Forum Post: Confessions Of A Wall St. Nihilist: Forget About Goldman Sachs, Our Entire Economy Is Built On Fraud
Posted 8 years ago on June 13, 2012, 4:45 p.m. EST by Misaki
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There was a strange moment last week during President Obama's speech at Cooper Union. There he was, groveling before a cast of Wall Street villains including Goldman Sachs chief Lloyd Blankfein, begging them to "Look into your heart!" like John Turturro's character in Miller's Crossing...when out of the blue, the POTUS dropped this bombshell: "The only people who ought to fear the kind of oversight and transparency that we're proposing are those whose conduct will fail this scrutiny."
The Big Secret, of course, is that every living creature within a 100-mile radius of Cooper Union would fail "this scrutiny"--or that scrutiny, or any scrutiny, period. Not just in a 100-mile radius, but wherever there are still signs of economic life beating in these 50 United States, the mere whiff of scrutiny would work like nerve gas on what's left of the economy. Because in the 21st century, fraud is as American as baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet Volts--fraud's all we got left, Doc. Scare off the fraud with Obama's "scrutiny," and the entire pyramid scheme collapses in a heap of smoldering savings accounts.
That's how an acquaintance of mine, a partner in a private equity firm, put it: "Whoever pops this fraud bubble is going to have to escape on the next flight out, faster than the Bin Laden Bunch fled Kentucky in their chartered jets after 9/11."
And that's why this SEC suit accusing Goldman Sachs of fraud is really just a negotiating bluff to give Obama's people some leverage--or it's supposed to be, anyway--according to the PE guy. He dismissed all the speculation that the fraud investigations would turn on other obvious villains like Deutsche, Merrill, Paulson & Co., the Rahm Emmanuel-linked Magnetar and so on.
"You don't get it, Ames. Even Khuzami, the SEC guy in charge of the Goldman case, is a fraud; the fucker was Deutsche's general counsel when they pulled the same CDO scam as Goldman. You have no idea how deep this goes."
And it's clear that a lot more people here are aware of how fundamentally rotten things are but they're not willing to face the big fraudonomics bummer yet, preferring instead to stick with specific accusations.
My position on this was, "Good, throw the book at those crooks too, I don't see what the problem is here."
This was exactly what I argued a week ago, during a verbal slapfight with that acquaintance of mine. We were making a scene in a Midtown yuppie restaurant, arguing over just how much damage Wall Street had caused, and what to do about it.
His position was indefensible, and he knew it, so he switched tactics:
"OK Ames, which bankers would you throw the book at? Because you're arguing that they're all guilty. So which ones do you go after? Two of them? Three? Half of them?"
"Every last one of them. Lock 'em up in one of their private prisons."
"Not gonna happen, Che."
"Che? Me? Listen, Scarface, I'm about law and order. Don't any of you PE degenerates believe in that anymore?"
"OK, here's the deal, Che. I'm going to walk you through this nice and slow so that even an agave-sweetened hippie like you can understand this. Stick with me, this is gonna be a little complicated. Ready?" And so he began.
"Let's say the government decides one day, 'You know, we oughta listen to Che here, let's throw the book at every firm and every executive that our people can make a case against. Because you know, gosh, it's all about rule of law and blind justice, just like Che says.' OK, so now this means indicting just about every serious player in finance, so they take down Goldman Sachs, they take down Citigroup, JP Morgan, BofA... and they also serve all the big funds who are at least as guilty, if not more. So they shut down Pimco, Blackrock, Citadel... maybe they indict Geithner and Summers, haul in some of Bush's crooks... right?"
"Too bad they don’t serve popcorn here, this is getting good."
"OK, now guess what you've just done? You've just caused the markets to completely tank. Remember what happened after the Lehman collapse? Remember how popular that made every politician in Washington? Still wondering why they coughed up a trillion bucks? They were scared for their lives; that's why they voted for that bailout. You'd have done the same goddamn thing. But if we go after everyone guilty of fraud and theft, the market crash this country would see would make 2008 look like Sesame Street. Open that can of worms labeled 'Fraud' and the whole fucking economy collapses. You may as well prosecute people for masturbating. No one will know where the fraud investigation stops and who will be charged next--everyone will try to cash out, and the markets will tank to zero. And guess what happens when the markets tank to zero? Every fucking American with a retirement plan, or an investment portfolio, or a 401k--every state pension plan in the country, every teacher's pension fund, every fireman's pension--every last one of them will be wiped out. That's what the Lehman collapse taught us."
"Us? It didn't teach anything but that this country is run by maniacs.”
"Jesus H. Christ, Ames– you're even more clueless than the idiots who managed the Lehman collapse. I mean, didn't everyone get it how badly those idiots screwed up with Lehman? It was the biggest screw-up this hemisphere has ever seen. You had Secretary Paulson and Fed Chief Bernanke scratching their asses not knowing what to do, so then they go, 'OK, we're supposed to be a free market economy, and we're supposed to be the Republicans--let's try something different for a change since nothing else is working. Let's go out on a limb and actually give this "free market" thing a whirl. Who knows? Maybe the "free market" really works the way we always say it does. Nothing else seems to work, let's let the free market decide Lehman's fate. Maybe corporate-socialism isn't the answer.' So they hung Lehman out in the free-market, and BAM! The. Shit. Hit. The. Fan. No shit, dudes--the free market is for suckers, didn't your daddy teach you idiots that? Not only did Lehman collapse--everything collapsed; confidence in the entire system collapsed. And here's what I'm trying to explain to simpletons like you: Our economy is just a confidence game. Don't ask me how it got this way, don't care."
I tried saying something insulting to him, but he just talked right over me, lurching forward baring his laser-whitened teeth.
"I'm sure you have the answer, you and Ron Paul and all the other pot-smoking libertarian do-gooders have it all figured out. But what I'm saying is, no confidence means end of the confidence game. That's what Lehman showed. Every single player in finance suddenly had to face the fundamental problem--this whole fucking economy is built on fraud and lies and garbage. So when Lehman collapsed, every single player panicked, going, 'If Lehman was nothing but a Ponzi scheme--and I know what I'm running is a Ponzi scheme--holy shit, that means everyone else is running a Ponzi scheme too! Run for the exits!' No one trusted anyone else, everyone pulled out, and the entire global economy collapsed just like that. And that meant your parents, my parents, every teacher, every fireman, every person in the country going into retirement, every price on every asset--wiped out.
"And here's what I'm trying to get you to understand: In the grown-up world, when an entire country's savings accounts are wiped out because of some do-gooder and his law books and his Thomas Jefferson 'What about free and fair markets?' crap, that is a big problem--people don't give a fuck about Jefferson and 'free and fair markets,' they just want their savings to be worth something. And people are right: Jefferson was an imbecile. He should have been a folk singer, not a Founding fucking Father. But that's another issue that's over your head--the point is, the guy who destroys this economy because it's 'the right thing to do' will have to flee for his life, and whatever president or political party was in power when that decision was made will be out of power for the next 200 years. That's why Washington panicked and passed 'the bailout,' they didn't want to be the fools whom all the Ponzi victims blame for tanking the Ponzi scheme, so they broke the glass and pumped up a newer, bigger Ponzi scheme. It was an expensive 14 trillion dollar lesson in, 'Stay the fuck away from free-market experiments, assholes!' How naive are you people to actually believe that 'free market' crap? The problem is when people in power are stupid enough to listen to guys like you: all the do-gooder libertarians and the do-gooder free-market Republicans who forgot that they're supposed to lie. Hello!"
"Libertarian, me? Since when was I ever a libertarian?"
"That's my point: Fools like you don't even know who you are anymore. They forgot that they're supposed to lie about all that libertarian free-market shit, keep it far the fuck out of policy. But instead of just lying about free-markets while secretly propping up Lehman, the idiots actually tried pulling off a 'free-market' miracle, and we had to pay $14 trillion just to find out what I could have told them for no fee at all, which is: 'Hey, assholes, you're supposed to be hypocrites, OK? You're supposed to be two-faced free-market liars, not libertarian Quakers! You're not supposed to believe in anything--your job is to get up in front of the public and lie about free markets and the rest. Period.'