Tag Archive | "Morgan Stanley"

Goldman pillages, Goldman steals, Goldman Sachs

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Goldman pillages, Goldman steals, Goldman Sachs


(As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m looking for extra feedback on the ideas presented here, as they are currently under development and able to benefit greatly from your insights.)

I think we can all agree that the middle of last September was as strange a time as our financial markets have ever experienced.

In case you’ve forgotten, let me remind you with a simple timeline. As you read it, keep in mind that following the demise of Bear Stearns, the strictest interpretation of the so-called investment bank “Bulge Bracket” included just four entities: Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley.

  • September 9: The short attack on Lehman Brothers begins in earnest.
  • September 14: The New York Times reports Lehman will file bankruptcy.
  • September 15: Goldman Sachs share price begins to wilt. Merrill Lynch announces it will be sold to Bank of America.
  • September 17: Goldman Sachs’ share price continues to plummet. The SEC announces “new rules to protect investors against naked short selling abuses”.
  • September 18: Goldman Sachs’ share price continues to plummet.
  • September 19: The SEC “halts short selling of financial stocks to protect investors and markets”.  Goldman Sachs’ share price posts a strong gain.
  • September 22: Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the two remaining members of the “Bulge Bracket” announce their intentions to transition to bank holding companies, giving them access to lending facilities of the US Federal Reserve (an organization with which Goldman has an uncommonly tight relationship).

As I see it, the most interesting event to come of that most eventful period was the SEC’s September 19 ban on legitimate short selling. What makes it so enigmatic is the fact that not even the most vocal opponents of illegal naked short selling have ever even hinted at the need to restrict legitimate shorting. In fact, Patrick Byrne himself compared the ban to limiting motorists to making only right-hand turns.

However, I have a theory that might explain what was going on.

An examination of the volume of both naked and legitimate shorting of Goldman Sachs in September of 2008 reveals something very interesting: while there was an enormous amount of short selling taking place, there was essentially no naked shorting of Goldman shares. Indeed, short selling accounted for a third of total volume on September 15 and 16, while failed trades accounted for less than 0.07%, suggesting shortable Goldman shares were in abundant supply.

This conclusion is supported by an analysis of the stock loan rebate rate that prevailed for Goldman shares during the period in question: a very reliable indicator of the scarcity of shares available for short sellers to borrow, where a lower rebate rate indicates a more limited supply.

In the case of Goldman, from May through August 29 of 2008, the rebate rate averaged 1.80%. And, between September 1st and the September 19th short selling ban, Goldman’s average rebate rate remained exactly the same: 1.80%.

By way of comparison, the average rebate rates for Lehman Brothers shares over the same periods were 1.18% and 0.16% (bottoming out at -0.25% during Lehman’s last week), respectively.

By contrast, Goldman shares appear to have been easy to borrow right up to and in the midst of its stock price free-fall.

This scenario is consistent with the levels of naked short selling of Lehman and Goldman during the same period: extremely high in the case of Lehman, and almost non-existent in the case of Goldman; furthermore, this suggests that, given abusive naked shorting does not tend to occur until after short sellers have exhausted the supply of borrowable shares, it was legitimate shorting that pushed Goldman’s share price over the edge.

With that in mind, let’s revisit the above timeline, focusing on Goldman, with my interpretation appended.

  • September 15: Lehman declares bankruptcy. Goldman Sachs share price begins to fall. Following the destruction of Lehman Brothers at the hands of short selling hedge funds, the financial world is keenly aware of the capacity of naked shorting to decimate the share prices of financial firms. Furthermore, given the role Goldman undoubtedly played as broker in the criminal short selling hedge funds’ attack Lehman, the firm is justifiably concerned that the karma train is heading its way.
  • September 16: Goldman lobbies its extremely well-placed (and well-documented) federal government contacts for a temporary ban on naked short selling.
  • September 17: The SEC temporarily bans naked short selling.
  • September 18: Despite the ban on naked shorting, Goldman Sachs’ share price continues to fall, suggesting legitimate short selling, not illegal naked short selling, is the cause of Goldman’s problems. Goldman lobbies for the SEC to temporarily ban legitimate shorting.
  • September 19: The SEC temporarily bans legitimate shorting of all financial stocks. Goldman’s share price rises.

Might the SEC have been acting in the best interest of the market when it issued both emergency orders? I suppose that’s possible. But given the utter disinterest – even contempt – that organization has demonstrated toward investors and small public companies that have complained about the issue, I find it very difficult to believe.

Meanwhile, the SEC stood by and watched as naked short selling destroyed Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. Merrill Lynch then took itself out of the game, leaving a Bulge Bracket consisting of only Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

Of those two, which has uncommon influence over the federal government?

Goldman Sachs, of course.

And if this is true, does it leave any doubt as to the lengths the SEC might have gone to preserve a corrupt system when it benefited the company?

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Wall Street Journal Reports that Short Selling Fueled Panic


Journalists who write about short selling hedge funds fall into three categories.

The first category is comprised of a very small number of journalists who have deliberately whitewashed the dubious activities of their short selling sources. These journalists–such as Herb Greenberg (whose stories for MarketWatch.com invariably served the interests of the same short sellers who are now paying Herb’s salary), and former BusinessWeek reporter Gary Weiss (who works with a cast of convicted criminals and flimflammers to smear the reputations of people who are critical of short selling crimes)–are, at some level, corrupt.

The second, larger category is comprised of journalists who gorge on the junk food fed to them by the hedge fund lobby, subsequently farting out the predictable fog – “short sellers are vital to the markets;” “short sellers are vital media sources;” “short sellers were right about company X because company X is now bankrupt.” To which you say, yeah, but some of those short sellers commit crimes that destroy companies – and the journalists say, yeah, that might be, but it’s hard to prove a crime, deadlines loom, and sloth has its appeal, so “fart, fart, fart.”

The third category is comprised of the small but growing number of journalists who have actually spent some time chewing on the data and the evidence – and are now digesting this nourishing roughage into something a bit more solid – something like stories that show that short selling shenanigans just might have contributed to the near total collapse of the American financial system.

As evidence that the latter sort of journalists do, indeed, exist, consider that no less than five Wall Street Journal reporters spent several weeks working together on an investigative story about how short selling might have helped fuel the panic that nearly took down Morgan Stanley in September.

The result, published yesterday, revealed that:

  • Hedge fund managers Dan Loeb and Israel Englander pulled their money out of Morgan after taking large short positions in the company. Jim Chanos, head of the short seller lobby, also yanked his money, though he claims not to have been short Morgan. (The unstated suggestion is that the shorts might have worked together – simultaneously pulling their billions in order to create the illusion of a run on the bank.)
  • At the same time that the hedge funds were yanking their money and taking big short positions, somebody bombarded the market with false rumors about Morgan losing access to credit. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the Securities and Exchange Commission are looking into whether short sellers were responsible for these rumors.
  • While the false rumors circulated, the price of Morgan Stanley credit default swaps soared. The New York AG and the SEC are examining “whether traders bought swaps at high prices to spark fear about Morgan’s stability in order to profit on other trading positions [short sales], and whether trading involved bogus price quotes and sham trades.”
  • This “pattern of trading, which previously had battered securities firms Bear Stearns Cos. and Lehman, now is dogging Citigroup, whose stock fell 60% last week to a 16-year low.” (The unstated suggestion, contrary to what the Journal used to tell us all the time, is that it is not just “bad management” that causes stock prices to lose half their value in a few days.)

The Journal might have done one better by noting that Loeb, Englander, and Chanos are part of a tight clique of hedge fund managers who tend to attack the same companies.

The Journal might also have pointed out that when these hedge fund managers attack, they often “share ideas” (ie., spout the same false information and distorted analysis about their victim companies, sometimes anonymously on Internet message boards).

And it would have been worth noting that the companies targeted by these hedge fund managers are invariably victimized by naked short selling. That is, whenever these particular hedge funds are swarming, somebody is selling a lot of stock that they do not possess, and therefore failing to deliver the stock on time.

The SEC’s “failure to deliver” data for September will become public in a couple of weeks. If the data shows, as I suspect it will, that Morgan Stanley was targeted by illegal naked short selling, then maybe The Wall Street Journal will do a follow-up report.

Before that, The Journal’s reporters could take a look at the data through June, which shows quite clearly that in addition to the “pattern of trading” cited in yesterday’s story, Bear Stearns was buried under waves of naked short selling, beginning in January. On the day that CNBC’s David Faber reported the false news (fed to him by a hedge fund “I have known for twenty years”) that Goldman Sachs had cut off Bear’s access to credit, more than a million shares of Bear Stearns were sold naked, failing to be delivered within the allotted three days. Most of those shares – and another 10 million Bear Stearns shares sold short in March – have, to this day, never been delivered.

Then there is the data that shows that, market wide, “failures to deliver” doubled between 2007 and 2008, and peaked at 2 billion shares at the end of June – just before the SEC issued its July 15 “emergency order” protecting 19 big financial institutions from naked short selling.

While the “emergency order” was in place, stock prices increased dramatically. Within weeks after the “emergency order” was lifted, a number of those 19 protected companies – including Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac – saw their stocks plunge to crisis levels, and were then vaporized, nationalized, or bailed out.

The data through June shows that nearly all of those companies had been hit with massive levels of naked short selling, with between one million and 12 million shares failing to deliver in multiple spurts of several days. Washington Mutual, IndyMac, and a few dozen other now-defunct financial companies were clobbered with even higher levels of fails — day after day for weeks on end. Many non-financial companies have been hit even harder.

In fact, the available data understates the problem. There could be ten, 100, or many more times as many failures to deliver, but we cannot know for sure because that black-box Wall Street outfit called the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation refuses to release more complete data. It also refuses to reveal which criminal hedge funds are engaged in naked short selling.

Meanwhile, the DTTC vehemently denies that naked short selling is a problem and attacks journalists, critics, and former DTTC employees who say otherwise – all part of a disinformation campaign orchestrated with help from the corrupt former BusinessWeek reporter Gary Weiss and his criminal accomplices, some of whom are paid by Dan Loeb, the hedge fund manager who features in yesterday’s Journal story.

Gary has gone so far as to hijack Wikipedia in cahoots with a Wikipedia administrator and former MI6 agent named Linda Mack. Anybody is supposed to be able to edit the online encyclopedia, but until recently only Gary and Linda Mack could touch the entry on “naked short selling” (which of course said there is no such crime). Gary flat out denies working with the DTCC and says that if somebody saw him go into the DTTC’s office, it was to “use an ATM machine.” He also continues to flat-out deny that he has ever edited Wikipedia, even though he has been exposed by The Register, a respected British publication.

After The Wall Street Journal figures out why the DTTC is protecting criminals, it could investigate why the SEC has never prosecuted a hedge fund for naked short selling, and why the Wall Street cronies who run the commission quashed at least two major investigations into suspected short selling crimes.

One of those investigations (targeting research firm Gradient Analytics, but meant to be the beginning of larger inquiry into the activities of Gradient’s short selling clients, was shut down under pressure from the aforementioned corrupt journalists, several of whom (Herb Greenberg, Jim Cramer, and Carol Remond of Dow Jones Newswires) had received government subpoenas because of their unusually close ties to Gradient and the aforementioned clique of short sellers.

Another investigation (into suspected naked short selling that SEC whistleblower Gary Aguirre described in a letter to the U.S. Congress as having the potential to “seriously injure the financial markets”) was shut down under pressure from Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack, who apparently had “juice” at the SEC. (For details see the U.S. Senate’s 700 page report on the matter. When the Senate refers to “market manipulation,” it is describing naked short selling.)

In yesterday’s story, The Journal notes that “sales of credit-default swaps were a profit gold mine for Wall Street. But, ironically, during those tumultuous few days in mid-September, the swaps market turned on Morgan Stanley like a financial Frankenstein.”

The Journal should have noted that naked short selling, too, was a gold mine for Morgan Stanley, and that given Mack’s role in shutting down the SEC investigation, it is kind of ironic that the Morgan CEO later found himself complaining to the SEC that short sellers had illegally manipulated his stock to single digits. Indeed, this was a stunning admission that a crime long denied by Wall Street does, in fact, occur.

The Journal could also investigate why the aforementioned corrupt journalists smeared Gary Aguirre, circulating the story (completely false, according to the U.S. Senate and the SEC inspector general, and all available evidence) that the SEC whistleblower had been fired for poor performance. There is also the question as to why these journalists, most of whom have yet to publish a story that was not sourced from the aforementioned clique of hedge funds, went to such lengths to smear other critics of naked short selling – everybody from Deep Capture reporter Patrick Byrne to the blogger who calls himself the Easter Bunny. .

The Journal might also be interested to know that one of those short selling hedge funds, Kingsford Capital (managed by corrupt journalist Herb Greenberg’s former co-editor at TheStreet.com) announced that it would begin paying my salary at the Columbia Journalism Review (where I was then an editor), just before CJR was going to publish a story about naked short sellers (including Kingsford Capital) and captured journalists (including Herb). Indeed, three of the four journalists who have begun work on major stories about naked short selling have ended up shelving or watering down their stories, not long before receiving funding or salaries from this same clique of hedge funds (more on this in a coming dispatch).

Perhaps a shifty hedge fund will offer jobs to the Journal’s hard-working reporters, too. Either that, or they will get smeared as “conspiracy theorists” or “knuckleheads who don’t understand markets and were fired from their previous jobs.” Maybe the hard-working reporters will give up.

Or maybe they’ll keep chewing on the facts and publish a story about how captured regulators, corrupt journalists, a colorful cast of convicted criminals, the black box DTTC, and the aforementioned clique of hedge funds all sought to cover-up a crime that is now implicated in the greatest market cataclysm since 1929.

Now, that would be some good shit.

* * * * * * * *

Tipsters, crusaders, and thinkers — feel free to contact me at mitch0033@gmail.com. Same goes for journalists wishing to obtain data and evidence — free of charge, of course.

If this article concerns you, and you wish to help, then:

1) email it to a dozen friends;

2) go here for additional suggestions: “So You Say You Want a Revolution?

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The SEC Scandal You Don't Read About in the Papers


There was an article in The New York Times yesterday about the SEC’s disgraceful ruling that it will take no disciplinary action against the SEC cronies at the center of the Gary Aguirre scandal. Read through the Times’ false veneer of objectivity, and it seems that reporter Walt Bogdanich is trying to say that it’s pretty damn strange that a corrupt SEC has been allowed to adjudicate its own corruption.

Stranger still, no other journalist has expressed outrage over this. Meanwhile, the nation’s mainstream media (The New York Times included) has yet to deliver a story describing the Aguirre scandal’s most important component – the bit that makes it the greatest scandal in the history of the SEC and which helps explain why the commission failed to stop a crime that later contributed to the near total collapse of the American financial system.

Readers of the mainstream media know only that Aguirre is the former SEC attorney who claimed that he was fired for political reasons after pursuing an “insider trading” case against Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack and a hedge fund called Pequot Capital. The real story – the one you don’t read in the papers – is that Aguirre has, all along, made it perfectly clear that his investigation – the one he says that Mack “stopped in its tracks” – was about much more than the relatively minor crime of “insider trading.”

Aguirre blew this scandal wide open in 2006, when he wrote an 18-page letter to the U.S. Congress. The letter reads: “I believe our capital markets face a growing risk from lightly or unregulated hedge funds just as our markets did in the 1920s from unregulated pools of money — then called syndicates, trusts or pools. Those unregulated pools were instrumental in delivering the 1929 Crash….There is growing evidence that today’s pools—hedge funds—have advanced and refined the practice of manipulating and cheating other market participants.”

Aguirre then described the investigation that he had led at the SEC. “The investigation was two-pronged,” he wrote. One prong concerned “insider trading.” However, the second, and far more important prong, concerned “market manipulation.” Specifically, Aguirre and his colleagues were investigating “two suspected violations: wash sales and naked shorts.”

“My colleagues,” Aguirre wrote, “believed [the naked short selling] held a greater potential to severely injure the financial markets.”

That is, Aguirre and his colleagues believed that naked short selling (hedge funds selling stock that they have not yet purchased or borrowed in order to drive down prices and destroy public companies) ranked high among the tactics that “were instrumental in delivering the 1929 Crash” – a repeat of which now seemed entirely possible since the tactic had been “refined” by hedge funds intent on “manipulating and cheating other market participants.” But the SEC rank-and-file’s attempt to investigate this crime was “stopped in its tracks” by SEC leaders who had been corrupted by Wall Street fat cats.

At the time when Aguirre released his letter, a small clique of influential journalists with close ties to certain Wall Street fat cats were going to great lengths to whitewash the crime of naked short selling (see “The Story of Deep Capture” for details). Unsurprisingly, some of these journalists quickly sought to discredit the SEC whistleblower. They reported that Aguirre’s investigation concerned only the minor infraction of insider trading, and that he had failed to present evidence that this minor infraction had occurred. The journalists also declared that Aguirre was untrustworthy – an eccentric who had been fired for poor performance.

After a year long investigation into the matter, however, the Senate Judiciary Committee completely vindicated Aguirre. It noted that Aguirre had been fired just two weeks after his supervisors had raved about his “unmatched dedication” in glowing written evaluations of his performance. It presented clear evidence that Mack’s lawyers were given special access to meetings in which Aguirre’s investigation was discussed. While the SEC was busy quashing the investigation and firing Aguirre for complaining about it, Paul Berger, then the SEC associate director of enforcement, was interviewing for a job at Mack’s law firm.

The Senate investigators concluded that they were “deeply troubled” by the SEC’s failure to look into Aguirre’s claims. “At worst,” the Senate report said, “the picture is colored with overtones of a possible cover-up.”

As part of this cover-up, the SEC eventually claimed that although Aguirre had been fired, the commission had nonetheless pressed forward with its “insider trading” investigation, finding no evidence that Pequot or Mack and committed any violations. However, the SEC has yet to reveal whether its rank-and-file were allowed to complete their investigation into the naked short selling that had the greater potential to “seriously injure the financial markets.”

SEC leaders remained uninterested in the crime until this past summer. Data for June showed that “failures to deliver” (phantom stock sold by naked short sellers) had peaked at more than 2 billion shares – an all time record. More important, the SEC’s cronies on Wall Street were now victims of the very crime that they had perpetrated and covered up. An avalanche of naked short selling, timed to coincide with a false news report on CNBC, had sparked the run on the bank that took down Bear Stearns. Now, other Wall Street institutions (including, yes, Morgan Stanley) were getting similarly clobbered. In mid-July, the SEC pronounced that naked short selling had the potential to “seriously damage” the financial system. It issued an “emergency order” protecting 19 big financial institutions (including Morgan Stanley) from the crime.

That kept the big banks safe for a time. But ultimately, short-sellers proved to be more skilled at cronyism than their former accomplices at the big banks. In August, under pressure from the short seller lobby, the SEC lifted its “emergency order.” In the next three weeks, a half-dozen major financial institutions were eliminated or nationalized. Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack (no doubt regretting that he had quashed the Aguirre investigation) hollered that he was next — that law-breaking short sellers were taking down his bank. The SEC responded by banning short selling outright in 900-plus companies. Meanwhile, everyone from Hillary Clinton to John McCain implicated naked short selling in the biggest financial cataclysm since 1929.

A few weeks later the SEC inspector general issued a 191-page report vindicating Gary Aguirre. The otherwise detailed report conspicuously failed to mention the naked short selling component of Aguirre’s investigation, but it contained many of the same findings that the Senate had described. The report, compiled over many months, concluded that Mack’s interference with Aguirre’s investigation raised “serious questions about the impartiality and fairness” of the SEC. The inspector general recommended that disciplinary action be taken against Aguirre’s supervisors, including SEC Director of Enforcement Linda Thomsen.

But last Friday, having spent no more than a few days reviewing the evidence, an SEC administrative judge declared that the SEC did not mishandle the Aguirre case, and that no disciplinary action would be taken. As Bogdanich’s story in The New York Times makes clear (though in not so many words), the ruling stinks to high hell.

For one, it remains unclear why in the world an SEC judge, as opposed to an independent court, is ruling on this matter. For another, it seems that the judge, Brenda Murray, was not even acting in the capacity of a judge. Rather, she issued her not-guilty verdict in the capacity of “an individual” who was asked by the SEC executive director to evaluate the inspector general’s findings.

In other words, there is good evidence that the leaders of our nation’s market regulator are as corrupt as Banana Republic cops on the brothel beat – that they have engaged in a cover-up that might have helped rock the very foundations of the American financial system – but this evidence will be evaluated in no court. There will be no legal proceeding whatsoever. Instead, an “individual” at the SEC, as a favor to the SEC executive director, says the SEC did no wrong…and that’s it – end of story.

Really, end of story. Because, aside from Walt Bogdanich at The New York Times (a paper that won’t call an “outrage” by its proper name, and which seems incapable of printing the words “naked short selling”), no mainstream journalist seems to give a flying hoot.

* * * * * * * *

Contact Mark Mitchell at mitch0033@gmail.com

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The SEC Scandal You Don’t Read About in the Papers


There was an article in The New York Times yesterday about the SEC’s disgraceful ruling that it will take no disciplinary action against the SEC cronies at the center of the Gary Aguirre scandal. Read through the Times’ false veneer of objectivity, and it seems that reporter Walt Bogdanich is trying to say that it’s pretty damn strange that a corrupt SEC has been allowed to adjudicate its own corruption.

Stranger still, no other journalist has expressed outrage over this. Meanwhile, the nation’s mainstream media (The New York Times included) has yet to deliver a story describing the Aguirre scandal’s most important component – the bit that makes it the greatest scandal in the history of the SEC and which helps explain why the commission failed to stop a crime that later contributed to the near total collapse of the American financial system.

Readers of the mainstream media know only that Aguirre is the former SEC attorney who claimed that he was fired for political reasons after pursuing an “insider trading” case against Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack and a hedge fund called Pequot Capital. The real story – the one you don’t read in the papers – is that Aguirre has, all along, made it perfectly clear that his investigation – the one he says that Mack “stopped in its tracks” – was about much more than the relatively minor crime of “insider trading.”

Aguirre blew this scandal wide open in 2006, when he wrote an 18-page letter to the U.S. Congress. The letter reads: “I believe our capital markets face a growing risk from lightly or unregulated hedge funds just as our markets did in the 1920s from unregulated pools of money — then called syndicates, trusts or pools. Those unregulated pools were instrumental in delivering the 1929 Crash….There is growing evidence that today’s pools—hedge funds—have advanced and refined the practice of manipulating and cheating other market participants.”

Aguirre then described the investigation that he had led at the SEC. “The investigation was two-pronged,” he wrote. One prong concerned “insider trading.” However, the second, and far more important prong, concerned “market manipulation.” Specifically, Aguirre and his colleagues were investigating “two suspected violations: wash sales and naked shorts.”

“My colleagues,” Aguirre wrote, “believed [the naked short selling] held a greater potential to severely injure the financial markets.”

That is, Aguirre and his colleagues believed that naked short selling (hedge funds selling stock that they have not yet purchased or borrowed in order to drive down prices and destroy public companies) ranked high among the tactics that “were instrumental in delivering the 1929 Crash” – a repeat of which now seemed entirely possible since the tactic had been “refined” by hedge funds intent on “manipulating and cheating other market participants.” But the SEC rank-and-file’s attempt to investigate this crime was “stopped in its tracks” by SEC leaders who had been corrupted by Wall Street fat cats.

At the time when Aguirre released his letter, a small clique of influential journalists with close ties to certain Wall Street fat cats were going to great lengths to whitewash the crime of naked short selling (see “The Story of Deep Capture” for details). Unsurprisingly, some of these journalists quickly sought to discredit the SEC whistleblower. They reported that Aguirre’s investigation concerned only the minor infraction of insider trading, and that he had failed to present evidence that this minor infraction had occurred. The journalists also declared that Aguirre was untrustworthy – an eccentric who had been fired for poor performance.

After a year long investigation into the matter, however, the Senate Judiciary Committee completely vindicated Aguirre. It noted that Aguirre had been fired just two weeks after his supervisors had raved about his “unmatched dedication” in glowing written evaluations of his performance. It presented clear evidence that Mack’s lawyers were given special access to meetings in which Aguirre’s investigation was discussed. While the SEC was busy quashing the investigation and firing Aguirre for complaining about it, Paul Berger, then the SEC associate director of enforcement, was interviewing for a job at Mack’s law firm.

The Senate investigators concluded that they were “deeply troubled” by the SEC’s failure to look into Aguirre’s claims. “At worst,” the Senate report said, “the picture is colored with overtones of a possible cover-up.”

As part of this cover-up, the SEC eventually claimed that although Aguirre had been fired, the commission had nonetheless pressed forward with its “insider trading” investigation, finding no evidence that Pequot or Mack and committed any violations. However, the SEC has yet to reveal whether its rank-and-file were allowed to complete their investigation into the naked short selling that had the greater potential to “seriously injure the financial markets.”

SEC leaders remained uninterested in the crime until this past summer. Data for June showed that “failures to deliver” (phantom stock sold by naked short sellers) had peaked at more than 2 billion shares – an all time record. More important, the SEC’s cronies on Wall Street were now victims of the very crime that they had perpetrated and covered up. An avalanche of naked short selling, timed to coincide with a false news report on CNBC, had sparked the run on the bank that took down Bear Stearns. Now, other Wall Street institutions (including, yes, Morgan Stanley) were getting similarly clobbered. In mid-July, the SEC pronounced that naked short selling had the potential to “seriously damage” the financial system. It issued an “emergency order” protecting 19 big financial institutions (including Morgan Stanley) from the crime.

That kept the big banks safe for a time. But ultimately, short-sellers proved to be more skilled at cronyism than their former accomplices at the big banks. In August, under pressure from the short seller lobby, the SEC lifted its “emergency order.” In the next three weeks, a half-dozen major financial institutions were eliminated or nationalized. Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack (no doubt regretting that he had quashed the Aguirre investigation) hollered that he was next — that law-breaking short sellers were taking down his bank. The SEC responded by banning short selling outright in 900-plus companies. Meanwhile, everyone from Hillary Clinton to John McCain implicated naked short selling in the biggest financial cataclysm since 1929.

A few weeks later the SEC inspector general issued a 191-page report vindicating Gary Aguirre. The otherwise detailed report conspicuously failed to mention the naked short selling component of Aguirre’s investigation, but it contained many of the same findings that the Senate had described. The report, compiled over many months, concluded that Mack’s interference with Aguirre’s investigation raised “serious questions about the impartiality and fairness” of the SEC. The inspector general recommended that disciplinary action be taken against Aguirre’s supervisors, including SEC Director of Enforcement Linda Thomsen.

But last Friday, having spent no more than a few days reviewing the evidence, an SEC administrative judge declared that the SEC did not mishandle the Aguirre case, and that no disciplinary action would be taken. As Bogdanich’s story in The New York Times makes clear (though in not so many words), the ruling stinks to high hell.

For one, it remains unclear why in the world an SEC judge, as opposed to an independent court, is ruling on this matter. For another, it seems that the judge, Brenda Murray, was not even acting in the capacity of a judge. Rather, she issued her not-guilty verdict in the capacity of “an individual” who was asked by the SEC executive director to evaluate the inspector general’s findings.

In other words, there is good evidence that the leaders of our nation’s market regulator are as corrupt as Banana Republic cops on the brothel beat – that they have engaged in a cover-up that might have helped rock the very foundations of the American financial system – but this evidence will be evaluated in no court. There will be no legal proceeding whatsoever. Instead, an “individual” at the SEC, as a favor to the SEC executive director, says the SEC did no wrong…and that’s it – end of story.

Really, end of story. Because, aside from Walt Bogdanich at The New York Times (a paper that won’t call an “outrage” by its proper name, and which seems incapable of printing the words “naked short selling”), no mainstream journalist seems to give a flying hoot.

* * * * * * * *

Contact Mark Mitchell at mitch0033@gmail.com

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Naked Shorts Frolic While Financial System Fries


“Morgan Stanley shares have been under extraordinary pressure as of late, for no apparent fundamental reason, as we estimate liquidity, the balance sheet, and long-term earnings, prospects are sound.”

– Fox-Pitt analyst David Trone in a research note, today

Here we go again. A giant bank has some weaknesses, but it is, in all respects, a going concern — except that short sellers are peddling rumors and phantom stock, so the share price is plummeting. With the share price in peril, the rating agencies (perhaps over vigilant after taking so much criticism from short sellers and the media) put the bank’s debt ratings on review for a downgrade.

Meanwhile, short sellers corner the market for the bank’s credit default swaps, and point to the value of the CDS as evidence that the bank is doomed. They feed the media with analyses and bogus indexes that mark the bank’s assets to nothing. They spread the news that the bank’s counterparties and trading partners could bail.

The clients and partners stay with the bank. Up until now they have no reason not to.

But then, there’s more naked short selling, the hedge funds flooding the market with stock they do not possess — phantom stock. Maybe the hedge funds send a fax to CNBC with one last rumor. Over the course of a day or two, the stock price is slashed in half.

Then, suddenly, the stock is in the single digits.

As a result of the low stock price – not as result of the balance sheet – the bank’s partners and clients freak out. This time, they really do pull their money.

End of bank.

And if there are one or two more like this — end of story. The financial system will be fried.

We’ve seen precisely the same scenario with Bear Stearns, Lehman, Merrill Lynch, Washington Mutual, and IndyMac. A variant of this scenario took down AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and perhaps 200 other companies before them.

Morgan Stanley could be gone by next week.

We have new data for September that shows that there was plenty of short selling of Morgan Stanley (and other companies) even during the SEC’s ban on short selling, which ended Wednesday at midnight. Some hedge funds ignored the ban, and the SEC did nothing.

Worse, in place of the ban, the SEC has offered only tepid new rules (cheered by the short seller lobby) that do little to prevent the sale of phantom stock. Under these rules, short sellers do not have to borrow real stock before they sell it. They merely have to “locate” the stock. The SEC doesn’t say how it’s supposed to know whether a short seller has actually located real stock as opposed to telling his broker, “yeah, I located it, it’s in your mother’s wig” (which is pretty much how these conversations go).

Furthermore, the SEC gives hedge funds three days to deliver the stock they sell. This would be fine if they were required to possess real stock before selling. But since they are not, a hedge fund can offload a large block of phantom stock and let it eat away at the financial system for at least three days.

Sometimes, the hedge funds settle the trade with another block of phantom stock, transferred to them by a friendly broker. But even if they fail to deliver the stock, the SEC stipulates no serious penalties. Meanwhile, it shows no inclination to actually prosecute anyone for the jailable crime of short-side market manipulation.

I’m willing to bet anybody a sizeable amount of money that when the SEC releases its “failures to deliver” numbers for October, they will suggest unbridled illegal naked short selling of Morgan Stanley during this past week, even on days when the ban on all short selling was in place. The data will show that naked short selling rose to unprecedented levels just before somebody floated Wednesday’s false rumor that Morgan Stanley was going to lose its $9 billion deal with Mitsubishi.

And the data will show that after the ban was lifted, the law-breaking shorts went nuclear – with failures to deliver of well over a million shares every day. Ultimately, many millions of Morgan Stanley’s shares will be sold and never delivered, just as hedge funds have yet to deliver more than 10 million shares of Bear Stearns that they sold during that bank’s final days last March.

As I write this, Morgan’s stock price is in the single digits, trading around 7 bucks, down an astounding 70% in the 36 hours since the short selling ban was lifted. A death spiral like that does not happen naturally. Because of the short-battered stock price – and only the stock price (again, this has nothing to do with the balance sheet) — Moody’s today put Morgan’s long-term debt ratings on review for a downgrade.

I suspect another 15% off the stock price, and one more well-placed rumor, will do the trick. There will be a run on the bank. Morgan will be gone. And the global financial fire will blaze still hotter.

It is beyond surreal that our most prestigious financial media continue to allow this to happen. It is beyond comprehension that journalists – in possession of the evidence, and presumably in possession of their faculties – continue to spout the line, originally formulated by short-sellers and now woven into conventional wisdom – that this crisis is only about bad mortgages and bad managers and bad balance sheets.

One can argue that, in the long run, the world is better off without half of Wall Street – without its ponzi schemes and paper profits, the sickening salaries and arrogance. Certainly, anyone with a Shakespearean state of mind will appreciate the fates of Morgan Stanley, Lehman, and Bear – all of which eagerly pimped their dodgy prime brokerage services to the very short sellers who destroyed them.

But it does not require Shakespearean nuance to see that this crisis is not just about scandalous banks. It is about criminals destroying banks that are tawdry, yes, but possessing of some virtue, and capable, if left unmolested, of carrying on and contributing to society – perhaps even staving off a global calamity.

Moreover, these same criminals are destroying many other companies, most of which are run by honest people who labor far from the insalubrious alleyways of southern Manhattan. The SEC maintains a list of companies whose stock has failed to deliver in excessive quantities. As I explained in an earlier dispatch, many victims of naked short selling (including some of the big banks) do not appear on that list. But surely it is a scandal that more than 300 companies, many of them financial firms that have nothing to do with Wall Street, do appear on the list.

Surely, it is an even bigger scandal that around 100 of those companies have appeared on the list chronically, day after day, for months on end, and though the sheriff posts the names of these rape victims on its wall, it has yet to prosecute a single rapist. The SEC tells us that a billion shares remain undelivered on any given day — and yet it doesn’t bother to find out which hedge funds sold the phantom stock.

It might be too late, but if Washington and the financial media really want to save the world, they ought to start by demanding that hedge funds borrow real stock before they sell it. And what the heck: Maybe some newspaper could offer the radical suggestion that the SEC should tell hedge funds that they can either go to jail or close out all unsettled trades – today.

If one hedge fund manager were to get cuffed, all the others with outstanding “failures to deliver” might scramble to buy real stock so they can settle. The markets might soar. The innocent victims might get some relief. And the delinquents on Wall Street would get some time to clean up their acts.

Meanwhile, would anyone care to guess which company the naked short sellers will take down after Morgan Stanley?

And would anyone like to share a bunker with canned goods and weapons?

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If you’d like to place that bet on the Morgan Stanley data (I’ll give 2:1 odds that it will show short sellers offloading massive amounts of phantom stock , with more than a million “failures to deliver” every day) feel free to contact me. Mitch0033@gmail.com.

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CNBC Spectacle Precedes Naked Short Massacre


So the SEC today lifted its ban on short-selling, and all but declared open season for law-breaking naked short sellers to start destroying companies again – and who does CNBC have on for two hours as its honored “guest host”?

None other than Jim Chanos, the salamander-slick director of the short-seller lobby.

Asked about naked short selling, Chanos said, with a straight face: “Anytime a hedge fund or short seller shorts a stock, it is a legitimate short. We have to get a locate or pre-borrow from the broker….”

Chanos continued: “The one thing I have in common with Patrick Byrne, chairman of Overstock.com [and Deep Capture reporter], is that we are calling for strict, strict delivery…in terms of delivering shares…that is how to end this naked short selling…”

CNBC, which serves as a sort of seedy massage parlor to the short selling community, gave Chanos the usual treatment – lubrications and sweet nothings. No tough questions. No retorts to his outlandish assertions. No wondering aloud as to his absurd and self-serving logic.

Let’s get this straight.

Not long ago, Chanos insisted that naked short selling did not occur.

Now, he says naked short selling occurs. But it’s not short sellers who are naked short selling. Short sellers make sure their brokers borrow real stock before they sell it.

In any case, Chanos acknowledges that short sellers’ brokers are not borrowing real stock before they sell it. That is why they are not delivering the stock. And that is why he claims to agree with Patrick Byrne that there needs to be “strict, strict delivery.”

But Chanos is against a ban on naked short selling (which would force short sellers to borrow real stock, thus ensuring delivery). Chanos says that a ban on naked short selling would destroy “market efficiency.”

So, to summarize the Chanos position: Naked short selling didn’t occur, but now it occurs, except short sellers don’t do it, and the SEC shouldn’t ban it because the market would cease to function properly if short sellers were forced to stop doing what they don’t do.

And given that so many shares are failing to deliver (after being sold naked by short sellers who never sell naked), Chanos is calling for “strict, strict delivery” of stock (while praising the SEC for its “strict” new rules which stipulate that nothing happens to short sellers who fail to deliver stock).

CNBC treated us this morning to two hours of Chanos nonsense. At one point this charlatan even insisted that short sellers aren’t short selling financial stocks at all. Really, he said short sellers aren’t short selling. Period. Take his word for it. CNBC did.

That was around 7:30 AM, right after CNBC’s Becky Quick referred to Chanos as “the legendary short seller….er, investor.”

At 9:30 AM, the markets opened and the criminal naked short sellers…er, investors…went back to work, unfettered by the SEC’s “strict” new rules.

Within an hour, Morgan Stanley was down 25%.

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