It's the American way. More for the rich. Crumbs for the rest, and fraud as a way of life since the republic's beginning, though hardly on today's scale. Perhaps the first prominent example was in 1792, involving former Assistant Treasury Secretary William Duer. Appointed by Alexander Hamilton in 1789, he left a year later to profit from insider trading, or so he hoped.
At the time, US bonds were junk paper. The market for them was volatile, so profiting meant being savvy enough or tipped off in advance to buy or sell ahead of news. As a former Treasury official, Duer had insider information. Using leverage, it paid handsomely for a while until too much money caused a speculative glut, an earlier type bubble that took down much of the New York Stock Exchange when it burst, Duer with it.
Way over his head in debt, he, nonetheless, hung on, expecting to beat the market but failed. Instead of getting richer, he went bankrupt, ended up in debtors prison, and Alexander Hamilton had to buy worthless bonds as the lender of last resort. Sound familiar?
In 1795, Georgia sold 35 million acres of western land to four companies for half a million dollars, less than two cents an acre in one of America's most corrupt ever deals. By taking bribes for their votes, every member of the legislature, except one, profited, but not for long. Voters caught on, tossing them out next election. The fraudulent contract was annulled. In 1802, the federal government bought the land for $1,250,000, but it didn't end there. The Supreme Court got involved, ruling the original deal, though flawed, was legal, forcing Congress to award the claimants over $4 million.
Corruption and fraud flourished during the Civil War in the form of tainted beef and pork, shoddy blankets and uniforms, knapsacks coming unglued in the rain, guns that blew off soldiers' fingers when firing them, and much more, war profiteers benefitting handsomely.
During the Gilded Age, a post-Civil War boom, men like Rockefeller in oil, Carnegie in steel, Gould and Vanderbilt in railroads, Morgan in banking, and others profited the way Vanderbilt explained, saying "What do I care about the law? Hain't I got the power?" Indeed he and others did through unscrupulous deal-making, buying off politicians, gaining monopoly power, and as Matthew Josephson said in his book, "The Robber Barons:"
"the ancient barons-of-the-crags - who, by force of arms, instead of corporate combinations, monopolized strategic valley roads or mountain passes through which commerce flowed." They, in fact, controlled commerce and corrupt politicians they bought and sold like commodities.
In her book titled, "The History of the Standard Oil Company," Ida Tarbell, chronicled one of many, John D. Rockefeller and the colossus he built by circumventing laws and crushing competition ruthlessly.
Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner first coined the term "gilded age," reflecting the rampant greed, pervasive fraud, corruption, and speculative frenzy during America's greatest ever growth period, creating enormous wealth and corporate power through politically aided deal-making.
For example, Ulysses S. Grant's administration wreaked of graft, mismanagement, and corruption, he and his son going bankrupt from fraudulent investments gone sour. Succeeding administrations were also tainted by letting business entrepreneurs operate freely with little government interference.
They took full advantage, including through insider trading, stock manipulation, and other forms of fraud. In the late 1800s, it enriched men like Jay Gould, James Fisk, Russell Sage, Edward Henry Harriman, JP Morgan, and Daniel Drew, deal-maker pioneers of swindling, double-dealing, and other forms of financial chicanery to amass fortunes, that in Drew's case left him broke when he died in 1879, ruined by fellow manipulators.
An earlier article continued the story with the 1913 Federal Reserve Act, giving banks money creation power, letting them more than ever game the system fraudulently. The 1920s stock selling scandals followed, culminating in the 1929 crash, the Great Depression, WW II, post-war prosperity, resulting excesses, late 1960s - 70s turbulence, inflation, the beginning of modern deregulation, neoliberalism and globalization, what Reagan and his successors accelerated.
Reaganomics spawned savings and loan fraud, junk bonds, leveraged buyouts, greenmailing, Boesky, Milken, Dennis Levine, then more crime on the order of Enron, Worldcom, Madoff, other Ponzi schemes, market manipulation, bubbles, false accounting, phony financial products, misrepresentation, and other scams, conspiracies, bankers plundering the Treasury, and "foreclosuregate."
Involved is massive fraud, forged documents, fabricated and backdated ones, perjury, lost paperwork, and false affidavits causing millions of mortgage defaults, evicting owners after seizing their properties illegally.
William K. Black is a lawyer, academic, former S & L regulator, and author of the book titled, "The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One: How Corporate Executives and Politicians Looted the S & L Industry." He and Economics Professor L. Randall Wray also co-wrote an article titled, "Foreclose on the Foreclosure Fraudsters, Part I: Put Bank of America in Receivership," saying:
Overwhelming evidence shows "the entire foreclosure process is riddled with fraud, (yet) President Obama refuses to support a national moratorium," making him conspiratorially complicit in a huge scandal, ravaging millions of homeowners lawlessly. Protecting bankers, not victims, is policy, so coverup and denial of systemic fraud persists.
Moreover, "despite our pleas the FBI has continued its 'partnership' with the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA)....the trade association of the 'perps.' It created a ridiculous....definition of 'mortgage fraud,' (saying) lenders - who (created them) - are the victims. The FBI" plays ball. It's why no one's been prosecuted nor likely will be, except perhaps some lower level officials taking the rap for their bosses, top executives continuing to profiting hugely by scamming innocent victims hung out to dry.
In fact, criminal CEOs "looted with impunity, were left in power, and were granted their fondest wish when Congress....extorted the professional Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to turn the accounting rules in a farce." It let banks "refuse to recognize hundreds of billions of losses, (produce fake) 'income' and 'capital,' " so fraudsters got richer than ever.
Black and Wray want it stopped by "prompt corrective action," halting foreclosures until corrective steps are taken and "financial institutions that committed widespread fraud (are put) in receivership," replacing their bosses with honest, competent, officials, if any can be found at a time of unbridled, anything goes greed.
Along with Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo, Bank of America tops the list, criminal enterprises, operating with government complicity. Besides B of A's other chicanery, its books wreak with "many billions of dollars of fraudulent loans originated by Countrywide," its 2009 acquisition.
Countrywide is symbolic of industry practice, selling "hundreds of thousands of fraudulent loans through false reps and warranties," most then illegally foreclosed. Like other mortgage scammers, it "victimized hundreds of thousands of people and hundreds of" counterparties, causing massive amounts of losses, homeowners, of course, hit hardest. In fact, Countrywide "defrauded more people, at a greater cost, than any entity in history."
But other mortgage lenders contributed their share as part of a giant con game against the public from which they keep profiting, scooping up foreclosed properties on the cheap, then defrauding new unwary buyers when they resold - properties they don't own because the entire scheme is fraudulent. It means evicted owners are entitled to their homes back.
As analyst Bob Chapman explains:
"The fraud committed by the foreclosure mills, at the behest of the banks, puts all foreclosures into question and even the status of those homeowners who are currently paying their mortgages. That means if (they) all stop paying their mortgages, they could end up owning their homes. This is a mega crisis far bigger that Bear Stearns and Lehman," but even bigger ones are coming after years of systemic fraud, the extent of which is staggering.
As for housing says Chapman:
"Foreclosures are now one in 12. Four years ago it was 1 in 100. For sure home prices have not bottomed. It could be the mortgage market is dead and all the bondholders are sunk." If true, the nation's "financial structure is close to collapse."
Countrywide did its share to cause it. According to Black and Wray, its top executives were "infamous," yet B of A made them senior leaders, and administration officials "trivialize (their) criminality," refusing to hold them and others accountable for obvious reasons. Because they, and earlier administrations, helped engineer the housing bubble since the mid-1990s. Though now deflating, victims continue being scammed.
So instead of fixing the problem and aiding homeowners, it festers, grows, and lets "too big to fail" systemically dangerous institutions (SDIs) get bigger, creating greater than ever risks. As a result, we're literally "rolling the dice with disaster every day," world economies held hostage by powerful banks.
The obvious solution is avoided, placing B of A and other insolvent banks in receivership, breaking them up, replacing and prosecuting their culpable officials, and restructuring a dysfunctional system into a workable one, excluding predatory banks.
In her extraordinary book, "Web of Debt," and regular writing, Ellen Brown explains how, again in her October 21 article titled, "Repairing a Dysfunctional Banking System," saying:
Stopping financial predators depends on "turning banking into a public utility, one that advances the credit of the community," not third party criminal enterprises pretending to be legitimate. Today, it's worse than ever, Brown quoting Ann Pettifor, a fellow of the London-based New Economics Foundation, saying:
"(T)he banking system is now fully dysfunctional. It has failed in its primary purpose: to act as a machine for lending into the real economy. Instead (it's) become a borrowing machine....from the real economy, and then refusing to lend, except at high rates of interest," effectively "lobotom(izing) the real economy."
As a result, it's being wrecked. Unemployment and poverty keep rising, and millions of homeowners are losing their most precious asset, mostly by criminal fraud. "Our homes," says Brown, "have become pawns in a great pawn shop run for the benefit of large institutional investors and the banks that profit from them. Our (securitized) sliced and diced houses are the chips moved around in a global casino," the model having "crashed against the hard rock of hundreds of years of state real estate law (with) requirements" banks haven't met, and can't meet "if they are to comply with the tax laws for mortgage-backed securities."
The name of the game is fraud, outright categorical massive theft because that's how the system is structured. Banks aren't creating credit responsibly. They're, in fact, "vacuuming up our own money and lending it back to us at higher rates," usurious ones on credit cards. They're "sucking up our real estate and lending it back to our pension (and) mutual funds at compound interest. The result is a mathematically impossible pyramid scheme," inherently prone to fail.
It's flawed, fraudulent, and essential to replace, Brown proposing a "public credit solution" through publicly-owned banks - "a public utility operated for the benefit of" communities nationwide, they, in turn, returning profits to the locales where they were generated, not to a Wall Street crime syndicate.
Since 1919, North Dakota has been the precedent-setting model as the nation's only state-owned bank, the BND. Sustained by its distinctiveness and strength, it's been a credit machine, delivering productive financial services for agriculture, commerce and industry, what no other state can match because they don't have state-owned banks, but easily could.
Earlier, Brown explained that the BND:
"chiefly acts as a central bank, with functions similar to those of a branch of the Federal Reserve," but not disadvantaged in the system it and giant banks control and manipulate to their advantage.
In contrast, BND is an independent public bank, 100% state-owned, operating in the public interest. It also "avoids rivalry with private banks by partnering with them." Local banks do most lending. BND participates in their loans, shares risk, "buy(s) down the interest rate and buy(s) up loans, thereby freeing up banks to lend more," as part of a continuing prosperity-creating virtuous circle.
Year after year it works, freeing North Dakota from today's credit crisis and worst of the economic downturn. It's a win-win for the state, its agriculture, commerce, industry, entrepreneurial startups, students, homebuyers needing loans, and virtually anyone in the state able to qualify.
Compared to predatory banks, state-owned ones have enormous advantages. They don't answer to Wall Street, don't pay outrageous salaries and bonuses, don't speculate in derivatives or other high-risk investments, return handsomely on equity, and deliver prosperity, lifting all boats fairly. It thus begs the question why other states aren't run like North Dakota, currently "rated AA and recently returned a 26% profit to the state," producing credit for economic growth. As Brown explained:
When community-owned banks like North Dakota's create profit-generating credit, "the result can be a functional, efficient and sustainable system of finance," compared to the rest of the country's broken one, hostage to predator bank scams, double-dealing, and other forms of flimflam, robbing millions of homeowners of their properties.
North Dakota's model is a workable alternative, a public ownership way for everyone, lifting all boats fairly and equitably, instead of bilking the many for the few, and wrecking America in the process.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.