Tuesday, February 3, 2009

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
- Thomas Jefferson

The past year has been monumentally destructive for the equity markets. Financial companies and credit worldwide have nearly been crippled. Fear has invaded the markets and there is no sense in some of the characteristics exhibited by individual investors. I sometimes sit back and wonder in awe the global effect that this economic slowdown has had. Millions of people worldwide are facing unemployment and here in the US, President Obama faces a monstrous task of injecting confidence and rebuilding the US economy.

As I sit back and think about the events of the past year, I am seeing a silver lining in all the doom and gloom of the market and the economy. The very fact that the plug was pulled from those irrelevant lofty valuations caused the excesses of the market eco-system to come out of the woodwork. What this has done is to out the nefarious schemes of people like Bernie Madoff (U.S) and Ramalinga Raju (Indian software giant Satyam Computer Services). The markets had started to flatten and slide by late 2007 and it took almost a year of falling values to trickle down to the point where the schemes laid out by these men unraveled. A lot of people have lost their entire life savings due to these alleged ponzi schemes. It is a sad thing, but in a way this downturn caused more schemes and crimes from being perpetrated. I sincerely hope that all of the illegal schemes will be revealed before the next uptick in the markets and the economy. I say this because when the markets are good and generally rising, dirt can get swept up under the rug, excesses get ignored and thievery can be hidden.

The incoming president’s cabinet members had some issues as well. Timothy geithner and Tom Daschle had unpaid taxes. Would they have paid it if it were not for the promising roles that they were about to undertake? Why did the IRS not catch them or audit them. Tom Daschle had not paid taxes to the tune of over a 100,000 dollars (Late Breaking news as I am writing this, Daschle has withdrawn). These people only chose to pay after the vetting process for the cabinet posts.

In the same way, why did the SEC choose to go after Martha Stewart and prosecute her for a pity-some gain on insider trading charges, when many others got off easy? The question here is, "Was the SEC asleep at the wheel when Madoff was concocting income statements?". Doesn’t the SEC actually do a random check of claim of trades executed as a means to verify the authenticity of income via equity trading?

Thomas Jefferson said that the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. In much the same way, the needs, greed and excesses of society must be shed from time to time. Unfortunately the patriots pay (lose money), but the tyrants are revealed. Hopefully justice will prevail.

* Note: As the American way goes, at the time of this writing those parties that stand accused of crimes. are all innocent until proven guilty (with exceptions).

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