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Geithner Promotes Megabanks' Monopoly, in DC as at Fed, 17 Cut to 7 on Derivatives

Byline: Matthew R. Lee of Inner City Press on Wall Street: News Analysis

NEW YORK, March 28 -- Seven megabanks' renewed grab for monopoly power in the over the counter derivatives market shows how little Wall Street's real power has changed in the transition from the Bush to Obama administrations.

  The banks, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Barclays, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank, are paying over $1 million to p.r. firm Prism Public Affairs to "educate" the voters weary of bonus and bailouts that those who caused the crisis should benefit from it.

  Already, Congress members hungry for campaign contribution have submitted to closed door briefings by Ed Rosen of the law firm Cleary Gottlieb, who drafted the legislative language for monopoly.

  The connector in this story is Timothy Geithner, under Bush the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and now Obama's Treasury Secretary. Geithner in June 2008 convened closed door meetings with 17 banks, essentially allowing them to propose and draft their own rules for the derivatives market.

    This led to advocacy by the Fair Finance Watch that Geithner's meetings were in fact rule making that excluded the public in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, and by Inner City Press, as media, to get the meetings opened to journalists and the public.

  The Administrative Procedures Act (5 U.S.C. Section 553) and related laws require that when the government engaged in rule-making, it must provide notice to the public, and allow and weigh public comments.  The New York Fed under Geithner tried to rule-make without any involvement by the public, even the public most impacted by the subprime lending that underlies these processes. The New York Fed on June 9, 2008 met with a group of the largest banks to discuss, according to the Geithner himself

"Regulatory policy. These are the incentives and constraints designed to affect the level and concentration of risk-taking across the financial system. You can think of these as a financial analog to imposing speed limits and requiring air bags and antilock brakes in cars, or establishing building codes in earthquake zones. Regulatory structure. This is about who is responsible for setting and enforcing those rules. Crisis management. This is about when and how we intervene and about the expectations we create for official intervention in crises."

     Press accounts made clear that the financial instruments and regulatory issues discussed behind closed doors are related to issues of public interest, which in fact are disproportionately impacting low- and moderate- income people and communities of color -- subprime and predatory mortgages.

Geithner, next to Obama, monopoly of 7 banks not shown

The financial institutions invited, in mid 2008, were:

Bank of America, N.A. - Barclays Capital - BNP Paribas - Citigroup - Credit Suisse - Deutsche Bank AG - Dresdner Kleinwort - Goldman, Sachs & Co. - HSBC Group - JPMorgan Chase - Lehman Brothers - Merrill Lynch & Co. - Morgan Stanley - The Royal Bank of Scotland Group - Societe Generale - UBS AG - Wachovia Bank, N.A.
Buy-Side Firms: AllianceBernstein - BlueMountain Capital Management LLC - Citadel Investment Group, L.L.C.

  Fast forward to March 2009, with Geithner despite tax evasion installed as Obama's Secretary of the Treasury, and with Lehman have failed and Wachovia been swallowed by Wells Fargo. Now he is promoting monopoly powers in the market for an even smaller group of banks, just seven: Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Barclays, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank -- which despite European headquarters received billions of dollars in U.S. Troubled Assets Relief Program bailout funds through AIG.

  Now the idea is to formalize the monopoly through legislation, not rule making. Industry friendly Congress people like Connecticut's Chris Dodd are supporting the monopoly for the privileged. The fig leaf policy argument is that derivatives should runs through regulated banks. The push is made now, before it is formalized that non-banks, too, are regulated.  It is a pure power grab, with Timothy Geithner as the connector. And who is fighting this monopoly of the morally if not financially bankrupt? To be continued.

 A new Inner City Press debate will appear over the weekend here.

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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