Financial News StoriesExcerpts of Key Financial News Stories in Major Media
Note: This comprehensive list of banking and finance news stories is usually updated once a week. Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.
The rising crescendo of bickering and acrimony within Europe might seem to outsiders to be the inevitable result of the bitter endgame playing out between Greece and its creditors. In fact, European leaders are finally beginning to reveal the true nature of the ongoing debt dispute: it is about power and democracy much more than money and economics. Of course, the economics behind the programme that the "troika" (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) foisted on Greece five years ago has been abysmal, resulting in a 25% decline in the country's GDP. I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences: It is startling that the troika has refused to accept responsibility for any of this or admit how bad its forecasts and models have been. But what is even more surprising is ... the troika is still demanding that Greece achieve a primary budget surplus (excluding interest payments) of 3.5% of GDP by 2018. Economists around the world have condemned that target as punitive, because aiming for it will inevitably result in a deeper downturn. Indeed, even if Greece's debt is restructured beyond anything imaginable, the country will remain in depression if voters there commit to the troika's target. Almost none of the huge amount of money loaned to Greece has actually gone there. It has gone to pay out private-sector creditors – including German and French banks. Greece has gotten but a pittance, but it has paid a high price to preserve these countries' banking systems.
Note: Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, is a professor at Columbia University. Note that as a result of the troika's austerity measures instituted five years ago, Greece’s rate of youth unemployment now exceeds 60%. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption from reliable major media sources.
Fifteen years ago, greedy traders plunged California into the energy crisis with its first supplier-caused blackout. That crisis almost bankrupted California. From 2000 through 2001, California overpaid for electricity by at least $20 billion. To prevent the utilities from going bankrupt and to keep the lights on, the state paid those overcharges by selling bonds. We will pay the costs of that fraud in our utility bills every month until 2022. In 2000, the PUC issued more than 120 subpoenas for information from all energy companies in the California market. But the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stymied California’s efforts to obtain critical information that would prove the energy sellers’ collusion. Those sellers, and the Wall Street banks that backed them and bet on them, ran to the FERC to quash California’s subpoenas. The federal commission accommodated the conspirators then, and continues to do their bidding now. California took the federal commission to court and, starting in 2004, the courts sided with California. FERC had to be ordered repeatedly by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to allow California to obtain and present evidence. At least two market-manipulation cases brought by California are still pending before the federal commission and haven’t yet been settled by the state PUC. Winning these cases could mean billions of dollars for California families and businesses.
Note: The above was written by Loretta M. Lynch, former president of the California Public Utilities Commission. Read undeniable proof that greedy traders caused the crisis in this CBS article. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in government and in the corporate world.
The May 20 settlement between the Justice Department and five giant banks reveals the appalling weakness of modern antitrust. The banks had engaged in the biggest price-fixing conspiracy in modern history. It was a "brazen display of collusion" that went on for years, said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. But there will be no trial [and] no executive will go to jail. The fines ... will be treated by the banks as costs of doing business. America used to have antitrust laws that permanently stopped corporations from monopolizing markets. No longer. The result has been higher prices for the many, and higher profits for the few. It's a hidden upward redistribution from the majority of Americans to corporate executives and wealthy shareholders. Similar upward distributions are occurring elsewhere in the economy. The four largest food companies control 82 percent of beef packing, 85 percent of soybean processing, 63 percent of pork packing, and 53 percent of chicken processing. Monsanto alone owns the key genetic traits to more than 90 percent of the soybeans planted by farmers in the United States, and 80 percent of the corn. Big Agribusiness wants to keep it this way. The list goes on, industry after industry, across the economy. Antitrust has been ambushed by the giant companies it was designed to contain. The market is rigged. And unless government unrigs it through bold antitrust action to restore competition, the upward distributions hidden inside the "free market" will become even larger.
Note: The above article was written by former US Secretary of Labor and current professor of public policy at UC Berkeley Robert Reich. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the systemically corrupt financial industry and the income inequality that this contributes to.
Five of the world’s largest banks have agreed to pay more than $5 billion in fines to settle charges made by regulatory agencies and the Justice Department that the banks had acted in concert to manipulate international interest and foreign currency exchange rates. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said the banks had engaged in “brazenly illegal behavior on a near-daily basis.” The scale of the price-fixing scandal is hard to grasp. It touched ... almost every company and individual in the financial markets. By tweaking global benchmarks used to set foreign exchange and interest rates for a staggering number of transactions a day, the banks — over several years — bilked billions of dollars of extra profits by altering rates in their favor. Critics complained that the Justice Department had failed to prosecute any additional individuals. Wall Street watchdog group Better Markets called it a “slap on the wrist,” and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in an e-mail: “That’s not accountability for Wall Street. It’s business as usual, and it stinks.” Barclays, along with JPMorgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland Group and Citigroup, will plead guilty to conspiring to manipulate the price of U.S. currency and euros, authorities said. JPMorgan Chase said it had agreed to plead guilty to a single antitrust violation and pay a fine of $550 million. Under the resolution with the Fed, the firm will pay a fine of $342 million. The bank said it had previously set aside reserves for these settlements.
Note: When it comes to international banking, it appears that almost everything is rigged. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the systemically corrupt financial industry.
Currently, about 9 percent — or $270 billion — of America’s $3 trillion public pension fund assets are invested in private equity firms. With the financial industry’s standard 2 percent management fee, that quarter-trillion dollars generates roughly $5.4 billion in annual management fees for the private equity industry — and that’s not including additional “performance” fees paid on investment returns. Public officials are overseeing this enormous payout to Wall Street at the very moment many of those same officials are demanding big cuts to retirees’ promised pension benefits. “With billions of public worker and taxpayer dollars put at risk in the highest-cost, most opaque investment schemes ever devised by Wall Street for a decade now, investigations that hold Wall Street profiteers accountable are long, long overdue,” said former Securities and Exchange Commission attorney Ted Siedle. In a 2014 speech, the SEC’s top examiner, Andrew Bowden, sounded the alarm about undisclosed fees in the private equity industry, saying the agency had discovered “violations of law or material weaknesses in controls over 50 percent of the time” at firms it had evaluated. To date, however, the SEC has taken few actions to crack down on the practices, but some states are starting to step up their oversight.
Big Wall Street banks are so upset with U.S. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren's call for them to be broken up that some have discussed withholding campaign donations to Senate Democrats in symbolic protest. Representatives from Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, have met to discuss ways to urge Democrats, including Warren and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, to soften their party's tone toward Wall Street. Citigroup has decided to withhold donations for now to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee over concerns that Senate Democrats could give Warren and lawmakers who share her views more power, sources inside the bank told Reuters. The Massachusetts senator's economic populism and take-no-prisoners approach has won her a strong following. Warren, a former Harvard Law professor who joined the Senate Banking Committee after taking office in 2013, has accused big banks and other financial firms of unfair dealings that harm the middle class and help the rich grow richer. In a Dec. 12 speech, she mentioned Citi several times as an example of a bank that had grown too large, saying it should have been broken apart by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. In January, Warren angered Wall Street when she successfully blocked the nomination of a banker Antonio Weiss to a top post at the Treasury Department. She argued that as a regulator he would likely be too deferential to his former Wall Street colleagues.
An exotic bond scheme promoted by Wall Street as a way to build schools ... is really a financial scam. These "capital appreciation bonds" ... were part of AB1388, signed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009. Unlike conventional bonds that have to be paid off on a regular basis, the bonds approved in AB1388 relaxed regulatory safeguards and allowed them to be paid back 25 to 40 years in the future. The problem is that from the time the bonds are issued until payment is due, interest accrues and compounds at exorbitant rates. This kind of bond has been outlawed by a number of states. Several grand jury investigations warned [California] school officials against these scams. According to a recent San Mateo County grand jury report, the bonds have been issued in California to raise more than $500 billion - but the estimated future repayment of that debt will total more than $2 trillion. School and community college districts issued 98 percent of all capital appreciation bonds. More than 200 California school and community college districts issuing these bonds will end up paying 10 to 20 times more than they borrowed, [and] payment will not be due until after the useful life of the school facilities built with the bond funds. State records show that Piper Jaffray has brokered 165 of such bonds since 2008, earning $31.4 million, and that Goldman Sachs earned $1.6 million on a single deal with the San Diego Unified School District.
The stock market is rigged. With stock prices rushing far ahead of economic reality over the last six or so years, more experts in the financial markets are coming to the same conclusion. Ed Yardeni, a longtime Wall Street guru ... said flat out last week that the market was being propped up. “These markets are all rigged, and I don’t say that critically. I just say that factually,” he asserted on CNBC. Yardeni’s claim is the most basic one: that the Federal Reserve won’t do anything that will upset Wall Street and, in fact, is doing all it can to help the stock market. The Bank of Japan [has been] “aggressively purchasing stock funds.” The benefits, Japan’s central bank believes, will then trickle down to the rest of the economy. One American exchange has made intervention in — rigging — foreign governments easier and cheaper to accomplish. CME Group, the Chicago exchange that trades options and commodities, had an incentive program under which foreign central banks could buy stock market derivatives like the Standard & Poor’s futures contracts at a discount. S&P futures contracts are the vehicle of choice for rigging the market. There’s another kind of market rigging ... being done by companies themselves. Since corporate profits and revenues aren’t growing enough to justify current high stock prices, companies have been aggressively buying back massive quantities of their own shares. By doing this, companies reduce the number of their shares owned by the public [to boost] the calculation of profit-per-shares. Today’s markets aren’t fair [and] stock prices are artificially inflated.
Note: Don't forget that Bernie Madoff was once the head of the NASDAQ exchange. When it comes to international banking, it appears that almost everything is rigged. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the systemically corrupt financial industry.
A senior HSBC executive has privately admitted that the bank is “cast-iron certain” to have another major regulatory breach in the future. Global head of sanctions Lee Hale ... was meeting with independent lawyers monitoring HSBC as part of a controversial 2012 deal with the US Department of Justice, in which the bank avoided prosecution over sanctions-busting and money-laundering in its Mexican branch in exchange for paying a $1.9bn fine and receiving additional regulatory scrutiny for a period of five years. The deferred prosecution agreement was signed by the then US attorney for the eastern district of New York, Loretta Lynch. During a long exchange about HSBC’s new policy on sanctions and internal breaches of company rules, Hale told the regulator that “given the size and scale of HSBC”, in his view “it is a cast-iron certain[ty] this will happen, at some point in the future we’re going to have some big breach, some regulatory breach”. He added: “I hope it doesn’t happen, but it is likely.” The recorded monitor discussions also touched on problems in the bank’s US compliance team. Hale said: “The internal audit team have done a US review and it’s not great in terms of what they’ve found.” The findings, according to Hale, prompted the bank to terminate the employment of one of the bank’s senior compliance executives in New York, a former sanctions official at the US Treasury. In 2012, a US Senate report noted that a high turnover of compliance staff at the bank’s US subsidiary had made reforms difficult to implement.
Note: Read lots more on HSBC's sweetheart deal with U.S. officials in a Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi. Is it even possible to root out corruption in a bank founded to service the international drug trade? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about systemic corruption in government and the financial industry.
Iceland's government is considering a revolutionary monetary proposal - removing the power of commercial banks to create money and handing it to the central bank. The proposal, which would be a turnaround in the history of modern finance, was part of a report written by a lawmaker from the ruling centrist Progress Party, Frosti Sigurjonsson, entitled "A better monetary system for Iceland". In Iceland, as in other modern market economies, the central bank controls the creation of banknotes and coins but not the creation of all money, which occurs as soon as a commercial bank offers a line of credit. The central bank can only try to influence the money supply with its monetary policy tools. Under the so-called Sovereign Money proposal, the country's central bank would become the only creator of money. "Crucially, the power to create money is kept separate from the power to decide how that new money is used," Mr Sigurjonsson wrote in the proposal. "As with the state budget, the parliament will debate the government's proposal for allocation of new money," he wrote. Banks would continue to manage accounts and payments, and would serve as intermediaries between savers and lenders. Mr Sigurjonsson, a businessman and economist, was one of the masterminds behind Iceland's household debt relief programme launched in May 2014 and aimed at helping the many Icelanders whose finances were strangled by inflation-indexed mortgages signed before the 2008 financial crisis.
Note: Iceland so far has been the only country to really challenge the banksters. For more on this, see this article. Will Iceland's proposed new monetary policy help check the power of the corrupt financial industry?
"God's Bankers" provides an exhaustive history of financial machinations at the center of the church in Rome. The final unification of Italy in 1870 ... deprived the church of its lands and feudal income, leading to several decades of acute financial insecurity. Popes of this period ... publicly denounced lending money at interest (usury) while at the same time accepting massive loans from the Rothschilds and making their own interest-bearing loans to Italian Catholics. Beginning with Bernardino Nogara, appointed by Pius XI in 1929, the church also empowered a series of often shady financial advisers to engage in financial wheeling and dealing around the globe. "So long as the balance sheets showed surpluses," [author of God's Bankers Gerald] Posner writes, "Pius and his chief advisers were pleased." That pattern would continue through the rest of the 20th century. The American archbishop Paul Marcinkus, [who] ran the Vatican Bank from 1971 to 1989 ... ended up implicated in several sensational scandals. The biggest by far was the collapse of Italy's largest private bank, Banco Ambrosiano, in 1982 - an event preceded by mob hits on a string of investigators looking into corruption in the Italian banking industry. Marcinkus ... also served as a spy for the State Department, providing the American government with "personal details" about John Paul II, and even encouraging the pope "at the behest of embassy officials" to publicly endorse American positions on a broad range of political issues.
Note: The Vatican Bank was implicated in a scheme to smuggle tens of millions of euros out of Switzerland in 2013, and was used to launder money for the mafia as recently as 2012. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing financial industry corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
U.S. authorities are investigating major banks over potential manipulation of the precious metals market, the latest development in a series of probes related to major financial benchmarks. HSBC is among at least 10 major banks being investigated by U.S. authorities for possible rigging of the price-setting process for gold, silver, platinum and palladium, The Wall Street Journal reported late Monday. The report said other banks being scrutinized include: Goldman Sachs; JPMorgan Chase; Britain-based Barclays; Swiss banking giants UBS and Credit Suisse; Bank of Nova Scotia; Germany-based Deutsche Bank; France-based Société Générale; and South Africa-based Standard Bank Group. U.S. authorities declined to comment. Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Deutsche Bank and Barclays, HSBC, UBS and Bank of Nova Scotia have been named as defendants in various putative class-action lawsuits in U.S. federal courts over suspected manipulation of precious metals pricing. The complaints contend that bank traders conspired to manipulate the price of metal derivatives in a bid to reap profits on proprietary trades. The new U.S. investigations follow separate bank probes launched earlier over suspected manipulation of the $5.3-billion-a-day foreign exchange currency trading market, along with rigging of the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor), which is used to set rates on billions of dollars in loans, credit cards and mortgages.
Note: When it comes to international banking, it appears that almost everything is rigged. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about the systemically corrupt financial industry.
A senior writer at the Daily Telegraph has dramatically quit the newspaper after accusing its owners, the Barclay Brothers, of suppressing reports about the HSBC scandal out of fear of losing advertising revenue. Peter Oborne, the paper’s chief political commentator and an award-winning author, announced his resignation [and] accused the Telegraph of committing a “fraud” on readers. Mr Oborne detailed a series of investigations about HSBC, and other financial scandals, which he said executives at the newspaper had closed down. Mr Oborne wrote: “From the start of 2013 onwards stories critical of HSBC were discouraged [because] HSBC [had] suspended its advertising with the Telegraph. “Its account ... was extremely valuable. HSBC, as one former Telegraph executive told me, is ‘the advertiser you literally cannot afford to offend’. “Winning back the HSBC advertising account became an urgent priority. It was eventually restored after approximately 12 months. Executives say that Murdoch MacLennan [chief executive of Telegraph Media Group] was determined not to allow any criticism of the international bank.” As a result of a 2012 investigation into accounts held by HSBC in Jersey, he claimed: “Reporters were ordered to destroy all emails, reports and documents related to the HSBC investigation. I [resigned] as a matter of conscience. The past few years have seen the rise of shadowy executives who determine what truths can and what truths can’t be conveyed across the mainstream media."
Note: Oborne's online resignation provides a unique window into some of the ways that big money is used to manipulate the media. Read lots more on HSBC's empire of corruption in a Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi. HSBC was founded to service the international drug trade in the 19th century, and launders money for mobsters and terrorists on a massive scale.
A scandal implicating HSBC in alleged tax evasion widened further Wednesday, as Swiss prosecutors raided the Geneva headquarters of its private bank in Switzerland. The raid, in connection with an investigation into ‘aggravated money-laundering’, marks the latest twist in a saga that dates back 10 years. Materials leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists ... indicated that HSBC aggressively marketed schemes suitable for tax evasion to rich clients across the world. The materials come from a stash of files stolen from HSBC by Hervé Falciani, a former employee and whistleblower. Falciani was indicted in Switzerland in December for industrial espionage and for breaking the law on banking secrecy. Falciani’s files have already led to criminal investigations in France, Belgium and Argentina. The Swiss authorities’ action Wednesday, however, is the first to suggest that they regard tax evasion itself as a bigger crime than exposing it. [HSBC has also recently] been found guilty of manipulating benchmark interest and foreign exchange rates, [and] desperately needs to be able to prove that it has not aided or abetted tax evasion or money-laundering since December 2012. That was when it signed a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. after admitting to helping Iran get round sanctions and laundering the profits of Mexican drug trafficking gangs. Any evidence that it has broken that DPA could lead to it losing its all-important license to bank in the U.S., destroying its status as a global bank overnight.
Note: Read lots more on HSBC's sweetheart deal with U.S. officials in a Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi. US Senator Elizabeth Warren is working hard to bring justice in this case. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about systemic corruption in government and the financial industry.
One man's story in particular highlights just about everything that can go wrong when you give evidence against your bosses in America: former Countrywide/Bank of America whistleblower Michael Winston. Two years ago this month, Winston was being celebrated in the news as a hero. He'd blown the whistle on Countrywide Financial, the bent mortgage lender that ... nearly blew up the global economy. Today, Winston [has] spent over a million dollars fighting Countrywide (and the firm that acquired it, Bank of America) in court. At first, that fight proved a good gamble, as a jury granted him a multi-million-dollar award for retaliation and wrongful termination. But after Winston won that case, an appellate judge not only wiped out that jury verdict, but allowed Bank of America to counterattack him. The bank eventually beat him for nearly $98,000 in court costs. That single transaction means a good guy in the crisis drama, Winston, had by the end of 2014 paid a larger individual penalty than virtually every wrongdoer connected with the financial collapse of 2008. When Winston protested his preposterous punishment on the grounds that a trillion-dollar company recouping legal fees from an unemployed whistleblower was unreasonable and unnecessary, a California Superior Court judge denied his argument — get this — on the grounds that Winston failed to prove a disparity in resources between himself and Bank of America! Four years later, we're still waiting for the first criminal conviction against any individual for crisis-era corruption. There's been no significant reform. What we've seen instead is a series of cash deals with the most corrupt companies.
Note: Countrywide bought political influence to more effectively defraud institutional investors and taxpayers. Thanks to Winston, they were caught and proven guilty. But Bank of America purchased Countrywide, and has been paying off officials in secret deals to continue skirting the law without admitting wrongdoing. And Michael Winston now has to pay Bank of America for their trouble.
In the 1930s, Henry Ford is supposed to have remarked that it was a good thing that most Americans didn't know how banking really works, because if they did, "there'd be a revolution before tomorrow morning". Last week, something remarkable happened. The Bank of England let the cat out of the bag. In a paper called "Money Creation in the Modern Economy", co-authored by three economists from the Bank's Monetary Analysis Directorate, they stated outright that most common assumptions of how banking works are simply wrong, and that the kind of populist, heterodox positions more ordinarily associated with groups such as Occupy Wall Street are correct. It's [an incorrect] understanding that allows us to continue to talk about money as if it were a limited resource like bauxite or petroleum, to say "there's just not enough money" to fund social programmes, to speak of the immorality of government debt or of public spending "crowding out" the private sector. To quote from its own initial summary: "Rather than banks receiving deposits when households save and then lending them out, bank lending creates deposits" When banks make loans, they create money. This is because money is really just an IOU. The role of the central bank is to preside over a legal order that effectively grants banks the exclusive right to create IOUs of a certain kind, ones that the government will recognise as legal tender by its willingness to accept them in payment of taxes. There's really no limit on how much banks could create. The Bank's job is to actually run the system, and of late, the system has not been running especially well.
Note: For more along these lines, see the excellent, reliable resources provided in our Banking Corruption Information Center.
HSBC’s Swiss banking arm helped wealthy customers dodge taxes and conceal millions of dollars of assets, doling out bundles of untraceable cash and advising clients on how to circumvent domestic tax authorities, according to a huge cache of leaked secret bank account files. HSBC was headed during the period covered in the files by Stephen Green – now Lord Green – who served as the global bank’s chief executive, then group chairman until 2010 when he left to become a trade minister in the House of Lords for David Cameron’s new government. The files show how HSBC in Switzerland keenly marketed tax avoidance strategies to its wealthy clients. The bank proactively contacted clients in 2005 to suggest ways to avoid a new tax levied on the Swiss savings accounts of EU citizens, a measure brought in through a treaty between Switzerland and the EU to tackle secret offshore accounts. The documents also show HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary providing banking services to relatives of dictators, people implicated in African corruption scandals, arms industry figures and others. HSBC is already facing criminal investigations and charges in France, Belgium, the US and Argentina as a result of the leak of the files, but no legal action has been taken against it in Britain.
Note: Read lots more excellent information in a Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi. US Senator Elizabeth Warren is working hard to bring justice in this case. HSBC was founded to service the international drug trade following the 19th century opium war, and continues to launder money for drug cartels and terrorists on a massive scale. Now we learn that HSBC also provides financial services related to conflict diamonds, weapons trafficking, political corruption, and other organized criminal activities. Perhaps these criminal bankers are tolerated because the global economy might collapse without their cash.
The middle class can't be saved unless Wall Street is tamed. Yet most presidential aspirants don't want to talk about taming the Street because Wall Street is one of their largest sources of campaign money. Six years ago ... the financial collapse crippled the middle class and poor, consuming the savings of millions of average Americans and causing 23 million to lose their jobs, 9.3 million to lose their health insurance and some 1 million to lose their homes. A repeat performance is not unlikely. Wall Street's biggest banks are much larger now than they were then. Five of them hold about 45 percent of America's banking assets. In 2000, they held 25 percent. Meanwhile, the Street's lobbyists have gotten Congress to repeal a provision of Dodd-Frank curbing excessive speculation by the big banks. The language was drafted by Citigroup and personally pushed by Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase. It's nice that presidential aspirants are talking about rebuilding America's middle class. But to be credible, the candidates have to [propose] to limit the size of the biggest Wall Street banks, to resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act (which used to separate investment banking from commercial banking), to define insider trading the way most other countries do (using information any reasonable person would know is unavailable to most investors), and to close the revolving door between the Street and the U.S. Treasury. It also means not depending on the Street to finance their campaigns.
Imagine a lender demanding that you miss a payment. That is the situation described in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal. In 2013, GSO Capital Partners ... refused to renew a $122.3 million loan to the Spanish gambling company Codere unless it delayed paying interest on other existing debt. Why? It turns out that GSO had placed a bet that Codere’s existing debt would not be paid on time. When, lo and behold, the payment was late, GSO collected on its bet. The bet in this scenario was a credit default swap. Credit default swaps, a type of derivative, can be used to hedge against losses on bonds that investors own, or to speculate on how the underlying companies will perform. The Dodd-Frank financial reform law was supposed to curb speculation in swaps. But ... hedge funds are increasingly using swaps to wager on whether weak firms will live or die. RadioShack ... is one of several prominent examples. In December, RadioShack’s total debt came to about $1.4 billion, but swaps outstanding on the performance of the debt totaled $23.5 billion. Similarly, J.C. Penney ... had total debt of some $8.7 billion, but swaps outstanding on the debt totaled $19.3 billion. Last month, Congress repealed an anti-speculation provision of Dodd-Frank that would have prevented federally insured banks from conducting several types of swap transactions. In addition, the Federal Reserve recently gave the banks two extra years to meet [another important] Dodd-Frank provision. Sooner or later, poorly regulated credit derivatives will again play a role in damaging the economy.
Nicholas and Jill Woodman ... will receive a huge tax deduction for their [charitable] donation of 5.8 million shares of company stock to a donor-advised fund. But there’s no guarantee that one dollar of their October donation will ever be spent [on charity]. Donors gets an immediate, one-time tax break by depositing their money or assets in a donor-advised fund. They can advise the institution holding their money where and when to spend it on their timetable. Boston College Law School Professor Ray Madoff points out, “It is like money-laundering." There was $54 billion under management in donor-advised funds in 2013. Top financial houses like Fidelity, Schwab and Vanguard have fully embraced donor-advised funds. Fidelity Charitable, with $13.2 billion worth of assets under management, is now the nation’s second-largest charity. Even though organizations like Fidelity Charitable, Schwab Charitable and Vanguard Charitable were founded by their financial house namesakes, they are separate 501(c)3 charities. But while Fidelity Charitable is independent from the financial institution, roughly two-thirds of the money in the charitable arm is invested in Fidelity mutual funds. Madoff said that because investment advisers can charge a fee for managing the money in these accounts, they have a natural incentive to keep the money in these accounts growing — and not leaving.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.