Derivative madness

October 6, 2011 | By | 5 Replies More

Thought we bailed them out, Wall Street banks continue with much of their destructive behavior. Exhibit A: They hold 95% of Derivatives. How can we stop the madness?

Large U.S. bank speculation in derivatives, the very thing which caused the economic crisis of 2008, is going on more than ever. JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have some 95% of such exotic investments, with only a small percentage being held by the tens of thousands of other banks in the US. Each of the current large bank holders of derivatives were recipients of bailout funds under the TARP.

The federal law (Glass-Steagall) which had prevented banks from involving themselves in such ultra-risky transactions was repealed in 1996, and its replacement was a hard fought losing battle to pass the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation. The proposed CFTC regulations to limit the type and numbers of such positions taken by commercial banks on such financial investments are being challenged even before they are made final.

One of the new items proposed to be regulated is the type, number and amounts of positions taken on West Texas Light Crude oil which is a benchmark for the international price per barrel of oil. Previously, the WTLC market was regulated in Dubai and the UK and not in the US, so speculators could do as they pleased with those oil prices and not be subject to US regulation or even US scrutiny. It is commonly agreed that speculators add as much as 40% more to the price of a barrel of oil. The proposed CFTC regulations anger large speculative investors and they have threatened lawsuits even before the regulations go into effect.

One method of suppressing speculation is a financial transaction tax. Some experts say that a broad series of financial transaction taxes will provide additional revenues to countries and also serve to prevent the kind of wholesale speculation in derivatives and other such exotica which gave us the world economic crisis in 2008. Taxing authorities could also provide regulators real-time information on the positions of various investors to monitor and avoid abuses.

The European Community is about to impose such a tax on financial transactions to deter speculators and to raise revenues. Perhaps we in the US may do likewise.


Category: Economy

About the Author ()

imothy E. Hogan is a trial attorney, a husband, a father of two awesome children and a practicing Roman Catholic in St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Hogan has done legal and political work in Jefferson City, Missouri for partisan and non-partisan social change, environmental and consumer protection groups. Mr. Hogan has also worked for consumer advocate Ralph Nader in Washington, DC and the members of the trial bar in the State of New York. Mr. Hogan’s current interests involve remaining a full time solo practitioner pioneer on the frontiers of justice in America, a good husband and a good father to his awesome children.

Comments (5)

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  1. Pete Vander Meulen says:

    This subject is far afield from my expertise so I’ll make what to some may seem like an overly simplistic statement. With the groundswell of the Occupy Wall Street sentiment, and with the President’s statement today that he is in favor of a surtax on wealthy individuals, is this not a perfect place to target that tax. After all, with corporations acting as persons in some beneficial ways (political contributions, thanks to the Supreme Court), it’s not a stretch to extend their person-hood to a derivatives tax, this finally making a warranted political contribution.

  2. Tim Hogan says:

    The banksters and non-bank banksters are at it again! Watch out, they’re trying to get a fully federally insured scheme of derivative funding through Congress right now!

  3. Tim Hogan says:

    I no longer wonder or speculate why we cannot get regulatory rules or enforcement under Dodd-Frank:

    The people who leave the business sector for government “service” get a huge bonus from their employers…the same five banks and no-bank banks that caused the financial crisis in the first place and hold over 95% off derivative contracts now. It’s deja vu, all over again.”

  4. grumpypilgrim says:

    Bill Moyers had economist Richard Wolff on his show last weekend who suggested that government regulation is, to a large extent, a waste of time, because every time a new regulation is created, people find ways around it. Wolff suggested that instead of regulations, we should change the basic rules of American-style capitalism to make it inherently more self-regulating. One way to do this, he suggested, would be to give employees democratic power to participate in their employer’s decisions. After all, what good is American democracy if most Americans spend most of their time and energy in the completely undemocratic entities we call “corporations?” See the March 22, 2013, interview (“What has Capitalism Done for Us Lately?”) at

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Thanks, Grumpy. I haven’t seen that particular show, but Bill Moyers is first rate, which is the reason the conservative worked so hard to run him off of PBS, and then, unsurprisingly, no one comparable replaced him.

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