July 27, 2006 at 5:34 PM #7024sjkParticipant
Heads I when….tails you lose?
COME CLEAN, BEN!
By JOHN CRUDELE
July 27, 2006 — FEDERAL Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke revealed that the secretive Plunge Protection Team meets several times a year, but he dodged a congressman’s inquiries about what the group does and whether minutes are kept of those meetings.
So The Post has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for those minutes – specifically for the meetings that likely occurred immediately after the terrorist attacks in 2001.
I wrote about the Plunge Protection Team in a series of articles earlier this month. Formally called the Working Group on Financial Markets, it was formed in 1988 by President Reagan to advise Wall Street.
Headed by the Secretary of the Treasury, it also has top regulators and the chairman of the Fed as members.
But in addition to giving Wall Street advice, I suspect – and former White House adviser George Stephanopoulos seems to have confirmed – that the Plunge Protection team has morphed into something more active.
And Wall Street firms may have been invited to join.
What’s clear from answers to questions posed by Rep. Ron Paul, (R.-Texas) is that new Fed chief Bernanke either doesn’t know much about the role of the working group or preferred not to discuss the matter.
And, I think, it’s time we found out a little more about an organization that could afford some Wall Street firms an opportunity to reap massive profits at the expense of ordinary investors.
Here’s some of the exchange that occurred between Bernanke and Rep. Paul last Thursday at the House Financial Committee hearings.
Rep. Paul: Good afternoon, Chairman Bernanke. I have a question dealing with the Working Group on Financial Markets. I want to learn more about that group and exactly what authority they have and what they do.
Could you tell me, as a member of the group, how often they meet and how often they have actions? And have they done something recently? And are there reports sent out by this particular group?
Bernanke: Yes, congressman. The president’s working group was convened by the president, I believe, after the 1987 stock market crash. It meets irregularly. I would guess about four or five times a year. But I’m not exactly sure.
And its primary function is advisory, to prepare reports. I mentioned earlier that we’ve been asked to prepare a report on the terrorism risk insurance. So that’s what we generally do.
Rep. Paul: In the media you’ll find articles that will claim, at least, that it’s a lot more than advisory.
You know, if there is a stock market crash, that you literally have a lot of authority, you know, to impose restrictions. And we’re talking about many trillions of dollars slushing around in all the financial markets. And this involves the Treasury and, of course, the Fed as well as the SEC (Securities & Exchange Commission) and the CFTC (Commodities Futures Trading Commission.)
And the reason this came to my attention was just recently there was an article that actually made a charge that out of this group came a position that interfered with the price of General Motors stock.
Have you read that? Or do you know anything about that?
Bernanke: No sir. I don’t.
Rep. Paul: But back to the issue of meeting. You tell me it meets irregularly. But are there minutes kept, or are there reports made on this group?
Bernanke: I believe there are records kept by the staff. There are staff, mostly from Treasury, but also from other agencies.
Rep. Paul: And they would be available to us in the committee?
Bernanke: I don’t know. I’m sorry. I don’t know.
Rep. Paul obviously doesn’t have a reporter’s knack for the follow-up question, so here’s what I would have asked next.
Crudele: Well, Mr. Bernanke, how about you find out! Someone in your position should know if, as former White House adviser Stephanopoulos has claimed, the Working Group on Financial Markets – the Plunge Protection Team – has the authority to interfere with the free market for stocks.
And we’d also like to know who makes decision for the group, politicians or guys on Wall Street. Don’t misunderstand, Mr. Bernanke. I’m not saying what the group is doing is wrong. But why should firms like Goldman Sachs – from which two of the last four Treasury secretaries have come – be in a better position than anyone else who gambles in the stock market?
See, that’s why I’ll never be in Congress.July 27, 2006 at 5:36 PM #29853sjkParticipant
That’s “when” I win, LOLJuly 27, 2006 at 6:31 PM #29862
“I don’t know.” “I never touched THAT woman”.
Sound familiar?July 29, 2006 at 1:02 AM #30016rankandfileParticipant
I am growing into a bitter old man…and I am only in my early 30s. It’s stuff like this that is molding me into more and more of a conspiracy theorist. I am trying not to become one, I really am. You have to believe me. But there is just too much crap like this that flies by my desk everyday to make me think otherwise.
I have often thought partisan politics was detrimental to the forward movement of our nation. In some cases I guess it is. But it’s articles like this that make me think that having an opposition party, political enemies as it were, helps to keep those who are in power in check. Then again, all it takes is a handshake or a wink and a nod, peppered with some nice kickbacks, and those sharp party lines become blurred. I think that Rich should respond to this post because he probably knows more about it than any of us…and he is the exact opposite of me when it comes to conspiracy theories. But I don’t know if he is allowed to under his new position.July 29, 2006 at 11:49 AM #30027cooperthedogParticipant
The US is not a pure free market system, it is mixed. For example, the Fed’s (quasi-govt agency) impact on interest rates or the price curbs on exchanges. Most would argue that controls such as these are necessary, yet they constrain a purely free-market.
Of course, there is much more transparency for most of these controls (at least one knows that there is a potential for action, timeframe, etc.), whereas these secret meetings with unknown results not only cause distrust, but could put investors at a disadvantage as well since the large brokerage firms that are involved in such a system would have an unfair advantage (e.g. knowing where future support lies), and pass that knowledge to their trading arm.July 29, 2006 at 1:29 PM #30033DanielParticipant
My opinion is that all this is bogus. I happened to watch (live) Ben’s congressional testimony, and he was a saint. Each representative rambled pure nonsense for 10 minutes before asking an idiotic question (like the one above). Ben would look serious, try not to laugh, and then would politely reply: “Yes, Sir”, or “No, Madam”, or “I don’t think I follow, Sir”.
Conspiracy theories are now more popular than ever. That doesn’t make them true. The fact (and this IS a fact) that conspiracy theories are most widespread among the uneducated underclass should be food for thought: if they think they can figure out the truth so well, how come they can’t get ahead? Conspiracy theories are mostly a denial mechanism for failure.
PS: Have you ever read stock message boards? When a stock goes up, everyone is a genius, and when it goes down, it’s all a big conspiracy. Give me a break. If a stock I buy goes down, I made a mistake. I can acknowledge that.July 29, 2006 at 3:26 PM #30042
Daniel, I also got a kick out of the questions. A couple senators asked some tough questions, Ben cleverly avoided an answer and then the senator trailed off toward changing it into a comment and ending their turn. So they did not press Ben on the answer to the tough questions. I was in utter amazement at the lack of courage and staying power of these senators.
Since we are on the topic of the testimony, here are a few snippets:
On the deficit
Ben: “In 5-10 years, there will be increasing reluctance by foreigners to hold U.S. assets, and that will have effects on our economy and we need to address that….We should become more reliant on our own savings and reduce the account deficit.”
Inflation and wages
Ben: “I am surprised wages have not risen more by now….Wages offset by productivity gains are not inflationary…. Inflation is going to moderate over the next couple years”. [WHAT – a couple years before it moderates – what does that mean?]
Social Security and Medicare shortfalls
Ben: “Social Security doesn’t show up in the deficit. The deficit should include future liabilities of Social Security and Medicare. In 10-15 years, we’ll see more pressure from the transfer agreements and we need to address them”.
Risk of GSEs
Ben: “The portfolios of the GSEs are too large and pose the threat to stability of the financial system. We should give strong guidance of how to relate the mission to the size of the GSEs. I have a heightened concern that these portfolios could cause serious problems for the financial markets”.
Why we haven’t reduced energy dependence, although Brazil has done so
Ben: “We need to diversify our energy sources. The government can support research, and create environmental regulations that are more clear and constant, i.e. that don’t keep changing.”
Fed decision-making on rates
Ben: “The Fed is a consensus-based organization. Spirited discussion precede the meetings.”
Sarbanes: But these discussions don’t make it into the Minutes. Isn’t it good for the markets to hear alternate views?
Ben: “FOMC members are free to present their views to the public”.July 29, 2006 at 3:38 PM #30043DanielParticipant
Thanks for posting these. They pretty much sum up everything that was said that has economic value. Maybe I should go back to the transcripts to also post the Q & A’s that have entertainment value.July 29, 2006 at 8:06 PM #30060
Yes, post whatever you can remember. Do you think there is any significance in Bernanke admitting the problems in entitlements and account & trade deficits need to be addressed?
I thought his comments that “inflation will be contained in a couple years” was the most important thing that slipped out of his mouth. If I were a reporter, I would have made *that* statement the headline. He’s telling us that it is not contained now, nor will it be in the near future. How in the world people think he will stop raising interest rates is beyond me – does he really just want to fool us into thinking he cares about inflation? Do people who expect a pause know something I don’t?
When I listened to Bernanke’s testimony, I came away convinced he really cares about containing inflation *expectations*, and as of now, that is not contained, so he must keep raising rates. Am I too gullible?
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.