Never having to say you’re sorry

bull's eye view photo

For Wall Street, that’s what it means apparently. Torn over whether a Biden win brings joy or misery. Really.

Those with the rosier outlook point to Biden’s mostly pro-business inner circle, his significant campaign contributions from the financial industry and his longtime support of credit card companies located in his home state of Delaware. Plus, a Biden victory would likely be driven by U.S. voters seeking change because they believe the country is a mess. Wall Street thinks it has a strong argument to make that reining in lenders would be a fatal mistake when unemployment is sky-high and the economy remains ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

The enthusiasm, however, is tempered by fears over how much sway Biden will give progressives and their firebrand leaders, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. That’s especially true when it comes to picking appointees to run the powerful agencies that police banks and securities firms, jobs that the activists are mobilizing to fill with industry critics. At a minimum, progressives want to ensure that the days are long over when Democrats appointed officials like Robert Rubin, Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers, who is a key Biden adviser.

The stakes for Wall Street couldn’t be higher. Centrist regulators would be less likely to overturn rule rollbacks approved under Trump that have saved financial firms tens of billions of dollars. Progressive agency heads, on the other hand, could pursue what the C-suite calls the “shame and investigation agenda.” Policies like taxes on trading, curbs on executive pay and even breaking up behemoth banks would be back on the table.

To wonder whether ‘Wall Street’ has some understanding of our current morass, much less the words ‘joy’ or ‘ misery,’ is to weep. Of course they do. Always check the business press if you’re wondering at all about the soul of a consumer society. Mantra for post-2016 world: it’s always worse than you think.

Image: Replica golden calf. Subtlety is NOT their strong point.

Pocket Change

It’s funny, and not ha-ha, but so many people (and you’re related to at least a few of them) spend so much time keeping up with stock market numbers, rises and falls in the Dow, the price of gold other such particularly ridiculous prisms through which to see the world that when you hear/read someone talking sensibly about the the absurd way this “system” is treated and treats itself it can be, well, refreshing.

A federal judge angrily blocked Citigroup’s proposed $285 million settlement over the sale of toxic mortgage debt, excoriating the top U.S. market regulator over how it reaches corporate fraud settlements.

Rakoff called the Citigroup accord too lenient, noting that the bank was charged only with negligence, neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing, and could avoid reimbursing investors for more than $700 million of losses. Private investors cannot bring securities claims based on negligence.

“If the allegations of the complaint are true, this is a very good deal for Citigroup; and, even if they are untrue, it is a mild and modest cost of doing business,” the judge wrote.

The judge basically told the SEC and Citigroup to shove it, interrupting one of the very commonplace, move-along, nothing-to-see-here disgraces taking up valuable time in courthouses across the country. The settlement without any admission of guilt is one of the more nefarious innovations to ever come along, allowing companies to pay their way out of crimes, prep the memory hole and begin the process again as soon as possible. It’s all too cozy, and no one seems to notice anymore. There are no business reporters who take the side of anything but corporations and business. It’s amazing but even a judge paying attention realized that the wash was still dirty after this rinse cycle and decided to plop the whole load back in the machine, hopefully this time with some bleach.  They still continue to call the aggrieved parties ‘investors’ as though it’s somehow the ultimate distinction. It’s really just a description of people who deserve to be ruled by corporations.