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Saturday, February 21, 2009

What if it's ALL a Ponzi scheme -- still more

Earlier, I had the horrifying thought that one of the reasons banks are having such trouble is that there might be hidden Ponzi schemes inside.


Nothing in the last week has made this seem less likely. Many Ponzi schemes have been found in enterprises which are a lot smaller and less complex than the enormous banks, and so the fraud is harder to hide.

Today's Tribune notes that the Commodities Futures Trading Commission has already charged 8 firms this year with defrauding investors (up from 2 this time last year).

Since I have deaf sisters, this one seems particularly sad:
"A complaint Thursday accused Hawaii-based Marvin Cooper of taking $1.4 million from his 125 investors—all of them deaf—to buy himself electronics equipment, flying lessons and a $1 million home...

Ponzi schemes involving foreign currency trading have been so rampant they could 'eat up all of the commissions investigation and litigation resources, and there will be nothing left to protect the integrity of legitimate markets'."


Note that's the CFTC, NOT the SEC. The SEC was involved in its own action against the Stanford group, which seems like an $8 billion Ponzi scheme involving the Bank of Antigua. This is another scheme which had been operating for many years. Heck, the American Stanford became well enough known for his money to get knighted.

The SEC is late to the party. They missed the Bernie Madoff $50 billion fraud despite multiple investigations. The SEC found only minor technical violations. Now, it seems, the Madoff firm had not actually made any trades at all in the past 13 years. Raising the question: if there were no trades at all, what was the SEC looking at?