bob obrien's Sanity Check: Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Do I Seem Annoyed To You?
Do I seem a little testy? A little jittery? On edge? Maybe a tad out of sorts? Try this quote from the March 25 issue of Euromoney, a respected periodical from Europe that just released a stunningly complete assessment of the fail to deliver phenomena and the SEC's shocking lack of interest in enforcing any of the laws designed to protect investors, and hence deciding to grandfather in all fails prior to January of this year:
<<The SEC's Brigagliano says the commission made a choice. "We were concerned about generating volatility where there were large pre-existing open positions, and we wanted to start afresh with new regulation, not re-write history." >>
Come again? Huh? Let me get this straight. The SEC decided that they didn't want to "generate volatility" - a euphemism for not wanting to cause short squeezes for those who had systematically violated the law and created large slugs of counterfeit stock. Tut tut, we wouldn't want to inconvenience those that had robbed investors and companies by systematically printing bogus stock, abusing the DTCC and NSCC's borrow programs (which the DTCC conflictingly says doesn't occur) - no, wouldn't want them to have to experience the volatility that comes from having to buy in those profitable fail positions that had bankrupted investors and companies alike.
Of note is that the SEC acknowledges that there are large pre-existing failed positions. Doesn't dispute it, as people like Mark Cuban and Jeff Matthews do. They don't try to say there aren't large positions, nor that they aren't a huge problem. Nope. Just that they made an executive decision that they aren't empowered to make, namely to effectively grant a pardon to those who by their own admission broke the laws on the books. That's what it means, folks. No translation necessary, really.
So we go from the DTCC's position, which is "it's all in your head," to the SEC's admission that it isn't, that there are large positions of fails, but that instead of doing their duty and enforcing the law, they chose to hand out get out of jail free cards.
Two points. 1) Under what authority can the SEC decide to just allow a large, unauthorized float of unregistered securities to exist in perpetuity? And 2) Who at the SEC decided that the interests of the brokers and hedge funds that had systematically created those huge fail positions that the SEC isn't even disputing are real were more important than protecting the interests of the investors and companies they are chartered with protecting?
I´d love to understand that reasoning. As an investor who has lost a considerable sum of money in a Reg SHO list company - NFI - I would be very interested in what specific individual decided that my lost money was OK to leave lost, so that those that stole it wouldn't be troubled by volatility. I would bet that investors can find an attorney that would be willing to name them personally for dereliction of their duty - in fact, I'll bet that they can find several guys willing to file a class action naming the individual for deciding to protect the brokers, over doing their mandated duty.
Here´s another gem from the articles:
<<Susan Petersen, a special counsel in the SEC's division of market regulation, says that it does not make public the exact amount of fails-to-deliver, as it would potentially have negative effects on investors and broker/dealers by revealing trading strategies.>>
Huh? You mean it would reveal the illegal trading strategies that are creating large fail to deliver positions? Wow. Wouldn't want to do that, would we? Isn´t the charter of the SEC to protect those that are using illegal trading practices to profit, and to hide information that would reveal their illegal activities at all costs?
Did I miss that memo? Here is an SEC official, on record, stating that the exact reason that they won´t publish the number of fails is the reason I have publicly speculated: they don´t want the light of exposure to reveal illegal and manipulative trading techniques, and they are choosing to protect the investors (hedge funds) and broker/dealers employing those trading techniques rather than the companies and investors they are chartered with protecting. And they are now on record as stating as much.
So how badly broken does the system have to admit that it is before someone does something about it? These are just two quotes from our regulators that clearly, unequivocally articulate that the SEC is not doing its job, is in fact aiding and abetting those that are breaking the rules, and is covering up the info that would reveal how big the problem is. They don´t even bother to deny it - they just come right out and say it.
Do any of the apologists who deny the existence of the problem want to bite this one off? Perhaps help Senator Bennett and the Senate Banking committee understand how approving an unauthorized, unregistered float of unknown size is a good thing, how refusing to divulge information as to the extent of the problem (for the sole and admitted reason of protecting the bad guys from the consequences of their actions) is a good thing, how dismissing the chronic, acknowledged large fail problem that came about from failing to enforce the rules with a regal wave of the hand (we want to start off with a blank canvas, after all, and all those prior episodes of violating the rules on the books for 71 years are just so, well, messy and inconvenient) is a good thing, and how allowing people with this mindset (blame the victim, protect the criminals, dismiss investors as dispensable and unworthy of protection) to continue in their roles is a good thing?
This sickens me. I could go on. There are plenty of other examples of the SEC´s imperious disregard for our wellbeing in the articles. It becomes clear as you allow these people to talk that they view their job as maintaining the status quo and easing the way for Wall Street to screw us. Protecting us is of no concern. Protecting the entities who are destroying the markets and violating every rule they come across is the imperative.
If you aren´t furious, you are an idiot. Or one of the criminals. It´s that simple. And it took a European magazine that goes out to European CEO´s and CFO´s to capture the extent of the morbidity and corruption - not an American publication. Our reporters are far too busy reassuring everyone that there is no problem - that´s the popular bromide du jour of the American press, with few exceptions. Any of you high minded media wonks want to tackle these statements by our regulators? Or will we be treated to more "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" dross from an industry where comprehension of the problem, much less the honest reporting of it, is off-limits?
I am sickened. It is as bad as previously thought. Worse. Dateline will undoubtedly blow the lid off this, as will the outrage generated by quotes like the two I highlighted. The video at http://tinyurl.com/5vq8y
that many of the apologists for Wall Street have been busy trying to dismiss and undermine as being alarmist actually is moderate, and fails to reveal the full extent of the corruption of our system. Then again, it only has 3 minutes to get the point across. The text of two of the articles is an astounding indictment of a system run amuck.
You should be very, very worried. The message is clear - the equities markets are not safe, the regulators are uninterested in making them so, and there is so much money being made by the bad guys that they have been able to co-opt the system for their personal benefit. And that is the tame version. Anyone with the ability to read the articles will get the not so tame version. It is as ugly as anything I could conjur up in my most ugly, dark moments.
And that says a lot.
ps. Yeah, it does make me want to puke or worse. This a call to action folks.
IMSO...all forms of shorting needs to go.