TRUCKEE, Calif. — You mean there’s been fraud on Wall Street? Say it isn’t so. CNN Money recently published an article about Wall Street’s role in the mortgage crisis. There are plenty of people who want to see someone held accountable and get some prosecutions, but CNN has pointed out that the statute of limitations will soon run out and prosecutors are running out of time. Last week, the justice department announced that it would not bring charges against Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs for its part in marketing mortgage investments.Anyone who studies the history of Wall Street will find that its past is one that is full of greed and fraud often to the detriment of the small investor. In 1938, the president of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, was sent to Sing Sing Prison for embezzlement. Thousands of spectators lined up at Grand Central Station in New York to see him sent away.There was the junk bond scandal of the 1980s, the mutual fund late trading scandal in 2003 and the list goes on and on. In 2009, Bernie Madoff, the former president of NASDAQ, was sentenced to 150 years in prison for running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme. In a Ponzi scheme, the fraudster will use new deposits to pay out distributions, until they eventually run out of funds or get caught. The frightening thing about the Madoff scandal was the size, $50 billion. The Ponzi scheme is named after Charles Ponzi, who ran a postage scam in the early 1900s.Almost every year there are insider trading cases, where the scammer uses information that is not available to the public to profit on corporate events. In 2011 Rajat Gupta, a former board member of Goldman Sachs and a board member of Procter and Gamble was charged with insider trading in what may be one of the biggest insider trading cases ever. He ran a hedge fund that profited from trading on insider knowledge.Many times if a big Wall Street bank is charged they’ll pay a steep fine without admitting or denying guilt. In the 2003 mutual fund late trading scandal, the fines totaled more than $1 billion and were paid by many different mutual fund companies.In spite of the tarnished history of Wall Street investing in common stocks can still be one of the best places for investors to get a good return. The best way to protect yourself is through education.Kenneth Roberts is a Truckee based Registered Investment Advisor. Information on his money management service can be found at www.fusiontargetretirement.com or by calling 775-657-8065. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Consult your financial adviser before purchasing any security.
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