Category Archives: Banking/Finance

Bilderberg Conference: Attendees Dodge the Press as Secretive Meeting Ends

Charlie Skelton reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Bilderberg 2017[…] To the heads of Ryanair, Bayer, AXA, Fiat Chrysler, Airbus, Lazard and Google, “useful” is not a vague or fuzzy term. It means “financially worthwhile”. Something they value enough to clear time in their diaries, to get on a long-haul flight, to risk having to make small talk with George Osborne over cocktails.

If you want to know why Michael O’Leary would want to join the steering committee of this annual, under-the-radar political summit, the answer lies in the nature of the beast. Bilderberg is plugged into the very highest levels of high finance and intelligence. There were two ex-CIA chiefs at this year’s conference: Gen David Petraeus and John Brennan, both of whom now work in the private sector. There was the current US national security adviser, HR McMaster, and a former director of MI6, Sir John Sawers, who now sits on the board of BP.

At its deepest level, the group is dominated by transnational finance and big business. The conference chairman is a director of HSBC, the newly appointed treasurer is the head of Deutsche Bank, and the administrative body is run by a senior adviser to Goldman Sachs.

The relationship between Bilderberg and Goldman Sachs runs deep. This year’s conference featured senior figures from the bank; the annual returns of American Friends of Bilderberg, a tax-exempt group, show it registered to the address of a Goldman Sachs board member, James A Johnson. Its sister organisation, the UK-based Bilderberg Association, is heavily funded by Goldman Sachs and registered to the business address of Simon Robertson, former managing director of the bank’s London operation, Goldman Sachs International.

The current chairman of Goldman Sachs International, José Manuel Barroso, sits on the Bilderberg steering committee, alongside the chairman of the bank’s International Advisory Board, Robert Zoellick. In other words, if Goldman Sachs is the “vampire squid” that Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi said it was, Bilderberg is its brain: doing the deep thinking, inviting historians and futurists’ perspectives, trying to work out where the world is going, doing its best to make sure everything stays more or less on course.

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Goldman Sachs Bails Out Maduro

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

Who says two amoral and corrupt institutions with diametrically opposing ideologies can’t collaborate to sink even lower together?

Goldman Sachs, infamous investment bank and symbol of international predatory capitalism, has made a devil’s bargain with Nicolás Maduro, the infamous left-wing dictator of Venezuela who claims to despise companies just like Goldman. As Forbes writes:

“What happened is that the Venezuelan Treasury owned some bonds issued by PDVSA, the national oil company. They sold those bonds to Goldman Sachs at a serious discount to face value.”

Maduro’s authoritarian government has been rocked by protests this spring thanks to widespread economic and political devastation. (Maduro blames his country’s problems on an “economic war” waged by Washington.) The most shocking statistic is that 75 percent of Venezuelans are said to have lost at least 19 pounds from food shortages.

The Goldman deal was a win-win for the bank and the dictator. Goldman bought $2.8 billion worth of oil bonds for 32 cents on the dollar, according to the Times of London. Maduro’s regime, in return, immediately gets to stock its coffers with about $865 million.

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Why Trumponomics Won’t Make America Great Again

The Economist reports:

Donald Trump rules over Washington as if he were a king and the White House his court. His displays of dominance, his need to be the centre of attention and his impetuousness have a whiff of Henry VIII about them. Fortified by his belief that his extraordinary route to power is proof of the collective mediocrity of Congress, the bureaucracy and the media, he attacks any person and any idea standing in his way.

Just how much trouble that can cause was on sensational display this week, with his sacking of James Comey—only the second director of the FBI to have been kicked out. Mr Comey has made mistakes and Mr Trump was within his rights. But the president has succeeded only in drawing attention to questions about his links to Russia and his contempt for the norms designed to hold would-be kings in check.

Just as dangerous, and no less important to ordinary Americans, however, is Mr Trump’s plan for the economy. It treats orthodoxy, accuracy and consistency as if they were simply to be negotiated away in a series of earth-shattering deals. Although Trumponomics could stoke a mini-boom, it, too, poses dangers to America and the world.

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Claims and Counterclaims Over ‘Dark Money’ Trail Leading from HSBC to the Tories

RT reports:

Image result for hsbc tories[…] An investigation by BuzzFeed News, which analyzed IPGL’s public records casts doubt on the alleged scandal.

BuzzFeed says one part of The Canary’s story is correct: Electoral Commission records show IPGL donated a total of £4.3 million in cash, prizes and other contributions to the Tories and its MPs.

While IPGL did borrow from HSBC, as The Canary says, the company paid the loan back, rather than drawing more. By the time the company filed its 2008 accounts it had reduced total borrowing from £352 million to £250 million, and by February 2010 it had paid back more than £80 million of its HSBC loan, Buzzfeed says.

“[All the charges being paid back] is absolutely crucial with regard to the allegations being made about HSBC and the company: The Canary’s theory relies on the loans from HSBC to IPGL being unusual – they weren’t – and on the loans not being repaid. Neither of these things is true.”

BuzzFeed adds that IPGL has made profits in the years since 2010, meaning the company generates enough money on its own to donate as it wishes.

That does not mean the money from the HSBC loan was used for a donation, Buzzfeed says, but neither The Canary nor Mullin have offered any evidence for collusion between IPGL and HSBC.

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Obama’s $400,000 Speaking Fees Reveal What Few Want to Admit

Steven W. Thrasher writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Barack Obama wall streetThe reason many of us have been critical of Barack Obama’s outrageous $400,000 speaking fee is that it robs us of a fantasy: that sooner or later, the first black president was going to use his considerable powers, in or out of office, to help the economic ravages of the poor, who are disproportionately black.

That Obama’s project was or ever would be racial and economic justice was always a dream – and the sooner we let go of this and recognize Obama for who he is and what he does, the better we’ll all be.

Some people who disagree with me believe I am racist for not lauding Obama’s right to cash in on the presidency the same way the Clinton and Bush dynasties have. I will never deny the representational and psychological value of having had Obama in the Oval Office and his beautiful black family living in the White House. I always liked the guy immensely, even as I’ve criticized the politician.

But when it comes to the economics of systemic racism, I don’t think anyone should earn $400,000 an hour, and I certainly don’t worry about criticizing black people also earning that obscene sum. I’m much more concerned with factors of economic racism such as why white people have 12 times the wealth of black people; why black families would need to work 228 years to build the wealth of white families; why the median wealth of single black women is $5 and how the economic crash of 2008 was an apocalyptic theft of wealth from black homeowners to Wall Street which was never prosecuted.

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Man Trump Named to Fix Mortgage Markets Figured in Infamous Financial Crisis Episode

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

In early 2007, a group of Morgan Stanley bankers bundled a group of subprime mortgage instruments into a package they hoped to sell to investors. The only problem was, they couldn’t come up with a name for the package of mortgage-backed derivatives, which they all knew were doomed.

The bankers decided to play around with potential names. In a series of emails back and forth, they suggested possibilities. “Jon is voting for ‘Hitman,'” wrote one. “How about ‘Nuclear Holocaust 2007-1?'” wrote another, adding a few more possible names: Shitbag, Mike Tyson’s Punchout and Fludderfish.

Eventually they stopped with the comedy jokes, gave the pile of “nuclear” assets a more respectable name – “Stack” – and sold the $500 million Collateralized Debt Obligation with a straight face to the China Development Industrial Bank. Within three years, the bank was suing a series of parties, including Morgan Stanley, to recover losses from the toxic fund.

The name on the original registration document for Stack? Craig S. Phillips, then president of Morgan Stanley’s ABS (Asset-Backed Securities) division. Phillips may not have written the emails in question, but he was the boss of this sordid episode, and it was his name on the comedy-free document that was presented to Chinese investors.

This is just another detail in the emerging absurd narrative that is Donald Trump naming Phillips, of all people, to head up the effort to reform the Government-Sponsored Entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

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Trump’s Tax Plan Leaves the Swamp Untouched

Charles Hugh Smith writes for The American Conservative:

President Trump’s tax plan gives those of us with long memories a strong sense of déjà vu. We’ve seen this play before, and the ending is inevitably modest: a few of the pieces of a horrendously complex, unfair tax system are moved around, victory is declared, and the creatures of the Swamp—those self-serving elites that benefit from the complex, unfair monstrosity—continue raking in their billions of dollars in fees while the rest of us are burdened with billions of dollars in tax-preparation costs.

The opening act of this tax-reform play always starts with a claim that by golly, this time we’re really going to simplify the tax code. Trump’s plan calls for reducing the number of tax brackets and eliminating all deductions other than those for charity and mortgage interest; by way of compensation, the standard deduction will be doubled.

Such changes make for catchy headlines, but the reality is the tax code will still run to thousands of pages.

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‘A Land Grab by the Ruling Elites’: Trump’s Tax Plan Derided for Benefiting the Rich

Amy Goodman speaks with economist James Henry of the Tax Justice Network about the Trump White House plan to give the nation’s millionaires and billionaires a massive tax break. (Democracy Now!)

Profits Can be Made from Catastrophes With Disaster Capitalism

Gregory Wilpert speaks with Antony Loewenstein, author of Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing Out of Catastrophe, who says companies that make profits from disasters around the world also have a vested interest in maintaining these disasters. (The Real News)

Markets Worry More About Political Turmoil Than Encroaching Autocracy

The Economist reports:

Image result for Markets worry more about political turmoil than autocracy[…] In Turkey investors may have feared turmoil if Mr Erdogan’s proposal had been defeated. It is an old, but fairly reliable, rule that investors dislike uncertainty. And the early years of Mr Erdogan’s tenure, when he was seen as a liberalising democrat, saw rapid economic growth; his transformation into an emerging autocrat has not put investors off. Since he took office, the Istanbul market has gained 760% (see chart).

An authoritarian government can provide certainty, at least in the short term. In 1922, when Mussolini took power in Italy, its equity market returned 29% and its government bonds 18%, according to Mike Staunton of the London Business School. Hitler’s accession in 1933 saw German shares return 14% and bonds 15%. True, Wall Street did even better that year under Franklin Roosevelt but still—even then, Hitler was clearly a dangerous extremist.

The world’s most developed economies tend to be democracies, and to be more open to trade and foreign investment. But as China has demonstrated, it is certainly possible to generate rapid economic growth without a democratic system. China’s stockmarket (along with Hong Kong’s) has been among the best-performing bourses this millennium.

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How France’s Hotly Contested Election Could Shake Markets

Sara Sjolin reports for Market Watch:

[…] Usually a French general election doesn’t present a make-it or break-it moment for the entire eurozone, but this time its different. After a race full of surprises, a surge in the polls by far-left, euroskeptic Jean-Luc Melenchon has again reminded investors of the sweeping antiestablishment sentiment grabbing Europe and the U.S. at the moment.

Far-right, anti-EU candidate Marine Le Pen is also doing well in the polls and currently looks like she’ll get one of the two spots in the runoff. The big question is who she’ll face in the second round.

Will it be centrist Emmanuel Macron, who pollsters and analysts see as the favorite to emerge as president in May? Will it be scandal-ridden, dark horse candidate François Fillon who’s enjoyed an 11th hour rebound in support? Or will it be Melenchon, who has promised to rework the treaties that set the framework for the EU and then hold a referendum on whether to remain in the bloc.

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Emmanuel Macron’s Rothschild Years Make Him an Easy Election Target

Anne-Sylvaine Chassany and Arash Massoudi report for the Financial Times:

When Emmanuel Macron told friends in 2008 he was joining Rothschild, the prestigious investment bank, the then 30-year-old civil servant was warned it could scupper a future career in politics.

“You’re conscious that banking is not any kind of job? And Rothschild not any kind of bank?” said one friend to the man who, nine years later, would become frontrunner in France’s presidential election.

Mr Macron shrugged off the warnings and learnt the ropes of debt restructuring and mergers and acquisitions, earning €2.9m and a nickname — “the Mozart of finance” — for his role advising Nestlé on its $12bn acquisition of a unit of Pfizer in 2012. At Rothschild he found himself at the heart of French business intrigues, acquiring the codes and jargon of a world where careers largely depend on having attended the right elite university.

Now, with France still scarred by the global financial crisis, Mr Macron’s four-year investment banking stint has made him an easy target for rivals in a presidential contest fraught with scandals and populist jabs.

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Nomi Prins on the Past, Present and Future of Goldman Sachs

James Corbett speaks to Nomi Prins, a former managing director at Goldman Sachs and the author of All The Presidents’ Bankers, about her old firm’s past, present and future. One of her most recent articles is titled: ‘On The Goldmanization Of President Trump‘. (Corbett Report)

Donald J. Trump and the Deep State

Peter Dale Scott, author of The American Deep State, writes in the first of his two part pieces for WhoWhatWhy:

Deep StateOn February 3, 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported President Trump’s plans to pave the way for a broad rollback of the recent financial reforms of Wall Street.Although no surprise, the news was in ironic contrast to the rhetoric of his campaign, when he spent months denouncing both Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton for their links to Goldman Sachs, even when his campaign’s Financial Chairman was a former Goldman Sachs banker, Steve Mnuchin (now Trump’s Treasury Secretary).

Trump was hardly the first candidate to run against the banking establishment while surreptitiously taking money from big bankers. So did Hitler in 1933; so did Obama in 2008. (In Obama’s final campaign speech of 2008, he attacked “the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street.” But it was revealed later that Wall Street bankers and financial insiders, chiefly from Goldman Sachs, had raised $42.2 million for Obama’s 2008 campaign, more than for any previous candidate in history.)

However, Trump’s connections to big money, both new (often self-made) and old (mostly institutional) were not only more blatant than usual; some were also possibly more sinister. Trump’s campaign was probably the first ever to be (as we shall see) scrutinized by the FBI for “financial connections with Russian financial figures,” and even with a Russian bank whose Washington influence was attacked years ago, after it was allegedly investigated in Russia for possible mafia connections.

Trump’s appointment of the third former Goldman executive to lead Treasury in the last four administrations, after Robert Rubin (under Clinton) and Hank Paulson (under Bush), has reinforced recent speculation about Trump’s relationship to what is increasingly referred to as the deep state. That is the topic of this essay.

But we must first see what is really meant by ‘the deep state”.

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The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight

In 2014 Bill Moyers was joined by Mike Lofgren, a congressional staff member for 28 years, to talk about what he calls Washington’s ‘Deep State’, in which elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests. “It is how we had deregulation, financialization of the economy, the Wall Street bust, the erosion or our civil liberties and perpetual war,” Lofgren tells Moyers. Lofgren also authored an essay titled: Anatomy of the Deep State(Moyers & Company)

How Blair and Clinton created the conditions for Brexit and Trump

Thomas G. Clark writes for Another Angry Voice:

[…] In my view the ruptures in British and American politics happened in the 1990s with the accession of Bill Clinton in 1993 and Tony Blair in 1997. These were men who inherited the Democratic Party of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Labour Party of Clement Attlee, but instead of pursuing the kind of prosperity yielding democratic socialism of their predecessors they adopted a “third way” strategy.

Clinton and Blair held onto power by slightly slowing down the radical and destructive right-wing neoliberalisation agenda rather than actively working to reverse the worst of the damage. Of course they seemed like an improvement after the chaotic crisis-ridden 1980s, but both men slowly continued the progress of the right-wing zealotry introduced by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

One of Clinton’s most overt moves towards hard-right economic dogma was a piece of legislation called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 which exempted all manner of derivatives trading from financial regulation. a move that unleashed the frenzy of speculative derivative trading that resulted in the 2007-08 global financial sector insolvency crisis.

Aside from the extraordinarily dodgy PFI privatisation scams and the commodification of the higher education system through the introduction of student fees (aspiration taxes), one of Tory Blair’s most blatant rightward lurches saw the de facto privatisation of the Bank of England and the establishment of what turned out to be an astoundingly weak tripartite system of financial sector regulation.

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How Corporate Dark Money Is Taking Power on Both Sides of the Atlantic

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Corporate Dark MoneyIt took corporate America a while to warm to Donald Trump. Some of his positions, especially on trade, horrified business leaders. Many of them favoured Ted Cruz or Scott Walker. But once Trump had secured the nomination, the big money began to recognise an unprecedented opportunity.

Trump was prepared not only to promote the cause of corporations in government, but to turn government into a kind of corporation, staffed and run by executives and lobbyists. His incoherence was not a liability, but an opening: his agenda could be shaped. And the dark money network already developed by some American corporations was perfectly positioned to shape it. Dark money is the term used in the US for the funding of organisations involved in political advocacy that are not obliged to disclose where the money comes from. Few people would see a tobacco company as a credible source on public health, or a coal company as a neutral commentator on climate change. In order to advance their political interests, such companies must pay others to speak on their behalf.

Soon after the second world war, some of America’s richest people began setting up a network of thinktanks to promote their interests. These purport to offer dispassionate opinions on public affairs. But they are more like corporate lobbyists, working on behalf of those who fund them.

We have no hope of understanding what is coming until we understand how the dark money network operates.

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City Lobby Group Comes Out Fighting for Global Brexit in Dramatic U-Turn

Tim Wallace reports for The Telegraph:

City of LondonThe City’s top lobby group has performed a dramatic u-turn on Brexit, scrapping its previous campaign to remain in the EU and instead hailing the vote to leave as “unprecedented opportunity” for the UK to develop a powerful new set of trade and investment policies.

The group, which represents banks, finance firms and the professional services industry, now believes that Britain’s departure from the EU represents “a once-in-a-generation opportunity” for a strategic re-think of commercial relationships with the rest of the globe.

Before the EU referendum the organisation had planned for a way to cope with Brexit just in case voters chose to leave the group of 28 nations.

But the new proposals are more than just an effort to make the best out of Brexit – in an apparently major conversion, the group actively points out the ways in which EU membership has proved to be a “straitjacket” in terms of global trade, holding Britain back from building relationships with non-EU nations.

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Cash, Cruises and Sex Parties: Inside Ex-HBOS Manager’s £245m Scam

Simon Goodley reports for The Guardian:

Image result for HBOS Manager's £245m Scam[…] Now it can be reported for the first time that Scourfield, 54, is corrupt,and pleaded guilty last year to six counts relating to his role in a scheme that cost the bank £245m.

On Monday his business associate David Mills, 60, who ran a small business turnaround consultancy Quayside Corporate Services (QCS), Mills’s wife. Alison, 51, plus their associates Michael Bancroft, 73, and Tony Cartwright, 72, were all convicted for their roles in helping to run Scourfield’s scam.

A sixth man, Mark Dobson, 56, who worked for Scourfield at HBOS, was also convicted, while one other defendant, Jonathan Cohen, 57, was acquitted.

Despite his absence from the courtroom having changed his plea last year, Scourfield’s presence loomed over proceedings each day of the four-month trial.s

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From ‘Drain the Swamp’ to Government Sachs

John Cassidy reports for The New Yorker:

Gary Cohn (far right) has suggested that the Trump Administration will attempt to significantly roll back post-2008 regulatory reform on Wall Street.Until now, Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs, has been the invisible member of the Trump Administration. Now we know why: he has been busy preparing favors for his old pals on Wall Street. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Cohn said that Trump was preparing to sign an executive order designed to pave the way for a broad rollback of the regulatory regime that the Obama Administration and Congress introduced after the disastrous financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.

Although Cohn gave few specifics, his comments suggested that the Trump Administration wants to hobble the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Congress created to protect the interests of ordinary Americans and investors; reduce the amount of capital that big banks such as JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have to hold in reserve; spare some non-bank financial firms—such as major insurers—from the enhanced scrutiny they have been subjected to in recent years; and scythe away other key elements of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. “This is a table setter for a bunch of stuff that is coming,” Cohn said in reference to the executive order, which Trump signed on Friday.

During last year’s campaign, Trump portrayed both Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton as pawns of Goldman Sachs. And after the self-described “Leninist” Steve Bannon took over as his campaign C.E.O., Trump broadened his critique, at one point depicting Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s C.E.O. and Cohn’s old boss, as a member of a cabal of global financiers who had “robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.” Even when it was happening, though, it was clear that all this rabble-rousing was mainly for show.

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‘Spectacular Betrayal’ as Trump Rolls Back Wall Street Regulations

Deirdre Fulton reports for Common Dreams:

President Donald Trump is set to hand the U.S. economy “back over to Wall Street” on Friday, with a regulatory rollback that critics say could put consumers and the financial system at risk.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Trump plans to sign executive orders Friday “establish[ing] a framework for scaling back the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law” and rolling back an Obama-era regulation requiring advisers on retirement accounts to work in the best interests of their clients. That rule was set to go into effect in April.

Trump plans to sign the orders surrounded by bank CEOs.

“The Wall Street bankers against whom Trump ran are making policy now,” said Robert Weissman, president of watchdog group Public Citizen.

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Extreme Vetting, But Not for Banks

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

Donald Trump, the man who positioned himself as the common man’s shield against Wall Street, signed a series of orders today calling for reviews or rollbacks of financial regulations. He did so after meeting with some friendly helpers.

Here’s how CNBC described the crowd of Wall Street CEOs Trump received, before he ordered a review of both the Dodd-Frank Act and the fiduciary rule requiring investment advisors to act in their clients’ interests:

“Trump also will meet at the White House with leading CEOs, including JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman, and BlackRock’s Larry Fink.”

Leading the way for this assortment of populist heroes will be former Goldman honcho Gary Cohn, now Trump’s chief economic advisor.

Dimon, Schwarzman, Fink and Cohn collectively represent a rogues gallery of the creeps most responsible for the 2008 crash. It would be hard to put together a group of people less sympathetic to the non-wealthy.

Trump’s approach to Wall Street is in sharp contrast to his tough-talking stances on terrorism. He talks a big game when slamming the door on penniless refugees, but curls up like a beach weakling around guys who have more money than he does.

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Trump’s Crony Cabinet May Look Strong, But They Are Scared

Naomi Klein writes for The Nation:

Protest Crane at the White House[…] This is the backdrop for Trump’s rise to power—our movements were starting to win. I’m not saying that they were strong enough. They weren’t. I’m not saying we were united enough. We weren’t. But something was most definitely shifting. And rather than risk the possibility of further progress, this gang of fossil-fuel mouthpieces, junk-food peddlers, and predatory lenders have come together to take over the government and protect their ill-gotten wealth.

Let us be clear: This is not a peaceful transition of power. It’s a corporate takeover. The interests that have long-since paid off both major parties to do their bidding have decided they are tired of playing the game. Apparently, all that wining and dining of politicians, all that cajoling and legalized bribery, insulted their sense of divine entitlement.

So now they are cutting out the middleman and doing what every top dog does when they want something done right—they are doing it themselves. Exxon for secretary of state. Hardee’s for secretary of labor. General Dynamics for secretary of defense. And the Goldman guys for pretty much everything that’s left. After decades of privatizing the state in bits and pieces, they decided to just go for the government itself. Neoliberalism’s final frontier. That’s why Trump and his appointees are laughing at the feeble objections over conflicts of interest—the whole thing is a conflict of interest, that’s the whole point.

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George Osborne’s New, Ethically Dubious Job With BlackRock Investments

Grace Dent writes for The Independent:

george-osborne.jpgLike several leading panto baddies in our current brooding dystopian landscape, George Osborne doesn’t help himself – well, not in the popularity stakes at least.

Osborne, we have learned this week, will join the investment research arm of the BlackRock Investment Institute as a senior adviser this February for a six-figure sum. Osborne’s windfall comes shortly after his £600,000 autumn speaking tour in which BlackRock generously gave him £34,109 for one talk. There are no current indications that Osborne will give up his role as MP for Tatton, representing his 65,200 constituents.

My cynical self feels dubious that Osborne can remain entirely focused on the hoi polloi of South-west Manchester’s piffling agonies: their closing A&E, their HS2 worries, their superfast broadband and super-slow traffic and so on, while at the same time feathering his nest via BlackRock, but then the company’s name doesn’t help. BlackRock sounds like a twisted confederacy of steampunk nihilist megalomaniacs situated just Beyond Thunderdome. It sounds like a cannibal-strewn landmass, cursed yet useful in a military sense, to which a 17th-century sociopath played by Tom Hardy owns the deeds.

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Government Sachs: Protesters Decry Financial Giant Swamping Trump Administration

In New York City, over 100 people set up a protest encampment outside the headquarters of financial giant Goldman Sachs, which they are calling “Government Sachs.” At least six of Trump’s top advisers and Cabinet picks are tied to Goldman Sachs: treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, Trump chief strategist Stephen Bannon, Securities and Exchange Commission chairman nominee Jay Clayton, senior White House adviser Anthony Scaramucci and senior counselor for economic initiatives Dina Habib Powell. (Democracy Now!)

Internal List Shows President Trump Was Sworn In Next To His VIP Donors

Mattathias Schwartz reports for The Intercept:

When Donald J. Trump took office today [20th Jan], he declared that “we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.”

Documents obtained by The Intercept show exactly which people Trump is giving power to—the wealthiest sliver of American society. The incoming administration allocated at least a dozen of 183 seats on the inaugural platform to donors and fundraisers, who sat beside cabinet designees, senators, and President Trump’s immediate family. Another 49 seats for the pre-inaugural Friday morning church service, which Trump attended, were allocated to a billionaire fundraiser.

The documents, which come from the inauguration’s organizing committee, paint a markedly different picture than the one Trump presented during the campaign, that of a swashbuckling populist who would overturn “the rigged system” and drain Washington’s corrupt “swamp” of money-driven influence.

If these documents are any indication, Trump’s inner circle is shaping up to be even more plutocratic and insular than that of previous presidents.

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This is a Corporate Coup d’État: Naomi Klein and Lee Fang on Trump’s Election

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh speak to journalists Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, and Lee Fang of The Intercept, whose latest article is titled ‘Who’s Paying for Inauguration Parties? Companies and Lobbyists With a Lot at Stake‘. Klein and Fang talk about the role of corporations inside the Trump administration. (Democracy Now!)

Joe Biden to Davos: The Top 1% Must Pay Its Fair Share or Else…

Jay Yarow reports for CNBC:

Image result for Joe Biden to DavosIn his final speech as vice president, Joe Biden warned that the top 1 percent needed to pay their fair share, or else.

Biden delivered his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland, which is attended by world leaders, top executives, investors and members of the press.

The outgoing vice president started his speech by noting that there is a “palpable sense of uncertainty about the state of the world,” and we need to ask ourselves, “What kind of world are we going to leave for our children?”

The main theme of his speech was that the “liberal international world order” is at risk of collapse, as bad actors like Russia meddle in elections and try to undermine the progressive values of the United States and Europe.

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Davos Elite Seeks Fixes to Defend the System From Populists

Jeff Black and John Follain report for Bloomberg:

Image result for Davos Elite Seeks Fixes to Defend the System From PopulistsThe great and the good of Davos agree they have a problem with populism. Finding a solution is the hard part.

On the second day of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in the Swiss Alps, delegates disagreed on how best to address the upending of the western political order, a debate made doubly urgent by the string of elections in Europe this year where anti-establishment parties could gain more ground.

While International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde urged a list of policies from programs to retrain workers to more social spending, others fretted that the turbulence is only starting. Hedge Fund billionaire Ray Dalio warned on a panel chaired by Bloomberg Television’s Francine Lacqua that “we may be at a point where globalization is ending, and provincialization and nationalization is taking hold.”

That leaves technocrats trying to patch together potentially expensive remedies to make the current system of global trade, banking and business links that the Davos club represents acceptable to the public at a time when newcomers like U.S. president elect Donald Trump threaten to dismantle it by scrapping trade deals and introducing tariffs.

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Anthony Scaramucci: Meet Donald Trump’s Emissary to the Superrich

Heater Digby Parton writes for Salon:

Meet Donald Trump's emissary to the superrich: Anthony Scaramucci tells the Davos elite his boss is on their sideA long time ago in an alternate universe far, far away, I wrote a Salon column about how the Republican Party was in trouble because rich gadflies had decided to get personally involved in electoral strategy and that could only spell their doom. These were foolish wealthy donors for the most part, people who believed the size of their bank accounts meant they were renaissance geniuses who can do anything.

Needless to say my prophesy didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. One of those gadflies is going to be inaugurated president of the United States in two days. And it turns out that the central focus of my long-ago column has been named a top adviser to that new president.

His name is Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci, and he could be a character out of an Elmore Leonard novel. In fact, in my 2014 article I wrote, “the man’s hijinks make Donald Trump look like a prince by comparison.” (I didn’t know the extent of Trump’s high jinks at the time.) Scaramucci has a big mouth and a big wallet and he has been ostentatiously rubbing elbows with the political elite for quite some time.

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