Sunday, October 3, 2010

Restoring Honor in Washington, Part III

The Ridgewood blog Special Series: Restoring Honor in Washington, Part III

Restoring Honor in Washington, DC.

by Jason A. Vigorito

Part III

Barry and I have never attended a rally before. We are two of those Conservative/Libertarian-minded individuals among the masses who cannot regularly attend rallies because we’re busy, hard-working guys. And most rallies occur in the middle of a weekday. The Restoring Honor Rally for both of us, and according to many others who attended, is considered one of the most important experiences of our lives. And the rally’s climax at 1pm was one of the most important moments.

The 240-member “Black Robe Regiment”—a multi-faith group of religious leaders—came on stage at the end for a final prayer session. To see these men and women of diverse religious backgrounds come together shoulder-to-shoulder, singing and praying locked arm-in-arm, was mind-blowing. The scene beautifully illustrated our country’s potential.

Hearkening back to MLK’s eloquent “I Have A Dream” speech, the scene and common thread throughout the rally contributed to King’s statement to not look at skin color but at character. The idea of unity through breaking barriers is inherent in returning our national identity back to God. Racial barriers, ideological barriers, religious barriers, can all be overcome!

A truly inspirational moment, and a truly inspirational message.

Jo Dee Messina, John Rich, and other singers brought a fun end to this historic event. Barry and I spent some time at the Lincoln and other memorials, mingling with the crowd, savoring the moment. We ate some Sabrett hotdogs with some fellow ralliers and hit the road at 5pm. It was a long drive back home to Nutley and Lyndhurst, and on that drive Barry and I realized the event was a national epiphany—how to come together again as Americans. Spirituality and reliance on self-governance were stressed at the rally, only echoing what others—Jefferson, Washington, Whitfield, de Tocqueville, Churchill, King—have said to be America’s successful exceptionalism.

If you are pro-faith, pro-military, pro-individualism, etc., and you feel isolated in your beliefs…don’t. I conclude with Sarah Palin’s reassuring words, “Look around you, you are not alone. You are Americans!”

Restoring Honor in Washington, Part II

The Ridgewood blog Special Series: Restoring Honor in Washington, Part II

by Jason A. Vigorito

Part II

Sarah Palin—speaking as a soldier’s mother—best stated Barry’s, mine, and every other rallier’s reason for attending the Restoring Honor Rally: we don’t want to fundamentally transform America, we want to RESTORE America. So how do we do that, we all wanted to know.

First, by returning our focus on God. Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Dr. Alveda King (MLK’s niece), Tony La Russa (the St. Louis Cardinals’ manager), and the other many speakers and presenters all spoke on how God is necessary to strengthen our country. Direct descendants of the Pilgrims and Plymouth’s Indians stood arm-in-arm illustrating that this country’s origins lay in humbleness to God.

Second, that we can all be heroes in our own ways. So many touching veterans’ stories from several wars were illustrated, bringing most in the crowd to tears several times. Three men were presented with Badges of Merit to continue George Washington’s tradition of honoring America’s citizenry: Pastor C.L. Jackson for Faith, Albert Pujous for Hope, and Jon Huntsman, Sr., for Charity (giving $2 billion to charity!). Glenn stated, “Heroes are those who stand and do the right things, even at their own peril.” And the crowd was moved by the many examples on stage.

The thrust of the rally was to support the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Over $5.5 million dollars was raised through the rally! A staggering number that SWOF’s president, John Kearny, tearfully thanked the crowd for. And many in the crowd joyfully replied, “Your welcome!”

Have you ever cheered alongside 300,000+ people? Have you ever sung with 300,000+ people?? Have you ever prayed with 300,000+ people??? Have you ever even been in a crowd that large?! To hear that many people say the Pledge of Allegiance, led by a Boy Scout, together; to sing the National Anthem in unison; to hold hands with strangers and sing “Amazing Grace” to bagpipes. You’re struck with awe. Wonderment! Looking at the vast sea of folks who were there with the same purpose, the same convictions, the same patriotism for your country…Barry and I were overwhelmed with emotions. And so was everyone else. Everyone cried.

It all coalesced at the end with 240 religious leaders taking the stage—pastors, reverends, rabbis, priests, and, yes, even imams. Glenn called them “The Black Robe Regiment.” And what they did was truly inspirational!

Special Series: Restoring Honor in Washington

The Ridgewood blog Special Series: Restoring Honor in Washington, DC

Restoring Honor in Washington, DC

by Jason A. Vigorito

Part I

At 8:28pm on August 27, the preparatory phone call was made between me and my travel buddy, Barry Walsky, my former college roommate. I purposely called him at that time. I picked him up at his place in Nutley at 2am. Driving down the Garden State Parkway we discussed our common purpose for heading down to Washington, DC: because we’re fed up with the direction our country is being led in, and we want to do our part to correct that. What can we do? Like many of our fellow ralliers, we were looking for answers.

We arrived in Washington, DC, at 6am. Our destination: the National Mall. The reason: the Restoring Honor Rally. Walking from the parking garage to the Mall was an eerie experience, something out of a post-apocalyptic movie, like I Am Legend or something. Newspapers blowing in the wind, whole blocks deserted. Eventually we spotted people, they all had folding chairs and flags. And they were all headed in the same direction.

Barry and I arrived early to get a good spot. There were already thousands of people on the Mall in the early morning fog. We found one along the barriers, at one of the front corners of the Reflection Pool. 75 feet from the speakers on their dais!!! We made acquaintances with those around us: folks from Chicago, Phoenix, Colorado, Louisiana, Florida, Maryland.

The very young and very old, the handicapped, black and white and yellow and red. Some wore local Tea Party shirts, some Restoring Honor shirts. There were state flags, American flags. Picnic blankets, beach chairs, umbrellas. Everyone agreed, easily hundreds of thousands showed up by the 10am start time. They stretched out way past the Washington Monument, and flowed way out beyond the surrounding side fields and monuments. And among all those people, there was no shouting, no arguments, no jostling, no litter even!

The sun came out and beat down on us, heating things way up, when the rally started at 10am with an inspirational video. Glenn Beck came out and the crowd went deafeningly nuts! Holding back tears, he said, “So this is ‘build it and they will come.’” And we sure did…in droves!!!

Connections, political donations and cocktail parties

Connections, political donations and cocktail parties

So yes I have sold my practice, retired and a lot of you have voiced concern about weather I will continue with this blog. The answer is a resounding yes and I am going to start with a little story about Bernie Maddoff. As you know I have for most of this decade warned many of you that these financial wrong doings are never the solitary acts that the media and the industry want you to think they are. What we have with the Bennie Maddoff scandal is another example of how the rules that the rest of us go by don't seem to apply to certain people. Connections, political donations and cocktail parties as for most of this decade seem to out way professionalism and ethics. Wall Street in recent years has become a business where the customer's money has become the firm's money to do with as they see fit. Don't blame your local broker he or she is subject to the most stringent rules and requirements imangable but understand that people like Bernie operate outside those legal requirements that you and I are often subject too.

I only know what I read but misgiving about Mr. Maddoff surfaced as far back as the 1970's and a fairly large amount of suspicsion has been build up that last 12 years! Yes that's right heavy dought has been cast more than once in the last 12 years . Now Mr. Maddoff made off to a tune of 50 billion yes that's BILLION , about double what the auto industry was bailed out for. Seems his operation didn't pass the small test more than once, yet when notified the regulators sat on there hands or seemed unwilling to take on the challenge.

So here I will interject some of my own personal musings and many of you who know me personally will find this somewhat ironic. As it became clearer and clearer that I needed a change I began to shop around for a new clearing and compliance arrangement. One firm that shall remain nameless seemed like a pretty good fit to me but upon discussion they seem to have problem, not with this blog but with my other blog,"the Ridgewood blog". A blog in which soccer moms and dads argue as to the nuances of turf fields, math programs and the finer points of pedestrian etiquette while crossing the local streets. The very day the Madoff story broke and it became know that the likes of Eli Wisel, Yeshiva University and NYU had all fallen prey to this scoundrel to the combined tune of say 80 million .I was being blown off by a firm that was worried about negative fall out from the Ridgewood blog? And that my friends was the as they say the straw that broke the camels back and told me once and for all it was time to step aside and search for new ventures.

The moral to the story is that it appears that the regulators and the industry have consistently protected themselves and defend their unaccountability at the detriment to the investor class, while the investor is left with these words to the wise "if your over 18 everything I say to you could be a lie ".

and yes there will be a lot more to say on this subject for the next couple od weeks while the biggest scandle in US financial history unfolds.

James Foytlin
Sunday, December 28, 2008

Corzine Goldman ,the Man,the Myth and the Goldman Sachs Years

Many of my readers have asked me to look into Jon Corzines days at Goldman and this is what I found:

Corzine Goldman ,the Man,the Myth and the Goldman Sachs Years

In 1975, Jon Corzine moved to New Jersey, having taken a job as a securities trader at Goldman Sachs in New York. By 1980 he became a partner at Goldman. Jon Corzine rose rapidly through the ranks, to become chairman and CEO in 1994.

As CEO, Jon Corzine has been credited with engineering the transformation of Goldman Sachs from a private partnership to a public company. Smoothing out the volatility of Goldman’s earnings and producing a “kinder and gentler” company . Corzine had worked for nearly two years to transform the legendary partnership into a public company. Fighting significant resistance from many of the skeptical partners. Finally he succeeded in secret ballot,
However, Corzine was not universally popular as CEO, and was forced out in 1999

With the IPO approved Corzine took his family on a vacation. While he was away, three members of Goldman’s five-member executive committee, led by, Hank Paulson (the man he appointed ), staged a palace coup, stripping him of his CEO title and his power. The initial public offering (IPO) of Goldman went forward with out a hitch ,the stock created a huge windfall for the partners, including Corzine and made him a very wealthy man.

Mounting evidence has come to light that during Corzine's reign the firm may have manipulated the market and inflated stock prices through a controversial practice know as “laddering”,which was investigated by the SEC .Mr. Corzine is also considered by many the “architect” of ENRON. And the Center of the ENRON scandal and the Wall Street practices that led to the NASDAQ meltdown at the beginning of this decade

The two big issues that occurred on Corzines watch were the perceived facilitation of the ENRON debacle and the IPO bubble machine using a hybrid of “pump and dump” called“laddering” .


In 1993, Goldman Sachs “invented” a security called MIPS that offered ENRON Corp. and other companies an irresistible combination. It was designed in such a way that it could be called debt or equity, as needed. It resembled a loan, so that interest payments could be deducted from taxable income. For shareholders and rating agencies, who look askance at over leveraged companies, it resembled equity.

Officials at the Clinton Treasury Department, were skeptical of the so-called Monthly Income Preferred Shares, or MIPS. To them the MIPS looked like a charade ,a way for companies to hide the size of their debt while cutting their federal tax bill. CEO Corzine lobbied the treasury and eventually, the regulators acquiesced and Goldman and MIPS were off to the races. It has been alleged that Corzine’s used his lobbying activities, during that time , “benefitted him personally as an executive at Goldman Sachs.” It is claimed that Hybrid preferred shares helped mask the huge debt burden carried by companies like ENRON.

Goldman creates a new type of “Pump and Dump” called laddering.

According to Nicholas Maier, who was syndicate manager of the Wall Street firm Cramer & Co. from 1996 to 1998, Goldman Sachs routinely forced him to buy stocks at inflated prices if he wanted to purchase shares of an initial public offering (IPO). “Goldman, from what I witnessed, they were the worst perpetrator,” Maier said. “They totally fueled the [market] bubble. And it’s specifically that kind of behavior that has caused the market crash.

Maier told the SEC that Goldman Sachs would offer him shares of a new company’s IPO at the initial, low price of $20 per share only if he agreed to purchase “aftermarket” shares of the same company at $100 each. In turn, he would unload the shares of the higher-priced stock on small investors. Maier said. “Goldman created the convincing appearance of a winner, and the trick worked so well that many speculators were seduced into participating in this gold rush. The general public had no idea that these stocks were actually brought into the world at unnaturally high levels through illegal manipulation.”

In August 2000, the SEC issued a warning against aftermarket sales, also known as “laddering.” While Jon Corzine said ,“I’ve never even heard the term ‘laddering’ before”.Maier said it happened on Corzine’s watch. “For Corzine not to know of a common practice being utilized to generate and manipulate stock prices would be surprising,” Mr. Maier said. “He was obviously there during this time.

Trading profits are just too good

For some time Goldman Sachs has been accused by Wall Street insiders of employing sophisticated high speed computer programs to siphon of illegitimate profits from the New York Stock Exchange under the radar of regulators. Recently a former Goldman computer programer was arrested for allegedly stealing software codes used in the firms electronic trading operations .Federal prosecutors claim the codes were used to”manipulate the market in unfair ways”.

Government Sachs

Goldman has also been accused by many of taking advantage of so many X Goldman employees working in high level government positions. These allegations can also be traced back to the Corzine days ,more recently however the focus has been on alleged favoritism during the Wall Street and banking bailout as well as the TARP funding. Its hard to imagine with so many high profile former executives that Goldman hasn’t received preferential treatment and information exchanges.

This is not to claim that Jon Corzine was directly involved or that there is some vast Goldman conspiracy at work but the fact of the matter is that he was there in there in the thick of it and that if you know anything about Wall Street you know that investment banks are one organization were the people at the top are directly involved in the most intimate details of day to day operations of their firms.

James Foytlin
Monday, October 05, 2009

The 70's Generation the Generation that never made it....

The 70's Generation ,Generation Failure the how and why ...

PRLog (Press Release) – Sep 29, 2009 – like most generations coming to age in a particular time period that era has a way of effecting ones out look throughout that rest of there life. In the 1920's it was the devil make care attitude ,in the 1930's the great depression ,in the 1940's it was world war two and the greatest generation ,in the 50's it was moving to suburbia ,in the 1960's it was the anti war counter culture ad wanting to change the world . These generational experiences have a way of effecting the majority of that generation shaping there experience and the way we think about the world . In the 1970 's oil shocks ,stagflation, international terrorism ,military failure ,stagflation ,the misery index, high divorce rate ,high drug and alcohol use ,the hang over from the sixties all lead to one over riding principle for the 70's generation FAILURE and the 70's generation became the generation that never really made it .

With this failure came the litany of kook conspiracy theories ,and inability to see a benevolence in the universe ,a feeling that things larger then onself were working against us . That malevolent forces beyond our control were conspiring against us. That we were helpless in the face of doom .Not trusting the markets nor the government but looking to punish and spread the misery equally far and wide, the 70's generation embrace totalitarian socialism or communism to a greater degree than anyone since the 1930's.

As the 70's generation grew up it brought incompetence and disaster and mostly failure in its wake , from ENRON, the mutual fund debacle ,to the current banking and finance disaster to the destruction of wall street ,the 70's folks have unleashed a cataclysm of disaster and failure on to the rest of us. Remember these people still think good old stagflation Jimmy Carter was a good president?

So why do I keep harping on this day in and day out ,well any economist worth his salt would admit that one of the strongest cyclical driving forces in an economy are demographics and given the most economic activity is driven by business creation and house hold formation it can be noted that from time to time an economy is blessed with demographics that favor these to factors ,but what we find in the 70's generation is a proclivity for neither. My last reunion told the whole story ,as i am told nearly half the graduating class of 1980 had never been married . I found this simply astonishing given we came from a very upper middle class place with a "first rate education".

No don't get me wrong every generation has its successes and failures but some generations seem to produce more of the latter .

I am currently conducting seminars on the ,"Failure Generation" called the 70's Generation the generation that Never Made It .

James Foytlin
Monday, January 12, 2009