Tag Archives | Finance

On The Lucrative Careers Of Former Politicians

The New York Times on what becomes of our leaders after leaving office: they are showered with wealth by the financial industry. Don’t pity Mitt Romney, as he is likely in for a massive payday in the near future. Likewise, consider this a preview of what is in store for Barack Obama, assuming he’s careful not to piss off Wall Street too badly:

Take Tony Blair, the former British prime minister. In September, Mr. Blair was called to Claridge’s hotel in London to mediate a renegotiation of the proposed acquisition of Xstrata by Glencore, according to British news reports. Mr. Blair, who negotiated peace in Northern Ireland, put his skills to good use, apparently earning himself roughly $1 million for three hours of work.

Remember Dan Quayle? Since 2000, the former vice president has worked at the hedge fund Cerberus Capital Management, where he is now chairman of the advisory board.

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Shadow Banking Industry Now Worth $76 Trillion

Will unregulated, debt-based financial products destroy the world? Bloomberg reports that the funneling of capital into instruments of so-called “shadow banking” continues to balloon to unimaginably large proportions:

The shadow banking industry has grown to about $67 trillion, leading global regulators to seek more oversight of financial transactions that fall outside traditional oversight. The Financial Stability Board, a global financial policy group comprised of regulators and central bankers, found that shadow banking grew by $41 trillion between 2002 and 2011.

The size of the shadow banking system, which includes the activities of money market funds, monoline insurers and off-balance sheet investment vehicles, “can create systemic risks” and “amplify market reactions when market liquidity is scarce,” the FSB said.

Supervisors consider shadow banking activities to be those that allow banks to carry out business off balance sheets, as well as those which allow investors to bypass lenders and the functions they traditionally fulfill on the markets.

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Can Debt Spark A Revolution?

Via the Nation, David Graeber on rebellion against indebtedness:

The rise of [Occupy Wall Street] allowed us to start seeing the system for what it is: an enormous engine of debt extraction. Debt is how the rich extract wealth from the rest of us, at home and abroad. Internally, it has become a matter of manipulating the country’s legal structure to ensure that more and more people fall deeper and deeper into debt.

Financialization, securitization and militarization are all different aspects of the same process. And the endless multiplication, in cities across America, of gleaming bank offices—
spotless stores selling nothing while armed security guards stand by—is just the most immediate and visceral symbol for what we, as a nation, have become.

As I write, roughly three out of four Americans are in some form of debt, and a whopping one in seven is being pursued by debt collectors. There’s no way to know just what percentage of the average household’s income is now directly expropriated by the financial services industry in the form of interest payments, fees and penalties…[data] suggests it is somewhere between 15 and 20 percent.

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What The Bankers Did Next

The U.K.-based Spinwatch has created an eight-minute film on the "private conversations" between government and the banking industry, and the industry's use of lobbying and public relations to attempt to shape consensus reality in the wake of the financial crisis:
‘What The Bankers Did Next…’ takes a look at the government’s close relationship with the finance industry, some of the key players involved, and their efforts to manage public opinion and shut down debate.
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Woman Sues 12 Of The World’s Largest Banks Over Libor Rate Manipulation

In short, the pillars of finance are accused of illegally boosting Libor at the start of each month in order to inflate the interest rates (based on Libor and calculated at the beginning of the month) paid by as many as 100,000 mortgage holders, in what would seem to be the bilking of a pretty immense sum of money, CNBC reports:

A pensioner whose home was repossessed is taking on some of the world’s leading banks in the first known class-action lawsuit claiming that alleged Libor manipulation made mortgage repayments for thousands of Americans more expensive than they should have been. The subprime mortgages of Annie Bell Adams and her four co-lead plaintiffs were securitised into Libor-based collateralised debt obligations and sold by banks to investors.

The class action, filed in New York, alleges that traders at 12 of the biggest banks in Europe and North America – including Barclays, Bank of America and UBS – were incentivised to manipulate the London interbank offered rate to a higher rate on certain dates on which adjustable mortgage interest rates were reset.

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Discover Ordered To Repay $200 Million It Stole From Cardholders

Kudos to Obama’s newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for cracking down on this. In short, Discover’s telemarketers offered customers unnecessary “add-on services” which were implied to be free, and then charged customers’ accounts for said services. In July, Capital One was forced to pay $210 million over the same practice. The Los Angeles Times reports:

More than 3.5 million Discover credit card customers will share $200 million in refunds in the wake of a federal investigation that determined the bank tricked people into signing up for payment protection plans and other add-on services. Regulators said scripts for Discover’s telemarketers “contained misleading language likely to deceive consumers about whether they were actually purchasing a product.”

Consumer advocates said the enforcement actions show that the new consumer bureau is on the job. “Banks have been doing this for years, but we never had a regulator who protected consumers before,” said Ed Mierzwinski, director of the consumer program for the U.S.

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The True Story Of Mitt Romney At Bain Capital

Via Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi explains how what Bain does to the companies it takes over pretty much mirrors what Romney has in mind for America:

In Romney’s version of the tale, Bain Capital – which evolved into what is today known as a private equity firm – specialized in turning around moribund companies (Romney even wrote a book called Turnaround that complements his other nauseatingly self-complimentary book, No Apology) and helped create the Staples office-supply chain.

The reality is that toward the middle of his career at Bain, Romney made a fateful strategic decision: He moved away from creating companies like Staples through venture capital schemes, and toward a business model that involved borrowing huge sums of money to take over existing firms, then extracting value from them by force.

Here’s how Romney would go about “liberating” a company: A private equity firm like Bain typically seeks out floundering businesses with good cash flows.

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A Thousand Pages Of Romney’s Confidential Bain Documents Leaked

Gawker has obtained a vast cache of information on Mitt Romney’s finances, much of it involving the labyrinthine stashing of enormous sums of money in offshore hedge funds:

Today, we are publishing more than 950 pages of internal audits, financial statements, and private investor letters for 21 cryptically named entities in which Romney had invested—at minimum—more than $10 million as of 2011 (that number is based on the low end of ranges he has disclosed—the true number is almost certainly significantly higher).

Almost all of them are affiliated with Bain Capital, the secretive private equity firm Romney co-founded in 1984 and ran until his departure in 1999 (or 2002, depending on whom you ask). Many of them are offshore funds based in the Cayman Islands.

Together, they reveal the mind-numbing, maze-like, and deeply opaque complexity with which Romney has handled his wealth, the exotic tax-avoidance schemes available only to the preposterously wealthy that benefit him, the unlikely (for a right-wing religious Mormon) places that his money has ended up, and the deeply hypocritical distance between his own criticisms of Obama’s fiscal approach and his money managers’ embrace of those same policies.

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Iran Sentences Banker Criminals To Death Penalty

Perhaps this is one instance in which we could learn something from Ahmadinejad and company? Via the BBC:

Four people have been sentenced to death for their roles in Iran’s biggest-ever bank fraud scandal. Two other defendants received life sentences, while 33 more will spend up to 25 years in jail, the chief prosecutor was quoted as saying. The scandal involved forged documents reportedly used by an investment company to secure loans worth $2.6bn.

The case broke in September 2011 when an investment firm was accused of forging documents to obtain credit from at least seven Iranian banks over a four-year period. The money was reportedly used to buy state-owned companies under the government’s privatisation scheme.

As part of their probe, authorities froze the assets of an Iranian businessman thought to be the mastermind behind the scam. The BBC’s Sebastian Usher said the firm at the heart of the scandal had moved from a small start-up capital to being worth billions of dollars.

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Iceland Jails Bankers, Erases Citizens’ Debt, Recovers Strongly

 Seriously, the most advanced place on Earth. Bloomberg writes:

Icelanders who pelted parliament with rocks in 2009 demanding their leaders and bankers answer for the country’s economic and financial collapse are reaping the benefits of their anger.

Since the end of 2008, the island’s banks have forgiven loans equivalent to 13 percent of gross domestic product, easing the debt burdens of more than a quarter of the population.

The island’s steps to resurrect itself since 2008, when its banks defaulted on $85 billion, are proving effective. Iceland’s economy will this year outgrow the euro area and the developed world on average, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates.

Iceland’s approach to dealing with the meltdown has put the needs of its population ahead of the markets at every turn. Once it became clear back in October 2008 that the island’s banks were beyond saving, the government stepped in, ring-fenced the domestic accounts, and left international creditors in the lurch.

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