Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Swindlers Revisited: Why Canada's Occupy Wall (Bay) Steet Movement is Important

A friend left a comment on my blog yesterday, reminding me of a book I had read several months ago, Swindlers.  She was just in the process of reading it herself.  Timely, given the current protests against Wall Street greed.

Anyone questioning why citizens have taken to the streets, need to read this book.

In it, the Rosens (father and son), tell us of how Jim Flaherty and Stephen Harper have signed Canada on to a new set of rules governing corporations.
Thanks to our self-regulated auditors, Canada will soon adopt [Came into effect on January 1, 2011]  new accounting and auditing standards called International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Under IFRS, corporate managers will have even more freedom to distort and manipulate their financial reports to make themselves look better than they really are. Despite the devastating impact it will have on investors and the utility of financial statements in general, auditors succeeded in pushing through the change because of complete disinterest from lawmakers and a lack of recognition by investors that auditors have no interest in upholding their needs. Canadians simply assume that a self-regulatory body like the auditors would look after public interests, not just their self-interests. (Swindlers: Cons and Cheats and How to Protect Your Investments From Them, By Al Rosen and Mark Rosen, Madison Commerce, 2010, ISBN: 978-1-897330-76-0)
They are now legally allowed to lie on their financial statements to lure potential investors.  When I wrote of this before, I received an email asking why it mattered.  After all, it was just rich people cheating other rich people.

However, this affects all of us, because it could mean company pension plans, RRSPs, mutual funds ... things we don't think about every day but they could have a serious affect on our future financial well being.  More from the book:
Judging from the stories that run in the newspaper, you probably think that Canada is a pretty safe place to invest your money. After all, we just survived one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression. Some of the biggest names in the world of banking and finance have disappeared, but not a single Canadian bank collapsed. Canada must be doing something right, right?

If you believe that, we have some bad news. The risks you take by investing in Canada have never been greater. And the so-called protection that Canadians think they receive from regulators, lawmakers, and auditors has never been weaker. (ibid)
Good PR (propaganda) at taxpayers expense, has led us to believe that we are financially sound.  We're not.  Since coming to office, the "Harper government" has been on a deregulation drunk.

During one binge, they flooded the market with sub-prime mortgages and the next day found themselves in bed with AIG.  Some morning after.

Another weekend of partying and they bailed out our banks to the tune of $125 billion.  The drunkenomic hangover.

More from the Rosens:
Corporate lobbying power and the absence of an organized investor voice in Canada means that most regulatory actions favour corporate interests. Canada is the only major country in the world that allows the same people who audit public companies to financially control the process that sets the auditing rules. This basic and fundamental conflict of interest means that auditors can set rules that cater to their paying corporate clients over the needs of investors.

There's a lot of money involved in these financial cons. Based on our extensive experience with auditor negligence and executive dishonesty, we estimate that investors have lost hundreds of billions of dollars to scams in Canadian financial markets. Even if you haven't invested a penny in the stock market yourself, these losses affect you. Anyone who collects a pension, saves for his children's education, or simply pays her taxes like an honest citizen suffers from the disinterest of our regulators and lawmakers in prosecuting dishonest corporate executives, aided by acquiescent auditors.
If power is intoxicating, unchecked power is inebriating. 

A few more brown-bagged calamities:

A former Goldman-Sachs employee is running the bank of Canada and has brought along a colleague to act as his assistant.  The same Goldman-Sachs who helped to create the last economic crisis, and the same Goldman-Sachs who warned their clients not to invest in Canada.

Another Goldman-Sachs employee has been signed on to handle Canada's foray into derivatives.  Investor Warren buffet calls derivatives "weapons of mass destruction", but that won't stop Flaherty.  He's even putting some of our Canada pension funds into this risky venture.

Stephen Harper's chief of staff came right off Bay Street to secure the purchase of the F-35s for one of his clients.

And yet Flaherty claims that Canadians have little to protest.

Chantel Hebert is suggesting that instead of protesting Canadians should vote.  Maybe if the media kept us better informed, we would.  Every time they refer to this government as "Tories", they are putting another nail in our coffin.

A Queens University political science professor was asked recently why people are protesting.  She said that the question should not be "why?" but what took them so long.


  1. Chantal Hebert's sanctimonious lecture about Canadians not voting misses the whole point of the occupy movement.

    People are fed up with all political parties, since they all play, to varying degrees, within the same political paradigm of greed.

    People want something new, a commitment to sharing in society, a commitment to the improvement of society for all, not just the greedy few.

    Ms. Hebert's outlook is to simply promote a rearrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic. And in the case of the Titanic, the 1% escaped in life boats, and the 99% in steerage drowned.

  2. Thanks Emily.
    And here is what Rick Salutin has to say :
    Salutin: Occupiers call for changing the agenda -