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The Madoff Double Bluff - Printable Version

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The Madoff Double Bluff - Admin - 12-19-2008

THE MADOFF DOUBLE BLUFF


Muhammad Rafeeq with Daryl Bradford Smith on the French Connection show

http://www.iamthewitness.com/news/2008.12.18-The.Madoff.Double-Bluff.html

http://www.iamthewitness.com/audio/Muhammad.Rafeeq/smith-rafeeq%20dec%2017%2008%20.mp3


At first sight it was extremely refreshing. A white-collar financial crook raising his hands and pleading guilty to his financial crime. This has to be almost a first. Usually financial criminals when caught in the most obvious of wrong-doing plead 'not guilty'. The criminal can be caught boarding the plane, with a suitcase containing US$100mn of someone elses cash, with his mistress holding on to his arm, he will look into the camera with his most genuine 'Tony Blair look of sincerity' and say "What we have here is a misunderstanding.... " You make up the rest of the excuse, there is a million of them.

So yes, an outright confession, "It was me, I chopped down the apple tree" is so against the current socio-political culture it was almost too good to be true. Especially given the pedigree of this perp, the CEO of one of the busiest and most prominent financial exchanges in the world. After his confession the world goes into shock, especially the Jewish world, since affluent members of this community had previously flocked to his door, seeking his world famous high returns. Since his arrest the press is full of people extolling his virtues as a decent human-being and "who would ever of believed it?". It would be so easy for this man to deny any wrongdoing because he could bring out an army of good character witnesses and he could just point at some suspect-looking goy in his hedge fund organisation to lay the blame on.

So a truly heartwarming confession. And it was apparently made to his 2 sons, both of whom who worked for the fund and who had absolutely no idea that this fraud was being perpetrated, until such time as this astounding confession. But then I started to look more closely at the mix of investors who have lost money. About half of them are professional investing institutions. Look at this quote from the UK's Daily Mail newspaper (online http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/article-1096228/Lloyds-London-braced-claims-Madoff-meltdown-makes-directors-targets-lawsuits.html)

"Full details of the exact losses are yet to emerge. Hedge funds and banks have so far admitted to having around £16billion with Madoff - only half of the total that is reckoned to have been lost. Some of the biggest casualties are Swiss private banks, which have taken hits amounting to about £2.5billion. Spanish bank Santander had £2.1billion of client money with Madoff. HSBC has admitted to lending about £600million to funds who wanted to use debt to gear up their positions with Madoff. RAB capital, the hedge fund that lost huge sums on investing in Northern Rock, has revealed that it is exposed to Madoff to the tune of around £6million."

Now the confession does not look right at all. It is possible to accept the idea of a Ponzi scheme be played on members of the public, who are ignorant of how such schemes are worked, in fact the schemes are targetted specifically at such people. Yet Madoff would have us believe that he managed to convince professional investment companies to put their funds with him without any due diligence being performed. This is clearly nonsense. I have acted as a professional consultant to major EC and US financial institutions on corporate and institutional credit risk and the idea that anyone in HSBC or Santander could authorise large investment without the internal checks and controls being employed is almost impossible. To try and believe that EVERY institution that invested in Madoff circumvented their internal control procedures IS impossible.

Why is this important? Simple. If someone approaches the HSBC credit risk team, for instance, with a view to making a loan or investing a sum as large as £600m to what is ultimately a single institution (therefore a single counterparty credit exposure) a significant number hoops would have to be jumped through. Firstly there is the credit officer competence limit, which is the maximum amount that a single credit officer may be allowed to authorise. More than his/her limit must be referred up the credit approval food chain. In an institution like HSBC or Santander etc, £600m or US$1bn will have been referred to the very top of the food chain, the banks' credit committees at the board level. This is an enormous sum and no lacky is going to be able to approve this by themselves, ever.

When the credit committee are called together to review an application, everything is ready prepared for them, so they can cut to the chase . The lower levels of the credit approval process will have prepared a summary of all the application documentation, included in the meeting bundle, with the strengths, weaknesses, and other important credit risk points. This application will usually contain a set of audited accounts going back a minimum of 3 years and most likely 5 years. There will be a full credit breakdown of the investment profile of the business, Madoff's hedge fund, looking at how the fund obtains its returns; investment assets and investment methodology. After the committee is satisfied that all the issues and concerns have been addressed they will vote on the approval or otherwise.

So there is no way that Madoff could have been pulling a scam. It would have stood out as clear as day to professional financial analysts, whose only job in life is to examine the management of companies and their reports and accounts, to make sure that all is in order. Its their job, its what they do. They are the world experts in spotting anomalies. The idea that all these professionals in all these companies were all duped is absolute nonsense. It is highly improbable that one such evaluation process could have been fooled, but all of them, never. A Ponzi sc heme is easy to spot when you have the audited accounts and the full range of investment assets and investment metodologies employed.Also, this scam avoided the attention of all the funds employees; accountants, traders, auditors and the US regulators, all of whom are also financial professionals.

This again is absolute nonsense. A ny company that I have ever worked for would have known internally that such business was being done, because they are all involved. For instance, a trader goes on buying equities from the worlds stock exchanges that go down in price for 5 continuous years, but the company just keeps giving him more money to top up the trading, continues paying his salary and even annual bonus. Absolute rubbish. But assuming this actually did happen, the market risk team would have been watching these losses, as would have the accountants. It is not possible to hide things like this internally for very long, months at the most; 20+ years, NEVER.

So why plead guilty? The answer is simple. Look on the net and you will see that because this case is being labelled a fraud, it would appear that investors are going to be able to claim their investment back under the US government's financial fraud protection scheme. A judge has already given his approval in principle for compensation, without any evidence having been presented and financial fraud being demonstrated in a court of law. And it would appear that there will never be such a demonstration in a court of law. Why? It would appear that all the funds financial records are mostly "missing" (rather like Dov Zakheim's US$1.4tn) and those few records that do survive are in a terrible mess.

How ever, since the guy has pleaded guilty we do not need to demonstrate the fraud, because he says he is guilty. And look further on the net and you will see that these "victims" have also been told by the US tax authorities that they will probably also be entitled to claim back some taxes on these defrauded sums. Rather than saying this hedge fund has gone bust, due to its choice of investment assets and investment methologies, a scenario which is highly probable in the current financial paradigm, since all the professionals are predicting that at least 30% of all hedge funds are about to fail, more than 700 of them, the CEO chooses to fess up to fraud. If the CEO admits the fund has gone bust, then all those wealthy members of the Jewish community get nothing, but if the CEO admits to fraud they get their money back as compensation fro m the US tax payer, just as they are also drawing money back from the tax payers with the other hand.
And, as can be seen at the Daily Mail link above, the investors in this fund only get to litigate the fund directors against Lloyds insurers in London for even more compensation. Done properly the compensation could end up paying out far more than the original fund returns (yes this is sarcasm, it was bound to creep in eventually in yet another swindle like this). Would that I could believe that Madoff were a good guy who slipped and then became repentant. But given the facts, this simply cannot be true.





RE: The Madoff Double Bluff - Admin - 12-21-2008

IF THE FORMER CHAIRMAN OF NASDAQ IS A CROOK, WHO CAN YOU TRUST IN AMERICA?
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21501.htm


Madoff's fall has planted the seeds of suspicion. We now doubt those we have done business with for years. The presumption of trust is gone.

By Nicholas von Hoffman
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20081229/howl3?rel=hp_currently?rel=hp_picks

Dcember 20, 2008 "The Nation" -- - The news of Bernard Madoff's $50 billion fraud has hit the investor/401(k) class as nothing else -- not the fall of Lehman Brothers, not the death of Bear Stearns, nor the string of insolvency announcements of one household name after another. Madoff is the blow that did it.

Lesser explosions connected with Madoff are expected. His story that for decades he ran his gigantic fraud by himself is unbelievable. One man alone could not have done the work of inventing and cranking out thousands of statements every month, not to mention keeping track of the comings and goings of billions of dollars. Madoff has confederates.
That Madoff took some of the members of the centimillionaire club to the cleaners is not what caused the shock. It is the damage done to so many smaller investor/savers, so many pension funds, so many charities. You do not have to be one of Madoff's victims to be affected. Madoff, his own businesses aside, was a major figure in the world of investments, of stocks and bonds and securities and exchanges. If the former chairman of Nasdaq is a crook, whom do you trust?

Madoff has sown the seeds of suspicion everywhere. He has caused us to doubt men and women with whom we have done business with for years. There is no way of knowing if someone is a con artist. The presumption of trust is gone.

Business depends on trust, trust of all kinds. Trust that when you place an order with a broker he or she will get you the best price, trust that your investment or retirement adviser is not getting an under-the-table kickback to put your old age money into a shoddy annuity.

Trust is the indispensable element in all businesses. Contractors depend on subcontractors to get the job done when they say they will; retailers depend on distributors to deliver on time; lawyers are trusted to meet filing deadlines, steel fabricators are expected to get gigantic trusses to the building site exactly when they are needed. Doctors are expected to put patients' interests above money considerations; parts manufacturers are relied on to deliver on time to the factory. Business runs on trust, and Bernard Madoff has busted it.

So the Wall Street Journal says to its readers, "Could your investment manager be another Bernard Madoff?... if someone like Mr. Madoff can be accused of running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, can investors anywhere sleep easy? Ordinarily, when you are picking an investment manager or financial planner, you're given some common-sense advice. Avoid managers who are unknown, or unregulated, or come without good referrals, or haven't been in the industry long. But none of this would have saved you from Mr. Madoff. 'This guy had oodles of referrals, at the highest levels,' notes Duane Thompson, a managing director at the Financial Planning Association in Washington. 'He was [former] chairman of Nasdaq. He'd been in business since 1960. "

Fear, confusion and mistrust have been amplified by the absence of government supervision, regulation or policing. The Securities and Exchange Commission admits it did not do its job.

With the closing down of the old-time pension system, millions of employees were forced into 401(k)s requiring knowledge of finance, bonds, stocks, weird-sounding investments and tax law. They have had to make investment decisions effecting their future with no government protection against misrepresentation, legal traps laid for them and the small print obfuscation financial institutions practice on their customers. The result is the heart-wrenching situation for millions who fear that they will be living out the last decades of their lives counting their food stamps and hunting for bargains in the used clothing bins.

The Madoff swindle puts the spotlight on the collapse of the 401(k) retirement plan. The United States is the only advanced nation without a complete retirement system.

For 401(k)s to have worked, a bull market or at least a flat market was necessary. It was an unreliable gamble from the git-go, an arrangement that would fall to pieces when next the market crashed.

Madoff and the crash underline the powerlessness of the millions. As a matter of principle, the Republicans defended the unregulated lawlessness that enabled a Madoff to run his swindles. As for the Democrats, sometime in the Clinton era they sold their party to Wall Street and now they have Chuck Schumer to make sure it stays sold.

It remains for President-elect Obama to void the deal and break his party free to help those who have nowhere else to look.




RE: The Madoff Double Bluff - Admin - 12-25-2008

BERNARD MADOFF:
WALL STREET SWINDLER STRIKES POWERFUL BLOWS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

James Petras
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21507.htm

“We never thought he would do this to us, he was one of our people”, member of Palm Beach Country Club.

December 22, 2008 "Information Clearinghouse" --- Wall Street broker Bernard (‘Bernie’) Madoff, former president of NASDAQ, revered and respected investor confessed to pulling off the biggest fraud in history, a $50 billion dollar scam. Bernie was known for his generous philanthropy, especially to Zionist, Jewish and Israeli causes. A one time life-guard on Long Island in the 1960’s, Bernie launched his financial career by raising money from colleagues, friends and relatives among wealthier Jews in the Long Island suburbs, Palm Beach, Florida and in Manhattan, promising a modest, steady and secure return of between 10 to 12%, covering any withdrawals in typical Ponzi fashion by drawing on funds from new investors who literally pleaded for Bernie to fleece them. Madoff personally managed at least $17 billion dollars. For almost four decades he built up a clientele, which came to include some of the biggest banks and investment houses in Scotland, Spain, England and France; as well as major hedge funds in the United States. Madoff drew almost all of the funds from high net-worth private clients who were recruited by brokers working on commission. Bernie’s clients included many multi-millionaires and billionaires from Switzerland, Israel and elsewhere, as well as the US’s largest hedge funds (RMF Division of the Man Group and the Tremont). Many of the swindled super-rich clients forced their money on Madoff, who sternly imposed rigorous conditions on potential clients: He insisted they have recommendations from existing investors, deposit a substantial amount and guarantee their own solvency. Most considered themselves lucky to have their funds taken by the highly respected Wall Street…swindler. Madoff’s standard message was that the fund was closed…but because they came from the same world (board members of Jewish charities, pro-Israel fund raising organizations or the ‘right’ country clubs) or were related to a friend, colleague or existing clients, he would take their money.

Madoff set up advisory councils with distinguished members, contributed heavily to museums, hospitals and upscale cultural organizations. He was a prominent member of exclusive country clubs in Palm Beach and Long Island. His reputation was enhanced by his funds record of never having a losing year – a big selling point in luring millionaire investors. Madoff shared with his super-rich clients (Jews and Gentiles) a common upper class life style, and mix of cultural philanthropy with low key financial profiteering. Madoff ‘played’ his colleagues with a soft-spoken, but authoritative, appearance of ‘expertise’, covered by a veneer of upper class collegiality, deep commitment to Zionism and long-term friendships.

Bernie’s mega-fund shared many signs with recent high level scams: The constant high returns, unmatched by any other broker; a lack of third party oversight; a backroom accounting firm physically incapable of auditing the multi-billion dollar operation; a broker-dealer operation directly under his thumb and the total obfuscation of what he was actually investing in. The obvious similarity of signs with other fraudsters were overlooked by the rich and famous, the sophisticated investors and high paid consultants, the Harvard MBA’s and the entire army of regulators from the Security and Exchange Commissions (SEC) because they were totally embedded in the corrupt culture of ‘take the money and run’ and ‘if you’re making it, don’t ask questions’. The reputation of the superior wisdom of a seemingly successful Jewish Wall Streeter fed into the self-delusions of the wealthy and the stereotypes held by millionaire Gentiles.

The Big Swindle

Madoff’s investment fund only dealt with a limited clientele of multi-millionaire and billionaires who kept their funds in for the long haul; the occasional withdrawal were limited in amount and were easily covered by soliciting new funds from new investors fighting to have access to Madoff’s money management. The long-term big investors looked toward passing their investments to their kin or eventual retirement. The wealthy lawyers, dentists, surgeons, distinguished Ivy league professors and others who might need to draw from their funds for an occasional fancy wedding or celebrity-studded bar-mitzvah, could draw from their funds because Madoff had no problem covering the withdrawal by attracting funds from rich owners of sweat shop garment factories, dangerous meat packing outfits and slumlords. Madoff was no Robin Hood, his philanthropic and charity contributions facilitated access to the rich and wealthy who served on the boards of the recipient institutions and proved that he was ‘one of them’ a kind of super-rich ‘intimate’ of the same elite class. The shock, awe and heart attacks that followed Madoff’s confession that he was ‘running a Ponzi scheme’ drew as much anger for the money lost and the fall from the moneyed class as for the embarrassment of knowing that the world’s biggest exploiters and smartest swindlers on Wall Street, were completely ‘taken’ by one of their own. Not only did they suffer big losses but their self-image of themselves as rich because they are so smart and of ‘superior stock’ was utterly shattered: They saw themselves as suffering the same fate as all the schmucks they had previously swindled, exploited and dispossessed in their climb to the top. There is nothing worse for the ego of a respectable swindler than to be trumped by a bigger swindler. As a result, a number of the biggest losers have so far refused to give their names or the amount they lost, working instead through lawyers fighting off other losers.

The Positive Side of Madoff’s Mega-Swindle (The Inadvertent Hand of Justice)

While it is understandable that the super-rich and wealthy, who have lost a large portion of their retirement and investment funds are unanimous in their condemnation and cries of betrayal of trust, and the editorials of all the prestigious newspapers and weeklies have joined the chorus of moral critics, there is much to praise in Madoff’s deeds, even if such praise was not at the heart of his fraudulent endeavor.

It is worthwhile to list the inadvertent positive outcomes of Madoff’s mega-swindle. First of all the swindle of $50 plus billion dollars may make a big dent on US Zionist funding of illegal Israeli colonial settlements in the Occupied Territories, lessen funding for AIPAC’s purchase of Congressional influence and financing of propaganda campaigns in favor of a pre-emptive US military attack against Iran. Most investors will have to lower or eliminate their purchase of Israel bonds, which subsidize the Jewish State’s military budget.

Secondly, the swindle has further discredited the highly speculative hedge funds already reeling from massive withdrawals because of deep losses. Madoff’s funds were one of the last ‘respected’ operations still drawing new investors, but with the latest revelations it may accelerate their demise. The dismissed promoters may finally have to perform an honest, productive day’s work.

Thirdly, Madoff’s long-term, large-scale fraud was not detected by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) despite its claims of at least two investigations. As a result, there is a total loss of credibility. More generally, the SEC’s failure demonstrates the incapacity of capitalist government regulatory agencies to detect mega frauds. This failure raises the question of whether alternatives to investing in Wall Street are better suited to protect savings and pension funds.

Fourthly, Madoff’s long-term association with NASDAQ, including his chairmanship, while he was defrauding his clients of billions, strongly suggests that the members and leaders of this stock exchange are incapable of recognizing a crook, and are prone to overlook felonious behavior of ‘one of their own’. In other words, the investing public can no longer look to holders of high posts in NASDAQ as a sign of probity. After Madoff it may signal time to look for a king-size mattress for safe keeping of what remains of a family’s wealth.

The fifth point is that the investment advisors from top banks in Europe, Asia and the US managing billions of funds did not carry out the most elementary due diligence of Madoff’s operation. Apart from severe bank losses, tens of thousands of influential, affluent and super-rich lost their entire accumulated wealth. The result is total loss of confidence in the leading banks and financial instruments as well as the general discrediting of ‘expert knowledge’. The result is a weakening of the financial stranglehold over investor behavior and the demise of an important sector of the parasitic ‘rentier’ class, which gains without producing any useful commodities or providing needed services.

The sixth point is that since most of the money stolen by Madoff came from the upper classes around the world, his behavior has reduced inequalities – he is the ‘greatest leveler’ since the introduction of the progressive income tax. By ruining billionaires and bankrupting millionaires, Madoff has lessened their capacity to use their wealth to influence politicians in their favor – thus increasing the potential political influence of the less affluent sectors of class society…and inadvertently strengthening democracy against the financial oligarchs.

A seventh point can be made that by swindling life-long friends, self-same ethno-religious investors, narrow ethnically defined country club members and close family members, Madoff demonstrates that finance capital shows no respect for any of the pieties of everyday life: Great and small, holy and profane, all are subordinated to the rule of capital.

Eighth, among the many ruined investors in New York and New England, there are a number of mega slumlords (real estate moguls), sweatshop owners (fancy name-brand clothes and toy manufacturers) and others who barely paid the minimum wage to their women and immigrant laborers, evicted poor tenants and swindled employees out of their pensions before moving their operations to China. In other words, Madoff’s swindle was a kind of secular ‘divine’ retribution for past and present crimes against labor and the poor. Needless to say, this ‘unconscious Robin Hood’ did not redistribute the money fleeced from the employers to their workers, he reinvested part of it in charities which enhanced his philanthropic image and to payout to some of his early investors so sustain the overall Ponzi scam.

Point number nine is that Madoff struck a severe blow against anti-Semites who claim that there is a ‘close-knit Jewish conspiracy to defraud the Gentiles’, laying that canard to rest once and for all. Among Bernard Madoff’s principle victims were his closest Jewish friends and colleagues, people who shared Seder meals and frequented the same upscale temples in Long Island and Palm Beach.

Bernie was discriminating in accepting clients, but it was on the basis of their wealth and not their national origin, race, religion or sexual preference. He was very ecumenical and a strong backer of globalization. There was nothing ethnocentric about Madoff: He defrauded the Anglo-Chinese bank HSBC of $1 billion dollars and several billions from the Dutch arm of the Belgian bank Fortes. $1.4 billion was from the Royal Bank of Scotland, the French bank BNP Paribas, the Spanish bank, Banco Santander, the Japanese Nomura; not to mention hedge funds in London and the US, which have admitted holdings in Bernard Madoff Investment Securities. Indeed Bernie was emblematic of the modern up-to-date, politically correct, multicultural, international…swindler. The ease with which the super rich of Europe forked their fortunes over caused one Madrid-based business consultant to observe that, “picking off Spain’s wealthiest was like clubbing seals…” (Financial Times, December 18, 2008 p.16)

The tenth point is that Madoff’s swindle will likely promote greater self-criticism and a more distrustful attitude toward other potential confidence people posing as reliable financial know-it-alls. Among self-critical Jews, they are less likely to confide in brokers simply because they are zealous backers of Israel and generous contributors to Zionist fund drives. That is no longer an adequate guarantee of ethical behavior and a certificate of good conduct. In fact it may raise suspicion of brokers who are excessively ardent boosters of Israel and promise consistent high returns to local Zionist affiliates – asking themselves whether this business about ‘what is good for the …’ is really a cover for another scam.

The final and 11th point is the demise of Madoff’s enterprise and his wealthy liberal Jewish victims will adversely affect contributions to the 52 Major Jewish American Organizations, numerous foundations in Boston, Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere, as well as the Clinton/Schumer militarist wing of the Democratic Party (Madoff bankrolled both of them as well as other unconditional Congressional supporters of Israel). This may open Congress to greater debate on Middle East policy without the usual high volume attacks.

Conclusion

Madoff’s swindle and fraudulent behavior is not the result of a personal moral failure. It is the product of a systemic imperative and the economic culture, which informs the highest circles of our class structure. The paper economy, hedge funds and all the ‘sophisticated financial instruments’ are all ‘Ponzi schemes’ – they are not based on producing and selling goods and services. They are financial bets on future financial paper growth based on securing future buyers to pay off earlier cash ins.

The ‘failure’ of the SEC is totally predictable and systemic: The regulators are selected from the regulatees, are beholden to them and defer to their judgments, claims and audit sheets. They are structured to ‘miss the signs’ and to avoid ‘over-regulating’ their financial superiors. Madoff operated in a milieu of a Wall Street where everything goes, where impunity for mega-bailouts for mega swindlers is the norm. As an individual swindler, he out-defrauded some of his bigger institutional competitors on the Street. The whole system of rewards and prestige goes to those best able to juggle the books, to cover the paper trails and who have willing victims begging to get fleeced. What a mensch, this Madoff!

In a few days, one individual, Bernard Madoff, has struck a bigger blow against global financial capital, Wall Street and the US Zionist Lobby/Israel-First Agenda than the entire US and European left combined over the past half century! He has been more successful in reducing vast wealth disparities in New York than all the white, black, Christian and Jewish, reform and mainline Democratic and Republican governors and Mayors over the past two centuries.

Some right-wing conspiracy theorists are claiming that Bernie is a secret Islamic-Palestinian agent (from Hamas) who set out to deliberately undermine the financial base of the Jewish State of Israel and its most powerful, affluent and generous US backers and foundations. Others claim that he is a closet Marxist whose swindles were carefully designed to discredit Wall Street and to funnel billions into clandestine radical organizations – after all… does anyone know where the lost billions have gone? Unlike the leftist pundits, bloggers and protest marchers, whose earnest and public activities have had no effect on the rich and powerful, Madoff has aimed his blows where it hurts the most: Their mega-bank accounts, their confidence in the capitalist system, their self-esteem and, yes, even their cardiac well-being.

Does that mean we on the left should form a Bernie Madoff Defense Committee and call for a bailout in line with Paulson’s bailout of his Citibank cronies? Should we proclaim “Equal bailout for equal swindlers!”? Should we advocate his flight (or his right of return) to Israel to avoid a trial? It might not fly with his many Jewish victims to make the case for an Israeli retirement for Bernie.

There is no reason to mount the barricades for Bernard Madoff. It’s enough to recognize that he has inadvertently rendered an historic service to popular justice by undermining some of the financial props of a class-ridden injustice system.

Postscript

Was it out of sheer admiration or because of some covert linkages with Madoff that our current Attorney General Michael Mukasey is removing himself from the investigation? Others of equal importance and influence are most certainly tied in the Madoff Affair, and not just the ‘victims’. We are facing a serious case of matters of State … No one can believe that a single person could by himself pull off a scam of this size and duration. Nor can any serious investigator believe that $50 billion dollars has simply ‘disappeared’ or been squirreled into personal accounts.