Goldman Sachs May Explain PPT’s Vanishing Act
by Caroline Baum
June 7 (Bloomberg) — Where are they? What’s keeping them? Stock markets across the globe are getting hammered, and there’s no sign of the Plunge Protection Team.
Sure, there were some sightings of the bond vigilantes in places like Greece over the past month. But a worldwide equity meltdown is a job for real men, for the PPT.
Otherwise known as the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, the PPT was established after the 1987 stock- market crash to ensure the financial markets have adequate liquidity to function. Members include the U.S. Treasury secretary, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Somehow this group morphed into a government/private-sector cabal — Goldman Sachs always figures prominently — that secretly intervenes to prop up the stock market.
You know those gut-wrenching dives in the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index that are miraculously erased and turn into gains by the end of the day? The PPT.
So where are they when we need them? I started by checking some of the conspiracy theorists’ websites. If anyone knew what was up with the PPT, it would be the black-helicopter crowd.
Nothing. Nada. I tried a Google search. That’s when I really started to worry. A search for “PPT” produced nary a reference to our would-be saviors. The results directed me, in this order, to: Microsoft’s PowerPoint home page; the Pink Poogle Toy, which describes itself as a “resource for Neopets players”; and the Pittsburgh Public Theater. The first reference to my kind of PPT came at the bottom of the fourth page of the search results.
The last update on the PPT blog was July 9, 2008: “The return of the Plunge Protection Team coming soon.”
Not soon enough.
Then it hit me. Of course! The PPT had come out of the shadows and into the daylight. When the Fed first invoked the “unusual and exigent circumstances” clause of the Federal Reserve Act in March 2008 to lend to almost anyone, it removed the need to operate sub rosa.
Man in the Market
Stocks (S&P futures are the PPT’s preferred vehicle) weren’t included in the panoply of assets the Fed was authorized to buy or markets it was empowered to nurse back to health. Still, the Treasury and Fed bailout was tailor-made for the CTs. It reinforced what they already believed — that the Fed and Treasury have always manipulated the market with the help of Goldman Sachs — and the rest of us were too naive to see. Now it was out in the open.
What’s more, with Goldman’s wings clipped by an SEC lawsuit and status shrunk by public wrath, who was going to act as the PPT’s man in the market?
I wasn’t ready to give up all hope for some PPT undercover operations, although the accumulating evidence wasn’t on my side.
Where was the PPT when U.S. stocks lost more than half their value between October 2007 and March 2009? Was then- Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson too preoccupied with TARP improvisations to brief Tim Geithner, his successor, on proper intervention procedures? I had always assumed the only reason the Obama administration rushed Timmy’s nomination through the Senate after it was learned he cheated on his taxes was because he was already in the loop as president of the New York Fed. I guess not.
My last hope that the PPT would rescue the stock market, which was sinking again after Friday’s disappointing employment report for May, lay elsewhere. The U.K. press was rife with stories about a weekend meeting of the Bilderberg Group.
This annual event, where the global elite convene at great hotels to discuss the world’s problems, is shrouded in secrecy. The press isn’t invited.
That doesn’t mean no press coverage. One website said the agenda this year would include approaches to provoking the kind of economic breakdown that could “justify the establishment of a full-scale world economic governance.” Another website said the group would discuss manufacturing a global depression to implement their dream of one-world government.
That these assertions sound less wacky than they used to tells you to what extent public and private sectors have become enmeshed and to what degree governments have coordinated their national and regional bailouts.
Was it just a coincidence that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke didn’t attend the G-20 meeting in South Korea, sending Fed Governor Kevin Warsh in his place? I called the Fed to find out.
Bernanke will not be attending the Bilderberg Group weekend meeting, the Fed told me on Friday. Maybe that’s just what they want me to believe. Has anyone checked Lloyd Blankfein’s calendar?