Financial News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Financial News Articles in Media
The global bank HSBC has been used by Mexican drug cartels looking to get cash back into the United States, by Saudi Arabian banks that needed access to dollars despite their terrorist ties and by Iranians who wanted to circumvent United States sanctions, a Senate report says. The 335-page report released [on July 16] also says that executives at HSBC and regulators at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency ignored warning signs and failed to stop the illegal behavior at many points between 2001 and 2010. The problems at HSBC, Europe's largest financial institution, [are] indicators of a broader problem of illegal money flowing through international financial institutions into the United States. The report on HSBC is the latest of several scandals that have recently rocked global banks and highlighted the inability of regulators to catch what is claimed to be widespread wrongdoing in the financial industry. The British bank Barclays recently admitted that its traders tried to manipulate a crucial global interest rate, and multiple major banks are under investigation. JPMorgan Chase disclosed last week that its employees may have tried to hide trades that are likely to cost the bank billions of dollars. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has come under particularly harsh criticism for showing too much deference to the banks it regulates.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on regulatory and financial corruption and criminality, click here. For our highly revealing Banking Corruption Information Center, click here.
Once more the big banks are exposed in systematic fraudulent activity. When Barclays agreed to a $450 million fine for trying to rig the Libor, its CEO offered the classic excuse: Everyone does it. Once more the question remains: Will CEOs and CFOs, as well as traders, be prosecuted? Or will they depart with their multimillion dollar rewards intact, leaving shareholders to pay the tab for the hundreds of millions in fines? The Barclays settlement exposed that traders colluded to try to fix the Libor rate. This is the rate used as the basis for exotic derivatives as well as mortgages, credit card and personal loan rates. Almost everyone is affected. Fixing the rate even a few hundredths of a percentage point could make Barclays millions on any single day — money taken out of the pockets of consumers and investors. Once more the banks were rigging the rules; once more their customers were their mark. The collusion was systematic and routine. Investigations are underway not only in the United Kingdom but also in the United States, Canada and the European Union. Those named in the probes are all the usual suspects: JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, UBS, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, UBS and others. This wasn’t rogue trading, ... it was more like a cartel. The Economist writes that what has been revealed here is “the rotten heart of finance,” a “culture of casual dishonesty.”
Note: For key investigative reports on the criminality and corruption in the financial industry and biggest banks, click here.
The Libor scandal has confirmed what many of us have known for some time: There is something smelly in the London financial world and the stench is now overwhelming. The Financial Services Authority report [made it] clear just how widespread, how blatant was the fixing of the benchmark interest rate Libor and Euribor by Barclays. Brazen is the only word for it. The emails and phone calls reveal that on dozens of occasions those who stood to gain by the decisions asked for favors (and got them) from those who helped set the interest rates. And all the time the world believed Libor was somehow a barometer of what banks were lending to each other. It wasn't. It was the rate at which a bank was prepared to corrupt the money markets for its own narrow, venal gain. It is the way the traders, the rate submitters -- everyone involved in this cesspit -- [were] running to do wrong which makes it so egregious. With one or two feeble exceptions, no one ever seemed to stop and say "this is against the rules." Or, heaven forbid, "this is wrong." I have no doubt that Barclays wasn't the only one up to this. The FSA report makes it clear that other traders were putting pressure on their rate setters too. Libor and its cousin Euribor are the rates used to determine hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of highly specialized financial contracts called derivatives. Businesses and household loans are set by this benchmark. It is the backbone of the financial world and now it has been proven to be bent and crooked.
Note: For an incredibly incisive interview between Eliot Spitzer, Matt Taibbi, and a top banking expert on how the LIBOR scandal undermines the integrity of all banking, click here. For astounding news on the $700 trillion derivatives bubble, click here. For a treasure trove of reliable reports on the criminality and corruption within the financial and banking industries, click here.
The Barclays Libor scandal may have shocked the British public, but Joseph Stiglitz saw it coming decades ago. And he's convinced that jailing bankers is the best way to curb market abuses. [Former World Bank Chief Economist] Stiglitz wrote a series of papers in the 1970s and 1980s explaining how when some individuals have access to privileged knowledge that others don't, free markets yield bad outcomes for wider society. That insight (known as the theory of "asymmetric information") won Stiglitz the Nobel Prize for economics in 2001. And he has leveraged those credentials relentlessly ever since to batter at the walls of "free market fundamentalism". It is a crusade that [includes] his new book The Price of Inequality. When traders working for Barclays rigged the Libor interest rate and flogged toxic financial derivatives – using their privileged position in the financial system to make profits at the expense of their customers – they were unwittingly proving Stiglitz right. "It's a textbook illustration," Stiglitz said. "Where there are these asymmetries a lot of these activities are directed at rent seeking [appropriating resources from someone else rather than creating new wealth]. That was one of my original points. It wasn't about productivity, it was taking advantage." He argues that breaking the economic and political power that has been amassed by the financial sector in recent decades, especially in the US and the UK, is essential if we are to build a more just and prosperous society. The first step, he says, is sending some bankers to jail.
Note: For key investigative reports on the criminality and corruption in the financial industry and biggest banks, click here.
An anonymous insider from one of Britain's biggest lenders ... explains how he and his colleagues helped manipulate the UK's bank borrowing rate. Neither the insider nor the bank can be identified for legal reasons. It was during a weekly economic briefing at the bank in early 2008 that I first heard the phrase. A sterling swaps trader told the assembled economists and managers that "Libor was dislocated with itself". What the trader told us was that the bank could not be seen to be borrowing at high rates, so we were putting in low Libor submissions, the same as everyone. How could we do that? Easy. The British Bankers' Association, which compiled Libor, asked for a rate submission but there were no checks. The trader said there was a general acceptance that you lowered the price a few basis points each day. According to the trader, "everyone knew" and "everyone was doing it". There was no implication of illegality. After all, there were 20 to 30 people in the room – from management to economists, structuring teams to salespeople – and more on the teleconference dial-in from across the country. The discussion was so open the behaviour seemed above board. In no sense was this a clandestine gathering. Libor had dislocated with itself for a very good reason – to hide the true issues within the bank.
Note: For an incredibly incisive interview between Eliot Spitzer, Matt Taibbi, and a top banking expert on how the LIBOR scandal undermines the integrity of all banking, click here. For a treasure trove of reliable reports on the criminality and corruption within the financial and banking industries, click here.
Wall Street bankers could have averted the global financial crisis, so why didn't they? In this exclusive extract from his book Inside Job: The Financiers Who Pulled Off the Heist of the Century, Charles Ferguson argues that they should be prosecuted: The Securities and Exchanges Commission has been deservedly criticised for not following up on years of complaints about [Bernard L.] Madoff. But not a single bank that had suspicions about Madoff made such a call. Instead, they assumed he was probably a crook, but either just left him alone or were happy to make money from him. It is no exaggeration to say that since the 1980s, much of the global financial sector has become criminalised, creating an industry culture that tolerates or even encourages systematic fraud. The behaviour that caused the mortgage bubble and financial crisis of 2008 was a natural outcome and continuation of this pattern, rather than some kind of economic accident. This behaviour is criminal. We are talking about deliberate concealment of financial transactions that aided terrorism, nuclear weapons proliferation and large-scale tax evasion; assisting in major financial frauds and in concealment of criminal assets; and committing frauds that substantially worsened the worst financial bubbles and crises since the Depression. And yet none of this conduct has been punished in any significant way.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on corruption and criminality in the finance industry, click here.
Question: A group proposing a change in monetary policy based on the writings of Stephen Zarlenga (monetary.org) [argues] that the government should print the money, not the Fed or any other private body. H.R. 2990 proposed by Dennis Kucinich is based on these ideas. Are they reasonable to you? Paul Solman: As the Treasury borrows more and more money by issuing bonds and selling them to all comers, it commits itself, "with the full faith and credit" of the United States, to pay back its creditors in full. That means it will either raise taxes in the future or -- and this is the relevant point -- get the Fed to create more money by purchasing bonds on the open market. This is called "monetizing the debt." There's a legitimate case that the Fed has too much power, is insufficiently beholden to the people in what's supposed to be a democracy, since no one on the Fed is chosen by popular election and private bankers are heavily represented on its board. This has long been the argument of financial journalist William Greider, author of a major book on the Fed, "The Secrets of the Temple." Greider: "The idea of giving the Federal Reserve still greater power [is] dangerous. First of all it rewards failure. But secondly, it puts them in the position as arbiter of who shall fail and who shall succeed. It asks to be able to choose what are the 30 or 40 or 50 banks and industrial firms that it regards as systemic risks for the society and ... it will protect those from failure. The government stands behind them and the rest of us are on our own."
Note: If you look at the top of any U.S. currency bill, you will see the words "Federal Reserve Note." Thus, though U.S. dollars are printed by the Treasury, they are issued and controlled by the Federal Reserve, which is privately owned, though subject to minimal federal oversight. To see just how much control the Federal Reserve has over the issuance of U.S. currency, see their webpage at this link. For lots more on hidden manipulations of the Federal Reserve, click here.
We have finally reached the point in our financial history where even bankers hate bankers. Last week, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas issued its 2011 annual report with a 34-page essay, "Why We Must End Too Big To Fail—Now." The report [dubs the nation's largest banks] "a clear and present danger to the U.S. economy." It begins with a letter from regional Fed president Richard Fisher. "More than half of banking industry assets are on the books of just five institutions," he complains. "They were a primary culprit in magnifying the financial crisis, and their presence continues to play an important role in prolonging our economic malaise." This is a member of the Federal Reserve itself — an institution that bears responsibility for our banking system devolving into an untenable oligarchy that buys off politicians, captures regulators and eats up our money. This is a member of the establishment saying Too-Big-To-Fail, or TBTF, must die. "The term TBTF disguised the fact that commercial banks holding roughly one-third of the assets in the banking system did essentially fail, surviving only with extraordinary government assistance," the essay reads. Their executives paid themselves fortunes to execute failed mergers and acquisitions and accumulate unimaginable piles of toxic debts. We saved them to save the financial system. But now we must break them up so they don't put us in this ridiculous situation again.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on the criminal practices of the biggest banks and financial firms and the collusion of government agencies, see our "Banking Bailout" newsarticles.
The current surge in gas prices has almost nothing to do with energy policy. It doesn't even have much to do with global supply and demand. It has most to do with America's continuing failure to adequately regulate Wall Street. Oil supplies aren't being squeezed. Over 80 percent of America's energy needs are now being satisfied by domestic supplies. In fact, we're starting to become an energy exporter. Demand for oil isn't rising. Oil demand in the U.S. is down compared to last year at this time. The American economy is showing only the faintest signs of recovery. Meanwhile, global demand is still moderate. Europe's debt crisis hasn't gone away. China's growth continues to slow. But Wall Street is betting on higher oil prices. Hedge-fund managers and traders assume that mounting tensions in the Middle East will hobble supplies later this year. Wall Street speculators also assume global demand for oil will rise in the coming year. These are just expectations, not today's realities. But they're pushing up oil prices just the same, because Wall Street firms and other big financial players now dominate oil trading. Where there's money to be made, Wall Street will find a way of making it. And when it comes to oil, so much money is at stake that gigantic sums can be made if the bets pay off. Speculators figure they can hedge against bad bets. Financial speculators historically accounted for about 30 percent of oil contracts, producers and end users for about 70 percent. But today speculators account for 64 percent of all contracts.
Note: This article was written by Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future. He blogs at www.robertreich.org. For lots more reliable information from the major media on energy manipulations, click here.
A report this week showing rampant foreclosure abuse in San Francisco reflects similar levels of lender fraud and faulty documentation across the United States, say experts and officials who have done studies in other parts of the country. The audit of almost 400 foreclosures in San Francisco found that 84 percent of them appeared to be illegal, according to the study released by the California city. "The audit in San Francisco is the most detailed and comprehensive that has been done - but it's likely those numbers are comparable nationally," Diane Thompson, an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, told Reuters. Across the country from California, Jeff Thingpen, register of deeds in Guildford County, North Carolina, examined 6,100 mortgage documents last year, from loan notes to foreclosure paperwork. Of those documents, created between January 2008 and December 2010, 4,500 showed signature irregularities, a telltale sign of the illegal practice of "robosigning" documents. Robosigning involves the use of bogus documents to force foreclosures without lenders having to scrutinize all the paperwork involved with mortgages. The practice was at the heart of the foreclosure scandal that led to a $25 billion settlement between the U.S. government and five major banks last week.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on the illegal foreclosures made by the biggest banks and financial firms, the collusion of government agencies, and more, see our "Banking Bailout" news articles.
Wall Street is its own worst enemy. It's busily shredding new regulations and making the public more distrustful than ever. The Street's biggest lobbying groups have just filed a lawsuit against the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, seeking to overturn its new rule limiting speculative trading in food, oil and other commodities. The Street makes bundles from these bets, but they have raised costs for consumers. In other words, a small portion of what you and I pay for food and energy has been going into the pockets of Wall Street. Just another redistribution from the middle class and the poor to the top. The Street argues that the commission's cost-benefit analysis wasn't adequate. Putting the question into the laps of federal judges gives the Street a huge tactical advantage because the Street has almost an infinite amount of money to hire so-called "experts" who will say benefits have been exaggerated and costs underestimated. But when it comes to regulating Wall Street, one big cost doesn't make it into any individual weighing: the public's mounting distrust of the entire economic system, generated by the Street's repeated abuse of the public's trust. Wall Street's shenanigans have convinced a large portion of America that the economic game is rigged. Wall Street has blanketed America in a miasma of cynicism.
Note: The author of this analysis, Robert Reich, is a former U.S. secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at UC Berkeley and the author of Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.
Regulators and the world's $700 trillion derivatives industry are closely watching a legal battle that began in Britain ... and which will fuel a sea change in swaps payouts. Four cases, including one involving a unit of collapsed U.S. bank Lehman Brothers, are being presented in a five-day hearing at the UK Court of Appeal. All revolve around payouts under the derivatives industry's "master agreement", a framework contract. A bank that trades swaps with another bank typically has one master agreement which sets the terms for millions of transactions between them. The master agreement ... covers around 90 percent of off-exchange derivatives transactions. Under the agreement, Lehman's bankruptcy is considered a default. However, in the four cases before the court this week, the other party in the contracts elected not to terminate them because they would have had to pay out to the defunct bank.
Note: Like most reporting in the major media, this article trivializes the massive size of the derivatives market. $700 trillion is equivalent to $100,000 for every man, woman, and child in the world! Do you think the financial industry is out of control? For lots more powerful, reliable information on major banking manipulations, click here. For a powerful analysis of just how crazy things have gotten and with some rays of hope by researcher David Wilcock, click here.
The ascension of Mario Monti to the Italian prime ministership is remarkable for more reasons than it is possible to count. By imposing rule by unelected technocrats, [Italy] has suspended the normal rules of democracy, and maybe democracy itself. And by putting a senior adviser at Goldman Sachs in charge of a Western nation, it has taken to new heights the political power of an investment bank that you might have thought was prohibitively politically toxic. The European Central Bank ... is under ex-Goldman management, and the investment bank's alumni hold sway in the corridors of power in almost every European nation, as they have done in the US throughout the financial crisis. Even before the upheaval in Italy, there was no sign of Goldman Sachs living down its nickname as "the Vampire Squid", and now that its tentacles reach to the top of the eurozone, sceptical voices are raising questions over its influence. Simon Johnson, the former International Monetary Fund economist, in his book 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown, argued that Goldman Sachs and the other large banks had become so close to government in the run-up to the financial crisis that the US was effectively an oligarchy. At least European politicians aren't "bought and paid for" by corporations, as in the US, he says. "Instead what you have in Europe is a shared world-view among the policy elite and the bankers, a shared set of goals and mutual reinforcement of illusions." This is The Goldman Sachs Project. Put simply, it is to hug governments close.
Note: For revealing major media articles on key secret societies which manipulate global politics, click here. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on financial corruption, click here.
As a result of Bank Transfer Day, in which consumers were encouraged to switch to credit unions, 54 percent of credit unions reported an increase in share growth, according to a survey from the National Association of Federal Credit Unions sent to 10,000 respondents. At least 650,000 people have switched to credit unions since Sept. 29, according to the Credit Union National Association. About 80 percent of credit unions offer at least one free checking account with no minimum balance requirement and no monthly or activity fee, according to Moebs Services. About 64 percent of the largest U.S. banks offer the same. Credit unions can help consumers save money because they are non-profit, and can pay higher interest rates on savings accounts, and offer lower loan and credit card rates. The National Association of Federal Credit Unions ... has a web tool that allows people to search by address, credit union name or company/affiliation. The site had the highest traffic ever on Saturday, Bank Transfer Day. In October visits to the website were more than five times its monthly average. Visitors to the website last month increased by more than 700 percent compared to October 2010.
Bank of America Corp., hit by a credit downgrade last month, has moved derivatives from its Merrill Lynch unit to a subsidiary flush with insured deposits. Derivatives are financial instruments used to hedge risks or for speculation. They’re derived from stocks, bonds, loans, currencies and commodities, or linked to specific events such as changes in the weather or interest rates. Keeping such deals separate from FDIC-insured savings has been a cornerstone of U.S. regulation for decades, including last year’s Dodd-Frank overhaul of Wall Street regulation. Three years after taxpayers rescued some of the biggest U.S. lenders, regulators are grappling with how to protect FDIC-insured bank accounts from risks generated by investment-banking operations. “The concern is that there is always an enormous temptation to dump the losers on the insured institution,” said William Black, professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a former bank regulator. “We should have fairly tight restrictions on that.” Bank of America’s holding company -- the parent of both the retail bank and the Merrill Lynch securities unit -- held almost $75 trillion of derivatives at the end of June. That compares with JPMorgan’s deposit-taking entity, JPMorgan Chase Bank NA, which contained 99 percent of the New York-based firm’s $79 trillion of notional derivatives.
Note: Remember that the GDP of the entire world is estimated at around $60 trillion, less than JPMorgan or BofA own in derivatives. For an excellent article laying out the incredible risk this creates of a major economic collapse, click here. For more on the high risk and cost to taxpayers of BofA moving its massive amount of derivatives to its subsidiary, click here. For lots more from major media sources on the illegal profiteering of major financial corporations enabled by lax government regulation, click here.
The American banking sector apparently is going to be vastly different when it finally emerges from the financial crisis that took hold more than three years ago. It is going to be significantly smaller, and the domination of a relative handful of behemoth institutions is going to increase. At the end of June, there were 7,522 commercial banks, down from 8,542 on Dec. 31, 2007. That is a decline of nearly 12 percent in just three and a half years. Of the more than 1,000 banks that disappeared, about 370 failed. But the rest of the decrease came through mergers and acquisitions as a decades-long pattern of consolidation continued. Most banks in the United States still are fairly small. The median size of a bank at the end of June, according to an analysis of statistics from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was about $155 million in assets. That’s about an 18 percent increase since the end of 2007. But those numbers seriously skew the nature of the industry. Of the more than $13.6 trillion in assets held by banks at the end of June, nearly $9.4 trillion is in the hands of just 37 institutions, each with more than $50 billion in assets. And of that, $5.5 trillion is held by just four banks: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank and Wells Fargo. Each of those have more than $1 trillion in assets. In other words, the U.S. banking industry resembles a tall cake, with a very thick layer of icing on top.
Note: To learn how these same four banks and their holding companies hold over 90% of the $700 trillion derivatives market, click here. For many revealing reports from reliable sources on the concentration and centralization of financial power by a few megabanks, click here.
The SEC has violated federal law by destroying the records of thousands of enforcement cases in which it decided not to file charges against or conduct full-blown investigations of Wall Street firms and others initially suspected of wrongdoing, a former agency official has alleged. The purged records involve major firms such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and hedge-fund manager SAC Capital. At issue were suspicions of actions such as insider trading, financial fraud and market manipulation. A file closed in 2002 involved Lehman Brothers, the investment bank whose collapse fueled the financial meltdown of 2008, according to the former official. A file closed in 2009 involved suspected insider trading in securities related to American International Group, the insurance giant bailed out by the government at the height of the financial crisis. The allegations were leveled in a July letter to Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) from Gary J. Aguirre, a former SEC enforcement lawyer now representing a current SEC enforcement lawyer, Darcy Flynn. Flynn last year began managing SEC enforcement records and became concerned that records that were supposed to be preserved under federal law were being purged as a matter of SEC policy, Aguirre wrote.
Note: For more on this important news by Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, click here. For lots more from reliable sources on the criminal practices of Wall Street corporations which led to global economic recession and massive government bailouts, click here.
By some measures, the United States is even more deeply in hock than Greece. Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 143%. America’s is officially 97%. But the $14.3 trillion national debt, stacked up against a $14.7 trillion economy, doesn’t tell the whole story. [It] doesn’t count the black box of bailouts. We know how much the Federal Reserve doled out in emergency loans: $16.1 trillion between Dec. 1, 2007, and July 21, 2010. We know that because yesterday the Government Accountability Office completed its first-ever audit of the Fed, made possible largely through the persistence of Rep. Ron Paul (R.-Tex.) making that audit, however incomplete, the law. What we don’t know is how much of that has been paid back. “We have literally injected about $5.3 trillion,” said Dr. Paul earlier this month during his questioning of Fed chief Ben Bernanke, “and I don’t think we got very much for it. The national debt went up $5.1 trillion.” Bernanke did not challenge those figures. Even now, Americans are turning to their credit cards to pay for groceries and gas. According to First Data Corp., the volume of gasoline purchases put on credit cards jumped 39% over the last 12 months. You don’t want to be the average American in a default scenario, whenever it arrives. Ray Dalio, the head of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s biggest hedge fund, puts that day in “late 2012 or early 2013.”
Note: A careful Internet search reveals that no one in the major media except this Forbes blog even mentioned the astonishing results of the first ever audit of the Federal reserve - $16 trillion in secret loans. To understand how the media is controlled from reporting vitally important information like this, click here. For another revealing article showing what is happening from a historical perspective and its relationship to gold prices, click here. For an article detailing who received these trillions and links to the official GAO report, click here. For critical information on the financial system kept hidden from the public, click here.
Goldman Sachs is bracing itself for what may be the most contentious annual meeting in the embattled investment bank's 142-year history. Angry shareholders, including a coalition of religious groups, are planning to call on Goldman's executives to justify the combined $69.6m (Ł42.4m) payday its top five executives received in 2010 and to answer questions about allegations that the bank misled clients and lied to Congress. The meeting comes amid mounting pressure on the bank. Earlier this week Eric Holder, the US attorney-general, confirmed that the justice department was investigating Goldman's role in the financial crisis following a withering report on the bank's role led by senators Carl Levin and Tom Coburn. The 650-page report "Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse," gave Goldman its own section titled "Failing to Manage Conflicts of Interest: A Case Study of Goldman Sachs." In July the bank paid $500m to settle charges brought by financial regulator the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it misled customers over complex sub-prime mortgage products it sold in 2007. The spotlight on executive pay could not come at a more sensitive moment for the bank. The bank's top five executives received cash and stock last year that was 13 times greater than the year before. Goldman's 2010 net revenues fell 13% and profits fell 37%. Goldman paid Blankfein close to $19m in compensation for 2010, almost double his award for the previous year.
Note: For lots more on the financial chicanery of Goldman Sachs and other major financial corporations that led to the global economic crisis and massive taxpayer bailouts of the firms, click here.
Analysts who reviewed complex mortgage bonds that ultimately collapsed and ruined the U.S. housing market were threatened with firing if they lost lucrative business, prompting faulty ratings on trillions of dollars worth of junk mortgage bonds, a Senate report said [on April 13]. The 639-page report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations confirms much of what McClatchy Newspapers first reported about mismanagement by credit ratings agencies in 2009. Credit rating agencies are supposed to provide independent assessments on the quality of debt being issued by companies or governments. Traditionally, investments rated AAA had a probability of failure of less than 1 percent. But in collusion with Wall Street investment banks, the Senate report concludes, the top two ratings agencies - Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's - effectively cashed in on the housing boom by ignoring mounting evidence of problems in the housing market. Profits at both companies soared, with revenues at market leader Moody's more than tripling in five years. Then the bottom fell out of the housing market, and Moody's stock lost 70 percent of its value; it has yet to fully recover. More than 90 percent of AAA ratings given in 2006 and 2007 to pools of mortgage-backed securities were downgraded to junk status.
Note: For many key reports from major media sources illuminating how major financial corporations knowingly brought about the global financial crisis and profited from it, click here.
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