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Bank Deals Similar to Goldman Sach’s Gone Awry

Other Major Banks Participated, Too?

By Marian Wang, ProPublica – April 16, 2010 1:36 pm EDT

As you may have heard, or read on this ME-P, Goldman Sachs is being sued for fraud [1] by the Securities and Exchange Commission [2] for allegedly misleading investors about a deal that Goldman helped structure and sell. In the civil suit, the SEC specifically faulted Goldman for failing to disclose that a hedge fund was helping create the investment while betting big the deal would fail.

According to the SEC, Goldman Sachs knew about the hedge fund’s bets, knew it played a significant role in choosing the assets in the portfolio, and yet did not tell investors about it. (Goldman Sachs has called the SEC’s accusations “completely unfounded in law and fact.” And in another more detailed statement [3], it said it “did not structure a portfolio that was designed to lose money.”) 

[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=Goldman+Sachs&iid=8541566″ src=”0/4/f/8/The_Goldman_Sachs_7d6f.jpg?adImageId=12513388&imageId=8541566″ width=”380″ height=”568″ /]

In ProPublica

As we reported at ProPublica last week, many other major investment banks were doing a similar thing [4].

Investment banks including JPMorgan Chase [5], Merrill Lynch [6] (now part of Bank of America), Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and UBS also created CDOs that a hedge fund named Magnetar was both helping create and betting would fail. Those investment banks marketed and sold the CDOs to investors without disclosing Magnetar’s role or the hedge fund’s interests.

Here is a list of the banks that were involved [7] in Magnetar deals, along with links to many of the prospectuses on the deals, which skip over Magnetar’s role. In all, investment banks created at least 30 CDOs with Magnetar, worth roughly $40 billion overall. Goldman’s 25 Abacus CDOs — one of which is the basis of the SEC’s lawsuit — amounted to $10.9 billion [8].

One reporter Jake Bernstein explained the investment banks’ disclosure failures on Chicago Public Radio’s This American Life [9]:

On the Magnetar Hedge Fund

The role of Magnetar, both as equity investor and in their bets against the very CDOs they helped create were not disclosed in any way to investors in the written documents about the deals. Not the marketing materials, not the prospectuses, not in the hundreds of pages that an investor could get to see information about the deal was it disclosed that it was in fact Magnetar who’d helped create the deal, and who’d bet against.

That is, of course, along the lines of what the SEC is suing Goldman Sachs for now. The SEC’s suit also says CDOs like the ones Goldman built “contributed to the recent financial crisis by magnifying losses associated with the downturn in the United States housing market.”

Notably, the SEC did not sue the hedge fund [10] involved in Goldman’s Abacus deals — Paulson & Co. — or its manager, John Paulson. Instead, it’s going after Goldman. And as we pointed out in our reporting, there’s no evidence that what Magentar did was illegal [11].

Assessment

We’ve called the major banks involved in Magnetar CDO deals to see if they were concerned about similar lawsuits. Thus far, Bank of America, Citigroup, Deutsche, Wells Fargo (which bought Wachovia) and UBS have responded and have all declined our requests for comment. Here is Magnetar’s response [12] to our original reporting.

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I Jealously “Shake my Fist” at Somnath Basu PhD

On CFP® Mis [Trust] – One Doctor’s Painful Personal Experience

[“So Sorry to Say it … but I Told You So”]

By: Dr David Edward Marcinko; FACFAS, MBA, CMP™

[Publisher-in-Chief]dem21

According to Somnath Basu, writing on April 6, 2009 in Financial Advisor a trade magazine, the painful truth is that many financial practitioners are merely sales people masquerading, as financial planners [FPs] and/or financial advisors [FAs] in an industry whose ethical practices have a shameful track record. Well, I agree, and completely. This includes some who hold the Certified Financial Planner® designation, as well as the more than 98 other lesser related organizations, logo marks and credentialing agencies [none of which demand ERISA-like fiduciary responsibility]. For more on this topic, the ME-P went right to the source last month, in an exclusive interview with Ben Aiken; AIF® of Fi360.com  

fp-book4

The CFP® Credential – What Credential?

Basu further writes that stockbrokers and insurance agents who earn commissions from buying and selling stocks, insurance and other financial products realize that a Certified Financial Planner® credential will help grow the volume of their business or branch them into other related and lucrative products and services. After all, there are more than 55,000 of these “credentialed” folks. And, this marketing designation seems to have won the cultural wars in the hearts and minds of an unsuspecting – i.e., duped public; probably because of sheer numbers. Didn’t a CFP Board CEO state that its’ primary goal was growth, a few years ago? Can you say “masses of asses”, as the oft quoted Bill Gates of Microsoft used to say when only 2,000 micro-softies defeated 400,000 IBMers during the PC operating system wars of the early 1980’s. Quantity, and marketing money, can trump quality in the public-relations business; ya’ know … if you repeat the lie often enough … yada … yada … yada! Yet, as the so-called leading industry designation, the CFP® entry-barrier standard is woefully low. Moreover, the SEC’s [FINRA] Series #7 general securities licensure sales examination is not worth much more than a weekend’s study attention, even to the uninitiated.

insurance-book2

Easy In – Worth Less Out

In our experience, we agree with Basu and others who suggest that scores of lightly educated, and sometimes wholly in-articulate and impatient individuals are zipping through the CFP® Board of Standards approved curriculum in three to six months of online, on-ground, or “self-study”. But, that some can do so without a bachelor’s degree when they join wire-houses and financial institutions, which cannot be trusted to adequately train them, is an abomination. And, even more sadly, some of these CFP™ mark-holders, and other folks, believe they have actually received an “education” from same. Of course, their writing skills are often non-existent and I have cringed when told that, in their opinion, advertiser-driven trade magazines constitute “peer-reviewed” and academic publications. Incidentally, have you noticed how thin these trade-rags are getting lately? Much like the print newspaper industry, are they becoming dinosaurs? One agent even told me, point-blank, that his CLU designation was the equivalent of an “academic PhD in insurance.” This was at an industry seminar, where he thought I was a lay insurance prospect.

THINK: No critical thinking skills.

biz-book4

Education

There is another sentiment that may be applied in many of these cases; “hubris.” I mean, these CFP® people … just don’t know – how much they don’t know.”  The very real difference between training versus education is unknown to many wire-houses and FAs, isn’t it? And, please don’t get me started on the differences in pedagogy, heutagogy and androgogy. Moreover, it’s sad when we see truly educated youngsters become goaded by wire-houses into thinking that these practices are de-rigor for the industry. One such applicant to our Certified Medical Planner™ program, for example, had both an undergraduate degree in finance and a graduate degree in economics from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University – in my home town of Baltimore, MD [name available upon request]. He was told, in his Smith Barney wire-house training program, to eschew CMP™ accountability and RIA fiduciary responsibility, when working with potential physician and lay clients; but to get his CFP® designation to gather more clients. To mimic my now 12 year-old daughter; it seems that: SEC Suitability Rules – and – Fiduciary Accountability Drools. And, to quote Hollywood’s “Mr. T”; I pity the fools, er-a, I mean clients. But, T was an actor, and this is serious business.

cmp-logo1

Of CEU Credits and Ethics

Beside trade-marks and logos, we are all aware that continuing education, and a code of ethics, is another important marketing and advertising component of state insurance agents and CFP licensees. It’s that old “be” – or “pretend to be” – a trusted advisor clap-trap. Well, I say horse-feathers for two reasons. First, both my insurance and CFP® Continuing Educational Unit [CEU] requirements were completed by my daughter [while age 7-10], by filling in the sequentially identical and bubble-coded, multiple-choice, answer-blanks each year. Second, this included the mandatory “ethics” portions of each test. When I complained to my CEU vendor, and state insurance department, I was told to “enjoy-the-break.”  My daughter even got fatigued after the third of fourth time she took the “home-based tests” for me.  After I opened my big mouth, the exact order of questions was changed to increase acuity, but remained essentially the same, nevertheless. My daughter got bored, and quit taking the tests for me, shortly thereafter. She always “passed.”dhimc-book3

Thus, like Basu, I also find that far too many financial advisors are unwilling to devote the time necessary to achieve a sound education that will help attain their goals, and would rather sell variable or whole life products than simple term life, even when the suitability argument overwhelmingly suggests so, for a higher payday. We not only have met sale folks without undergraduate degrees, but also too many of those with only a HS diploma, or GED. Perhaps this is why a popular business truism suggests that the quickest way for the uneducated/under educated class to make big bucks, is in sales. Just note the many classified ads for financial advisors placed in the newspaper job-section, under the heading “sales.” Or, in more youthful cultural terms, “fake it – until you make it.”

Of the iMBA, Inc Experience

According to Executive Director Ann Miller RN MHA, and my experience at the Institute of Medical Business Advisors, Inc:

“Far too many financial advisors who contact us about matriculation in our online Certified Medical Planner™ program – in health economics and management for medical professionals – don’t even know what a Curriculum Vitae [CV] is? Instead, they send in Million Dollar Roundtable awards, Million Dollar Producer awards, or similar sales accomplishments as resume’ boosters. It is also not unusual for them to list some sort of college participation on their resumes, and websites, but no school affiliation or dates of graduation, etc. And, they become furious to learn that we require a college degree for our fiduciary focused CMP™ program, and not from an online institution, either. The onslaught of follow-up nasty phone-calls; faxes and emails are laughable [frightening] too.”  

www.MedicalBusinessAdvisors.com

Assessment

More often than not, it is the financial institutions that FAs and CFP™ certificants’ work for that reward sales behavior with higher commissions, rather than salaries; which encourage such behavior and create the vicious cycles that are now the norm.

THINK: ML, AIG, Citi, WAMU, Wachovia, Hartford, Prudential, etc.

Note: Original author of Restoring Trust in the CFP Mark, Somnath Basu PhD, is program director of the California Institute of Finance in the School of Business at California Lutheran University where he’s also a professor of finance. He can be reached at (805) 493 3980 or basu@callutheran.edu. We have asked him to respond further.

My Story: I am a retired surgeon and former Certified Financial Planner® who resigned my “marketing trademark” over the long-standing fiduciary flap. I watched this chicanery for more than a decade after protesting to magazines like Investment Advisor, Financial Advisor, Registered Rep, Financial Planner, the FPA, etc; up to, and even including the CFP® Board of Standards; to no avail. Feel free to contact me for a copy of a 43 page fax, and other supportive documentation from the CFP® Board of Standards – and their outsourced intellectual property attorneys – over a Federal trademark infringement lawsuit they tried to institute against me for innocent website errors placed by a visually impaired intern. Obviously, they disliked the launch of our CMP™ program. As a health economist and devotee of Ken Arrow PhD, I polity resigned my license, as holding no utility for me, to the shocked CFP Board. They later offered to consider re-instatement for a mere $600 fee with letter of explanation, to which I politely declined. Of course, my first thought after living in the streets of South Philadelphia while in medical school, during the pre-Rocky era, was to say f*** off – but I didn’t. Nevertheless, I still seem to be on their mailing list, years later. No doubt, the list is sold, and re-sold, to various advertisers for much geld. And, why shouldn’t they; an extra bachelor, master and medical degree holder on their PR roster looks pretty good. I distrust the CFP® Board almost as much as I distrust the AMA, and its parsed and disastrous big-pharma funding policies. Right is right – wrong is wrong – and you can’t fool all of the people, all of the time, especially in this age of internet transparency.

Shaking my Fist at Somnath … in Envy

And so, why do I shake my fist at Somnath Basu? It’s admittedly with congratulations, and a bit of schadenfreude, because he wrote an article more eloquently than I ever could, and will likely receive much more publicity [good or slings-arrows] for doing so. You know, it’s very true that one is never a prophet in his own tribe. Oh well, Mazel Tov anyway for stating the obvious, Somnath. The financial services industry – and more specifically – the CFP® emperor have no clothes! Duh!

ho-journal5

Good Guys and White Hats

Now that Basu’s article has appeared in Financial Advisor News e-magazine, the other industry trade magazines are sure to follow the CFP® certification denigration reportage, in copy-cat fashion. And, the fiduciary flap is just getting started. This is indeed unfortunate, because I do know many fine CFP® certificants, and non-CFP® certified financial advisors, who are well-educated, honest and work very diligently on behalf of their clients. It’s just a shame the public has no way of knowing about them – there is no white hat imprimatur or designation for same – most of whom are Registered Investment Advisors [RIAs] or RIA reps. For example, we know great folks like Douglas B. Sherlock MBA, CFA; Robert James Cimasi MHA, AVA, CMP™; J. Wayne Firebaugh, Jr CPA, CFP®, CMP™; Lawrence E. Howes MBA, CFP®; Pati Trites PhD; Gary A. Cook MSFS, CFP®, CLU; Tom Muldowney MSFS, CLU, CFP®, CMP™;  Jeffrey S. Coons PhD, CFP®; Alex Kimura MBA, CFP®; Ken Shubin-Stein MD, CFA; and Hope Hetico RN, MHA, CMP™; etc. And, to use a medical term, there are TNTC [too many, to count] more … thankfully!

Conclusion

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