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Ex-Treasury Secretary Robert Reich speaks out on the LIBOR scandal

Jul 14, 2012

Just in case some of you thought I was over-reacting to this scandal. It seems that I almost underestimated the problem. I stand corrected.

http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/reich/article/Wall-Street-sleaze-keeps-growing-3705814.php

Wall Street sleaze keeps growing

Just when you thought Wall Street couldn't sink any lower....

Suppose the bankers are manipulating the interest rate so they can place bets with the money you lend or repay them - bets that will pay off big for them because they have inside information on what the market is really predicting, which they're not sharing with you.

That would be a mammoth violation of public trust. And it would amount to a rip-off of almost cosmic proportion - trillions of dollarsthat you and I and other average people would otherwise have received or saved on our lending and borrowing that have been going instead to the bankers. It would make the other abuses of trust we've witnessed look like child's play by comparison.

Sad to say, there's reason to believe this has been going on, or something very much like it. This is what the emerging scandal over "Libor" (short for "London interbank offered rate") is all about....

There are really two different Libor scandals. One has to do with a period just before the financial crisis, around 2007, when Barclays and other banks submitted fake Libor rates lower than the banks' actual borrowing costs in order to disguise how much trouble they were in. This was bad enough. Had the world known then, action might have been taken earlier to diminish the impact of the near financial meltdown of 2008.

But the other scandal is even worse. It involves a more general practice, starting around 2005 (and continuing until ... who knows? It might still be going on), to rig the Libor in whatever way necessary to assure the banks' bets on derivatives would be profitable.

This is insider trading on a gigantic scale. It makes the bankers winners and the rest of us - whose money they've used to make their bets - losers and chumps.

People are supposed to go to prison for insider trading. Are they too big to fail, to big not to bail out, and too big to go to jail? Will the regulators themselves go to jail for bribery? Will the morally-challenged Justice Department step up to the plate? We will see.

Barclays has one huge advantage over the other banks. They were lucky enough to be the first ones caught. That means they get to get all the plea deals by ratting out all the other banks.

This is gonna get messy.


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Dr. Stephen Jones


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