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Jul 17 2012

LIBOR: Past Time to Investigate the NY Fed

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Wall St. is a high crime area and the criminals are allowed to run free.

~Dennis Kelleher~

Back in May of 2009, Eliot Spitzer, former New York State Attorney General, aka “The Sheriff of Wall St,”, wrote this article for Slate after the revelation that New York Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Stephen Friedman’s “purchased some Goldman stock while the Fed was involved in reviewing major decisions about Goldman’s future.” In the article he called into question just who it is that selects the person who sits at the head of the table:

A quasi-independent, public-private body, the New York Fed is the first among equals of the 12 regional Fed branches. Unlike the Washington Federal Reserve Board of Governors, or the other regional fed branches, the N.Y. Fed is active in the markets virtually every day, changing the critical interest rates that determine the liquidity of the markets and the profitability of banks. And, like the other regional branches, it has boundless power to examine, at will, the books of virtually any banking institution and require that wide-ranging actions be taken-from raising capital to stopping lending-to ensure the stability and soundness of the bank. Over the past year, the New York Fed has been responsible for committing trillions of dollars of taxpayer money to resuscitate the coffers of the banks it oversees. [..]

So who selected Geithner back in 2003? Well, the Fed board created a select committee to pick the CEO. This committee included none other than Hank Greenberg, then the chairman of AIG; John Whitehead, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs; Walter Shipley, a former chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, now JPMorgan Chase; and Pete Peterson, a former chairman of Lehman Bros. It was not a group of typical depositors worried about the security of their savings accounts but rather one whose interest was in preserving a capital structure and way of doing business that cried out for-but did not receive-harsh examination from the N.Y. Fed.

The composition of the New York Fed’s board, which supervises the organization and current Chairman Friedman, is equally troubling. The board consists of nine individuals, three chosen by the N.Y. Fed member banks as their own representatives, three chosen by the member banks to represent the public, and three chosen by the national Fed Board of Governors to represent the public. In theory this sounds great: Six board members are “public” representatives.

So essentially, we have the thieves guarding the vault. Willie Sutton would have loved this.

That brings us to the LIBOR scandal and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s role. In his currentSlate article, Mr. Spitzer again reiterates the growing need to investigate the NY Fed. and Mr. Geithner. What did he know? When did he know it? Why didn’t he refer it to the Justice Department?

The New York Federal Reserve knew about Libor games being played by the banks years ago and seems to have done precious little about it-except perhaps send a memo parroting the so-called reform ideas proposed by the banks themselves. Then nothing more. No prosecutions, no inquiries of the banks to see if the illegal behavior had stopped-just a live-and-let-live attitude.

Apparently, as Mr. Geithner had testified during his confirmation hearing for Treasury, he didn’t see himself as a “regulator.” Yet, that is the most important part of the NY Federal Reserve. But then look who chose him as Fed president:

Hank Greenberg of AIG and John Whitehead of Goldman Sachs–these companies that got bailed out-were on the NY Fed committee that made Tim Geithner their president.

No conflict of interest there? Wow.

MR. Spitzer believes that it is time for the NY Fed to be investigated:

Was there a similar conflict of interest when the New York Fed apparently did nothing adequate about the Libor games? Well, look who was on the board: Dick Fuld of Lehman fame; Sandy Weill of Citibank; Jeff Immelt of GE-the largest beneficiary of the Fed’s commercial paper guarantees; and, of course, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, whose bank’s London derivative trades and Libor involvement make his role on the board even more absurd.

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone contributing editor, and Dennis Kelleher, president and CEO of Better Markets Inc., join “Viewpoint” host Eliot Spitzer to assess the scope of the unfolding Libor scandal given news that the U.S. Justice Department is building criminal cases and expects to “file charges against at least one bank later this year,” according to The New York Times.

Lets just say that I agree with Atrios, don’t hold your breath for either an investigation or prosecutions.

1 comment

  1. TMC

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