Matt Taibbi: Everything Is Rigged

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I think we are all beginning to draw the same conclusion as Matt Taibbi.

rollingstoneConspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game. We found this out in recent months, when a series of related corruption stories spilled out of the financial sector, suggesting the world’s largest banks may be fixing the prices of, well, just about everything.

You may have heard of the Libor scandal, in which at least three – and perhaps as many as 16 – of the name-brand too-big-to-fail banks have been manipulating global interest rates, in the process messing around with the prices of upward of $500 trillion (that’s trillion, with a “t”) worth of financial instruments. When that sprawling con burst into public view last year, it was easily the biggest financial scandal in history – MIT professor Andrew Lo even said it “dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scam in the history of markets.”

That was bad enough, but now Libor may have a twin brother. Word has leaked out that the London-based firm ICAP, the world’s largest broker of interest-rate swaps, is being investigated by American authorities for behavior that sounds eerily reminiscent of the Libor mess. Regulators are looking into whether or not a small group of brokers at ICAP may have worked with up to 15 of the world’s largest banks to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark number used around the world to calculate the prices of interest-rate swaps.

Interest-rate swaps are a tool used by big cities, major corporations and sovereign governments to manage their debt, and the scale of their use is almost unimaginably massive. It’s about a $379 trillion market, meaning that any manipulation would affect a pile of assets about 100 times the size of the United States federal budget.

It should surprise no one that among the players implicated in this scheme to fix the prices of interest-rate swaps are the same megabanks – including Barclays, UBS, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and the Royal Bank of Scotland – that serve on the Libor panel that sets global interest rates. In fact, in recent years many of these banks have already paid multimillion-dollar settlements for anti-competitive manipulation of one form or another (in addition to Libor, some were caught up in an anti-competitive scheme, detailed in Rolling Stone last year, to rig municipal-debt service auctions). Though the jumble of financial acronyms sounds like gibberish to the layperson, the fact that there may now be price-fixing scandals involving both Libor and ISDAfix suggests a single, giant mushrooming conspiracy of collusion and price-fixing hovering under the ostensibly competitive veneer of Wall Street culture.

The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia

Why? Because Libor already affects the prices of interest-rate swaps, making this a manipulation-on-manipulation situation. If the allegations prove to be right, that will mean that swap customers have been paying for two different layers of price-fixing corruption. If you can imagine paying 20 bucks for a crappy PB&J because some evil cabal of agribusiness companies colluded to fix the prices of both peanuts and peanut butter, you come close to grasping the lunacy of financial markets where both interest rates and interest-rate swaps are being manipulated at the same time, often by the same banks.

“It’s a double conspiracy,” says an amazed Michael Greenberger, a former director of the trading and markets division at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and now a professor at the University of Maryland. “It’s the height of criminality.”

Even the courts came down on the side of the market riggers, saying it was your fault if you were a victim. Thats like telling someone who got mugged “well you shouldn’t have had money in your pocket in the first place”.

The bad news didn’t stop with swaps and interest rates. In March, it also came out that two regulators – the CFTC here in the U.S. and the Madrid-based International Organization of Securities Commissions – were spurred by the Libor revelations to investigate the possibility of collusive manipulation of gold and silver prices. “Given the clubby manipulation efforts we saw in Libor benchmarks, I assume other benchmarks – many other benchmarks – are legit areas of inquiry,” CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton said.

But the biggest shock came out of a federal courtroom at the end of March – though if you follow these matters closely, it may not have been so shocking at all – when a landmark class-action civil lawsuit against the banks for Libor-related offenses was dismissed. In that case, a federal judge accepted the banker-defendants’ incredible argument: If cities and towns and other investors lost money because of Libor manipulation, that was their own fault for ever thinking the banks were competing in the first place.

“A farce,” was one antitrust lawyer’s response to the eyebrow-raising dismissal.

“Incredible,” says Sylvia Sokol, an attorney for Constantine Cannon, a firm that specializes in antitrust cases.

All of these stories collectively pointed to the same thing: These banks, which already possess enormous power just by virtue of their financial holdings – in the United States, the top six banks, many of them the same names you see on the Libor and ISDAfix panels, own assets equivalent to 60 percent of the nation’s GDP – are beginning to realize the awesome possibilities for increased profit and political might that would come with colluding instead of competing. Moreover, it’s increasingly clear that both the criminal justice system and the civil courts may be impotent to stop them, even when they do get caught working together to game the system.

If true, that would leave us living in an era of undisguised, real-world conspiracy, in which the prices of currencies, commodities like gold and silver, even interest rates and the value of money itself, can be and may already have been dictated from above. And those who are doing it can get away with it. Forget the Illuminati – this is the real thing, and it’s no secret. You can stare right at it, anytime you want.

We have given the bankers the opportunity to set markets based on their own data.

The banks found a loophole, a basic flaw in the machine. Across the financial system, there are places where prices or official indices are set based upon unverified data sent in by private banks and financial companies. In other words, we gave the players with incentives to game the system institutional roles in the economic infrastructure.

Libor, which measures the prices banks charge one another to borrow money, is a perfect example, not only of this basic flaw in the price-setting system but of the weakness in the regulatory framework supposedly policing it. Couple a voluntary reporting scheme with too-big-to-fail status and a revolving-door legal system, and what you get is unstoppable corruption.

Every morning, 18 of the world’s biggest banks submit data to an office in London about how much they believe they would have to pay to borrow from other banks. The 18 banks together are called the “Libor panel,” and when all of these data from all 18 panelist banks are collected, the numbers are averaged out. What emerges, every morning at 11:30 London time, are the daily Libor figures.

Banks submit numbers about borrowing in 10 different currencies across 15 different time periods, e.g., loans as short as one day and as long as one year. This mountain of bank-submitted data is used every day to create benchmark rates that affect the prices of everything from credit cards to mortgages to currencies to commercial loans (both short- and long-term) to swaps.

The Libor rigging was staggering and the fines when dished out were minor.

Hundreds of similar exchanges were uncovered when regulators like Britain’s Financial Services Authority and the U.S. Justice Department started burrowing into the befouled entrails of Libor. The documentary evidence of anti-competitive manipulation they found was so overwhelming that, to read it, one almost becomes embarrassed for the banks. “It’s just amazing how Libor fixing can make you that much money,” chirped one yen trader. “Pure manipulation going on,” wrote another.


Michael Hausfeld of Hausfeld LLP, one of the lead lawyers for the plaintiffs in this Libor suit, declined to comment specifically on the dismissal. But he did talk about the significance of the Libor case and other manipulation cases now in the pipeline.

“It’s now evident that there is a ubiquitous culture among the banks to collude and cheat their customers as many times as they can in as many forms as they can conceive,” he said. “And that’s not just surmising. This is just based upon what they’ve been caught at.”

Greenberger says the lack of serious consequences for the Libor scandal has only made other kinds of manipulation more inevitable. “There’s no therapy like sending those who are used to wearing Gucci shoes to jail,” he says. “But when the attorney general says, ‘I don’t want to indict people,’ it’s the Wild West. There’s no law.”

After Libor rigging, a new market manipulation is coming to light, interest rate swaps.

The problem is, a number of markets feature the same infrastructural weakness that failed in the Libor mess. In the case of interest-rate swaps and the ISDAfix benchmark, the system is very similar to Libor, although the investigation into these markets reportedly focuses on some different types of improprieties.

Though interest-rate swaps are not widely understood outside the finance world, the root concept actually isn’t that hard. If you can imagine taking out a variable-rate mortgage and then paying a bank to make your loan payments fixed, you’ve got the basic idea of an interest-rate swap.

In practice, it might be a country like Greece or a regional government like Jefferson County, Alabama, that borrows money at a variable rate of interest, then later goes to a bank to “swap” that loan to a more predictable fixed rate. In its simplest form, the customer in a swap deal is usually paying a premium for the safety and security of fixed interest rates, while the firm selling the swap is usually betting that it knows more about future movements in interest rates than its customers.

Prices for interest-rate swaps are often based on ISDAfix, which, like Libor, is yet another of these privately calculated benchmarks. ISDAfix’s U.S. dollar rates are published every day, at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., after a gang of the same usual-suspect megabanks (Bank of America, RBS, Deutsche, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, etc.) submits information about bids and offers for swaps.


The idea that prices in a $379 trillion market could be dependent on a desk of about 20 guys in New Jersey should tell you a lot about the absurdity of our financial infrastructure. The whole thing, in fact, has a darkly comic element to it. “It’s almost hilarious in the irony,” says David Frenk, director of research for Better Markets, a financial-reform advocacy group, “that they called it ISDAfix.”

So what about other market manipulation?

After scandals involving libor and, perhaps, ISDAfix, the question that should have everyone freaked out is this: What other markets out there carry the same potential for manipulation? The answer to that question is far from reassuring, because the potential is almost everywhere. From gold to gas to swaps to interest rates, prices all over the world are dependent upon little private cabals of cigar-chomping insiders we’re forced to trust.

“In all the over-the-counter markets, you don’t really have pricing except by a bunch of guys getting together,” Masters notes glumly.

That includes the markets for gold (where prices are set by five banks in a Libor-ish teleconferencing process that, ironically, was created in part by N M Rothschild & Sons) and silver (whose price is set by just three banks), as well as benchmark rates in numerous other commodities – jet fuel, diesel, electric power, coal, you name it. The problem in each of these markets is the same: We all have to rely upon the honesty of companies like Barclays (already caught and fined $453 million for rigging Libor) or JPMorgan Chase (paid a $228 million settlement for rigging municipal-bond auctions) or UBS (fined a collective $1.66 billion for both muni-bond rigging and Libor manipulation) to faithfully report the real prices of things like interest rates, swaps, currencies and commodities.

All of these benchmarks based on voluntary reporting are now being looked at by regulators around the world, and God knows what they’ll find. The European Federation of Financial Services Users wrote in an official EU survey last summer that all of these systems are ripe targets for manipulation. “In general,” it wrote, “those markets which are based on non-attested, voluntary submission of data from agents whose benefits depend on such benchmarks are especially vulnerable of market abuse and distortion.”

Translation: When prices are set by companies that can profit by manipulating them, we’re fucked.

“You name it,” says Frenk. “Any of these benchmarks is a possibility for corruption.”

The only reason this problem has not received the attention it deserves is because the scale of it is so enormous that ordinary people simply cannot see it. It’s not just stealing by reaching a hand into your pocket and taking out money, but stealing in which banks can hit a few keystrokes and magically make whatever’s in your pocket worth less. This is corruption at the molecular level of the economy, Space Age stealing – and it’s only just coming into view.


World Gold Council: Gold Supression Has Failed

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The World Gold Council latest report admits that the gold suppression undertaken by Western elites has failed and gold is poised once again to play a pivotal role in the monetary system.

goldCommissioned by the gold industry’s market development body the World Gold Council, the new 44-page report from the London-based Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) finds that “Western economies have attempted to dismantle gold’s monetary role. “[But] this has failed.”



For full report:

Paper Gold Volumes Vs Physical Gold Volumes

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goldAlthough I have been writing about the subject of gold price manipulation (check out Thunder Report) rarely have I seen the relationship of paper gold sales volume put in context to physical gold sales volume. The figures are quite startling and quite clearly demonstrate that the real price of physical gold is a multitude higher. In Q1 2011, on the LBMA, sales of paper gold per day was the equivalent of over 2 years annual production of gold.

To start with lets take a look at the LBMA and its attitude.

Most gold trading – both physical and paper – clears through the London market, with dealers and banks settling transactions for clients around the world. According to the LBMA website, “a credit balance on a loco London account with an LBMA member represents a holding of gold or silver the same way that a credit balance in the relevant currency represents a holding on account with a New York bank or Tokyo bank.” Further, the LBMA explains “Credit balances on the account do not entitle the creditor to specific bars of gold or silver, but are backed by the general stock of the bullion dealer with whom the account is held. The client is an unsecured creditor.” (London Bullion Market Association, 2012)

Let us pause here to re-emphasize a point. When you deposit money at a New York or Tokyo bank, you no longer own the money. You own a claim – you own bank credit. Banks are free to use deposits as they please – typically as a base to leverage – aka fractional reserve banking. As the LBMA points out, loco London accounts operate in the same way – they are bank credit denominated in gold. So long as the bank meets its’ contractual obligation, paper gold and allocated physical are fungible.

Over the decades, the derivative market for gold has grown exponentially. What began as a means to finance new gold production has morphed into an untenably leveraged marketplace.

To maintain confidence in the USdollar, the gold price must be suppressed.

As long as the marketplace holds “paper” gold on par with physical gold, the dollar price of gold is suppressed because of the new, synthetic paper flow. In order to maintain confidence in the $USD as a store of value – flow of gold bidding for dollars is desperately needed. As we see it, the US Dollars’ ability to function as a store of value, and global reserve currency, is now completely dependent on the continued flow of (and confidence in) ‘paper’ gold.

Paper Gold Volume size Vs Physical Gold Volume.

How big is the flow of this combined market? Total trading volume for 2011 was estimated at 50,459,865,000 ounces. (Gold Fields Mineral Services, 2012) 50 BILLION OUNCES!! As a point of reference, the World Gold Council states that annual mine production for the last 5 years has averaged approximately 83,000,000 ounces, and total above ground stock of physical in all forms is approximately 5,465,500,000 ounces. (World Gold Council, 2012) One might conclude that a significant amount of leverage exists in the gold markets given the fact that in 2011, the volume of paper gold that traded equaled 10x the amount of physical gold that has been mined in history! Consider further that the WGC estimates that only 19% of existing above ground stocks is categorized as “investment”, and nowhere near all of that 19% sits in LBMA vaults in good delivery form, ready to satisfy paper claims. Further, Central Banks (estimated to hold approximately 20% of the gold stock) today are net buyers – not sellers.

The last liquidity survey by the LBMA of its members revealed some startling information regarding paper gold sales volumes.

By August 2011, 36 of the 56 Full LBMA trading members submitted returns for the new survey, and the results were rather shocking. Quietly, the size of the “paper” gold market had grown to monstrous proportions – successfully creating a tsunami of paper gold flow. In fact, according to the Q1 2011 LBMA Liquidity survey, over 173,713,000 ounces or 5,400 tons of “paper gold” per day (more than 2 year annual physical production) turns over with only 2/3 of LBMA members reporting!

Looking to the COMEX we can get another glimpse of the ratio of paper contracts to the physical.

How many paper claims exist on the relatively small stock of bullion? For a few hints, we can look to the COMEX. As of October 30, 2012 COMEX gold Open Interest equaled 454,742 contracts (45,474,200 ounces of gold). COMEX registered inventory stood at 2,735,041 ounces for a factor of 16.6X. (CME Group, 2012)

Is a leverage factor of 16 enough for you to take action? For some very prominent fiduciaries, the answer is a resounding “YES”. In a 2011 interview Kyle Bass of Hayman Capital (who helped the University of Texas Endowment take delivery of nearly $1 Billion in physical gold bullion) described a conversation he had with an exchange official:

“When I talked to the head of deliveries at COMEX NYMEX, I was like, ‘What if 4% of the people want deliveries?’ He said, ‘Oh Kyle, that never happens. We rarely ever get a 1% delivery.’ And I asked, ‘Well, what if it does happen?’ And he said, ‘Price will solve everything’ and I said, ‘THANKS, GIVE ME THE GOLD’ – (Bass, 2011).


When looking at the demand figures, you would normally expect the price to sky rocket, but not gold.

Let’s look at the leverage a different way. In 1Q11, the 36 reporting members of the LBMA disclosed gold sales of 5,593,743,000 ounces versus purchases of 5,350,183,000 ounces (see line 1 – London Turnover). Based on the survey, we deduce that in 1Q11 excess demand for gold was 243,560,000 ounces which translates into approximately 7,575 metric tons. In a typical year, quarterly physical production (new mining supply) is approximately 625 tons. One would imagine that with a traditional commodity, physical demand outstripping new supply in a given quarter by a factor of 10 would cause a significant increase in price!! And for commodities like copper, corn, or cotton that would certainly be true. Yet during 1Q11, the price of gold rose from $1410 to $1439…a $29 dollar per ounce increase. (LBMA, 2011)

So with the true price of gold masked behind the paper gold price, the smart hands are holding onto their physical. Where does that leave the true price?

We believe that the largest holders of physical gold have very strong hands – and $1,400 per ounce is nowhere near high enough a price to coax significant new flow into the market. As a simple mind exercise, let’s imagine this dollar denominated gold demand was met exclusively from new mine production – no paper flow and no existing physical bidding for dollars. Based on the LBMA liquidity survey and WGC data, newly mined (average) per quarter flow of 625 tons physical gold would have needed to absorb 100% of that $337 Billion dollar demand. And in order to do so – gold could not have been at $1,400/oz. Instead, to clear the market gold would have averaged a price of $16,920! This is a partial glimpse at the true Freegold concept (Another, 1997) – no paper gold flow – a return to a purely physical marketplace. Although this may sound like an amazing price – if we apply a “reserve” factor of 16.6 to the LBMA demand statistics, we’d suggest that $16,000 gold would be a bargain. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Finally, the best description of paper gold yet..

Paper Gold is just like allocated, unambiguously owned physical bullion…until it’s not.

Source: ZeroHedge

Massive Attempt At Silver Price Manipulation

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Yes we all know who as a vested interest in making sure silver does not take off. Over the weekend paper silver was sold off in huge volumes(6 month total US silver supply in minutes) again to try to smash the momentum since the recent QEver announcement from the Fed. What I enjoy most from these stories is that eventually the dam will burst and will be interesting to see the manipulators panic. Excellent work from SilverDoctors below:

Apparently Blythe’s monkey’s are burning the Sunday midnight oil in order to prevent silver clearing $36 and triggering JPM’s rumored silver derivative losses.

A miniature replica of the May 2nd, 2011 drive by shooting was just completed, as silver was knocked down the proverbial mine-shaft moments ago, dropping nearly a dollar in nano-seconds on Monday’s Asian open.

Volume data indicates that 3,297 contracts, or 16.5 million paper ounces of silver were dumped on the market in a mere 5 minutes between 9:00 and 9:05pm EST.
In other words, approximately 1/2 of the entire US annual silver production was dumped on the market by the cartel in a 5 minute period on a Sunday night.

Silver was drifting under $34.50 prior to the raid which knocked .80 off the metal nearly instantaneously at precisely 9:00pm EST:

Did Bank Of England Instructs Barclays to Manipulate LIBOR Rates?

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Check out the BBC reporting on how Bob Diamond met Paul Tucker (Deputy Governor)of the Bank of England who allegedly instructed Barclays to manipulate the LIBOR rates. Make your own mind up.

Nothing shocks these days 😉

GDP Rigging

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Karl Denninger of Market Ticker writes of the bush tax cuts and Obama’s payroll tax cuts expiring and how easy it was to use these to manipulate GDP figures to make it appear the economy has grown.

First comes the simple explaination of how GDP is calculated

Remember folks that GDP = C + I + G + (x – i)

That is, private Consumption + private Investment + Government (spending) + (net exports)

If taxes go up then either “C” or “I” must go down, since only people pay taxes.  That is, you must either consume less to pay the tax or invest less (it’s a balance sheet; it must balance.)

Government spending decreases of course make “G” go down.

Now remember that during this entire debate nobody has talked about what deficit spending really does and why it’s impossible to maintain it forever. 

Government deficit spending simply increases GDP by fraudulently inflating credit money.  That is, it makes “GDP” go up (mathematically) but does so by increasing the denominator of all monetary units in the system, and therefore causes prices to rise since again, for each unit of GDP produced one unit of money (or credit) must exist to purchase it.

That is, GDP = (m + c)  (money plus credit) by definition.

Or, if you prefer:

GDP / (m + c) = 1

Now, how MSM (presstitutes) ignore the manipulation of GDP figures

This means that for each unit of GDP if you emit more credit money into the system then each unit becomes worth less and buys less.

But that’s never discussed in the mainstream media.  Now, however, the converse is being discussed.  The common claim is that about 3% of GDP will “disappear”, or $450 billion a year.  That’s the sum of the expiring tax cuts + the sequester.

Heh wait a second!  If that’s what happens to GDP when that goes away then you’ve just admitted that arithmetic is still truth and that GDP has been fraudulently inflated by these very same deficit-spending games and since the means of doing so was to emit more credit money into the system (the selling of bonds by the government) the average person in the nation has had their purchasing power debased by the exact same amount.

I love it when the punditry accidentally tells the truth and gets caught in their own trap, validating the very points I’ve been pounding the table on for years.

GATA’s Bill Murphy Talks Of Gold Manipulation on Capital Account

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30 April 2012 – GATA’s Bill Murphy is interviewed on Capital Account.

  • Gold is unique as an asset class that is over 12 years on bull run.
  • Gold Cartel consists of Bullion Banks(HSBC, JPMorgan), the Treasury FED, BIS.
  • Cartel trying to slow down the asscent of gold (managed retreat).
  • Gold will eventually have to trade freely.
  • Gold is a barometer of financial health and this is the reason why its attacked.
  • Evidence has been gathered of manipulation since 1999.
  • The attacks are at certain times of day. (e.g. 3am New York time), attacks even when there is no news.
  • Central Banks are loading up on gold on the dips because they know how the Gold Cartel works.
  • Russia and China are very interested in how the Gold Cartel works and have approached GATA.

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