, April has been a pleasant surprise. Especially considering this team's payroll compared to teams they already embarrassed this season. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.

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JustWondering April 18, 2009 @ 4:08 p.m.

Johnny you are sad wretched person.

A standard of living is NOT measured in money alone. But, from your history of posts, here and every other place your moniker is found, it's usually tied to it in one way or another.

One can only hope someday you'll be visited by three spirits. Where you'll may learn there are many other, and more important characteristic to measure a man's life than the balance of his checking account.

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JustWondering April 18, 2009 @ 4:12 p.m.

And yes it's true, your profession is like every other one on the planet. Merely a partial reflection of our culture. There are good ones and bad ones. Fortunately, the bad ones never last as long as the good one.

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Don Bauder April 18, 2009 @ 8:55 p.m.

Response to post #27: It is refreshing to see a low-payroll team do well. It's also delightful to see a high-payroll team, the Yankees -- charging more than $2,600 for ONE TICKET in their new subsidized stadium -- losing 22 to 4. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 18, 2009 @ 8:57 p.m.

Response to post #30: It looks like we will all have to find peace and happiness in something other than lucre. Actually, that will be healthy for our society. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 18, 2009 @ 8:59 p.m.

Response to post #31: In all too many professions, the bad do well and last a long time, while the good suffer and drop out. Best, Don Bauder

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JustWondering April 19, 2009 @ 7:25 a.m.

Don I was surprised by the referral to sports, but more so by emphasis on cost of one ticket. Isn't this the rule of supply and demand? The Yankees have magnificently manipulated the market for their product through masterful marketing and the power of their checkbook. They have provided a superior product and now intend to profit from that investment. While their newest model may not perform as well as a previous version it will be up to the consumer to decide. And, even if the newest version isn't as good as those in the past, the timing of opening a new venue, is a stroke of capitalistic genius. The novelty of this new baseball cathedral will draw them in, eagerly paying, whether the team is winning or losing.

While I would find it difficult to part with a boat load of cash for one ticket for one Yankee game it is capitalism. That's way better than socialism.

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Don Bauder April 19, 2009 @ 9:36 a.m.

Response to post #35: CAPITALISTIC genius? You have to be kidding. The cost of the two new NY stadiums, Yanks' and Mets', is something like $2.3 billion. More than half of that money comes from governments in various forms. This is classic sports socialism: socialization of the risk and privatization of the gain. In re so-called "masterful marketing": the Yanks are having trouble selling the upscale products, such as $2600-plus one-game tickets. All subsidization of pro sports stadiums is strictly socialism, promoted by those who profess to be capitalists. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 19, 2009 @ 9:54 a.m.

Response to post #37: Who is DB Cooper? I believe in spreading around the wealth, but not from the poor to the super-rich. I would rather see the redistribution proceed the other way around: from super-rich to the middle class and poor. Best, Don Bauder

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JustWondering April 19, 2009 @ 1:17 p.m.

Hey from the Steinbrenner perspective it can get much better if you're a capitalist.

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JustWondering April 19, 2009 @ 1:19 p.m.

Dark Glasses, about the right age, a few pounds.... Fumber you might be onto something...

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Don Bauder April 19, 2009 @ 2:23 p.m.

Response to post #39: Steinbrenner failed as a pro basketball team owner (in the old ABA). The shipbuilding company he controlled went into bankruptcy. Lucky to be a Yankee! Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 19, 2009 @ 2:30 p.m.

Response to post #41: OK, I googled D.B. Cooper and now his identity comes back to me: he's the guy who hijacked a plane in 1971 and bailed out with $200,000. I can guarantee I am not he: doing what he did takes courage. I don't qualify. When fumber first mentioned the name, I supposed that D.B. Cooper was a rock star, and that's why I didn't know him. Best, Don Bauder

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JustWondering April 19, 2009 @ 2:46 p.m.

hmmmm Alice Cooper as D.B. Cooper... nah that doesn't work either.

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SurfPuppy619 April 19, 2009 @ 4:12 p.m.

Steinbrenner failed as a pro basketball team owner (in the old ABA). The shipbuilding company he controlled went into bankruptcy. Lucky to be a Yankee! Best, Don Bauder

By dbauder

Remember, the ship building company was the family company.

And don't forget that old George is also a convicted felon. I thought felons were not supposed to own pro sports teams??

Eddie Debartolo (sp??) had to sell his portion of the 49er's when he got caught up in that Loiusiana gambling probe and had to plead to a felony.

And the New Yankee Staium used to be a park/playground for the cities kids/residents. They didn't make out so well.

Maybe they can redo Central Park into a new Jet's stadium.

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Don Bauder April 19, 2009 @ 5:13 p.m.

Response to post #43: I am not completely out of it. When you mentioned Alice Cooper, I suspected that he was a male rock singer. I went to google and confirmed it. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 19, 2009 @ 5:18 p.m.

Response to post #44: A cooper makes barrels. I don't make barrels or barrels of money. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 19, 2009 @ 5:40 p.m.

Response to post #45: The Steinbrenner family for decades had run a different shipping company. In the 1960s, George Steinbrenner led a group which did a successful hostile takeover of American Shipbuilding (also called American Ship Building), whose stock was listed on an exchange. It bought the Steinbrenner family shipping company -- whether before or after the takeover, I am not sure. Steinbrenner was charged with several felony counts and pleaded guilty to one of making an illegal political contribution. He was later pardoned. He hired a two-bit gambler to pass on dirt on one of the Yankee players, ex-Padre Dave Winfield; this got Steinbrenner banned from baseball for life, but he was reinstated in three years. He was always called "The Boss" while at the Yankees, but actually, he was only the leader of a syndicate that bought the team cheap. Best, Don Bauder

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