Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Friday, February 7, 2014
4th Financial Services Executive Found Dead; "From Self-Inflicted Nail-Gun Wounds" ..... Who commits suicide by nail gun and by the way , do you really think he did it like this ? Talley died from seven or eight self-inflicted wounds from a nail gun fired into his torso and head....... More suicides to come ? FX Probe Extends To Options: "Oh God, Look What We've Uncovered" .......... JP Morgan VP alleged suicide now under official investigation in London as initial " facts " placed in media report prove inaccurate ! Was this gentleman a whistleblower - what might he have been able to shed light regarding interest rate derivatives and / or fixed income securities at JP Morgan ? What about commodities or FX investigations ongoing - what might he have been able to shed light on there ?
The ugly rash of financial services executive suicides appears to have spread once again. Following the jumping deaths of 2 London bankers and a former-Fed economist in the US, The Denver Post reports Richard Talley, founder and CEO of American Title, was found dead in his home from self-inflicted wounds - from a nail-gun. Talley's company was under investigation from insurance regulators.
Richard Talley, 57, and the company he founded in 2001 were under investigation by state insurance regulators at the time of his death late Tuesday, an agency spokesman confirmed Thursday.
It was unclear how long the investigation had been ongoing or its primary focus.
A coroner's spokeswoman Thursday said Talley was found in his garage by a family member who called authorities.They said Talley died from seven or eight self-inflicted wounds from a nail gun fired into his torso and head.
Also unclear is whether Talley's suicide was related to the investigation by the Colorado Division of Insurance, which regulates title companies.
A checkered past?
Before coming to Colorado, Talley was a former regional financial officer at Drexel Burnham Lambert in Chicago, where he met his wife, Cheryl, a vice president at the company. The two married in 1989.
Talley had formed a number of companies, some now defunct, according to the Colorado secretary of state's office. Among them: American Escrow, Clear Title, Clear Creek Financial Holdings, Swift Basin, Sumar, American Real Estate Services, and the American Alliance of Real Estate Professionals.
It would appear, unfortunately, that Mr. Talley was not an entirely honest man...
Talley's 1989 wedding announcement in the Chicago Tribune noted he was "a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic swimming team."
A spokeswoman for USA Swimming on Thursday said Talley was not on the team.
Oilman, Banker, Soldier, Spy: everything is connected
The interconnected worlds of hedge funds, energy, banking, defence, globalism and geopolitics have the ability at times to make the characters from a John Le Carre novel seem one-dimensional and honourable by comparison. The Slog delves further into the the double-dealing world of the élite, and concludes that perhaps at last its members fear they might have a fight on their hands.
Four funerals and an abduction
Like me and millions of others, you’ve probably been following the growing death-toll among financial persons of late. Following the demise of one Morgan pirate last Sunday week, A Deutsche Bank executive followed last weekend.
Next came (or rather, went) Russell Investments’ Chief Economist and former Fed economist Mike Dueker, this week found devoid of life by a Washington State roadside. Of this last, police said it looked like suicide, which is all well and good, except he seems to have chosen the most athletic way of leaving this world in history: the 50 year old jumped over a 4-foot (1.2-meter) fence before plummeting down a 40- to 50-foot embankment, Pierce County Detective Ed Troyer said yesterday.
The link, however, doesn’t seem to be merely banking and suicide: still unexplained is the disappearance of David Bird, the oil markets reporter who had worked at the Wall Street Journal for 20 years, who vanished on January 11 2014.
And another death hitherto largely ignored may provide a link as to WTF is going on here: last Monday week, Tata Motors managing director Karl Slym was found dead after falling from a high floor at the Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok. Tata Motors is the automotive arm of the Tata Sons Ltd. group, a business empire headed by Cyrus P. Mistry that includes companies engaged in oil, power generation…and solar.
The immediate commonalities here are jumping, energy, market rigging and whistle-blowing.
All of these men had expressed, at some point or another, a willingness or intention to talk to the authorities about fixes in various financial and commodity markets….oil being an especially prominent one. All fell off things (although we don’t know what happened to Bird yet) none of them were felt to be even remotely depressed, and all were either partnering with, reporting on or working far large global concerns facing very serious regulatory and criminal investigations.
The most definitive way to silence somebody is murder, but even with something as final as death, no motive is ever quite as it seems high up in in the Gods.
Greece, I have always maintained, is most definitely not about a relatively piddling debt that was (it now seems almost certain) exaggerated in the first place: much larger considerations are the country’s importance as a Mideast military base, the alliances of Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, and the vast amounts of new century industrials, gas and oil to be found beneath its territorial waters. Geopolitics and energy are always in the mix somewhere: and you should never assume that energy, Wall Street, the Pentagon and the White House are separate players.
If you can’t get the ship of State to heave to, torpedo it
The same Hedge Fund fate that doomed Greece may yet befall Denmark. Owl Creek Asset Management, a leading high-performance hedge-fund firm, has begun betting against Denmark’s sovereign bonds “in anticipation of a debt crisis”. In turn, Owl Creek has taken up a massive posiiton in credit default swaps on Danske Bank, Denmark’s biggest lender. Nice little pincer movement there, guys.
While the Danes’ debt to disposable ratio is World No 1 at 320%, methinks there is another factor underlying this sudden interest in a relatively obscure Scandinavian country. You see, it just so happens that the Arctic is believed to contain 22% of the technically recoverable oil and gas resources still left in the world. Also, guess what? Denmark has the most solid claim to the largest part of it…and leads the technology race to get it out at a commercial price. But as Offshore technology Magazine reported two years ago,
‘…there are disputes between Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the US regarding rights to use resources and security of transportation through Arctic shipping routes.’
Most market-rigging is not done for profit first.
If you look at gold, QE, Zirp, Libor, derivatives and now oil, more often than not the primary motive lies with the Sovereigns and central banks around the developed world. When I first began writing about gold fundamentals in 2006, I was showered with news to the effect that I was bonkers. Now it is an accepted fact, but it is being done for survival, not profit. The price of the Euro is another example: traders can profit from it, but it has been manipulated by the ECB nonstop since 2009 for entirely political reasons. Oftentimes, the price of oil makes little sense, and the excuses given for ups and downs simply don’t check out…until you think about who wants low prices at the pumps, and who has done what deal with which Mideast maniac.
Are the MoUs finally on the run?
Twenty years ago, I used to dismiss oil conspiracy theory as bunk. Now you’d be blind to do so. To cloak the interference in Iraq, Iran, Libya and now Syria as genuine concern about human rights means merely that you suffered concussion when toppling off the Christmas tree.
However, one senses that it is increasingly important for those Uptop that no further evidence emerges of malign sovereign/central banker motives…especially in the light of Wikileaks and Philip Snowden. Be under no illusion at all: if such were to emerge and show clear evidence of persistent fraud on a global scale, the balance of belief could so easily tip in favour of the cynics. Five deaths to plug holes in the wall of silence are as nothing in that context.
Everything is connected.
Since the start of 2014, we have seen crude and brazen depression of bond yields in Italy and Spain, almost certainly linked to Japan: there are personal Draghi reasons for this, but also EU/Abe geopolitical ones. However – and this is significant I think…..no bond help in the way of rigging was offered to Greece. For it is important in the Global Energy Game that Greece remains a prisoner, made at all times to fell weak and outnumbered: it was promised Christmas debt relief, it didn’t get it. Now – Bloomberg reports today – the new bailout deal from the EU is set to include extending the maturity on rescue loans to 50 years. The plan will be considered by policy makers during March and April…a good idea this one, as Athens will default on its loans bigtime without help in May. And the Sprouts don’t want that: they just want the cowering mouse shivering in fear forever….for in the hole, Greece has riches beyond even Venizelos’s wildest dreams. And the Cat must have his cream.
And the same is true of Denmark. Within ten years, if one believes even 10% of peak oil theory, Denmark could have the highest per capita wealth on the planet, and be the world’s biggest oil exporter. There is no way the Big Boys Club can live with that one. So Denmark too must be torpedoed.
As I suggested at the outset, if this piece reads like vintage John le Carré, then (a) I’m flattered and (b) I make no apology. Sometimes, things really are just Snafu. And at other times, four badly-disguised murders in 18 days by enforced jumping all involving whistleblowers merely shows the lack of imagination of the average security services field operative.
This is, without any doubt, a story to which you really should stay tuned.
FX Probe Extends To Options: "Oh God, Look What We've Uncovered"
As an increasing number of FX traders are disappearing from bulge bracket banks (for "entirely unrelated to the FX probe" reasons), the WSJ reports that European and US regulators are expanding the scope of the manipulation probe. In the course of sifting through mountains of documentation, banks have found an array of apparent misconduct, according to people involved with the investigations and now the FX options market has come under scrutiny."It's the banks saying, 'oh God, look what we've uncovered, there's a whole lot of issues'," a person familiar with the investigation said.
A regulatory probe that flamed up in one corner of the vast foreign-exchange market is now engulfing the entire industry.
The latest conflagration: concerns about a type of foreign-exchange derivative that is widely used by financial institutions and companies world-wide, according to a person familiar with the matter.
These contracts, which banks often sell to clients, pay out in the event that exchange rates reach certain levels. They are heavily traded: Anotional $337 billion changes hands in the overall FX options market each day, according to the Bank for International Settlements.
Behind the scenes, though, banks often buy or sell currencies aggressively to prevent those levels from being breached, according to traders and banking executives. That may be to the detriment of clients, who would otherwise potentially receive a payment, these industry officials say, although banks see it as a way to protect their cash. Such tactics are commonplace, traders say.
As part of banks' internal reviews into their foreign-exchange businesses, some recently have found potential problems with trading involving the options,according to the person familiar with the matter.
One former trader at Deutsche Bank in New York was fired after chat room messages showed he joked about his ability to affect the price of a barely-traded currency—the Argentine peso—people familiar with the matter say. The bank has fired three other executives, including at least one in Latin America, in connection to trading practices not related to the London fix, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Authorities are also looking into whether some foreign-exchange bankers inappropriately traded in their personal accounts. This practice is forbidden at some banks, though there is not a blanket ban across the industry. It is frowned upon because of the possibility traders could use privileged information for their own profit.
In all, about 20 traders and bankers including some in New York, London and Tokyo have now been suspended or fired since authorities started to investigate the foreign-exchange markets.
The same pattern -- a sudden surge minutes before 4 p.m. in London on the last trading day of the month, followed by a quick reversal -- occurred 31 percent of the time across 14 currency pairs over two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. For the most frequently traded pairs, such as euro-dollar, it happened about half the time, the data show
Senator Carl Levin's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Is Probing Global Banks' Involvement in the U.S. Commodities Markets
In a span of four days last week, two current executives and one recently retired top ranking executive of major financial firms were found dead. Both media and police have been quick to label the deaths as likely suicides. Missing from the reports is the salient fact that all three of the financial firms the executives worked for are under investigation for potentially serious financial fraud.
The deaths began on Sunday, January 26. London police reported that William Broeksmit, a top executive at Deutsche Bank who had retired in 2013, had been found hanged in his home in the South Kensington section of London. The day after Broeksmit was pronounced dead, Eric Ben-Artzi, a former risk analyst turned whistleblower at Deutsche Bank, was scheduled to speak at Auburn University in Alabama on his allegations that Deutsche had hid $12 billion in losses during the financial crisis with the knowledge of senior executives. Two other whistleblowers have brought similar charges against Deutsche Bank.
Deutsche Bank is also under investigation by global regulators for potentially rigging the foreign exchange markets – an action similar to the charges it settled in 2013 over its traders’ involvement in the rigging of the interest rate benchmark, Libor.
Just two days after Broeksmit’s death, on Tuesday, January 28, a 39-year old American, Gabriel Magee, a Vice President at JPMorgan in London, plunged to his death from the roof of the 33-story European headquarters of JPMorgan in Canary Wharf. According to Magee’s LinkedIn profile, he was involved in “Technical architecture oversight for planning, development, and operation of systems for fixed income securities and interest rate derivatives.”
Magee’s parents, Bill and Nell Magee, are not buying the official story according to press reports and are planning to travel from the United States to London to get at the truth. One of their key issues, which should also trouble the police, is how an employee obtains access to the rooftop of one of the mostly highly secure buildings in London.
Nell Magee was quoted in the London Evening Standard saying her son was “a happy person who was happy with his life.” His friends are equally mystified, stating he was in a happy, long-term relationship with a girlfriend.
JPMorgan is under the same global investigation for potential involvement in rigging foreign exchange rates as is Deutsche Bank. The firm is also said to be under an investigation by the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for its involvement in potential misconduct in physical commodities markets in the U.S. and London.
One day after Magee’s death, on Wednesday, January 29, 2014, 50-year old Michael (Mike) Dueker, the Chief Economist at Russell Investments, is said to have died from a 50-foot fall from a highway ramp down an embankment in Washington state. Again, suicide is being presented by media as the likely cause. (Do people holding Ph.D.s really attempt suicide by jumping 50 feet?)
According to Dueker’s official bio, prior to joining Russell Investments, he was an assistant vice president and research economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis from 1991 to 2008. His duties there included serving as an associate editor of the Journal of Business and Economic Statistics. He also was editor of Monetary Trends, a monthly publication of the St. Louis Fed.
Bloomberg News quotes William Poole, former President of the St. Louis Fed from 1998 to 2008, saying “Everyone respected his professional skills and good sense.”
According to a report in the New York Times in November of last year, Russell Investments was one of a number of firms that received subpoenas from New York State regulators who are probing the potential for pay-to-play schemes involving pension funds based in New York. No allegations of wrongdoing have been made against Russell Investments in the matter.
The case of David Bird, the oil markets reporter who had worked at the Wall Street Journal for 20 years and vanished without a trace on the afternoon of January 11, has this in common with the other three tragedies: his work involves a commodities market – oil – which is under investigation by the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for possible manipulation. The FBI is involved in the Bird investigation.
Bird left his Long Hill, New Jersey home on that Saturday, telling his wife he was going for a walk. An intentional disappearance is incompatible with the fact that he left the house wearing a bright red jacket and without his life-sustaining medicine he was required to take daily as a result of a liver transplant. Despite a continuous search since his disappearance by hundreds of volunteers, local law enforcement and the FBI, Bird has not been located.
When a series of tragic events involving one industry occur within an 18-day timeframe, the statistical probability of these events being random is remote. According to a number of media reports, JPMorgan is conducting an internal investigation of the death of Gabriel Magee. Given that JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank and Russell Investments are subjects themselves of investigations, a more serious, independent look at these deaths is called for.
Not so fast on the suicide of the JP Morgan IT VP......
(Left) JPMorgan's European Headquarters at 25 Bank Street, in the Canary Wharf Section of London
London Police have confirmed that an official investigation is underway into the death of a 39-year old JPMorgan Vice President whose body was found on the 9th floor rooftop of a JPMorgan building in Canary Wharf two weeks ago.
The news reports at the time of the incident of Gabriel (Gabe) Magee’s “non suspicious” death by “suicide” resulting from his reported leap from the 33rd level rooftop of JPMorgan’s European headquarters building in London have turned out to be every bit as reliable as CEO Jamie Dimon’s initial response to press reports on the London Whale trading scandal in 2012 as a “tempest in a teapot.”
An intense investigation is now underway into the details of exactly how Magee died and why his death was so quickly labeled “non suspicious.” An upcoming Coroner’s inquest will reveal the details of that investigation.
It’s becoming clear that when JPMorgan tells us “nothing to see here, move along,” that’s the precise time we need to bring in the blood hounds and law enforcement with the guts to get past this global behemoth’s army of lawyers who have a penchant for taking over investigations and producing their own milquetoast reports of what happened.
Jamie Dimon’s so-called “tempest in a teapot” in the London Whale matter morphed into $6.2 billion in bank depositor losses, $1 billion in fines to JPMorgan, 300 pages of scandalous details by the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that called into question JPMorgan’s risk controls and the integrity of upper management, and, finally, resulted in criminal charges against two of the men involved. The criminal cases have yet to go to trial.
According to numerous sources close to the investigation of Gabriel Magee’s death, almost nothing thus far reported about his death has been accurate. This appears to stem from an initial poorly worded press release issued by the Metropolitan Police in London which may have been a result of bad communications between it and JPMorgan or something more deliberate on someone’s part.
The Metropolitan Police have provided me with their original press release. It reads:
“Police were called at approximately 08.02 hrs on Tuesday 28 January to reports of a man having fallen from a building at 25 Bank Street, E14 and landing on a ninth floor roof. London Ambulance Service and London Air Ambulance attended. The man was pronounced dead at the scene a short while later. The deceased is believed to be aged 39. We believe we know the identity of the deceased but await formal identification. Next of kin have been informed. No arrests have been made and the death is being treated as non-suspicious.”
That press release resulted in CNBC running with this headline: “Death Plunge at JP Morgan Tower Not Suspicious, Police Say.” Dozens of other media followed with similar reporting.
The Independent newspaper in London flatly stated that Magee “died after falling from the roof.” The London Evening Standard tweeted: “Bankers watch JP Morgan IT exec fall to his death from roof of London HQ,” which linked to their article which declared in its opening sentence that “A man plunged to his death from a Canary Wharf tower in front of thousands of horrified commuters today.”
At this moment in time, police have yet to produce a single witness who saw Magee jump from the rooftop of this building, let alone “thousands of horrified commuters.” (Exactly why would thousands of horrified commuters be standing in front of 25 Bank Street at 8:02 a.m. with their necks tilted up toward the roof? Magee did not land on the sidewalk; his body was found on a rooftop 9 floors above street level.) Both the Independent and London Evening Standard newspapers are majority owned by Alexander Lebedev, a Russian and former KGB agent.
No one in the media seemed to notice that Iain Dey, Deputy Business Editor of the Sunday Times in London, flatly disputed the notion that a plunge from the rooftop had been observed by anyone when he reported that: “Gabriel Magee’s body lay for several hours before it was found at 8am last Tuesday.”
The only facts in this case which are currently reliable are that fellow workers looking from their windows in the building noticed a body lying on the 9th level rooftop, which juts out from the main 33-story building, at around 8:02 a.m. on Tuesday, January 28, and called the police. There is no concrete proof at this moment in time that Magee fell, jumped or was ever on the 33-story rooftop, which is a highly secured area of the building unobtainable by employees other than top security and maintenance personnel. According to design documents that have been publicly filed, the rooftop functions as a highly sophisticated cooling plant with large, bulky machinery taking up the majority of the space on the side of the building from which Magee would have had to jump in order to land on the 9th level rooftop.
No solid evidence exists currently to suggest that the death was a suicide. In fact, there is a strong piece of evidence pointing in the opposite direction. Magee had emailed his girlfriend, Veronica, on the evening of January 27 to say that he was about to leave the office and would see her shortly. She received no further emails from him, suggesting that whatever happened to Magee happened shortly thereafter, not the next morning. According to multiple sources, Magee’s girlfriend reported his disappearance on the evening of January 27. The Metropolitan Police would provide me with no details on that investigation.
The JPMorgan building at 25 Bank Street is located in the borough of Tower Hamlets. According to drawings and plans submitted by JPMorgan to the borough after it purchased the building for £495 million in 2010, the 9th floor roof is accessible “via the stair from level 8 within the existing Level 9 plant enclosure…” In other words, it would be just as reasonable to entertain the possibility that Magee suffered his physical injuries inside the building and his body was placed on the 9th level rooftop via an internal staircase access sometime during the night of January 27.
The LinkedIn profile that Magee set up for himself online indicates that he was involved with “Technical architecture oversight for planning, development, and operation of systems for fixed income securities and interest rate derivatives.” As a key part of the computer technology group in London, Magee may have been involved in providing subpoenaed material for the London Whale investigation and the myriad other investigations that JPMorgan has been sanctioned and fined for over the last year. There are two serious open investigations into foreign exchange rigging and potential manipulation of commodities markets.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) lists the man known as the London Whale, Bruno Iksil, who is cooperating with criminal prosecutors, and the two traders who have been criminally charged with hiding hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, Javier Martin-Artajo and Julien Grout, as having the same JPMorgan address, 25 Bank Street, as did Gabriel Magee.
Documents produced by the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, however, show a 2012 address for JPMorgan’s Chief Investment Office in London, supposedly where the London Whale trades were originating, as 100 Wood Street, 6thFloor, London. If the London Whale traders were located at an address other than the European Headquarters for JPMorgan, it could have been to evade detection by regulators that the firm was using bank deposits in the United States, that carried FDIC insurance, to place high risk gambles in London in the derivatives market.
The Senate’s 300-page report noted that key traders involved in the London Whale matter, including Iksil, Martin-Artajo, and Grout, refused to submit to interviews by the Senate investigators. The Senate report notes that “their refusal to provide information to the Subcommittee meant that this Report had to be prepared without their direct input. The Subcommittee relied instead on their internal emails, recorded telephone conversations and instant messages, internal memoranda and presentations, and interview summaries prepared by the bank’s internal investigation, to reconstruct what happened.”
If Magee became aware that incriminating emails, instant messages, or video teleconferences were not turned over in their entirety to Senate investigators or Justice Department prosecutors, that might be reason enough for his untimely death. Yes, this is speculation. But it is along the lines that smart thinking investigators need to intensely explore to bring peace of mind and answers to Gabriel Magee’s loved ones and coworkers.