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Adam Hayes

Adam Hayes

2 years ago

Bernard Lawrence "Bernie" Madoff, the largest Ponzi scheme in history

Madoff who?

Bernie Madoff ran the largest Ponzi scheme in history, defrauding thousands of investors over at least 17 years, and possibly longer. He pioneered electronic trading and chaired Nasdaq in the 1990s. On April 14, 2021, he died while serving a 150-year sentence for money laundering, securities fraud, and other crimes.

Understanding Madoff

Madoff claimed to generate large, steady returns through a trading strategy called split-strike conversion, but he simply deposited client funds into a single bank account and paid out existing clients. He funded redemptions by attracting new investors and their capital, but the market crashed in late 2008. He confessed to his sons, who worked at his firm, on Dec. 10, 2008. Next day, they turned him in. The fund reported $64.8 billion in client assets.

Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal felony counts, including securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, perjury, and money laundering. Ponzi scheme became a symbol of Wall Street's greed and dishonesty before the financial crisis. Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $170 billion, but no other Wall Street figures faced legal ramifications.

Bernie Madoff's Brief Biography

Bernie Madoff was born in Queens, New York, on April 29, 1938. He began dating Ruth (née Alpern) when they were teenagers. Madoff told a journalist by phone from prison that his father's sporting goods store went bankrupt during the Korean War: "You watch your father, who you idolize, build a big business and then lose everything." Madoff was determined to achieve "lasting success" like his father "whatever it took," but his career had ups and downs.

Early Madoff investments

At 22, he started Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC. First, he traded penny stocks with $5,000 he earned installing sprinklers and as a lifeguard. Family and friends soon invested with him. Madoff's bets soured after the "Kennedy Slide" in 1962, and his father-in-law had to bail him out.

Madoff felt he wasn't part of the Wall Street in-crowd. "We weren't NYSE members," he told Fishman. "It's obvious." According to Madoff, he was a scrappy market maker. "I was happy to take the crumbs," he told Fishman, citing a client who wanted to sell eight bonds; a bigger firm would turn it down.

Recognition

Success came when he and his brother Peter built electronic trading capabilities, or "artificial intelligence," that attracted massive order flow and provided market insights. "I had all these major banks coming down, entertaining me," Madoff told Fishman. "It was mind-bending."

By the late 1980s, he and four other Wall Street mainstays processed half of the NYSE's order flow. Controversially, he paid for much of it, and by the late 1980s, Madoff was making in the vicinity of $100 million a year.  He was Nasdaq chairman from 1990 to 1993.

Madoff's Ponzi scheme

It is not certain exactly when Madoff's Ponzi scheme began. He testified in court that it began in 1991, but his account manager, Frank DiPascali, had been at the firm since 1975.

Why Madoff did the scheme is unclear. "I had enough money to support my family's lifestyle. "I don't know why," he told Fishman." Madoff could have won Wall Street's respect as a market maker and electronic trading pioneer.

Madoff told Fishman he wasn't solely responsible for the fraud. "I let myself be talked into something, and that's my fault," he said, without saying who convinced him. "I thought I could escape eventually. I thought it'd be quick, but I couldn't."

Carl Shapiro, Jeffry Picower, Stanley Chais, and Norm Levy have been linked to Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC for years. Madoff's scheme made these men hundreds of millions of dollars in the 1960s and 1970s.

Madoff told Fishman, "Everyone was greedy, everyone wanted to go on." He says the Big Four and others who pumped client funds to him, outsourcing their asset management, must have suspected his returns or should have. "How can you make 15%-18% when everyone else is making less?" said Madoff.

How Madoff Got Away with It for So Long

Madoff's high returns made clients look the other way. He deposited their money in a Chase Manhattan Bank account, which merged to become JPMorgan Chase & Co. in 2000. The bank may have made $483 million from those deposits, so it didn't investigate.

When clients redeemed their investments, Madoff funded the payouts with new capital he attracted by promising unbelievable returns and earning his victims' trust. Madoff created an image of exclusivity by turning away clients. This model let half of Madoff's investors profit. These investors must pay into a victims' fund for defrauded investors.

Madoff wooed investors with his philanthropy. He defrauded nonprofits, including the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Peace and Hadassah. He approached congregants through his friendship with J. Ezra Merkin, a synagogue officer. Madoff allegedly stole $1 billion to $2 billion from his investors.

Investors believed Madoff for several reasons:

  • His public portfolio seemed to be blue-chip stocks.
  • His returns were high (10-20%) but consistent and not outlandish. In a 1992 interview with Madoff, the Wall Street Journal reported: "[Madoff] insists the returns were nothing special, given that the S&P 500-stock index returned 16.3% annually from 1982 to 1992. 'I'd be surprised if anyone thought matching the S&P over 10 years was remarkable,' he says.
  • "He said he was using a split-strike collar strategy. A collar protects underlying shares by purchasing an out-of-the-money put option.

SEC inquiry

The Securities and Exchange Commission had been investigating Madoff and his securities firm since 1999, which frustrated many after he was prosecuted because they felt the biggest damage could have been prevented if the initial investigations had been rigorous enough.

Harry Markopolos was a whistleblower. In 1999, he figured Madoff must be lying in an afternoon. The SEC ignored his first Madoff complaint in 2000.

Markopolos wrote to the SEC in 2005: "The largest Ponzi scheme is Madoff Securities. This case has no SEC reward, so I'm turning it in because it's the right thing to do."

Many believed the SEC's initial investigations could have prevented Madoff's worst damage.

Markopolos found irregularities using a "Mosaic Method." Madoff's firm claimed to be profitable even when the S&P fell, which made no mathematical sense given what he was investing in. Markopolos said Madoff Securities' "undisclosed commissions" were the biggest red flag (1 percent of the total plus 20 percent of the profits).

Markopolos concluded that "investors don't know Bernie Madoff manages their money." Markopolos learned Madoff was applying for large loans from European banks (seemingly unnecessary if Madoff's returns were high).

The regulator asked Madoff for trading account documentation in 2005, after he nearly went bankrupt due to redemptions. The SEC drafted letters to two of the firms on his six-page list but didn't send them. Diana Henriques, author of "The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust," documents the episode.

In 2008, the SEC was criticized for its slow response to Madoff's fraud.

Confession, sentencing of Bernie Madoff

Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC reported 5.6% year-to-date returns in November 2008; the S&P 500 fell 39%. As the selling continued, Madoff couldn't keep up with redemption requests, and on Dec. 10, he confessed to his sons Mark and Andy, who worked at his firm. "After I told them, they left, went to a lawyer, who told them to turn in their father, and I never saw them again. 2008-12-11: Bernie Madoff arrested.

Madoff insists he acted alone, but several of his colleagues were jailed. Mark Madoff died two years after his father's fraud was exposed. Madoff's investors committed suicide. Andy Madoff died of cancer in 2014.

2009 saw Madoff's 150-year prison sentence and $170 billion forfeiture. Marshals sold his three homes and yacht. Prisoner 61727-054 at Butner Federal Correctional Institution in North Carolina.

Madoff's lawyers requested early release on February 5, 2020, claiming he has a terminal kidney disease that may kill him in 18 months. Ten years have passed since Madoff's sentencing.

Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme aftermath

The paper trail of victims' claims shows Madoff's complexity and size. Documents show Madoff's scam began in the 1960s. His final account statements show $47 billion in "profit" from fake trades and shady accounting.

Thousands of investors lost their life savings, and multiple stories detail their harrowing loss.

Irving Picard, a New York lawyer overseeing Madoff's bankruptcy, has helped investors. By December 2018, Picard had recovered $13.3 billion from Ponzi scheme profiteers.

A Madoff Victim Fund (MVF) was created in 2013 to help compensate Madoff's victims, but the DOJ didn't start paying out the $4 billion until late 2017. Richard Breeden, a former SEC chair who oversees the fund, said thousands of claims were from "indirect investors"

Breeden and his team had to reject many claims because they weren't direct victims. Breeden said he based most of his decisions on one simple rule: Did the person invest more than they withdrew? Breeden estimated 11,000 "feeder" investors.

Breeden wrote in a November 2018 update for the Madoff Victim Fund, "We've paid over 27,300 victims 56.65% of their losses, with thousands more to come." In December 2018, 37,011 Madoff victims in the U.S. and around the world received over $2.7 billion. Breeden said the fund expected to make "at least one more significant distribution in 2019"


This post is a summary. Read full article here

More on Economics & Investing

Sam Hickmann

Sam Hickmann

2 years ago

What is this Fed interest rate everybody is talking about that makes or breaks the stock market?

The Federal Funds Rate (FFR) is the target interest rate set by the Federal Reserve System (Fed)'s policy-making body (FOMC). This target is the rate at which the Fed suggests commercial banks borrow and lend their excess reserves overnight to each other.

The FOMC meets 8 times a year to set the target FFR. This is supposed to promote economic growth. The overnight lending market sets the actual rate based on commercial banks' short-term reserves. If the market strays too far, the Fed intervenes.

Banks must keep a certain percentage of their deposits in a Federal Reserve account. A bank's reserve requirement is a percentage of its total deposits. End-of-day bank account balances averaged over two-week reserve maintenance periods are used to determine reserve requirements.

If a bank expects to have end-of-day balances above what's needed, it can lend the excess to another institution.

The FOMC adjusts interest rates based on economic indicators that show inflation, recession, or other issues that affect economic growth. Core inflation and durable goods orders are indicators.

In response to economic conditions, the FFR target has changed over time. In the early 1980s, inflation pushed it to 20%. During the Great Recession of 2007-2009, the rate was slashed to 0.15 percent to encourage growth.

Inflation picked up in May 2022 despite earlier rate hikes, prompting today's 0.75 percent point increase. The largest increase since 1994. It might rise to around 3.375% this year and 3.1% by the end of 2024.

Jan-Patrick Barnert

Jan-Patrick Barnert

2 years ago

Wall Street's Bear Market May Stick Around

If history is any guide, this bear market might be long and severe.

This is the S&P 500 Index's fourth such incident in 20 years. The last bear market of 2020 was a "shock trade" caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, although earlier ones in 2000 and 2008 took longer to bottom out and recover.

Peter Garnry, head of equities strategy at Saxo Bank A/S, compares the current selloff to the dotcom bust of 2000 and the 1973-1974 bear market marked by soaring oil prices connected to an OPEC oil embargo. He blamed high tech valuations and the commodity crises.

"This drop might stretch over a year and reach 35%," Garnry wrote.

Here are six bear market charts.

Time/depth

The S&P 500 Index plummeted 51% between 2000 and 2002 and 58% during the global financial crisis; it took more than 1,000 trading days to recover. The former took 638 days to reach a bottom, while the latter took 352 days, suggesting the present selloff is young.

Valuations

Before the tech bubble burst in 2000, valuations were high. The S&P 500's forward P/E was 25 times then. Before the market fell this year, ahead values were near 24. Before the global financial crisis, stocks were relatively inexpensive, but valuations dropped more than 40%, compared to less than 30% now.

Earnings

Every stock crash, especially earlier bear markets, returned stocks to fundamentals. The S&P 500 decouples from earnings trends but eventually recouples.

Support

Central banks won't support equity investors just now. The end of massive monetary easing will terminate a two-year bull run that was among the strongest ever, and equities may struggle without cheap money. After years of "don't fight the Fed," investors must embrace a new strategy.

Bear Haunting Bear

If the past is any indication, rising government bond yields are bad news. After the financial crisis, skyrocketing rates and a falling euro pushed European stock markets back into bear territory in 2011.

Inflation/rates

The current monetary policy climate differs from past bear markets. This is the first time in a while that markets face significant inflation and rising rates.


This post is a summary. Read full article here

Arthur Hayes

Arthur Hayes

1 year ago

Contagion

(The author's opinions should not be used to make investment decisions or as a recommendation to invest.)

The pandemic and social media pseudoscience have made us all epidemiologists, for better or worse. Flattening the curve, social distancing, lockdowns—remember? Some of you may remember R0 (R naught), the number of healthy humans the average COVID-infected person infects. Thankfully, the world has moved on from Greater China's nightmare. Politicians have refocused their talent for misdirection on getting their constituents invested in the war for Russian Reunification or Russian Aggression, depending on your side of the iron curtain.

Humanity battles two fronts. A war against an invisible virus (I know your Commander in Chief might have told you COVID is over, but viruses don't follow election cycles and their economic impacts linger long after the last rapid-test clinic has closed); and an undeclared World War between US/NATO and Eurasia/Russia/China. The fiscal and monetary authorities' current policies aim to mitigate these two conflicts' economic effects.

Since all politicians are short-sighted, they usually print money to solve most problems. Printing money is the easiest and fastest way to solve most problems because it can be done immediately without much discussion. The alternative—long-term restructuring of our global economy—would hurt stakeholders and require an honest discussion about our civilization's state. Both of those requirements are non-starters for our short-sighted political friends, so whether your government practices capitalism, communism, socialism, or fascism, they all turn to printing money-ism to solve all problems.

Free money stimulates demand, so people buy crap. Overbuying shit raises prices. Inflation. Every nation has food, energy, or goods inflation. The once-docile plebes demand action when the latter two subsets of inflation rise rapidly. They will be heard at the polls or in the streets. What would you do to feed your crying hungry child?

Global central banks During the pandemic, the Fed, PBOC, BOJ, ECB, and BOE printed money to aid their governments. They worried about inflation and promised to remove fiat liquidity and tighten monetary conditions.

Imagine Nate Diaz's round-house kick to the face. The financial markets probably felt that way when the US and a few others withdrew fiat wampum. Sovereign debt markets suffered a near-record bond market rout.

The undeclared WW3 is intensifying, with recent gas pipeline attacks. The global economy is already struggling, and credit withdrawal will worsen the situation. The next pandemic, the Yield Curve Control (YCC) virus, is spreading as major central banks backtrack on inflation promises. All central banks eventually fail.

Here's a scorecard.

In order to save its financial system, BOE recently reverted to Quantitative Easing (QE).

BOJ Continuing YCC to save their banking system and enable affordable government borrowing.

ECB printing money to buy weak EU member bonds, but will soon start Quantitative Tightening (QT).

PBOC Restarting the money printer to give banks liquidity to support the falling residential property market.

Fed raising rates and QT-shrinking balance sheet.

80% of the world's biggest central banks are printing money again. Only the Fed has remained steadfast in the face of a financial market bloodbath, determined to end the inflation for which it is at least partially responsible—the culmination of decades of bad economic policies and a world war.

YCC printing is the worst for fiat currency and society. Because it necessitates central banks fixing a multi-trillion-dollar bond market. YCC central banks promise to infinitely expand their balance sheets to keep a certain interest rate metric below an unnatural ceiling. The market always wins, crushing humanity with inflation.

BOJ's YCC policy is longest-standing. The BOE joined them, and my essay this week argues that the ECB will follow. The ECB joining YCC would make 60% of major central banks follow this terrible policy. Since the PBOC is part of the Chinese financial system, the number could be 80%. The Chinese will lend any amount to meet their economic activity goals.

The BOE committed to a 13-week, GBP 65bn bond price-fixing operation. However, BOEs YCC may return. If you lose to the market, you're stuck. Since the BOE has announced that it will buy your Gilt at inflated prices, why would you not sell them all? Market participants taking advantage of this policy will only push the bank further into the hole it dug itself, so I expect the BOE to re-up this program and count them as YCC.

In a few trading days, the BOE went from a bank determined to slay inflation by raising interest rates and QT to buying an unlimited amount of UK Gilts. I expect the ECB to be dragged kicking and screaming into a similar policy. Spoiler alert: big daddy Fed will eventually die from the YCC virus.

Threadneedle St, London EC2R 8AH, UK

Before we discuss the BOE's recent missteps, a chatroom member called the British royal family the Kardashians with Crowns, which made me laugh. I'm sad about royal attention. If the public was as interested in energy and economic policies as they are in how the late Queen treated Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, UK politicians might not have been able to get away with energy and economic fairy tales.

The BOE printed money to recover from COVID, as all good central banks do. For historical context, this chart shows the BOE's total assets as a percentage of GDP since its founding in the 18th century.

The UK has had a rough three centuries. Pandemics, empire wars, civil wars, world wars. Even so, the BOE's recent money printing was its most aggressive ever!

BOE Total Assets as % of GDP (white) vs. UK CPI

Now, inflation responded slowly to the bank's most aggressive monetary loosening. King Charles wishes the gold line above showed his popularity, but it shows his subjects' suffering.

The BOE recognized early that its money printing caused runaway inflation. In its August 2022 report, the bank predicted that inflation would reach 13% by year end before aggressively tapering in 2023 and 2024.

Aug 2022 BOE Monetary Policy Report

The BOE was the first major central bank to reduce its balance sheet and raise its policy rate to help.

The BOE first raised rates in December 2021. Back then, JayPow wasn't even considering raising rates.

UK policymakers, like most developed nations, believe in energy fairy tales. Namely, that the developed world, which grew in lockstep with hydrocarbon use, could switch to wind and solar by 2050. The UK's energy import bill has grown while coal, North Sea oil, and possibly stranded shale oil have been ignored.

WW3 is an economic war that is balkanizing energy markets, which will continue to inflate. A nation that imports energy and has printed the most money in its history cannot avoid inflation.

The chart above shows that energy inflation is a major cause of plebe pain.

The UK is hit by a double whammy: the BOE must remove credit to reduce demand, and energy prices must rise due to WW3 inflation. That's not economic growth.

Boris Johnson was knocked out by his country's poor economic performance, not his lockdown at 10 Downing St. Prime Minister Truss and her merry band of fools arrived with the tried-and-true government remedy: goodies for everyone.

She released a budget full of economic stimulants. She cut corporate and individual taxes for the rich. She plans to give poor people vouchers for higher energy bills. Woohoo! Margret Thatcher's new pants suit.

My buddy Jim Bianco said Truss budget's problem is that it works. It will boost activity at a time when inflation is over 10%. Truss' budget didn't include austerity measures like tax increases or spending cuts, which the bond market wanted. The bond market protested.

30-year Gilt yield chart. Yields spiked the most ever after Truss announced her budget, as shown. The Gilt market is the longest-running bond market in the world.

The Gilt market showed the pole who's boss with Cardi B.

Before this, the BOE was super-committed to fighting inflation. To their credit, they raised short-term rates and shrank their balance sheet. However, rapid yield rises threatened to destroy the entire highly leveraged UK financial system overnight, forcing them to change course.

Accounting gimmicks allowed by regulators for pension funds posed a systemic threat to the UK banking system. UK pension funds could use interest rate market levered derivatives to match liabilities. When rates rise, short rate derivatives require more margin. The pension funds spent all their money trying to pick stonks and whatever else their sell side banker could stuff them with, so the historic rate spike would have bankrupted them overnight. The FT describes BOE-supervised chicanery well.

To avoid a financial apocalypse, the BOE in one morning abandoned all their hard work and started buying unlimited long-dated Gilts to drive prices down.

Another reminder to never fight a central bank. The 30-year Gilt is shown above. After the BOE restarted the money printer on September 28, this bond rose 30%. Thirty-fucking-percent! Developed market sovereign bonds rarely move daily. You're invested in His Majesty's government obligations, not a Chinese property developer's offshore USD bond.

The political need to give people goodies to help them fight the terrible economy ran into a financial reality. The central bank protected the UK financial system from asset-price deflation because, like all modern economies, it is debt-based and highly levered. As bad as it is, inflation is not their top priority. The BOE example demonstrated that. To save the financial system, they abandoned almost a year of prudent monetary policy in a few hours. They also started the endgame.

Let's play Central Bankers Say the Darndest Things before we go to the continent (and sorry if you live on a continent other than Europe, but you're not culturally relevant).

Pre-meltdown BOE output:

FT, October 17, 2021 On Sunday, the Bank of England governor warned that it must act to curb inflationary pressure, ignoring financial market moves that have priced in the first interest rate increase before the end of the year.

On July 19, 2022, Gov. Andrew Bailey spoke. Our 2% inflation target is unwavering. We'll do our job.

August 4th 2022 MPC monetary policy announcement According to its mandate, the MPC will sustainably return inflation to 2% in the medium term.

Catherine Mann, MPC member, September 5, 2022 speech. Fast and forceful monetary tightening, possibly followed by a hold or reversal, is better than gradualism because it promotes inflation expectations' role in bringing inflation back to 2% over the medium term.

When their financial system nearly collapsed in one trading session, they said:

The Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee warned on 28 September that gilt market dysfunction threatened UK financial stability. It advised action and supported the Bank's urgent gilt market purchases for financial stability.

It works when the price goes up but not down. Is my crypto portfolio dysfunctional enough to get a BOE bailout?

Next, the EU and ECB. The ECB is also fighting inflation, but it will also succumb to the YCC virus for the same reasons as the BOE.

Frankfurt am Main, ECB Tower, Sonnemannstraße 20, 60314

Only France and Germany matter economically in the EU. Modern European history has focused on keeping Germany and Russia apart. German manufacturing and cheap Russian goods could change geopolitics.

France created the EU to keep Germany down, and the Germans only cooperated because of WWII guilt. France's interests are shared by the US, which lurks in the shadows to prevent a Germany-Russia alliance. A weak EU benefits US politics. Avoid unification of Eurasia. (I paraphrased daddy Felix because I thought quoting a large part of his most recent missive would get me spanked.)

As with everything, understanding Germany's energy policy is the best way to understand why the German economy is fundamentally fucked and why that spells doom for the EU. Germany, the EU's main economic engine, is being crippled by high energy prices, threatening a depression. This economic downturn threatens the union. The ECB may have to abandon plans to shrink its balance sheet and switch to YCC to save the EU's unholy political union.

France did the smart thing and went all in on nuclear energy, which is rare in geopolitics. 70% of electricity is nuclear-powered. Their manufacturing base can survive Russian gas cuts. Germany cannot.

My boy Zoltan made this great graphic showing how screwed Germany is as cheap Russian gas leaves the industrial economy.

$27 billion of Russian gas powers almost $2 trillion of German economic output, a 75x energy leverage. The German public was duped into believing the same energy fairy tales as their politicians, and they overwhelmingly allowed the Green party to dismantle any efforts to build a nuclear energy ecosystem over the past several decades. Germany, unlike France, must import expensive American and Qatari LNG via supertankers due to Nordstream I and II pipeline sabotage.

American gas exports to Europe are touted by the media. Gas is cheap because America isn't the Western world's swing producer. If gas prices rise domestically in America, the plebes would demand the end of imports to avoid paying more to heat their homes.

German goods would cost much more in this scenario. German producer prices rose 46% YoY in August. The German current account is rapidly approaching zero and will soon be negative.

German PPI Change YoY

German Current Account

The reason this matters is a curious construction called TARGET2. Let’s hear from the horse’s mouth what exactly this beat is:

TARGET2 is the real-time gross settlement (RTGS) system owned and operated by the Eurosystem. Central banks and commercial banks can submit payment orders in euro to TARGET2, where they are processed and settled in central bank money, i.e. money held in an account with a central bank.

Source: ECB

Let me explain this in plain English for those unfamiliar with economic dogma.

This chart shows intra-EU credits and debits. TARGET2. Germany, Europe's powerhouse, is owed money. IOU-buying Greeks buy G-wagons. The G-wagon pickup truck is badass.

If all EU countries had fiat currencies, the Deutsche Mark would be stronger than the Italian Lira, according to the chart above. If Europe had to buy goods from non-EU countries, the Euro would be much weaker. Credits and debits between smaller political units smooth out imbalances in other federal-provincial-state political systems. Financial and fiscal unions allow this. The EU is financial, so the centre cannot force the periphery to settle their imbalances.

Greece has never had to buy Fords or Kias instead of BMWs, but what if Germany had to shut down its auto manufacturing plants due to energy shortages?

Italians have done well buying ammonia from Germany rather than China, but what if BASF had to close its Ludwigshafen facility due to a lack of affordable natural gas?

I think you're seeing the issue.

Instead of Germany, EU countries would owe foreign producers like America, China, South Korea, Japan, etc. Since these countries aren't tied into an uneconomic union for politics, they'll demand hard fiat currency like USD instead of Euros, which have become toilet paper (or toilet plastic).

Keynesian economists have a simple solution for politicians who can't afford market prices. Government debt can maintain production. The debt covers the difference between what a business can afford and the international energy market price.

Germans are monetary policy conservative because of the Weimar Republic's hyperinflation. The Bundesbank is the only thing preventing ECB profligacy. Germany must print its way out without cheap energy. Like other nations, they will issue more bonds for fiscal transfers.

More Bunds mean lower prices. Without German monetary discipline, the Euro would have become a trash currency like any other emerging market that imports energy and food and has uncompetitive labor.

Bunds price all EU country bonds. The ECB's money printing is designed to keep the spread of weak EU member bonds vs. Bunds low. Everyone falls with Bunds.

Like the UK, German politicians seeking re-election will likely cause a Bunds selloff. Bond investors will understandably reject their promises of goodies for industry and individuals to offset the lack of cheap Russian gas. Long-dated Bunds will be smoked like UK Gilts. The ECB will face a wave of ultra-levered financial players who will go bankrupt if they mark to market their fixed income derivatives books at higher Bund yields.

Some treats People: Germany will spend 200B to help consumers and businesses cope with energy prices, including promoting renewable energy.

That, ladies and germs, is why the ECB will immediately abandon QT, move to a stop-gap QE program to normalize the Bund and every other EU bond market, and eventually graduate to YCC as the market vomits bonds of all stripes into Christine Lagarde's loving hands. She probably has soft hands.

The 30-year Bund market has noticed Germany's economic collapse. 2021 yields skyrocketed.

30-year Bund Yield

ECB Says the Darndest Things:

Because inflation is too high and likely to stay above our target for a long time, we took today's decision and expect to raise interest rates further.- Christine Lagarde, ECB Press Conference, Sept 8.

The Governing Council will adjust all of its instruments to stabilize inflation at 2% over the medium term. July 21 ECB Monetary Decision

Everyone struggles with high inflation. The Governing Council will ensure medium-term inflation returns to two percent. June 9th ECB Press Conference

I'm excited to read the after. Like the BOE, the ECB may abandon their plans to shrink their balance sheet and resume QE due to debt market dysfunction.

Eighty Percent

I like YCC like dark chocolate over 80%. ;).

Can 80% of the world's major central banks' QE and/or YCC overcome Sir Powell's toughness on fungible risky asset prices?

Gold and crypto are fungible global risky assets. Satoshis and gold bars are the same in New York, London, Frankfurt, Tokyo, and Shanghai.

As more Euros, Yen, Renminbi, and Pounds are printed, people will move their savings into Dollars or other stores of value. As the Fed raises rates and reduces its balance sheet, the USD will strengthen. Gold/EUR and BTC/JPY may also attract buyers.

Gold and crypto markets are much smaller than the trillions in fiat money that will be printed, so they will appreciate in non-USD currencies. These flows only matter in one instance because we trade the global or USD price. Arbitrage occurs when BTC/EUR rises faster than EUR/USD. Here is how it works:

  1. An investor based in the USD notices that BTC is expensive in EUR terms.

  2. Instead of buying BTC, this investor borrows USD and then sells it.

  3. After that, they sell BTC and buy EUR.

  4. Then they choose to sell EUR and buy USD.

  5. The investor receives their profit after repaying the USD loan.

This triangular FX arbitrage will align the global/USD BTC price with the elevated EUR, JPY, CNY, and GBP prices.

Even if the Fed continues QT, which I doubt they can do past early 2023, small stores of value like gold and Bitcoin may rise as non-Fed central banks get serious about printing money.

“Arthur, this is just more copium,” you might retort.

Patience. This takes time. Economic and political forcing functions take time. The BOE example shows that bond markets will reject politicians' policies to appease voters. Decades of bad energy policy have no immediate fix. Money printing is the only politically viable option. Bond yields will rise as bond markets see more stimulative budgets, and the over-leveraged fiat debt-based financial system will collapse quickly, followed by a monetary bailout.

America has enough food, fuel, and people. China, Europe, Japan, and the UK suffer. America can be autonomous. Thus, the Fed can prioritize domestic political inflation concerns over supplying the world (and most of its allies) with dollars. A steady flow of dollars allows other nations to print their currencies and buy energy in USD. If the strongest player wins, everyone else loses.

I'm making a GDP-weighted index of these five central banks' money printing. When ready, I'll share its rate of change. This will show when the 80%'s money printing exceeds the Fed's tightening.

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Olga Kharif

1 year ago

A month after freezing customer withdrawals, Celsius files for bankruptcy.

Alex Mashinsky, CEO of Celsius, speaks at Web Summit 2021 in Lisbon. 

Celsius Network filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a month after freezing customer withdrawals, joining other crypto casualties.

Celsius took the step to stabilize its business and restructure for all stakeholders. The filing was done in the Southern District of New York.

The company, which amassed more than $20 billion by offering 18% interest on cryptocurrency deposits, paused withdrawals and other functions in mid-June, citing "extreme market conditions."

As the Fed raises interest rates aggressively, it hurts risk sentiment and squeezes funding costs. Voyager Digital Ltd. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this month, and Three Arrows Capital has called in liquidators.

Celsius called the pause "difficult but necessary." Without the halt, "the acceleration of withdrawals would have allowed certain customers to be paid in full while leaving others to wait for Celsius to harvest value from illiquid or longer-term asset deployment activities," it said.

Celsius declined to comment. CEO Alex Mashinsky said the move will strengthen the company's future.

The company wants to keep operating. It's not requesting permission to allow customer withdrawals right now; Chapter 11 will handle customer claims. The filing estimates assets and liabilities between $1 billion and $10 billion.

Celsius is advised by Kirkland & Ellis, Centerview Partners, and Alvarez & Marsal.

Yield-promises

Celsius promised 18% returns on crypto loans. It lent those coins to institutional investors and participated in decentralized-finance apps.

When TerraUSD (UST) and Luna collapsed in May, Celsius pulled its funds from Terra's Anchor Protocol, which offered 20% returns on UST deposits. Recently, another large holding, staked ETH, or stETH, which is tied to Ether, became illiquid and discounted to Ether.

The lender is one of many crypto companies hurt by risky bets in the bear market. Also, Babel halted withdrawals. Voyager Digital filed for bankruptcy, and crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy.

According to blockchain data and tracker Zapper, Celsius repaid all of its debt in Aave, Compound, and MakerDAO last month.

Celsius charged Symbolic Capital Partners Ltd. 2,000 Ether as collateral for a cash loan on June 13. According to company filings, Symbolic was charged 2,545.25 Ether on June 11.

In July 6 filings, it said it reshuffled its board, appointing two new members and firing others.

B Kean

B Kean

1 year ago

To prove his point, Putin is prepared to add 200,000 more dead soldiers.

What does Ukraine's murderous craziness mean?

Photo by Anastasiya Romanova on Unsplash

Vladimir Putin expressed his patience to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet. Thousands, even hundreds of thousands of young and middle-aged males in his country have no meaning to him.

During a meeting in March with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of Israel, Mr. Putin admitted that the Ukrainians were tougher “than I was told,” according to two people familiar with the exchange. “This will probably be much more difficult than we thought. But the war is on their territory, not ours. We are a big country and we have patience (The Inside Story of a Catastrophe).”

Putin should explain to Russian mothers how patient he is with his invasion of Ukraine.

Putin is rich. Even while sanctions have certainly limited Putin's access to his fortune, he has access to everything in Russia. Unlimited wealth.

The Russian leader's infrastructure was designed with his whims in mind. Vladimir Putin is one of the wealthiest and most catered-to people alive. He's also all-powerful, as his lack of opposition shows. His incredible wealth and power have isolated him from average people so much that he doesn't mind turning lives upside down to prove a point.

For many, losing a Russian spouse or son is painful. Whether the soldier was a big breadwinner or unemployed, the loss of a male figure leaves many families bewildered and anxious. Putin, Russia's revered president, seems unfazed.

People who know Mr. Putin say he is ready to sacrifice untold lives and treasure for as long as it takes, and in a rare face-to-face meeting with the Americans last month the Russians wanted to deliver a stark message to President Biden: No matter how many Russian soldiers are killed or wounded on the battlefield, Russia will not give up (The Inside Story of a Catastrophe).

Imagine a country's leader publicly admitting a mistake he's made. Imagine getting Putin's undivided attention.

So, I underestimated Ukrainians. I can't allow them make me appear terrible, so I'll utilize as many drunken dopes as possible to cover up my error. They'll die fulfilled and heroic.

Russia's human resources are limited, but its willingness to cause suffering is not. How many Russian families must die before the curse is broken? If mass protests started tomorrow, Russia's authorities couldn't stop them.

When Moscovites faced down tanks in August 1991, the Gorbachev coup ended in three days. Even though few city residents showed up, everything collapsed. This wicked disaster won't require many Russians.

One NATO member is warning allies that Mr. Putin is ready to accept the deaths or injuries of as many as 300,000 Russian troops — roughly three times his estimated losses so far.

If 100,000 Russians have died in Ukraine and Putin doesn't mind another 200,000 dying, why don't these 200,000 ghosts stand up and save themselves? Putin plays the role of concerned and benevolent leader effectively, but things aren't going well for Russia.

What would 300,000 or more missing men signify for Russia's future? How many kids will have broken homes? How many families won't form, and what will the economy do?

Putin reportedly cared about his legacy. His place in Russian history Putin's invasion of Ukraine settled his legacy. He has single-handedly weakened and despaired Russia since the 1980s.

Putin will be viewed by sensible people as one of Russia's worst adversaries, but Russians will think he was fantastic despite Ukraine.

The more setbacks Mr. Putin endures on the battlefield, the more fears grow over how far he is willing to go. He has killed tens of thousands in Ukraine, leveled cities, and targeted civilians for maximum pain — obliterating hospitals, schools, and apartment buildings while cutting off power and water to millions before winter. Each time Ukrainian forces score a major blow against Russia, the bombing of their country intensifies. And Mr. Putin has repeatedly reminded the world that he can use anything at his disposal, including nuclear arms, to pursue his notion of victory.

How much death and damage will there be in Ukraine if Putin sends 200,000 more Russians to the front? It's scary, sad, and sick.

Monster.

Farhan Ali Khan

Farhan Ali Khan

1 year ago

Introduction to Zero-Knowledge Proofs: The Art of Proving Without Revealing

Zero-Knowledge Proofs for Beginners

Published here originally.

Introduction

I Spy—did you play as a kid? One person chose a room object, and the other had to guess it by answering yes or no questions. I Spy was entertaining, but did you know it could teach you cryptography?

Zero Knowledge Proofs let you show your pal you know what they picked without exposing how. Math replaces electronics in this secret spy mission. Zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs) are sophisticated cryptographic tools that allow one party to prove they have particular knowledge without revealing it. This proves identification and ownership, secures financial transactions, and more. This article explains zero-knowledge proofs and provides examples to help you comprehend this powerful technology.

What is a Proof of Zero Knowledge?

Zero-knowledge proofs prove a proposition is true without revealing any other information. This lets the prover show the verifier that they know a fact without revealing it. So, a zero-knowledge proof is like a magician's trick: the prover proves they know something without revealing how or what. Complex mathematical procedures create a proof the verifier can verify.

Want to find an easy way to test it out? Try out with tis awesome example! ZK Crush

Describe it as if I'm 5

Alex and Jack found a cave with a center entrance that only opens when someone knows the secret. Alex knows how to open the cave door and wants to show Jack without telling him.

Alex and Jack name both pathways (let’s call them paths A and B).

  1. In the first phase, Alex is already inside the cave and is free to select either path, in this case A or B.

  2. As Alex made his decision, Jack entered the cave and asked him to exit from the B path.

  3. Jack can confirm that Alex really does know the key to open the door because he came out for the B path and used it.

To conclude, Alex and Jack repeat:

  1. Alex walks into the cave.

  2. Alex follows a random route.

  3. Jack walks into the cave.

  4. Alex is asked to follow a random route by Jack.

  5. Alex follows Jack's advice and heads back that way.

What is a Zero Knowledge Proof?

At a high level, the aim is to construct a secure and confidential conversation between the prover and the verifier, where the prover convinces the verifier that they have the requisite information without disclosing it. The prover and verifier exchange messages and calculate in each round of the dialogue.

The prover uses their knowledge to prove they have the information the verifier wants during these rounds. The verifier can verify the prover's truthfulness without learning more by checking the proof's mathematical statement or computation.

Zero knowledge proofs use advanced mathematical procedures and cryptography methods to secure communication. These methods ensure the evidence is authentic while preventing the prover from creating a phony proof or the verifier from extracting unnecessary information.

ZK proofs require examples to grasp. Before the examples, there are some preconditions.

Criteria for Proofs of Zero Knowledge

  1. Completeness: If the proposition being proved is true, then an honest prover will persuade an honest verifier that it is true.

  2. Soundness: If the proposition being proved is untrue, no dishonest prover can persuade a sincere verifier that it is true.

  3. Zero-knowledge: The verifier only realizes that the proposition being proved is true. In other words, the proof only establishes the veracity of the proposition being supported and nothing more.

The zero-knowledge condition is crucial. Zero-knowledge proofs show only the secret's veracity. The verifier shouldn't know the secret's value or other details.

Example after example after example

To illustrate, take a zero-knowledge proof with several examples:

Initial Password Verification Example

You want to confirm you know a password or secret phrase without revealing it.

Use a zero-knowledge proof:

  1. You and the verifier settle on a mathematical conundrum or issue, such as figuring out a big number's components.

  2. The puzzle or problem is then solved using the hidden knowledge that you have learned. You may, for instance, utilize your understanding of the password to determine the components of a particular number.

  3. You provide your answer to the verifier, who can assess its accuracy without knowing anything about your private data.

  4. You go through this process several times with various riddles or issues to persuade the verifier that you actually are aware of the secret knowledge.

You solved the mathematical puzzles or problems, proving to the verifier that you know the hidden information. The proof is zero-knowledge since the verifier only sees puzzle solutions, not the secret information.

In this scenario, the mathematical challenge or problem represents the secret, and solving it proves you know it. The evidence does not expose the secret, and the verifier just learns that you know it.

My simple example meets the zero-knowledge proof conditions:

  1. Completeness: If you actually know the hidden information, you will be able to solve the mathematical puzzles or problems, hence the proof is conclusive.

  2. Soundness: The proof is sound because the verifier can use a publicly known algorithm to confirm that your answer to the mathematical conundrum or difficulty is accurate.

  3. Zero-knowledge: The proof is zero-knowledge because all the verifier learns is that you are aware of the confidential information. Beyond the fact that you are aware of it, the verifier does not learn anything about the secret information itself, such as the password or the factors of the number. As a result, the proof does not provide any new insights into the secret.

Explanation #2: Toss a coin.

One coin is biased to come up heads more often than tails, while the other is fair (i.e., comes up heads and tails with equal probability). You know which coin is which, but you want to show a friend you can tell them apart without telling them.

Use a zero-knowledge proof:

  1. One of the two coins is chosen at random, and you secretly flip it more than once.

  2. You show your pal the following series of coin flips without revealing which coin you actually flipped.

  3. Next, as one of the two coins is flipped in front of you, your friend asks you to tell which one it is.

  4. Then, without revealing which coin is which, you can use your understanding of the secret order of coin flips to determine which coin your friend flipped.

  5. To persuade your friend that you can actually differentiate between the coins, you repeat this process multiple times using various secret coin-flipping sequences.

In this example, the series of coin flips represents the knowledge of biased and fair coins. You can prove you know which coin is which without revealing which is biased or fair by employing a different secret sequence of coin flips for each round.

The evidence is zero-knowledge since your friend does not learn anything about which coin is biased and which is fair other than that you can tell them differently. The proof does not indicate which coin you flipped or how many times you flipped it.

The coin-flipping example meets zero-knowledge proof requirements:

  1. Completeness: If you actually know which coin is biased and which is fair, you should be able to distinguish between them based on the order of coin flips, and your friend should be persuaded that you can.

  2. Soundness: Your friend may confirm that you are correctly recognizing the coins by flipping one of them in front of you and validating your answer, thus the proof is sound in that regard. Because of this, your acquaintance can be sure that you are not just speculating or picking a coin at random.

  3. Zero-knowledge: The argument is that your friend has no idea which coin is biased and which is fair beyond your ability to distinguish between them. Your friend is not made aware of the coin you used to make your decision or the order in which you flipped the coins. Consequently, except from letting you know which coin is biased and which is fair, the proof does not give any additional information about the coins themselves.

Figure out the prime number in Example #3.

You want to prove to a friend that you know their product n=pq without revealing p and q. Zero-knowledge proof?

Use a variant of the RSA algorithm. Method:

  1. You determine a new number s = r2 mod n by computing a random number r.

  2. You email your friend s and a declaration that you are aware of the values of p and q necessary for n to equal pq.

  3. A random number (either 0 or 1) is selected by your friend and sent to you.

  4. You send your friend r as evidence that you are aware of the values of p and q if e=0. You calculate and communicate your friend's s/r if e=1.

  5. Without knowing the values of p and q, your friend can confirm that you know p and q (in the case where e=0) or that s/r is a legitimate square root of s mod n (in the situation where e=1).

This is a zero-knowledge proof since your friend learns nothing about p and q other than their product is n and your ability to verify it without exposing any other information. You can prove that you know p and q by sending r or by computing s/r and sending that instead (if e=1), and your friend can verify that you know p and q or that s/r is a valid square root of s mod n without learning anything else about their values. This meets the conditions of completeness, soundness, and zero-knowledge.

Zero-knowledge proofs satisfy the following:

  1. Completeness: The prover can demonstrate this to the verifier by computing q = n/p and sending both p and q to the verifier. The prover also knows a prime number p and a factorization of n as p*q.

  2. Soundness: Since it is impossible to identify any pair of numbers that correctly factorize n without being aware of its prime factors, the prover is unable to demonstrate knowledge of any p and q that do not do so.

  3. Zero knowledge: The prover only admits that they are aware of a prime number p and its associated factor q, which is already known to the verifier. This is the extent of their knowledge of the prime factors of n. As a result, the prover does not provide any new details regarding n's prime factors.

Types of Proofs of Zero Knowledge

Each zero-knowledge proof has pros and cons. Most zero-knowledge proofs are:

  1. Interactive Zero Knowledge Proofs: The prover and the verifier work together to establish the proof in this sort of zero-knowledge proof. The verifier disputes the prover's assertions after receiving a sequence of messages from the prover. When the evidence has been established, the prover will employ these new problems to generate additional responses.

  2. Non-Interactive Zero Knowledge Proofs: For this kind of zero-knowledge proof, the prover and verifier just need to exchange a single message. Without further interaction between the two parties, the proof is established.

  3. A statistical zero-knowledge proof is one in which the conclusion is reached with a high degree of probability but not with certainty. This indicates that there is a remote possibility that the proof is false, but that this possibility is so remote as to be unimportant.

  4. Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge (SNARKs): SNARKs are an extremely effective and scalable form of zero-knowledge proof. They are utilized in many different applications, such as machine learning, blockchain technology, and more. Similar to other zero-knowledge proof techniques, SNARKs enable one party—the prover—to demonstrate to another—the verifier—that they are aware of a specific piece of information without disclosing any more information about that information.

  5. The main characteristic of SNARKs is their succinctness, which refers to the fact that the size of the proof is substantially smaller than the amount of the original data being proved. Because to its high efficiency and scalability, SNARKs can be used in a wide range of applications, such as machine learning, blockchain technology, and more.

Uses for Zero Knowledge Proofs

ZKP applications include:

  1. Verifying Identity ZKPs can be used to verify your identity without disclosing any personal information. This has uses in access control, digital signatures, and online authentication.

  2. Proof of Ownership ZKPs can be used to demonstrate ownership of a certain asset without divulging any details about the asset itself. This has uses for protecting intellectual property, managing supply chains, and owning digital assets.

  3. Financial Exchanges Without disclosing any details about the transaction itself, ZKPs can be used to validate financial transactions. Cryptocurrency, internet payments, and other digital financial transactions can all use this.

  4. By enabling parties to make calculations on the data without disclosing the data itself, Data Privacy ZKPs can be used to preserve the privacy of sensitive data. Applications for this can be found in the financial, healthcare, and other sectors that handle sensitive data.

  5. By enabling voters to confirm that their vote was counted without disclosing how they voted, elections ZKPs can be used to ensure the integrity of elections. This is applicable to electronic voting, including internet voting.

  6. Cryptography Modern cryptography's ZKPs are a potent instrument that enable secure communication and authentication. This can be used for encrypted messaging and other purposes in the business sector as well as for military and intelligence operations.

Proofs of Zero Knowledge and Compliance

Kubernetes and regulatory compliance use ZKPs in many ways. Examples:

  1. Security for Kubernetes ZKPs offer a mechanism to authenticate nodes without disclosing any sensitive information, enhancing the security of Kubernetes clusters. ZKPs, for instance, can be used to verify, without disclosing the specifics of the program, that the nodes in a Kubernetes cluster are running permitted software.

  2. Compliance Inspection Without disclosing any sensitive information, ZKPs can be used to demonstrate compliance with rules like the GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS. ZKPs, for instance, can be used to demonstrate that data has been encrypted and stored securely without divulging the specifics of the mechanism employed for either encryption or storage.

  3. Access Management Without disclosing any private data, ZKPs can be used to offer safe access control to Kubernetes resources. ZKPs can be used, for instance, to demonstrate that a user has the necessary permissions to access a particular Kubernetes resource without disclosing the details of those permissions.

  4. Safe Data Exchange Without disclosing any sensitive information, ZKPs can be used to securely transmit data between Kubernetes clusters or between several businesses. ZKPs, for instance, can be used to demonstrate the sharing of a specific piece of data between two parties without disclosing the details of the data itself.

  5. Kubernetes deployments audited Without disclosing the specifics of the deployment or the data being processed, ZKPs can be used to demonstrate that Kubernetes deployments are working as planned. This can be helpful for auditing purposes and for ensuring that Kubernetes deployments are operating as planned.

ZKPs preserve data and maintain regulatory compliance by letting parties prove things without revealing sensitive information. ZKPs will be used more in Kubernetes as it grows.