Before we carry on with the second interview, I would like to give you a brief understanding of a few words and terms mentioned. These are important terms to understand regarding the complex structure of our financial octopus. Rarely do we read the fine print, otherwise understand, what we have just read in a mortgage or insurance policy. Millions of citizens around the globe have just found out in the past several years how important their ignorance was in not understanding what the words meant. The outcome was the lose of trillions of dollars in lifetime investments, cars, real estate, 401ks, infrastructure and old age securities. And this is just the beginning. It is my intention to make people aware of the fact that the more education we have in daily matters and finances the more capable we will be to read in between the lines and see the truth for what it is or what it is not. If this blog helps just one person, than I have accomplished what I had set out to do.
A business that provides investment advice to clients for a fee. Different businesses provide advice through different methods. For example, an advisors can meet clients face-to-face or through a telephone. Investment advisors are required to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission and abide by the rules of the Investment Advisers Act.
A Mortgage-Backed Security (MBS) is an asset-backed security or debt obligation that represents a claim on the cash flows from mortgage loans, most commonly on residential property. First, mortgage loans are purchased from banks, mortgage companies, and other originators. Then, these loans are assembled into pools. This is done by government agencies, government-sponsored enterprises, and private entities. Mortgage-backed securities represent claims on the principal and payments on the loans in the pool, through a process known as Securitization. These securities are usually sold as bonds, but financial innovation has created a variety of securities that derive their ultimate value from mortgage pools.
Most MBSs are issued by the Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae), a U.S. government agency, or the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), U.S. government-sponsored enterprises. Ginnie Mae, backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, guarantees that investors receive timely payments. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also provide certain guarantees and, while not backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, have special authority to borrow from the U.S. Treasury. Some private institutions, such as brokerage firms, banks, and homebuilders, also securitize mortgages, known as "private-label" mortgage securities.
An Asset-Backed Security is a security whose value and income payments are derived from and collateralized (or "backed") by a specified pool of underlying assets. The pool of assets is typically a group of small and illiquid assets that are unable to be sold individually. Pooling the assets into financial instruments allows them to be sold to general investors, a process called securitization, and allows the risk of investing in the underlying assets to be diversified because each security will represent a fraction of the total value of the diverse pool of underlying assets. The pools of underlying assets can include common payments from credit cards, auto loans, and mortgage loans, to esoteric cash flows from aircraft leases, royalty payments and movie revenues.
BlackRock Inc. (NYSE: BLK) is a major American investment management firm and pioneer of mortgage backed securities in the United States. As of March 31, 2009 BlackRock’s assets under management totaled $1.283 trillion across fixed income, liquidity, equity, alternative investment and real estate strategies, declining from $1.357 trillion of December 31, 2007. In 2008, BlackRock's total revenue was $4.56 billion, of which $4.41 billion came from Advisory Fees, $406 million from BlackRock Solutions, $139 million from Performance Fees, and $137 million from Distribution Fees.
BlackRock is a provider of global investment management, risk management and advisory services to institutional and retail clients around the world. As of 30 June 2009, BlackRock's assets under management total US$1.37 trillion across equity, fixed income, cash management, alternative investment and real estate strategies.
BlackRock was founded as the Financial Management Group within the private equity firm Blackstone Group in 1988. Larry Fink, BlackRock’s founder and CEO, had joined Blackstone in 1988 as a partner, along with Ralph Schlosstein, former White House aide under the Carter administration, and Robert Kapito and Sue Wagner. Before joining Blackstone, Fink was a managing director at First Boston, where he pioneered the mortgage-backed securities market in the United States. In 1992, Calonico, Fink, Schlosstein and Co separated from the Blackstone Group under the name BlackRock and aggressively re-invented it as an independent asset-management company. In 1995, PNC Financial Services Group purchased BlackRock and in 1999, assets under management had grown to $165 billion and the firm decided to go public.
Much of BlackRock's recent growth can be attributed to its acquisitions. On January 28, 2005, BlackRock purchased State Street Research Management, a mutual-fund business that had previously been owned by MetLife. This acquisition added a sizable equity business to BlackRock's funds, which had previously comprised mostly fixed-income securities. On September 29, 2006, BlackRock completed its merger with Merrill Lynch Investment Managers (MLIM), halving PNC's ownership and giving Merrill Lynch a 49.5-percent stake in the company. On October 1, 2007, BlackRock acquired the fund-of-funds business of Quellos Capital Management. On April 30, 2009, BlackRock hired 43 employees from R3 Capital Management, LLC and took control of the $1.5 billion fund.
Headquartered in New York, BlackRock serves clients from offices in 19 countries, maintaining a major presence in North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and the Middle East. With approximately 5,700 employees, including more than 700 investment professionals worldwide. BlackRock Financial Management Inc. has been retained by the New York Fed to manage and eventually liquidate the assets held in a newly formed Delaware limited liability company (LLC) to fund the purchase of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) from the securities lending portfolio of several regulated U.S. insurance subsidiaries of AIG. Blackrock announced on June 11, 2009 that it had acquired Barclays Global Investors, making it the largest money manager in the world, BlackRock Solutions.
This is part two of the interview between Bill Moyers of "The Journal", Simon Johnson, the former Chief Economist at the International Monetary Fund and Marcy Kaptur, the progressive Representative from Ohio.
SIMON JOHNSON: These are very smart, very profit-oriented people. I can assure you, if there was money in it for them. They would be negotiating you know, very various kinds of re-schedulings of these loans. They don't want to do it. They it's not in their interest. It's not where the money is. Follow the money. The money is where Jamie Dimon says it is. Jamie Dimon says, 'You ain't seen nothing yet,' in terms of his lobby in Washington. He's on the record as saying, he's this is his big initiative right now.
BILL MOYERS: To?
SIMON JOHNSON: To spend more time in Washington, more time cultivating all those relationships on Capital Hill and in the executive branch. And you know what else Jamie Dimon said to his shareholders? To his shareholders meeting this year, he said, with regard to 2008, the year of what we regard as the greatest financial crisis, an absolute human tragedy. He said, Jamie Dimon said to his shareholders, 'This was perhaps our best year ever.'
MARCY KAPTUR: Think about what these banks have done. They have taken very imprudent behavior, irresponsible. They have really gambled, all right? And in many cases, been involved in fraudulent activity. And then when they lost, they shifted their losses to the taxpayer. So, if you look at an instrumentality like the F.H.A., the Federal Housing Administration. They used to insure one of every 50 mortgages in the country. Now it's one out of four.
MARCY KAPTUR: Because what they're doing is they're taking their mistakes and they're dumping them on the taxpayer. So, you and I, and the long term debt of our country and our children and grandchildren. It's all at risk because of their behavior. We aren't reigning them in. The laws of Congress passed last year in terms of housing, were hollow. Were hollow.
MARCY KAPTUR: Foreclosures in my area have gone up 94 percent. And we know the basic rules of economics. Housing leads us to recovery. Housing was the precipitating factor in this economic downturn. Unless you dealing with the housing sector, you aren't going to have growth in this economy
BILL MOYERS: You're both saying the financial world, the banks in particular, are putting their interests above anybody else's interest. And they've got the power in the executive branch, and the Congress to back up their demands, right?
SIMON JOHNSON: This is capitalism, Bill. That's what they're supposed to do. They represent their shareholders, they're appointed by the board of directors to make money for their shareholders. And the way they think that they can best make money is to shape the regulatory rules around housing around derivatives, around all everything we used to have that kept the financial sector under control. Has all been, you know, washed away, one way or another, by their efforts, right? They make money in the boom, that way. And when and when bad things happen, they shove all the downside onto the taxpayer. That's what they're doing their job.
MARCY KAPTUR: It's socialism for the big banks. Because they've basically taken their mistakes and they've put it on the taxpayer. That's the government. That's socialism. That isn't capitalism.
SIMON JOHNSON: Well people some people call that lemon socialism. So, when it turns out to be a lemon, it's you it's yours, the taxpayer. When it turns out to be good, it's mine, I'm Wall Street.
BILL MOYERS: Why have we not had the reform that we all knew was being was needed and being demanded a year ago?
SIMON JOHNSON: I think the opportunity the short term opportunity was missed. There was an opportunity that the Obama Administration had. President Obama campaigned on a message of change. I voted for him. I supported him. And I believed in this message. And I thought that the time for change, for the financial sector, was absolutely upon us. This was abundantly apparent by the inauguration in January of this year.
SIMON JOHNSON: And Rahm Emanuel, the President's Chief of Staff has a saying. He's widely known for saying, 'Never let a good crisis go to waste'. Well, the crisis is over, Bill. The crisis in the financial sector, not for people who own homes, but the crisis for the big banks is substantially over. And it was completely wasted. The Administration refused to break the power of the big banks, when they had the opportunity, earlier this year. And the regulatory reforms they are now pursuing will turn out to be, in my opinion, and I do follow this day to day, you know. These reforms will turn out to be essentially meaningless.
MARCY KAPTUR: When Lincoln ran into trouble, during the Civil War, he got new generals. He brought in Grant. I hope that President Obama will bring in some new generals on the financial front.
BILL MOYERS: Should Geithner be fired? And Summers be fired?
MARCY KAPTUR: I don't think that any individuals who had their hands on creating this mess should be in charge of cleaning it up. I honestly don't think they're capable of it.
BILL MOYERS: Let me show you an excerpt from the speech President Obama made on Wall Street last month, September. Here is the challenge he laid down to the bankers.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: "We will not go back to the days of reckless behavior and unchecked excess at the heart of this crisis, where too many were motivated only by the appetite for quick kills and bloated bonuses. Those on Wall Street cannot resume taking risks without regard for consequences, and expect that next time, American taxpayers will be there to break their fall."
BILL MOYERS: A reality check. Not one CEO of a Wall Street bank was there to hear the President. What do you make of that?
SIMON JOHNSON: Arrogance. Because they have no fear for the government anymore. They have no respect for the President, which I find absolutely extraordinary and shocking. All right? And I think they have no not an ounce of gratitude to the American people, who saved them, their jobs, and the way they run the world.
BILL MOYERS: In the scheme of things, it is the Congress, and the government that's supposed to stand up to the powerful, organized interests, for the people in Toledo, who can't come to Washington. Who are working or trying to keep their homes or trying to pay their health bills. What's happened to our government?
MARCY KAPTUR: Congress has really shut down. I'm disappointed in both chambers, because wouldn't you think, with the largest financial crisis in American history, in the largest transfer of wealth from the American people to the biggest banks in this country, that every committee of Congress would be involved in hearings, that this would be on the news, that people would be engaged in this. What we're seeing is-- tangential hearings on very arcane aspects of financial reform. For example, now we're going to have a consumer protection agency to help the poor consumer, who doesn't understand all of this, rather than hearings on the fundamental new architecture of reforming the American financial system, so that we have prudent lending, capital accumulation at the local level again; that we encourage savings and limit debt by the American people. Our country needs this. Those aren't the hearings that are happening. If you want a marker at the Federal level of how serious we are to get justice out of this financial crisis, look at the F.B.I. Look at the number of people who are really prosecuting and investigation mortgage fraud and securities fraud. It is so small I've been one of the Members of Congress trying to increase by ten times the agents to get at the justice issues for the American people. For companies that have been hurt. For shareholders that have been hurt. Our government isn't doing it. That it's very easy to look at the budget of the F.B.I. in mortgage fraud and securities fraud and say, 'How serious is the government?' And until those numbers increase, we will not begin to get justice.
BILL MOYERS: If we can't get reform out of this calamity, when can we get it then, given the realities you have both described?
SIMON JOHNSON: That's the worry, Bill, right? And I'm very serious. I'm very serious about this. Which is, you know, does it take- we have elements of the Great Depression now, in terms of the impact on people, okay? I mean, people losing their jobs, their homes, their health insurance.
BILL MOYERS: Even though Wall Street says, 'Well, we're past the crisis now. Profits at the banks are up. And Wall Street- and the stock market is stirring.'
SIMON JOHNSON: We're out of the financial part of the crisis, we're not out of the human part of the crisis.
MARCY KAPTUR: And we're not out of the housing crisis. The President ought to take these empty units and require his Administration to broker rental agreements with families, so they're not kicked out. Property values are dropping, all over the country, sometimes by as much as 25 percent. You can do a 30 year mortgage, even a 40 year mortgage, where people have a job or even unemployment benefits, if they're going to get them for another year. Well, my goodness, you can keep them in their home. Empty units do no one any good. Let me tell you what happened in- where I live in Toledo, Ohio. The house next to me was foreclosed. And so, I called, the other day, a little plaque appeared on the door of this house. And it said, '$500 down, $300 a month rent.' I said, 'What is that, a land contract deal? What's going on there?' So I called the number. I get a repossession dealer in South Carolina. I said, 'Hello sir, what's your name?' 'Johnny,' or something. I said, 'And what's your address?' He gave me a P.O. Box number. I said, 'Now listen,' I said, 'Your property is bringing down the value of our property because you're on our heels.' 'Lady, I get these things from the bank.' And he said, 'You know, we try to unload 'em. What are you going to offer me?' This is what he's saying to me over the telephone. I don't think a single one of my neighbors knows that that home is now in possession of a group in South Carolina that could care less about it.
SIMON JOHNSON: Just to reinforce this point. Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac are now government agencies. Okay? They not only hold a lot of mortgages that are in default or close to default. They're also responsible for enormous amount of the new loans- that are being originated anywhere in the country, actually. They work for the President. The kinds of proposals that Congresswoman Kaptur's put in forth are entirely reasonable. And can be implemented by the executive branch, hopefully with Congress on board, certainly at the urging of certain members of Congress, obviously. But they can do it.
BILL MOYERS: So Simon, go ahead- you were saying- what is it that scares you? You're worried?
SIMON JOHNSON: Another Great Depression. Right? If you don't fix the financial system, Bill. If you allow them to have the same attitude. If you- if you actually allow them to increase their economic power, their ability to take risk, and their belief that they can shove the losses onto the government. And that's why they didn't show up to President Obama's speech on Wall Street
BILL MOYERS: Why don't they respect him?
SIMON JOHNSON: Because they think that the next time they won't even have to ask. They'll just be given the bailout that they want.
MARCY KAPTUR: Right. That's been their history. Their bed is feathered. When they messed up during the 1980s, they put their bill through the savings and loans crisis on the American people. $140 billion.
BILL MOYERS: And we're still paying that off, by the way. I think the last payment will be made in 2013.
MARCY KAPTUR: Very good. Most people don't even know that.
BILL MOYERS: Well, I covered that.
MARCY KAPTUR: But that, you know, it opened the flood gates. They go, 'Oh, we can get away with $140 billion?' This time how many trillions have they gotten away with? Plus all the deregulatory actions that were taken during the 1990s. I remember when they came to the Congress, when Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House. And they came down to the Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs Committee, and they took the name off the door. And they changed it to Financial Services. And people began to see that they had money in the bank, and they charged them a fee to cash their own check on their own money. And then fees went up for everything. And the ordinary consumer found, 'Hey, it's not so smart to have a savings account, because it costs me more money if I have under $10,000 in the bank, they charge me all this money on my own money.' They got exactly what they wanted. And so, then all the abuses and the irresponsible and imprudent behavior of the 1990s that led to this, nobody did anything. They just kept opening more floodgates to them. And then with the removal of Glass-Steagall in 1999, which I-
BILL MOYERS: That was the rule that kept the investment banks from being owned by banks, right?
MARCY KAPTUR: It's about separating banking and commerce.
BILL MOYERS: Right.
MARCY KAPTUR: They said as a country, you know, banks have extraordinary power. They have the power to create money. And decide how much that is worth. They have extraordinary power. And we used to have capital ratios. We need to get back to them. Ten to one. For every dollar in your bank, you can lend ten. You know what J.P. Morgan did? A hundred to one. And then with derivatives, who knows how much? Glass-Steagall separated banking from commerce, so that we didn't have these institutions getting too big, getting into too many things. And we just gave them total abandon. And they took it.
SIMON JOHNSON: Well, the final end of the last vestige of Glass-Steagall came in just now in August. Unnoted, but I think very significant. Goldman Sachs, you remember, was an investment bank, a securities company. Not allowed to be a commercial bank; didn't have access to the Federal Reserve and this ability to tap into the money supply of the country. Until September of last year, when the crisis broke, they were allowed a very short notice to convert to being a bank holding company. This was what saved Goldman Sachs in my opinion. Also Morgan Stanley. Which meant they could stay in the securities business. And they could also have access to the Federal Reserve. In August, just now, they converted to what's called a financial holding company. That may seem like a technical detail to you, but this means they can borrow from the Fed, at essentially zero interest rate now. They can invest in, I mean, as far as we can see, from the outside, looking at their portfolio, anything they want, including, you're going to love this one, they just bought some stock, big chunk of stock in a Chinese automotive company. Okay? So, that's your money, that's your Federal Reserve, financing a highly speculative investment. And if it goes well, they get the upside. And if it goes badly, that's another one for us.
BILL MOYERS: Well, and this is what we were talking about earlier, the system. I mean, President Clinton's Secretary of Treasury, Robert Rubin helps eliminate Glass-Steagall. And then leaves the government and goes to work for? Citicorp?
SIMON JOHNSON: Well Rubin's a fascinating character. He ran Goldman Sachs, he went into the Clinton White House, then he became Secretary of the Treasury, and it was on his watch that, first of all, Glass-Steagall began to really seriously crumble, and then it was completely swept away- replaced, abolished, really. And then, of course, Rubin goes on after he leaves Treasury, to be the senior guru type figure at Citigroup. And Citigroup is absolutely epicenter of everything that's gone wrong with our financial system.
BILL MOYERS: And wasn't it Robert Rubin the mentor, the guru to both Tim Geithner and Larry Summers?
SIMON JOHNSON: Absolutely. Both Geithner and Summers advanced to senior positions in the Treasury under Rubin was instrumental in bringing Larry Summers to be President of Harvard, after the Clinton Administration. And according to published new report, he was absolutely key person in making sure that Tim Geithner first went to a senior job at the IMF, and then became President of the New York Fed. And there are unconfirmed reports that Robert Rubin was an essential advisor to then candidate Obama in fall of last year, with regard to who he should bring on board as the leadership team on the economic side.
MARCY KAPTUR: And you know, looking at it from the heartland, when I look at Wall Street and all their connections into Washington, and I've been at it a while now, it's very disheartening to me, because I know they don't care about us out there. We're flyover country for them. And they're just out to make money. And I have seen people that I worked with in the Carter White House, who were associated what the bond industry of Wall Street, use their access and create for themselves a money path that today has led them to head organizations like Black Rock, and get private contracts with the Federal Reserve. The over $2 trillion, we don't know how much that the Federal Reserve has extended at this point.
BILL MOYERS: And Black Rock is?
MARCY KAPTUR: Black Rock is an institution that has gotten the major contract of the Federal Reserve to do the mortgage workouts. And my question is, the very people involved in Black Rock, who've gotten these confidential contracts with the Federal Reserve, they were involved on Wall Street in creating the instruments in the first place. So how do we know that they are not covering up their own crime?
BILL MOYERS: So, Simon, what happens now? If we're going to avert a depression and the next calamity, what needs to be done?
SIMON JOHNSON: Well, I think you have to keep at it, Bill. I mean, that's the lesson from previous generations of Americans, who have really confronted entrenched power like this. You have to keep at it. And you mustn't be satisfied. When the Administration says, 'Okay, we fixed it. Don't worry. We did some technical tweaking on capital requirements, for example, in the banks.' You have to say, 'No, that's not true. Let's look at what's happening, let's follow it through.' The muckrakers of today are absolutely essential, I think, to really pushing these banks. And revealing what they're doing. And by the way, Bill, it's going to I think it's going to be a long haul. I think that the economy will start to recover. We'll get some jobs back. It's going to be very painful for a lot of people. But other people's attention is going to drift. It's a three, five, seven, maybe twelve year cycle. But when it comes back, it will come back with a vengeance. And it will be even, I think, even more devastating, in all likelihood, than what we just saw.
BILL MOYERS: How do we get Congress back? How do we get Congress to do what it's supposed to do? Oversight. Real reform. Challenge the powers that be.
MARCY KAPTUR: We have to take the money out. We have to get rid of the constant fundraising that happens inside the Congress. Before political parties used to raise money; now individual members are raising money through the DCCC and the RCCC. It is absolutely corrupt. It's good people.
BILL MOYERS: Those are the fundraising groups both parties-
MARCY KAPTUR: Parties.
BILL MOYERS: In the Congress.
MARCY KAPTUR: And then people wonder, 'Well, why doesn't Congress get along?' Because they are made into arch enemies by the type of fundraising system that is embedded in the very guts of the institution. So, you've got to clean that out. But meanwhile, we need to get hired over at the justice department, 1,000 agents, in mortgage fraud and in securities fraud. Then, I pray, that the leadership of both chambers will do the kind of robust hearings that the nation deserves to rout out those who did wrong and to change the fundamental financial architecture of this country. And then the President needs to get his top housing advisors in the room with him. And they need to meet all weekend. And they need to get their arms around this housing market, in order to stem the rising foreclosures. We haven't stopped the bleeding out there.
BILL MOYERS: Does President Obama get it?
MARCY KAPTUR: I don't think President Obama has the right people around him. The poor man inherited a total mess, globally and domestically. I think some of the people that he trusted haven't delivered. I urge him to get new generals. It's time.
SIMON JOHNSON: Louis the Fourteenth of France, a very powerful monarch, was famous for having many bad things, you know, happen under his rule. And people would always say, 'If only Louis the Fourteenth knew. I'm sure he doesn't know. If we could just tell him, he'd sort it out.' You know. I'm skeptical.
End of Interview