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The Ratings Agencies, Part 1: Experts or Charlatans?

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK ( Bullion Bulls Canada) -- I hate hypocrites. It's no secret. I've stated it on countless occasions in previous commentaries. Supposedly, the Western legal system (the literal "foundation" of our democracies) "hates hypocrites" as well.

To be specific, supposedly our legal systems don't allow a group of people to call themselves "experts" when they are pocketing fat fees for their analysis/assessment of the quality of complex financial products; and then to say "Just kidding. We're not experts, and no one should base any financial decision on our opinions" once such "opinions" have been shown to be severely flawed.

Then there is the United States of Crime. In the Land of Looting, we see the "double-standard" (i.e. blatant hypocrisy) enshrined as the highest ideal. On the one hand, cheap con-men (i.e. the privileged financial insiders in their expensive suits) can use the "rules of Justice" to hide behind -- irrespective of how fraudulent/absurd are their legal defenses. On the other hand, the victims of these sleazy shysters discover that (one by one) all of our legal protections are nothing but illusory anachronisms, simply erased whenever they threaten the interests of those same financial criminals.

There is no more blatant demonstration of "American Justice" at work than with respect to the fraudulent double standard which has been invented for the sole benefit of the Wall Street crime syndicate, and their accomplices -- the ratings agencies. The sham/scam is as simple as it is blatant. When someone sells something, they can get a higher price for it if there is some "warranty of quality assurance" or "verification of independent testing" to reassure potential buyers of the safety/security/suitability of the product in question.

Note the need for "independence." If Goldman Sachs is looking for another chump to buy a "mortgage-backed security" and it says to a potential buyer "our boys in 'quality control' have given this one their highest rating" (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), no sane buyer who is aware of Goldman Sachs' long track record of fraud would be reassured. However, when that same potential buyer is told that an independent group of experts has assessed this financial product as "AAA" then that buyer will reach for his check book.
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