Greece is a victim of money hungry Hedge Funds

by Les Leopold
Alternet
January 19, 2012

Who are the real villains on Wall Street? When it comes to institutionalized greed and corruption, nothing tops the too-big-to-fail banks like JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs. But these financial giants form only one part of the financial oligarchy. Lurking in the shadows are aggressive hedge funds that are just as lethal to our economic well being. If Goldman Sachs is a vampire squid, as Matt Taibbi so aptly named it, then hedge funds are like schools of piranhas or sharks, eager to strip the financial carcass to the bone.

The sharks at this very moment are circling Greece, waiting to devour that nation’s resources. To understand this attack we need to enter into the rotting innards of our financial system.

But aren’t the Greeks lazy?

Let’s starts with a closer look at why Greece has accumulated so much debt. The answer is not because they sit around sipping retsina rather than working. Instead it has everything to do with the attempt of Europe to improve the lot of the Greek people so they would embrace democracy. Let’s not forget that from 1967 to 1974 Greece was ruled by a military junta that inflicted enormous pain on its people. Helping the Greek people escape poverty was critically important. Greece’s entry into the European Union and the access to capital it provided, allowed the Greek people to rebuild the foundations of prosperity and democracy.

Of course, our vampire squid banks also played a critical role in exacerbating the debt problem. When Greece hit the debt limits set by the EU, large U.S. banks profited mightily by structuring loans to Greece to skirt those rules.

But the biggest blow came from the 2008 financial crash, which was wholly caused by Wall Street’s reckless gambling spree. When the world economy nearly collapsed into another Great Depression, the weaker economies in the EU took the biggest hit. Ireland, Portugal and Greece suffered enormous job loss and massive declines in tax revenues. These countries became the victims of the vast housing bubble that was pumped up by Wall Street’s fantasy financial schemes. Yes, they had accumulated too much debt, but the problem would have been manageable were it not for the Wall Street-created crash.

Enter the piranha hedge funds

Hedge funds are lightly regulated, privately managed investment funds created and designed for the super-rich, who expect to get much higher rates of return than the rest of us. While you and I are lucky to see a 2 percent increase in our 401ks, hedge funds hope to see gains far in excess of 10 percent. Pension funds and endowments have also followed the super-rich into these funds to gain access to these outsized returns. There are 8,000 or so hedge funds that now manage a total of nearly $2 trillion.

But making these super-profits doesn’t come easy. Hedge funds don’t just get lucky on a few stocks or bonds. They look for an edge, and more than a few go over the edge by engaging in criminal activity like insider trading. Others hope to get to the Promised Land by being tough SOBs who don’t think twice about impoverishing people. Those SOB hedge funds are circling Greece right now, doing all they can to get their hands on the money the European Union wants to lend Greece to reduce its long-term debt problems.

Here’s the play: Greece does not have enough money to pay off the loans that are coming due in the next year. So the EU and the International Monetary Fund have assembled a bailout package to help Greece make those payments. In exchange, the Greek people are being asked to suffer through enormous cuts in government spending – which means cuts in jobs, incomes, healthcare, pensions and public education. Everyday citizens are making enormous sacrifices.

Pension Scandal Shakes up Venezuelan Oil Giant

Reuters
August 17, 2011

Venezuela received an enviable honor last month: OPEC said it is sitting on the biggest reserves of crude oil in the world — even more than Saudi Arabia.

But the Venezuelan oil industry is also sitting atop a well of trouble.

The South American nation has struggled to take advantage of its bonanza of expanding reserves. And a scandal over embezzled pension funds at state oil company PDVSA has renewed concerns about corruption and mismanagement.

Retired workers from the oil behemoth have taken to the streets in protest. Their beef: nearly half a billion dollars of pension fund money was lost after it was invested in what turned out to be a Madoff-style Ponzi scheme run by a U.S. financial advisor who was closely linked to President Hugo Chavez’s government.

The fraud case centers on Francisco Illarramendi, a Connecticut hedge fund manager with joint U.S.-Venezuelan citizenship who used to work as a U.S.-based advisor to PDVSA and the Finance Ministry.

Several top executives at PDVSA have been axed since the scandal, which one former director of the company said proved Venezuela under Chavez had become “a moral cesspool.”

Pensioners are not the only ones still wondering how such a large chunk of the firm’s $2.5 billion pension fund was invested with Illarramendi in the first place.

The question cuts to the heart of the challenges facing PDVSA, one of Latin America’s big three oil companies alongside Pemex of Mexico and Brazil’s Petrobras.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries issued a report last month showing Venezuela surpassed Saudi Arabia as the largest holder of crude oil reserves in 2010.

PDVSA is ranked by Petroleum Intelligence Weekly as the world’s fourth largest oil company thanks to its reserves, production, refining and sales capacity, and it has been transformed in recent years into the piggy-bank of Chavez’s “21st Century Socialism.”

The timing of the scandal is not good for Chavez: the charismatic, 57-year-old former coup leader underwent cancer surgery in Cuba in June and is fighting to recover his health to run for re-election next year. He needs every cent possible from PDVSA for the social projects that fuel his popularity.

MULTI-TASKING

The company does a lot more than pump Venezuela’s vast oil reserves. Tapped constantly to replenish government coffers, PDVSA funds projects ranging from health and education to arts and Formula One motor racing. From painting homes to funding medical clinics staffed by Cuban doctors, the restoration of a Caracas shopping boulevard and even a victorious team at the Rio carnival, there’s little that PDVSA doesn’t do.

Jeffrey Davidow, a former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela who now heads the Institute of the Americas at the University of California, San Diego, points to the occasion when PDVSA senior executives turned down invitations to a regional energy conference at the last minute back in May, saying they were too busy because of PDVSA’s leading role in the government’s “Gran Mission Vivienda” project. It aims to build two million homes over the next seven years.

“In poorly-managed societies, national oil companies tend to be the most efficient organizations, so the government gives them more work to do, instead of letting them focus on being better oil companies,” Davidow told industry executives in the ballroom at a luxurious La Jolla hotel.

That’s the kind of criticism that Chavez, who has nationalized most of his country’s oil sector since he was elected in 1999, says is rooted in a bankrupt “imperial Yankee” mind-set.

He purged perceived opponents from PDVSA’s ranks in response to a crippling strike in 2002-2003 that slashed output, firing thousands of staff and replacing them with loyalists. Since then, the company has endured one controversy after another.

There was the “maleta-gate” affair in 2007, so-called after the Spanish word for suitcase, when a Venezuelan-American businessman was stopped at Buenos Aires airport carrying luggage stuffed with $800,000 in cash that U.S. prosecutors said came from PDVSA and was intended for Cristina Fernandez’s presidential campaign in Argentina. Both Fernandez and Chavez denied the charge.

There have also been persistent allegations by industry experts and international energy organizations that Venezuela inflates its production statistics — which PDVSA denies — and a string of accidents, including the sinking of a gas exploration rig in the Caribbean last year and a huge fire at a giant oil storage terminal on an island not far away.

In a big blow to its domestic popularity, tens of thousands of tons of meat and milk bought by PDVSA’s importer subsidiary, PDVAL, were left festering in shipping containers at the nation’s main port last year, exacerbating shortages of staples on shop shelves. Opposition media quickly nicknamed the subsidiary “pudreval” in a play on the Spanish verb “to rot” – “pudrir”.

In an apparent damage-limitation exercise after the pension scandal, five members of the PDVSA board were relieved of their duties in May, including the official who ran the pension fund. They were replaced by Chavez loyalists including the country’s finance minister and foreign minister.

Gustavo Coronel, a former PDVSA director in the 1970s and later Venezuela’s representative to anti-graft watchdog Transparency International, said the fraud had been going on right under the noses of the PDVSA board.

“What this scandal shows is that Venezuela has become a moral cesspool, not only restricted to the public sector but to the private sector as well,” he wrote on his blog.

“Money is dancing like a devil in Venezuela, without control, without accountability. Those who are well connected with the regime have thrown the moral compass by the side Venezuelan justice will not move a finger. Fortunately, U.S. justice will.”

SHOW ME THE MONEY

U.S. investigators say Illarramendi, the majority owner of the Michael Kenwood Group LLC hedge fund, ran the Ponzi scheme from 2006 until February of this year, using deposits from new investors to repay old ones. He pleaded guilty in March to multiple counts of wire fraud, securities and investment advisor fraud, as well as conspiracy to obstruct justice and defraud the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He could face up to 70 years in prison.

By those outside the circles of power in Venezuela, Illarramendi was seen as one of the “Boli-Bourgeoisie” — someone who was already wealthy but grew much richer thanks to the “Bolivarian Revolution,” named by Chavez after the dashing 19th century South American independence hero Simon Bolivar. In one widely-circulated image, Illarramendi is seen overweight and balding, wearing a dark blue overcoat and clutching a blue briefcase as he left federal court in Bridgeport, Connecticut after pleading guilty.

An ex-Credit Suisse employee and Opus Dei member in his early 40s who lived in the United States for at least the last 10 years but traveled frequently to Venezuela, Illarramendi is on bail with a bond secured on four U.S. properties he owns.

He was close to PDVSA board members and Ministry of Finance officials, but is not thought to have known Chavez personally. The son of a minister in a previous Venezuelan government, Illarramendi did enjoy some perks — including using a terminal at the capital’s Maiquetia International Airport normally reserved for the president and his ministers, according to one source close to his business associates.

His sentencing date has not been set yet, but a receiver’s report by the attorney designated to track down the cash is due in September. In June, SEC regulators said they found almost $230 million of the looted money in an offshore fund.

That was just part of the approximately $500 million Illarramendi received, about 90 percent of which was from the PDVSA pension fund, according to the SEC.

PDVSA has assured its former workers they have nothing to worry about, and that the money will be replaced. But what concerns some retirees are allegations the company may have broken its own rules for managing its pension fund, which should have provided for more oversight by pensioners.

A representative of the retirees should attend meetings where the use of the fund is discussed, but no pensioners have been called to attend such a meeting since 2002.

PDVSA’s investment in capitalist U.S. markets may seem to be incongruous given the president’s anti-West rhetoric, but the scale of such transfers is not known, and the investment options for such funds at home in Venezuela are sharply limited, not least by restrictive currency controls.

Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez told Reuters that Illarramendi only had an advisory role with PDVSA, and that it ended six years ago. So quite how he came to be managing such a big chunk of the pension fund is a hotly debated topic. Ramirez said the pension fund had been administered properly, and that the losses were of great concern to the company.

In July, PDVSA boosted pension payments to ex-employees by 800 bolivars a month, or about $188. The government also allocated nearly half the income from a new 2031 bond issue of $4.2 billion to the company’s pension fund — probably to replenish deposits lost in the scandal.

Still, ex-PDVSA worker Luis Villasmil says his monthly stipend barely meets the essentials for him, his wife, a diabetic son and a niece. One morning in April, he rose early and met several dozen other PDVSA retirees to march in protest to the company’s local headquarters in Zulia, the decades-old heartland of Venezuela’s oil production.

“I never thought we would be in this situation,” the 65-year-old told Reuters with a sigh. “I think PDVSA should show solidarity with the retirees and pay their pensions whatever happens because it is responsible. But that’s not the heart of the issue, which is to recover the money if possible.”

Ramirez, who once proclaimed that PDVSA was “rojo rojito” (red) from top to bottom, says the firm’s 90,000 staff have nothing to worry about. “Of course we are going to support the workers,” he told Reuters in March. “We will not let them suffer because of this fraud. We have decided to replace it (the lost money) and to make ourselves part of the lawsuit (against Illarramendi).”

ORINOCO FLOW

The latest scandal comes at a time when observers are focused on the future of PDVSA, given Chavez’s uncertain health, next year’s election and OPEC’s announcement on reserves.

The producer group said in July that Venezuela leapfrogged Saudi Arabia last year to become the world’s no.1 reserves holder with 296.5 billion barrels, up from 211.2 billion barrels the year before.

“It has been confirmed. We have 20 percent of the world’s oil reserves … we are a regional power, a world power,” Chavez said during one typical recent TV appearance, scribbling lines all over a map to show where planned refineries and pipelines to the coast would be built.

The new reserves were mostly booked in the country’s enormous Orinoco extra heavy belt, a remote region of dense forests, extraordinary plant life and rivers teeming with crocodiles and piranhas.

And there lies the rub. Not only is the Orinoco crude thick and tar-like, unlike Saudi oil which is predominantly light and sweet, it is also mostly found in rural areas that have little in the way of even basic infrastructure. It costs much more to produce and upgrade into lighter, more valuable crude.

So hopes now rest on a string of ambitious projects that Venezuela says will revitalize a declining oil sector, eventually adding maybe 2 million barrels per day (bpd) or more of new production to the country’s current output of about 3 million bpd, while bringing in some $80 billion in investment.

The projects are mostly joint ventures with foreign partners including U.S. major Chevron, Spain’s Repsol, Italy’s Eni, Russian state giant Rosneft and China’s CNPC, as well as a handful of smaller companies from countries such as Japan, Vietnam and Belarus. Even after the nationalizations of the past, investors clearly want a seat at the Orinoco oil table.

In June, Ramirez announced new funding for Orinoco projects this year of $5.5 billion through agreements with Chinese and Italian banks.

The question remains: will PDVSA have the operational capacity required as the lead company in each project, and will it be able to pay its share?

“Processing that extra heavy crude requires a lot of capital and equipment, and the climate is not good for that at the moment,” said one regional energy consultant who has worked with PDVSA and asked not to be named.

There may be billions of barrels in the ground, but the pension scandal will only underline the risks going forward for foreign companies with billions of dollars at stake.

Governos se Preparam para Confiscar Fundos de Pensões

Por Luis R. Miranda
The Real Agenda
Outubro 17, 2010

Enquanto as organizações financeiras supranacionais acumulam mais poder, e os países membros sucumbem às suas regras, as classes média e média alta em todos os países membros suportam o peso da maior redistribuição de recursos na história moderna. Usando o pretexto da “crise econômica”, embora de acordo com as mesmas instituições esta crise terminou em 2009 – o FMI, o Banco Mundial e a União Europeia continuam saqueando os poucos recursos que restam para a classe trabalhadora.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner anuncia a nacionalização dos Fundos de Pensões Privados. (Foto: EFE)

O último ataque vem na forma do roubo dos fundos de pensão da classe trabalhadora. Este roubo é feito através dos governos, que obedecem o pedido do FMI e o Banco Mundial e têm feito de tudo para confiscar as pensões das classes média e média alta para investir no sistema financeiro. O problema é que esse investimento será feito sem o consentimento dos pensionistas, e os produtos nos quais os fundos serão investidos são ativos não financeiros como os derivativos e hedge funds ligados aos falidos mercados imobiliários e títulos do governo.

A conseqüência direta destas medidas de ajuste económico e financeiro, como são chamados pelos banqueiros, é o desconforto dos pensionistas e da classe trabalhadora em muitos países onde os governos têm retirado as suas pensões, como a Grécia, Islândia, Espanha, França, Equador e outros. Os planos de austeridade oferecidos pelas organizações financeiras internacionais, buscam cortar gastos do governo, segundo eles, para estabilizar a economia.

Nos países em que as pensões não foram roubadas pelos governos, os burocratas estão fabricando explicações para preparar seus escravos, pois eles têm que dar mais de seu dinheiro aos banqueiros, embora eles já receberam cerca de 25 trilhoes de dólares no ano passado. Os governos estão se preparando para tomar as aposentadorias do setor privado, enquanto consideram a implementação de mais impostos sobre o rendimento pessoal e empresarial. A desculpa que vai ser usada é que os outros programas patrocinados pelo governo, incluindo a Segurança Social, estão quebrados, e precisaram da re-distribuicao do dinheiro para manté-los funcionando. Na realidade, os governos são querem roubar as pensões dos trabalhadores e contribuintes para manter suas políticas de gasto desenfreado, que são insustentáveis.

Nos Estados Unidos, os fundos de pensão públicos foram saqueados pelo governo e as cidades e municípios estão enfrentando déficits financeiros de até 574.000 milhões de dólares, de acordo com uma reportagem da CNBC. O buraco negro deixado pelos gastos do governo deve agora ser preenchido com o dinheiro dos contribuintes em todo o mundo, através do confisco da riqueza privada de milhões de americanos, europeus e latino-americanos, entre outros. Os defensores deste regime não só não expressam qualquer culpa pelos crimes cometidos contra seus cidadãos, mas também agem com a arrogância de pensar que podem roubar dinheiro de pessoas que trabalharam durante décadas para acumular fundos para sustentar o resto de suas vidas.

“Isso, é claro, é um sistema público de roubo do sistema de Segurança Social, e do governo para dar aos grandes políticos fundos adicionais para pagar as despesas fora de controle”, escreve Connie Hair. Em uma audiência no Congresso dos Estados Unidos., a professora Teresa Ghilarducci da New School for Social Research, em Nova York, propôs a criação de um regime de pensões que confisque os fundos públicos e regimes de pensões privados para colocá-los em um único fundo de conta de pensões (GRA), gerido pela Administração da Segurança Social.

O GRA é aplicado através de uma poupança fiscal obrigatória, equivalente a 5 por cento do salário anual de uma pessoa para ser depositado nesse fundo. Durante entrevista a uma rádio de Seattle, em outubro de 2008, Ghilarducci disse que o motivo por trás do plano e que : “estou reorganizando os cortes de impostos que já estão disponíveis para os fundos de pensão e como esses recursos serão redistribuídos”

No entanto, como aprendemos com dor imediatamente após o resgate financeiro dos bancos que foi originalmente de 700 milhões de dólares e que seria usado para curar as contas dos bancos que tinham investido em produtos financeiros tóxicos, esses recursos acabaram nos bolsos dos grandes bancos europeus e dos EUA. A idéia da re-distribuicao da riqueza soa bem para aqueles que ignoram as verdadeiras intenções dos globalistas, e aqueles que acreditam no coração a existência d “justiça social” e que o socialismo é a resposta para a igualdade. Com as reformas socialistas no mundo financeiro, os globalistas quase sempre cobrem a riqueza sob o pretexto de serem os salvadores, enquanto avidamente roubam todos os recursos e bens com o dinheiro que imprimem ilegalmente.

O programa GRA e outros similares, estão sendo empurrados pelo Economic Policy Institute, uma organização localizada no terceiro andar do prédio George Soros Center for American Progress. O Center for American Progress é um grupo de peritos liderado pelo ex-chefe do quadro de funcionários de Bill Clinton, John D. Podesta, que também era chefe da equipe de transição presidencial de Barack Obama após as eleições de 2008.

Em preparação para roubar os fundos de previdência privada, os Estados Unidos agirão da mesma forma como o governo argentino, em 2008, nacionalizou os planos de previdência privada no país, conhecidos como AFJP, e confiscou a riqueza de milhões de pessoas. “Não temos dúvida de que isso violaria o direito à propriedade privada. Não apenas para nós, mas para a sociedade e o mundo, esta é uma apreensão clara “, disse Ernesto Sanz, membro do Partido Radical da Argentina.

Como os americanos agiram ao saber que a sua riqueza, o fruto do seu trabalho está sendo roubado pelo governo? Se isto não desperta uma revolta generalizada da classe média assim como desobediência civil nos Estados Unidos e todos os outros países, então nada o fará.

Se você não tem previdência privada ou pública e acredita que isso não vai afetá-lo, pense novamente. Uma vez que seja estabelecido que o Estado pode confiscar a riqueza pública e privada, então eles podem vir e tomar sua casa, seus filhos e, finalmente, sua liberdade. Uma vez que o vampiro do grande governo fica um gosto de sangue, os seus dentes simplesmente afundam mais, e com isto qualquer sistema democrático mudará rapidamente para tornar-se uma tiranía.

Goldman Sachs Defrauded Investors, sent bailout outside U.S.A

by Karen Mracek and Thomas Beaumont

Goldman Sachs sent $4.3 billion in federal tax money to 32 entities, including many overseas banks, hedge funds and pensions, according to information made public Friday night.Goldman Sachs disclosed the list of companies to the Senate Finance Committee after a threat of subpoena from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Ia.

 Asked the significance of the list, Grassley said, “I hope it’s as simple as taxpayers deserve to know what happened to their money.”

 He added, “We thought originally we were bailing out AIG. Then later on … we learned that the money flowed through AIG to a few big banks, and now we know that the money went from these few big banks to dozens of financial institutions all around the world.”

 Grassley said he was reserving judgment on the appropriateness of U.S. taxpayer money ending up overseas until he learns more about the 32 entities.

 SETTLEMENT: Goldman Sachs admits it misled investors, pays $550M fine

GOLDMAN CONSENT: SEC vs. Goldman Sachs

JUDGEMENT: Final judgement of defendant

 Goldman Sachs (GS) received $5.55 billion from the government in fall of 2008 as payment for then-worthless securities it held in AIG. Goldman had already hedged its risk that the securities would go bad. It had entered into agreements to spread the risk with the 32 entities named in Friday’s report.

 Overall, Goldman Sachs received a $12.9 billion payout from the government’s bailout of AIG, which was at one time the world’s largest insurance company.

 Goldman Sachs also revealed to the Senate Finance Committee that it would have received $2.3 billion if AIG had gone under. Other large financial institutions, such as Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, sold Goldman Sachs protection in the case of AIG’s collapse. Those institutions did not have to pay Goldman Sachs after the government stepped in with tax money.

 Shouldn’t Goldman Sachs be expected to collect from those institutions “before they collect the taxpayers’ dollars?” Grassley asked. “It’s a little bit like a farmer, if you got crop insurance, you shouldn’t be getting disaster aid.”

 Goldman had not disclosed the names of the counterparties it paid in late 2008 until Friday, despite repeated requests from Elizabeth Warren, chairwoman of the Congressional Oversight Panel.

 “I think we didn’t get the information because they consider it very embarrassing,” Grassley said, “and they ought to consider it very embarrassing.”

 FINANCIAL REFORM: How Congress rewrote the regulations

FIXED? Will new regulations prevent future meltdowns?

FINANCIAL OVERHAUL AND YOU: Mortgages, debit cards, loans, more

 The initial $85 billion to bail out AIG was supplemented by an additional $49.1 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, known as TARP, as well as additional funds from the Federal Reserve. AIG’s debt to U.S. taxpayers totals $133.3 billion outstanding.

 “The only thing I can tell you is that people have the right to know, and the Fed and the public’s business ought to be more public,” Grassley said.

 The list of companies receiving money includes a few familiar foreign banks, such as the Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays.

 DZ AG Deutsche Zantrake Genossenschaftz Bank, a German cooperative banking group, received $1.2 billion, more than a quarter of the money Goldman paid out.

 Warren, in testimony Wednesday, said that the rescue of AIG “distorted the marketplace by turning AIG’s risky bets into fully guaranteed transactions. Instead of forcing AIG and its counterparties to bear the costs of the company’s failure, the government shifted those costs in full onto taxpayers.”

 Grassley stressed the importance of transparency in the marketplace, as well as in the government’s actions.

 “Just like the government, markets need more transparency, and consequently this is some of that transparency because we’ve got to rebuild confidence to make the markets work properly,” Grassley said.

 AIG received the bailout of $85 billion at the discretion of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which was led at the time by Timothy Geithner. He now is U.S. treasury secretary.

 “I think it proves that he knew a lot more at the time than he told,” Grassley said. “And he surely knew where this money was going to go. If he didn’t, he should have known before they let the money out of their bank up there.”

 An attempt to reach Geithner Friday night through the White House public information office was unsuccessful.

 Grassley has for years pushed to give the Government Accountability Office more oversight of the Federal Reserve.

 U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, a Waterloo Democrat, said he would propose that the House subcommittee on oversight and investigations convene hearings on the need for more Federal Reserve oversight. Braley is a member of the subcommittee.

 Braley said of Geithner, “I would assume he would be someone we would want to hear from because he would have firsthand knowledge.”

 Braley also noted that the AIG bailout was negotiated under President George W. Bush, a Republican.

 He said he was confident that the financial regulatory reform bill signed by President Obama this week would help provide better oversight than the AIG bailout included.

 “There was no regulatory framework in place,” Braley said. “We had to put something in place to begin reining them in. I’m confident they will begin to be able to do that.”

The 2000-Page Power Grab any Dictator Dreams About

In the words of the very same legislators who created the new financial bill, ‘No one will know until this is actually in place how it works’…, said Christopher Dodd, democrat from Connecticut.  The new bill gives sweeping powers to the president, whoever it is, to determine what is done with many aspects of American citizen’s lives.  “…it deals with every single aspect of our lives,” added Dodd.

WSJ

After more than 20 hours of continuous wrangling, Congressional Democrats and White House officials reached agreement on the

Lawmaker Christopher Dodd (D), next to senator Richard Shelby.

final shape of legislation that would transform financial regulation, avoiding last-minute defections among New York lawmakers that had threatened to upend the bill.

After months of uncertainty about how the U.S. would craft new rules, the agreement offers the clearest picture since the financial crisis of how markets and the government will interact for decades to come. The common thread: large financial companies are facing a tougher leash.

he bill is expected to have enough support to become law. Both chambers plan to vote next week. The margin in the House and Senate will likely be close because most Republicans are expected to oppose the measure.

If the bill passes, President Barack Obama is expected to sign the package into law by July 4. Thursday’s agreement also gives the president leverage going into a weekend summit of world leaders in Canada, where he will prod other nations to rewrite their rules.

“This is about as important as it gets, because it deals with every single aspect of our lives,” said Sen. Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.), a chief architect of the compromise.

In two important ways, the agreement is tougher on the banking industry than officials in the Treasury Department anticipated when they first drafted their version of the bill 12 months ago.

Lawmakers agreed to a provision known as the “Volcker” rule, named after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, which prohibits banks from making risky bets with their own funds. To win support from Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.), Democrats agreed to allow financial companies to make limited investments in areas such as hedge funds and private-equity funds.

The move could require some big banks to spin off divisions, known as proprietary-trading desks, which make bets with the firms’ money.

The bill also includes a provision, authored by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D., Ark), which would limit the ability of federally insured banks to trade derivatives. This provision almost derailed the bill following vehement objections from New York Democrats. Ms. Lincoln worked out a deal in the early hours of Friday morning that would allow banks to trade interest-rate swaps, certain credit derivatives and others—in other words the kind of standard safeguards a bank would take to hedge its own risk.

Banks, however, would have to set up separately capitalized affiliates to trade derivatives in areas lawmakers perceived as riskier, including metals, energy swaps, and agriculture commodities, among other things.

A panel of 43 lawmakers spent two weeks reconciling differences between a bill that passed the House in December and the Senate in May. They concluded their negotiations along party lines at a little after 5 a.m. ET in a Capitol Hill conference room marked by tension, levity and exhaustion. Senior administration officials, including Treasury Department Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin, arrived late in the afternoon to try and quell the feud between the New York delegation and Ms. Lincoln.

Major components of the bill, including the derivatives provisions, were negotiated in the hallway of the Dirksen Senate Office Building as the clock neared midnight. At one point, after hearing of an offer from Senate Democrats, Rep. Melissa Bean (D., Ill.) exclaimed: “Are you flipping kidding me? Are you flipping kidding me?”

Democrats hailed the agreement as a tool to prevent the kind of taxpayer-funded bailouts that stabilized the economy in 2008 but left divisive scars. Many Republicans said the bill could have unintended consequences, crimping financial markets and access to credit.

“My guess is there are three unintended consequences on every page of this bill,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas) said of the nearly 2,000-page bill.

The deal comes as the banking industry is still struggling to regain its footing. Hundreds of banks have been dragged down by bad loans and investments. The violent restructuring of the U.S. banking sector two years ago has left just a few companies controlling a vast amount of the deposits, assets and financial plumbing of the country.

Government-controlled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac remain a multibillion dollar drain on the U.S. Treasury, and largely untouched by this proposal. And the banking sector in parts of Europe remains fragile.

The legislation would redraw how money flows through the U.S. economy, from the way people borrow money to the way banks structure complicated products like derivatives. It could touch every person who has a bank account or uses a credit card.

It would erect a new consumer-protection regulator within the Federal Reserve, give the government new powers to break up failing companies and assign a council of regulators to monitor risks to the financial system. It would also set up strict new rules on big banks, limiting their risk and increasing the costs.

The legislation gives the Securities and Exchange Commission new powers to regulate Wall Street and monitor hedge funds, increasing the agency’s access to funding. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission would also have new powers under the bill, which would try and force most derivatives to face more scrutiny from regulators and other market participants.

To pay for some of the new government programs, the bill would allow the government to charge fees to large banks and hedge funds to raise up to $19 billion spread over five years. The assessment is designed to eventually pay down a part of the national debt.

The broad contours had been set for weeks and mostly mirror a proposal the White House has pushed since last summer. But the last few days represented a mad dash of political maneuvering to iron out final details.

Negotiations went into Friday morning, with New York Democrats and White House officials meeting to address the bill’s potential impact on New York, which relies on the financial industry for employment and tax revenue.

To win broader support, Democrats softened the bill’s impact on community banks, auto dealers, and small payday lenders and check cashers.

From the beginning, lawmakers opted against a dramatic reshaping of the country’s financial architecture. Instead, they moved to create new layers of regulation to prevent companies from taking on too much risk.

For example, regulators decided not to order a sweeping consolidation of the regulatory agencies policing finance. They also decided not to bust up large financial companies, despite pressure from liberal groups.

But they did create a process for seizing and dismantling faltering companies, tools the government lacked in 2008 during the seemingly chaotic events surrounding Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and American International Group Inc.

Democrats are banking on stronger government regulators to constrain risk in the financial system and prevent a future banking crisis—or at least blunt its impact.