Wednesday, 09 December 2009 00:00

Financial Innovation vs Financial Fraud

I was reading a post by George Washington over at ZeroHedge that actually spurred the following rant. An excerpt reads:

The Telegraph notes:

The former US Federal Reserve chairman told an audience that included some of the world's most senior financiers that their industry's "single most important" contribution in the last 25 years has been automatic telling machines, which he said had at least proved "useful".

Echoing FSA chairman Lord Turner's comments that banks are "socially useless", Mr Volcker told delegates who had been discussing how to rebuild the financial system to "wake up". He said credit default swaps and collateralised debt obligations had taken the economy "right to the brink of disaster" and added that the economy had grown at "greater rates of speed" during the 1960s without such products.

When one stunned audience member suggested that Mr Volcker did not really mean bond markets and securitisations had contributed "nothing at all", he replied: "You can innovate as much as you like, but do it within a structure that doesn't put the whole economy at risk."

He said he agreed with George Soros, the billionaire investor, who said investment banks must stick to serving clients and "proprietary trading should be pushed out of investment banks and to hedge funds where they belong".

It is not just George Soros.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb has repeatedly said that speculation should be limited to hedge funds, and that banks should solely engage in traditional depository functions, and - because of their power to create credit - be treated as public utilities.

Many other top economists and financial experts have said that financial innovation is harmful, and have called for reimposing Glass-Steagall and for separating traditional banking from investment banking.

What got me started was the use, and misuse, of the term "innovation".

It is not financial innovation that must be curtailed. Innovation, in and of itself, is a very good thing. The issue currently at hand is that it was not financial innovation that got us into this mess. It was fraud innovation. Financial engineers attempted to create methods of circumventing regulations, laws, prudent risk management, common sense and mean market returns. For instance, taking $100 million of junk status mortgages and creating $300 million of so-called AAA exposure out of it (MBS, CDO's, CDO cubed, credit lines supporting CDO's, CDS protecting the CDO exposure. etc. - all from a simple mortgage that no one thought would be paid in the first place). That is not innovation, that is called LYING! It was thinly veiled fraud. This lying, in turn, was labeled "innovation", which it absolutely was not, and the moniker has been carried on in the media ever since.

Innovation is the personal computer! Innovation is the smart phone! Innovation is mapping the human genome! Innovation can be found in stem cell research! Innovation is discovering new ways of human learning and social interaction. All of these examples of innovation make society more productive, and more efficient. It harms none but those who would be relegated to the annals of obscelence anyway. But CDOs and credit defaults swaps as innovation!!! I'm afraid not. I bitched about this as far back as two years ago in "Welcome to the World of Dr. FrankenFinance!" There are forms of finance that are innovative, but they have nothing to do with the current malarky.

Then we have "the Great Global Macro Experiment", in which today's central bankers can be likened to mad scientists. The reflexive relationship between private sector bankers' (the Frankenstein monster's) faux "innovations" and their public sector "mad scientist" (Dr. Frnakenstein) counterparts will destroy the developed economies as we know them unless this ridiculous boom/bust cycle is put to an end. The quickest and most efficient way to do that is to let overpriced bubble assets deflate in due course and have the markets reflate them naturally based on fundamental values and stable macroeconomic conditions - and NOT through artificial (hence unsustainable, causing another boom/bust cycle) boosting of risky asset prices and synthetic suppressing of market rates in order to stimulate unsustainable demand that would have been there in a sustainable fashion in the first place if risky asset prices were allowed to deflate.

Yes, I know it's a run-on sentence, but why stop when I'm amped. I also know why the mad scientist central bankers will not let the Frankenstien assets properly correct. If they do, then it will throw the existing oligarchy off of their perch. I have dedicated several posts to this socio-economic stratification dilemma that is known as class conflict. See "You've Been Bamboozled, Hoodwinked and Lied To! Here's the Proof. What Are You Going to Do About It?" for an example of exactly what I mean. That is why the media preached "the world is coming to an end" in 2008. Read my blog. I predicted the series of events that led up to the meltdown quite accurately, and publicly (look here for the proof). Take it from someone who demonstrated that they saw what was going on well in advance. THE world was definitely not coming to an end. THEIR world was coming to an end. MY world was just experiencing a much needed, albeit a very serious, and well telegraphed correction, in the form of a near depression that would have wiped out most of the unproductive financial and (dare I utter it) intellectual capital to make room for the stuff that would move us into the next phase of productivity for the new millenium.

The "mad scientists" have prevented that cleaning of the house, and here we are now - most likely about to hit that depression-like correction anyway, and having wasted trillions of dollars of taxpayer financial capital in an attempt to save an unproductive oligarchy to which I do not belong.

Last modified on Wednesday, 09 December 2009 00:00