Friday, March 27, 2009

Of Pyramid Schemes and Protection Rackets

Is the recent economic meltdown the result of a giant pyramid scheme, Bernie Madoff writ really really large? Did all the new money go to the earlier investors, and now the money's run out except for what the Feds are willing to print and hand over to the very same villains who designed the scheme?

Or maybe it's just a shill game. You know, somebody's got one pea or other small object and three opaque cup shaped objects. He puts the pea under one of the cups and shuffles them for twenty seconds or so and then you guess which shell the pea is under. It's a gambling game. You guess right, you double your money. Guess wrong, you lose your money. But guess what? You can't win because the player palms the pea and no matter how carefully you watch or which cup you choose, you lose.

I'm starting to think it's a protection racket. All those wealthy execs saying, you need us to run this show. Pay or we'll walk.

Whatever it is, it's clearly being run by criminals. Or at least that's the import behind this argument against trying to write new rules and rein some of the more reckless players in:

Wall Street wizards have proved adept at designing complex financial products to sidestep existing regulations. And Vincent Reinhart, former director of monetary affairs at the Federal Reserve, says, "You're going to see firms try to figure out how to be under the radar."

"Wizard" in this context means, "exceptionally successful criminal." "Complex financial products" means "pyramid scheme." And "under the radar' means "breaking the law."

Just in case these wise guys need an idea to get them going, Reinart supplies one:

For example, private equity investors might try to buy large hedge funds and chop them into funds that would be small enough to operate unregulated, Reinhart said.

Whatever happens, there's one thing you can be sure of: your cup's gonna turn up empty.

(To read the original story, click here)

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