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The Global Bust-Out Series (Chapter 5): Monzer al-Kassar, Model Citizen

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The Global Bust-Out Series (Chapter 5): Monzer al-Kassar, Model Citizen


This is Chapter 5 of a multi-chapter series. On your right is a Table of Contents to all chapters so far published.

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In this chapter of the Global Bust-Out Series, we learn more about the Bank of Credit and Commerce and International (BCCI) and its business partners (the “larger BCCI enterprise”). Although this might seem like ancient history, it is history that we must not forget because the people who were involved with the BCCI enterprise did not simply disappear when BCCI collapsed in 1991. To the contrary, most of them remained in business and only one BCCI figure (Abbas Gokal) did any jail time. This despite the fact that Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau had described BCCI as “the largest banking fraud in world financial history.”

Recall, too, that the larger BCCI enterprise did more than operate “the largest banking fraud in world financial history.” It also deployed a variety of schemes to “bust-out” publicly listed companies, some of them among the largest savings and loan banks in the United States. This contributed to the savings and loan crisis that began in the late 1980s, and which ultimately cost American tax-payers upwards of $1 trillion in bail-outs—a portent of bigger and better things to come.

The larger BCCI enterprise “busted out” (i.e. looted and destroyed) other national economies as well, and when a few BCCI principals were brought to trial (they were sentenced to pay nothing more than fines that were fraction of what they had looted), the sentencing judge correctly remarked that the BCCI enterprise had single-handedly “shattered the integrity of the global financial system.”  They had also shattered the integrity of Washington, where officials went to lengths to protect them from prosecution.

Because the BCCI enterprise was never seriously prosecuted (or exposed in the media), the people who had been involved with BCCI and the larger BCCI enterprise continued during all the years that followed not only to remain in business, but also to operate an almost precisely similar enterprise, the only difference being that the enterprise came to include some new and younger players, while people involved with the enterprise innovated new and more destructive financial schemes. More specifically, they innovated new ways to “bust-out” publicly listed companies and national economies.

Indeed, as we will see, they contributed to the great meltdown of 2008, and they are presently threatening to deliver a repeat performance.

It is no overstatement to say that miscreants who were formerly involved with BCCI and the larger BCCI enterprise presently pose the single biggest threat to the stability of the global financial system and our economic well-being.  More than that, they pose a serious threat to the future of our democracy and to political stability in many other nations as well.  This is, in other words, the history that accounts for our present predicament, and it is the history that has (already to the great detriment of our democracy) been covered up by officials in Washington, and ignored by the major U.S. news organizations (some of them owned by people previously linked to the BCCI enterprise).

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The BCCI enterprise, we know, had extensive business with a great many of the most prominent fixtures of the American establishment. That is to say, some of the world’s most destructive financial criminals (i.e. people formerly involved with BCCI and the larger BCCI enterprise) have had extensive business with not only some of the leading lights on Wall Street, but also with numerous politicians and officials in Washington, including nearly every U.S. politician who has ever so much as considered running for president, every politician who has ever served as president, and multiple people who have held cabinet-level positions in Washington.

In earlier chapters of this series, we discussed relationships between the BCCI enterprise and two sitting presidents, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. As has been well-documented elsewhere, the BCCI enterprise also had extensive dealings (the Iran-Contra affair being only one example) with the administration of President Ronald Reagan, and his vice president (later President) George Bush, Sr.

Meanwhile, in the 1980s, various BCCI figures had business with George Bush, Jr., who would, of course, later serve as president. For example, a businessman named James Bath fronted investments that a Saudi sheikh and billionaire named Khalid bin Mahfouz made in an oil company called Harken Energy, which was then controlled by George Bush, Jr. Sheikh Mahfouz was the largest shareholder in BCCI, and he served as executive director of the bank throughout the 1980s. In 1985, Sheikh Mahfouz also purchased (at a premium to the market price) the Texas Commerce Bank Tower, which was then Houston’s tallest skyscraper, from James Baker, who was then President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Treasury, and later Secretary of State under President George Bush, Sr.

We have already seen that key figures in the larger BCCI enterprise later played a key role in delivering the presidency to Bill Clinton. One of those BCCI figures, we know, was an American oligarch named Jackson Stephens. Another was a man named Michael Steinhardt, known as one of the nation’s most prominent hedge fund managers, and also known as the son of Sol “Red” Steinhardt, said by a Manhattan district attorney to be the “biggest Mafia fence in America.” It was at Steinhardt’s urging that President Clinton pardoned a criminal oligarch named Marc Rich, who had previously had extensive involvement with the BCCI enterprise, and who had been sentenced to prison for doing business (through BCCI figures) with the Iranian regime during the 1979-1980 Iran hostage crisis.

We can add to this list of captured presidents our present leader, Barrack Obama, who has faced allegations of shady dealings with a man named Nadhmi Auchi, who is widely regarded as representing the interests of Adnan Khashoggi, formerly one of the most important figures in the larger BCCI enterprise (and one of history’s most destructive financial criminals). We will return to Auchi, but it suffices to say that his business (which continues to be conducted without interference from the Obama administration) has not been good for the country. Hedge fund manager George Soros, who played a key role in delivering the presidency to Obama, also previously had dealings with the BCCI enterprise.

Therefore, it is important for us to remember that the BCCI enterprise (which had extensive links to the Muslim Brotherhood) was notable for having waged a “Financial Jihad” against Western civilization (albeit a jihad waged in partnership with some of the self-anointed leaders of Western civilization). I will remind the reader that Yossef Bondansky, who served a director of the House Task Force on Terrorism from 1988 to 2005, described the BCCI mission as follows: “providing ‘special services’ in support of worthy causes—from laundering money for terrorists, Muslim intelligence services, and mujahedeen; to clandestinely funding deals for conventional weapons, weapons of mass destruction…to shipping around and laundering huge sums embezzled by corrupt leaders.”

As we also know, the BCCI enterprise’s larger mission (i.e. “The Financial Jihad”) was: 1) to build a global financial empire that could compete with Western financial institutions; and 2) to deploy financial weapons of mass destruction to undermine the global financial system that was perceived as being dominated by the West.

Recall that numerous global terrorists (also known as prominent bankers) were directly involved with the larger BCCI enterprise, and among them were Osama bin Laden and his associate, the Blind Sheikh. Osama bin Laden, of course, was later alleged to have perpetrated the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Blind Sheikh was alleged to have been involved in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. In addition, we know, the Blind Sheikh (co-founder of Faisal Islamic Bank, which was the most important affiliate of BCCI during the 1980s) issued a famous fatwah suggesting that it would be a good idea for his fellow jihadis (and bankers?) to “tear down the edifices of capitalism” and to “destroy their (our) economies.”  Which, of course, the BCCI enterprise had already done.

In 1991, the same year that BCCI collapsed, we know, a Muslim Brotherhood leader named Hasan al-Turabi appointed Osama bin Laden to help lead a Muslim Brotherhood initiative to replace the BCCI enterprise with a global financial network that would exceed the BCCI enterprise in scope and destructive power. Bodansky (then director of the House Task Force on Terrorism) reported in 2000: “Turabi urgently needed an expert to salvage whatever was possible and rebuild a global financial system [to replace the BCCI enterprise]. By then Osama bin Laden was the most qualified individual in Khartoum to untangle this financial mess. In late summer 1991, Turabi approached bin Laden and asked for help.”

Osama bin Laden agreed to help—and he pursued his task with enthusiasm. By 2000, he had played a key role in helping the Muslim Brotherhood rebuild a global financial network and he had done more than merely replace the BCCI enterprise. He and other Muslim Brotherhood billionaires had built what was, without doubt, one of the greatest financial empires the world has ever known. That financial empire remains in business today—and it is not only one the most powerful financial empires on the planet, but also one the world’s leading transnational organized crime syndicates, involved in all of the activities—from narco trafficking and the smuggling of radioactive materials, to the perpetration of destructive financial crime—that characterized the BCCI enterprise of the 1980s.

In addition, the global financial network/organized crime syndicate that Osama bin Laden helped build, like the BCCI enterprise before it, was operated in partnership with some elements of the American establishment, and with the full connivance of officials in Washington.

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The director of the House Task Force on Terrorism reported (in 2000) that Osama bin Laden built a global financial network in collaboration with what he referred to as “The Brotherhood Group,” a close-knit network of no less than 130 extremely wealthy financial operators in the Persian Gulf states. The director of the House Task Force on Terrorism reported further that: “The key members of the Brotherhood Group have a well-known and established financial presence in the West—sixty five of them have major companies and businesses in the United States.”

In Chapter 2 of this series, we met some of those billionaires, noting that some of them (e.g. Sheikh Mahfouz) had not only been involved with the BCCI enterprise in the 1980s, but had been among the founding fathers of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization. In later chapters of this series, we will learn more about the global financial network that Osama bin Laden helped build, but by way of introduction to that discussion, we should meet another former BCCI figure—a man named Monzer al-Kassar—because Monzer al-Kassar veritably epitomized both the BCCI enterprise and the global financial network that Osama bin Laden and other billionaires (including Monzer al-Kassar) built to replace the BCCI enterprise.

Monzer al-Kassar was not officially an executive of BCCI, but he brokered many of BCCI’s most important business relationships (including relationships with leading figures of the American establishment), and he played a key role in many of the initiatives (including the “Financial Jihad”) that made the BCCI enterprise so special. That is to say, Monzer al-Kassar was not only a global terrorist, but also the world’s leading narcotics kingpin, a dangerous mobster, a mercenary, a murderer, an arms dealer, an intelligence asset, a sophisticated financial operator, a billionaire several times over, and one of the world’s most prominent oligarchs, famous for the lavish cocktail parties that he held for the rich and famous.

Monzer al-Kassar was, indeed, one of the most important people in the world.

Therefore, the remainder of this chapter will be devoted to Monzer al-Kassar’s long and amazing career–his immense influence over the course of world events and his many assaults on the stability of the global financial system. And we can begin by examining the contents of every single article that was published about Monzer al-Kassar by the major U.S. news organizations during the years leading up to 2008, when Monzer al-Kassar’s career came to a strange and untimely end.

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The major U.S. news organization did not publish any articles about Monzer al-Kassar.

One exception to this rule was my favorite publication, People magazine, which published fairly regular reports about the fabulous parties—attended by Hollywood celebrities, glamorous billionaires, European royalty, Saudi princes, sheikhs and emirs, not to mention Western diplomats and some of Wall Street’s leading lights–that Monzer al-Kassar hosted at his white, Parthenon-like mansion in the Spanish resort town of Marbella. People magazine described Monzer al-Kassar as “The Prince of Marbella,” and that is how he was known to his powerful and influential friends, all whom were, no doubt, avid readers of People magazine.

Another exception to the rule was Forbes Magazine, which regularly listed Monzer al-Kassar as one of the 50 “Most Powerful” people in the world. However, the Forbes list of “Most Powerful” people didn’t include much information about what, exactly, made those people so powerful. Indeed, Forbes Magazine didn’t even provide its readers with any information about Monzer al-Kassar’s parties in Marbella, and unlike People magazine, Forbes Magazine did not inform its readers as to the purchase prices of Monzer al-Kassar’s sports cars, beautiful lady friends, and cutlery.

To be fair, Forbes Magazine is, in fact, the best mainstream business publication in the United States. It is also the only major news publication to devote space (see, for example, ground-breaking stories by Forbes reporters Nathan Vardi and Liz Moyers) to some of the most important issues (e.g. manipulative short selling and the involvement of organized crime) affecting the markets. In addition, aside from its list of “Most Powerful” people, Forbes Magazine did publish one story that at least mentioned Monzer al Kassar’s name in passing, noting that he had ties to Osama bin Laden.

Aside from that, though, the major U.S. news organizations reported nothing about Monzer al-Kassar prior to 2008, when Monzer al-Kassar’s career came to a strange and untimely end, at which point the U.S. media published a few stories about him, most of those stories being false. Not just false, but false to the extent that the major U.S. news organizations completely covered up the true (and scandalous) story of Monzer al-Kassar. Indeed, this cover-up was a conspiracy of significant proportions, or at least it was a cover-up to rival the media’s cover ups of just about every other major scandal in recent history.

That is not to say that the media has been a witting accomplice to any conspiracy. To the contrary, the American media has no wits. It is also, of course, not to say that the media has ever investigated or published any story about a conspiracy. Most major media journalists simply have no time to do anything other than take dictation from official government spokesmen and other professionals in the fields of black propaganda and disinformation. (I confess, I was once a mainstream journalist, and in that capacity, I unwittingly authored plenty of disinformation and devious party lines, though I did, at least, manage to have myself permanently ousted from that profession, thereby saving myself, were it not for so many other sins, from the eternal fires of hell).

At any rate, it is inadvisable to rely on the major U.S. news outfits for stuff like…news.

Fortunately, there are other sources of information, and there is, indeed, a vast amount of information about Monzer al-Kassar contained in the following: 1) mainstream publications of just about every civilized nation other than the United States;  2) a variety of documents that can be found in the public record; 3) some excellent American blogs (see, for example, BoilingFrogsPost.com, whose authors include former U.S. national security officials turned whistleblowers, all of whom are known to rant about the abysmal state of the American media).

In addition, many of the more salient facts concerning Monzer al-Kassar can be found in books by (among others) the following people: former U.S. Department of Justice prosecutor John Loftus, former Defense Intelligence Agency employee Lester Coleman; former Israeli intelligence official Ari Ben Menashe; former Israeli intelligence official Victor Ostrovsky; and Patrick Seale, the most eminent biographer of a terrorist named Abu Nidal, who was sponsored by Monzer al-Kassar. In addition, former Israeli intelligence official turned private investigator named Juval Aviv has revealed some important information about Monzer al-Kassar.

The best book on Monzer al-Kassar is a book written in the German language, and aptly titled “Des Pates des Terrors” (translation: “The Godfather of Terror,” which is different from “The Prince of Marbella”). This book (available on Amazon to anyone who can read German) was authored under a pseudonym by a German intelligence official who quotes extensively from the files of the German intelligence services, Interpol, and other intelligence agencies that tracked (and, in some case, employed) Monzer al-Kassar. There exists an English-language translation of this book, but it has been acquired by the U.S. government, which seems disinclined to allow the translation to be published in the United States.

In other words, so far as the English-speaking citizens of the U.S.A. are concerned, this book has not yet been burned, but it has, effectively, been banned.

We will get to the story of Monzer al-Kassar in a moment (and this might seem like an overly long prelude to that story) but it is first necessary to stress that every one of the above sources has been smeared in one way or another by official U.S. government spokesmen and major U.S. news organizations. These smears are always ad hominem—the facts themselves are never addressed. And others who have attempted to relate some of the facts have been accused of weaving outlandish conspiracy theories. But because this is such an important story, it must be stressed: all of the above sources have (independently of each other) related many of the same facts, and I myself have been able to confirm certain facts to be true.

There is, moreover, a near consensus among just about everyone who has investigated Monzer al-Kassar (including many earnest employees of the U.S. government’s national security agencies, though not the official U.S. government spokesmen) as to the broad outlines of the Monzer al-Kassar story.

The story goes like this:

Monzer al Kassar was the son of a Syrian government official and a close confidant of both Hafez al-Assad, who served as president of Syria from 1971 to 2000, and Bashar al-Assad, who replaced his father as president in 2000. As of this writing in 2013, Bashar al Assad is still president, but his army is fighting “Arab Spring” rebels who are (with the support of the U.S. government and its allies) attempting to overthrow the government of Syria. The “Arab Spring” rebels have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and associated jihadi terrorist organizations, some of which were sponsored by the Syrian government until 2008, at which point the jihadi outfits (and Washington) turned on the Syrian government, and Monzer al Kassar’s career came to strange and untimely end—but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

In the beginning, Monzer al-Kassar and his family, in partnership with, and with the protection of the Syrian government, became involved in the heroin trade out of Syria and Lebanon. By the 1980s, Monzer al-Kassar was not only the world’s leading narcotics kingpin, but also a global terrorist and the proprietor of an organized crime syndicate that was closely intertwined with the operations of leading terrorist organizations (which is to say that the terrorists were also key figures in Monzer al-Kassar’s transnational organized crime syndicate).

Among the terrorist organizations intertwined with Monzer al-Kassar’s organized crime (and terrorism) syndicate were several that had been founded by people who had once been key figures in the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), but who had split with PLO leader Yasser Arafat to found their own, more radical, terrorist outfits. These included: the Palestinian Liberation Front; the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–Special Command (PLFP-SC); the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command (PLFP-GC); and Fatah, Revolutionary Council (also known as Black September and the Arab Revolutionary Brigades), whose leader, Abu Nidal, was the world’s most notorious terrorist before Osama bin Laden achieved notoriety in the 1990s.

Monzer al Kassar’s closest friend (going back to their childhoods together) was Abu Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Liberation Front. Meanwhile, Monzer’s brother, Ghasshan, was a top official of the PLFP-SC, and various other members of Monzer’s family were members, at various times, of the PLFP-SC and the other PLO splinter outfits (i.e. all of the above). In addition, Monzer al-Kassar, in his capacity as a Syrian intelligence asset, played an important role in directing the operations of at least one faction of Hezbollah, the world’s largest terrorist organization, based in Lebanon, with operations in numerous nations across the globe, most notably in Latin America and Africa, though Hezbollah also operated (and still does operate) quite openly in a few major U.S. cities, such as Detroit and my hometown, Chicago.

All of the leaders of these terrorist organizations, and Monzer al-Kassar himself, had close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and in 1991, they all became key figures in the Islamist International, the outfit that was founded that year by Muslim Brotherhood leader Hasan al-Turabi, and whose chairman, of course, was Osama bin Laden. This runs contrary to the official party line that Osama bin Laden’s organization and the Muslim Brotherhood were comprised entirely of Sunnis who could not tolerate other Muslim sects. The truth is that the Muslim Brotherhood membership includes Muslims of many different sects, and the Islamist International, which was founded by the Muslim Brotherhood, included some people who were not even Muslims. For example, the leader of the PLFP-SC, George Habash, was a Marxist and an atheist.

Some accounts suggest that Hezbollah, which is a Shiite outfit, may even have been founded as a Shiite wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, and it is certainly the case that Hezbollah was a key component of the Islamist International. In addition, Hezbollah has carried out at least one violent terrorist attack (in 1996, on a building housing U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia) on the orders of Osama bin Laden. Presently, Hezbollah claims to have sided with the Syrian government against the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda (i.e. Muslim Brotherhood) rebels in Syria, but for reasons to be discussed, there are excellent reasons to believe that Hezbollah and the rebels share a common interest in fomenting chaos in that country.

Monzer al-Kassar, meanwhile, ascribes to Marxist tenets, and he might properly be regarded as an atheist, though he was born a member of the Alawite sect. According to most accounts, Sunni Muslims regard the Alawites as heretics, which might be true, but such theological differences are largely academic. For the purposes of our discussion, it is enough to know that the heretics, atheists, Sunnis, Shiites, and other figures in the Islamist International (one of them being Monzer al-Kassar) were united behind what a famous Muslim Brotherhood document (authored upon the founding of the Islamist International in 1991) described as a “Grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the [sic] Western civilization from within…”  Perhaps more important, they were all businessmen and criminals who understood that there was money to be made by undermining not just Western civilization, but all civilization, as that concept is universally understood by law-abiding people in every nation of the world.

As for Monzer al-Kassar, he was a key figure in the jihad, as were the other terrorists in his organized crime syndicate. In addition, of course, he played a key role, along with Osama bin Laden and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders, in building a global financial network to replace the BCCI enterprise. And one purpose of that global financial network was to launder money that Osama bin Laden, Monzer al Kassar’s organized crime syndicate, and other key figures in the Islamist International, including a jihadi warlord named Gilbuddin Hekmatyar, were making from the trafficking of heroin and other narcotics.

As the director of the House Task Force on Terrorism (in 2000) reported in 2000: “Hekmatyar was getting ready to ship drugs from Afghanistan to the West and divert profits from this drug trade to support the fledgling terrorist networks [of the Islamist International]. Another system of money laundering was required for this. Bin Laden adopted a twin-track approach [using standard money laundering techniques through major banks and brokerages]…”

During the 1980s, Hekmatyar had received the greater share of the weapons and money that the U.S. government supplied for the mujahedeen’s war against the Soviets. The official party line from Washington has it that U.S. support for Hekmatyar was a basically innocent blunder, with naïve U.S. government officials unaware that Hekmatyar was not only the most virulent and anti-American warlord in Afghanistan, but also one of the world’s leading narcotics kingpins. However, many researchers (see, for example, the work of University of California-Berkley professor Peter Dale Scott) have provided ample evidence that U.S. officials were, in the 1980s, well aware that Hekmatyar and other jihadi warlords who received support from Washington were leading narco-traffickers.

By the end of the 1980s, more than 80 percent of the world’s heroin traffic originated (and still does originate) from just a few countries, namely Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and Lebanon. In addition, most of that heroin was (and still is) supplied by a relatively few people, namely the leading jihadi warlords, terrorists, and organized crime bosses in those countries. Throughout the 1980s, most of these narco-traffickers were closely involved with the BCCI enterprise. And the role of BCCI was not merely to launder money for these narco-traffickers. During the 1980s, many of those narco-traffickers (e.g. Monzer al-Kassar) were themselves key figures in the larger BCCI enterprise.

Meanwhile these same narco-traffickers, along with other key BCCI figures, formed business relationships with many of the world’s leading transnational organized crime syndicates, including the Sicilian Mafia, La Cosa Nostra, and the Columbian drug cartels, all of which were themselves closely involved with the BCCI enterprise. In addition, as of the 1980s, there existed a global network of brokerages linked to the BCCI enterprise, and many of these brokerages were operated in partnership with leading organized crime figures. Later chapters of this series will examine these brokerages in greater detail (not least because their proprietors presently operate some of the biggest brokerages in the world), but for now it is enough to know that they specialized in perpetrating so-called “pump and dump” schemes.

See Chapter 1 of this series for fuller description of pump and dump schemes, but the short of it is that the objective is to first “pump” up the stock price of a public company, and then “dump” the stock into the market while attacking the stock with manipulative short selling. Sometimes the companies are fraudulent companies to begin with. Sometimes they are legitimate companies until such time as miscreants gain a degree of control over the company and/or its stock price. Either way, the end result is the same: the target company is “busted out” (i.e. destroyed), with the miscreants making most of their money on the “dump” end of the equation.

For reasons that are discussed in Chapter 1, the “bust-outs” of public companies not only undermine the financial system (one goal of the “Financial Jihad), but they have the added advantage of being a highly effective way in which to launder money for terrorists, drug traffickers, and other organized criminals.

Therefore, it is not surprising that some terrorist organizations, jihadi warlords, drug traffickers, and organized criminals were involved with the global network of brokerages that were linked to the BCCI enterprise in the 1980s. The terrorist organizations and jihadi warlords had grown immensely wealthy from the drug trade, and, of course, they used some of this money to fund their wars and violent terrorism. However, many terrorists and warlords were also businessmen involved not only in the trafficking of drugs, but also in the full panoply of crimes that we normally associate with transnational organized crime syndicates.

In addition, many of these terrorists were sophisticated financial operators who not only laundered money through BCCI, but also were among the BCCI figures who, along with the larger BCCI enterprise, perpetrated the various crimes that ultimately “shattered the integrity of the global financial system.”

And again: one of the most important of these BCCI figures was Monzer al-Kassar.

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As already mentioned, Monzer al-Kassar was, as of the 1980s, the world’s leading narco-trafficker. In the mid-1980s, Monzer al Kassar formally merged his drug trafficking cartel (which, of course, included leading terrorist organizations) with the operations of the Ochoa family, co-founders of the Medellin cartel in Colombia. Monzer-al Kassar had, to some extent, also integrated his narco-trafficking and associated banking operations with those of other leading syndicates, including the Sicilian Mafia, the Corsican Mafia, Turkish and Israeli syndicates, the leading syndicates and jihadi warlords in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the multiple crime families collectively known as La Cosa Nostra, and others to be discussed.

All of these syndicates operated independently of each other, and all of them, to some extent, competed with each other, but they also collaborated to such an extent that it is proper to describe them as having established what amounted to a global cartel that controlled much of the world supply of heroin, coke, crack, hashish, pot, pills, and other drugs, much as the big oil companies of the early 20th century were independent businesses that competed with each other to some extent, but also collaborated to establish a cartel that effectively controlled the global supply of oil.

Meanwhile, of course, Monzer al-Kassar, being a global terrorist, was, along with others in his syndicate, linked to multiple terrorist atrocities that killed hundreds of people, including many Americans.

Some of these terrorist attacks were perpetrated to advance political agendas (i.e. in the name of jihad, Karl Marx, the destruction of Israel, socialism, the destruction Lebanon, and various other agendas, depending on the occasion), but we will see that at least some of the terrorist attacks were perpetrated for money. That is to say, terrorism was another line of business, and the terrorists in Monzer al-Kassar’s syndicate were more than happy to rent themselves out as mercenaries to the highest bidder, whatever the bidder’s politics or religion might be.

At other times they perpetrated violent acts of terrorism to create conditions that were more conducive to their other criminal enterprises, especially the trafficking of drugs out of Afghanistan and Lebanon (where the narco-trade expanded exponentially as the nation descended into chaos during the 1980s, with much of the chaos caused by Monzer al-Kassar and his terrorist associates). Meanwhile, Monzer al-Kassar and his global crime syndicate (including those terrorist organizations), along with the syndicates that cooperated with Monzer al Kassar to control the drug trade, were involved together in other lines of business, including grand theft auto, sex slavery, murder for hire, and the trafficking of liquor, cigarettes, sophisticated weaponry, radioactive materials, and components for the manufacture of nuclear bombs.

In addition, of course, Monzer al Kassar and associated organized crime syndicates were involved together in the perpetration of destructive financial crime. Not only were Monzer al-Kassar involved with the global network of brokerages linked to BCCI, but Monzer al-Kassar (often in league with associated organized crime syndicates) perpetrated everything from securities fraud and market manipulation to mortgage fraud, Ponzi schemes, and sophisticated derivatives scams. All of which is to say: Monzer al-Kassar was precisely the sort of fellow one would expect to be employed by the government of the U.S.A.

And Monzer al-Kassar was employed by the regime in Washington. Or perhaps it is more correct to say that the regime in Washington was employed by Monzer al Kassar.

In any event, officials in Washington and Monzer al Kassar’s syndicate (including some of those terrorist organizations) had a profitable business relationship, going back to at least the late 1970s, when an American official named Edwin Wilson cut a deal with Monzer al Kassar that saw Monzer supplying American weapons to the regime of Moammar Qadaffi in Libya, while Wilson and other U.S. government officials (all of whom, notably, were also operating private businesses that profited from these deals) were supplying American troops (recruited from within the ranks of the American military) to help the Qadaffi regime train the PLFP-GC, one of the terrorist organizations in Monzer al-Kassar’s syndicate.

In 1981, Wilson was indicted for supplying explosives (indeed, he supplied almost the entire existing stockpile of C-4 military explosives then available in the United States) to the Qaddafi regime, at which point the regime in Washington denied that Wilson was an employee of the U.S. government, and also denied that Wilson had been acting in any official capacity, much less at the direction of Washington. The major U.S. news organizations, taking their cues from U.S. officials, reported that Wilson was a “former” U.S. government employee who had gone rogue, and that the U.S. government had nothing to do with Wilson’s dealings with Qaddaffi, terrorists, and Monzer al-Kassar.

It is important for us to specifically identify the U.S. officials who were most closely involved in the investigation of Wilson and the party line that was fed to the media, because these same officials have been the central players in numerous other events that will feature in later sections of the story that you are now reading, and these events will pertain to our later discussion of the global financial system in its present and deteriorating condition. There are, in fact, numerous officials whom we need to discuss in this context, but for now it will suffice for the reader to remember three names: Oliver “Buck” Revell, who was the FBI’s chief of counter-terrorism; a DOJ and FBI official named Robert Mueller (who is now director of the FBI); and Lindley Devecchio, who was chief of the FBI’s organized crime task force, and who led the FBI’s investigation of Wilson.

These were the officials who reported that Wilson was a “former” U.S. government employee who had gone rogue, and that the U.S. government had nothing to do with Wilson’s dealings with Libya and Monzer al-Kassar. And when Wilson attempted to correct the record, the FBI and the DOJ (at the direction of those same three officials) went to all lengths to discredit and destroy him. As a result, Wilson was sentenced to prison in 1982, and he remained in jail for the next 22 years, all the while protesting that his activities had been conducted in his capacity as an employee of the U.S. government, and all the while filing Freedom of Information Act requests for documents that, he said, would prove that he was telling the truth.

Ultimately, Wilson obtained enough documents to convince a judge that he was, in fact, telling the truth, and in 2004, the judge ordered his release from prison. Since then, it has been established that Wilson (who died in 2012) had, in fact, been employed as an agent of the U.S. government, and that many of his dealings—including his dealings with Monzer al-Kassar and associated terrorists—had been sanctioned by officials working at the highest levels of government in Washington. It has also been established that the Department of Justice and the FBI, among other U.S. government agencies, covered up the truth regarding Edwin Wilson and his dealings with Monzer al-Kassar.

In addition, it is now more than evident that other officials of the U.S. government continued to maintain increasingly profitable business relationships with Monzer al-Kassar in all the years following Wilson’s indictment in 1981. For example, not long after Wilson was sentenced to prison, the U.S. government hired Monzer al Kassar to work with a man named Bill Buckley, who was then the chief of the CIA station in Lebanon. Buckley seems to have been an honorable man, and it is possible that he was unaware of Monzer al-Kassar’s pedigree, but one day he found himself instructed by his superiors to work with Monzer al-Kassar to devise a scheme to kidnap militia leaders who were operating in Lebanon and Syria. As it happened, though, that plan was not carried out and Buckley himself was kidnapped by terrorists.

More specifically, Buckley was kidnapped by a Hezbollah faction that took its directions from none other than Monzer al-Kassar. And soon after kidnapping Buckley, the same terrorists kidnapped many other Americans. But that did not deter Washington from continuing to work with Monzer al-Kassar. To the contrary, Monzer al Kassar became the single most important partner of the U.S. government in the many business dealings and machinations that later culminated in what is now known as the Iran-Contra scandal. That scandal was, in fact, largely covered up by the major U.S. news organizations and by top officials in Washington—including the same DOJ and FBI officials who covered up the earlier Wilson scandal. However, much of the truth can be found elsewhere in the public record. We are especially indebted to a former DOJ prosecutor named John Loftus for some of the key facts that follow, though the facts come from a variety of sources (including those named above), and the reader is encouraged to seek out the dozens of books about the Iran-Contra scandal for a fuller picture.

In any event, it is not the purpose of this story to discuss the Iran-Contra scandal at length, but the short version is that somebody hatched a plan for the U.S. government to sell (through brokers) sophisticated American weaponry to the regime in Iran, ostensibly in exchange for the Iranian regime’s agreement to secure the release of the Americans (including Bill Buckley, the former CIA chief in Lebanon) who had been taken hostage by terrorists—namely Hezbollah terrorists, all presumed to be proxies of the Iranian government. Meanwhile, U.S. officials, having sold the weapons to the regime in Iran, used some of the proceeds to illegally fund and arm the so-called “Contras,” a collection of rebel armies that were fighting to overthrow an ostensibly Marxist regime in Nicaragua.

That, anyway, is the official story as it has been related by the major U.S. news organizations, which have provided little in the way of detail, and which have left the American public with only a vague awareness that the Iran-Contra scheme involved some mild skullduggery on the part of a few otherwise patriotic American officials who desired nothing more than to secure the release of American hostages and secretly lend support to rebels who were fighting the Communist menace in Latin America. There is, however, more to the story—and it is principally a business story. It is a story about a dubious cast of characters who made a boatload of money. That is to say, it is story about (what else?)—the famous and ever-present BCCI enterprise. Indeed, the Iran-Contra scheme was one of BCCI’s most successful initiatives.

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It is difficult to discern through the haze of disinformation who, precisely, masterminded the Iran-Contra scheme, but most accounts cite the involvement of the Saudi billionaire and BCCI figure Adnan Khashoggi and an Iranian arms dealer named Manucher Gorbinafar. They were no doubt at the center of the Iran-Contra dealings, but so too was Monzer al-Kassar, and it was certainly Monzer al-Kassar who earned the greatest profits from the Iran-Contra dealings, though the larger BCCI enterprise (and multiple U.S. government officials who were also proprietors of private companies that were in business with Monzer al-Kassar and the larger BCCI enterprise) profited as well.

In addition, there is no doubt that U.S. officials regarded Monzer al-Kassar not only as their most important business partner, but also as their point man for the political machinations that were necessary for the proper effectuation of the Iran-Contra disaster.

Indeed, Monzer al-Kassar handled every end of the operation, and from every end of the operation, he earned a massive profit for himself and his partners. It was Monzer al-Kassar who sold most of the American weapons that U.S. officials supplied to the Iranian regime, and it was Monzer al-Kassar who sold most of the weapons that U.S. officials supplied to the Contras in Nicaragua. In supplying weapons to the Contras, Monzer al-Kassar also expanded his drug empire, with the Contras and associated drug cartels supplying him with ever greater quantities of cocaine, and the coke smuggled into the United States on the same airplanes that were transporting weapons to the Contras in Latin America. The planes would fly into Latin America with weapons, and return to the U.S. loaded with coke.

All of this business was transacted in partnership with other BCCI figures as well, and much of Monzer al-Kassar’s arms dealing was conducted in partnership with not only BCCI, but also with U.S. government agents who had established private companies as proprietaries of the U.S. government (though the government agents themselves, and not the taxpayers, pocketed the profits from these companies). Monzer al-Kassar was also the man who handled the vast money laundering operation associated with the Iran-Contra dealings, and most of that money laundering was transacted through BCCI.

Meanwhile, of course, BCCI was conspiring with a cast of criminal oligarchs and mobsters to “bust out” major savings and loan banks in the United States. Some of the loot from those “bust-outs” was used to finance the Iran-Contra dealings, and a lot of that loot ended up in the pockets of Monzer al-Kassar. Still greater sums of the money that BCCI looted from the global financial system was, of course, also delivered to the world’s leading terrorist organizations, including the terrorist outfits that were intertwined with Monzer al-Kassar’s organized crime syndicate.

At the center of all this activity, we know, was Adnan Khashoggi.

At Khashoggi’s urging, U.S. officials appointed Monzer al-Kassar as the point man in the supposed effort to secure the release of the U.S. hostages (i.e. the hostages whose capture by terrorists justified the massive Iran-Contra enterprise to begin with). And, naturally, the terrorists had originally taken the American hostages on the orders of…Monzer al-Kassar.

Unsurprisingly, most of those hostages were not released, and indeed, the more weapons that U.S. officials delivered (mostly through Monzer al-Kassar and his BCCI associates, though others arms dealers were involved) to the Iranian regime, the more hostages were taken. Ultimately, a few hostages were released, but the most important of them (including Buckley, the CIA chief) were tortured and killed.

There is, moreover, some doubt as to the sincerity (or at least, some doubt as to the wisdom) of the U.S. officials who believed that they would secure the release of the hostages by supplying the Iranian regime with weapons because the Iranian regime had no control over the Hezbollah terrorists who had taken the hostages. The terrorists who took the hostages all belonged to a Hezbollah faction that took its orders not from Iran, but rather from Syria, and more specifically, from one of Syria’s most important intelligence assets…Monzer al-Kassar.

Meanwhile, Monzer al-Kassar was employed by the Soviet intelligence service, the KGB, and he was, of course, keeping the KGB apprised of Washington’s dealings with the Iranian regime and the Contras. In addition, Monzer al-Kassar and others in the BCCI enterprise, including Adnan Khashoggi, were helping the Soviets in their efforts to prop up the ostensibly Marxist regime in Nicaragua (i.e. the regime whose existence ostensibly justified the massively profitable enterprise to support the Contras by selling them guns, and buying their cocaine for resale at marked up prices in the United States).

Some chroniclers of these machinations, including former U.S. prosecutor John Loftus and the author of the German-language biography of Monzer al-Kassar, suggest that Monzer al Kassar had also taken “deep capture” to new levels—i.e. that he not only had lucrative business relationships with U.S. officials, but had also blackmailed some top U.S. officials. That is, he threatened to expose everything from their early involvement in the Edwin Wilson affair and the illegal scheme to kidnap people in Lebanon, to the subsequent Iran-Contra adventure. And to avoid exposure, officials in Washington were obliged to not only provide full protection and immunity to Monzer al-Kassar and his organized crime syndicate, but to pursue policies that were favorable to the Palestinian terrorist movement.

It might or might not be true that U.S. officials were blackmailed, but there is a vast body of evidence to support the contention that the regime in Washington did, in fact, afford its protection to not only Monzer al-Kassar but also the terrorist outfits that were part of his organized crime syndicate. This first became apparent in 1985, at the height of the Iran-Contra dealings, when Monzer al-Kassar was linked to multiple terrorist atrocities, including the hijacking that year of a luxury cruise ship called the Achille Lauro. Multiple foreign governments and news organizations reported that Monzer al-Kassar had sponsored the hijacking, and that the hijacking was perpetrated by Abu Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Liberation Front (and Monzer al-Kassar’s closest friend since childhood).

After the Palestinian Liberation Front terrorists seized control of the ship, they killed an elderly and handicapped American passenger named Leon Klinghoffer, and dumped his body into the sea. Subsequently, the ship docked at Port Said, in Egypt, and from there the terrorists were able to negotiate safe passage for themselves on a flight that was scheduled to land in Tunisia. The flight was reportedly intercepted by U.S. fighter jets, which forced the plane to land at Sigonella, a NATO base in Italy. But for some reason, Abu Abbas, who had been on the plane, was not arrested when he landed at the NATO base. And for reasons that were never explained, the Italians permitted Abu Abbas to board another civilian passenger flight, and this flight reached its scheduled destination in Yugoslavia.

The regime in Washington publicly requested the extradition of Abbas from Yugoslavia, but U.S. officials did not pursue their request with any particular enthusiasm, and Abu Abbas remained a free man. Abbas later ended up in Iraq (then an American ally) but still he was not arrested.

Some years later, Ari Ben Menashe, a former top Israeli military intelligence official, among others, alleged that the Achille Lauro hijacking and other terrorist attacks had been paid for by Israeli intelligence as part of an ongoing propaganda campaign aimed at gaining sympathy for Israel’s sometimes brutal war against the Palestinians. Meanwhile, a large cast of Israeli officials and arms dealers were involved with Monzer al-Kassar in the Iran-Contra dealings.

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Some have cast doubt on Ari Ben Menashe’s claims regarding the Achille Lauro, but there is no doubt the Israeli government was at the time funding and even arming some of the terrorist outfits that were part of Monzer al-Kassar’s crime and terrorism syndicate. The Israelis sponsored these terrorist outfits (most of them PLO splinter groups) believing (correctly as it turned out) that the more radical terrorists would harass and suck support away from Yasser Arafat and the mainstream PLO, which the Israeli government regarded as Enemy Number One.

For the same reasons, the Israelis (and their allies in Washington) sponsored the Muslim Brotherhood, and in 1988, they began to sponsor Hamas, which had been founded that year by the Brotherhood. Both the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, of course, had stated that their most important mission was to eliminate the state of Israel, but Israel anticipated (correctly, as it turned out) that the Brotherhood and Hamas would not only steal support from the PLO, but also destabilize countries (e.g. Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Jordan) that Israel considered to be enemy states.

Presently, Israel is expressing concern that the Muslim Brotherhood has seized power in some of those countries, but Israel’s prior support for the Brotherhood and Hamas is not surprising, and many analysts suggest that there was more to it than just a desire to derail the PLO and enemy states. Indeed, there is much to give credence to reports that right-wing Israeli politicians and the more radical Palestinian terrorist organizations agree that maintaining the status quo of low-intensity conflict is not just politically advantageous, but also financially lucrative for both Israeli politicians and the Palestinian terrorists.

One reason to believe this might be the case is related to the emergence of powerful Russian organized crime syndicates that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union, beginning in the late 1980s. Many leaders of these Russian organized criminals set up shop in Israel and obtained Israeli citizenship, and as detailed in diplomatic cables made public by Wikileaks, the major Russian organized crime syndicates quickly became among the largest funders of the same Israeli politicians who have provoked conflicts in Palestine and Lebanon. Those Russian crime syndicates were (and are) also important partners (involved in all of the lines of business already discussed) of the Palestinian terrorist outfits, including those that were part of Monzer al-Kassar’s organized crime operation.

The Russian mobsters are, in addition, big players in Israel’s flourishing “homeland security” industry, which profits from selling services that purport to provide Israel with protection from those same terrorists. The homeland security businesses (and many other businesses, including narco-trafficking and financial crime), of course, benefit from the continuing state of low-intensity conflict and chaos in Palestine and neighboring Lebanon. They also benefit so long as the Israeli government remains focused on conflict, rather than cracking down on organized crime.

Beginning in the 1980s, Monzer al-Kassar himself had developed relationships with Israeli intelligence, and this relationship might similarly have been as much about business as politics. Among other ventures, Monzer al-Kassar brokered deals (financed by BCCI) that saw Israeli intelligence selling weapons to Iran at the same time when he was leading BCCI efforts to provide a full suite of services to Palestinian terrorist organizations that were ostensibly fighting Israel.

Owing to Monzer al-Kassar, BCCI had a particularly strong relationship with Abu Nidal, who was the most murderous of all the terrorists operating at that time. Over the course of few years in the 1980s, Abu Nidal’s terrorist organization killed more than 900 innocent people (some of them Americans) in more than 20 separate terrorist attacks. During some of that time, Abu Nidal was working out of an office at BCCI headquarters in London.

Abu Nidal’s most in-depth biographer, Patrick Seale, has written that Abu Nidal had, for a time, been employed by the Mossad (Israel’s intelligence service), and that some of his terrorist attacks had been paid for by the Israelis. Indeed, by all accounts, Abu Nidal was a mercenary willing to hire himself out to the highest bidder. During the 1980s, Abu Nidal was paid by Syrian intelligence to help the Syrian government crush a rebellion that was led by the Muslim Brotherhood, and a few years later, Abu Nidal, who had been mentored by leading Muslim Brotherhood clerics, was among the terrorists who had joined the Islamist International, the outfit that was founded by Muslim Brotherhood leader Hasan al-Turabi, and whose chairman was Osama bin laden.

In subsequent years, Syria’s government became a key sponsor of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas (which of course was founded by the Muslim Brotherhood), though, of course, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are now once again (with the support of the U.S. government and its allies, including Israel) fighting to overthrow the Syrian government.

During the late 1980s, many of the top leaders of Hamas were involved with the BCCI enterprise, and during most of the 1980s and 1990s, many of them resided in the United States. For example, Mousa Abu Marzook, political chief of Hamas (and a key figure in the Islamist International) resided in Texas, and operated quite openly there even though earnest FBI agents had linked him to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. In 1996, the FBI briefly arrested Marzook, but he was immediately released at the request of the Israeli government, which issued a statement saying that Marzook was “important to the peace process.”

The truth was that those earnest FBI agents had learned in 1993 that Marzook and other Hamas leaders in the United States had undertaken a major initiative to sabotage the peace process, and more specifically to undermine the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords that the Israeli government had signed with the PLO. Many Israeli politicians were similarly displeased with the Oslo Accords because they believed the Accords granted too much legitimacy to Yasser Arafat, the PLO leader. In other words, many Israeli politicians shared the ambition to sabotage the peace process. Meanwhile, of course, the Israeli government, or at least one faction of the Israeli government, was providing support in the form of money and even weapons to Hamas, hoping that a stronger Hamas would undermine Arafat’s authority.

Presently, Marzook resides in Qatar (one of Washington’s closest allies), where he not only has the full protection of the Qatari ruling family, but is also helping the Qataris (and Washington) support the activities of the “Arab Spring” rebels in Syria. However, back in 1996, Marzook was more friendly with the Syrian government, and at that time, Washington also had friendly relations with Syria. After he was released by the FBI in 1996, Marzook moved to Syria, where (at the request of Washington) the Syrian government provided him with full protection.

As of 2000, the director of the House Task Force on Terrorism was reporting that Marzook was among those who, along with Osama bin Laden and other key figure in the Islamist International were plotting to perpetrate a “spectacular” terrorist attack inside the United States. At the time, of course, Marzook and other key figures in the Islamist International had already been linked to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. One of them was the Blind Sheikh (co-founder of Faisal Islamic Finance, formerly BCCI’s most important affiliate). Others were terrorists who were part of Monzer al-Kassar’s organized crime syndicate, the most notable among them being Abu Nidal.

Abu Nidal had dispatched one his deputies, Mohammed Ajaj, to participate in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, after which the distinguished journalist Robert Friedman reported in the Village Voice that Ajaj was, at that time, an agent of the Israeli intelligence service. Also linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was a fellow named Mohammed Salameh, and the International Herald Tribune reported that the telephone number and apartment address used by Salameh were registered in the name of one Josie Hadas, who had been identified as an agent of the Mossad. This is not to say that Israel was necessarily involved in the 1993 WTC bombing, but it is to say that numerous terrorists were on the payroll of not only the Israeli government, but also the U.S. government (which was, at the time, funding not just Monzer al-Kassar, but also Abu Nidal and the Blind Sheikh).

Some years later, in 2000, Abu Nidal was reported to be among those who were, along with Osama bin Laden and others in the Islamist International, plotting to perpetrate a “spectacular” terrorist attack inside the United States. After a spectacular terrorist attack occurred on September 11, 2001, some major news organizations reported that Abu Nidal had been operating an Al Qaeda training camp in Iraq in cahoots with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. According to these reports, Abu Nidal had personally overseen the training of Mohammed Atta, identified by U.S. officials as the terrorist who piloted the first airplane that had crashed into the World Trade Center. We can, however, hope those reports were not true because it has since been revealed that Abu Nidal was, at the time, an employee of the United States government.

That Abu Nidal was an agent of the U.S. government was first reported by prominent British journalist Robert Fisk, whose reporting on terrorism and the Middle East should be required reading for all Americans because Fisk is one of several mainstream journalists (too few of them Americans) whose reporting is usually true. In 2009, Fisk, then writing for The Independent, a newspaper in England, reported that he, Fisk, had obtained a report from Iraq’s “Special Intelligence Unit M4” confirming that Saddam’s regime had killed Abu Nidal after discovering that Abu Nidal was employed by the U.S. government.

According to Fisk, the regime in Washington (using Kuwaiti and Egyptian intelligence as intermediaries) paid Abu Nidal to provide information to the American government about Iraq’s ties to Al Qaeda. Fisk did not specify as to the nature of the information provided by Abu Nidal, but we might assume that Abu Nidal either provided authentic information that Mohammed Atta received training in Iraq, or that he, Abu Nidal, helped fabricate this information, which U.S. officials proceeded to leak to the media in support of their contention that Saddam had ties to Al Qaeda.

A similar story was subsequently published by Janes, a respected national security journal, which revealed that Saddam Hussein’s regime sentenced Abu Nidal to death in 2002 after discovering that Abu Nidal had in his possession classified U.S. government documents outlining plans for the U.S. invasion of Iraq–leading Saddam to conclude that Abu Nidal was an American spy. Which was a reasonable assumption in light of all we know about the U.S. governments relationship with Monzer al-Kassar’s organized crime and terrorism operation, which, of course, included Abu Nidal.

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Back in 1988, Monzer al-Kassar was linked to another terrorist atrocity—the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The fact that al-Kassar was linked to the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing was reported at the time by a collection of mainstream journalists, most of them in Britain, but those journalists were viciously smeared by some U.S. government officials and journalists who were bent on pinning the bombing on Libyan dictator Muammar Qadaffi.

To this day, the cowed U.S. media reports that only “conspiracy theorists” believe that anyone other than Qaddaffi was involved in the Flight 103 atrocity, but the evidence is overwhelming that terrorists who worked for Monzer al-Kassar’s organized crime syndicate were the perpetrators.

In fact, it was not just “conspiracy theorists” who believed that al-Kassar was involved in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing. It was, among others, numerous U.S. government officials, government investigators in Germany (where the bomb was loaded on to Flight 103), lawyers for Pan Am, members of Congress, a private investigator named Juval Aviv (formerly of the Mossad, with extensive experience tracking terrorist organizations) who was hired by Pan Am to investigate the bombing, and a former Defense Intelligence Agency asset named Lester Coleman.

When Coleman blew the whistle on the true story of Flight 103, he was indicted by the DOJ on trumped up charges that he had applied for a passport using false documents, and then he was smeared relentlessly by U.S. officials and journalists who described him as a con-man and a criminal. Meanwhile, U.S. officials denied that Coleman had anything to do with the U.S. intelligence community. As a result, he was forced to flee the United States, and he became the first American ever to receive political asylum in a foreign country (Sweden).

A reporter named Steve Emerson was among those who did the most to discredit Coleman, leading some to accuse Emerson of being a government stooge. Since then Emerson has done excellent research into terrorism (some of which I have borrowed for my own stories), so I don’t think he is a stooge, but he probably got the Flight 103 story wrong. Coleman has since proven that he did, in fact, work for the Defense Intelligence Agency (and that it was CIA officials who ordered him to apply for a passport using false documentation).

Coleman’s story about Pan Am Flight 103 (laid out in book called “Trail of the Octopus”) is more than plausible, and is, in fact, now widely acknowledged to be true. Meanwhile, the official story from the U.S. government has been thoroughly discredited–and notably, the official story emanated from many of the same officials—e.g. FBI counter-terrorism chief Oliver “Buck” Revell, Robert Mueller (now director of the FBI), top FBI official Lindsey Devecchio– who were involved in covering up the Edwin Wilson and Iran-Contra affairs.

The official story was that a Libyan intelligence officer named Abdelbaset al-Megrahi (on orders from Muammar Qaddafi) planned and carried out the bombing of Flight 103. This story was based almost entirely on the claims of the FBI and MI5 (Britain’s domestic spy service) that a shop-keeper in Malta had sold clothes that were found in the same suitcase that contained the bomb. The shop-keeper, Tony Gauci, was located by the FBI, and he fingered al-Megrahi as the man who had bought the clothes.

However, several documentaries have presented evidence that the U.S. Department of Justice paid Gauci, the shop keeper, at least $1 million in exchange for his agreement to name al-Megrahi. In 2009, lawyers for al-Megrahi (who was serving a life sentence in Scotland, owing largely to information provided by the FBI and DOJ) were about to present evidence of the pay-off and additional evidence pointing to the real perpetrators, but before they were able to do so, the Scottish released al Megrahi on compassionate grounds, saying that he had advanced cancer and only weeks left to live. (Three years later, al Megrahi died of cancer, in Libya).

In addition, it has since been widely acknowledged (as Pan Am’s lawyers, Coleman, German authorities, some CIA officers, Juval Aviv, and many others argued at the time) that the Pan Am 103 atrocity was the work of terrorists who were linked to Monzer al-Kassar, and who were also important figures in a heroin trafficking ring that was overseen by al-Kassar and protected by the U.S. government.

According to former Defense Intelligence Agency officer Coleman and others, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI had made arrangements at the Frankfurt Airport that allowed al Kassar’s terrorist network to smuggle heroin on to airplanes (including Flight 103) without problems from airport security. There is no evidence that the DEA itself was (as some have said) dealing in heroin. These were so-called “controlled deliveries.” In other words, the DEA and other American government agencies (including the Defense Intelligence Agency) had recruited al-Kassar’s men as agents, allowing them to smuggle heroin into the United States in exchange for their cooperation in other investigations. Once the heroin was smuggled into the U.S., the DEA monitored its distribution to learn more drug dealers who were operating in the United States.

Meanwhile, of course, the U.S. government had employed Monzer al Kassar in many other capacities.

Unfortunately, according to Coleman and many others, one of the controlled deliveries contained not only the usual narcotics, but also a bomb—namely, the bomb that blew up Flight 103. That is, U.S. government agencies had created the conditions that allowed terrorists (who were, meanwhile, working as DEA informants and were employed by the U.S. government in other capacities ) to smuggle a bomb onto an airplane. In a frantic effort to cover up the U.S. government’s negligence, the FBI’s chief of counter-terrorism and the Department of Justice persecuted just about everyone who tried to reveal the truth.

Eventually, Coleman was convicted of perjury, at which point he publicly apologized and said that he had made up some elements of the story to get attention for himself. But his conviction was overturned on appeal, and Coleman recanted his apology. The court documents outlining the reasons why the conviction was overturned were sealed. Meanwhile, a general consensus emerged that Coleman was, at a minimum, correct to say that terrorists with links to Monzer al-Kassar were responsible for the bombing, and that top officials of the U.S. government covered up the involvement of Monzer al-Kassar and associated terrorists.

We might never know the full truth about the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing, but if we are to believe the majority opinion of former national security officials who investigated the bombing, and who have since come forth to challenge the official party line, Monzer al-Kassar was hired by either the Iranian regime or Syrian intelligence to organize the terrorist attack, and the terrorists who (on Monzer al-Kassar’s orders) carried out the attack were members of either Abu Nidal’s Black September or the PFLP-GC (the latter being the outfit that had, in the late 1970s, been trained by Edwin Wilson’s operation).

Whatever the truth, the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and the resulting liabilities soon resulted in Pan Am declaring bankruptcy. And it might or might not be noteworthy that Monzer al-Kassar and some key figures in the larger BCCI enterprise (whom I will not name because I cannot say with certainty that they should be implicated in a terrorist atrocity, though it is perhaps a possibility worthy of further investigation by others more capable than I am) earned a handsome profit from the bankruptcy of Pan Am, and these same BCCI figures made money on the later bankruptcy of TWA airlines.

TWA was forced into bankruptcy as a result of liabilities that it accrued from a series of disasters between 1985, when a TWA airliner was hijacked (by the Hezbollah faction that took orders from Monzer al-Kassar) en route from Cairo to Athens, and 1996, when TWA Flight 800 exploded soon after taking off from New York’s JFK international airport, destination Paris. The FBI and DOJ ruled that the explosion of TWA Flight 800 was the result of mechanical failure, but the general consensus among former U.S. government investigators is that TWA Flight 800 was bombed by terrorists whose identities remain unknown.

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In 1991, we know, Monzer al0Kassar and the other terrorists in his syndicate had joined the Islamist International, whose chairman was, of course, Osama bin Laden. The first order of business was to replace the BCCI enterprise with something even better, and, of course, Monzer al-Kassar played a key role in this effort—the effort known as “The Financial Jihad.” Monzer al-Kassar also lent his full support to the more general “Grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization,” meanwhile establishing new business relationships with major banks and hedge funds in the United States, and committing a host of destructive financial crimes with some of Western civilization’s leading oligarchs.

As Monzer al-Kassar continued to perpetrate eminently destructive financial crimes and operate his terrorism and organized crime syndicate, he apparently remained protected by the U.S. government, which certainly did nothing to stop him until 2008, when he was arrested in Spain and extradited to the U.S., where he presently faces trial for the one crime that he did not commit. That is to say, the DOJ has charged Monzer al-Kassar only with selling weapons to the FARC (a narco-terrorist paramilitary outfit in Colombia), but he did not actually sell weapons to the FARC. He merely agreed to sell weapons to undercover DEA agents who were posing as FARC representatives.

It is nice to know that Monzer al-Kassar has been arrested and that he is no longer described as the “Prince of Marbella,” but in charging him only with the one crime that he did not commit, the DOJ seems to be covering up (or at least neglecting to publicize, much less prosecute) the many crimes (from terrorist atrocities to narco-trafficking and destructive financial crime perpetrated against the American economy) that he did commit during his long and colorful career as one of the world’s most prominent oligarchs.

In addition, it is possible that Monzer al-Kassar was finally arrested in 2008 only because of his importance to the Syrian government (he was, indeed, one of Syrian President Assad’s most important associates), and because the U.S. government had decided at that point to lend its support to the jihadi guerrillas who were then already gearing up to overthrow the Syrian government. Those jihadis, of course, are now (with U.S. support) fighting the Syrian military under the banner of an “Arab Spring” campaign for freedom and democracy.

In any event, Monzer al-Kassar accomplished much over his career, and with few exceptions, the major U.S. news organizations have yet to give him any credit for these accomplishments. One exception, as I mentioned before, was Forbes Magazine. In 2004, Forbes (without otherwise providing the details of Monzer al-Kassar interesting biography) reported that Monzer al-Kassar not only had ties to Osama bin Laden, but was involved, along with two British citizens—Jared Brook and Lincoln Fraser—with a “high flying financial outfit” called Imperial Consolidated Group.

Imperial Consolidated was involved in multiple destructive financial crimes, most of them involving pump and dump schemes and the “bust-outs” of publicly listed companies in Europe and the United States. All told, Imperial Consolidated looted at least $300 million from the Western financial system. The British miscreants were charged for their involvement in this monumental criminal enterprise, and, meanwhile, they had sued Monzer al Kassar for slander, accusing him of telling people that Imperial Consolidated had fronted arms sales to Osama bin Laden. The merits of that lawsuit remain unclear, but it is clear that Monzer al-Kassar was himself involved with Imperial Consolidated (though he has never been charged on any count other then selling weapons to undercover DEA agents).

Meanwhile (to cite just one more accomplishment), Monzer al-Kassar had long been one of the world’s leading counterfeiters of American currency. His fake U.S. $100 bills were of such high quality that they were known as “Supernotes,” and he created such vast quantities of them that they had a negative impact on the value of the U.S. dollar. As early as 1996, Kenneth Timmerman, a reporter for Time magazine and The Wall Street Journal, prepared an official document for U.S. Congressman Spencer Bacchus outlining the details of Monzer al-Kassar’s counterfeiting operation. This report was promptly deposited in a trash can somewhere in Washington.

In addition, so far as I can tell, Timmerman’s employers at Time Magazine and The Wall Street Journal did not see fit to publish any stories about Timmerman’s important findings.

To be continued…Click here to read Chapter 6

Mark Mitchell is a journalist who spent most of his career working as a correspondent for mainstream media publications before joining DeepCapture.com. He is the author of the book entitled “The Dendreon Effect: How Felons, Con-Men and Wall Street Insiders Manipulate High-Tech Stocks”.

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Michael Milken, 60,000 Deaths, and the Story of Dendreon (Chapter 12 of 15)

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Michael Milken, 60,000 Deaths, and the Story of Dendreon (Chapter 12 of 15)



What follows is PART 12 of a 15-PART series. The remaining installments will appear on Deep Capture in the coming days, after which point the story will be published in its entirety.

Click here to read PART 1

Click here to read PART 2

Click here to read PART 3

Click here to read PART 4

Click here to read PART 5

Click here to read PART 6

Click here to read PART 7

Click here to read PART 8

Click here to read PART 9

Click here to read PART 10

Click here to read PART 11

Where we left off, we had learned that on March 29, 2007, an FDA advisory panel voted overwhelmingly to recommend approval of Provenge, Dendreon’s promising new treatment for prostate cancer. As a result, most financial analysts and investors expected that Dendreon would have  a promising future. However, ten hedge funds (out of a universe of 11,500 hedge funds) held large numbers of Dendreon put options (bets against the company), suggesting they expected Dendreon would be derailed.  At least seven of those hedge funds can be tied to Michael Milken or his close associates.

We had also learned that Milken himself stood to profit if Dendreon were to experience problems receiving FDA approval. This is because Milken was the early financier and principal deal maker for ProQuest Investments, a fund that (along with an affiliate) controlled a company called Novacea, which was one of Dendreon’s competitors in the race to produce a new treatment for prostate cancer. Meanwhile, Lindsay Rosenwald (a Milken crony who once helped run a Mafia-linked brokerage called D.H. Blair, which specialized in pumping and dumping fake biotech companies) controlled Cougar Biotechnology, which was Dendreon’s second competitor in the race to develop a new treatment for prostate cancer.

We had learned further that Milken’s “philanthropic” outfit, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, seems largely to be an extension of Milken’s investment fund, ProQuest. This might explain why the Prostate Cancer Foundation endorsed and provided financial support to Novacea and Cougar, neither of which had shown that their treatments were safe or effective, while snubbing its nose at Dendreon.

In addition, we had learned that in April, 2007, an FDA-contracted physician, Dr. Howard Scher, who was also an executive and director of Milken’s ProQuest Investments, and the chairman of Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation “Therapeutic Consortium”, spearheaded an unprecedented lobbying effort to undermine the prescribed regulatory process and convince the FDA to deny approval to Dendreon — the first time in history that the FDA went against an advisory panel’s recommendation to approve a drug destined for dying patients.

In the days before and after the lobbying effort, Dendreon was subjected to a blistering attack by naked short sellers who illegally flooded the market with millions of phantom shares to help drive down the company’s stock price. This criminal naked short selling continued intermittently for much of the next two years, while other events conspired to hobble Dendreon, a company that had completed multiple clinical trials that strongly suggested that its product, Provenge, was capable of lengthening the lives of tens of thousands of men with prostate cancer….

* * * * * * * *

“Black Wednesday at the FDA.”

That is how Dr. Mark Thornton, a former medical officer in the FDA’s Office of Oncology Products, described the FDA’s decision not to approve Dendreon’s Provenge.  In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Thornton described vaccines such as Provenge as the “Holy Grail of cancer treatment.”  Without directly referring to anyone by name, Dr. Thorton described Dr. Scher’s lobbying effort as “arrogant” and “unprecedented.”

Dr. Thornton added that when the FDA succumbed  to that lobbying, “the dawn of a new era in cancer immunotherapy was driven back into the night. It will be years before we know the full impact of these decisions and how many cancer patients…have had their lives cut short as a result.”

This scandal infuriated many other physicians and patient advocates (with  the exception of those affiliated with Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation). Some Dendreon supporters took to the streets.

On June 2, 2007, there was a protest in front of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Two days later, several prostate cancer advocacy groups rallied in Washington. On June 6, there was yet another protest, this one attended by still more physicians who demanded to know why the FDA had failed to approve Dendreon’s treatment.

“I’d like to explain in the most basic of terms,” said Dr. Mark Moyad of the University of Michigan medical school, at the June 6 rally. “We think a mistake has been made. We are here in a friendly way to start the process of correcting that mistake.”

That word — “friendly” – seems to me to perfectly describe Dendreon’s supporters. I might add  “intelligent,” and “fair,” and “engaged.”  But the mainstream media played its customary role by portraying such advocates as vexatious wackos (notwithstanding the fact that many of Dendreon’s supporters were respected physicians).

“Oncologists do not usually need bodyguards…” began a story in the Washington Post, which was all about the Dendreon “controversy.”  The gist of this story was that people advocating for prostate cancer patients might somehow be dangerous – that it was strange how vocal they were, it was strange that they used the Internet to get the word out – and Dr. Scher (the physician who helped derail Dendreon) feared for his safety. He had even received some “threats.”

Nowhere in the story was it suggested that a great many prominent doctors were saying that the FDA had made a “mistake” in failing to approve Dendreon’s application. Nowhere was it mentioned that Dr. Scher played a significant role in engineering this “mistake.”  And nowhere was it mentioned that Dr. Scher was egregiously conflicted due to his financial ties to Michael Milken’s investment fund and Dendreon’s competitors, Novacea and Cougar Biotechnology.

Essentially identical stories appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Seattle Times, and on CNBC. Every one of these media outfits portrayed Dendreon’s supporters as potentially dangerous lunatics. Every one of them stated unequivocally that Dr. Scher had been “threatened.”  Yet, not one of them specifically described the threats, and as far as I can ascertain, there were no “threats.”

Clearly, there was a new party line – Dr. Scher was the victim. Given the near verbatim repetition of this party line in so many newspapers, and given my experience working in the mainstream media, I can say with near certainty that this was the work of an orchestrated public relations campaign – a campaign to distract attention from what was really happening to Dendreon.

Meanwhile, Dendreon remained one of the most manipulated stocks on Nasdaq. On the day that the Washington Post story appeared, SEC data showed that criminal naked short sellers had sold, and failed to deliver, more than 13 million Dendreon shares. Following the mainstream media’s standard operating procedures, no mention was made of this phantom stock in any of the stories on Dendreon’s troubles.

* * * * * * * *

By June of 2007, Dendreon’s stock price was averaging around $7 – down from its early April high of $25. There was no way the company could raise more money on the stock market, and so it had to significantly scale back its work on Neuvenge, a promising treatment that fought breast cancer in the same way that Provenge fought prostate cancer. In order to get enough cash to continue work on Provenge, Dendreon issued over $100 million worth of convertible bonds.

Sometimes, hedge funds that buy a company’s convertible bonds are well-intentioned – they want the company to succeed so that the company can repay the loan.

But, often, hedge funds that buy convertible bonds do not have the company’s best interests at heart. Indeed, Deep Capture has obtained an internal client presentation given by a well-known investment bank that states that the single largest segment of investors in convertible bonds are hedge funds that actually intend to increase their bets against the companies that they are financing.

A convertible bond is debt that can be “converted” into stock. A hedge fund lends a company, say, $100 million. As repayment, the hedge fund can either receive the $100 million plus interest at maturity, or instead it can receive, say, 10 million shares in the company.

If the share price is $8 at the time of the loan, those 10 million shares would be worth $80 million. But if the share price rises to $20, the hedge fund can convert his $100 million loan into $200 million worth of stock. If the hedge fund manager is a value investor who wishes the company well, he will make his loan and wait for the stock to rise.

But there are various ways that convertible bonds can be put to malevolent use. Suppose a group of hedge funds have launched a full scale short selling attack against a company, but the hedge funds want to short sell even more stock.  To do that legally, the hedge funds must first locate more stock to borrow, and then sell it. But sometimes there is simply no more stock available for short sellers to borrow.

Now, suppose the share price has already been significantly hammered, so the company can no longer raise money through the stock market. The hedge funds know this. And the hedge funds are important clients of an investment bank. So the hedge funds and the investment bank hatch a plan.

It works like this: the investment bank tells the victim company that it can resolve the company’s cash problems by brokering a convertible bond offering. If the company agrees, the investment bank says, “great, but there’s just one hitch – you, the company, have to lend us, the investment bank, the shares that the company would normally keep on hand in case the bond holders convert.

To assuage any fears, the investment bank might promise the company that it will not re-lend those shares to short sellers, but will merely sell them to long buyers – people who want to invest in the company. The company says, “fine,” and issues, say, $100 million worth of debt convertible to 10 million shares. The company also agrees to that “hitch” — so now the investment bank has wangled a “stock loan” agreement that gives it exclusive rights to borrow those 10 million shares until such time as the bond holders convert.

Meanwhile, the investment bank returns to that group of hedge funds, who agree to buy the convertible bonds as a means to extricating those 10 million shares from the company. Once the investment bank is in possession of those shares, it cannot (at least according to its agreement with the company) lend them to the hedge funds for purposes of short selling. But it can do one better. It can broker swap contracts that oblige counterparties to pay the hedge funds a certain amount of money in the event that the company’s stock price decreases in value.

Then, the investment bank dumps those 10 million shares into the market all at once, causing the stock price to further collapse. Meanwhile, the hedge funds and the investment bank might be engaging in naked short selling – selling stock that has never been borrowed by anybody (i.e. stock that does not exist).

If anyone asks about this illegal naked short selling, the hedge funds say they thought they had “a locate” on stock that they could borrow and deliver. If anyone asks the hedge funds to be more specific, the hedge funds say that they had “located” and planned to borrow those 10 million shares that the investment bank had borrowed from the victim company. If the SEC notes that the investment bank had an agreement not to lend those shares to short sellers, the hedge funds say they didn’t know about that.

Of course, the SEC rarely asks any of these questions, but the convertible bonds provide some immunity, just in case.

As the stock price hits rock bottom, the company depletes the cash it raised from the bond offering. And the only way for the company to receive new funding is to issue more convertible bonds to the hedge funds, or do one of those dreaded “death sprial” PIPE deals.

If this were a game of chess, it would now be “check” for the hedge funds. The company knows that its stock price and its financing depend entirely on the hedge funds, which are put in the position of being able to drive (and trade ahead of) the company’s business decisions. This scheme might even allow a set of hedge funds to take control of, say, a $700 million company, for a $100 million loan.

With the exception of the naked short selling, most of this scheme’s elements can be found in the standard PowerPoint presentations that some banks deliver to their hedge fund clients behind closed doors. The investment banks market the scheme as a way to profit from volatility in the stock. When the stock crashes, the hedge funds make money from the swaps and their short selling. If the stock subsequently increases in value, the hedge funds can convert their bonds and use some of the proceeds to pay the counterparties to the swaps.

But sometimes the hedge funds intend to fully destroy the company. They make plenty on their short positions and swaps, and their bonds pull in some money during the bankruptcy proceedings. Sometimes, during bankruptcy, the hedge fund lenders get their hands on company assets (such as blockbuster medical treatments) that are actually worth considerably more than what they spent on their bonds.

At other times, the ultimate goal is not to destroy the company outright, but to crash the stock, and then accumulate shares, giving the hedge funds still more influence over company decisions, and perhaps paving the way for a hostile takeover.

I do not know for certain the motivations of the hedge funds that bought Dendreon’s convertible bonds. I do not know if they engaged in naked short selling. After all, the identities of the naked short sellers and the real amount of failed trades they are generating are, as far as the SEC is concerned, still a big secret. Remember that the SEC says that releasing information about (illegal) naked short sales would reveal the (criminal) hedge funds’ “proprietary trading strategies.” And the SEC cannot have that.

I do know, however, that nearly every one of Dendreon’s convertible bond holders are connected in important ways to Michael Milken or the seven affiliated hedge fund managers who held large numbers of put options in Dendreon prior to the strange occurrences of March 2007. This raises the suspicion that the convertible bond holders were not typical investors (that is, investors who put in capital hoping that the company would prosper).

Instead, the fact that the buyers of the converts were part of the same network that was placing large bets against Dendreon (and taking steps, with help from Milken’s “philanthropy”, to derail Dendreon’s treatment for prostate cancer) raises the possibility that these bond investments were made as part of a strategy to manipulate Dendreon’s stock price down,  during which time members of this network would (with help from Milken’s Prostate Cancer Foundation) pump up the stock prices of Dendreon’s “competitors” – the companies controlled by Milken and his friends.

In the two years that these shenanigans were going on, 60,000 American men died of prostate cancer, which seemed to be of no concern to this particular network of miscreants. But once the competing, Milken-connected companies had been thoroughly pumped, and then dumped (on the news that their treatments were worthless), it would perhaps be time to exert greater control over the one company–Dendreon–that actually had a treatment that could extend lives.

As we will see, members of the Milken network – some of the hedge funds that bought the convertible bonds, and some of the seven hedge funds that were betting big against Dendreon in 2007 – have, as a group, recently become the company’s largest shareholders. Their precise intentions, however, remain a mystery.

While we do not have photo-perfect pictures of what was going on behind the scenes of Dendreon’s bizarre trading (the SEC does not let that get public), we do know that this paradoxical play of participating in a convertible bond in order to further a manipulative scheme against a company, is in fact a standard play on Wall Street. Given this, we would be remiss  not to name the colorful hedge funds that bought Dendreon’s convertible bonds.

* * * * * * * *

As we have covered, Milken crony Carl Icahn founded the options department at Gruntal & Company, which owed its existence to Michael Milken and was one of the more disreputable trading houses on the Street. Ultimately, Gruntal was found to have employed several traders with ties to the Mafia, and soon after, it was charged with a massive fraud and forced to pay what was then one of the largest fines in Wall Street history.

Many of Gruntal’s former employees ended up working for White Rock Capital, which was run by the alleged Russian mobster, Felix Sater, the fellow who was allegedly behind the threat to have Deep Capture reporter Patrick Byrne murdered if he did not end his crusade against naked short selling and the “deep capture” of important institutions.

As we also know, when Icahn left Gruntal, he handed over direction of the options department to Milken crony Ron Aizer. The first trader Aizer hired was Steve Cohen, who was reportedly investigated by the SEC for trading on inside information provided by Milken’s shop, and later became “the most powerful trader on Wall Street” — the fourth of those seven hedge fund managers prescient enough to bet big against Dendreon before Milken’s other cronies derailed the company in 2007.

The second trader hired by Aizer was a man named Andrew Redleaf, who later went on to co-found two hedge funds — Deephaven Capital Management and Whitebox Advisors.  According to a media account posted on Whitebox’s website, Redleaf’s family kept its investment accounts at Drexel Burnham Lambert, where Michael Milken was then running his stock manipulation and junk bond empire. Redleaf was recommended to Aizer by Andy Stillman, who was then managing Drexel’s propriety options trading.

In later years, Redleaf became well-known for investing in Sun Country Airlines in partnership with Tom Petters, who was recently arrested at gunpoint amid allegations that he had orchestrated a massive Ponzi fraud in cahoots with a fellow named Michael Catain. Catain’s father, Jack Catain, was a Genovese Mafia enforcer and loan shark who had been involved, along with Michael Milken, in ZZZZ Best, a fraudulent carpet cleaning company run by Barry Minkow.

Minkow was eventually imprisoned for the ZZZZ Best fraud, and when he was released, he began a career as a self-described “fraud investigator.” He works in partnership with Sam Antar, the convicted felon who masterminded a massive fraud in the 1980s at an appliance retailer called Crazy Eddie. Antar, who is close to Milken and his network (members of which once tried to help Antar seize control of Crazy Eddie) now spends most of his time on the Internet, smearing and threatening people who work to expose the crime of naked short selling.

For example, Antar once posted on the Internet the names and address of Deep Capture reporter Judd Bagley’s young children. Antar writes with almost daily regularity that Deep Capture reporter Patrick Byrne is running a fraudulent company (Overstock.com), though he has produced nothing to support his claims, and every reputable person who has examined his arguments has concluded that they are absurd.

Meanwhile, Antar has littered the Internet with all manner of falsehoods about me—stating, for example, that I’m a drug addict and was fired from my last job. Ever the charmer, Antar has also let it be known that he is friendly with violent people, including those who once ambushed me, punched me in the face, and suggested that I should stop working with Patrick Byrne.

It is interesting to note that, these facts notwithstanding, in 2008 Fortune magazine saw fit to grace its pages with a highly flattering 2,738 word profile of Antar (“It Takes One to Know One”). Fortune did this even as it acknowledged that, “As would-be fraudbuster, Sam E. [Antar] has yet to notch his first kill. (Although in fairness he doesn’t hold himself out to be a full-time 10-Q detective. ‘I don’t have 40 people working for me like the SEC,’ he says.) He hasn’t brought any companies down or caused any regulators to open any investigations.”

That is, concerning a notorious swindler and convicted felon who threatens little girls, smears other journalists, is denounced by public officials, and who has not actually been the source of any credible investigation that Fortune can cite, Fortune published a perfectly complimentary puff piece.

As for the above-mentioned Andrew Redleaf, I noted that he is a founding partner in Deephaven Capital Management. In 2006, Deephaven was sanctioned by the SEC for short selling 19 public companies (almost all biotech firms) on inside information that his hedge fund colleagues were giving the companies “death spiral” PIPEs finance.

As you will recall, similar schemes have involved Milken crony Carl Icahn (the founder of Gruntal’s options department); Jeffrey Thorp (son of the Mafia-linked card counter who was the most important figure in Milken’s stock manipulation network during the 1980s); Milken crony Lindsay Rosenwald (who used to run the Mafia-linked D.H. Blair, the president of which was Milken’s former national sales manager); and Gryphon Partners (which was tied to the Mafia-linked, nine-fingered Anthony Elgindy, a naked short seller who is now serving an 11 year sentence for stock manipulation schemes and bribing two FBI agents).

My apologies for the repetition, but there are some who are new to this, and it is difficult for even the well initiated to keep track of so many miscreants, so permit me to remind the reader that Gryphon’s founder and Lindsay Rosenwald were among the seven colorful hedge fund managers who bet big against Dendreon in March 2007, just before the company was derailed by strange occurences engineered by Milken’s cronies. Also among those seven hedge fund managers was Steve Cohen, who was, earlier in his career, investigated for trading on inside information provided by Milken’s shop, and was the first trader hired at Gruntal by Milken-crony Ron Aizer.

Andrew Redleaf, the second trader hired by Aizer at Gruntal, is, remember, not just a co-founder of Deephaven Capital (sanctioned for short selling on inside information that companies were to receive dubious financing), but also the proprietor of Whitebox Advisors.

And Whitebox Advisors is among those hedge funds that bought convertible bonds issued by Dendreon, a company that suffered a two-year, sustained naked short selling attack while trying to bring to market a treatment for dying cancer patients.

* * * * * * * *

A hedge fund called DKR Management also bought convertible bonds issued by Dendreon. DKR was founded by Barry L. Klein and Gary S. Davis. Previously, Klein worked for Michael Milken as the President of Drexel Burnham Lambert Trading. Davis also worked for Milken at Drexel.

In later years, Klein and Davis founded the predecessor to AIG Trading Group, a unit of American International Group. AIG Trading Group was later run by Joseph Cassano, who had also been a Milken employee at Drexel.

While at AIG, Cassano sold tens of billions of dollars worth of credit default swaps (contracts that pay out if a company defaults on its debt) to hedge funds and investment banks.

Rolling Stone magazine’s Matthew Taibbi, who is one of the mainstream media’s finest journalists, was among the first to establish that AIG Trading Group and Milken crony Cassano destroyed AIG, which ultimately had to be nationalized by the U.S. government – greatly contributing to the collapse of the financial system last fall. Since then, several reports have also implicated Cassano’s Milken-tied predecessors, Klein and Davis.

Meanwhile, various government investigations are seeking to know whether short sellers acquired and manipulated the prices of AIG’s credit default swaps as a way to weaken their target companies – including Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns.  The question that remains unanswered is whether the short sellers that bought credit default swaps from Milken cronies Cassano, Klein and Davis were also members of the Milken network (which would mean that some members of the Milken network wrecked the world while the other members of the network bet that they would).

Another highly significant factor in the collapse of the financial system – as can be discerned from statements by countless officials and by reports in virtually every newspaper in the land, though the newspapers seem content not to investigate the matter or state this explicitly – was the naked short selling of AIG, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and hundreds of other companies.

In the years leading up to the financial cataclysm (and during the time when Dendreon was under attack by naked short sellers), certain hedge funds orchestrated an effective public relations campaign aimed at covering up the crime of naked short selling. As part of this public relations campaign, the hedge funds would regularly trot out a certain Yale professor, who would do his utmost to defend the criminals.

This professor’s favorite stratagem was to divert discussion away from illegal naked short selling, and repeat, over and over, that legal short selling was good for the markets–a fact that was never in dispute. The professor’s capacity for obfuscation was unmatched, but he nonetheless became a favorite source for some members of the media. He appeared regularly on CNBC and was quoted in dozens upon dozens of articles – all of which communicated the non sequitor that illegal naked short selling is not bad for the markets because legal short selling is good for the markets. Of course, this is like arguing that sexual harassment is not bad because sex is good.

The name of this professor is Owen Lamont. To this day, the professor is still sought out by the press, which dutifully regurgitates his baloney. But the professor does not work for Yale anymore.

Now he works for the above-mentioned DKR Management, one of the Milken-connected hedge funds that bought Dendreon’s convertible bonds while Dendreon was brutally attacked by criminal naked short sellers.

* * * * * * * *

There are interesting stories to be told about most every hedge fund that bought Dendreon’s convertible bonds. One of them, Eagle Rock Capital, run by an Iranian fellow named Nadir Tavakoli, was once a controlling investor in the International Fight League, a promoter of ultimate fighting matches. The other controlling investor in the International Fight League (which went bankrupt amidst allegations of ultimate fighting’s connections to the Japanese Yakuza and stories that fighters were committing suicides and murders at alarming rates) was a “Russian whiz kid” (according to the media) named Dmitry Balyasny.

The first things to know about Dmitry Balyasny are that he is closely affiliated with Steve Cohen and he is the seventh of those seven hedge fund managers who were betting big against Dendreon by holding put options on the company’s stock, after the FDA advisory panel had recommended that Provenge be approved, and before Milken’s cronies successfully lobbied the FDA to ignore that recommendation. So I will return to Balyasny soon.

But first, let’s continue with our list of hedge funds that held Dendreon’s convertible bonds.

One was GLG Partners. As we know from emails acquired in a lawsuit, GLG Partners received updates on Steve Cohen’s attack on Canadian insurer Fairfax Financial, so it would be unsurprising if GLG was also clued in to Cohen’s attack on Dendreon.

Recall also that (shortly before GLG bought Dendreon’s convertible bonds) French authorities fined GLG  for being part of an insider trading ring that included UBS O’Conner (a unit of UBS investment bank, which, until March, 2007, was led by former Milken employee Ken Moelis) and Meditor Capital, a hedge fund (also, of course, with ties to Steve Cohen) that had just made a large investment in Novacea, the prostate cancer company that was then being promoted (by Milken’s fund and Milken’s “philanthropy”) as a competitor to Dendreon. In short, GLG was “in the mix.”

Another outfit that bought lots of Dendreon’s convertible bonds (shortly after it was caught running an insider trading ring with Meditor and GLG Partners) was…UBS O’Conner.

Then there was Quattro Partners, which bought Dendreon bonds convertible into a more than a million Dendreon shares. The founding partner of Quattro is named Michael Baldock. He had a long career in biotech investing after spending time as an investment banker at Michael Milken’s Drexel Burnham Lambert.

* * * * * * * *

Another of the big investors  in Dendreon’s convertible bonds was Forest Investment Management, a hedge fund controlled by a man named Michael Boyd. Prior to founding Forest, Boyd was a partner in an outfit called Forum Capital Markets. Boyd’s co-founder in Forum was C. Keith Hartley, yet another of Milken’s disciples from Drexel, Burnham Lambert.

Boyd was also the co-founder of a brokerage called McMahan Securities. One of his partners in that operation was Santo Maggio, who later became chief executive officer of Refco Securities, the brokerage that was allegedly processing the phantom stock sales of Rhino Advisors, which illegally naked shorted companies after providing them with finance brokered by Milken crony Carl Icahn’s Ladenburg Thalmann. When Refco was found to be fraudulently hiding $400 million worth of liabilities (liabilities that many believe were related to naked short selling), Maggio pled guilty to two counts of securities fraud, one count of conspiracy, and one count of wire fraud.

Another of Michael Boyd’s many accomplishments is his son, Roddy. Refco employed Roddy as a trader, perhaps as a favor to his father’s former partner, the criminal Santo Maggio.

But Roddy soon abandoned the securities business to become a business journalist – first at the New York Post and now at Fortune magazine. Roddy Boyd is a key figure among the small coterie of journalists who turn up repeatedly in Deep Capture‘s analyses.

Like all members of the coterie, Roddy has spent several years trying to cover up the naked short selling scandal, ridiculing anyone who mentions the crime or the remarkable coincidence of companies appearing on the Reg Sho list (the SEC’s list of companies suffering from naked short selling) when those companies are the targets of a select group of hedge funds whose names will be familiar to the reader who has made it this far.

In addition to covering up naked short selling crimes, Roddy writes hatchet jobs on the public companies targeted by this same select group of short selling hedge funds. The sources of the information in Roddy’s stories are, of course, the short sellers themselves, and most of the short sellers are, as has been explained over and over, tied to Michael Milken or his close associates.

For example, Roddy spent a great deal of time working with a soon-to-be arrested criminal named Spyro Contogouris, who had been hired by a subsidiary of Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital, to sabotage, harass, and trash Fairfax Financial.

As mentioned, we have obtained a great number of emails between Cohen, Jim Chanos of Kynikos Associates, and others in the network that was attacking Fairfax. In one email, hedge fund manager Chanos writes to journalist Roddy Boyd, “your courtesy was a boon to me. Thank you!”

With the exception of Roddy’s particular clique of journalists, it is not typical for reporters to receive thank you notes for the “courtesies” that they have extended to help hedge funds make money.

Another holder of Dendreon’s convertible bonds was CNH Partners, run by Todd Pulvino, who used to work for Grosvenor Capital. Grosvenor is managed by Scott Lederman, who was the grad school roommate of Steve Cohen and later the chief operating officer of Cohen’s SAC Capital. While Pulvino was presenting himself as a legitimate investor in Dendreon’s debt, was he in touch with Steve Cohen, who had bet big against Dendreon right before Provenge was derailed by the unprecedented lobbying effort of Milken’s other cronies?

We can’t say. And we can’t say who was illegally naked short selling Dendreon’s stock. That, remember, is a big secret – “proprietary trading strategies.”

* * * * * * * *

On October 12, 2007, Dendreon, still desperate for capital to continue clinical trials that might eventually help its cancer treatment receive FDA approval, signed the paperwork on its first PIPE deal. A dreaded PIPE – the sort of deal that dilutes equity and tends to attract naked short selling that sends a company’s stock into a “death spiral.”

The provider of this PIPE finance was the Azimuth Opportunity Fund, managed by an outfit called Acqua Wellington Asset Management.

Acqua Wellington is controlled by a “prominent” investor named Isser Elishis. In an otherwise flattering article, Herb Greenberg – a journalist whose entire career was devoted to granting “courtesies” to hedge funds in the Milken network – described Elishis as the “banker of last resort.”

Herb, who disappeared from public sight after he was exposed by Deep Capture,  now owns a company that ostensibly sells financial research to hedge funds in the Milken network (or, arguably, merely receives payment from them for the extensive string of “courtesies” that Herb extended while working as a journalist).

Among Azimuth’s first forays into the markets was an investment in a company called SulphCo, which claimed to have a method for turning sulphrous crude into clean-burning oil. Elishis collaborated on this deal with SulphCo’s principal investor, Zev Wolfson, who, you will recall, was the investor who financed Milken cronies Carl Icahn, Saul Steinberg, John Mulheren, and various brokerages tied to the Mafia, naked short selling, or both.

SEC data shows that on the day that Dendreon signed its PIPE deal with Azimuth, naked short sellers flooded the market with more than 2 million phantom shares. During the following week, more than a million Dendreon shares “failed to deliver” every day, despite (or perhaps because of) the news that Dendreon had enrolled 500 patients in a trial to confirm its earlier positive results, putting Provenge back on the track to FDA approval.

* * * * * * * *

In the late 1980s, a fellow named Jeffrey Yass and his two friends, Eric Brooks and Kenneth Brodie, set up a partnership to place bets at horse racing tracks across the country. On one single day at Sportsman Park in Chicago they pulled in winnings of more than $600,000. This seemed somewhat excessive, so Sportsman Park banned the three friends from its premises. The punters filed a lawsuit claiming that Sportsman Park had violated their rights to visit a public facility.

At any rate, Jeffrey Yass and Eric Brooks eventually abandoned the business of betting on horse races and instead pursued careers on Wall Street. Now they are “prominent” investors, the proprietors of a mid-sized investment and trading house called Susquehanna International.

In the spring of 2008, Susquehanna was introduced to Dendreon by a placement agent, Lazard Capital Markets. It is not clear why Dendreon would want to do business with Lazard. After all, Lazard was home to the singing Joel Sendek, who had been busily trashing Dendreon in his research reports.

Sendek had also been trumpeting Dendreon’s competitor, Cougar Biotechnology, as the next big thing in cancer treatment. In turn, Cougar Biotechnology (the company then controlled by Milken crony Lindsay Rosenwald, formerly of the Mafia-affiliated pump-and-dump shop D.H. Blair) had been quoting Sendek in its SEC filings.

Sendek’s endorsement, Cougar seemed to be suggesting, was evidence that the company was making progress toward bringing its prostate cancer treatment to market. This was odd, because most pharmaceutical companies use data collected from clinical trials to demonstrate this, not quotes from singing Wall Street analysts.

Meanwhile, it was widely understood that Lazard’s stock loan department was one of the go-to shops for hedge funds looking to short sell Dendreon’s shares. We cannot say that Lazard was loaning phantom stock to the short sellers (if it were, that would be a big secret), but Lazard’s coziness with short sellers ought to have given Dendreon pause.

There was also the fact that Lazard Capital had only recently been spun off from Lazard Ltd. Given that the two operations remained closely affiliated (sharing business and so forth), it might have been of some concern that the chairman of Lazard Ltd. was Bruce Wasserstein, a close associate of Michael Milken.

In “Den of Thieves,” James Stewart, the Pulitzer Prize winning author, quotes a criminal named Denis Levine as saying that Wasserstein was “owned” by Milken’s famous co-conspirator, Ivan Boesky. Given that Denis Levine was indicted for participating in Boesky’s insider trading schemes, one would think he knew of what he spoke, but there is no hard evidence to support his allegation.

In any case, Dendreon followed Lazard’s advice, and did a “registered direct offering” with Capital Ventures International, an affiliate of Susquehanna, the firm founded by Yass and Brooks. A “registered direct offering” is similar to a PIPE, the difference being that the securities sold to the investor are registered with the SEC and immediately tradable.

For most of March 2008, naked short sellers were failing to deliver less than 500,000 shares per day. As negotiations for the “registered direct offering” were underway, the amount of phantom stock gradually increased. And on the day the deal was signed, April 3, at least 1.6 million phantom shares had been sold into the market and remained undelivered.

For the next two months, more than one million Dendreon shares remained “failed to deliver” every day. This despite (or perhaps because of) the fantastic news, on March 12, 2008, that the FDA had agreed to an amended “Special Protocol Assessment,” which would enable the company to release, one year ahead of schedule, the results of an “IMPACT” trial that seemed likely to confirm the company’s Phase 3 trials showing substantial evidence that Provenge was safe and effective.

As Dendreon’s enemies must have known, it would soon be impossible to stymie the company with arguments about data, but stock manipulators were not yet ready to end their campaign against the company.

* * * * * * * *

To be continued….Click here for Chapter 13.

If this article concerns you, and you wish to help, then:
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Michael Milken, 60,000 Deaths, and the Story of Dendreon (Chapter 6 of 15)

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Michael Milken, 60,000 Deaths, and the Story of Dendreon (Chapter 6 of 15)



What follows is PART 6 of a 15-PART series. The remaining installments will appear on Deep Capture in the coming days, after which point the story will be published in its entirety.

Click here to read PART 1

Click here to read PART 2

Click here to read PART 3

Click here to read PART 4

Click here to read PART 5

Where we left off, we had learned that CNBC’s Jim Cramer had declared Dendreon to be a “battleground stock.” And we had learned that Dendreon subsequently came under attack by criminal naked short sellers, right at the time that its promising treatment for prostate cancer had been endorsed by an FDA expert advisory panel, and right before that treatment was to be derailed by some strange occurrences.

While it is impossible to know who was responsible for the illegal naked short selling (the SEC keeps that a big secret), we know that the people who orchestrated those strange occurrences (which I will describe in due course) and at least seven of the ten hedge fund managers who held large numbers of Dendreon put options (bets against the company) are tied to Michael Milken, the famous criminal who is now considered to be a “prominent philanthropist” with a special focus on prostate cancer.

Now we learn a bit more about this network and the attack on Dendreon, a company with a promising treatment for prostate cancer…

* * * * * * * *

When the FDA’s advisory panel voted in favor of Provenge, most Wall Street research analysts were predicting a bright future for Dendreon. But as naked short sellers piled on with ever increasing gusto, hedge fund managers continued to whisper in reporters’ ears. And two Wall Street analysts did more than whisper – they shouted, day after day, that Dendreon’s treatment for prostate cancer was doomed.

One of these analysts is named Jonathan Aschoff, and he works for a financial research outfit called Brean Murray Carret & Co.  The day after the advisory panel vote, in an interview with Reuters, Aschoff made the long-shot prediction that the FDA would not approve Provenge, but would instead ask Dendreon to supply additional data showing that the treatment was safe and effective–a process that could take years. Soon after, Aschoff told other media outlets that the FDA would set a “dangerous double standard” by approving Provenge because the treatment “did not meet its primary goal in two Phase III trials.”

During the first days of April 2007, Aschoff was everywhere, continuously repeating this notion that the FDA would set a “dangerous double standard” by approving Provenge.  On April 9, Aschoff reiterated his “sell” rating for Dendreon, setting a target for the stock at a mere $1.50, which implied that the stock would lose more than 90 percent of its value by the end of the year. Reuters, Associated Press, CNBC and other media dutifully reported Aschoff’s comments as though they shed  light on the merits of Dendreon’s prostate cancer treatment.

Aschoff’s performance raises a few basic questions. The first is, how did a Wall Street analyst know that it would be “dangerous” to approve a medical treatment? It is an odd day, indeed, when the media turns to Wall Street for wisdom on matters of science and health.

The second question is, why was Aschoff so confident that the FDA would not approve Provenge? Given that the FDA had followed its advisory panels’ decisions in 97% of cases, and in 100% of cases involving drugs for dying patients, Aschoff’s prediction seemed rather far out. What did he know that the rest of the world did not know?

The third question is, who is Jonathan Aschoff?

* * * * * * * *

In 2003 – back when journalists still occasionally investigated stories, rather than parroting whatever hedge funds and Wall Street analysts whispered in their ears – The Wall Street Journal won a Pulitzer Prize for a story that nailed Jonathan Aschoff for being a fraud.

According to the Journal, Aschoff often impersonated doctors in order to acquire inside information on the status of drug trials underway at his target companies. A certain Dr. Cunningham, who worked at a cancer center in Dallas, told the Journal that he initially believed that Aschoff was a doctor. But he discovered that he was dealing with a fraud when he mentioned to Aschoff that an experimental treatment had caused some reduction of the “lymphadenopathy.”

“What’s that?” asked Aschoff.  He didn’t have a clue, even though “lymphadenopathy” is a  common medical term. It means, “swollen lymph nodes.”

Nonetheless, some years later, the Associated Press, Reuters, and other media outfits were willing to believe that Aschoff knew enough about medicine to be quoted as a reliable source – a source who had, for some reason, concluded that Dendreon’s treatment for prostate cancer was “dangerous.”

What reason did Aschoff have for reaching that conclusion?

* * * * * * * *

One more question: Which hedge funds were paying Aschoff’s bills?

There is one particular network of hedge fund managers that is known to pay “independent” financial research shops to publish biased or false negative reports on companies that they are selling short.

Former employees of “independent” financial research firm Gradient Analytics have provided sworn affidavits that hedge fund manager David Rocker–once the largest outside shareholder of TheStreet.com; former employee of  Milken-Boesky crony Michael Steinhardt (who is the son of “the biggest Mafia fence in America) and Steve Cohen–now “the most powerful trader on Wall Street;” reportedly once investigated by the SEC for trading on inside information provided to him by Milken’s shop Drexel Burnham–heavily influenced, edited, dictated, and in some cases actually wrote Gradient’s false, negative research about public companies. That means, of course, that Cohen and Rocker had copies of “Gradient’s” research before it was published, which is also highly improper.

And emails acquired by Deep Capture show that Cohen and hedge fund manager Jim Chanos, among others in their network, received and traded ahead of biased reports published by a research outfit called Morgan Keegan. After Deep Capture reporter Judd Bagley broke this story, the SEC began (but will probably never conclude) an investigation into the matter.

Were hedge funds in this network dictating Aschoff’s research, too? I don’t know the answer to that question, but it is worth noting that after the SEC sanctioned Aschoff for impersonating doctors, he went to work for an outfit called Sturza’s Institutional Research, which was owned by a fellow named Evan Sturza.

The SEC has launched (but of course never completed) multiple investigations of Sturza’s companies, which catered to a particular network of short sellers by publishing negative commentary on biotech companies. For example, in 1996, the SEC began (but has never completed) an investigation into whether Sturza conspired with the above-mentioned Michael Steinhardt and a firm called Gilford Securities to take down the stock of a biotech company called Organogenesis.

In the 1980s, Gilford Securities employed Jim Chanos (the above-mentioned fellow who is now under SEC investigation for trading ahead of biased research reports). Chanos manages a few hedge funds, the most famous of which is called Kynikos Associates. He is also the head of the short seller lobby in Washington, and a much favored source of information for the New York financial press.

In 1985 – back when Chanos was still at Gilford; back when journalists did investigations rather than parrot whatever Jim Chanos whispered in their ears – way back then is when The Wall Street Journal published a front page story about a “network” of short sellers said to include Jim Chanos and Michael Steinhardt. The story suggested that this network destroyed public companies for profit and described some of the more egregious tactics – espionage; impersonating journalists to get inside information; conspiring to cut off companies’ access to credit; spreading dubious information – that were employed by Chanos and others in his network.

At the time, Chanos made some effort to publicly distance himself from Michael Milken. And he recently told one reporter that lawyers threatened him in the 1980s because he was selling short companies that had been financed by Milken’s junk bonds. However, the truth is that Chanos’s short selling in the 1980s tended to support Milken’s machinations, and in later years Chanos remained very much a part of the old Milken network.

Chanos got his big break in the 1980s by short selling and ultimately destroying a company called Baldwin United. As part of this effort, Chanos and his colleagues at Gilford Securities went so far as to meet with Baldwin United’s bankers, and (through all manner of horror stories) convinced the bankers to cut off Baldwin’s access to credit. Soon enough, the company went bankrupt, and Michael Milken quickly got himself hired as advisor to the bankruptcy.

According to a well-known businessman who was involved in the bankruptcy proceedings, Milken abused his advisory position, handing out confidential information to his network, which ended up owning much of Baldwin’s assets.

As the story goes, Chanos’s take down of Baldwin impressed Michael Steinhardt (the short-seller whose father was the “biggest Mafia fence in America”) and Steinhardt introduced Chanos to his key limited partners – including Ivan Boesky (later indicted for manipulating stocks with Milken) and Marty Peretz (a Milken and Boesky crony who would later co-found TheStreet.com, along with Boesky crony Jim Cramer and a few hedge funds in this network).

Peretz, an aristocrat who has long been a part-time professor at Harvard, introduced Chanos to one of his former students, Dirk Ziff, who manages a hedge fund called Ziff Brothers Investments. The emails cited above show that Ziff Brothers, like Chanos and Steve Cohen, was receiving advance copies of those Morgan Keegan reports.

Dirk Ziff is part of the network of which I write. Indeed, Chanos launched his first hedge fund out of Dirk Ziff’s offices. This was a few years after Chanos left his position at Gilford Securities, which had a few key clients, one of whom was Michael Steinhardt, son of “the biggest Mafia fence in America.”

In the 1990s, five Gilford Securities traders–Chester Chicosky, Todd M. Nejaime, Lawrence Choiniere, Kevin P. Radigan, and William P. Burke – were arrested as part of Operation Uptick, the biggest Mafia bust in FBI history. Although some of these traders had left Gilford by the time they were indicted, they were charged with crimes allegedly committed while they were still working for Gilford. Specifically, the Gilford traders were charged with accepting bribes from a Mob-run brokerage called DMN Capital, and for helping to manipulate stocks with a cast of characters that included ten Mafia soldiers and a former New York police detective.

I asked H. Robert Holmes, who was Chanos’s boss at Gilford, whether he had any comment on the  Mafia’s infiltration of his firm. He said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about? This is bullshit.” He also said he was completely unaware that any Gilford traders had been arrested for accepting bribes and manipulating stocks with a large cast of Mafia goons and Mafia associates. That is, he claimed to be unaware of an event in his company that had been vigorously publicized by the FBI and the SEC.

By the time of Operation Uptick, of course, Chanos was no longer with Gilford. He was then a “prominent investor” – a member of the world’s most powerful network of financial operators, a network whose members are portrayed by the press as geniuses and heroes, never mind that this is the very network that has been destroying companies since 1980s – the very network that is (as should by now be apparent) comprised of the criminal mastermind Michael Milken and his Mafia-connected cronies.

As a member of this network, Chanos is, of course, on close terms with Jim Cramer, the CNBC personality who once planned to run his hedge fund out of Milken co-conspirator Ivan Boesky’s offices. It was owing to Cramer that Chanos became the largest donor to the political campaigns of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who was Cramer’s best friend and former college roommate. When Spitzer was caught with a hooker and forced to resign, it emerged that the hooker, “Ashlee Dupre”, had been living rent-free in Chanos’s beachside villa. Ashlee called Chanos “Uncle Jim.”

I tell you all this only to show the relationships that bind some particularly destructive short sellers and miscreants. It is this network that attacked the big banks last year, helping trigger the collapse of the financial system. And members of this network are the most “prominent” players in the biotech space.

One of those players is Jonathan Aschoff, the doctor-impersonating fraud who was, in the Spring of 2007, making the long-shot prediction that the FDA would not approve Dendreon’s “dangerous” treatment for prostate cancer. As we know, Aschoff previously worked for Sturza’s Institutional Research, run by a fellow who faced multiple SEC investigations (none of which led to any action) for allegedly publishing false information to help short sellers (such as Michael Steinhardt) manipulate stocks.

Under the strain of those investigations, Sturza shut his operation down. Now Sturza helps manage a hedge fund called Ursus. Ursus is owned by Jim Chanos, the Steinhardt protégé who housed the hooker of Cramer’s former college roommate, Eliot Spitzer.

Ursus specializes in shorting biotech stocks. There are Wall Street brokers who say that Ursus was short selling Dendreon while Sturza’s disciple, Jonathan Aschoff, was bashing the company and others in this network were looking to cash in.

But it is difficult to know for sure whether Ursus was selling short. It is difficult to know who was responsible for flooding the market with at least 9 million (and maybe tens of millions of) phantom Dendreon shares. It is difficult to know because the SEC does not require hedge funds to disclose their short positions, and does not release information on who is selling stock and failing to deliver it.

As far as the SEC is concerned, it’s all a big secret.

But we do know that Aschoff was predicting that Dendreon’s stock would sink to $1.50 right after Dendreon received an overwhelmingly positive vote from the FDA’s advisory panel, and right before Dendreon was derailed by some singularly strange occurrences. In addition, we know that at this time only ten hedge funds on the planet held large numbers of Dendreon put options (bets against the company), and that at least seven of those hedge funds can be tied to the famous criminal Michael Milken or his close associates.

Michael Milken, of course, is not just a criminal, but also a “prominent philanthropist” whose Prostate Cancer Foundation has received much acclaim from the world at large. But, as we will see, it was not just those seven hedge funds, but Michael Milken himself, who stood to earn a tidy profit from the strange occurrences that were to derail Dendreon, a company with a promising treatment for prostate cancer.

* * * * * * * *

To be continued…Click here for Chapter 7.

If this article concerns you, and you wish to help, then:
1) email it to a dozen friends;
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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:

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Email Illuminates “Deep Capture” of the SEC


By some quirk of human psychology, it remains difficult for a certain segment of the population to accept the “deep capture” thesis – the notion that our nation’s regulatory bodies and parts of our media have been “captured” (at times, outright “corrupted”) by a powerful, moneyed elite. “No way,” we are told. “Maybe in Nigeria. Europe, sure. But to think it happens in America? That’s a conspiracy theory.”

Yeah? Well, read this:

That is an email to Paul Berger, then the associate director of enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission. The author, a Washington lawyer, is referring to Ralph Ferrara, a former SEC lawyer who apparently managed to parlay his government service into mansions, maids and millions – by way of a plum position at a law firm called Debevoise & Plimpton.

As you can see, the email was sent in January 2005, soon after the SEC had launched an investigation into alleged naked short selling, insider trading and other misconduct at Pequot Capital, a powerful hedge fund. That same month, the SEC’s lead investigator in the case, Gary Aguirre, was shut out of meetings in which the Commission’s top officials gave Pequot’s lawyers privileged information about the investigation.

By the summer of 2005, some of the SEC’s top officials, including Paul Berger, were maneuvering to have the Pequot investigation whitewashed. When Aguirre tried to interview John Mack, formerly chairman of Pequot and then CEO of Morgan Stanley, he was told to lay off because Mack’s lawyers had “juice” with Berger and SEC Director of Enforcement Linda Thomsen.

Aguirre complained about this in a formal letter to Berger. In response, Berger arranged for Aguirre to be fired – never mind that the SEC had just commended Aguirre for his “unmatched dedication.” At precisely the same time, Berger told Mack’s law firm that he was quite ready to leave public service, and that what he’d really like is to have a job at Mack’s law firm. The name of Mack’s law firm (the law firm with “juice”) was Debevoise & Plimpton – i.e., the same law firm whose multi-million dollar paychecks to former SEC officials had inspired that salivating email.

Perhaps the lawyer who sent that email was merely updating Berger on his colleague’s career trajectory. I have no evidence that the lawyer was trying to influence Berger or the SEC. But the email is a good example of the kinds of conversations that occur with disturbing regularity at our nation’s market regulator. No doubt, those maids and millions were top of mind as the SEC’s associate director of enforcement considered whether he ought to bury an investigation into some serious crimes, fire the whistleblower, and simultaneously apply for a job at the alleged criminal’s law firm.

In the summer of 2006, Aguirre wrote an 18-page letter to the U.S. Congress, blowing this scandal wide open. In this letter, Aguirre noted that his rank-and-file colleagues at the SEC believed that the naked short selling they were investigating had the “potential to seriously injure the financial markets.” So it was all the more appalling when–in November, 2006–the SEC leadership officially closed the investigation into Pequot. In doing so, the SEC said it had found no evidence of insider trading, but it said nothing about the far more serious charges of naked short selling and market manipulation.

Two U.S. Senate Committees spent more than a year looking into this matter. In multiple reports (one more than 700 pages long), Senate investigators did not refer directly to “naked short selling,” but from their descriptions of “market manipulation” and “wash sales” (which are often used to hide naked shorts) it is clear that they believed that Pequot engaged in naked short selling, and that this crime did, indeed, have the potential to “seriously injure the financial markets.”

The Senate concluded that everything about the case – the special treatment received by Pequot and Mack’s lawyers, Aguirre’s dismissal, Berger’s solicitation of Debevoise & Plimpton – was as seedy as can be.

“At worse,” the U.S. Senate stated in one report, “the picture is colored with tones of a possible cover-up.”

Last month – after naked short selling and other hedge fund tricks contributed to the biggest financial cataclysm since 1929 – the SEC inspector general issued a 191-page report confirming just about everything in the U.S. Senate reports. It is impossible to read these reports without concluding that this is the biggest scandal in the history of the SEC–a scandal that entailed a cover-up of precisely those same crimes that “severely injured” (or rather, nearly vaporized) our financial markets.

The SEC leadership responded to the inspector general last week by assigning an SEC employee, who happened to be an administrative judge, but who had no jurisdiction and was not acting in her capacity as a judge, to issue a short document stating that the SEC was innocent – that nobody had acted inappropriately in the case of Aguirre and Pequot Capital. With this document in hand, the SEC announced that it had been “cleared” by “a judge” – making it sound as if there had been some sort of official, independent ruling.

In other words, the corrupt SEC leadership tried to convince us that the corrupt SEC leadership would have the final say on whether the SEC’s leadership was corrupt. The cover-up continued. There was a time when the nation’s journalists would swarm on an abomination such as this. But, alas, there was hardly a peep from our media. Indeed, The Wall Street Journal and other publications helpfully reported that a “judge” had “cleared” the SEC leadership of wrong-doing.

But this scandal is not under the rug yet. And it might grow in magnitude. In a civil case brought by Aguirre, a federal district court ruled earlier this year that the SEC is far from “cleared,” and that it must hand over thousands of internal documents pertaining to the Pequot investigation. The SEC has largely ignored the ruling, turning over documents with much of the relevant stuff blacked out, but it is doubtful that the commission will get away with this. Tomorrow, the court will hold a hearing at which the SEC will likely be ordered to hand over more documents – including those containing evidence of the “market manipulation” (read: “naked short selling”) that helped “seriously injure the financial markets.”

Meanwhile, Paul Berger, the former associate director of enforcement who tried to bury this case, has been made partner at the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton. I’d tell you how much he’s getting paid for his “juice,” but I hesitate to incite a citizen insurrection.

* * * * * * * *

Mark Mitchell previously worked as a writer for the Wall Street Journal editorial page, chief business correspondent for Time Magazine in Asia, and as the editor responsible for the Columbia Journalism Review’s online critique of business journalism. Send tips to mitch0033@gmail.com

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The Naked Short Selling That Toppled Wall Street


The Wall Street Journal stated in a lead editorial last week that the SEC was “reasonable” to “clamp down” on naked short selling. Well, that was progress of sorts, though one wonders how it could have taken all these years for the nation’s most important newspaper to suggest that it might be “reasonable” to put an end to criminal activity that has eviscerated hundreds of companies and destroyed countless lives.

And now that this criminal activity has been implicated in the Humpty Dumptying of our financial system, one grows wistful for the golden age of journalism when editorialists (people working for famous newspapers, not just cyber weirdos) would express a little outrage, demand that heads roll – muster something better than “reasonable” to describe the limpid “clamp down” of an SEC that bows in oily servitude to the very short-sellers who manhandled our markets.

Alas, The Wall Street Journal is not angry about the scandal of naked short selling. To the contrary, it devotes most of its editorial to tut-tutting the SEC for taking the mild step of requiring hedge funds to disclose their short positions. This, the Journal laments, means the government wants to “slap a scarlet letter on short sellers.” And (shed a tear) hedge funds will now have to “worry that their strategies will be put on display for the world to see.”

Might the world like to see which hedge funds are employing the strategy of illegal naked short selling – offloading huge chunks of stock that they do not possess – phantom stock – in order to drive down prices? No, nothing to see there, says the Journal. Having thoroughly investigated the matter, the editorialist reports that there is “no evidence of widespread naked shorting of financial stocks in this panic.” Indeed, the Journal assures us that there is no evidence that short sellers have engaged in any market manipulation whatsoever.

That is a mighty bold claim. As the Wall Street Journal itself reported, the SEC has ordered two dozen hedge funds to turn over trading records as part of its investigation into possible short-seller manipulation of six big financial institutions — American International Group, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, Washington Mutual, and Merrill Lynch.

The SEC has never in history prosecuted a major case against a short seller, and there is no reason to believe that it is actually going to nail someone now. But it is not difficult to see why the SEC feels that is has no choice but to investigate.

It must investigate, or at least appear to investigate, because the data scream, “Investigate!”

Take the case of Washington Mutual, which met its demise on the same day that the Journal published its editorial. While the SEC has not yet released data covering the last couple weeks of turmoil, the data through June show that at one point that month “failures to deliver” of Washington Mutual’s stock reached an astounding 9 million shares. From June 5 to June 19 there were, on any given day, at least 1 million WaMu shares that had “failed to deliver.”

In other words, hedge funds and brokers sold as many as 9 million shares that they did not possess (which is why they “failed to deliver” them), and they kept the market saturated with at least 1 million phantom shares for more than two weeks. WaMu’s stock price dropped by more than 30% during this period. Similar attacks, with similar effects, occurred one after another in the months leading up to June.

That is very good evidence of illegal market manipulation.

Aside from Washington Mutual, Bank of America, Fannie Mae, MBIA, Ambac, and close to 50 smaller financial firms – not to mention a couple hundred non-financial companies – have appeared on the SEC-mandated “threshold” list of companies whose stock has “failed to deliver” in excessive quantities.

That, too, is very good evidence of illegal market manipulation.

A number of the big banks never appeared on the SEC’s “threshold” list. Perhaps that explains the Journal’s claim that there is “no evidence” that naked short selling contributed to our financial crisis. If so, the Journal does not understand the methods that naked short sellers use to manipulate the markets. The Journal also does not understand how powerful financial elites manipulate the government (and the media).

Peter Chepucavage, the former SEC official who authored Regulation SHO (the rules that governed short sales from 2005 until the SEC temporarily banned short-selling of financial stock last week) has told us that the rules were watered down under fierce pressure from the hedge fund lobby.

One result is that Regulation SHO did not force short sellers to borrow real shares before they sold them. They were given three days to produce stock before it was declared a “failure to deliver.” If they missed the three-day deadline, they were given another ten days, after which they were supposed to buy (not borrow) real shares and deliver them, or face penalties.

In practice, many hedge funds and brokers ignored the deadlines without repercussions. But even traders who met the deadlines were able to churn the markets. Since they were not required to possess real shares before they hit the sell button, they could offload a large block of phantom stock and let it dilute supply for three to 13 days. When the deadline arrived, they might borrow real shares and deliver them, and then sell another block of phantom stock, which would hammer prices for another three to thirteen days.

Or, rather than borrow real shares, the hedge fund might buy stock (the price having been knocked down during 13 days of diluted supply) from a friendly broker. Often, the brokers did not have any stock to sell the hedge fund, but they pushed the sale button anyway. The hedge funds then used the broker’s phantom stock to settle its initial sale of phantom stock, and when the broker’s deadline came, he bought an equal quantity of phantom stock from another broker, and so on.

A lot of journalists have portrayed this naked short selling as “legal.” In fact, it is grossly illegal assuming the goal is to manipulate markets. But the SEC until recently shied away from making that assumption. So long as the hedge funds met the delivery deadlines, they could distort and destroy at will.

Another result of the short-seller lobby’s intervention is that a company does not appear on the SEC’s “threshold” list unless there are failures to deliver of more than 10,000 of the company’s shares (and at least 0.5% of its total shares outstanding) for five consecutive days. So long as there are no failures on day six, there are no flashing red lights at the SEC. That is, threshold (excessive) levels of phantom shares can float around the system for a total of eight days (three days before they are registered as “failures to deliver,” plus five more) without a company being designated a victim of naked short selling.

An eight-day blast (or even just a one day blast) of, say, a couple-hundred thousand phantom shares can knock down a stock’s price very nicely. Blasts of a million-plus shares, which are common, can do even more damage.

If a company has weaknesses that can be blown out of proportion with help from the media, and if hedge funds blast the company with phantom stock, then pause, then blast again, then pause, then blast again — over and over — for a couple of months, then the company’s share price can soon be in the single digits. – without ever having appeared on the SEC’s threshold list.

Unsurprisingly, the data through June shows this blast-pause-blast pattern in the stocks of nearly ever major financial institution that has been wiped off the map, and quite a few that were in death spirals before the SEC temporarily banned short-selling. Very often, huge failures to deliver have occurred in stretches of precisely five days – just long enough to keep a stock off the threshold list.

The attack on Bear Stearns, for example, began on January 9, when hedge funds naked shorted more than 1.1 million shares. The shares “failed to deliver” at the end of Friday, January 11 (the three-day deadline). For the next four days, beginning Monday, January 14, there were massive failures to deliver, peaking at 1 million shares on January 17. That is, the attack lasted a total of eight days, with failures to deliver lasting precisely five days. On day six, there were few failures to deliver, so Bear did not appear on the threshold list.

Over the next few weeks, there were several more blasts – with failures to deliver ranging from 200,000 to 500,000 shares. Those were threshold levels, but the failures lasted less than five consecutive days, so no flashing red light at the SEC.

On February 28, 800,000 shares of Bear Stearns failed to deliver. For the next five business days, anywhere from 100,000 to 350,000 shares failed to deliver. On day six, there was a pause — few failures to deliver. So no threshold list – no flashing red light at the SEC.

A week later, just before CNBC’s David Faber reported the false information (given to him by a hedge fund “friend” whom he had “known for twenty years”) that Goldman Sachs had cut off Bear’s credit, somebody naked shorted more than a million shares of Bear’s stock.. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, there was a sustained effort to drive the stock to zero, with massive failures to deliver every day — peaking at 13 million shares.

This attack lasted long enough to put Bear Stearns on the threshold list, but by then, it was too late. The bank’s mangled remains had been swallowed by JP Morgan. Ultimately, at least 11 million shares of Bear Stearns were sold and never delivered.

Meanwhile, the naked short sellers began their attack on Lehman Brothers. On March 18, Lehman’s stock had begun to increase sharply, so somebody unleashed more than 1.5 million phantom shares. Those failed to deliver on March 20. For the next three days, there were failures to deliver of between 400.000 and 800.000 shares — far exceeding the daily “threshold.” That helped the share price to fall sharply, but on day five, there were no failures, so Lehman didn’t appear on the threshold list of companies victimized by naked short selling.

On April 1, another round of naked short selling commenced, coinciding with a wave of false rumors about Lehman’s liquidity. That continued until April 3, when SEC Chairman Christopher Cox, for the first time, told a Senate committee hearing that naked short selling was a big problem. Using the words “phantom stock,” he said many companies had been affected and vowed to crack down.

For a few weeks after that, there was not much new naked short selling.

Then, on May 21, short-seller David Einhorn gave his famous speech accusing Lehman’s executives of cooking their books. Though Lehman, like most banks, was guilty of participating in the dodgy business of securitized debt, it was not cooking its books. It had, however, failed to mark some of its assets down to levels prescribed by Einhorn, who waved the CMBX index as the proper barometer of commercial mortgages.

The CMBX comes from a company called Markit Group, which is owned by four hedge funds, the names of which the Markit Group will not disclose. I don’t know if the managers of those hedge funds are friends of David Einhorn, but the Wall Street Journal’s Lingling Wei published a story in February noting that the CMBX “doesn’t make sense.” It grossly undervalues commercial property, implying default rates, for example, that are four-times higher than they are in reality.

Nonetheless, the media, including the Wall Street Journal, trumpeted Einhorn’s analysis, which was distorted in many other ways – but that is a tale for a future blog.

For now, it is enough to know that coinciding with Einhorn’s speech, somebody naked shorted more than 200,000 shares (the settlement date for that sale was May 27, three business days after the speech, owing to a holiday weekend). Thus began a five day stretch of failures to deliver (ranging from 120,000 to 450,000 shares). On day six, as usual, there were few failures to deliver, so Lehman did not appear on the threshold list.

After a pause of a few days, somebody circulated the falsehood that Lehman had gone to the Fed for a handout. Coinciding with that rumor, hedge funds naked shorted close to 1.5 million shares. Those shares failed to deliver three days later, on June 9. The next day, there were 650,000 failures. The day after that, 263,000 failures. On day four, there were 510,000 failures. On day five, there were 623,000 failures. Time for Lehman to appear on the threshold list. But, on day six, of course, the failures to deliver stopped. No list – no flashing red light at the SEC.

Throughout this time, Einhorn continued to appear on CNBC and in the major newspapers, doing his best to make Lehman’s problems (which were real, but probably, at this stage, manageable) appear to be both catastrophic and criminal. From May 21, the day of Einhorn’s speech, to June 15, the stock lost almost half its value.

For reasons that I cannot fathom, Lehman then opted for a strategy of appeasement. Rather than challenge Einhorn’s assumptions, Lehman aimed to silence him and his media yahoos by doing what they asked. It “reduced its exposure” to mortgages, primarily by marking them down to levels dictated by Einhorn’s bogus index – the CMBX. This is the main reason why it booked a 2.8 billion loss in the second quarter.

When Lehman announced its quarterly results, on June 16, there was another blast of naked short selling, with failures to deliver at threshold levels from June 19 to June 24. Exactly five days. Then the failures stopped. No threshold list. No flashing red light.

I look forward to the day (in a few months) when the SEC will release data covering July to September. But I can tell you right now what happened next.

On June 30, somebody floated the false rumor that Barclays was going to buy Lehman at 15 dollars a share (it was then trading at 20). Simultaneously, hedge funds no doubt naked shorted large blocks of shares. It’s a safe bet that the data will show failures to deliver lasting precisely five days.

On July 10, somebody (SAC Capital?) circulated the false rumor that SAC Capital was pulling its money out of Lehman. Hours later, there was another false rumor — that PIMCO was pulling out its money. Quite certainly, these rumors were accompanied by naked short selling, with failures to deliver beginning three days later, and probably continuing at threshold levels for precisely five days. Lehman’s stock lost almost 50% of its value in the four weeks leading to July 15..

At this point, the SEC finally came to realize what was happening to Lehman. It realized that similar madness had destroyed Bear Stearns. It realized that AIG, Citigroup, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bank of America and fifty other financial companies were getting clobbered in exactly the same fashion.

Clearly, naked short selling posed a real threat to the stability of the financial system. So the SEC issued an emergency order forcing hedge funds to borrow real stock before they sold it. No more saying “Yeah, my cousin Louie has the stock in a drawer somewhere.” No more naked short selling.

This order protected only 19 big financial institutions – which is as far as the SEC thought it could go and still retain friendly relations with its short-selling paramours – but it was something. During the three weeks that the emergency order was enforced, Lehman’s stock price increased by around 50 percent. The other companies that had been under attack enjoyed similar rebounds.

The short-sellers, of course, fumed. Some of those fumes wafted to The Wall Street Journal and other prestigious publications, which lambasted the SEC for issuing the emergency order. They published all manner of mumbo-jumbo about the emergency order wrecking “market efficiency” – though the only evidence of this was an utterly dubious report circulated by the short seller lobby (see here for the details), and it was hard to comprehend what could possibly have been “efficient” about a market getting smothered with false information and fake supply.

Of course, the SEC, captured by the short-sellers, and ever mindful of the media, decided to let its emergency order expire, and announced no new initiatives to stop naked short selling..

The day after the emergency order expired, Lehman’s stock nosedived. So did a lot of other stocks that had enjoyed a temporary reprieve.

Mark my words, the data for August and September will show that soon after the order was lifted, rampant naked short selling began anew.

It will show a sustained attack on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with failures to deliver exceeding one million shares, until the day the two companies were nationalized. It will show Lehman getting hammered (blast-pause-blast) until its stock was so low that there was no way it could raise capital. And it will show that in Lehman’s final days, hedge funds sold unprecedented amounts of phantom stock, knowing that the stock would never, ever have to be delivered.

Two days after Lehman was vaporized, AIG watched its stock fall to as low as one dollar. The data through June shows that AIG was repeatedly blasted with phantom stock, often in stretches of eight days (three + five), with peak failures to deliver reaching 2 million shares. It’s a safe bet that the data will show that these attacks continued, and grew in magnitude, until a price of one buck per share resulted in paralysis, and AIG had to be nationalized. But the company never appeared on the SEC’s threshold list.

After AIG, the rumor was that Citigroup would go down next. The data through June shows that Citigroup was bombarded – blast, pause, blast – with massive amounts of phantom stock. Failures to deliver peaked at 8 million shares. No doubt, the blasts continued and grew in magnitude in the days leading up to September 16, when Citigroup’s stock went into a death spiral.

On September 17, the SEC rushed out new rules governing naked short selling. The new rules seemed a lot like the old rules. Hedge funds would not have to actually possess stock before selling it. Instead, they would merely have to “locate” the stock. The SEC would have no way of knowing whether hedge funds had “located” stock, but if they lied and told their broker, “Yeah, I located the stock, I got it somewhere, push the sell button,” then that would be “fraud.” Presumably, the brokers, who depend on the hedge funds for most of their income, and are complicit in their naked short selling, would line up to inform the SEC that their clients were telling them lies.

Meanwhile, the hedge funds would still have three days to deliver stock, with no strong penalties for failing to do so, and no mechanism for determining whether a hedge fund had delivered real stock, as opposed to new phantom stock that it had received from a friendly broker. As for the “threshold” of five consecutive days before a company could get on the list that sets off the flashing red lights that the SEC ignores – that would remain the same.

When these rules were announced, the short-seller lobby cheered loudly. The media transcribed the lobby’s cheerful press releases, and then the naked short sellers eliminated Merrill Lynch. After that, they turned on Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, at which point both stocks went into death spirals and the companies’ CEOs treated us to the spectacle of calling the SEC to complain that Morgan and Goldman (ie., the companies that housed the brokerages that invented and profited the most from naked short selling) were now getting mauled by their own monstrous creations.

A week later, the Wall Street Journal stated in an editorial that there was “no evidence” of naked short selling or market manipulation during this financial crisis.

* * * * * * * *

P.S. I am a former employee of The Wall Street Journal editorial page. I think it is the finest editorial page in the world. I enjoyed my time at the Journal. They let me live in Europe. I got to write mean things about socialists.

But with genuine respect, I say to my former colleagues –you are like the boy in the bubble. You live and breath the “free markets” paradigm. This is healthy, but it is limiting. It is not the real world..

Please, get out of that bubble. Get dirty with the data. Behold the slop in our clearing and settlement system. Consider how this slop is affecting our market, and tell me what is free or efficient about it.

Please, do it quickly.

If you do not, this nation is screwed.

Mark Mitchell

Mitch0033@gmail.com

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