Monday, 13 October 2008

The Woman Who Could Have Prevented This Financial Mess Was Silenced by Greenspan, Rubin and Summers

More than a decade ago, a woman you're likely never to have heard of, Brooksley Born, head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission -- a federal agency that regulates options and futures trading -- was the oracle whose warnings about the dangerous boom in derivatives trading just might have averted the calamitous bust now engulfing the US and global markets. Instead she was met with scorn, condescension and outright anger by former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and his deputy Lawrence Summers. In fact, Greenspan, the man some affectionately called "The Oracle," spent his political capital cheerleading these disastrous financial instruments.

On Thursday, the New York Times ran a masterful and revealing front page article exposing the culpability of Greenspan, Rubin and Summers for the era of dangerous turbulence we live in.

What these "three marketeers" -- as they were called in a 1999 Time magazine cover story -- were adept at was peddling the timebombs at the heart of this complex crisis: exotic and opaque financial instruments known as derivatives -- contracts intended to hedge against risk and whose values are derived from underlying assets. To cut to the quick, Greenspan, Rubin and Summers opposed regulating them. "Proposals to bring even minimalist regulation were basically rebuffed by Greenspan and various people in the Treasury," recalls Alan Blinder, a former Federal Reserve board member and economist at Princeton University, in the Times article.

In 1997, Brooksley Born warned in congressional testimony that unregulated trading in derivatives could "threaten our regulated markets or, indeed, our economy without any federal agency knowing about it." Born called for greater transparency -- disclosure of trades and reserves as a buffer against losses.

Instead of heeding this oracle's warnings, Greenspan, Rubin & Summers rushed to silence her.
http://www.alternet.org/workplace/102559/the_woman_who_could_have_prevented_this_financial_mess_was_silenced_by_greenspan,_rubin_and_summers/?comments=view&cID=1032149&pID=1032115#c1032149

Greenspan and his friends did everything they could to allow the economy to inflate and ignored the massive risks of doing so.


[Posted at the SpookyWeather blog, October 13th, 2008.]

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