“Money, it’s a gas, grab that cash with both hands and make a stash….Money, it’s a hit, don’t give me that do goody good bullshit…..” Pink Floyd, “Money.”
(“The bomb would irradiate all the gold inside the building and make it unusable….international liquidity would seize up, and the Western trade and monetary system would collapse.” Auric Gold finger, 1964, GOLDFINGER, describing Operation Meltdown.)
BOND, JAMES BOND…..
(“Choose your next witticism carefully, Mr. Bond, it may be your last.” Auric Goldfinger, GOLDFINGER 1964.)
Maria Bartiromo, TV hostess, financier, recalled the wild devil-may-care-atmosphere of the Wall Street Gang at one of the many parties they held leading up to the 2008 explosion. She recalled one specific holiday celebration in 2006: “The high-profile-party was crowded with well-known Wall Street faces. The host was dressed as James Bond, 007, and ‘scantily clad Bond girls’ roamed the party serving drinks,” told Kerry Hannon, USA Today writer, about Bartiromo. “(In) looking back on those parties, I can recall this giddiness in the air,” said Bartiromo, “the extravagance, the excess. It is burned into my memory – the sight of all those incredibly accomplished and wealthy men and women laughing and drinking.” Bartiromo saw well-known Wall Street faces: John Thain, Chief Executive of the New York Stock Exchange, who recently had purchased a 27.5 million-dollar apartment; Investment bankers from Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and Golden Sachs; Paris Hilton; Jimmy Cayne, the flamboyant Chief Executive at Bear Stearns, took friendly bards from guests about his 15-million-dollar Christmas bonus. Dick Fuld, the head of Lehman Brothers, preferred being a lone-wolf and would hug one corner, hold private conversations, and “look uncomfortable.”
A couple of Bond Girls slid next to Fold, along with a photographer: “take your picture?” asked the photographer. Fold rushed off in protest: “I’m not getting my picture taken with any Bond Girls!” he snapped and rushed off. Caine was amused by the whole thing.
“The Bond theme was an interesting commentary on the era. Schwarzman might well have imagined himself as the 007 of Wall Street, smoothly sailing above the troubles that afflicted others,” said Bartiromo, “he appeared to enjoy playing the sophisticated man’s man; the male ideal; a magnet for power, money, and women for whom danger and intrigue were all in a day’s work.”
The apartment in which the Bond Party took place was purchased by Schwarzman from previous owner Saul Steinberg (Bartiromo’s father-in-law), and was once owned by John D. Rockefller in 1971. It was a story of the world’s richest apartment building; old money, oil money, new money, and barrowed money. The Steinbergs were the ”‘undisputed Dean and Doyenne of Nouvelle society,” said Johanna Berkman in New York Magazine, “he…as one of Wall Streets most feared Masters of the Universe…she…the ultimate trophy wife.” Saul Steinberg was CEO of the Reliance Group Holding Company, having taken a 311 million-dollar loss in 1999. A 150-guest April 4 cocktail party found the Steinbergs “stock-rich, but cash-poor.” Their earlier lifestyle lingered like rum tobacco smoke: Gayfryd Steinberg’s 3 million-dollar “French Directoire-themed affair” for 500 guests (and 50,000 French roses) in the marriage of Saul’s daughter to a scion of the Tisch family, and the $1 million fiftieth-birthday party themed in Saul’s love for Old Master paintings (this particular party highlighted a nude female dancer celebrating Rembrandt’s Danae), Saul had been advertised in a 1968 Forbes as making more money than any other U.S citizen under 30-years-of-age.
(“Bond: ‘I admire your courage, Miss…..’ Sylvia Trench: ‘Trench….Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck, Mr.…..’ Bond: ‘Bond…James Bond.’” GOLDFINGER, 1964.)
Steve Schwarzman’s 60th birthday celebration at the cavernous Park Avenue Amory on February 14, 2007 was a 3-million dollar extravaganza fit for a king. Schwarzman was not exactly a king, but not far behind with his company, The Blackstone Group, holding $88-billion in assets and 112 companies worth $200 billion: Schwarzman was worth $677.2 million in a public offering of Blackstone and $7.8 billion in shares.
James B. (Jimmy) Lee, vice-chairman at J. P. Morgan Chase, sent him a June 21, 2007 email: “You were like Indiana Jones over the last few weeks….they rolled giant boulders at you….fired poison darts at you ….threw you into that giant snake pit…..and yet you still found the grail and got the blonde….bravo.” Said Daniel Gross in his June 19, 2007 “The Golden Ass” (www.slate.com): “He’s like an NBA player who, having gone the length of a court for a slam-dunk with the game already put away, starts trash-talking, jumps atop the scorers’ table, gestures obscenely at opposing fans, pinches a cheerleader, chest-bumps the referee, sticks his tongue out at the camera, all the while grabbing his crotch and yelling loudly that he’s the Man. That would certainly get the attention of the ordinarily forgiving disciplinarians in the league office.” El-Erian, CEO of Pimco, the world’s largest bond holder, said of Schwarzman: “He was everywhere that year, bullish verging on boastful about the wonders of private equity and by implication, his own golden touch. When I lunched with him at the Four Seasons Restaurant in January, 2006, he was ebullient: twenty to forty billion dollar deals in a very short time, a phenomenal uptick in the amount of money flowing into private equity, at least a twenty per cent annual return on investments.”
George McCartney said on August 10, 2007 in “Jekyll And Hyde In A Box”: “Schwarzman, George W. Busch’s roommate at Yale and Skull and Bones brother, wished to inform all who cared that, when he pursued a deal, he wanted to ‘inflict pain’ and ‘kill off’ his rivals,” said McCartney, ”so there we have it. In American business today, it pays to have murder in your heart. Who can doubt the wisdom of Schwarzman’s lethal intent? He’s a billionaire seven times over. Can’t argue with that.” “You watch,” Schwarzman would boast to Dan Dorfman, “like the Rockefellas, I’ll own the world. I could be the first Jewish President.”
In his senior year of school, Schwarzman wrote W. Averell Harriman (war-time Ambassador to Russia and former Governor of New York), during the Paris Peace Talks at the time, because of his admiration of Harriman as a fellow Skull and Bones member. He met with Harriman for lunch at his Upper East Side townhouse:
“Young man, are you independently wealthy?” Harriman asked.
“No, sir, I’m not” was the answer.
“Well, I am the son of a very rich man, which has made an enormous difference ____that’s the reason you’re seeing me. If you have any interest in the political world, I’d advise you to become independently wealthy yourself.”
“His business philosophy is ’I want war – not a series of skirmishes’ and ‘I always think of what will kill off the bidder’….the combination of self-indulgence, seeming disregard for those less privileged, and militant hostility towards rivals inflamed many on Wall Street.….Schwarzman’s holiday parties were always ‘themed’. That year’s theme was Bond – as in James, not municipal,” said Maria Bartiromo in “Eyewitness to the Crisis” (www.msnbcmeddia.msn.com), “The host was dressed in a snazzy tux, portraying 007, with Christine shimmering at his side in a silver gown. Scantily clad ‘Bond girls’ roamed the party serving drinks and hors d’oeurres. There were repeated joking references to ‘Goldfinger’ throughout the evening.”
Novelist Jane Stanton Hitchcock said: “Steve, I always knew you were going places, I just did not know you would end up owning them all.”
The Valentine celebration at the Armory was in the same Roman-type-Saturnalia-celebration. A full-length portrait of Schwarzman by Andrew Festing was brought in, and dinner was served in a faux night-club setting, with orchids and palm trees, lobster, stone crabs, filet mignon, baked Alaska, and an array of expensive wines. A Palm Beach chef complained about an employee’s shoes because he found the squeaks of the rubber soles disturbing.
Composer-pianist Marvin Hamlisch played a number from ‘A Chorus Line.’ Patti LaBelle, along with the Abyssinian Baptist Church choir, sang ‘He’s got the Whole World in His Hands.’ The headliner, Rod Stewart, among other songs, sang ‘Tonight’s The Night’ and ‘Reason to Believe.’ Stewart was paid about one-million-dollars for his performance.
In a decadent modern-day reenactment of Petronius Arbiter’s Satyr icon, said Ron Mwangaguhungr in his blog “The Corsair,” was an army of power and obscenely wealthy people such as real estate kingpin Sam Zell. Zell exemplified the stratospheric rise of private equity: the then sixty-five-year-old billionaire was one of the wealthiest men in the world. “Crusty, confident, and an unrepentant potty-mouth,” said Bartiromo, “Zell was both admired and feared for his ability to play extremely high stakes games.” Zell owned Equity Office Properties Trust, a conglomerate of 573 properties. Zell sold to Blackstone Group for $39 billion. Schwarzman’s Blackstone Group then flipped hundreds of the buildings for $27-billion.
(“Bond: ‘Do you expect me to talk?’ Auric Gold finger: ‘No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!’” – GOLDFINGER, 1964, said while agent James Bond is about to be dissected by a laser beam.)
Zell stood to make $900-million from the Blackstone sale. “For Zell, the vote ends another chapter in the career of a real estate developer known as the ‘grave dancer’,” said Brian Louis and Bob Ivry in www.bloomberg.com, “for spotting opportunities in distressed properties.”
After the sale, Zell approached Tribune Company (which owns 11 daily newspapers), buying a stake in that company. For Steve Roth of Vornado Realty Trust, the other bidder, the purchase would have allowed Vornado to bolster its East and West Coast holdings. In the end, Vornado benefited by buying some Equity office properties that were put up for sale by Blackstone.
THE GRAVE DANCER
Samuel Zell was the only son of a Polish Jewish couple who fled their native country shortly before it was invaded by German soldier hordes in 1939. The couple immigrated to Chicago where Zell was born. At the age of 12, travelling on the way to Hebrew class, Zell noticed out-of-the-neighborhood sales of Playboy Magazine at a 50 cent price – and Zell would resell the magazine for $1.50 to his classmates. Zell would later use his ‘greed is good’ acumen upon forming the Equity Finance and Management Company in 1968 with partner Robert Lurie, acquiring distressed properties from developers (some inhabited by squatters), renovating them into fully rentable units at highly inflated prices, earning him the nickname of “the Grave Dancer.”
Zell was able to slink through the recession of the early 1990s at a lesser pace until REITs were created by Congress in 1960 (allowing real estate investments much like mutual funds), and in the 1990s, became an attractive way for many private real estate companies to raise funds; and by converting their holdings into REIT shares, Zell could postpone paying capital gains taxes.
PETER COTTONTAIL HOPPING DOWN THE MONEY-TRAIL
In 2001, EOP Acquired Spieker Properties, Inc., and the largest REIT on the West Coast. The $7.2 billion price included $905 million in cash, $431 million in stock, $3.6 billion in equity, and $2.1 billion in debt. In October 2001 EOP became their first REIT to be added to the S&P 500 and the only member of Fortune 500.
Like most real-estate, REITS carried large amounts of debt on their books. REITS enjoyed a sturdy bull market from 2003 to 2006 and Americans went insane for real estate – launching further into 2007 with soaring prices and big firms leveraged with increasing debt to the exploding craze. Sam Zell sold Equity Offices Property Trust to buy-out-firm Blackstone in the largest takeover ever of a real estate company – a $36 billion deal. Then the bubble burst.
Sam Zell told CNBC television on March 3, 2011: “My single biggest financial concern is the loss of the dollar as the reserve currency. I can’t imagine anything more disastrous to our country…you’re already seeing things in the market that are suggesting that confidence in the dollar is waning….I think you can see 25% reduction in the standard of living in this country if the U.S dollar was no longer the world’s reserve currency. That’s how valuable it is.”
During the Populist Egyptian uprising and over-throw of President Hosni Mubarak in February, 2011, there was particular attention and suspicion as to the where-about of Mubarak’s billions of dollars (much of it confiscated from the donations of United States taxpayers) and how handler and spy Hussein Silem, similar to many of Mubarak cronies, played a part in the transfer of such funds.
Ibrahm Oweiss, a Georgetown University economist, warned of Zell’s connection to the 2007 shares he had in an Egyptian company that shipped natural gas to Israel. John Kosmon, Philip Shenon and David Wurmser of the Delphi Global Analysis Group referred to it as a $220 million energy bet in the Middle East, and Zell held a 10 percent stake in the natural-gas consortium, the East Mediterranean Gas Company.
www.nypost.com; Feb 12, 2011; John Kosmon. USA Today, Philip Shenon, Feb. 16, 2011. Content.usatoday.com, “Tracking Mubarak’s Fixer”.
Seemingly unaffected by any crisis, in June, 2011, Sam Zell continued his climb in commercial real estate: Zell had just purchased a controlling stake in a 40-story office tower in Chicago – an estimated $106 million value.
THE FUND FOR FULD
(Otherwise known as Fuld’s Foolish Funds.)
Dick Fuld came to be known as “The Gorilla of Wall Street”; steering Lehman Brothers deep into the business of subprime mortgages, bank-rolling lenders across the country that were making convoluted loans to questionable borrowers. Fuld used several highly questionable accounting practices enabling him to earn $469 million in stock sales between 2000 and 2008. Said Reuters on April 29, 2010: “Oliver Budde, former Lehman lawyer, spent many years drafting the bank’s compensation disclosures and hiding the redirected a stock unit (RSU) component of Fuld’s pay. An email sent on April 14, 2008 to the SEC’s Enforcement Division never heard anything (never brought a response – SE).”
Dick Fuld studied business and he received a B.A. and a M.B.A from the University of Colorado at Boulder and the New York University’s Stein School of Business. After being discharged from the Air Force, he began his career with Lehman in 1969 as a commercial paper trader. His competitive nature aided his Advancement to Power. At the time of his departure he had worked 40 years in the industry; another ‘gorilla’ pouncing his chest in defiance.
Tyler Durden (www.zerohedge.com) spoke out on the Shadow Economy on March 11, 2010: “Lehman employed off-balance sheet devices, known within Lehman as ‘repo 105’ and ‘repo 108’ transactions to temporarily remove securities inventories from its balance sheet, usually for a period of seven to ten days, and to create a materially misleading picture of the firm’s condition in the late 2007 and 2008,” Durden went on to say, “Lehman accounted for repo 105 transactions as ‘sales’… by (re)characterizing the repo 105 transactions as a ‘sale,’ Lehman removed the inventories from its balance sheet.”
Barry Ritholtz went further when he said on March 14, 2010 (www.ritholtz.com): “In addition to tarnishing what little name Fuld had, the tentacles of the (Anton R.) Valukas (2,200 page) Report are reaching the NY Fed and Geithner, Ernst and Young, even Linklaters, a firm in the UK that blessed repo 105 for the British subsidiary of LEH as kosher.”
“….the report made a strong case that Lehman was hiding the truth in the months before it fell,” said Maria Bartiromo, “(It used) a device called repo 105 in the second quarter of 2008 to move $50 billion off its balance sheet….in repo 105 (it) was Lehman (which) recorded it as a sale and no longer had any record of the assets on its balance sheet. Nor did the firm disclose repo 105.”
ALSO LEGAL ADVISOR TO TARP
Portfolio Magazine titled Fuld as the worst CEO of all time. But case after case of Wall Street leniency throughout the 2000s emboldened them to rob. Lehman Brothers lawyer Oliver Budde discovered cooked books time and again and even turned in proxy statements and hid accounting to the SEC, only to be ignored or misled. The law firm of Simpson, Thacter and Bartlett hid additional Fuld salary of $263 million in the fine print. Later, this same law firm received a lucrative contract to serve as federal legal advisor to the TARP bailout.
There was six solid months that they could have moved against Fuld, but didn’t. Concealed also was $50 billion dollars in loans. Fuld told Representative Henry Waxman during the House Government Oversight Committee hearings that he had earned a paltry $310 million (a grating Hoovers Ville amount in Wall Street dollars), when actually it was $529 million. Said Oliver Budde, comparing the Justice Department’s lack of zeal to prosecute Fuld as compared to the perjury of sportsman Roger Clemens: “At least Roger didn’t screw over the world…green flag on a new stealing season.”
Wild parties and wild money seemed to be part and parcel of the pre-2008-2009 ‘gang’ on Wall Street (reminiscent of the ‘roaring twenties’). Ex-hedge funder Raj Rajaratnam held eager parties as he hobnobbed with big shots the day before his arrest. He boasted of being “the last man standing.” He controlled 130 employees, held $7 billion in assets and masterminded the biggest insider trader ring since the late 1980s. He went from a net worth of $1.5 billion in 2009 to $700 million in October, 2010, along with 13 counts of Conspiracy and Securities Fraud.
RIOTOUS, ROWDY, REBELLIOUS
For his 50th birthday, Raj chartered planes and flew 70 friends he called the Raj Tribe (The Riotous Rowdy, Rebellious Raj Tribe, said their T-shirts) to a birthday bash. On a Manhattan cruise, Danielle Chiesi, a well-coiffed blonde consultant for Bear Stearns, took to the dance floor to demonstrate her allure. A year earlier, Raj joined in a strip poker game hosted by Salomon Smith Barney of boys and girls alike.
Power and Pleasure, Anita Raghavan, www.forbes.com.
Speaking of a similar mood in the crash of 1929, Lucy Moore could have just as easily been speaking of 2008, when she wrote in Anything Goes, “and so the crash came, arriving with a kind of surrealistic slowness – so gradually that, on the one hand it was possible to live through a good part of it without realizing what was happening, and, on the other hand, it was possible to believe that one had experienced and survived it when in fact it had no more than just begun.”
(“Dr. No: ‘The Americans are fools. I offered my services, they refused. So did the East. Now they can pay for their mistake.’ Bond: ‘World domination. The same old dream. Our asylums are full of people who think they’re Napoleon….or God,’” DR. NO, 1962.)
NO ATTENTION TO HISTORY:
(“The bomb would irradiate all the gold inside the building and make it unusable….international liquidity would seize up, and the Western trade and monetary system would collapse.” Auric Goldfinger, 1964, GOLDFINGER, describing Operation Meltdown.)
“Increasingly, policy makers and legislators seemed to overlook the fact that our under regulated Wall Street could create havoc that wasn’t confined to the financial system itself but stretched well into the broader economy and society,” said Suzanne McGee in Chasing Goldman Sachs.
Crown Publishing Group, Random House, Inc., New York, 2010, www.crownpublishing.com.
Dr. Ron Paul, a Republican member of Congress from Texas, said on April 27, 2010, Socialism vs. Corporatism, that calling President Obama a Socialist was not entirely accurate: Socialism is a system where the government directly owns and manages business; Corporatism is a system where businesses are nominally in private hand, but are in fact controlled by the government – they acted in collusion with their favored business interests with policies that cater to interests in a monopoly position to the danger of “both competitors and consumers.” Obama was a cunning version of Socialism-Plus-Corporatism. Hitler had a similar scheme during the rise of the Nazi party whereby he was funded by international corporate concerns.
Author Jim Marrs saw this culmination in the New World Order promised by Adolf Hitler and signed off by President H.W. Bush. These Globalists are above petty nationalism and are now guided by what Janine Wedel spoke of in Shadow Elite as “flexions” who manipulate global economics as “poker chips” in some vast, unseen, poker game — or some Ponzi Scheme of which they stand aloof and above — and utilize to their own advantage.
The Rockefellers, Jack Schiff, Elihu Root, J.P. Morgan, The Harriman family, others, sponsored the Russian Revolution and the Bolsheviks. The same globalists sponsored National Socialism in Germany; John J. McCloy, Schroeder Bank attorneys Allen Dulles and John Foster Dulles, Prescott Bush, director of Union Banking Corporation and the Hamburg America Shipping Line.
The late Hollywood producer Aaron Russo quoted Nick Rockefeller (a participant in the World Economic Forum and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations): “The end goal is to get everybody chipped, to control the whole society, to have bankers and the elite people control the world.”
Attempts to bare-down on such rumination lies chiefly with The Volcker Rule, Basel Regulations, House Rule 4173, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009, Senate Bill 53217, Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010, and lastly the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010: none of these appeared to be adequate to stem the freak wave of corruption that continues to have occurred. There is even added skepticism to the proposed Brown-Vitter Bill of April, 2013, otherwise known as the TBTF Act.
Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa, Michel Chrossudovsky, stated as early as 1997, that “failure of the dominant neo-liberal system inherited from the Reagan Thatcher era” stifled the growth of consumer spending, broaching the need for macro-economic reform: “….causes capital flight ….reduces state tax revenues, paralyses social programs, drives up budget deficits, and spurs the accumulation of large public debts….the accumulation of financial wealth feeds on poverty and low wages.”
The Globalization of Poverty, Impacts of IMF and World Bank Reforms; 1997.
Economist Tyler Durden spoke of such worldwide shenanigans when he outlined and genuflected on January 19, 2011, November 26, 2011 and June 5, 2011: His comments were weighted and highlighted concerning a $213-trillion-dollar-up and through $600 to $710-trillion-dollar global debt in the interest rate ad credit default swap markets. Durden said our awesome concern should be with the “….key exchanges…proactively engage in some risk-mitigation when it comes to the one biggest ticking time bomb in capital markets….CDS markets(s).”
NO PROSECUTION AT THE CORE
The Federal Department of Justice has yet to successfully bring jail sentences and prosecution to any of the top-ranking or major players in the Worldwide Financial Crisis, and it may or may not be for lack of trying.
It would be wishful-thinking to sum-up all crimes related to the 2008 Financial Crisis as merely drastic missteps or systemic disease, which it was, but rather openly acknowledge it for what continues to be additionally: Criminal Conspiracy to defraud the American and Global Communities. To do this, a ‘Shadow Government’ had to be instituted around the globe to move and spirit laundered money secretly through drug cartels and various hidden pipelines: The money-laundering cabals that the world economy relied on and hid beneath. At the time of the last Crisis, Antonio Maria Costa, then head of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, spoke of the money laundering ‘pipelines’ as the “only liquid investment capital” that kept the economy afloat.
Ed Vulliam, Saturday, April 2, 2011, the Guardian, The Observer.
Part II will be published on Tuesday, May 14, 2013.