Wall Street Derivatives That Helped Crash the Economy in 2008 Are Back — in a Big Way

Thursday, November 2, 2017
By Paul Martin

by Shaun Bradley
November 1, 2017

(ANTIMEDIA) — The U.K.’s Financial Conduct Agency recently fined Merrill Lynch $45 million, once again sparking concerns over the massive derivatives market.

The wealth management division of Bank of America failed to report more than 68 million derivatives transactions dating all the way back to 2014. It had already been forced to pay $20 million in 2015 for an earlier offense. Despite major players throughout the financial industry paying a total of over $350 billion in fines since the 2008 crisis, those same institutions are still thriving and have amassed more than a $1 trillion in profits.

The current penalties amount to little more than a slap on the wrist for these megabanks and have become a normal part of doing business. It’s no surprise that the same reckless behavior that helped lead to the Great Recession is still rampant. The global derivatives market was reportedly as large as $1.5 quadrillion in 2016, and things haven’t improved much since then. Collusion between large financial institutions, central banks, and governments around the world has fostered an environment with almost zero accountability. Hopefully, as more people become educated about the possible dangers associated with complex financial derivatives, it will be easier to prevent wild speculation like what is seen today.

Derivatives are one of the most complex and least understood financial instruments. Instead of establishing their value through a share of a company’s profits or a future dividend, derivatives are essentially side bets made between third parties. Commodity futures contracts are an example of a simple derivative. Farmers have used them to protect themselves against price changes that could significantly impact their businesses from season to season.

However, these financial tools aren’t just limited to hard assets and can be used to speculate on every industry, asset, and currency in the world financial system. The growing attention from regulators on the derivatives market may uncover what many investors and economists previously warned about. In 2003, Warren Buffett infamously classified derivatives as ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and ‘time-bombs.’

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