Your best bets to protect your money during a global economic meltdown

By the time the wall behind CNBC hottie Mandy Drury goes red for weeks, it will be much too late to make any good decisions

You wake up to discover the wall of international stock prices behind the blonde in the tight dress on CNBC is again uniformly blood red.

The European stock market is plunging, and bank runs are escalating across the continent. The utility companies have cut the power off in Greece for lack of payment. Factories in China are closing, India is in the tank, Russia is reeling from the drop in oil revenue and even the last BRIC in the wall, Brazil, discovers that stimulus no longer works as well as it once did.

The great global unraveling is under way for real, and the U.S. economy is about to follow the meltdown straight into the pits of financial hell. So how can you best protect your money?

Welcome to the crapshoot

If you wait until all those economic shoes drop – and much of that fancy footwear is already hitting the fan – then your options are pretty much limited to dashing to the bank in the hope that you are faster than your neighbors.

It is far better to anticipate the various scenarios that might happen and think through how they would likely impact you and your family. Instead of Monopoly or Angry Birds, start gaming the possibilities of the Eurogeddon now so that you can take whatever steps you can to protect what you have.

Unfortunately, however, the first rule of Economic Fight Club is that no one really knows what will happen if (or more likely when) the wheels really do come off. There is no one-size-fits-all contingency plan that will guarantee that you can sit back and enjoy your locally grown arugula with a dollop of organic polenta, secure in the knowledge that you and your family are protected.

Reading Business Insider or Zerohedge for any length of time merely confirms that the global economy is no longer a rational and predictable system that allocates resources wisely, if it ever was. It is now instead a casino where machines drive the trading so fast that red and black – and green – become a blur.

In this new casino, the 1% economic elites not only own win because they are “the house,” but they have been inventing new exotic games (think derivatives and credit default swaps) designed to force you into placing ever-larger bets with “disposable” income like your retirement fund. Meanwhile, of course, they have been placing their collective thumbs on the roulette wheel to ensure those little white bouncing balls come up on their numbers more often than yours.

The mafia moguls at financials casinos such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan have also hijacked the government, persuading both the GOP and the Dems to use your money to bail them out if they lose. Meanwhile you are encouraged to revel in your freedom to lose not only your shirt, but your house, your car and your job as well, with no sign of  government help in sight.

Yet even for the 1%, there is a danger that rigging the game can tilt the wheel so far off center that it spins out of control and flies across the room, as it did in 2008. Ooops.

When even the rich cannot control the wheel well enough to protect themselves, then there are certainly no safe and sure bets for us. Buy stocks? Buy bonds? Buy gold? Buy vegetable seeds for barter? Buy a (really-really-really big) gun?

The bottom line is that the future is now a crapshoot. The best any of us can do is assess the relative risks of different strategies and figure out where to place our bets depending on the odds based on our individual circumstances.

The either/or’s

The first bet you must place in this rigged but unavoidable game is on what kind of potential disaster you think we are facing:

  • Sudden or slow?
  • Temporary or permanent?

The best case scenario, of course, is a temporary catastrophe that comes on slowly, since it offers a wider margin of error. This would mean a world where the ATMs will keep working, and the pharmacist will still have a functioning computer to verify your insurance for your insulin prescription (though you had better get there quickly, and you will play hell trying to stockpile).

The worst case is that tomorrow brings a sudden and permanent halt to life as we know it. To see what that might look like, you should pick up a copy of William Kunstler’s novel World Made by Hand, to get a jump on what life without power or technology is likely to bring. (I recommend against Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, or you will never sleep well again.)

If you want to wager that the ball will drop closer to the latter scenario than the former, there are steps you can take today that could help. It is likely that the chaos will be worse immediately after the reality settles in that life as we know it is gone, maybe forever. Your immediate goal is to secure your home base (or your bugout cabin) to ride out the initial storm.

In the short term

A good bet is to stockpile some cash at home, how much depends on how much you have, how accessible your funds are and whether you think they are safe anywhere but in your hands. The risks of having too little on hand are obvious, but the risk of having too much is that this could make you vulnerable if word gets out. (Folks down the road endured a brutal home invasion, reportedly because the family’s teenage son boasted to friends about how much money dad kept at home.)

One way to calculate what you will need is to figure out your current weekly expenditures for basics such as for food and fuel, then double or quadruple the amount (in case of gouging or simple inflation) and then multiply by the number of weeks you think it will take for the greatest danger to pass. Two weeks? A month? Six weeks?

Also lay in a stockpile of bottled water and buy enough nourishing healthy food to serve you well if the power goes out and your refrigerator and stove no longer function. An extra supply of hard-to-grow-here staples like coffee, cooking oil and rice (and a manual can opener or two) might also make sense as possible barter. Fill up your gas tanks and gas cans and buy a case or two of motor oil.

Get as many refills of your must-have prescriptions as you can, even if your insurance won’t cover them. Now is also a good time to invest in a thoroughly stocked First Aid kit, if you haven’t already, as well as books on how to treat yourself (don’t forget dental emergencies).

Buy a gun? That decision should not be made in haste, especially if you don’t know how to use one. In most cases, if you don’t already own one, your best bet might be to find neighbors who do. Invite the people who live nearby to a meeting to map out who can help – and who needs help. This is the time to band together like never before.

Use the meeting to organize neighborhoods patrols. Find out who in the community has useful skills – was someone a medic or an MP? Who knows CPR and who can teach it? You also need to develop a plan to care for the elderly and infirm or anyone with special needs.

In the long run

Once the initial situation stabilizes, you must begin to make decisions about money for the longer term:

  • Inflation or deflation?
  • How much do you have?
  • How much will you need?
  • How much will continue to come in?
  • What are your alternatives?

In Germany's Weimar Republic in the Twenties, paper money lost so much value that these children used bundles as bricks to play with

While authors like the aforementioned Kunstler predict society lurching back to a previous era with no tech and no electricity, my money is on scenarios more like the Great Depression or the Weimar Republic or the more recent collapses in Russia and Argentina. In those cases, there were still people who lived relatively well amid the chaos, but more and more people found themselves out of work and cascading down the economic ladder. And, lest we forget, one in five children in the United States already lives in poverty.

Another bet you will be forced to make is whether the crisis will produce inflation or deflation. Both create relative winners and losers.

Though the economic elites fight inflation tooth and nail, a little inflation in home prices might help people currently underwater on their mortgages. Efforts to fight inflation often result in higher interest rates, which could help people on fixed income earn more on safe investments. But the big fear is runaway inflation – the hyperinflation in Germany’s Weimar Republic that saw the value of the German mark skyrocket from 320 to the U.S. dollar to 8,000 during the last half of 1922. As a child I heard horror stories about how it took a wheelbarrow full of money to buy a single loaf of bread.

With inflation, people spend money today out of fear it won’t buy much tomorrow. With deflation, which occurred during the Great Depression, the opposite happens, as people hang onto their money as long as they can believing that goods and services will likely cost less tomorrow than they do today (which slows growth even more).

In the 1920's, the German mark was more valuable as wallpaper than as money

Of course, how much money you have, how much you need and how much you are likely to have coming in over time will influence and constrain your decisions. People with lots of money or a solid income may actually fare better in deflationary times.

A former boyfriend whose privileged background I learned to resent used to talk about how his family made out quite well during the Great Depression. His father kept his job as a highly paid engineer for a public utility, so the family found their standard of living improving as their money bought more. In contrast, at the same time, one of my relatives lost his family’s home because he could not afford to make the one last payment on the mortgage. I also remember an older man in Bath tell me how wrenching it was when his father committed suicide after Black Friday destroyed the family’s fortune.

Hyperinflation instead makes everyone paupers. In the Weimar Republic, even the wealthy quickly found themselves unable to buy the basics with paper money that had lost almost all of its value, like the gentleman using marks to paper his walls.

Searching for a safe haven

The major issues with the money you already possess are safety and liquidity (can you get your hands on enough cash when you need it?). Now is a good time to assess whether to shift your assets from one pot to another.

By now, I am assuming you have moved your money out of stocks and mutual funds. Funds that are housed in federally banks and credit unions are relatively easy to access, unless bank runs occur, though withdrawing them from various instruments such as CDs (certificates of deposit) can involve penalties. An individual’s deposits are federally insured up to $250,000 (FDIC for banks and NCUA for credit unions), at least until 2014 when the amount reverts to $100,000. It is theoretically possible that an economic catastrophe could leave the federal government unable or unwilling to pay off on that promise, but if the situation gets that bad, all bets are off.

For most middle-class families, the bulk of their money is locked up in equity in their home and in their hard-to-access retirement accounts. If you are lucky enough to have a home that is completely paid off, that can provide a great sense of security. But if it is the repository for most of your money, it can be hard to access as cash in a crisis. The same, of course, is true for cars and other items that may be hard to sell especially if they are declining in value. We have already seen how difficult it can be to sell a home quickly during an economic catastrophe.

But retirement funds are a different matter. What should you do in the short and long run with your 401k, and what restrictions apply? As a employee of Michigan State University, my retirement account was housed at TIAA-CREF, an insurance company that is therefore not eligible for any FDIC or NCUA federal insurance.Four years ago, when I first applied for Social Security, I tried to move all of my funds from my uninsured TIAA-CREF account to my federally insured IRA at the credit union, but the rules would not allow this. I was able to move a fairly large chunk, but it will take 10 years of annual payments to the move the rest, and people at other universities often find the rules prevent any movement out of the system.

The advisor at TIAA-CREF’s local office patronizingly pointed out that the government had established rules making it harder for people to access their retirement funds, in essence to protect simpletons like me from making foolish investments. (Like CDO’s based on tranches of lousy home mortgages perhaps?)

I politely pointed out that his firm had more lobbyists than I do, and it was to the benefit to the titans of the financial industry to keep as much of our money in their pockets as possible. He didn’t smile.

Perhaps the wisest course, at least at first, is to do what it takes to establish an emergency fund at home and to move anything else you can into the safest possible deposits in a federally insured bank or credit union. There is a danger that it might take a while to access the funds, but keeping them at home not only makes you a potential target but a fire or flood could wipe you out as well.

Converting your money into gold is another gamble. Though gold has traditionally been a good hedge in hard times, physical possession of the gold again makes you vulnerable. While gold is recognized a universal currency, it can also be difficult to prove its authenticity and value. The same goes for other precious metals, diamonds and other gems. At the same time, a friend tells the story about how his mother came home without her pearl earrings but with the passports needed to allow her family to escape the holocaust.

Another important element to factor into your plans is whether you expect to have more money coming in. Will you still have a reliable paycheck (or two or three) coming in each week or each month? For how long? Will you or your partner lose you job or be forced to accept a pay cut?

I now collect Social Security each month, and seeing that direct deposit appear also makes me feel secure. But will it still be there if the global economy goes up in flames? For how long? In full? What about my husband the musician and web designer? Will people still have money for entertainment or music lessons? Will the Internet still function?

Anticipating triage

The worst-case scenario is that my Social Security checks stop, and our paychecks and other income disappear. At that point, we have to think triage – which bills to pay for sure, which to pay maybe and which not to pay.

I have been there before, when my first husband contracted a lethal form of cancer when he was 24 and I was 18. We had less than nothing to start with, which made the decisions easier. If I see that train coming at me now, I would take proactive action sooner rather than later.

Surviving if things completely fall apart depends on maximizing income and minimizing outflow. Sell your second car, if you have one, especially if it means saving a monthly car payment as well as the car insurance fee.

Cash out of any whole-life policies and cancel term life insurance once it’s clear your day-to-day survival requires getting and keeping as much cash as you can.

The first bills to pay are heat and lights. The first bills you stop paying would be any unsecured debt. Credit cards. Loans without collateral. Failure to pay will blacken your credit score but if things get bad enough for me to consider this, my credit rating would probably be irrelevant anyhow.

I would try to keep paying my property taxes and income tax as long as possible. This would not be a good time to lose the house or have the government come after us. In this brilliant book Reinventing Collapse, Dmitri Orlov compared the collapse in the USSR/Russia to the one he sees coming here. In Russia, the government owned your apartment you lived and usually did not make a move to oust you even if you fell behind in the rent. As the continuing housing crisis here verifies, our rapacious government and venial bankers will not be so kind.

Next on the list for possible payment or non-payment would be secured debt (a home loan, a car loan). Yes, you had better hope the crisis is for real because otherwise you will be a credit pariah. But considering that it already takes almost two years to evict someone from a home headed to foreclosure, it might make sense to stop making payments and worry about the consequences later. If you can pay your property taxes late without any penalty, you should avail yourself of that option to keep cash on hand, since it amounts to an interest-free loan. Not so for the IRS, however, because penalties and interest are quickly prohibitive.

If these choices seem both stark and dire, it is because they are. Let us hope that it never comes to this. But even if it does, the people who start thinking through their options now stand the best chance of surviving to rebuild their lives in the future. Knowledge in this case really is power.

Will more of your money just go poof? A user’s guide to Zero Hedge, a blog for the 99%

The first rule of Fight Club/Zero Hedge is that you do not talk about Fight Club/Zero Hedge

The U.S. mainstream media arguably WMDed us into Iraq, and I, for one, believe they are currently failing to warn Americans that the global economy is perilously close to seizing up like a bad piston as it almost did in 2008. To understand the dynamics underlying the economic instability that threatens world markets requires figuring out the cryptic postings on economic insider blogs, chief among them Zero Hedge.

The feisty British press, especially The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Independent, try their mainstream best to report the machinations of G20 leaders struggling with the European economic crisis. Meanwhile Zero Hedge is stating flatly that the problem is a “zombie economy.”

As someone who barely knew what sovereign debt was a few months ago, I admit how difficult it is to decode the barrage of daily posts from Zero Hedge’s chief contributor ‘Tyler Durden,’ an alias borrowed from the name for the lead character(s) in the movie Fight Club. Durden’s posts routinely keep multiple plates such as leverage and liquidity spinning alongside unexplained acronyms like EFSF (European Financial Stability Facility) and BTP’s (Buono del Tesoro Poliennale), which are either some kind of Italian bonds or a mushroom polenta.

Reading Zero Hedge requires keeping Google search open in a separate browser window. Even Rolling Stone’s resident gonzo Matt Taibbi, who relied on Durden for much of his analysis of Wall Street’s crimes, admits that at first, “I didn’t understand a word he was saying.

But Taibbi also insists that learning to figure out what Zero Hedge is telling us is worth the effort. In his blog, Taibbi wrote, “I think there are a great many things about him that represent an enormous improvement over traditional media, and a real rebuke to the thinking of most traditional editors.”

A non-American original

I will now cherry-pick revelations about Durden that come primarily from the Joe Hagan’s profile in New York Magazine in 2009. In that piece, Hagan reveals that Zero Hedge’s blogging amanuensis Tyler Durden is actually Dan Ivandjiiski, a 30ish Bulgarian immigrant who lost his right to deal in stocks a few years ago because of insider trading who then became a hedge fund analyst.

An unreconstructed doomtard, the incredibly prolific Durden might have continued to blog in obscurity but then the 2008 meltdown persuaded people that the cracks in the financial system run deeper than the so-called experts are ever willing to admit.

Durden also identifies the enemy, assigning the role of the all-pervasive Illuminati in his contemporary doomsday conspiracy theory to the ubiquitous alumni of Goldman Sachs. After decoding Durden, Taibbi tagged ‘Golden Slacks’ as a prime example of our contemporary financial industry’s “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

Hagan argues that Zero Hedge solidified its reputation when some of its theories about Goldman proved true. In 2009, Durden kept hammering Goldman with allegations that the firm was shaving illegal profits from high-speed trading. Traditional traders pooh-poohed the allegations. Someone on the financial cable channel CNBC reportedly said Zero Hedge lives in “dark and cowardly corners of the blogosphere.” Yet New York Senator Chuck Schumer asked the Security and Exchange Commission to investigate so-called flash trading based at least in part on Durden’s reporting.

Economics is not only the dismal science, but a dubious discipline. In his critique of the high church of finance, Durden was beginning to look a lot like Galileo.

Losing my taste for the ‘experts’

I already knew about Zero Hedge from monitoring the conspiracy forum Godlike Productions. The site’s quirky owner Trinity takes great pride in assembling a slurry of links that range from the latest about chemtrails and space aliens among us to occasional gems from sites like Zero Hedge. A posting there in the spring of 2008 sent me to the Federal Reserve charts that go back decades. The withdrawals of billions of dollars by unnamed financial institutions looked so dramatic that I scoured the business press for answers, but there was no mention anywhere of what was happening.

I asked a colleague who had been an executive at Dow Jones what the numbers meant. He called friends still working in the industry, and they didn’t know.

I was alarmed enough to take as much of my money as possible out of my TIAA-CREF retirement account and deposit it in CD’s in an IRA at my local credit union, thereby avoiding the drubbing that many of my faculty peers are still reeling from.

In his book Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb tells the story of the turkey (us) who loves its benevolent masters (the bankers) because of the wonderful food and water we are given each day. That is, until a few days before Thanksgiving when our monied overlords show us both their hatchets and their real intentions.

Reading outsider economic bloggers like Zero Hedge helped save me from having my head chopped off, so I began making the site part of my daily apocalyptic news fix. Its references may be arcane, but Wikipedia reports the site now attracts 330,000 unique visitors a month.

Deconstructing today

So what is Zero Hedge telling us now? In the two years since Hagan’s article appeared, Zero Hedge has continued to gain street cred with its twin themes that (1) we are fucked and that (2) Goldman Sachs is literally and figuratively behind most of our screwing.

If you are looking for signs today that Goldman Sachs is the root of all money evil, Zero Hedge reminds us that you need go no further than the recent collapse of the aptly named MF Global. When the firm nosedived into the ground last week with former U.S. Senator and Goldman Sachs alumnus Jon Corzine at the joystick, only $40 billion or so went poof, compared to $600 billion when Lehman Brothers evaporated in 2008. But adding assault to injury, the firm cannot seem to put its hands on $633 million of customer funds that were supposed to remain safely shielded from any risk.

Employing what some would call typical Goldman doublespeak, out of one side of his mouth Corzine was righteously warning government officials that 30-to-1 leverage was too risky. Out of the other, however, he had to admit that MF Global was leveraged at 33-to-1, with its investments concentrated primarily in European holdings.

Even cleaning up the mess will be difficult since our entire system is choked with former Goldman bloodsuckers. Gary Gensler, head of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, had to recuse himself from investigating the MF Global debacle because he and Corzine worked together at Goldman years ago.

Burn, baby, burn

In Durden’s view, a system overrun with Goldman’s evil spawn requires a worldwide cleansing fire hot enough to fry the entire global financial casino so that it cannot rise again like a phoenix. Even a guest post by Charles Hugh Smith says the only positive thing that can be said about that zombie economy is that it will inevitably implode.

We are told that liquidating the overhang of bad debt, leverage and hedges would ‘destroy the world as we know it.’ The truth is that keeping the zombie system from expiring and covering up the corruption with propaganda is what’s actually destroying the world as we know it. Thus the collapse of the current financial system of central banks, pathological Wall Street and insolvent banks would be the greatest possible good and the greatest possible positive for the global economy and its participants.

Zero Hedge’s posters see the global financial system as Wile E. Coyote at the moment he is suspended next to the cliff, feet pedaling, just before he looks down.

Durden has no doubt we have already gone too far off the cliff to save ourselves. For him, the only question is when we will crash to earth, not if. Durden seems eager to end the suspense sooner rather than later because only then can we figure out how to create an economic system that is not fatally infected with both high risk and high debt.

It is easy to paint Durden and Zero Hedge as inherently conservative but perhaps not in the partisan sense. You don’t see anti-Obama screeds but you do sense a fundamental rejection of modern financial instruments as baroque excrescences so ornate that they cannot avoid collapsing under their own weight.

Zero Hedge might well be the perfect blogger for the 99 percenters. More than most, Durden piles up the proof that the system is rigged to bail out the wealthy and fail everyone else.

Like Durden, “Black Swan” author Taleb has refused to become a media darling, speaking instead through his writing. He recently co-wrote an article with Mark Spitznagel called The Great Bank Robbery in which he calculates that the executives who work for the banks that have filings with the SEC will pay themselves roughly $5 trillion by the time we reach the end of the decade where we now stand at midpoint.

That $5 trillion dollars is not money invested in building roads, schools, and other long-term projects, but is directly transferred from the American economy to the personal accounts of bank executives and employees. Such transfers represent as cunning a tax on everyone else as one can imagine. It feels quite iniquitous that bankers, having helped cause today’s financial and economic troubles, are the only class that is not suffering from them – and in many cases are actually benefiting.

Like Occupy Wall Street, Zero Hedge and the doomsayers are sounding the alarm that the system is corrupt. No matter which party is in power, it is designed to bail out the super-rich and leave everyone else in peril.

Durden and his ilk may be right that the only way to purge the system of its pervasive rot is by lighting the match that sends the entire global system up in flames. If so, let’s hope the Occupy movement has by then had the chance to mature enough so that it can build a better one in its place.

Is this be the week the wheels come off the global economy? Some advice

In Michigan, the home of organized labor, we are celebrating Labor Day under dark skies and temperatures that may just break 60. Yet that’s sunny compared to the dire news coming out of Europe:

  • European stocks dropping – For real-time information, go to Bloomberg’s Stock Futures page where the FTSE MIB is down around 800 points and the DAX 300. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Futures are down 220.
  • IMF and ECB sound worried - IMF director Christine Lagarde warns of “a threatening downward spiral” unless the US, the EU and other countries work together, including the need to reverse course from austerity to stimulus to ward off a double-dip recession. The Guardian reports Lagarde wants European banks recapitalized as a way of promoting confidence. In Der Spiegel, she also notes that rising health-care costs are a major driver of future deficits (even worse in the USA where insurance companies demand a large chunk?). Over the weekend, Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank, announced, “”We are experiencing very demanding times.” Not exactly ringing notes of confidence. Zerohedge’s Tyler Durden notes that, “After the ECB just announced that it had monetized a whopping E13.3 billion in the past week, nearly double expectations, and a total of E134 billion since the SMP program’s inception, the market took one quick look at just how effective this program has been, shuddered, and plunged realizing that neither ECB intervention, nor the shorting halt is doing anything at all.”
  • Global impactThe Guardian also notes that Asian market are down, China is slowing down and US jobs data was surprisingly awful.

European Central Bank Monetization

Undying optimists might want to invest in Greek one-year bonds, since the yield is 13.758% – if you think they will ever pay off at full rates.

While I wrote this advice on Surviving Tough Times for young women, part of the advice would be a good thing for you to do now:

Access to cash – You should also keep a supply of cash on hand in case an unexpected financial panic means the ATM machines stop working suddenly. (It happened to me years ago in Canada, and you realize quickly how vulnerable we are.) Figure out how much you would need for 10 days to two weeks, then withdraw that amount in relatively small denominations. (Without cash reserves, stores might not be able or willing to give change back.) Buy a fireproof lockbox and use it to store your cash and other important papers. In a pinch, you can filter the bills through big, thick hardback books. While that probably will not foil thieves, the bills will most likely survive a fire intact because the lack of oxygen often means the money survives even if the covers don’t.

Are we headed to a global crash and then a new world?

“We’re slow but not stupid,” says Australian Paul Gilding, the former head of Greenpeace. In his new book The Great Disruption, Gilding says we will ignore the realities of the climate crisis until catastrophe occurs, but then we will “end shopping” and build a better new world.

Marketwatch blogger Paul B. Farrell says:

Our planet’s natural resources can reasonably support about 5 billion people. That’s a fact. Another: Today we have 7 billion.

Since we do not have the 1.5 earths it would take to support us all well, he suggests that the coming catastrophe could mean the deaths of millions. That would indeed a be a wake-up call.

Bill Black explains how we got into this mess

William Black of the University of Missouri/Kansas City, was one of the federal regulators who dealt with the fraud in the Savings & Loan debacle of the Eighties. In his testimony to Congress on our recent mortgage mess in the video above, he explains that the investment banking industry’s “liar’s loans” became the foundation for the credit default swaps that melted down in 2008, taking us with them.

Black just appeared on Dylan Ratigan’s show on MSNBC where he revealed that one out of every three mortgages issued just before the 2008 economic collapse was fraudulent. Yet all the ratings agencies (S&P, Moody’s and Fitch) rated the top tranche of those loans as AAA.

I, for one, looked forward to seeing those Wall Street crooks in their bespoke suits frog-marched into prison for their sins. But Black explains that we are suffering our newest meltdown now because the big banks gave Obama’s re-election campaign enough cash to stave off prosecution.

In this video, he notes that the Treasury Department only sent two regulators to investigate mortgage fraud in banks like Lehman Brothers. In comparison, he said that the federal government dispatched 50 investigators to pursue the S&L fraudsters in that much-smaller scandal.

The rich get rich . . .