Blythe Masters is perhaps the most maligned human being on earth by silver investors due to suspicions of JP Morgan’s manipulation in the silver market. Well she’s back in the news, but it has nothing to do with silver. Rather, the news relates to the fact that her ex-husband and commodities traders, Daniel Masters, has just launched a Bitcoin hedge fund from the island of Jersey, a British Crown dependency.
There is much new info in the just released Bloomberg profile on the infamous ex-JPMorganite Blythe Masters, among which the disclosure that she had made it clear that she had wanted to go along with the disposable JPM physical commodities unit (which as was reported recently, was sold to Swiss commodities giant Mercuria) and “and continue as the group’s chief”, a plan which did not work out as she had planned since she has no plans to “join the unit’s purchaser” (although joining Glencore is another matter entirely, and one which looks increasingly plausible) but what we find most striking is the following revelation: “Masters is under investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. That probe was opened following a settlement with regulators that alleged JPMorgan manipulated power markets in the Midwest and California.”
Following our post yesterday which included the occasional F-bomb and got well over 40K reads since its posting late last night, the reaction was sharp and severe. So severe in fact that less than 24 hours later, Blythe Master has withdrawn from the CFTC. The culprit for Masters’ resignation in just 24 hours? A very angry Twitter.
Blythe Masters, JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s commodities head, withdrew from an advisory committee of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission a day after her appointment was disclosed, according to two people with direct knowledge of the decision.
We thought today’s newsflow and “market action” ranked pretty high on the absurd surrealism scale. And then we saw this.
BLYTHE MASTERS TO JOIN CFTC GLOBAL MARKETS COMMITTEE
JPMORGAN’S BLYTHE MASTERS TO JOIN CFTC ADVISORY COMMITTEE
CFTC SPOKESMAN COMMENTS ON BLYTHE MASTERS JOINING COMMITTEE
That’s right – you read it correct: “Blythe Masters, head of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s commodities division, is joining an advisory committee of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, said Steve Adamske, a spokesman for the regulator. Masters, 44, was invited by acting Chairman Mark Wetjen to sit on a global markets committee at the Washington-based regulator of futures and swaps, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Masters is scheduled to participate in a CFTC meeting on Feb. 12 to discuss cross-border guidance on rules, the person said.”
To wit: “JPMorgan’s initial round of conversations over the sale of its physical commodities unit has involved at least 50 potential suitors, according to someone familiar with the matter, as the bank attempts to ink a deal by the end of the year. In addition to energy supply contracts and metal-storage facilities, people close to the deal say the transaction could include a significant human asset: JPMorgan’s longtime commodities head, Blythe Masters. In addition to the physical assets it is selling—including the Liverpool, England-based metal-storage business Henry Bath & Son, U.S. power plants, and crude-oil and power supply agreements—any deal to sell JPMorgan’s commodities business could involve Masters, the division’s current leader, as well. Masters, 44, has found her future at JPMorgan in question as regulators crack down on both its power-supply business over alleged manipulations and the whole notion of banks owning commodities assets more generally.”
One year after the infamous Jamie Dimon “tempest in a teapot” fiasco, which promptly turned out to be the biggest TBTF prop-trading desk debacle in history, things were going well for JPMorgan.
On one hand, the chairman of the TBAC (and thus US Treasury advisor and policy administrator), and former LTCM trader, Matt Zames, was just recently promoted to the sole second in command post at the biggest US bank (and 2nd biggest in the world) by assets, and first in line to take over from Jamie Dimon. On the other hand, one of Mary Jo White’s former co-workers, and a JPM defense attorney from Debevoise just became head of the SEC’s enforcement division, in theory guaranteeing that the US government would never do more than slap the wrist of JPM in perpetuity.
In this episode, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert discuss a financial journalist so dangerous the frontpage of the Financial Times dare not speak his name and the semaphore of fraud and fraud flows that is high frequency trading and silver manipulation. They also talk about blonde bimbo regulators and the self-police force that never finds any evidence crimes they themselves have committed. In the second half of the show, Max Keiser talks to whistleblower Paul Moore, a former Head of Risk at HBOS, about financial holocaust and the City of London’s role in enabling banking fraud.
As readers enjoy JPM squirm his way through the JPM conference call (webcast live) explaining how it is that he not only was fooled by the CIO traders to the tune of billions, but more importantly to mismark hundreds of billions in CDS over the years, here is some delightful irony: “The J.P.Morgan Guide To Credit Derivatives” By Blythe Masters. Because it is truly ironic that the firm which created CDS will be the one responsible for destroying them.
Earlier today we listened with bemused fascination as Blythe Masters explained to CNBC how JPMorgan’s trading business is “about assisting clients in executing, managing, their risks and ensuring access to capital so they can make the kind of large long-term investments that are needed in the long run to expand the supply of commodities.” You know – provide liquidity. Like the High Freaks. We were even ready to believe it, especially when Blythe conveniently added that JPM has a “matched book” meaning no net prop exposure, since the opposite would indicate breach of the Volcker Rule. …And then we read this: “A JPMorgan Chase & Co. trader of derivatives linked to the financial health of corporations has amassed positions so large that he’s driving price moves in the multi-trillion dollar market, according to traders outside the firm.” Say what? A JPMorgan trader has a prop (not flow, not client, not non-discretionary) position so big it is moving the entire market? And we are talking hundreds of billions of CDS notional. But… that would mean everything Blythe said is one big lie… It would also mean that JPMorgan is blatantly and without any regard for legislation, ignoring the Volcker rule, which arrived in the aftermath of Merrill Lynch doing precisely this with various CDO and credit indexes, and “moving the market” only to blow itself up and cost taxpayers billions when the bets all LTCMed. But wait, it gets better: “In some cases, [the trader] is believed to have “broken” the index — Wall Street lingo for the market dysfunction that occurs when a price gap opens up between the index and its underlying constituents.” So JPMorgan is now privately accused of “breaking” the CDS Index market, courtesy of its second to none economy of scale and fear no reprisal for any and all actions, and in the process causing untold losses to, you guessed it, its clients, but when it comes to allegations of massive manipulation in the precious metals market, why Blythe will tell you it is all about “assisting clients in executing, managing, their risks.” Which client would that be – Lehman, or MFGlobal? Perhaps it is time for a follow up interview, Ms Masters to clarify some of these outstanding points?
The trader is London-based Bruno Iksil, according to five counterparts at hedge funds and rival banks who requested anonymity because they’re not authorized to discuss the transactions. He specializes in credit-derivative indexes, an off-exchange market that during the past decade has overtaken corporate bonds to become the biggest forum for investors betting on the likelihood of company defaults.
Investors complain that Iksil’s trades may be distorting prices, affecting bondholders who use the instruments to hedge hundreds of billions of dollars of fixed-income holdings. Analysts and economists also use the indexes to help gauge interest rates that companies must pay for new credit.
Though Iksil reveals little to other traders about his own positions, they say they’ve taken the opposite side of transactions and that his orders are the biggest they’ve encountered. Two hedge-fund traders said they have seen unusually large price swings when they were told by dealers that Iksil was in the market.
However, with that said, we are manipulating the silver futures market and playing a smaller (but still massively manipulative) role in manipulating the gold futures market. We have a little over a 25% (give or take a percentage) position in the short market for silver futures and by your definition this denotes a larger position than for speculative purposes or for hedging and is beyond the line of manipulation.
On a side note, I do not work directly with accounts that would have been directly impacted by the MF Global fiasco but I have heard through other colleagues that we have involvement in the hiding of client assets from MF Global. This is another fraudulent effort on our part and constitutes theft. I urge you to forward that part of the investigation on to the respective authorities.
In an article that is about three years overdue, “JPMorgan’s practices bring scrutiny” the FT finally takes aim at that other “vampire squid”, JP Morgan, which technically is incorrect: because if Goldman is a nimble and aggressive creature, with infinite tentacles in every governmental office, and unencumbered by massive liabilities, JPMorgan is just as connected, but unlike Goldman, it is a behemoth in every other possible capacity, and with its trillion in deposits, matched by tens of billions in bad loans, is a true Bank Holding Company. As such ‘Jabba the Hutt‘ would be a far more appropriate allegory to describe the the firm, whose reach, scope and scale lead the FT to classify it as “Three times a pallbearer, never a corpse.”
As some may recall, back in October 2009, Zero Hedge did an exhaustive expose on the relationship between JPMorgan and the then version of MF Global, Lehman Brothers, whose perfectly functioning division, its North American Brokerage, ended up being scooped up by Barclays for pennies on the dollar. In the meantime, however, JPMorgan, with the backing of the Fed, proceeded to demand as much extra collateral for Lehman repo positions on hold with JP Morgan and the Tri-Party repo system, of which JPM is one of only two custodians, simply because it could, and because this is the easiest way for the bank that is even closer to the Fed than Goldman Sachs, to procure liquidity during times of broad distress. Such as when the money market is about to freeze to death. Since then, the topic of just how much JPMorgan may have ripped off the Lehman estate has escalated, and is set to be an epic showdown in the form of a lawsuit which “accuses JPMorgan of using its “life and death power as the brokerage firm’s primary clearing bank” to put a “financial gun” to its head and demand excess collateral.” And here is the kicker: “It claims JPMorgan abused its access to US government officials and then “accelerated Lehman’s free fall into bankruptcy”, hoovering up collateral to protect itself to the detriment of the firm and other eventual creditors.”
And therein lies the rub: because of all TBTF banks, JPMorgan is literally at the nexus of the entire $16 trillion shadow banking system, the very system that the Fed, much more than traditional liabilities, knows and uses constantly to hypothecate and rehypothecate assets, in essence creating money out of nothing, and which in conjunction with the other Tri-Party repo dealer, Bank of New York, as well as State Street, provides the US financial system with over $30 trillion in shadow credit money in the form of custodial assets – liquidity the bulk of which is not accounted for in any conventional monetary textbook or in any modern theory of money as it is such a novel development, yet which is still 100% fungible, and is by far the biggest secret of the American monetary system. It can be seen as summarized in the following graphic, first created by Citi’s Matt King back in the week before Lehman failed (full report can be read here, and should be by anyone who wishes to understand just what is truly going on behind the scenes in modern finance).
Keep in mind, these are the same custody assets which, as explained previously in the case of MF Global, can be rehypothecated in serial fashion, creating a virtually infinite amount of “money” as long as everyone who is in on the fraud agrees to maintain the ponzi. Of course, if and when someone demands delivery of an underlying assets, the whole thing falls apart, which is what happened with AIG, with Lehman, and to a smaller degree, MF Global.
So what does all of this have to do with Blythe Masters?
At the end of the day, and as the Lehman lawsuit alleges, JPMorgan has intimate access to US government officials, and particularly the Federal Reserve, who will in turn take advantage of all JPM facilities, including its trading desk, to preserve the sanctity and foundations of the $30+ trillion in custodial assets and rehypothecation system, which further means that any potential implication that fiat money is impaired has to be wiped out. As it so happens, soaring prices of gold and silver are the primary if not only means left to express rising doubts in the future viability of the dollar, but in the viability of the fiat system in the first place. Which means that the Fed is, without a doubt, one of the biggest “clients” of the Fed in a symbiotic crosshold, where what the Fed wants, JPM has to execute and vice versa.
This brings us to the transcript of Blythe’s interview on CNBC, in which a primary topic, ironically, was whether or not Jamie Dimon’s firm manipulates the prices of precious metals, and particularly silver. What followed was the usual avalanche of platitudes that only a muppet can love:
“JPM’s commodities business is not about betting on commodity prices but about assisting clients”… “it’s about assisting clients in executing, managing, their risks and ensuring access to capital so they can make the kind of large long-term investments that are needed in the long run to expand the supply of commodities”…
“There’s been a tremendous amount of speculation particularly in the blogosphere on this topic. I think the challenge is it represents a misunderstanding as the nature of our business. As i mentioned earlier, our business is a client-driven business where we execute on behalf of clients to achieve their financial and risk management objectives. The challenge is that commentators don’t see that. So to give you a specific example, we store significant amount of commodities, for example, silver, on behalf of customers we operate vaults in New York City, Singapore and in London. And often when customers have that metal stored in our facilities, they hedge it on a forward basis through JPMorgan who in turn hedges itself in the commodity markets. If you see only the hedges and our activity in the futures market, but you aren’t aware of the underlying client position that we’re hedging, that would suggest inaccurately that we’re running a large directional position. In fact that’s not the case at all.
“We have offsetting positions. We have no stake in whether prices rise or decline. Rather we’re running a flat or relatively flat matched book.
“What is commonly out there is that JPMorgan is manipulating the metals market. It’s not part of our business model. it would be wrong and we don’t do it.”
Ah yes, because JPMorgan never engages in “wrong” activites…
And while we admire JPM’s naive statement that it can triple its commodities revenues to $2.8 billion in 2011, while everyone else was losing money in the space, without taking prop bets, we just don’t buy it. Just as we didn’t buy Goldman’s explanation that its prop desk only accounted for 12% of that firm’s revenue, as Goldman told us directly (coupled with our challenge of prop trading in 2009, a pursuit taken on by Paul Volcker a few weeks later, resulting in the Volcker Rule). Needless to say, once the firm did break out its prop trading, it became quite clear just how huge of a factor prop trading truly was for Goldman. Because taken at face value, it would mean that all else equal, JPMorgan transacted at least 3 times more in flow in 2011 than in 2010. Yet, everyone knows that trading volumes in 2011 slumped relative to 2010. So no, Blythe, we appreciate your explanation, but we would appreciate the truth even more.
And yet there is one simple explanation that would make Blythe’s story 100% correct: would JPMorgan consider the Fed, whose interests in keeping the price of precious metals as low as possible, and are aligned with those of JPM for the reasons listed above, its client?
Because if so, then absolutely everything falls into place, as JPMorgan is merely the overt conduit by which the Fed, and specifically the New York Fed, conducts monetary policy in the commodities space, just as Brian Sack would conduct open market operations in the bond arena, and as the FRBNY uses, on occasion, Citadel, and its HFT expertise, to execute its discretionary stock trades (yes, we know about those too).
We would welcome Blythe’s comments on any and all of the topics listed above.
In the meantime, for those who missed it, here’s Blythe.