Financial Media ArticlesExcerpts of Key Financial Media Articles in Major Media
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The very richest Americans have financed a sophisticated and astonishingly effective apparatus for shielding their fortunes. Some call it the “income defense industry,” consisting of a high-priced phalanx of lawyers, estate planners, lobbyists and anti-tax activists. All are among a small group providing much of the early cash for the 2016 presidential campaign. Operating largely out of public view - in tax court, through arcane legislative provisions and in private negotiations with the Internal Revenue Service - the wealthy have used their influence to steadily whittle away at the government’s ability to tax them. The effect has been to create a kind of private tax system, catering to only several thousand Americans. Two decades ago ... the 400 highest-earning taxpayers in America paid nearly 27 percent of their income in federal taxes, according to I.R.S. data. By 2012 ... that figure had fallen to less than 17 percent, which is just slightly more than the typical family making $100,000 annually. Some of the biggest current tax battles are being waged by some of the most generous supporters of 2016 candidates. Whatever tax rates Congress sets, the actual rates paid by the ultra-wealthy tend to fall over time as they exploit their numerous advantages.
Note: The IRS now conducts only half as many audits of the super-rich as it did five years ago. Over half of the money contributed so far to 2016 US presidential candidates has come from just 158 families. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption and income inequality from reliable major media sources.
Seven years ago, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department bailed out the largest financial institutions in this country because they were considered too big to fail. But almost every one is bigger today than it was before the bailout. If any were to fail again, taxpayers could be on the hook for another bailout. To rein in Wall Street, we should begin by reforming the Federal Reserve, which oversees financial institutions. Unfortunately, an institution that was created to serve all Americans has been hijacked by the very bankers it regulates. What went wrong at the Fed? The chief executives of some of the largest banks in America are allowed to serve on its boards. During the Wall Street crisis of 2007, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive and chairman of JPMorgan Chase, served on the New York Fed’s board of directors while his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed. Next year, four of the 12 presidents at the regional Federal Reserve Banks will be former executives from one firm: Goldman Sachs. We would not tolerate the head of Exxon Mobil running the Environmental Protection Agency. And we should not allow big bank executives to serve on the boards of the main agency in charge of regulating financial institutions. Financial reforms must not stop with the central bank. We must reinstate Glass-Steagall and break up the too-big-to-fail financial institutions. The sad reality is that the Federal Reserve doesn’t regulate Wall Street; Wall Street regulates the Fed.
Note: After the bailout in 2008, the percentage of US banking assets held by the big banks has almost doubled. Could this possibly have been planned? And why is the only US presidential candidate talking seriously about bank reform being given little attention by mainstream media? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in government and in the financial industry.
In May 2009 Congress created a special commission to examine the causes of the financial crisis. Some commission members sought to block consideration of any historical account that might support efforts to rein in runaway bankers. One ... wrote [that] it was important that what they said “not undermine the ability of the new House G.O.P. to modify or repeal Dodd-Frank,” the financial regulations introduced in 2010. Never mind what really happened; the party line, literally, required telling stories that would help Wall Street do it all over again. Which brings me to a new movie the enemies of financial regulation really, really don’t want you to see. “The Big Short” is based on the Michael Lewis book of the same name, one of the few real best-sellers to emerge from the financial crisis. It does a terrific job of making Wall Street skulduggery entertaining. Many influential, seemingly authoritative players, from Alan Greenspan on down, insisted not only that there was no bubble but that no bubble was even possible. And the bubble whose existence they denied really was inflated largely via opaque financial schemes that in many cases amounted to outright fraud - and it is an outrage that basically nobody ended up being punished for those sins aside from innocent bystanders, namely the millions of workers who lost their jobs and the millions of families that lost their homes. While the movie gets the essentials of the financial crisis right, the true story of what happened is deeply inconvenient to some very rich and powerful people.
Martin Shkreli ... gained notoriety in August when, as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, he acquired a drug to treat parasitic infections, especially in pregnant women and AIDS patients, and proceeded to hike the price to from $13.50 to $750 per pill. He resigned from Turing Friday after being arrested on unrelated charges of securities fraud at a hedge fund. Shkreli was no doubt a first-class tool. But to focus exclusively on shaming Shkreli risks missing the larger problem, that the American health care system allows opportunists like him to [exploit] the lack of transparency on how drugs are priced in the United States. His price gouging was perfectly legal and even justified under the market-based system that underpins the health care industry. “There’s no law that he has to be ethical,” said [Dr. Jeffrey] Lobosky, author of It's Enough To Make You Sick. “His job is not to make drugs available and save patients. His responsibility is to make a profit for his shareholders.” On paper, Turing is a drug company, but it more closely resembles a private-equity firm: it buys undervalued assets - older drugs already approved by federal regulators - and makes money by charging more than what it paid. Many firms make drugs that are mere copies of others and offer no real therapeutic value, Lobosky said.
Martin Shkreli, the 32-year-old former hedge fund manager notorious for jacking up the price of an obscure but critical drug, was arrested Thursday on securities fraud charges. The charges are unrelated to Shkreli’s leadership of Turing Pharmaceuticals. Instead, the charges brought by the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York are related to Shkreli’s time at Retrophin, another bio-pharmaceutical company he founded, and his time at MSMB Capital Management, a hedge fund. Federal prosecutors alleged that for five years, Shkreli lied to investors in two hedge funds and bio-pharmaceutical company Retrophin, all of which he founded. After losing money on stock bets he made through one hedge fund, Shkreli allegedly started another and used his new investors’ money to pay off those who had lost money on the first fund. Then, as pressure was building, Shkreli started Retrophin, which was publicly traded, and used cash and stock from that company to settle with other disgruntled investors. Shkreli “engaged in multiple schemes to ensnare investors through a web of lies and deceit,” U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers told reporters. “His plots were matched only by efforts to conceal the fraud, which led him to operate his companies ... as a Ponzi scheme.” At his arraignment Thursday afternoon, Shkreli pleaded not guilty. He was released on $5 million bond.
Iceland ... has just sentenced five senior bankers and one prominent investor to prison for crimes relating to the economic meltdown in 2008. The nation that gambled so heavily on the markets and lost so disastrously in the consequent crash has [now] sent 26 financiers to jail for combined sentences of 74 years. The authorities pursued bank bosses, chief executives, civil servants and corporate raiders for crimes ranging from insider trading to fraud, money laundering, misleading markets, breach of duties and lying to the authorities. Meanwhile the economy that collapsed so spectacularly has rebounded after letting banks go bust, imposing capital controls and protecting its own citizens over all other losers. This determination to hold people to account for actions that caused intense financial misery contrasts strongly with Britain, most of the rest of Europe and the United States. Britain never bothered holding a proper inquiry into the financial meltdown that still heavily impacts on public finances. In New York, a couple of minor British bankers have just been convicted of manipulating inter-bank lending rates. In London, the massive HSBC is playing political games ... to stave off regulatory pressures. This is the bank, remember, fined Ł1.2bn after a US investigation found it was laundering money for gangsters and rogue nations, then discovered to be helping wealthy clients evade tax in dozens of countries. Its former boss became a government minister and then chairman of the British Museum.
Note: So the one nation that jailed its big bankers and let banks go bust is doing very well. Why are so exceedingly few bankers in other countries being jailed for crimes involving trillions of dollars and bankrupting millions of citizens? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in government and in the financial industry.
The Vatican announced Monday that two members of a commission set up by Pope Francis to study financial operations at the Holy See had been arrested on suspicion of leaking confidential documents to journalists. The arrests came days before the publication of two books - “Avarizia,” or “Avarice,” by Emiliano Fittipaldi, and “Merchants in the Temple,” by Gianluigi Nuzzi. Both books claim to offer glimpses of the turmoil surrounding Francis as he pursues his reforms of Vatican finances, the operations of the Curia and the Vatican bank. Those institutions had long been plagued by scandal and corruption that contributed to the resignation in 2013 of Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, the first pope to step down in nearly 600 years. Divulging confidential documents has been considered a crime in the Vatican since July 2013, after the leak of a cache of Vatican documents ... which Mr. Nuzzi published. Besides reporting on the church’s vast financial holdings, Mr. Fittipaldi said he had also discovered that money given to the church for the poor was used for other purposes. Mr. Nuzzi’s book ... suggests that the Vatican’s finances were in such chaos that Benedict had no choice but to resign. “I am certainly surprised that the Vatican responds to the imminent publication of a book with handcuffs,” Mr. Nuzzi said ... particularly “when handcuffs aren’t used to stop the thieves in the Vatican.”
Note: In 2012, leaked documents revealed that the Vatican Bank was used for money laundering. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in government and in the financial industry.
The US has overtaken Singapore, Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands as an attractive haven for super-rich individuals and businesses looking to shelter assets behind a veil of secrecy, according to a study by the Tax Justice Network (TJN). The US is ranked third, behind Switzerland and Hong Kong, in the financial secrecy index, produced every two years by TJN. But the study noted that if Britain and its affiliated tax havens such as Jersey were treated as one unit it would top the list. “Though the US has been a pioneer in defending itself from foreign secrecy jurisdictions it provides little information in return to other countries, making it a formidable, harmful and irresponsible secrecy jurisdiction,” the TJN report said. The scale of hidden offshore wealth around the world is difficult to assess. The economist Gabriel Zucman has put it at $7.6tn, while the TJN’s James Henry, a former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey, estimated three years ago it could be more than $21tn. The US states of Delaware, Wyoming and Nevada have for decades been operating as onshore secrecy havens, specialising in setting up shell companies catering to overseas individuals and companies seeking to hide assets. “The US has not seriously addressed its own role in attracting illicit financial flows and supporting tax evasion,” the TJN report found. Like the US, Britain too remains a central player in the vast financial secrecy industry despite championing corporate transparency on the international stage.
On Page 5 of a credit card contract used by American Express ... is a clause that most customers probably miss. If cardholders have a problem with their account, American Express explains, the company “may elect to resolve any claim by individual arbitration.” Those nine words are at the center of a far-reaching power play orchestrated by American corporations. By inserting individual arbitration clauses into a soaring number of consumer and employment contracts, companies like American Express devised a way to circumvent the courts and bar people from joining together in class-action lawsuits, realistically the only tool citizens have to fight illegal or deceitful business practices. It has become increasingly difficult to apply for a credit card, use a cellphone, get cable or Internet service, or shop online without agreeing to private arbitration. The same applies to getting a job, renting a car or placing a relative in a nursing home. By banning class actions, companies have essentially disabled consumer challenges to ... predatory lending, wage theft and discrimination. “This is among the most profound shifts in our legal history,” William G. Young, a federal judge ... said in an interview. “Ominously, business has a good chance of opting out of the legal system altogether and misbehaving without reproach.” Thousands of cases brought by single plaintiffs over fraud, wrongful death and rape are now being decided behind closed doors. And the rules of arbitration largely favor companies.
According to the New York Department of Financial Services, a banking regulator, Goldman hired Rohit Bansal from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in May 2014, "in large part for the regulatory experience and knowledge he had gained while working at the New York Fed." Goldman hired Bansal despite the fact that he had been forced to resign from the Fed for breaking the rules there. Once at Goldman, Bansal was instructed to work on a bank that he had supervised while at the Fed, despite explicit prohibitions against him doing so, NYDFS said. Bansal later used confidential information, some of which he obtained from his prior employment at the NY Fed and some of which he obtained from from a former NY Fed colleague, in his work on the bank. To resolve the matter, Goldman has agreed to pay $50 million and accept a three-year "voluntary abstention" from accepting new consulting engagements of NYDFS regulated entities. Goldman also agreed to admit that a former employee engaged in the criminal theft of confidential information and that Goldman management "failed to effectively supervise its employee to prevent this theft from occurring," NYDFS said. In September 2014, for example, Bansal attended the birthday dinner of a former Fed colleague at Peter Luger's. Immediately after the dinner, Bansal emailed his boss at Goldman "divulging confidential information concerning the regulated entity, specifically, the relevant component of the upcoming examination rating," NYDFS said.
A former Goldman Sachs banker suspected of taking confidential documents from a source inside the government has agreed to plead guilty, a rare criminal action on Wall Street, where Goldman itself is facing an array of regulatory penalties over the leak. The banker and his source, who at the time of the leak was an employee at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, one of Goldman’s regulators, will accept a plea deal from federal prosecutors that could send them to prison for up to a year. Under a tentative deal ... Goldman would pay a fine of $50 million. For Goldman and the New York Fed, the case is likely to give new life to an embarrassing episode that illustrated the blurred lines between their institutions. Perhaps more than any other bank, Goldman swaps employees with the government, earning it the nickname “Government Sachs.” While the so-called revolving door is common on Wall Street, the investigation [affirms] the public’s concerns that regulators and bankers, when intermingled, occasionally form unholy alliances. The Goldman banker, Rohit Bansal, previously spent seven years as a regulator at the New York Fed.
While British and American bankers who brought the world's economy to its knees in 2008 have barely faced the consequences for their actions, in Iceland, it's a different story. The Nordic nation, which was one of the worst affected by the 2008 financial crisis, has sentenced 26 bankers to a combined 74 years in prison. In two separate rulings last week, the Supreme Court of Iceland and Reykjavik District Court sentenced six top managers of two national banks for crimes committed in the lead up to the banking sector's collapse, bringing the total number of people who have faced the music for their roles in the crash to 26. At the moment the maximum penalty for white collar crime in Iceland is six years. Iceland deregulated its financial sector in 2001, and manipulation of the markets by bankers led to a system-wide meltdown when the global economy tanked in 2008. Iceland's economy is now in comparatively [good] health since the country was forced to borrow heavily from the International Monetary Fund seven years ago. As Iceland's president Olafur Ragnar Grimsson said when asked how the country recovered so quickly: "We were wise enough not to follow the traditional prevailing orthodoxies of the Western financial world in the last 30 years. We introduced currency controls, we let the banks fail, we provided support for the poor, and we didn’t introduce austerity measures like you’re seeing in Europe." In the US and the UK, of course, we just bailed them out.
Giant Wall Street banks continue to threaten the well-being of millions of Americans. Back in 2000, before they almost ruined the economy and had to be bailed out, the five biggest banks on Wall Street held about 25 percent of the nation's banking assets. Now they hold more than 45 percent. In 2012, JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank on Wall Street, lost $6.2 billion betting on credit default swaps - and then publicly lied about the losses. It later came out that the bank paid illegal bribes to get the business in the first place. In May, the Justice Department announced a settlement of the biggest criminal price-fixing conspiracy in modern history, in which the biggest banks manipulated the $5.3 trillion-a-day currency market in a "brazen display of collusion," according to Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Wall Street's investment bankers, key traders, top executives, and hedge-fund and private-equity managers wield extraordinary power. They're major sources of campaign contributions to both parties. In addition, a lucrative revolving door connects the Street to Washington. Key members of Congress, especially those involved with enacting financial laws or overseeing financial regulators, have fat paychecks waiting for them on Wall Street when they retire. Which helps explain why no Wall Street executive has been indicted for the fraudulent behavior that led up to the 2008 crash. Or for the criminal price-fixing scheme settled in May. Or for other excesses since then.
Note: Does it at all seem strange that after the bailout in 2008, the percentage of US banking assets held by the big banks has almost doubled? Could this possibly have been planned? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing financial industry corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
The integrity of research and expert opinions in Washington came into question last week, prompting the resignation of Robert Litan, an economist, from his position as a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution. Senator Elizabeth Warren raised the issue of a conflict of interest in Mr. Litan’s testimony before a Senate committee. The testimony was based on a paper Mr. Litan had prepared for the Capital Group, a mutual fund company. Mr. Litan disclosed that the Capital Group, which has a stake in the debate, had funded his paper, but he did not disclose that it had also commissioned it. At stake is the integrity of the research process and the trust the nation puts in experts, who advise governments and testify in Congress. Had [Litan's] conclusions not pleased the Capital Group, it would probably have found a more compliant expert. And the reputation of not being “cooperative” would have haunted Mr. Litan’s career as a consultant. The practice of bending an opinion for money is so widespread as to be the norm. By shedding light on how funding of research can affect its content, Senator Warren increased the reputational penalty for experts who bend to special interests. But we need two more changes. Congressional testimony and policy papers should be posted online at least two weeks in advance of a hearing and open for comments. And all expert witnesses should be disclosed to the public, with a time delay if needed for confidentiality.
Note: Read more about how big money buys off institutions democracy depends on. Then see these concise summaries of deeply revealing corporate corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says some Wall Street executives should have gone to jail for their roles in the financial crisis that gripped the country in 2008 and triggered the Great Recession. Billions of dollars in fines have been levied against major banks and brokerage firms in the wake of the economic meltdown that was in large part triggered by reckless lending and shady securities dealings that blew up a housing bubble. But in an interview with USA Today published Sunday, Bernanke said he thinks that in addition to the corporations, individuals should have been held more accountable. "It would have been my preference to have more investigations of individual actions because obviously everything that went wrong or was illegal was done by some individual, not by an abstract firm," Bernanke said. Asked if someone should have gone to jail, the former Fed chairman replied, "Yeah, I think so." He did not, however, name any individual he thought should have been prosecuted and noted that the Federal Reserve is not a law-enforcement agency. Bernanke is promoting his new 600-page memoir, "The Courage to Act: A Memoir of a Crisis and Its Aftermath."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, stepping up her crusade against the power of wealthy interests, accused a Brookings Institution scholar of writing a research paper to benefit his corporate patrons. Warren’s charge prompted a swift response, with Brookings seeking and receiving the resignation of the economist, Robert Litan, whose report criticized a Warren-backed consumer-protection rule targeting the financial services industry. Warren leveled her criticisms in letters sent Tuesday to Brookings leaders and the Obama administration, citing the $85,000 combined fee that Litan and a co-author received from [Capital Group, a leading mutual fund manager]. Warren called the report “highly compensated and editorially compromised work on behalf of an industry player seeking a specific conclusion.” Her complaint pointed to a relatively new form of influence peddling in the nation’s capital, with industry groups and even foreign governments paying think tanks and scholars for research papers that support lobbying goals. Brookings over the past decade has embarked on aggressive fundraising drives to pay for major expansions. Investigations last year by The Washington Post, the New York Times and others found that donors had gained the ability to influence Brookings’s events and research agenda.
Note: Read about how big money buys off institutions democracy depends on. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing corporate corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
A little-noticed report on candidates for an open spot on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reaffirms that the reformist wing of the Democratic Party is winning the tactical battle over financial regulatory personnel. Luis Aguilar, one of three Democratic SEC commissioners on the five-member panel, announced he would step down in May. Initially, the White House floated as a replacement Keir Gumbs, who has passed ... from SEC staff to the white-collar corporate law firm Covington & Burling. Covington & Burling counts most major U.S. banks among its clients, and is the home of former Attorney General Eric Holder and several of his top deputies. While at Covington, Gumbs allegedly gave CEOs tutorials on how to avoid disclosing their corporate political spending. He also represented the American Petroleum Institute before the SEC. Months of criticism of both Gumbs and the SEC’s bank-friendly practices created a delay, with the White House agreeing to vet additional candidates. The Obama administration, despite a clear preference for moderates with Wall Street ties for financial regulatory positions, now must consider a far broader range of personnel. By forming a united front, [party reformers make] it more difficult for future Democratic administrations to use Wall Street as a policymaker talent pool. This significantly changes the landscape of the party, regardless of individual candidate views or the desires of Wall Street-aligned donors.
Former City trader Tom Hayes has been found guilty at a London court of rigging global Libor interest rates. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison for conspiracy to defraud. The 35-year old is the first individual to face a jury trial for manipulating the rate, which is used as a benchmark for trillions of pounds of global borrowing and lending. Many of the world's leading banks have paid heavy financial penalties for tampering with the key benchmark. The case was brought by the Serious Fraud Office, which said Hayes set up a network of brokers and traders spanning 10 financial institutions and cajoled or bribed them to help rig Libor rates for profit. During the trial, jurors were told that Hayes promised to pay a broker up to $100,000 to keep the Libor rate "as low as possible". Defence barrister Neil Hawes asked the judge to take into account the prevalence of Libor manipulation at the time, and also that ... managers and senior managers at Hayes' bank knew of, and in some cases condoned, Libor manipulation. Hayes ... rigged the Libor rates daily for nearly four years while working in Tokyo for UBS, then Citigroup, from 2006 until 2010. Rigging even minor movements in the rate can result in bumper profits for a trader manipulating the rates, or the rate can be moved simply to make a bank look more creditworthy.
Note: Why aren't we hearing about the many other high-level bankers who rigged the Libor rate? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the systemically corrupt financial industry.
Tired of sharing a single bathroom with his teenage son, Sean Rosas hatched a plan. But ... renovating their broken-down bathroom ... would cost more than what Rosas, the director of volunteer services at a nonprofit, had on hand. That’s when Rosas, 43, stumbled on Lending Club, a website that matches borrowers directly with individual lenders. If you need a loan, the site pulls up your credit score, vets your application within minutes and assigns an interest rate. If enough people sign up to lend, you can get the money in days. More than 250 people chose to back Rosas, giving him a three-year, $16,000 loan at 8.9% annual interest. Rosas, who has made every monthly payment so far, is thrilled with his deal. “It was a much more human experience than if I had gone to a faceless bank,” he says. Peer-to-peer has grown partly as a response to the recession; when credit was tight, traditional banks pulled back on lending, and consumers needed alternatives. Compared with a traditional loan application, Lending Club is blissfully easy. To qualify, borrowers need only an active bank account, a minimum FICO credit score of 660 ... and at least three years of credit history. What lenders are really doing is investing: they’re putting their money in notes backed by the prospective repayment of loans. The sizes of the loans range from $1,000 to $35,000. Investors can buy notes in increments as small as $25. Since its founding in 2006, Lending Club has delivered investors an average annual return of 7.79%–appealing at a time when three-year Treasury bonds average 1%.
Note: Curious about emerging alternatives to traditional banking? Learn more about the inspiring microcredit movement.
The Ex-Im Bank is little more than a fund for corporate welfare. Taxpayers should not be forced to support welfare for some of the world's largest companies. While it began as a New Deal-era program with good intentions, the Ex-Im Bank has become a slush fund for a handful of well-connected megacorporations. Efforts to reform the bank, including one by [then-Rep. Dennis] Kucinich in 2002, have ended in disappointment. The bank has also failed to comply with reforms that are on the books. Additionally, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigations have uncovered that the bank is rampant with potential fraud and abuse. The bank's inspector general is investigating 31 cases, with one indictment and more possible. Today, Ex-Im funds support only 2% of U.S. exports. The vast majority of exporters find their funding elsewhere. Presidential candidates on both sides rightly oppose the bank. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and nearly every Republican candidate want it to expire. But now that the environment is right to let the bank wind down, lobbyists for Boeing and other favored companies are trying to sway Congress with "Chicken Little" tales of woe and the unstated understanding that campaign dollars will flow to those who tow the Big Business line. Reforms are no longer enough to rescue ... Ex-Im Bank. It's time to let it expire.
Note: The above was written by former Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and current Ohio Rep. and member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Jim Jordan. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in government and in the financial industry.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.