Ann Pettifor

Where are the Guardians of the US’s Finances?

By Ann Pettifor,

Ambrose Evans Pritchard, economics editor on the Daily Telegraph, is one of the few B ritish journalists to have a grasp of scale of the threat posed by the coming first world debt crisis. On the 26th June, he reported on the latest scandal to hit the US finance sector: the failure of Bear Stearns to mark their debts to market. This and other regulatory failures means, according to Lombard Street Research, that ‘a severe credit crunch’ is imminent…

‘The United States faces a severe credit crunch as mounting losses on risky forms of debt catch up with the banks and force them to curb lending and call in existing loans, according to a report by Lombard Street Research.

‘The group said the fast-moving crisis at two Bear Stearns hedge funds had exposed the underlying rot in the US sub-prime mortgage market, and the vast nexus of collateralised debt obligations known as CDOs.

“Excess liquidity in the global system will be slashed,” it said. “Banks’ capital is about to be decimated, which will require calling in a swathe of loans. This is going to aggravate the US hard landing.”

‘Charles Dumas, the group’s global strategist, said the failed auction of assets seized from one of the Bear Stearns funds by Merrill Lynch had revealed the dark secret of the CDO debt market. The sale had to be called off after buyers took just $200m of the $850m mix.

“The banks were not prepared to bid over 85pc of face value for CDOs rated “A” or better,” he said.

“God knows how low the price would have dropped if they had kept on going. We hear buyers were lobbing bids at just 30pc.

We don’t know what the value of this debt is because the investment banks shut down the market in a cover-up so that nobody would know. There is $750bn of dubious paper out there in the form of CDOs held by banks that have a total capitalisation of $850bn.” (For more go to his story in the Daily Telegraph of the 26th June, 2007.)

Where were the Guardians of the US’s Finances when investment banks cooked the books in this way? Where were Alan Greenspan, Bernard Bernanke and other official regulators – not to mention the US Treasury Secretary – when innocent investors were encouraged/misled into believing that AAA meant AAA? They were asleep at the wheel of a financial system that is now careering out of control. Investors in particular, and the people of the United States in general are about to get badly hurt by this negligence and skulduggery. They must go after the most culpable – not just at Bear Stearns – but at the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury.


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