Beware Online Economic Charlatans

Tuesday, 29 Oct 2013 12:03 PM

By Arnaud De Borchgrave

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Even for a company that employs 255,000 and has assets of $2.4 trillion, a $13 billion fine isn't exactly chump change. It directly led to JPMorgan Chase's first quarterly loss under Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon.

Most of the $13 billion will go to investors who were fleeced on securities sold by JPMorgan.

Prior to the 2008 crisis, JPMorgan Chase, was into the business of "mortgage securitization," the polite euphemism for bundling risky-to-worthless home loans by retail banks and mortgage brokers and then selling them as attractive investment packages.

These alluring bundles offered by JPMorgan and others had the packaging and resonance of blue chips and both Europeans and Asians were eager to buy.

The first to smell a financial rat of epic proportions were Swiss banking authorities. Preliminary investigation dug up cunning dissimulation that they concluded was fraudulent.

Switzerland's largest bank, UBS AG, agreed last July to fork over $885 million against claims it concealed the low quality of the loans that guaranteed $4.5 billion in residential mortgage loans it sponsored.

2008 was the tsunami of wealth destruction — to the immediate tune of $7 trillion in U.S. stock market losses.

Included in the $13 billion penalty against JPMorgan was $5 billion to settle Federal Housing Finance Agency claims on home loans and mortgage-backed securities that the banking giant sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The Federal National Mortgage Association — Fannie Mae — and the Federal Home Mortgage Corp. — Freddie Mac — were chartered by Congress to create a secondary market for residential mortgage loans. Together, Fannie and Freddie are the largest source of housing finance in the United States.

In July 2008, the U.S. Congress approved a bailout plan for both Fannie and Freddie. Both were put in "conservatorship" by the FHFA. Fannie and Freddie together have taken $187 billion in federal aid since then, repaying about $146 billion in dividends.

The new deal negotiated with JPMorgan will inevitably lead to other negotiated penalties — or even convictions. A federal jury found Bank of America guilty of mortgage fraud, and prosecutors asked for a penalty of $848 million.

Gargantuan wrongdoing amid institutions of longstanding probity has opened the sluice gates of round the clock dire Internet warnings of impending economic and financial Pearl Harbors.

Newspaper circulation figures are shrinking nationwide but almost everybody has access to the Internet where reputable forecasters are hard to distinguish from the charlatans.

Some recent samples of Internet offerings:
  • "These 25 videos warn of impending economic collapse and chaos."
  • Lorimer Wilson, columnist and editor at munKNEE.com trumpets that "Economic collapse is inevitable and here is why": "It is hard to disagree with the strong, some might say outrageous statements made by Jeff Berwick in this video regarding the inevitable economic collapse of governments and societies alike. What he says is what this website has been saying, less directly, for the last three years or so. The time is now short and Young Turks like Berwick do a service for the rest of us by being so blunt. So writes Monty Pelerin as an introduction to Berwick's video interview which he has posted under the title 'Take your choice — Zimbabwe or the U.S.S.R.'"
  • Forgoing, in turn, is presented compliments of FinancialArticleSummariesToday.com (a sight for sore eyes and inquisitive minds) and munKNEE.com (Your Key to Making Money).

How the lay person navigating the worldwide Web without a bullfeathers detector can tell right from wrong, or serious commentators from charlatans, is a system that remains to be devised.

A charlatan is a quack who makes showy pretenses to knowledge or ability. There are now roughly 4 billion people online out of a world population of 7 billion. China is about one-quarter of the total. And the number of quacks online is anyone's guess. But it's huge.

Noted editor and journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave is an editor at large for United Press International. He is a founding board member of Newsmax.com who now serves on Newsmax's Advisory Board. Read more reports from Arnaud de Borchgrave — Click Here Now.

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