UPDATES FOR BANKER SUICIDE WATCH: FOUR PROMINENT BANKERS SPECIALIZING IN SWAPS AND DERIVATIVES FOUND DEAD WITHIN SIX DAYS, ALL RULED "SUICIDES"
MARCH 24 UPDATE: CORONERS START TO PROBE BANKER SUICIDES
MARCH 5 UPDATE: BITCOIN CEO, AUTUMN RADTKE, FOUND DEAD IN SINGAPORE OF APPARENT SUICIDE
BANKER SUICIDE WATCH: FOUR PROMINENT BANKERS SPECIALIZING IN SWAPS AND DERIVATIVES FOUND DEAD WITHIN SIX DAYS, ALL RULED "SUICIDES"
What’s going on? Top officials from JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, Russel Investments, Tata Group, and the Federal Reserve have all turned up dead over the course of six days. Each was ruled by coroners to have taken their own lives. And each specialized in swaps and derivatives.
The notional value of the swaps and derivatives marketplace is incomprehensibly big -- $850 trillion. That's many times larger than the GNP of the entire planet. And the market is growing even bigger.
Swaps and derivatives are little understood and poorly regulated. It is a largely offshore market that has led to what is called the "shadow banking system".
Dark pools of liquidity dominate the shadow banking system.
In finance, dark pools of liquidity (also referred to as dark liquidity or simply dark pools or black pools) is trading volume or liquidity that is not openly available to the public or to regulators. The bulk of dark pool trades represent large trades by financial institutions that are offered away from public exchanges so that trades are anonymous. The fragmentation of financial trading venues and electronic trading has allowed dark pools to be created, and they are normally accessed through crossing networks or directly between market participants.
The systems and strategies in the shadow banking system typically seek liquidity among open or closed trading venues, such as "alternative trading systems". As such, they are particularly useful for computerized and quantitative strategies.
Dark pools have been growing in importance, with dozens of different pools garnering a substantial portion of U.S. equity trading. Dark pools are of various types and can execute trades in multiple ways, such as through negotiation or automatically, i.e., mid-point crosses, staggered crosses, VWAP, etc., or throughout the day or at scheduled times.
Again, computers, not human traders sitting at a trading desk, direct these trades. Algorithmic trading, also called automated trading or black-box trading, make the trades.
Like Alice through the looking glass, things get even stranger.
Black-box trading can be widely distributed and connected throughout the world in the "web spidering" of bots on the Internet. Moreover, these bots can be loaded up with artificial intelligence programs. In other words, the system can not only be connected, international in scope, automated, but it can also get smarter by learning from its mistakes.
About bots: An Internet bot, also known as web robot, WWW robot or simply bot, is a software application that runs automated tasks over the Internet. Typically, bots perform tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive, at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone. The largest use of bots is in web spidering, in which an automated script fetches, analyses and files information from web servers at many different locations and at at many times the speed of a human. Each server can have a file called robots.txt, containing rules for the spidering of that server that the bot is supposed to obey or be removed.
At some point in the future, when artificial intelligence comes up to speed, "trading bots" will take over global financial markets.
Think this is far-fetched? Think again. Computers loaded with artificial intelligence programs that learn from their mistakes, can now easily beat the world champion in chess.
I. Mike Dueker
Former Federal Reserve economist, Mike Dueker, has made the fourth suicide over the last six weeks in a growing and bizarre list of dead international bankers who have made their careers in specializing in the swaps and derivatives. Dueker was just found dead at his home near Tacoma, Washington.
Dueker, 50, was the chief economist at Russell Investments. He had been missing since January 29th. Anonymous sources said that he had been having troubles at work, but no further details, nor sources were disclosed.
Russell Investments is a subsidiary of Northwestern Mutual that is headquartered in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A. The company is a global asset management firm.
Founded in 1936, Russell is also the creator of Russell Indexes. The broad market Russell 3000 Index and the small-cap Russell 2000 Index are two of the most important stock indices in the world. TA third stock index, the Russell Global Index, introduced in 2007, captures 98% of the global equity market and reflects the performance of more than 10,000 stocks worldwide.
Several important contracts in the swaps and derivatives market for stock indexes are based on the three Russell indexes mentioned above. Several big hedge funds arbitrage "baskets" of stocks against the options markets for these stocks and the underlying stock indexes. These "synthetic" positions can be extremely profitable. These positions also lend themselves to an abuse known as "flash trading".
Russell manages US $237.3 billion in assets as of June 30, 2013.
II. William Broeksmit
A week ago, on Sunday, William Broeksmit, 58, a former senior manager for Deutsche Bank, was found dead in his home as well. He was hanging from a rope, in what was also ruled a suicide.
Deutsche Bank is one of the largest banks in the world. It dominates in the swaps and derivatives market in Europe. And it the largest foreign exchange dealer in the world with a market share of 21 percent.
Deutsche Bank was also one of the major drivers of the collateralized debt obligation (CDO) market during the housing credit bubble from 2004–2008, creating $32 billion in worthless transactions.
Former employees, including Eric Ben-Artzi and Matthew Simpson, have claimed that during the credit crisis of 2008, Deutsche also failed to recognize up to $12 billion of paper losses in another $130 billion portfolio of "leveraged super senior trades".
The bank rejects those claims.
Also in 2008, Deutsche Bank reported its first annual loss in five decades, despite receiving billions of dollars from its insurance arrangements with AIG, including US$11.8 billion from funds provided by U.S. taxpayers to bail out AIG
Deutsche Bank is the world's largest market maker in the swaps and derivatives market for foreign currencies and credit default swaps. Deutsche Bank is also an important prime broker in the swaps and derivatives market.
A footnote: A guy named A.B. "Buzzy" Krongard was chairman of Alex Brown Inc, America's oldest investment banking firm. How does he fit into Deutsche Bank?
Alex Brown was acquired by Bankers Trust, which in turn was bought by Deutsche Bank. Krongard was Vice Chairman of Bankers Trust at the time it was acquired by Deutsche Bank.
Here, it gets strange.
After the acquisition by Deutsche Bank, Krongard left the banking world to work at the CIA. He served as Counselor to the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI). Krongard was promoted by George Tenet on March 16, 2001 to Executive Director of the CIA. The Executive Director is the third ranking position within the CIA and the incumbent functions essentially as the Chief Operating Officer of the Agency.
Krongard was Executive Director at the CIA at the time of 9/11. He has been accused of profiting from 9/11 in the derivatives market of airlines stocks.
On March 18, 2005, Krongard was appointed as an outside US director to the Global Board of Directors organized to oversee and coordinate the worldwide operations of DLA Piper, one of the world’s leading law firms. One of DLA Piper's areas of legal expertise is in the financial services industry. A sub-specialty is in, you guessed it, swaps and derivatives. A sub-specialty is structured finance and securitization; also, subprime mortgages. Both play into the swaps and derivatives market.
DLA Piper also has a specialized law practice in white collar crime. A sub-specialty is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
III. Karl Slym
The very next day after William Broeksmit's suicide, Karl Slym, 51, lf on on January 27th. Slym was a managing director at Tata Group, the huge multinational conglomerate in India. He was found dead on the fourth floor of the Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok, Thailand.
Police there are ruling it a suicide, but have not explained why Slym would have taken his own life. Slym was staying on the 22nd floor with his wife, and had not shown any signs of being suicidal.
Tata Group encompasses seven business sectors: communications and information technology, engineering, materials, services, energy, consumer products and chemicals.
Tata Group was founded in 1868 by Jamsetji Tata as a trading company. It has operations in more than 80 countries across six continents. Tata Group has over 100 operating companies with each of them operating independently. Out of them 32 are publicly listed. The major Tata companies are Tata Steel, Tata Motors, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Tata Power, Tata Chemicals, Tata Global Beverages, Tata Teleservices, Titan Industries, Tata Communicationsand Taj Hotels.
The combined market capitalization of all the 32 listed Tata companies was $96.87 billion as of September 2013. Tata receives more than 58% of its revenue from outside India.
Tata Group hedges its various businesses with swaps and derivatives.
IV. Gabriel Magee
On Tuesday, Gabriel Magee, 39, a vice president at JPMorgan Chase & Co’s (JPM) London headquarters, was said to have killed himself as well.
He killed himself in the Canary Wharf area. Magee apparently jumped off a building, in what was also ruled a suicide. And Magee specialized in swaps and derivatives.
JPMorgan Chase is the largest bank in the United States, with total assets of $2.509 trillion. It is a major provider of financial services, and according to Forbes magazine is the world's third largest public company based on a composite ranking. The hedge fund unit of JPMorgan Chase is the second largest hedge fund in the United States.They are major traders in the $850 trillion (notional value) market of swaps and derivatives.
The company was formed in 2000, when Chase Manhattan Corporation merged with J.P. Morgan & Co.
The derivatives team at JP Morgan, including Blythe Masters, was the pioneer in the invention of credit derivatives, such as the credit default swap (CDS).
The first CDS was created to allow Exxon to borrow money from JP Morgan while JP Morgan transferred the risk to the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development..
JP Morgan's team later created the 'BISTRO', a bundle of credit default swaps that was the progenitor of the Synthetic CDO. Synthetic positions of swaps and derivatives are little understood and poorly regulated. They are also immensely profitable, as previously noted.
JP Morgan currently has the largest credit default swap and credit derivatives portfolio by total notional amount of any US bank.
In April 2012, hedge fund insiders became aware that the market in credit default swaps was possibly being affected by the activities of Bruno Iksil, a trader for J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., referred to as "the London whale" in reference to the huge positions he was taking. Heavy opposing bets to his positions are known to have been made by traders, including another branch of J.P. Morgan, who purchased the derivatives offered by J.P. Morgan in such high volume.
Early reports were denied and minimized by the firm in an attempt to minimize exposure. Major losses, $2 billion, were reported by the firm in May 2012, in relation to these trades and updated to $4.4 billion on July 13, 2012. The disclosure, which resulted in headlines in the media, did not disclose the exact nature of the trading involved, which remains in progress and as of June 28, 2012, was continuing to produce losses which could total as much as $9 billion under worst case scenarios.
The item traded, possibly related to CDX IG 9, an index based on the default risk of major U.S. corporations, has been described as a "derivative of a derivative".
On the company's emergency conference call, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said the strategy was "flawed, complex, poorly reviewed, poorly executed, and poorly monitored".The episode is being investigated by the Federal Reserve, the SEC, and the FBI.
What do you think? Is there something strange going on here? Four bankers killing themselves in six days? All four specializing in swaps and derivatives?
Or are these deaths simply a coincidence? A sign of the times in a faltering economy and stressful markets?
We're researching these and other suspicious deaths for a possible show.
Regardless, we'll do a show on the $850 trillion swaps and derivatives market; also possibly, a show on the shadow banking system.