Sunday, November 16, 2008

Today's "New World Order"

[as published in insiderreports , this article was written a few years ago]

Recent front page events in the business world have Americans wondering, "What has happened to our business ethics? Are they all crooks?"

The chart of the New York Stock Exchange has Saturn in the 9th house indicating hard lessons involving ethics.

Before one more CEO takes a perp walk, let me go on record as saying this is inexcusable. But is it new? Or even "news?" Greed (and violence) surface cyclically in the collective. This does not excuse these qualities in human beings but an approach of trying to place "blame" for recent events seems simplistic and nonproductive. The blame seems to be in our very nature.
My purpose in writing this article is less to blame than to teach those who are interested about the nature of cycles and the reaping of harvests so that we all learn to take seriously what seeds we plant.

The harvest may take a long time (this one: 38 years) and the seeds grow in the dark for a long time but the fruit ripens.

The seeds of a new World Order were planted in 1982 when Saturn and Pluto were conjunct in Libra.

This cycle brought a crisis in ethics and culture to the stock exchange at its halfway mark on July 30, 2001, within a few days of Harvey Pitt's taking office at the SEC. (Pitt took office August 3, 2001.)

When I wrote this article, Sarbanes-Oxley with its 66 separate sections was not yet in place. Since then I have heard regulators refer to these times as "the New World Order".

The New World Order -- life after Sarbanes-Oxley -- demands that public corporations have transparency, reliability, accuracy and timeliness in their reporting capabilities. Investors want to know that the financial reporting they receive is accurate. CEOs are taking the demands of Congress and shareholders seriously. They are also heeding the need to create "cultures of ethical behavior" reinforced by their own examples. In a September 29, 2004 Compliance Week webcast, Richard J. Wolf, Senior Vice President, Legal and Corporate Compliance Officer of Cendant Corporation spoke about the need for ethics training for all employees.

According to his press release, Mr. Wolf has "global responsibility for Cendant’s new business records and information management system, which includes records management policy and procedures, and the general corporate compliance program for Cendant and its subsidiary companies."

Others who oversee compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley in companies around America are Chief Compliance or Governance Officers, CFOs, Chief Accounting Officers, Internal Audit Groups, IT Security Staff and others in Senior Management.

Everywhere that global business is seriously considered, mention is made of the desirability of transparence, not because it is the law but because it is better for business. It has been well known for centuries to be better for business. In his book The Wisdom of Crowds, New Yorker economics columnist James Surowiecki speaks briefly about the foundation of corporations that was laid in England a few centuries ago by Quakers who were noted for their honesty. These people actually created the business model that is preferred around the world and perfected in America. America's capital markets are the envy of the world. The "New World Order" is about preserving them by restoring ethics.

The New World Order is technology driven. Information must be stored and retrieved responsibly in "digital vaults". CEOs are striving for a "single source of truth", one that is incorruptible. Digital fingerprinting is in the offing -- to reveal who has seen electronically archived information and who may have changed it. The storage and retrieval of eMail is a big issue.

Mr. Wolf spoke about including the ethical behavior of executives in their compensation performance measurement. Those who fostered atmospheres of trust and comfort, including comfort to blow the whistle, should be rewarded in their salaries. Provision of anonymous Whistleblowing apparatus throughout a public corporation is now the law.

In this article, I explore important events in the stock market, the New York Stock Exchange, the SEC, the Federal Reserve Bank and other important components of the American economy beginning in 1982 forward which laid the ground work for these developments. The turning point proves to be Harvey Pitt's term at the SEC.

This article is intended to be thought provoking and open ended -- explorative rather than conclusive -- since we are dealing with a very big cycle on a very big scale and with the nature of humans and their collective life.

The good news is that more investors than ever are participating in the stock market. The bad news is that business coverage has moved to the front pages and confidence is at an all time low. The sagas of Enron, WorldCom and other publicly held companies have revealed greed and corruption on the part of CEOs, CFOs and stock analysts plus ignorance, negligence and complicity on the part of auditors and directors on a scale that has investors outraged and on the attack.

"I was robbed, lied to and stolen from," said a restaurant owner in the Southeast who invested over $300,000 with WorldCom a few years ago on the advice of his broker who relied on a telecom stock analyst.

Another investor expected her investment in WorldCom to triple in a couple of years. She put in $32,000 hoping to retire on her profits and has seen her "life savings" dwindle to nothing.
This March 3, 2004, Bernard Ebbers, former CEO of WorldCom, took a perp walk on federal charges in the biggest corporate fraud case in US history.

Our story actually begins a few months prior to the exact November 1982 conjunction of Saturn and Pluto with the beginning of the longest bull market (generally rising upward trends) in US history that began in August 1982.

On November 4, 1982, Saturn and Pluto conjuncted at 27 degrees of Libra and the seeds for this year's front page news were planted. That year Bernie Ebbers and his Brookhaven, Mississippi pal Murray Waldren, founded LDDS [Long Distance Discount Services], the company that morphed into WorldCom. Also that year MCI became the first long distance competitor of AT&T. Fiber optics was the big news that year. This was the "rise" of WorldCom.

The "fall" of WorldCom coincides with the turning point or "opposition" in the Saturn/Pluto cycle. The exact date of this critical mass was reached July 30, 2001, with Saturn at 12 degrees Gemini opposing Pluto at 12 degrees Sagittarius. That year Arthur Levitt relinquished Chairmanship of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC ") to Harvey Pitt. The SEC is the government watchdog of publicly held companies like WorldCom and the agency that's supposed to see that these things don't happen.

Despite the fact that Levitt, in his unprecedented eight year term in office, created a public relations of educating investors and used his "bully platform" to warn of an impending crisis in the accountancy profession, the gross excesses of Enron, WorldCom, etc., occurred under his watch and were part of the harvest that Pitt reaped shortly after taking office.

Pitt's term was short and controversial but he may go down in history as a very effective crisis manager and dynamic initiator. Let's look at more of the facts.

Aside from the greed that is inherent in human nature, there are two major causes for the events which recently culminated in Ebber's walk.

The first primary cause is deregulation of fixed rate commissions which took place on "May Day", May 1, 1975 under Ray Garrett, Jr.'s term as Chairman of the SEC.

The deregulation of fixed rates, coupled with the Telecommunications Acts of 1996, enabled hundreds of thousands of uneducated and unsophisticated investors into the stock market, many of whom traded at home on their PCs. An "unsophisticated investor" is someone who thinks they can triple their investment in two years without risk. Such an investment would be de facto a high risk investment unsuitable for "life savings".

The greed of inexperienced traders can't be undervalued in assigning blame for the current state of affairs. However, there is more than enough blame to go around. This article will reluctantly assume that a certain amount of greediness exists in human beings and will seek to find more interesting currents at work in the undertow of the American economy.

Deregulation helped to end one of the most devastating bear markets that began with a new Dow Jones high in January, 1973 and fell for 21 months to a low of 60.96. Bear markets generally decline at 20-25-30%. This one dropped 50%. Recovery was slow. The Dow Jones didn't break its January 1974 high until July 1980, almost six and a half years later.

When Garrett deregulated fixed commissions, Neptune was at 11 degrees Sagittarius. Harvey Pitt, Chairman of the SEC in 2001, reaped the harvest when Saturn was at 12 degrees of Sagittarius. This strikes me as a karmic exchange of 9th house energies at some mystical level, an echo of the pairing of Saturn and Neptune across the 3rd and 9th houses of the "natal" NYSE chart. In some way Pitt's term gave form to the aspirations of Garrett's vision ... or were they nightmares? It should be remembered by those who are old enough that the early 70s were desperate times where the stock market was concerned. This is not to be said that Levitt didn't try to educate this influx of new investors between 1993-2001. It was one of his principal goals. However, as history keeps teaching us in repeating cycles, the task is daunting.

The second primary cause of recent failures is the more remote but critical repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which took place in 1999, capping a decade of perhaps unprecedented greed and excess in business. The repeal of Glass-Steagall essentially permitted Sanford Weill to build the colossal CitiGroup by combining his investment banking house, Salomon Smith Barney, with the commercial bank CitiCorp which could lend huge sums of money. It is the huge investment banks which drive corporate America.

Weill had been aggressively lobbying the President, the Federal Reserve Board and Congress for many years. The climate for repeal changed when anti-regulatory Alan Greenspan took over the Chairmanship of the Federal Reserve Board in 1987 but progress was still slow.

CitiGroup's Sanford Weill, together with his high profile "rock star" telecom stock analyst Jack Grubman, might be considered the masterminds behind WorldCom ... the rise. Prior to teaming up with another Christian from Mississippi, Bernie Ebbers, the former CEO of WorldCom, was a small town high school basketball coach and ran a motel.

Many have speculated that Ebbers could not have taken WorldCom global without help. Telecom analyst Susan Kalla said on Frontline, "You had a small player that came from nowhere, a CEO that did not have a technical background, did not have a financial background and did not have an industry background and catapulted him into number one. You couldn't do that without a lot of help."

Help is something Jack Grubman was more than happy to give. WorldCom was the dream of every analyst ... a capital intensive business with lots of acquisition banking fees. Grubman had begun to act as a bird dog for investment banking rather than a representative for the investor. This could be considered a conflict of interest and illegal.

New York State Attorney Eliot Spitzer said on Frontline, "Analysts would help you to take [your company] public, keep a strong buy on your stock, become a part of your management team ... who got hurt was the ordinary investors who didn't understand the game."

Jack Grubman more or less "tagged" Ebbers back in 1986. He admits to attending at least three WorldCom board meetings. The "morphing" of the stock analyst during the 90s, from scrupulously independent bookish nerds to "rock stars" tied in relationships that might be considered conflict of interest to investment banking firms is personified by Jack Grubman and is a contributing factor to the crisis in recent years as is the condition of the accounting profession which openly declared war on the SEC in the 90s. The accountants were represented collectively by Harvey Pitt.

Weill was under intense scrutiny by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer for various reasons but so far has escaped criminal penalties for his conduct. Grubman has been fined $15 million and excluded from stock market analysis for life. Bernie Ebbers may wind up behind bars. Isn't this rather like arresting the doorman because the owner of the building is negligent? I think this speaks plainly for the sophistication and ultimate accountability of these three men, though you may disagree with me.

Let's take a God's-eye look at how these events evolved and coincided to change the face of Wall Street in the past few years by looking at astrological cycles.

The new cycle between Saturn and Pluto began on November 4, 1982 with both planets conjunct at 27 degrees Libra, the same degree as Neptune in the chart of the New York Stock Exchange opposed by Saturn at 26 degrees Aries in the 9th house (ethics). This cycle brought a crisis in ethics and culture to the stock exchange at its halfway mark on July 30, 2001, within a few days of Harvey Pitt's taking office at the SEC. (Pitt took office August 3, 2001.) Transiting Saturn was at 12 degrees Gemini opposing transiting Pluto at 12 degrees Sagittarius.

The problematical Saturn/Neptune opposition in the founding chart of the NYSE is a theme throughout this cycle and this article. Saturn/Neptune aspects bring a kind of fundamental confusion, denial and conspiracy ... at least in the sense that someone may conspire not to see what is plainly obvious.

Saturn is the planet of structure and infrastructure. Pluto is the planet that destroys structures. It is interesting that Harvey Pitt has often referred to a "kind of Darwinism" operating in corporations today. Pluto may symbolize a kind of Darwinian survival of the fittest.

These are the key dates for the squares and oppositions in the new Saturn/Pluto cycle. A complete listing and discussion can be found here.

beginning conjunction 1982 - Ebbers founds LDDS

semi-sextile 1985-88 - Grubman meets Ebbers; Ken Lay takes over Enron; Black Monday; Greenspan appointed to Fed; Sanford Weill begins comback

sextile 88-91 - Drexel Burnham Junk Bond King Michael Milliken pleads guilty to fraud
first square waxing cycle 1991 - "Accounting Wars" begin

trine 1993-95 - second Saturn Return for the SEC; Leavitt appointed Chair; Rubin sworn in as Sec. of Treasury

square 1995-96 - Telecommunications Act is passed; Ebbers changes name to WorldCom

trine 1996-98 - demise of Glass-Steagall a fait accompli; data traffic really was doubling every 90 days; CitiCorp created

inconjunct (crisis) – important 1998-2000 - Greenspan warns elderly not to invest in dot.coms Glass Steagall officially repealed; Rubin joins CitiCorp and gives investors 90 days to get out of telecoms; David Chacon tries to blow the whistle at Salomon; Volcker makes public statement that accountancy profession is in a state of crisis

opposition - August 3, 2001-2002 - layoffs peak, Enron and WorldCom fail; Pitt appointed SEC Chair; Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002

inconjunct (crisis) – important 2003-05 - Sarbanes-Oxley Act enforced; Grasso steps down;
This cycle culminates in 2020. Then a "New World Order" begins.

The symbolic meanings of the major aspects are these. At the conjunct and semi-sextile, the car pulls out of the driveway in 1st and 2nd house fashion. At the sextile, the car heads down the road in 3rd house fashion, passing through the neighborhood at appropriate speed.

At the waxing square it picks up speed and pulls out onto the freeway. This is called "leaving home" in 4th house fashion. At the trine, you're doing great, on the open road, making good headway.

At the opposition, in 7th house fashion, there is a psychological crisis. This is because at the halfway mark you are 180 degrees across the circle from home and psychologically the farthest from your goal, though you are actually halfway there. This is the point where quitters quit and winners go on to win. At this time in the Saturn/Pluto cycles, Harvey Pitt was appointed Chairman of the SEC, Enron and WorldCom failed.

If we want to predict the "outcome" of this new world order cycle, all we need do is look at how far we came between 1982 and 2001 and project the "other half" to 2020. In this regard 2001 was the shakedown ... what's working, what isn't ... with deregulation, telecommunications, unsophisticated investors, investment banking, accounting and other issues. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 followed quickly and is an excellent sign of hope and progress.

Let's be optimistic and assume that the good inherent in all of these events will prevail by 2020.
At the waning trine, things get back to normal and you continue making progress toward your goal. This is the time period we are experiencing as you read this article.

The waning square is a "returning home" or a 10th house aspect.

The waning sextile is one of genius, an 11th house aspect. This is where we get every last bit of what "it" is we're supposed to get in a cycle. If it seems difficult to understand what there is to get in a cycle, rely on someone with 11th house energy to grok it for you.

The semi-sextile is like an exaggerated Balsamic Moon, in some ways like a Void-of-Course Moon, a 12th house letting go and releasing back in preparation for the new cycle.

There are inconjuncts which take place on either side of the opposition which could be compared to tightening the screws. Inconjuncts remind me of the wratcheting music in a Verdi opera when someone is being tortured in the other room. By nature, these things may happen behind the scenes as there are not major events in the Saturn/Pluto cycle at these times.

In conclusion, we have seen how the unfolding of the Saturn/Pluto cycle from 1982 to the present – including the transit of Saturn through Gemini and Pluto through Sagittarius, signs that have to do with ethics - has precipitated a “New World Order”, one that will not permit the kinds of chicanery and dishonesty that became rampant during the 90s and culminated in 2001 with the largest bankruptcy filing that had ever taken place up to that time.

In swift reaction, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the seriousness with which it is being implemented in public corporations in America, brings hope that the ethics will return to the American market stronger than ever.

Available at my website are the following astrology charts plus detailed information about this cycle:

The New York Stock Exchange - Saturn in the 9th house indicating a potential problem with ethics [there are various charts for the NYSE]

Charts reflecting the Evolution of the New York Stock Exchange since its creation in 1792
1972 founding
transit at 1929 Crash
transit at 1987 Crash, Greenspan appointed
transit in 1993 Leavitt appointed Chair SEC
transit in 1999 Congress repeals Glass-Steagall
transit at 2001 midway point in Saturn/Pluto cycle
transit for 2003 Grasso leaves
Ray Garrett, Jr. - Chairman, Securities Exchange Commisson (1973-75)
Alan Greenspan- Chairman, Federal Reserve Board (1987-present)
Bernie Ebbers - CEO WorldCom (1982-2003)
Robert Rubin - Secretary of the Treasury (1995-1999); assistant to Sanford Weill (1999-present)

To read the complete article with charts and graphs, click here.

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