Category Archives: Financial Crisis

Nomi Prins: Dodd-Frank Turns Four and Nothing Fundamental has Changed

Editor’s Note: Nomi Prins is a former managing director at Goldman Sachs and a former senior managing director at Bear Stearns. You can read an abridged version of her remarks at her website. I would HIGHLY recommend reading her new book “All The Presidents’ Bankers“, one of the best works on the history of America’s financial elite that has ever been written. She is also author of “It Takes A Pillage” and the novel “Black Tuesday“.

America’s Moaning Moguls: Why Are the Super-Rich So Angry?

James Surowiecki writes for The New Yorker:

‘[...] Although the Obama years have been boom times for America’s super-rich—recent work by the economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty showed that ninety-five per cent of income gains in the first three years of the recovery went to the top one per cent—a lot of them believe that they’re a persecuted minority. As Mark Mizruchi, a sociologist at the University of Michigan and the author of a book called “The Fracturing of the American Corporate Elite,” told me, “These guys think, We’re the job creators, we keep the markets running, and yet the public doesn’t like us. How can that be?” Business leaders were upset at the criticism that followed the financial crisis and, for many of them, it’s an article of faith that people succeed or fail because that’s what they deserve. Schwarzman recently said that Americans “always like to blame somebody other than themselves for a failure.” If you believe that net worth is a reflection of merit, then any attempt to curb inequality looks unfair.

That’s not how it’s always been. A century ago, industrial magnates played a central role in the Progressive movement, working with unions, supporting workmen’s compensation laws and laws against child labor, and often pushing for more government regulation. This wasn’t altruism; as a classic analysis by the historian James Weinstein showed, the reforms were intended to co-opt public pressure and avert more radical measures. Still, they materially improved the lives of ordinary workers. And they sprang from a pragmatic belief that the robustness of capitalism as a whole depended on wide distribution of the fruits of the system.’

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Jim Rickards: BRICS Development Bank A Significant Step Away From The Dollar

Americans Have Spent Enough Money On A Broken Plane To Buy Every Homeless Person A Mansion

Hayes Brown reports for Think Progress:

An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in its natural habitat: on the ground‘Just days before its international debut at an airshow in the United Kingdom, the entire fleet of the Pentagon’s next generation fighter plane — known as the F-35 II Lightning, or the Joint Strike Fighter — has been grounded, highlighting just what a boondoggle the project has been. With the vast amounts spent so far on the aircraft, the United States could have worked wonders, including providing every homeless person in the U.S. a $600,000 home.

It’s hard to argue against the need to modernize aircraft used to defend the country and counter enemies overseas, especially if you’re a politician. But the Joint Strike Fighter program has been a mess almost since its inception, with massive cost overruns leading to its current acquisition price-tag of $398.6 billion — an increase of $7.4 billion since last year. That breaks down to costing about $49 billion per year since work began in 2006 and the project is seven years behind schedule. Over its life-cycle, estimated at about 55 years, operating and maintaining the F-35 fleet will cost the U.S. a little over $1 trillion. By contrast, the entirety of the Manhattan Project — which created the nuclear bomb from scratch — cost about $55 billion in today’s dollars.’

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Call for curbs as UK executive pay reaches 180 times average wage

From AFP:

‘The government on Monday faced a call to impose legal caps on executive salaries after a study found top pay in Britain has reached 180 times average wages. The High Pay Centre said that since the late 1990s executive pay has grown from 60 times that of the average British worker to nearly 180 times.

It wants the government to consider requiring companies to cap executive pay at a fixed multiple of their lowest-paid employee. Last year the government gave shareholders the power to vote down executive pay policy at company AGMs if they thought the proposed pay package was too large.

So far, however, every vote at a FTSE 100 company has seen a majority of shareholders support the company policy on top pay, the Centre said. Last year pay received by the average FTSE 100 chief executive increased to £4.7 million, up from £4.1 million in 2012, it said.’

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Britain’s economy forecast to stay on global A-list

Phillip Inman reports for the Guardian:

Canary Wharf Skyline ‘Forecasters have good news for those fearing that Britain faces a long, slow decline into economic mediocrity: the UK will still stand tall among the world’s biggest economies in 2030, having overtaken France and even made progress on closing the gap with Germany.

Only India will leapfrog the UK on the rich list of nations, according to the report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), as the previously fast-growing countries Russia and Brazil struggle to make ground on the global league table.

According to the report, the youthful vigour of the UK economy, with its high birthrate and flexible labour market, will contrast markedly with the ageing populations of mainland Europe. Ignoring the potential for Scotland to spoil the party by voting to separate in September, the report forecasts that Britain will remain “a significant member of the global economic A-list”.’

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Food bank Britain: can MPs agree on the causes of poverty in the UK?

Amelia Gentleman writes for the Guardian:

“We have found that welfare reforms play a huge part in this,” Reverend Alan Dickinson from the North Tyneside food bank told 60 food bank managers and charity workers gathered in a church hall in South Shields yesterday afternoon.

A group of MPs from the all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty listened for two hours as food bank staff described why people in the area around Newcastle were increasingly demanding their help.

The MPs, both Labour and Conservative, making a rare joint excursion from Westminster, were trying to shed light on one of the most contentious issues of the coalition administration: why is it that use of food banks has exploded in the past four years, and how extensive is food poverty across the country?’

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More banking scandals to come, admits Treasury Minister

Andrew Grice reports for The Independent:

‘More scandals in the financial sector are in the pipeline, the Treasury Minister responsible for the City of London has admitted. Andrea Leadsom, who previously worked in banking and finance for 25 years, warned that there were more “cringeworthy announcements” to come and that there was “still a lot of baggage” in the financial industry.

Ms Leadsom, who held senior roles at Barclays and Invesco Perpetual before becoming an MP, told the parliamentary magazineThe House there was still a long way to go change the City’s culture. Asked whether it is learning the lessons of the financial crisis, she replied: “I would say that at the top echelons of the banks, absolutely. But I think there’s quite a long way to go to really change the culture. I think it did become very transaction-oriented and I think it will take time to recover that. I think we are still going to see a lot of cringeworthy announcements.” She admitted that when she heard about the Libor interbank lending rate scandal, she thought: “Well, if Libor is rigged, then what wasn’t rigged?”’

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BNP Paribas Case: An Example of How Mighty the Dollar Is

Neil Irwin writes for The New York Times:

‘Even if you are a bank as gigantic as BNP Paribas, $9 billion is a lot of money. Shareholders of the French bank know that all too well, as that is what they are paying in penalties to the United States for a conspiracy to allow money transfers to Sudan and other blacklisted nations.

The case is remarkable for the size of the penalty, which is a bit more than the bank’s total earnings for 2013. But it may be more interesting for the lesson it teaches about how the United States’ financial power goes hand in hand with its role in foreign affairs.

In short: The dollar is the global reserve currency, the bedrock of the world financial system. And that role gives the United States surprising power over what happens in the world even in spheres that would have little to do with finance.’

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BNP Paribas Fine Shows Financial Crime Still Pays Big Time: Interview with Bill Black

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon says he has ‘curable’ throat cancer

From CNBC:

Jamie Dimon, American Flag‘JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon told his employees that he has ‘curable’ throat cancer.  In a note to staff, Dimon said, “The good news is that the prognosis from my doctors is excellent, the cancer was caught quickly, and my condition is curable.”

JPMorgan’s board of directors has been briefed on his condition, which will likely call for about eight weeks of radiation and chemotherapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City, according to the note. “I feel very good now and will let all of you know if my health situation changes,” Dimon’s note said.’

UK needs four-day week to combat stress, says top doctor

Editor’s Note: Abby Martin recently discussed America’s obsession with working and how it is destroying their health and family life. Below the video you can also find links to other related information including a great article on “bullshit jobs“.

Denis Campbell writes for the Guardian:

Professor John Ashton said a four-day week could help ease mental and physical health problems‘One of Britain’s leading doctors has called for the country to switch to a four-day week to help combat high levels of work-related stress, let people spend more time with their families or exercising, and reduce unemployment. Bringing the standard working week down from five to four days would also help address medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and the mental ill-health associated with overwork or lack of work, Prof John Ashton said.

The president of the UK Faculty of Public Health said the five-day week should be phased out to end what he called “a maldistribution of work” that is damaging many people’s health. “When you look at the way we lead our lives, the stress that people are under, the pressure on time and sickness absence, [work-related] mental health is clearly a major issue. We should be moving towards a four-day week because the problem we have in the world of work is you’ve got a proportion of the population who are working too hard and a proportion that haven’t got jobs”, Ashton said. “We’ve got a maldistribution of work. The lunch-hour has gone; people just have a sandwich at their desk and carry on working,” added the leader of the UK’s 3,300 public-health experts working in the NHS, local government and academia.’

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TTIP: Leaked document shows EU is going for a trade deal that will weaken financial regulation

From Corporate Europe Observatory:

EU Trade Commissioner de Gucht at the New York Stock Exchange. The Commission has teamed up with the financial sector in the EU and US to make financial regulation part of trade negotiations. ‘If the EU has its way, a final agreement between the EU and the US to establish a free trade and investment agreement the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will weaken regulation and raise obstacles to much needed reform of the financial sector. That is the conclusion after the leak of an EU proposal for so-called “regulatory cooperation” on financial regulation tabled by the EU in March 2014. Regulatory cooperation is a continuous process of ironing out disagreements and differences between the two Parties to ensure agreement on what constitutes legitimate regulation  – which in this case, would serve the interests of the financial industry. In the document, the EU suggests a number of mechanisms that will both scale back existing regulation, and prevent future regulation that might contradict the interests of financial corporations from both sides of the Atlantic. The leak follows news that EU negotiators have increased political pressure on the US to accept negotiations on “financial regulatory cooperation”, which the US negotiators have so far refused.

The document shows that the EU is prioritising the protection of the EU’s banking sector over strict financial regulation and supervision: these so-called “regulatory cooperation” proposals would guarantee that the financial sector is not harmed by measures taken by regulators, would allow EU banks to operate in the US on the EU’s (generally laxer) rules, and in general that financial corporations on one side of the Atlantic do not have to abide by host country’s laws but only by home country laws on the other side of the Atlantic. The implications for decision-making on financial reforms and control over the financial sector are serious.’

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Pope Francis condemns the West’s declining moral standards

Tom Kington reports for The Telegraph:

The Pope’s half-joking reference was part of a message about everybody having the right to be baptised‘Pope Francis has condemned the “moral decay” of the city of Rome, citing the child prostitutes that ply their trade and the busy soup kitchens of the Italian capital. In a broadside against declining moral standards in the West, the Pontiff cited the darker sides of the streets of his adopted home as an example of modern society’s failings.

Despite it being the home of the Vatican, Pope Francis said, “The Eternal City, which should be a beacon to the world, is a mirror of the moral decay of society.” In a wide-ranging interview with Rome daily Il Messaggero, he also lashed out at political corruption, joblessness and Europe’s low birth rates. He claimed that many Europeans found it easier to own pets than raise children.’

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Ha-Joon Chang: Trickle-down economics doesn’t work…

Noam Chomsky on Social Darwinism

How America’s Work Obsession is Killing Our Quality of Life

Abby Martin discusses President Obama’s criticism of US maternity leave policy and goes over how the US stacks up against other countries when it comes to this issue.’ (Breaking the Set)

Stop being surprised by corruption and start being prepared for it

‘When Snowden revealed our government spies on us, when we learned that Clinton lied to us about that girl, or that Nixon lied about being corrupt, we were shocked. What are we, babies playing peek-a-boo, falling for the same stupid trick? Our history is littered with lies and corruption from the establishment, starting from the dawn of our society. But instead of absorbing that knowledge into our collective consciousness and strengthening our collective bullshit meter, we all just scream and despair and tweet our shock. People! Every time The Man gets in front of a podium to tell you something, he’s lying. He will spy on you and cheat you and do anything he can to stay as rich and powerful as possible. The sooner we start learning from our history, the sooner we’ll be a hell of a lot harder to fool, and the better our chance will be at breaking the cycle. Our inability to get that is the most shocking thing of all.’ (The Resident)

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats

0.01%er and early Amazon investor Nick Hanauer writes for Politico:

‘I see pitchforks.

At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.

But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last. If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.’

READ MORE @ POLITICO…

Chinese Multimillionaire Dupes New York’s Homeless

Five things they don’t tell you about economics

 

China plans investment bank to break World Bank dominance

RT reports:

‘China is moving forward with a plan to create its own version of the World Bank, which will rival institutions that are under the sway of the US and the West. The bank will start with $100 billion in capital. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will extend China’s financial reach and compete not only with the World Bank, but also with the Asian Development Bank, which is heavily dominated by Japan. The $100 billion in capital is double that originally proposed, the Financial Times (FT) reported.

A member of the World Bank, China has less voting power than countries like the US, Japan, and the UK. It is in the ‘Category II’ voting bloc, giving it less of a voice. In the Asian Development Bank, China only holds a 5.5 percent share, compared to America’s 15.7 percent share and Japan’s 15.6 share. At the International Monetary Fund, China pays a 4 percent quota, whereas the US pays nearly 18 percent, and therefore has more influence within the organization and where loans go. “China feels it can’t get anything done in the World Bank or the IMF so it wants to set up its own World Bank that it can control itself,” the FT quoted a source close to discussions as saying.’

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Consume, Conform, Obey: What Homeland Security’s Targeting Of Anti-Consumerist Activities Says About The Government’s Desires

Tim Cushing writes for Techdirt:

‘At some point in time, the DHS and members of its Joint Terrorism Task Force must have viewed John Carpenter’s cult classic “They Live” and saw in it a blueprint for future actions. If you’re not familiar with the premise, an average guy construction worker is given a pair of sunglasses that reveal the world for what it actually is — controlled by aliens who pacify the populace by subliminally pushing them to obey, conform and consume.

Remember a few weeks back when we discussed the DHS Fusion Centers’ use of powerful investigative tools like Twitter searches and The Google to investigate such harmful Occupy Wall Street-related activities like not participating in Black Friday sales or cutting up people’s credit cards (at their request). Anti-consumerist is anti-government, apparently. It makes for a great conspiracy theory — one that implies the government is actually run by corporations.

It doesn’t seem to be much of a “theory,” though.’

READ MORE @ TECHDIRT…

Ex-CIA spy: The open source revolution is coming and it will conquer the 1%

Nafeez Ahmed writes for The Guardian:

Robert David Steele‘Robert David Steele, former Marine, CIA case officer, and US co-founder of the US Marine Corps intelligence activity, is a man on a mission. But it’s a mission that frightens the US intelligence establishment to its core. With 18 years experience working across the US intelligence community, followed by 20 more years in commercial intelligence and training, Steele’s exemplary career has spanned almost all areas of both the clandestine world.  Steele started off as a Marine Corps infantry and intelligence officer. After four years on active duty, he joined the CIA for about a decade before co-founding the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, where he was deputy director. Widely recognised as the leader of the Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) paradigm, Steele went on to write the handbooks on OSINT for NATO, the US Defense Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Special Operations Forces. In passing, he personally trained 7,500 officers from over 66 countries.

In 1992, despite opposition from the CIA, he obtained Marine Corps permission to organise a landmark international conference on open source intelligence – the paradigm of deriving information to support policy decisions not through secret activities, but from open public sources available to all. The conference was such a success it brought in over 620 attendees from the intelligence world. But the CIA wasn’t happy, and ensured that Steele was prohibited from running a second conference. The clash prompted him to resign from his position as second-ranking civilian in Marine Corps intelligence, and pursue the open source paradigm elsewhere. He went on to found and head up the Open Source Solutions Network Inc. and later the non-profit Earth Intelligence Network which runs the Public Intelligence Blog.’

READ MORE @ THE GUARDIAN…

Nomi Prins Interviewed on the Keiser Report

Editor’s Note: Nomi Prins is a former managing director at Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs. Her new book is called ‘All The President’s Bankers‘. The interview begins at 12:39.

Dublin ‘could soon become Europe’s homeless capital’

From the Irish Examiner:

‘A homeless charity said it recorded the highest ever rough sleeper count on the streets of Dublin last night. Inner City Helping Homeless said 154 were sleeping rough on the city’s streets.  These numbers were recorded by four ICHH outreach teams covering both north and south inner areas last night. The group has called on the Government to take action to deal with the crisis.’

READ MORE @ THE IRISH EXAMINER…

Tens of thousands march in London against coalition’s austerity measures

Kevin Rawlinson reports for The Guardian:

Russell Brand‘Tens of thousands of people marched through central London on Saturday afternoon in protest at austerity measures introduced by the coalition government. The demonstrators gathered before the Houses of Parliament, where they were addressed by speakers, including comedians Russell Brand and Mark Steel. An estimated 50,000 people marched from the BBC’s New Broadcasting House in central London to Westminster.

“The people of this building [the House of Commons] generally speaking do not represent us, they represent their friends in big business. It’s time for us to take back our power,” said Brand. “This will be a peaceful, effortless, joyful revolution and I’m very grateful to be involved in the People’s Assembly.” “Power isn’t there, it is here, within us,” he added. “The revolution that’s required isn’t a revolution of radical ideas, but the implementation of ideas we already have.” A spokesman for the People’s Assembly, which organised the march, said the turnout was “testament to the level of anger there is at the moment”.’

READ MORE @ THE GUARDIAN…

Poverty hits twice as many British households as 30 years ago

Steven Morris reports for The Guardian:

A pensioner sits with an electric heater, Conwy, Wales‘The number of British households falling below minimum living standards has more than doubled in the past 30 years, despite the size of the economy increasing twofold, a study on poverty and deprivation in the UK claims . According to the study, 33% of households endure below-par living standards – defined as going without three or more “basic necessities of life”, such as being able to adequately feed and clothe themselves and their children, and to heat and insure their homes. In the early 1980s, the comparable figure was 14%.

The research, billed as the most detailed study ever of poverty in the UK, claims that almost 18 million Britons live in inadequate housing conditions and that 12 million are too poor to take part in all the basic social activities – such as entertaining friends or attending all the family occasions they would wish to. It suggests that one in three people cannot afford to heat their homes properly, while 4 million adults and children are not able to eat healthily.’

READ MORE @ THE GUARDIAN…

Global super-rich on the march as personal fortunes swell

Rupert Neate reports for The Guardian:

‘More than 1.76 million people joined the ranks of the global super-rich last year as stock-market gains and soaring property prices swelled personal fortunes worldwide. A record 13.7 million people are now classed as “high net worth individuals” (HNWI), according to a survey of the planet’s most well-off citizens.

The collective wealth of HNWIs – defined as those with investable assets of at least $1m (£590,000) not including their main home, their art collection or vintage sports cars – rose by 13.8% to $52.6tn. The latest wealth report by consultancy firm Capgemini and the wealth management arm of banking group RBC found that almost 40% of those fortunes were created in the last five years. In Britain, more than 62,000 people became HNWIs last year, bringing their numbers to a record high of 527,000 – or one in every 121 of the population.’

READ MORE @ THE GUARDIAN…

U.S. Supreme Court Preserves Power of Finance Over Argentina: Interview with Bill Black