Financial News StoriesExcerpts of Key Financial News Stories in Major Media
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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.
A major U.S. bank has agreed to a settlement for transferring funds on the behalf of financiers for the militant group Hezbollah, the Treasury Department announced on Tuesday. Concluding that HSBC's actions "were not the result of willful or reckless conduct," Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control accepted a $32,400 settlement from the bank. Everett Stern, a former HSBC compliance officer who complained to his supervisors about the Hezbollah-linked transactions, told HuffPost he was ... satisfied that the government was taking action. But, he added, "Where I am upset was those were a handful of transactions, and I saw hundreds of millions of dollars" being transferred. Stern said he hopes the government's enforcement actions against HSBC have not come to an end with the latest settlement. "They admit to financing terrorism and they get fined $32,000. Where if I were to do that, I would go to jail for life," he said. HSBC's fine is less than the $40,165.07 covered in the settlement agreement that the bank transferred between December 2010 and April 2011 on behalf of a development company that Treasury says serves as a front for some of Hezbollah's biggest financiers in Africa. In December 2012, the bank agreed to pay a $1.9 billion settlement for moving money that a 2012 Senate report found had likely helped drug cartels and a Saudi Arabian bank the CIA has linked to al Qaeda. No one at HSBC was criminally charged.
HSBC Holdings Plc’s $1.9 billion agreement with the U.S. to resolve charges it enabled Latin American drug cartels to launder billions of dollars was approved by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge John Gleeson in Brooklyn, New York, signed off yesterday on a deferred-prosecution agreement. HSBC was accused of failing to monitor more than $670 billion in wire transfers and more than $9.4 billion in purchases of U.S. currency from HSBC Mexico, allowing for money laundering, prosecutors said. The bank also violated U.S. economic sanctions against Iran, Libya, Sudan, Burma and Cuba, according to a criminal information filed in the case. The bank, Europe’s largest, agreed to pay a $1.25 billion forfeiture and $665 million in civil penalties under the settlement, prosecutors announced in December. At a hearing the same month, Gleeson told prosecutors there had been “publicized criticism” of the agreement, which lets the bank and management avoid further criminal proceedings over the charges. Lack of proper controls allowed the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico and the Norte del Valle cartel in Colombia to move more than $881 million through HSBC’s U.S. unit from 2006 to 2010, the government alleged in the case. The bank also cut resources for its anti-money-laundering programs to “cut costs and increase profits,” the government said in court filings. Under a deferred prosecution agreement, the U.S. allows a target to avoid charges.
Note: HSBC was founded to service the international drug trade, and is considered too big to criminally prosecute. Big bank settlements often amount to "cash for secrecy" deals that are ultimately profitable for banks. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about financial industry corruption.
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.
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.
Twenty of the world's biggest banks have paid more than $235 billion in fines and compensation in the last seven years for a litany of misdeeds. The scale of the payouts, equivalent to the annual economy of Greece or Portugal, has hampered banks' efforts to rebuild capital, reduced dividends for investors and cut the amount firms are able to lend. The misconduct bill is expected to rise by tens of billions more dollars, and many politicians, regulators and industry observers said more needs to be done. Mark Taylor, dean of the business school at the University of Warwick in central England [says] bonuses are too high, there is little threat of jail for wrongdoers and bosses are not held responsible. "The problem is the incentives for cheating markets is massive. If you can shift a rate fractionally you can make millions and millions of dollars for your bank and then for bonuses. "Once senior executives feel they are personally at risk if the culture doesn't change, and individual traders feel they are at risk of being put in prison, then you'll get a culture change," he said. Despite the scale of fines and compensation paid by banks, relatively few individuals have been punished. Data compiled by Reuters ... showed U.S. banks have paid $140 billion in litigation and compensation for mortgage related issues since 2008. Bank of America has paid out twice as much as any other bank in settlements and compensation, with a bill of almost $80 billion.
Note: Big bank settlements often amount to "cash for secrecy" deals that are ultimately profitable for banks. 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.
Since the 2008 banking crisis led to multibillion-pound bailouts, some bankers have ended up behind bars. However, to many, the list seems short when compared with the $235bn of fines that Reuters calculates have been imposed on 20 major banks in the past seven years for market rigging, sanctions busting, money laundering and mis-selling mortgage bonds in the runup to the 2008 crisis. Robert Jenkins, a former Bank of England policymaker [says] one reason regulators backed away from proceedings against individuals is fear. This dates back to 2002, when accountancy firm Arthur Andersen was convicted of destroying documents related to its audits of Enron. The prosecution was overturned in 2005, too late to save what had been one of the world’s biggest accountants from collapse. There was, Jenkins said, “fear by the US authorities of a banking version of Arthur Andersen at a time of financial fragility”. But he lists other problems, [such as] lobbying by bankers and the naivete of regulators. Jenkins added the banks should ... face the threat of being broken up: “When it comes to the systematic wrongdoing on their watch, either the senior executives knew, did not know or cannot be expected to know. If they knew they are complicit. If they did not know they are incompetent. And if the banks are so large and complex that they cannot be expected to know, then they are a walking argument for breaking up the banks.”
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? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about corruption in government and in the financial industry.
Iceland's government appointed a special prosecutor to investigate its bankers after the world's financial systems were rocked by the discovery of huge debts and widespread poor corporate governance. "This ... sends a strong message that will wake up discussion," special prosecutor Olafur Hauksson told Reuters. "It shows that these financial cases may be hard, but they can also produce results." The country's efforts contrast with the United States and particularly Europe, where though some banks have been fined, few executives have been tried and voters suffering post-crisis austerity conditions feel bankers got off lightly. Iceland struggled initially to appoint a special prosecutor. Hauksson ... was encouraged to put in for the job after the initial advertisement drew no applications. Icelandic lower courts have convicted the chief executives of all three of its largest banks for their responsibility in [the] crisis. They also convicted former chief executives of two other major banks, Glitnir and Landsbanki, for charges ranging from fraud and market manipulation. Many Icelanders have been frustrated that justice has been slow. The prosecutors' office has been hit by budget cuts since it was set up. But Hauksson believes the existing rulings mean there is less chance of similar scandals in the future. "There is some indication that the banks are more cautious," he said. Asked whether he would take the job again ... Hauksson replied, laughing: "Yes. And I'd probably be the only applicant again."
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing financial industry corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Six years ago ... Iceland made the shocking decision to let its banks go bust. Iceland also allowed bankers to be prosecuted as criminals – in contrast to the US and Europe, where ... chief executives escaped punishment. While the UK government nationalised Lloyds and RBS with tax-payers’ money and the US government bought stakes in its key banks, Iceland ... said it would shore up domestic bank accounts. Everyone else was left to fight over the remaining cash. It also imposed capital controls restricting what ordinary people could do with their money. The plan worked. Iceland took a huge financial hit, just like every other country caught in the crisis. This year the International Monetary Fund declared that Iceland had achieved economic recovery 'without compromising its welfare model' of universal healthcare and education. Other measures of progress like the country’s unemployment rate, compare ... well with countries like the US. Rather than maintaining the value of the krona artificially, Iceland chose to accept inflation. This pushed prices higher at home but helped exports abroad – in contrast to many countries in the EU, which are now fighting deflation. This year, Iceland will become the first European country that hit crisis in 2008 to beat its pre-crisis peak of economic output.
Note: Iceland's plan to retake control of its money supply from the banks was labelled "Radical" by mainstream economists. Now we learn that their plan rooted out financial industry corruption and successfully got their economy back on track.
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.
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.
The same insider trading that can land a regular citizen in jail is perfectly legal for members of Congress. Steve Kroft reports on how America's lawmakers can legally make tidy profits on information only they know, simply because they won't pass a law against themselves. Among the revelations in Kroft's report: Members of Congress have bought stock in companies while laws that could affect those companies were being debated in the House or Senate. At least one representative made significant stock purchases the day after he and other members of Congress attended a secret meeting in September 2008, where the Fed chair and the treasury secretary informed them of the imminent global economic meltdown. The meeting was so confidential that cell phones and other digital devices were confiscated before it began. Efforts to make such insider trading off limits to Washington's lawmakers have never been able to get traction. Former Rep. Brian Baird says he spent half of his 12 years in Congress trying to get co-sponsors for a bill that would ban insider trading in Congress and also set some rules up to govern conflicts of interest. In 2004, he and Rep. Louise Slaughter introduced the "Stock Act" to stop the insider trading. How far did they get? "We didn't get anywhere. Just flat died," he tells Kroft.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.