Do you remember the days in the old school yard? Remember how some kids couldn’t take any loss of face? Investors who lost their fortunes in the Madoff Scandal (the guy who made off with over $50 billion from his Ponzi scheme) are now hoping to claim the appreciated amount of money instead of the initially invested amount:
The customers say that, by law, they should be given credit for the full value of the securities shown on the last account statements they received before Mr. Madoff’s arrest in mid-December, even though they were bogus and none of the trades were ever made. According to court filings, those account balances add up to more than $64 billion.
“We are talking about some of the saddest cases imaginable,” he said. “These are people in their 70s and 80s who cannot work and have no possible source of income to replace the money” lost in the fraud.
Let’s not forget that 70 and 80 year olds are adults too, and are as responsible as anyone else for their mistakes or for losses made with what had to be surplus funds to invest with Madoff. We’re not talking about orphans or destitute old bums living out of cardboard boxes in alleyways. They never had any money to invest in the first place.
It’s like a private school sports team that can’t accept defeat. Investors are stamping their feet, complaining that the rules weren’t fair and that they ought to get their money back. Had it been the opposite scenario, had these investors made a wrongful profit, you could be assured that they would not let go of a cent.
Frankly, these investors with Madoff don’t deserve any media attention or extra compensation. Yes, they were victims of fraud and yes, they are rightly sore about it all, but Madoff was not guaranteeing the investment money (he was not posing as a Government backed financial institution, such as a bank). There was no legislation protecting investors from making a loss. They took a risk and they lost. It’s the same for anyone who gambles and loses – why should they have it any different?
The argument that receipts of the inflated sum at investment should be used to gain a tax advantage is problematic, because it encourages Ponzi style schemes (if you win, hooray, if you lose, it’s a tax break). This was not a real investment, and it should not be treated as though it ever was one. When people gave their money to Madoff, who promised to bank it for them, they accepted that they may never see the money again. This is the reason why you should diversify your investments and not trust any one vehicle, or if you absolutely positively don’t want to lose the money, buy gold and put it in a vault or something.
What this illustrates is the mentality of US investors. They are like two-year-olds who can’t come to terms with the negative meaning of the world “risk”. But of course, in this financial crisis, there must be no losers. Everybody has to be bailed.
Government leaders feign outrage at taxpayer money being given to bankers in the form of bonuses. They struck back by threatening to tax those bonuses in what appears as an all-out assault on the finance industry. The Times raises fears that the banking industry is under threat as a result:
Proposals that could lead to Wall Street bonuses being taxed at 100 per cent could result in “the end of the banks as we know them now”, a leading financier warned yesterday.
Even if it’s 70%, it will still make banking rather unattractive to a lot of people as a career choice in the USA. All this of course is no more than populism on the part of Government, which as usual is making sugar coated legislation with a bitter aftertaste. A tax such as this will sink AIG, which has only just been bailed out. The idea of thwarting bonuses sounds good, but it will trigger a brain drain in the US financial sector, guaranteeing the taxpayer to be left with a useless, expensive corpse on its hands.
Bigger and worse things are happening which remain unchecked.
New money is being issued by the Federal Reserve. This is a more serious kind of theft which affects every honest person. The resulting inflation will be unstoppable and the Fed knows it. An anonymous commenter states:
Will other countries threaten violent force? Will they try to acquire U.S. claims to oil reserves in the middle east and Latin America, and to other “indirect” U.S. claims to commodities–originating from U.S. based companies?
The facts are pretty compelling that the U.S. will have to default on its debt. When that time comes, how will the rest of the world react?
These are very thought provoking questions indeed. That there will be physical (military) ramifications to financial incongruities is a given, especially if the current approach by central banks and governments is pursued. In the medium to long term, the public cannot possibly benefit from anything which has been done by both central banks and governments. All of this spells disaster for ordinary people.
So who are the beneficiaries of all of this? Where did all the money go?
The US Economy should be declared a crime scene.
Could it be people, as yet unidentified, who have been quietly exploiting the various tiers of the economic system to their own advantage? Theirs is an eerie silence. I have no doubt there are many individuals who have access to sensitive (and incredibly advantageous) trading information at stock exchanges. I also have no doubt that people who have sensitive economic and policy data (in draft form) at their fingertips make “good use” of it. They will have surely succumbed to the temptation of making untold profits by knowing the outcome of trades before they take place. The former Chairman of NASDAQ is but a snowflake on the tip of the iceberg of America’s economic corruption. His scheme was simple and easily blown out of the water, but the economic crisis (and the missing money) is an order of magnitude larger than Madoff’s billions.
If you had anything resembling a live feed to the names of traders, quantities traded, buy points, sell points, basically raw, unprocessed stock market data, what would you do with it? Nothing? The point is that, because so much in the economy is now electronic, evidence is easily erased (or planted) and communications are easily intercepted. I don’t know if trading data is being leaked on an ongoing basis, but I would be surprised if it wasn’t. I don’t know if people other than scrupulously honest law enforcement officers listen in on telephone conversations, business meetings, and so on, but I would be surprised if they didn’t. Heck, you can hardly find an honest person in any walk of life as it is!
So instead of printing new money and shooting easy targets (managers working for finance companies), governments should be digging up trading records, exposing insider traders (and all the other fraudsters and swindlers) and treating system problems which allow for opaque business and accounting practices.