Howard Davidowitz says Wall Street is A Ponzi Scheme with Lies and Fraud

Day one of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission’s two-day hearing on AIG derivatives contracts featured testimony from Joseph Cassano, the former head of AIG’s financial products unit. Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn was also on the Hill.Meanwhile, the Democrats are still trying to salvage the regulatory reform bill, with critical support from Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.) reportedly still uncertain.According to Howard Davidowitz of Davidowitz & Associates, what connects the hearings and the Reg reform debate is the lack of focus on the real underlying cause of the financial crisis: Fraud.”It was a massive fraud… a gigantic Ponzi Scheme, a lie and a fraud,” Davidowitz says of Wall Street circa 2007. “The whole thing was a fraud and it gets back to the accountants valuing the assets incorrectly.”Because accountants and auditors allowed Wall Street firms to carry assets at “completely fraudulent” valuations, he says the industry looked hugely profitable and was able to use borrowed funds to make leveraged bets on all sorts of esoteric instruments. “Their bonuses were based on profits they never made and the leverage they never could have gotten if the numbers were right – no one would’ve given them the money in their right mind,” Davidowitz says.To date, the accounting and audit firms have escaped any serious repercussions from the credit crisis, a stark difference to the corporate “death sentence” that befell Arthur Anderson for its alleged role in the Enron scandal.To Davidowitz, that’s perhaps the greatest outrage of all: “Where were the accountants?,” he asks. “They did nothing, checked nothing, agreed to everything” and collected millions in fees while “shaking hands with the CEO.”

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S&P predicted to Fall by 30%: That’s Gary Shilling’s Forecast

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Posted Dec 19, 2008 12:33pm EST by Aaron Task in Investing, Commodities, Recession

The S&P 500 could fall to as low as 600 in 2009 and “alternative assets” like commodities and currencies will provide no shelter for investors, says Gary Shilling, president of A. Gary Shilling & Co.

Having been appropriately bearish heading into this year, Shilling sees “few good places to hide” in 2009. Currently, Shilling is long Treasuries and the dollar, but notes the bond market’s rally is getting long in the tooth.

Other than defensive plays like utilities and consumer staples, Shilling is short stocks. His “S&P 600” prediction, a 33% drop from current levels, is based on a view that S&P earnings will be $40 per share next year (vs. the consensus of $83) and the index will trade with a P/E multiple of 15. (Here’s the math: $40 EPS x 15 P/E = 600.)

Shilling is also short commodities and remains bearish on emerging markets, most notably China. The theory China, most notably, could “decouple” from the U.S. doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, Shilling says, as evinced by the slowdown of China’s economy and the fact their middle class isn’t large enough to sustain growth internally.

Against that backdrop, Shilling isn’t only bearish on China as an investment, he sees the potential for major social upheaval in the world’s most populous nation.

The Stock Market Crash Of 2008

CNN Money

CNN Money

The Economy

How Did We Get Here?

By now you likely know that the crisis in the financial markets is the culmination of years of reckless mortgage lending and Wall Street dealmaking. It’s the final gasp of the burst housing bubble. But how exactly did this happen?

To find the root cause of Wall Street’s woes, you have to go back to the collapse of a different bubble – tech. In 2001, after the dotcom craze ended and the bear market began, the Federal Reserve started aggressively slashing short-term interest rates to stave off recession. By eventually reducing rates to a historically low 1%, the Fed reinflated the economy. But this cheap money sparked a new wave of risk taking.

Homeowners, armed with easy credit, snapped up properties as if they were playing Monopoly. As prices soared, buyers were able to afford ever-larger properties only by taking out risky mortgages that lenders were happily approving with little documentation or money down.

At the same time, Wall Street investment banks got a brilliant idea: bundle the riskiest of these mortgages, then slice and dice these portfolios into tradable bonds to be sold to other banks and investors. Amazingly, bond-rating agencies slapped their highest ratings on the “best” of this debt.

This house of cards came down when subprime borrowers began defaulting on their mortgages. That sent housing prices tumbling, unleashing a domino effect on mortgage-backed securities. Banks and brokerages that had borrowed money to boost the impact of those investments had to race to raise capital.

Some, like Merrill Lynch, were forced to sell. Others, like Lehman Brothers, weren’t so lucky. “What we always tell investors is beware of too much leverage in a company,” says Brian Rogers, chairman and portfolio manager for T. Rowe Price. “Leverage is the enemy of the investor.”

Sure, everyone from former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan to your friends and neighbors played a role in stoking this casino culture. But troubled banks and brokerages can’t pass the blame. “These firms closed their eyes and made very bad bets on risky securities that they didn’t truly understand,” says Jeremy Siegel, finance professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton business school. “Investments that they did not have to make led to their demise.”