Friday, May 8, 2009
Several years ago, Dmitry Orlov, a Russian immigrant to the United States, noticed that the United States was going through many of the same processes that the Soviet Union experienced before and during its collapse. His experiences living through the Soviet collapse gave him useful insights about how collapse would impact Americans. I strongly recommend that everyone read his book Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects
In the mid-1960s, Bernard Madoff tapped money from Jewish businessmen at exclusive country clubs with the promise of steady guaranteed returns on their investments. He then set his sights on Europe and Latin America, brokering deals with powerful hedge fund managers and feeder funds from Buenos Aires to Geneva. Billions of dollars were channeled to Madoff’s investment firm, and his feeders became fabulously wealthy. The competition wondered how the man could produce such steady returns in good times and bad. There were allegations that Madoff was “front-running” or operating a Ponzi scheme, which the SEC investigated several times over the last two decades. But Madoff remained untouched until December 11, 2008, when he admitted it was all “one big lie.” FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith unravels the story behind the world’s first truly global Ponzi scheme—a deception that lasted longer, reached wider and cut deeper than any other business scandal in history.
May 6, 2009
A growing number of U.S. homeowners owe more than their properties are worth after prices extended their two-year decline in the first quarter, Zillow.com said.
About 21.8 percent of all owners were underwater as of March 31, the Seattle-based real estate data service said in a report today. At the end of the fourth quarter, 17.6 percent of homeowners owed more than their original mortgage, while 14.3 percent had negative equity three months earlier.
Property values dropped 14 percent from a year earlier in the first quarter, reducing the median value of U.S. single- family homes, condominiums and cooperatives to $182,378, Zillow said. The decline has left about 20.4 million of the U.S.’s 93 million houses, condos and co-ops with loans higher than the properties are worth. The gain in underwater homeowners will lead to more bank repossessions, Zillow said.
Many owners “would be more willing to bear the financial consequences of bankruptcy or foreclosure,” Stan Humphries, Zillow’s vice president of data and analytics, said in an interview. “You are going to continue to see home prices fall for the rest of this year and some portion of next year.”