“We Are In The Golden Age Of Fraud”

“We Are In The Golden Age Of Fraud”, by Harriet Agnew. Jim Chanos is perhaps the most well-known remaining short-seller in this market.

Jim Chanos has been cast as the “Darth Vader of Wall Street”, the “Catastrophe Capitalist” and the “LeBron James of short selling”. The 62-year-old titan of the $3.2tn global hedge fund industry predicted the downfall of US energy giant Enron almost two decades ago, making a fortune in the process. …

Chanos likes to present himself as a “real-time financial detective who is incentivised to root out fraud”. Or, more prosaically, a “forensic financial statement junkie”. … His pitch is that he can identify corporate disasters-in-the-making. The New York-based outfit employs 20 people and has $1.5bn in assets under management. Chanos also teaches a course on the history of financial fraud (“how to detect it, not how to commit it”, he quips) at Yale University, his alma mater. The syllabus stretches back to the 17th century.

Today, he says, “we are in the golden age of fraud”.

Chanos describes the current environment as “a really fertile field for people to play fast and loose with the truth, and for corporate wrongdoers to get away with it for a long time”.

He reels off why: a 10-year bull market driven by central bank intervention; a level of retail participation in the markets reminiscent of the end of the dotcom boom; Trumpian “post-truth in politics, where my facts are your fake news”; and Silicon Valley’s “fake it until you make it” culture, which is compounded by Fomo — the fear of missing out. All of this is exacerbated by lax oversight. Financial regulators and law enforcement, he says, “are the financial archaeologists — they will tell you after the company has collapsed what the problem was.” …

Elon Musk has personified the hopes and dreams of this bull market; Tesla burnishes its results through aggressive accounting; it’s a culture of deception because it is selling self-driving, which doesn’t yet exist.

Dave Kranzler:

The fraud and corruption is blatant. And there’s nothing the masses can do about it at this point. The U.S. economic, financial, political and legal system is now amalgam of “1984” and “Atlas Shrugged.” Eventual collapse is fait accompli.

Chanos himself burnishes the adjectives he uses to convey the degree to which the U.S. system has been engulfed in fraud, corruption and open theft. In my opinion, Francisco D’Anconia in “Atlas Shrugged” describes the U.S. perfectly in this excerpt from the famous “Money Speech:”

“Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion–when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing — when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors — when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you — when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice — you may know that your society is doomed.

Amen.