Aug 14, 2012 18:31 EDT Why have the banks have become too big to fail? Look no further than the mindset of the people in charge of Wall Street.
Oppenheim Law Exposes Wall Street’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ BanksAug 16, 2012 15:00 EDT
Fort Lauderdale, Fla. -- August 16, 2012 -- Confidence in Wall Street is at an all-time low.
It’s no wonder considering how many Wall Street executives continue to display poor moral leadership,according to real estate attorney and Yahoo! Homes blogger Roy Oppenheim.
“Despite what seems like a daily barrage of banking scandals, leaders like Jamie Dimon remain defiant, almost incredulous to the fact that their institutions bear any responsibility for the current economic climate,” Oppenheim says.
“When Dimon refers to JPMorgan Chase as a ‘port of safety’ in New York Magazine, right after his trading department lost billions, it proves that he is out of touch,” he adds.
Oppenheim, who actually started his career on Wall Street, points to what he calls perhaps the largest industry-wide systemic tax fraud as the latest example of how the banks have become too big to fail.
“This is a group of twelve banks that have perpetrated the most egregious case of deception at the expense of the American people," explains Oppenheim, “It is just the latest unethical practice they have employed, and their only excuse seems to be that every other major bank did it too.”
These ‘Dirty Dozen’ banks could be potentially liable for a trillion dollars worth of back taxes from their use of REMICs (Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduits) to illegally disguise and manipulate their need to pay corporate income taxes, according to Oppenheim.
Ironically, this amount is slightly higher than the budget deficit for the US government for this year.
REMICs are subject to certain tax exemptions, If the banks follow very specific rules, including following strict limitations on activity, they remain tax exempt. Banks are generally not allowed to transfer mortgages into securitized trusts after 90 days from the time the trusts are created.
If even a small percentage of mortgages are transferred in after that 90 day period, than all income earned by that REMIC can be taxed at a rate of 100 percent.
Oppenheim and associate attorney Jacqueline Trask have written “Deconstructing the Black Magic of Securitized Trusts, an article which is set to be published in the Stetson University Law Review later this month. It articulates the concern of how banks were flagrantly not adhering to the 90-day deadline during the foreclosure crisis.
While the banks may not publicly admit any wrongdoing, privately they have been stashing away just shy of $24 billion in their reserves, according to the Oppenheim Law's Dirty Dozen chart. On average these banks, which includes institutions like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo each maintain, on average, $2 billion in tax reserves or unrecognized tax benefits.
An unrecognized tax benefit, or UTB, is a reserve of money that companies must hold back for tax positions that a company thinks the IRS is likely to require to be paid if the IRS audits the company.
For example, if a company claims a $1 million deduction but believes it will only realistically be able to claim back $750,000, then the company is required to put the $250,000 difference into a bank account until the issue is resolved with the IRS.
“It’s kind of like a game of cat and mouse that large companies get to play with your tax dollars,” Oppenheim explains, “It’s proof that the banks know what they are doing is not good for the taxpayers.”
What is so staggering, Oppenheim explains, is not just how much money the banks have been keeping, but how much they could potentially owe.
“It is clear that the Wall Street Dirty Dozen went wild with REMICs back when securitization was booming and now they are trying their best to prevent the skeletons from coming out of their collective closets, “ Oppenheim states.
“If the IRS ultimately rules that the Dirty Dozen violated tax laws, not only will that $24 billion be at risk, but over a trillion dollars could be due to the U.S. taxpayer.”
While it is not clear how much of that $24 billion is being held strictly for REMICs related issues, Oppenheim believes it is likely substantial.
“These banks have set aside less than 1% of what they might actually owe to the American people, a scary thought considering that their previous greed and malfeasance nearly toppled the entire economy back in 2008.”
Oppenheim wonders how JPMorgan Chase CEO Dimon can pass the buck when such overwhelming proof exists within his own annual reports.
Yesterday Oppenheim called on Dimon to debate him on his South Florida Law Blog.
“Mr. Dimon, I challenge you to answer who is more responsible for the economic crisis, Wall Street or Main Street,” Oppenheim says, "I believe the truth is on my side."