A recent article published by Matt Tiabbi in Rolling Stone magazine articulated role that Goldman Sachs is believed to have played in market manipulations since the Great Depression. The thesis of this article is that Goldman Sachs places itself in the middle of speculative bubbles by selling financial instruments that it knows are of low quality, and then re-purchasing them at depressed prices after the market bubble collapses. In the midst of the populist political rhetoric and conspiracy theories peppered throughout the article, there are some important points that can be taken away by those who are astute enough to see them.
The most important point is that investment banks and financial institutions have an incentive to drive up asset bubbles, and then pick up the pieces after a collapse and repeat the process. The reason why such nefarious activities perpetually persist is because financial companies tend to have very strong lobbying influence with both political parties. As an aside, it is important to divorce ourselves from the foolish notion that “Wall Street” is for or against Republicans or Democrats. Wall Street is in favor of whoever is in power, and politicians are typically in favor of whoever gives them the most money.
Regardless of the inherent morality (or lack thereof) in the actions of financial institutions, it is important to understand that simply complaining about their despised actions will do absolutely nothing to remedy the situation. The only way that corrupt brokerage houses will be held to task is when a market movement away from their financial products dries up their river of capital. The reason for this is because political restrictions will always be laced with loopholes, and even extreme financial malfeasance will be bailed out the reigning political powers under the notion that said institutions are “Too big to fail.”
Thus, it becomes clear that the only way to side step the ‘Bubble Machine’ of Wall Street is to develop a portfolio of direct investments that you personally control. The reason for this strategy is because direct control allows you to determine when assets are bought, sold, refinanced, etc. For example, if you own a portfolio of rental properties, you can personally make the call when to raise rents, refinance the properties, buy new investments, and sell to trade up to larger deals.
Whenever your investment assets are outsourced to Wall Street, fund managers get placed in control of all these decisions. Thus, it should not come as much of a surprise when these same fund managers funnel your resources into a speculative bubble in the hopes of capturing large bonuses on the returns generated while the bubble is inflating, and then take those returns to the bank after the bubble pops and your investment assets experience a sharp reduction in value. Direct investment allows an individual to select investment areas that are less susceptible to the effect of speculative bubbles through prudent analysis and due diligence.
Over the coming decades, it is likely that many more bubbles will expand and pop as the government attempts to use monetary expansion and market manipulation to mask the fact that it is unable to meet its entitlement promises that have been used by politicians to secure elected office. Unfortunately, many people will be taken along for the ride, and have their wealth systematically destroyed by the bubble machine. As prudent investors, each of us needs to be aware of this market reality and actively step around the manipulations of government and Wall Street so that the bubble machine passes us by while unleashing its path of destruction on the financial world.
Bullet Points & Quotes
“Only buy something that you’d be perfectly happy to hold if the market shut down for 10 years.” -Warren Buffett
The Solomon Success Team
Flickr / Kevin Coles