1982 Household debt in the U.S. — the money owed as individuals was c. 60% of income in 1982.

1995- 2000 Phil Gramm was chairman of the Senate Banking Committee; he was “Washington’s most prominent and outspoken champion of financial deregulation  (Time 2009-04-07).”  

 1998 Powerful lobby groups comprising hedge funds and the banking sector including investment banks defeated Commodity Futures Trading Commission proposal to regulate the burgeoning derivatives market (Kiviat 2008-09-23). 

1999 Phil Gramm “played a leading role in writing and pushing through Congress the 1999 repeal of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial banks from Wall Street (Time 2009-04-07).” 

2000 Phil Gramm “inserted a key provision into the 2000 Commodity Futures Modernization Act that exempted over-the-counter derivatives like credit-default swaps from regulation by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Credit-default swaps took down AIG, which has cost the U.S. $150 billion thus far (Time Special 2009-04-07).” 

Early 2000s Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve chairman, brought in “super-low interest rates”. His assertive insistence on deregulation along with the easy access to credit are now considered to be  leading causes of the mortgage crisis (Time Special 2009-04-07).

2005 Christopher Cox became chairman of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Under his direction the SEC did not insist on greater disclosure of big investment banks like Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch.

2006 Hank Paulson left the top job at Goldman Sachs to become Treasury Secretary. In 2008 during the last year of the Bush Administration, he single-handedly ran the country’s economic policy. Time argued that he was late in battling the financial crisis; he let Lehman Brothers fail; he pushed the big bailout bill through Congress (Time Special 2009-04-07).

2007 Household debt in the U.S. increased to more than 130% of income in 2007. Time magazine special report on the financial crisis lays blame on American consumer enjoyed living beyond their means and becoming dependent on credit.

2008-10 Alan Greenspan admitted in a US “congressional hearing that he had “made a mistake in presuming” that financial firms could regulate themselves (Time Special 2009-04-07).”

For more see 25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis”  Time Magazine.

Kiviat, Barbara. 2008-09-23. “How Much is the SEC’s Cox to Blame?Time Magazine.

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Are these feeder funds like the Ariel Fund, aggrieved victims, conspirators or just professionally negligent and/or incompetent in losing their clients’ money in Madoff’s scheme? Many pocketed hefty fees to fund lifestyles. Bernard L. Madoff was arrested on December 11, 2008 and charged with federal securities laws violations. His highly sophisticated and massive fraud is considered to be the largest in history.

“The complicated relationships between Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, its feeder funds, and those funds’ investors are already creating a complicated tangle of lawsuits, with investors suing both Madoff and the feeder funds, while the feeder funds themselves [. . .] consider their own legal options (FINalternatives 2009-01-08).”

Madoff Feeder Funds: FIM Kingate funds, London, UK; Fairfield Greenwich Group, Conneticut/NY; Ariel Fund,

tags: feeder funds, hedge funds, Madoff, Kingate, Ariel, New York University, white collar crime, regulation, complex financial instruments,
faceted tagging
categories

Webliography and Bibliography

2009-01-08. “Madoff Feeder Funds Consider Lawsuit Against Accused Ponzi Schemer.” FINalternatives: Hedge Funds & Private Equity News.

Berenson, Alex; Konigsberg, Eric. 2008-12-21. “Firm Built on Madoff Ties Faces Tough Questions.New York Times.

The credit crisis erased $14 trillion (McKeef 2008-12-31) from world stock markets in 2008. Where does $14 trillion in world stock markets go? How can that much capital disappear from the market? The infamous year 2008 will be known in the future as the year that fundamental concepts in the moral mathematics of the market were forever changed. This credit crisis was the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s but its ramifications may be even deeper.

                                                                                                                                                                          
100,000,000 dollars How can we visualize a billion dollars? How much more difficult is it to imagine a trillion dollars?

The most recent wiki entry (2009-01-01) describes how any attempt to visualize numbers higher than a million is complicated because there are too systems of numeric names and the difference between the two scales grows as numbers get larger. Million is the same in both scales, but the long-scale billion is a thousand times larger than the short-scale billion, the long-scale trillion is a million times larger than the short-scale trillion. The short scale system is used in the US and a long scale system is used in the UK. The short scale system of numeric names means every new term greater than million is 1,000 times the previous term: “billion” means “a thousand millions” (109), “trillion” means “a thousand billions” (1012), and so on. Long scale refers to a system of numeric names in which every new term greater than million is 1,000,000 times the previous term: “billion” means “a million millions” (1012), “trillion” means “a million billions” (1018). (wiki).”

6 zeros = 1 million, a thousand thousands or (106)1, 000, 000
8 zeros = a hundred million (108) 100, 000, 000 this image
9 zeros = 1 billion in the short scale system used in the US = a thousand millions or (109) or 1,000,000,000
12 zeros = 1 trillion in the short scale system used in the US = “a thousand billions (1012) or 1,000,000,000,000
12 zeros = 1 billion in the long scale system used in the UK: 1,000,000,000,000
18 zeros = 1 trillion in the long scale system used in the UK is a million billions (1018) or 1,000,000,000,000,000,00


1,000,000 6 zeros = 1 million, a thousand thousands or (106)1, 000, 000

This Adobe Photoshop image posted in my ocean.flynn Flickr account was my attempt to visualize 100,000,000 dollars

 “World stock markets ended on an uptick for the year on Wednesday, after some bourses registered their worst annual losses in history. Global stocks as measured by the MSCI world index ended up 0.76 percent for the day and posted their first monthly gain in seven months, but lost 43.36 percent for the year. About $14 trillion (9.6 trillion pounds) in market capitalisation was erased from world stock markets in 2008 in the wake of the worst credit crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. “It has been a shocking year, hardly anything was spared in the carnage,” said Michael Heffernan, strategist at Austock Group in Australia. U.S. stocks edged up on Wednesday and saw their first monthly gain in five months, but the year has been the worst for Wall Street stocks since the Great Depression (McKeef 2008-12-31).”

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McKeef, Clive. 2008-12-31. “World stocks end up after historic losses.” Business News. Reuters.

US Circumlocution Offices [1]: Federal Reserve approved General Motors (GMAC) Financial Services’ application to become a bank-holding company which will let them benefit from government bailout dollars. New York University sued Merkin GMAC chairman for feeding money to Madoff and concealing involvement from investors like NYU.

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Notes

1. Charles Dickens invented the term Circumlocution Offices to describe governmental and bureaucratic indolence and incompetence. By passing work through many hands of the Circumlocution Offices, it is easy to avoid doing anything. Dickens’ character in Little Dorrit, Mr. Merdle, who embarked on a fraudulent scheme is now being compared to Madoff and institutions such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), etc are being compared to Circumlocution Offices.

“The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday approved GMAC Financial Services’ application to become a bank-holding company, a status that would give the auto-financing arm of General Motors Corp. access to government bailout dollars and the Fed’s discount window. The move complements a $17.4 billion emergency loan package the government extended to GM and (Wall Street Journal 2008-12-24)…

“Merkin, who is chairman of GMAC LLC, is named in the lawsuit brought by NYU, along with his Gabriel Capital LP fund and Ariel Fund Ltd. GMAC is the finance business owned by General Motors Corp and private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP. The Funds ‘feeding’ money to Madoff, including Ariel, made a conscious effort to conceal Madoff’s involvement from their own investors,” the NYU lawsuit said. “This concealment was a requirement dictated by Madoff, which was agreed to by Merkin and other ‘feeder’ funds (McCool Reuters 2008-12-24).”

It reads more like fiction than mainstream news.

“But, at about the time of High ‘Change, Pressure began to wane, and appalling whispers to circulate, east, west, north, and south. At first they were faint, and went no further than a doubt whether Mr Merdle’s wealth would be found to be as vast as had been supposed; whether there might not be a temporary difficulty in ‘realising’ it; whether there might not even be a temporary suspension (say a month or so), on the part of the wonderful Bank. As the whispers became louder, which they did from that time every minute, they became more threatening. He had sprung from nothing, by no natural growth or process that any one could account for; he had been, after all, a low, ignorant fellow; he had been a down-looking man, and no one had ever been able to catch his eye; he had been taken up by all sorts of people in quite an unaccountable manner; he had never had any money of his own, his ventures had been utterly reckless, and his expenditure had been most enormous. In steady progression, as the day declined, the talk rose in sound and purpose. He had left a letter at the Baths addressed to his physician, and his physician had got the letter, and the letter would be produced at the Inquest on the morrow, and it would fall like a thunderbolt upon the multitude he had deluded. Numbers of men in every profession and trade would be blighted by his insolvency; old people who had been in easy
circumstances all their lives would have no place of repentance for their trust in him but the workhouse; legions of women and children would have their whole future desolated by the hand of this mighty scoundrel. Every partaker of his magnificent feasts would be seen to have been a sharer in the plunder of innumerable homes; every servile worshipper of riches who had helped to set him on his pedestal, would have done better to worship the Devil point-blank. So, the talk, lashed louder and higher by confirmation on confirmation, and by edition after edition of the evening papers, swelled into such a roar when night came, as might have brought one to believe that a solitary watcher on the gallery above the Dome of St Paul’s would have perceived the night air
to be laden with a heavy muttering of the name of Merdle, coupled with every form of execration (Dickens 1857).

Using Google Maps we can actually follow in space and time, the story of this giant Ponzi scheme. This post is a draft and a work in progress . . .

Items on this Google Map have not been fully edited.

Items in the bibliography have not been properly edited yet . . .

to be continued . . .

I want to watch Midsomer Murders now . . .

Notes

Circumlocution Office is Dickens’ (1857) term to ridicule governmental offices that delayed business by passing through the hands of different officials. “That brilliant invention the Circumlocution Office was made up at a time when examinations were introduced for the Civil Service. Dickens felt that bureaucratic indolence and incompetence were responsible for the sufferings of British soldiers in the Crimean war. “This glorious establishment had been early in the field, when the one sublime principle involving the difficult art of governing a country, was first distinctly revealed to statesmen … Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving – HOW NOT TO DO IT.” (Meaning, in Dickens’s time, how to avoid doing anything.) ( Byatt 2008-11-1.”

The Circumlocution Office is inhabited by a family of Tite Barnacles and relations.

General Motors (GMAC) The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday approved GMAC Financial Services’ application to become a bank-holding company, a status that would give the auto-financing arm of General Motors Corp. access to government bailout dollars and the Fed’s discount window. The move complements a $17.4 billion emergency loan package the government extended to GM and (Wall Street Journal 2008-12-24)… “Merkin, who is chairman of GMAC LLC, is named in the lawsuit brought by NYU, along with his Gabriel Capital LP fund and Ariel Fund Ltd. GMAC is the finance business owned by General Motors Corp and private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP. The Funds ‘feeding’ money to Madoff, including Ariel, made a conscious effort to conceal Madoff’s involvement from their own investors,” the NYU lawsuit said. “This concealment was a requirement dictated by Madoff, which was agreed to by Merkin and other ‘feeder’ funds (McCool Reuters 2008-12-24).”

Electronic Communications Networks (ECNs) trading model

Who’s Who

National Market System (NMS) Bernie Madoff presented his arguments at SEC hearings (2004-04-21 SEC) on the redesigning of “the existing national market system (“NMS”) rules to maximize profits and efficiency.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Washington, DC.

Selected Timeline

1823 Charles Dickens’ father, John Dickens, was imprisoned in the infamous debtors’ prison in Borough High Street, the Marshalsea. At twelve-years of age the future novelist was sent sent to work in a boot-blacking factory. John Dickens was the model for both Mr. Dorrit in Little Dorrit and Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield. Charles Dickens is in effect, Little Dorrit. In a prescient move, the BBC broadcast its adaptation of Dickens’ (1857) Little Dorrit, a month before Bernie Madoff’s arrest in his luxury Upper East Manhattan apartment. The similarities between the two stories are uncanny. See Byatt, A. S. 2008-11-15. “Little Dorrit: Within the walls of the Marshalsea.” The Guardian.

1857 In Charles Dickens’ introduction of his 1857 novel Little Dorrit he apologized for any similarity between factual events in Britain and Ireland and the context and character of his fictional banker, Mr. Merdle, who embarked on a fraudulent scheme now being compared to Madoff’s.

“If I might offer any apology for so exaggerated a fiction as the Barnacles and the Circumlocution Office, I would seek it in the common experience of an Englishman, without presuming to mention the unimportant fact of my having done that violence to good manners, in the days of a Russian war, and of a Court of Inquiry at Chelsea. If I might make so bold as to defend that extravagant conception, Mr Merdle, I would hint that it originated after the Railroad-share epoch, in the times of a certain Irish bank, and of one or two other equally laudable enterprises. If I were to plead anything in mitigation of the preposterous fancy that a bad design will sometimes claim to be a good and an expressly religious design, it would be the curious coincidence that it has been brought to its climax in these pages, in the days of the public examination of late Directors of a Royal British Bank. But, I submit myself to suffer judgment to go by default on all these counts, if need be, and to accept the assurance (on good authority) that nothing like them was ever known in this land (Dickens 1857).”

Thanks to these sources for making the Madoff-Merdle link: Paul Krugman, The New York Times Op-Ed columnist, in his 2008-12-19 blog post entitled “Madoff/Merdle“; McCann, Vincent. 2008-12-20. “Separating fact from fiction in financial fraud case.” Scotsman.com News.

1920s Financial frauds of the 1920s. See Galbraith, John Kenneth. 1954. The Great Crash: 1929. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

1960 Bernie Madoff started his firm Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities with $5,000. Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC.

1938 Bernard L. Madoff was born?

1970s The creation of the consolidated system for disseminating market information generated enormous benefits for investors (SEC 2004-02-27).”

1980s The incorporation of The Nasdaq Stock Market, Inc. (“Nasdaq”) securities into the NMS generated enormous benefits for investors (SEC 2004-02-27).”

1990s The adoption of the Order Handling Rules in the 1990s generated enormous benefits for investors (SEC 2004-02-27).”

2004-02-27 SEC published Regulation NMS for public comment. “In addition to redesignating the existing national market system (“NMS”) rules adopted under Section 11A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”), Regulation NMS would incorporate four substantive proposals that are designed to enhance and modernize the regulatory structure of the U.S. equity markets (SEC 2004-02-27).”

2004-04-21 Bernie Madoff presented his arguments at SEC hearings (2004-04-21 SEC) on the redesigning of “the existing national market system (“NMS”) rules held at the InterContinental The Barclay.

“The central objective of this review is to determine how the regulations governing the U.S. equity markets should be modernized. Our markets are continually evolving because of such factors as innovative trading technologies, new market entrants, and changing investment patterns. We believe that one of our most important responsibilities is to monitor these changes and to ensure that the U.S. regulatory structure remains up to date. In this way, we can help our markets retain their position as the deepest and most efficient in the world – markets that offer a fair deal to all types of investors, large and small.”

2004 Bernie Madoff presented his arguments at hearings on the redesigning of “the existing national market system (“NMS”) rules adopted under Section 11A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”), Regulation NMS would incorporate four substantive proposals that are designed to enhance and modernize the regulatory structure of the U.S. equity markets.

Discussion: “Is access to markets through the members of an SRO and through the customers or subscribers of ECNs or market makers sufficient to assure fair and efficient access to their displayed quotes? Are there barriers to access that must be removed for this indirect access to be feasible?”

Participants: Ivan K. Freeman (Morgan Stanley), John C. Giesea (Security Traders Association), Robert Greifeld (Nasdaq Stock Market), Larry Leibowitz (Schwab Capital Markets), Bernard L. Madoff (Madoff Investment Securities) and Thomas Peterffy (Interactive Brokers Group)

2008-01 Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities claimed their investment advisory business managed $17.1 billion for 11 to 25 clients and boasted of an “unblemished record of value, fair-dealing and high ethical standards (Zambito and Smith 2008).”

2008-11-15 In a prescient move, the BBC broadcast its adaptation of Dickens’ (1857) Little Dorrit, a month before Madoff’s arrest in his luxury Upper East Manhattan apartment. The similarities between the two stories are uncanny. See Byatt, A. S. 2008-11-15. “Little Dorrit: Within the walls of the Marshalsea.” The Guardian.

2008-12-10 Andrew Madoff and Mark Madoff, Bernie’s sons and his employees claimed to be innocent victims of a fraud that they knew nothing about. They called the Securities and Exchange Commission, which told the FBI (Zambito and Smith 2008).”

2008-12-10 Special FBI Agent Theodore Cacioppi and a colleague questioned Madoff at his $9M East Manhattan luxury apartment on Thursday morning to investigate the possibility of any “innocent explanation.” “There is no innocent explanation,” Madoff replied. Within hours, investors who had trusted the 70-year-old Madoff for years – including the owner of the New York Mets – were reeling at charges that one of the most trusted names on Wall Street was a full-time fraud (Zambito and Smith 2008).”

2008-12-12 “[A]ngry investors crowded a Manhattan federal courtroom hoping to find out if the SEC would come to their rescue. Manhattan Federal Judge Louis Stanton issued an order freezing Madoff’s assets, as well as those of his firm, and named lawyer Lee Richard to oversee the business. The hearing was canceled, leaving investors bewildered (Zambito and Smith 2008).”

2008-12-23 “[H]edge fund executive Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, 65, was found dead in his office in an apparent suicide, reportedly distraught over being duped by Madoff. New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Villehuchet had cuts on his wrists from a box cutter and pills nearby. The Frenchman’s Access International had an exposure of $1.5 billion, officials said (McCool 2008-12-24).”

2008-12-24 Washington: “The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday approved GMAC Financial Services’ application to become a bank-holding company, a status that would give the auto-financing arm of General Motors Corp. access to government bailout dollars and the Fed’s discount window. The move complements a $17.4 billion emergency loan package the government extended to GM and …” Wall Street Journal McCool, Grant. 2008-12-24. “(McCool 2008-12-24) New York University sued fund executive over Madoff
2008-12-24. “Fed Grants GMAC’s Request to Become Bank-Holding Company.” Wall Street Journal.

Webliography and Bibliography

Byatt, A. S. 2008-11-15. “Little Dorrit: Within the walls of the Marshalsea.” The Guardian.

McCool, Grant. 2008-12-24. “New York University sues fund executive over Madoff.” Reuters.

Quinn, James. 2008-12-16. “An American Tragedy.” Financial Sense.

Zambito, Thomas; Smith, Greg B. 2008-12-13. “Feds say Bernard Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme was worst ever.” New York Crime. Daily News.  

2008-12-22. “Jewish leaders bracing for Madoff fallout.” The Boston Globe.

Unlikely Player Pulled Into Madoff Swirl.”NYTimes.com

A.G. takes himself out of Madoff probe | Deseret News (Salt Lake City) | Find Articles at BNET

Fund Fraud Hits Big Names – WSJ.com 

2008-12-14.Bodyblow to Wall Street at The Brian Sullivan Blog

Business News – AOL Money Canada 

U.S. Congress to probe SEC role in Madoff affair

edmontonsun.com – World – $50B fraud plot thickens

Madoff Mess manoeuvres 

Judge orders Madoff to tally his assets

Don’t Be Scammed by Madoff Investor Sob Stories – Seeking Alpha

Madoff investors unlikely to regain money

Madoff bad omen for fund of hedge funds industry – AOL Money Canada

Run by investors, for investors – North American Markets end lower, Madoff scandal raises concerns over financials – North American Market Summary

More banks reveal exposure to Madoff scandal – Yahoo! Canada News
Bernard Madoff scandal draws publishers 

IOC has nearly $5 million tied to Madoff – AOL Sports Canada

Some Madoff investors may have to give back gains – Dec. 19, 2008

Madoff’s auditor Friehling and Horowitz doesn’t audit? – Dec. 17, 2008 
Did Bernard Madoff act alone? – Dec. 18, 2008

Answers to 6 Madoff questions – Dec. 18, 2008

A stock exchange caught in the Madoff mess – Dec. 18, 2008

‘A Giant Ponzi Scheme’ 

reportonbusiness.com: Madoff debacle reveals stunning failure of due diligence

Midas Letter –  Health, Wealth and Prosperity

Meet the real Ponzi behind the ‘scheme’ – Dec. 15, 2008

TheStar.com | Business | Banks, funds among clients who lost billions

Charities hit hard as Madoff fraud losses mount 

Madoff: ‘Bloodbath’ for Twin Cities investors

Pigeon King owes $23 million | Farm andDairy – The Auction Guide and Rural Marketplace

globeandmail.com: Farmers should have been warned about pigeon venture: critics

The Canadian Press: Royal Bank says clients have $50M in exposure to alleged Madoff fraud

Ponzi schemes strike in U.S., Russia and Colombia | Worldfocus

Bloomberg.com: Worldwide

The Madoff Fraud: How Culpable Were the Auditors? – TIME

Madoff Victims Look for Ways to Recover Their Money – TIME

Wall Street’s Latest Downfall: Madoff Charged with Fraud – TIME

How I Got Screwed by Bernie Madoff – TIME

Bernie Madoff’s man to see – The Boston Globe 

Bull Market 

Top Trader Is Accused of Defrauding Clients – NYTimes.com

Bernard L. Madoff News – The New York Times

The New York Times > Books > Sunday Book Review > His Last Name Is Scheme

A Scheme With No Off Button – NYTimes.com 

Ponzi Schemes – News – The New York Times

Even Winners May Lose With Madoff.” NYTimes.com

Madoff Agrees to Security ‘to Prevent Harm or Flight’ -NYTimes.com

“Talking Business – Avoiding a Financial Collapse, Indian-Style.” – NYTimes.com

“Madoff Scheme Kept Rippling Outward, Across Borders.” NYTimes.com

“Madoff Ponzi Scheme Lawsuit: Attorneys for Defrauded Investors.”

Madoff Scheme Kept Rippling Outward, Across Borders.” NYTimes.com

“Top Trader Is Accused of Defrauding Clients.” NYTimes.com

Op-Ed Columnist – The Brightest Are Not Always the Best -NYTimes.com

Wall Street fallout shakes economy

 

“Canada’s social safety net results in lower rates of poverty and income inequality along with higher rates of self-sufficiency of vulnerable populations than in the United States. But many Canadians would be surprised to find out that the U.S. has a lower burglary rate, a lower suicide rate, and greater gender equity than Canada […] Canada’s relatively poor record on child poverty, income inequality, and assault [remain] shocking […] Particularly troubling is its ranking on child poverty. In Canada, according to OECD statistics, one child in seven lives in poverty. Canada also still has an unacceptably high rate of poverty among its working-age population. According to statistics published by the OECD, just over 10 per cent of its working-age population is below the poverty line. This is double the rate of Denmark, the best-performing country on this indicator. Canada’s crime record is also disturbing—with 17 times the rate of assaults as the best-ranked country, 7 times the rate of burglaries, and 3 times the rate of homicides. Crime takes its toll on trust—both within the community and within public institutions. This picture of crime is not what Canadians think of when they think of their society. […] Canada ranks high on the indicator measuring acceptance of diversity […] Canada’s past achievements, such as reducing poverty among its elderly, show that, given the political will, Canada could successfully address other social challenges to sustain future quality of life (Conference Board of Canada Society Overview 2008 ).”

The Conference Board of Canada (2008 ) compared economic, innovation, environment, education, health and society performances of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States which are considered to be Canada’s international peers. Canada’s standard of living ranking dropped from 4th spot in 1990 to 9th in 2008. In terms of Education and Skills, over 40% of adult Canadians lack literacy skills required for everyday life and work in modern society. In terms of innovation Canada scored D since the 1980s and has failed to produce any top global brands.

The full report for 2008 will not be available until September. I am curious to see how data specifically related to Canada’s growing aboriginal community with its unique social histories and current dilemmas will be analysed in this report. When we examine the weakest points in the report, it is obvious that the vulnerabilities faced by Canada’s most at-risk group (aboriginal women and children) affect our international ranking. It is also useful to consider the location of remote aboriginal communities in terms of the most volatile environmental debates in Canada.

Data for this annual report comes from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (c.80%), the United Nations, the World Bank, and the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy. The report measures quality of life based on this definition:

“The Conference Board defines a high and sustainable quality of life for all Canadians as being achieved if Canada records high and sustainable performances in six categories: Economy, Innovation, Environment, Education and Skills, Health and Society (B 10/17). The word “sustainable” [1] is a critical qualifier. It is not enough for Canada to boost economic growth if it is done at the expense of the environment or social cohesion. For example, to take advantage of high commodity prices by mining and exporting all our natural resources may make the country rich in the short term, but this wealth will not be sustainable in the long or even medium term. The Conference Board has consistently argued that economic growth and sustainability of the physical environment need to be integrated into a single concept of sustainable national prosperity—what we call here a “high and sustainable quality of life for all Canadians.”

..

“Having a high quality of life means living in communities that are free from fear of social unrest and violence, communities that accept racial and cultural diversity, and those that foster social networks. A country that provides a high quality of life also minimizes the extremes of inequality between its poorest and richest citizens, while reducing the social tensions and conflicts that result from these gaps. Performance in the Society category is assessed using 17 indicators across three dimensions: self-sufficiency, equity, and social cohesion. Self-sufficiency indicators measure the autonomy and active participation of individuals within society, including its most vulnerable citizens, such as persons with disabilities and youth. Equity indicators measure equity of access, opportunities, and outcomes. Social cohesion indicators measure the extent to which citizens participate in societal activities, the level of crime in society, and the acceptance of diversity [. . .] Canada’s social safety net results in lower rates of poverty and income inequality along with higher rates of self-sufficiency of vulnerable populations than in the United States. But many Canadians would be surprised to find out that the U.S. has a lower burglary rate, a lower suicide rate, and greater gender equity than Canada […] Canada’s relatively poor record on child poverty, income inequality, and assault [remain] shocking […] Particularly troubling is its ranking on child poverty. In Canada, according to OECD statistics, one child in seven lives in poverty. Canada also still has an unacceptably high rate of poverty among its working-age population. According to statistics published by the OECD, just over 10 per cent of its working-age population is below the poverty line. This is double the rate of Denmark, the best-performing country on this indicator. Canada’s crime record is also disturbing—with 17 times the rate of assaults as the best-ranked country, 7 times the rate of burglaries, and 3 times the rate of homicides. Crime takes its toll on trust—both within the community and within public institutions. This picture of crime is not what Canadians think of when they think of their society. […] Canada ranks high on the indicator measuring acceptance of diversity […] Canada’s past achievements, such as reducing poverty among its elderly, show that, given the political will, Canada could successfully address other social challenges to sustain future quality of life (Conference Board of Canada Society Overview 2008).”

Footnotes

1. “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Brundtland 1987:43).”

Webliography and Bibliography

Brundtland, Gro Harlem. 1987. Our Common Future: World Commission on Environment and Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Conference Board of Canada. 2008.

Ross Levin, a NYC hedge fund analyst with Arbiter Partners, who calls himself a “passive speculator in securities” met Lionel Lepine, a member of the Athabaskan Chipewyan First Nation whose family and friends living on the contaminated watershed upriver from the oil sands’ effluence are suffering from unprecedented numbers of cancerous tumours.

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A number of recent stories intersect here: Harper’s apology for past treatment of Canada’s First Nations, the pollution of the Athabaskan River north of the oil sands, the impatient development of nonrenewable resources, the meteoric rise of oil commodities market directly caused by irresponsible speculators playing with volatile, unpredictable hedge funds that play havoc with the market making a fortune for some while destroying economic, social and ecological environments all around them.

In a rapid visit to the local library yesterday I grabbed Jake Bernstein’s How the Futures Markets Work. Although it is quite old for the fast-paced risk management industry, there are certain fundamentals that ring true. He briefly traced the history futures contracts leading to the volatile environment where agricultural futures were replaced by the less predictable currency markets. Of course, his book was written long before the meteoric rise of private equity funds.

My concern remains with the absent ethical component on trading floors. Ethical responsibilities are as elastic as the regulations that govern the centuries old practice of hedging. In the period of late capitalism and the emergence of risk society, the cost of destructive unintended byproducts have created havoc in ways that far exceed the commodities/service value. The road to profits and impatient money, is paved with casualties.

Berstein’s facts of market life are telling. He encourages simple methods and systems which require few decisions and little mental conflict. Too much thought is not conducive to successful trading. Too much analysis costs lost opportunities. Keep systems simple. Control your emotions. Practice caring less so that you remain more objective. Don’t ask why. Knowing why may hinder you more than it will help you. Patterns are the best indicators available (What feeds into a “pattern” however is not a science). Timing is what makes money in the futures market (Bernstein 2000:282-3).

In other words, futures’ gurus encourage young hedge fund analysts to not think too much about factors such as displacement of peoples, the degradation of living conditions and the way in which they unwittingly contribute to making vulnerable ecologies and peoples even more vulnerable. Their gurus tell them to not think about the impact of their actions. They are told to not ask why the prices of essential commodities like fuel and food that they are playing with, are pushing certain groups into unimaginable levels of social exclusion. In the end groups at-risk to health degradation are always those least able to protect themselves. How convenient that the gurus do not factor in these social issues. They are entirely absent from finance reports.

But then a lot of information is purposely not included in financial and business reports. Bernstein argues that the simpler systems that take fewer things into consideration will lead to more profits. Yet when he lists off all the potential factors in operation in even a simple fundamental analysis, it is not at all simple. It begins with the highly complex. The algorithms involved may appear to be simplified through the use of databases that seem to generate accurate, objective hard facts. In reality, the accuracy of any query depends on what was fed into it.

Futures trading, also known as commodities trading, the final frontier of capitalism, became a popular speculative and investment vehicle in the US in the 1960s (Bernstein 2000:1). These financial instruments offer unlimited profit potential with relatively little capital. Speculators are drawn to the possibility of quick money or what I like to call impatient money. The great wealth accumulated from speculative financial instruments has spawned careers in brokerage, market analysis, computerized trading, computer software and hardware, accounting, law, advertising which themselves subdivide into more recent opportunities such as those related to risk-management.

While gurus such as Bernstein argue that gambling is for anyone but speculation is for professionals, the chaos and unpredictability of the current global economy have been linked to a growing culture of gambling in futures trading rather than level-headed professionalism. Gamblers create risk simply by placing a bet; professional speculators “transfer risk from the hedgers to the speculators” and it therefore called risk management instead of gambling.

“It rained last night so the price of soy beans will be down today.” Although the basis of fundamental analysis in economics is supply and demand, the actual fundamental analysis of specific markets that might generate accurate price predictions are complicated as numbers of factors overlap and massive quantities of data need to be considered. The simple equation involves how much of a commodity or service are buyers willing to pay at a given time and place. There used to be a correlation between price and consumption. Factors that impact on price of commodities include the state of the economy (local, regional, national and international – inflationary, recessionary with rising or falling employment), availability of alternate products or services, storage possibilities, weather, seasonality, price cycles, price trends, government subsidies, political influences, protectionist attitudes, international tensions, fear of war, hoarding, stockpiling, demand for raw materials (sugar, petroleum, copper, platinum, coffee, cocoa), currency fluctuations, health of the economy, level of unemployment, housing starts. Most technical systems are not effective in making traders money.

In spite of this there is still a persistent belief that there is an invisible hand that guides market correcting imbalances like a living organism or finely-tuned machine.

“Markets work perfectly as they respond to the multiplicity of forces that act upon them. It is our inability to find, parse, and correctly weight the impact of these factors that limits our results and success of our fundamentally based forecasts (Bernstein 2000:162).”

The bottom line is that wealth disparities continue to intensify and that these inordinate extremes of wealth and poverty destabilizes society. These distorted economic relationships deprive us of any sense of control over economic forces that threaten to disrupt the foundations of our existence. National governments have been either unwilling or unable to deal effectively with this situation in which we live where the deplorable superfluity of great wealth exists alongside the acute suffering of those living in miserable, demoralizing and degrading abject poverty even in countries like Canada.

Social equality is an entirely impracticable chimera. Even if equality could be achieved it could not be sustained. Wages and income should be unequal and should correspond to different efforts, skills and capacities. However, equal justice for all is not only necessary but urgently needed.

As long as those involved in the financial and energy industries remain in denial of their role by hiding behind economic and ideological polemics and simply dismissing concerns from others there can be no productive change. A fresh look at the problem should involve people like Lionel Lepine who are directly involved with decisions, along with experts from a wide spectrum of disciplines. There will not be a voluntary ethical turn so for now we desperately need public policies that will regulate industries.

Selected Timeline of Critical Events

1710 The first modern organized futures exchange began with the Dojima Rice Exchange in Osaka, Japan. The Japanese feudal landowners began to use certificates of receipt against future rice crops. As these futures certificates became financial instruments in the general economy the value of the certificates would rise and fall as the price of rice fluctuated. The Dojima Rice Exchange emerged as the world’s first futures market where speculators traded contracts for the future delivery of rice or “certificates of receipt.” The Japanese government outlawed the practice when futures contracts (where delivery never took place) began to have no relationship to the underlying cash value of the commodity leading to wild and unpredictable fluctuations (Bernstein 2000:30).

1848 The Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) was formed as a price risk occurred in the grain markets of Chicago.

1865 The Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) organized trading of futures contracts.

1919 – 1945 The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) traded futures in eggs, butter, apples, poultry and frozen eggs (Bernstein 2000:70).

1960s Futures trading, also known as commodities trading, the final frontier of capitalism, became a popular speculative and investment vehicle in the US in the 1960s (Bernstein 2000:1).

1970s There was increasing volatility in international currency exchange rates as the Bretton Woods agreement began to break down. Business people transferred risk of volatility in international markets by hedging with speculators willing to take the risk. Futures markets began to expand into foreign currencies as fluctuated wildly competing against each other and the US dollar.

1972 The total volume of futures contracts trading was 18 million and the top ten most actively traded future contracts were agricultural futures (Bernstein 2000:71).

1974 The US Congress passed the Commodity Futures Trading Commission Act and established Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to protect participants in the futures market from fraud, deceit and abusive practices such as unfair trading practices (price manipulation, prearranged trading, trading ahead of a customer), credit and financial risks, and sales practice abuses (Bernstein 2000:32). Individual nation states have similar regulating bodies.

1982 Futures trading in the US was self-regulating and anyone in the business had to become a member of the National Futures Association (NFA).

1986 The total volume of futures contracts trading was 184 million and the T bonds were among the most actively traded future contracts (Bernstein 2000:71).

1990 The price of crude oil rose dramatically when Hussein invaded Kuwait.

1999 The most actively traded future contracts were interest rates, futures, stock index futures, energy futures, currency futures and agricultural futures (Bernstein 2000:72).

2000 The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) trades futures in livestock futures, currency futures, interest rate futures, stock index futures (Bernstein 2000:70).

2000 More than 90 foreign futures exchanges emerged with the ever-increasing demand for new financial instruments “to hedge against fluctuating interest rates, changing foreign exchange rates and institutional securities portfolios (Bernstein 2000:46).

2008 Calgary has a high percentage of young millionaires with lots of disposable income. There are also c.4000 homeless people in Calgary, the oil capital of Canada. c. 40% of the homeless are working poor who are unable to afford housing.

Webliography and Bibliography

Bernstein, Jake. 2000. How the Futures Markets Work. New York Institute of Finance.