Connect The Dots

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

William Ibarra was pleasantly surprised to learn that the taxes he pays at his small Miami charter flight company would be slashed by thousands of dollars, after the Legislature last week passed a slew of business tax cuts.

Frank Stronach, a billionaire horse breeder whose Gulfstream Park racino has a team of nine lobbyists in Tallahassee, could save millions. He is likely to benefit from corporate tax cuts for his businesses and a $1.2 million tax break carved out specifically for a slaughterhouse he is building near Ocala.

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Getting what should be public information about major Wall Street firms can be maddeningly difficult.

Bloomberg News discovered this in its ultimately successful effort to get information on the $1.2 trillion in “secret loans” the Fed doled out during the financial crisis. And I’ve had no small experience of it myself. 

As I started each of my three books -- about Lazard Freres, Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) -- I submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to the appropriate government agencies (the Securities Exchange Commission, the State Department and the Federal Reserve) to obtain whatever documents, memos and e-mails they had about these companies and their senior executives.

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Five wealthy people, led by Dallas industrialist Harold Simmons and Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, have donated nearly $1 of every $4 flowing to the super PACs raising unlimited money in this year's presidential race, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

Those donations have helped new Republican-leaning outside groups swamp Democratic-friendly super PACs in fundraising — money that is used largely for attack ads. The large sums also have rejuvenated the underfunded campaigns of principal challengers to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in the race for the Repulican nomination.

Monday, March 12th, 2012

The latest in the long and continuing scam/scandal story brought to us by the banks is how they are not allowing third party purchasers to take title to foreclosed properties at the public foreclosure auctions.  The expressed purpose of every foreclosure case is to divest the current property owner of title, and get that property back out into the marketplace.  The most efficient way to determine the true value of an asset is to have  a public auction.

Our state’s entire foreclosure court system is set up with these public/private goals in mind.  The entire force of our state law and our national policy is distilled into the public foreclosure auction but this entire system is being abused and manipulated by hidden and shadowy forces.  There is something very much amiss in these foreclosure sales when, as in the case of Sarasota County, there are 342 public sales scheduled and only 46 of the homes are put out into the marketplace to third party bidders.

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Financial regulators have built an elaborate computer apparatus to scan stock markets for signs of insider trading, but the radar isn’t pointed at Congress.

Instead, it is designed to detect more conventional forms of insider trading — a corporate lawyer acting on advance word of a merger or an accountant leaking details about a company’s earnings. A senator who calls his broker after receiving a closed-door briefing might not even raise a blip.

That’s because the radar was built for the brokerage industry to spot the kind of abuses that were historically of concern: trading on inside information related to developments in the private sector. The apparatus is run by an industry self-policing group, which notifies the Securities and Exchange Commission of suspicious activity.

Monday, March 5th, 2012

The Federal Reserve gave just five banks the chance to bid on $6.2 billion in taxpayer-owned AIG assets before selling them to Goldman Sachs on Wednesday.

The Fed allowed Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Credit Suisse, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and Morgan Stanley to participate in the auction, according to a New York Fed statement. Reports of the auction leaked just days before the Federal Reserve announced the sale.

Some investors told Bloomberg News that the Fed's decision to keep the auction secret was unfair to both investors and taxpayers. They said that if the bank had allowed the free market to set the price for the assets, the sale would have earned taxpayers more money.

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

When Washington puts policy on the auction block, bankers are consistently the highest bidders.

The industry's most striking victory has been the watering down of post-financial crisis reforms, to the point that banks are now bigger than ever and the bonuses keep flowing. But Wall Street's campaign spending and lobbying power is so intimidating that banks have repeatedly stuck the public with the tab for their losses and no one in Washington stops them.

Why hasn't the government done something about outrageous ATM fees? Or credit card interest rates up to 30 percent? Bankers' clout is such that common-sense pro-consumer legislation is presumptively dead on arrival at Capitol Hill if it threatens banks' revenue streams.

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Some members of Congress send tax dollars to companies, colleges and community groups where their spouses, children and parents work as salaried employees, lobbyists or board members, according to an examination of federal disclosure forms and local public records by The Washington Post.

A U.S. senator from South Dakota helped add millions to a Pentagon program his wife evaluated as a contract employee. A Washington congressman boosted the budget of an environmental group that his son ran as executive director. A Texas congresswoman guided millions to a university where her husband served as a vice president.

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

A tiny number of wealthy Americans are playing an ever-increasing role in financing our politics. This is not a good thing for a democracy.

Last week, the Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to making government “transparent and accountable,” issued a report, which said:

Participate In, Organize and/or Promote An Occupy Our Homes, Occupy Our Communities Rally:

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

WASHINGTON — Four House lawmakers received VIP discounted loans from the former Countrywide Financial Corp., the lender whose subprime mortgages was largely responsible for the nation's foreclosure crisis, according to congressional investigators.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, declined to name the four but has told the House Ethics Committee that it should investigate the lawmakers.

‘Free’ And Simple Tools For Planning, Organizing, Volunteering And Communicating About Your 'In Support Of Homeowner' Gatherings, Rallys and Events:

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

The year-end housing news is sobering -- U.S. homes are expected to lose more than $681 billion in value in 2011. But there's an upside -- that's 35% less than the $1.1 trillion lost in 2010, according to new research from Zillow (Z), a real estate information marketplace.

Who were the biggest losers? Big cities with lots of housing, like Los Angeles, down $75.5 billion, New York ($44.8 billion), and Chicago ($41.7 billion). Overall, more than 90% of markets lost value.

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Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Some of the biggest companies in the United States have been firing workers and in some cases lobbying for rules that depress wages at the very time that jobs are needed, pay is low, and the federal budget suffers from a lack of revenue.

Last month Citizens for Tax Justice and an affiliate issued “Corporate Taxpayers and Corporate Tax Dodgers 2008-10″. It showed that 30 brand-name companies paid a federal income tax rate of minus 6.7 percent on $160 billion of profit from 2008 through 2010 compared to a going corporate tax rate of 35 percent. All but one of those 30 companies reported lobbying expenses in Washington.

‘Free’ And Simple Tools For Planning, Organizing, Volunteering And Communicating About Your 'In Support Of Homeowner' Gatherings, Rallys and Events:

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

The Federal Reserve and the big banks fought for more than two years to keep details of the largest bailout in U.S. history a secret. Now, the rest of the world can see what it was missing.

The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue.

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

WASHINGTON, Nov 17 (Reuters) - While presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich was forced to defend his lucrative former role with Freddie Mac this week, the mortgage giant and its larger cousin Fannie Mae had a roster of Washington heavyweights on their payroll for years, many of them Democrats.

The two entities spent over $170 million on political and lobbying operations in a 10-year period leading up to the financial crisis of 2008 when both were seized by the government as they teetered on the brink of failure, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

‘Free’ And Simple Tools For Planning, Organizing, Volunteering And Communicating About Your 'In Support Of Homeowner' Gatherings, Rallys and Events:

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Compare this court decision to the fraud settlements on Wall Street. Like McLemore, fraud defendants like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Deutsche Bank have "been the beneficiary of government generosity." Goldman got $12.9 billion just through the AIG bailout. Citigroup got $45 billion, plus hundreds of billions in government guarantees.

All of these companies have been repeatedly dragged into court for fraud, and not one individual defendant has ever been forced to give back anything like a significant portion of his ill-gotten gains.

Anita McLemore, meanwhile, lied to feed her children, gave back every penny of her "fraud" when she got caught, and is now going to do three years in prison. Explain that, Eric Holder!
Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

General Electric, one of the largest corporations in America, filed a whopping 57,000-page federal tax return earlier this year but didn't pay taxes on $14 billion in profits. The return, which was filed electronically, would have been 19 feet high if printed out and stacked.

The fact that GE paid no taxes in 2010 was widely reported earlier this year, but the size of its tax return first came to light when House budget committee chairman Paul Ryan (R, Wisc.) made the case for corporate tax reform at a recent townhall meeting. "GE was able to utilize all of these various loopholes, all of these various deductions--it's legal," Ryan said. Nine billion dollars of GE's profits came overseas, outside the jurisdiction of U.S. tax law. GE wasn't taxed on $5 billion in U.S. profits because it utilized numerous deductions and tax credits, including tax breaks for investments in low-income housing, green energy, research and development, as well as depreciation of property.

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

The Nevada attorney general calls signing another person's name on documents used to repossess a home "forgery" and a "scheme."

Michigan's attorney general launched a criminal investigation that includes whether "falsified signatures" were used in foreclosure cases.

But Theresa Edwards and June Clarkson were forced to resign their jobs as foreclosure fraud investigators for the Florida Attorney General's Office, in part, for referring to so-called "surrogate signing" as forgery.

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

The usual stereotype of corruption on the US state level is that, depending on the day, Louisiana or Mississippi tops the list. But the cesspool created by the widening foreclosure crisis in Florida puts anything in kudzu-land to shame.

The object lesson is a statement issued by the Florida Office of the Inspector Generalconcerning its decision not to investigate the firing (or more accurately, resignation under duress) of two lawyers in the attorneys general’s office, June Clarkson and Theresa Edwards, who believe they were canned for political reasons, namely, for being too aggressive in investigating foreclosure abuses. Note that these firings came shortly after they received exemplary performance reviews.

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Thursday, January 12th, 2012

David Johnson: Republic, Lost is about institutional corruption in Congress. In reading it, one impression I had is that it’s about so much more than just Congress. It’s really about our society. There are so many institutions that are suffering from the same corruption from moneyed interests.

Lawrence Lessig: Yes, and that’s not an accident. I run the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard; we have launched a five-year research project focusing on institutional corruption generally. So this problem I describe in the context of Congress is just a particular instance of a more general dynamic in accounting, financial services, healthcare, academics, the media—

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Imagine a vast field on which a terrible battle has recently been fought, the bare ground cratered by fusillade after fusillade of heavy artillery, trees reduced to blackened stumps, wisps of toxic gas hanging in the gray, and corpses everywhere.

A terrible scene, made worse by the sound of distant laughter, because somehow, on the heights commanding the dead zone, the officers’ club has made it through intact. From its balconies flutter bunting, and across the blasted landscape there comes a chorus of hearty male voices in counterpoint to the wheedling of cadres of wheel-greasers, the click of betting chips, ...

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