Geithner Exempts a $30 Trillion Derivatives Market From Regulation and Oversight

On Friday, the witching hour of government press releases they want no one to read, the Treasury Department announced they will block regulation of large classes of derivatives:

Treasury is today issuing a Notice of Proposed Determination providing that central clearing and exchange trading requirements would not apply to FX swaps and forwards.

This proposed determination is narrowly tailored. FX swaps and forwards will remain subject to Dodd-Frank’s rigorous new trade reporting requirements and business conduct standards. Additionally, the Dodd-Frank Act makes it illegal to use these instruments to evade other derivatives reforms. Importantly, the proposed determination does not extend to other FX derivatives, such as FX options, currency swaps, and non-deliverable forwards. These other FX derivatives will be subject to clearing and exchange requirements.

The entire press release is almost burying the announcement for no regulation of FX swaps and forwards. Multinational corporations use FX swaps to hedge on currency fluctuations. According to Better Markets, this will bring out the financial engineers for some sort of derivative trickery fiction:

Groundhog Day as Obama "Probes" Oil Speculation

We have another non-action action by the Obama administration, this time in the form of a probe on oil speculation:

Obama said he’s asked his attorney general and U.S. government agencies to work with state attorneys general to monitor for gasoline-price gouging, “to make sure that nobody is taking advantage of working families at the pump.”

Obama also said he’s willing to tap into the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve “should the situation demand it” but declined to answer a question of what price would trigger a release.

Earlier France proclaimed oil speculation is unacceptable and Senator Nelson (D-FL), is calling for a hearing as well as a Congressional coalition on derivatives and oil speculation.

This is like 2008 Ground Hog Day. Back then we also had congressional testimony on oil speculation as well as bills introduced in Congress.

But then the financial crisis and recession happened, global oil demand collapsed, yet derivatives were never addressed. There is supposedly the ability for the CFTC to act, yet....this regulatory agency never does.

A portion of Senator Nelson's letter to the CFTC:

Confessions of a Derivatives Trader

The most amazing true confession of a derivatives trader, aptly titled Legerdemath, confirms what we know. Banksters pushed their derivatives to make profits for themselves and fooled their customers with some highfalutin' math, three letter mnemonics and outright fraud.

Our clients were non-financial corporations, the Deltas and Verizons of the world, which relied on us for advice and education. Our directive was “to help companies decrease and manage their risks.” Often we did just that. And often we advised clients to execute trades solely because they presented opportunities for us to profit. In either case, whenever possible we used our superior knowledge to manipulate the pricing of the trade in our favor.

The grand prestigious employer? Citigroup. The fictional pricing that anyone with a solid Bachelors in mathematics could figure out? Interest-rate swaps and Treasury-rate locks.

I never heard this arrangement described as a conflict of interest. I learned to think we were simply smarter than the client. For unsophisticated clients, being smarter meant quoting padded rates. For the rest, a bit of “legerdemath” was required. Most brazenly, we taught clients phony math that involved settling Treasury-rate locks by referencing Treasury yields rather than prices.

Derivatives Insider Cartel Game

The New York Times outlines what happens when you do not get financial reform, especially on derivatives. In Secretive Banking Elite Rules Trading in Derivatives, we have details on how 9 representatives, from the Banksters, control and lock out the derivatives market, now through a new clearing house called ICE Trust. That's our usual suspects, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, UBS....

The details of their meetings, even their identities, have been strictly confidential.

It's like no limit poker and only a few are allowed to play, with too big to fail built into the game. One goes down, they bring the entire nation down with them.

The banks in this group, which is affiliated with a new derivatives clearinghouse, have fought to block other banks from entering the market, and they are also trying to thwart efforts to make full information on prices and fees freely available.

The little guy, those trying to use derivatives to hedge on commodities, like heating oil, cannot find out if they could have locked in lower prices. Why? Banks don’t disclose fees associated with the derivatives being bought and sold.

Banks collect many billions of dollars annually in undisclosed fees associated with these instruments — an amount that almost certainly would be lower if there were more competition and transparent prices.

Ratings Arbitrage - Letting the Credit Ratings Agencies off the Hook

An amendment just passed the Senate which allows regulators to assign a credit rating agency to evaluate asset based securities. To date, the ones hiring the credit rating agencies are the ones making up these fictional derivatives.

That said, we have this New York Times article reporting more investigations of banks, but this time trying to find evidence the poor little ole' credit ratings agencies were just played as suckers by the banks (cough, cough):

The New York attorney general has started an investigation of eight banks to determine whether they provided misleading information to rating agencies in order to inflate the grades of certain mortgage securities, according to two people with knowledge of the investigation.

Since ratings models were available to the ones creating the structured finance product, in this case, credit default obligations (CDOs), issuing firms could analyze the ratings methods to figure out where to hide the toxic, worthless crud contained within, yet still land a AAA rating.

Derivatives Reform is Under Siege!

This is astounding. We have former Federal Reserve chair, Paul Volcker, attacking the derivatives reform bill currently in the Senate.

The provision of derivatives by commercial banks to their customers in the usual course of a banking relationship should not be prohibited.

Really? Why is it then only 5 banks, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and BoA are 90% of the derivatives market? Yeah right, that's really helping Joe Blow in his small manufacturing business in Ohio. Oh yeah, Joe Blow, running his $20 million dollar part business is really busy trading derivatives to hedge risk in a global market. Right, and he's also hedging to control his energy costs. Uh huh. Show me the numbers on that claim! Even more importantly, Joe Blow is an end user. There is no reason he, as a banking customer, has to trade derivatives with that bank.

FDIC chair Sheila Bair also came out blasting on stopping banks from gambling with customers and taxpayer money.

Derivative Reform Under Attack by Lobbyists

What a surprise. A non-bank coalition is trying to gut derivatives reform. Hold onto your iPhone, that's right, Apple is among them. Seems they don't want to put up real money to cover their bets. There is some speculation that this end users coalition has actually been orchestrated by the dealers, the mega banks themselves.

Here is what the Huffington Post says is the meat of the lobbying gut efforts. Unfortunately the actual letter is not available.

  • Deleting provisions in the current Senate bill, authored by Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), that call for swaps dealers, like JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo, to hold higher amounts of capital to support their derivatives bets;
  • Deleting a term defining major derivatives users, which calls for higher capital requirements and mandates that they clear their derivatives deals through transparent venues that require parties to post margin. By deleting this provision, the coalition wants to exempt an entire class of derivatives users from having to post cash upfront to support their bets.

Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan accused of derivatives fraud

This case could have worldwide repercussions.

(Bloomberg) -- Deutsche Bank AG, JPMorgan Chase & Co., UBS AG and Hypo Real Estate Holding AG’s Depfa Bank Plc unit were charged with fraud linked to the sale of derivatives to the City of Milan.
Judge Simone Luerti scheduled the trial of the four firms, 11 bankers and two former city officials for May 6, Prosecutor Alfredo Robledo said after a hearing in Milan today. The banks allegedly misled the city over swaps that adjusted interest payments on 1.7 billion euros ($2.3 billion) of bonds sold in 2005.