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  1. Atypical is offline
    01-13-2013, 05:04 PM #151
    The Shady Inside Deals That Are Protecting Goldman Sachs at Your Expense

    They’re privately protecting their interests as they publicly urge austerity on everyone else.

    January 12, 2013

    The Greening of Goldman Sachs

    In economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s book, End This Depression Now!, there’s a chapter titled “The Second Gilded Age” in which he describes the extraordinary rise in wealth and power of the very rich during this era of unregulated greed. Since Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, the top one percent of Americans have seen their incomes increase by 275 percent. After accounting for inflation, the typical hourly wage for a worker has increased just $1.23.

    Big Money, as Krugman writes in his book, buys Big Influence. And that’s why the financiers of Wall Street never truly experience regime change — their cash brings both political parties to heel. So it is that the policies that got us where we are today — in this big ditch of chronic financial depression — have done little for most, but have been very good to a few at the top.

    But they’re not satisfied with having only most of it — they want it all. If Krugman were writing his book today, he could find plenty of evidence in the deal that supposedly kept us from going over the fiscal cliff. Behind closed doors, Congress larded it with corporate tax breaks worth tens of billions of dollars — everything from tax credits for NASCAR racing and the railroads to subsidies for Hollywood, rebates for the rum industry and loopholes for off-shore financing that could help giant multinationals like General Electric avoid billions of dollars in corporate income taxes.

    Writing in the conservative Washington Examiner, columnist Tim Carney says many of these expensive giveaways were “spawned by a web of lobbyists, donors and staffers surrounding Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana,” chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. As we know from the Obamacare fight, Baucus is a connoisseur of revolving door corruption. “Pick any one of the special-interest tax breaks extended by the cliff deal,” Carney wrote, “and you’re likely to find a former Baucus aide who lobbied for it on behalf of a large corporation or industry organization.” Even the pro-business Wall Street Journal was appalled. They called it a “ Crony Capitalist Blowout.”

    And so it was — and more. It was payback time for all those campaign donations. CEOs and lobbyists were tripping over themselves as they traipsed up and down Pennsylvania Avenue between Congress and the White House. You’ve no doubt heard about Fix the Debt, that group of business execs and retired politicians taking out TV ads and campaigning to slash the deficit. In The New York Times, Nick Confessore reported, “…close to half of the members of Fix the Debt’s board and steering committee have ties to companies that have engaged in lobbying on taxes and spending, often to preserve tax breaks and other special treatment.”

    Get it? They’re privately protecting their interests as they publicly urge austerity on everyone else.

    Lloyd Blankfein, CEO and chair of the global investment giant Goldman Sachs, is on Fix the Debt’s Fiscal Leadership Council. Here’s what he said when asked by CBS News’ Scott Pelley about how he would reduce the federal deficit: “You’re going to have to undoubtedly do something to lower people’s expectations — the entitlements and what people think that they’re going to get, because it’s not going to — they’re not going to get it… Social Security wasn’t devised to be a system that supported you for a 30-year retirement after a 25-year career… in general, entitlements have to be slowed down and contained.”

    Continued below.

  2. Atypical is offline
    01-13-2013, 05:05 PM #152

    Yes, but Blankfein and Goldman Sachs make sure their entitlements aren’t touched! Here’s the story: After 9/11, Congress created tax-exempt Liberty Zone bonds to help small businesses rebuild near Ground Zero. Turns out Goldman’s friends in high places consider it a small business, too, although it made $5.6 billion in profits last year. As the fiscal cliff fiasco was playing out over New Year’s Eve, faster than the ball dropped in Times Square, a deal was struck that will extend the subsidies for Goldman’s fancy new headquarters in lower Manhattan. In their 43 stories of glass and steel, and a footprint two city blocks long, Goldman Sachs reigns supreme – thanks to a system rigged by and for the powerful rich.

    And then, according to The Wall Street Journal, just before the fiscal cliff deal’s higher individual tax rates kicked in, Goldman handed “Lloyd Blankfein and his top lieutenants a total of $65 million in restricted stock” — bonuses awarded a month earlier than usual so they could all beat the coming tax hike from which they have been spared for more than ten lucrative years.

    It won’t surprise you to learn that, “Corporations announced more special dividends last month than in any other December since at least 1955.” Doing everything they can to avoid helping pay off the debt their CEOs have been urging Congress to cut.

    As for working people — tough luck. Because the fiscal cliff deal ends the cut in payroll taxes, the average worker this year will take home about a thousand dollars less.


    Yep, the rich and privileged saying that "entitlements" are the problem. That "those" people need to get along on less. The debt is huge (bs) and working people will have to fix it. After all, there are no other places where greed, waste and illegality exist. Right?

    Whenever you hear anything like this know it's a lie and a diversion from the truth. Just look at who is saying it and you will know what their agenda is; "I got mine and that's all I care about. Screw the low-lifes who obviously don't deserve anything. If they were really smart they would be rich, too".

    That's who they are.
    Last edited by Atypical; 01-16-2013 at 07:17 PM.

  3. Atypical is offline
    01-27-2013, 04:12 PM #153
    Medicare Fraud Wins in Fiscal Cliff Bill

    By Eric Lipton, Kevin Sack

    Just two weeks after pleading guilty in a major federal fraud case, Amgen, the world's largest biotechnology firm, scored a largely unnoticed coup on Capitol Hill: Lawmakers inserted a paragraph into the "fiscal cliff" bill that did not mention the company by name but strongly favored one of its drugs.

    The language buried in Section 632 of the law delays a set of Medicare price restraints on a class of drugs that includes Sensipar, a lucrative Amgen pill used by kidney dialysis patients.

    The provision gives Amgen an additional two years to sell Sensipar without government controls. The news was so welcome that the company's chief executive quickly relayed it to investment analysts. But it is projected to cost Medicare up to $500 million over that period.

    Amgen, which has a small army of 74 lobbyists in the capital, was the only company to argue aggressively for the delay, according to several Congressional aides of both parties.

    Supporters of the delay, primarily leaders of the Senate Finance Committee who have long benefited from Amgen's political largess, said it was necessary to allow regulators to prepare properly for the pricing change.

    But critics, including several Congressional aides who were stunned to find the measure in the final bill, pointed out that Amgen had already won a previous two-year delay, and they depicted a second one as an unnecessary giveaway.

    "That is why we are in the trouble we are in," said Dennis J. Cotter, a health policy researcher who studies the cost and efficacy of dialysis drugs. "Everybody is carving out their own turf and getting it protected, and we pass the bill on to the taxpayer."

    The provision's inclusion in the legislation to avert the tax increases and spending cuts that made up the so-called fiscal cliff shows the enduring power of special interests in Washington, even as Congress faces a critical test of its ability to balance the budget.

    Amgen has deep financial and political ties to lawmakers like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, and Senators Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, and Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, who hold heavy sway over Medicare payment policy as the leaders of the Finance Committee.

    It also has worked hard to build close ties with the Obama administration, with its lobbyists showing up more than a dozen times since 2009 on logs of visits to the White House, although a company official said Saturday that it had not appealed to the administration during the debate over the fiscal legislation.

    Aides to Mr. Hatch and Mr. Baucus, and a spokeswoman for Amgen, said the delay would give the Medicare system and medical providers the time they needed to accommodate other complicated changes in how federal reimbursements for kidney care were determined.

    "Sometimes when you try to do too much and too quickly, you screw up," said Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Mr. Hatch. The goal, an Amgen spokeswoman said in a written statement, is "to ensure that quality of care is not compromised for dialysis patients."

    But the measure runs counter to a five-year effort in Washington to control the enormous expense of dialysis for the Medicare program by reversing incentives to overprescribe medication.

    Amgen's success also shows that even a significant federal criminal investigation may pose little threat to a company's influence on Capitol Hill. On Dec. 19, as Congressional negotiations over the fiscal bill reached a frenzy, Amgen pleaded guilty to marketing one of its anti-anemia drugs, Aranesp, illegally. It agreed to pay criminal and civil penalties totaling $762 million, a record settlement for a biotechnology company, according to the Justice Department.

    Amgen, whose headquarters is near Los Angeles and which had $15.6 billion in revenue in 2011, has a deep bench of Washington lobbyists that includes Jeff Forbes, the former chief of staff to Mr. Baucus; Hunter Bates, the former chief of staff for Mr. McConnell; and Tony Podesta, whose fast-growing lobbying firm has unusually close ties to the White House.

    Amgen's employees and political action committee have distributed nearly $5 million in contributions to political candidates and committees since 2007, including $67,750 to Mr. Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman, and $59,000 to Mr. Hatch, the committee's ranking Republican. They gave an additional $73,000 to Mr. McConnell, some of it at a fund-raising event for him that it helped sponsor in December while the debate over the fiscal legislation was under way. More than $141,000 has also gone from Amgen employees to President Obama's campaigns.

    What distinguishes the company's efforts in Washington is the diversity and intensity of its public policy campaigns. Amgen and its foundation have directed hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable contributions to influential groups like the Congressional Black Caucus and to lesser-known groups like the Utah Families Foundation, which was founded by Mr. Hatch and brings the senator positive coverage in his state's news media.

    Amgen has sent large donations to Glacier PAC, sponsored by Mr. Baucus in Montana, and OrrinPAC, a political action committee controlled by Mr. Hatch in Utah.

    And when Mr. Hatch faced a rare primary challenge last year, a nonprofit group calling itself Freedom Path sponsored advertisements in Utah that attacked his opponent, an effort that tax records released in November show was financed in large part by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade group that includes Amgen.

    In some cases, the company's former employees have found important posts inside the Capitol. They include Dan Todd, one of Mr. Hatch's top Finance Committee staff members on health and Medicare policy, who worked as a health policy analyst for Amgen's government affairs office from 2005 to 2009. Mr. Todd, who joined Mr. Hatch's staff in 2011, was directly involved in negotiating the dialysis components of the fiscal bill, and he met with "all the stakeholders," Mr. Hatch's spokeswoman said, not disputing when asked that this included Amgen lobbyists.

    For years, Amgen used its clout in Washington to lobby for generous Medicare payments for its blockbuster drug, Epogen, which fends off anemia in dialysis patients.

    The Medicare program covers most costs associated with treating severe renal disease, regardless of a patient's age, and the dialysis market continues to grow steadily. In 2010, the government's kidney program was spending $1.9 billion on injectable anti-anemia drugs like Epogen.

    But nearly a decade ago, evidence started to surface that questioned the effectiveness and safety of Epogen at the levels being used.

    Researchers found that Medicare's practice of reimbursing providers with separate payments for the drugs and for dialysis treatments encouraged overprescription because the providers made healthy profits with each dose. They also found that high doses posed cardiovascular risks to patients.

    Continued below.
    Last edited by Atypical; 01-27-2013 at 04:30 PM.

  4. Atypical is offline
    01-27-2013, 04:20 PM #154

    Congress reversed the incentive in 2008 by requiring Medicare to pay a single, bundled rate for a dialysis treatment and related medications starting in 2011. With providers potentially profiting more by prescribing less Epogen, use of dialysis drugs dropped by nearly 25 percent.

    But the blow was softened for Amgen and other kidney care companies with a few favors from Congress. Among them was a two-year delay in the inclusion of certain oral drugs, Sensipar among them, in the new bundled payment system. That meant demand for Sensipar would not decline and Amgen would maintain control over pricing.

    With that two-year exclusion set to expire in 2014, Amgen's lobbyists began making rounds again on Capitol Hill last fall. In private meetings with staff members of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees, they argued for another two-year delay, several Congressional aides said.

    Committee staff members had been meeting regularly in Room S-124 of the Capitol to negotiate a package of Medicare cuts needed to prevent a large scheduled reduction in doctors' fees. The kidney program was on the table because a new report by the Government Accountability Office had found that Medicare had overpaid for dialysis by up to $880 million in 2011.

    The discussions about cutting dialysis reimbursement began late last fall with little focus on a delay for oral drugs, but it was eventually endorsed by leading staff members for Mr. Baucus and Mr. Hatch, Congressional aides said.

    Aides to the senators said the delay made sense because the Government Accountability Office had warned in early 2011 that federal regulators should take care in setting compensation levels for the drugs.

    But others on Capitol Hill saw no justification for further delay.

    "It is disappointing," said a Democratic Congressional aide who declined to be named because of the issue's sensitivity, "since the status quo encourages prescribing of oral drugs based on financial incentives rather than on best clinical practices."

    Mr. Hatch's spokeswoman, Ms. Ferrier, said the involvement of Mr. Todd, the former Amgen employee, had not been inappropriate and that dozens of staff members on Capitol Hill handled matters that might benefit former employers.

    "They have to leave their previous lives behind," Ms. Ferrier said. "And Dan has done just that."

    After the House was sidelined late in the fiscal negotiations, the Senate gained control of the final bill-writing process, and the provision requested by Amgen was inserted into the legislation by Senate staff members.

    Aides to Mr. Baucus and Mr. Hatch emphasized that the White House and Senate leadership, including Mr. McConnell, had the final word on the bill.

    A spokesman for Mr. McConnell praised the parts of the legislation related to Medicare, while a White House spokesman declined to comment, saying the matter was decided by players on Capitol Hill.

    Many lobbyists and Congressional aides said they first learned of the language when the final bill was posted publicly, only hours before being approved. It called for cutting $4.9 billion over 10 years by lowering Medicare payments for dialysis, but left hundreds of millions on the table by extending the oral drug delay.

    At this point, opponents had no way to challenge the provision, as there was a single vote on the entire fiscal package. Mr. Baucus and Mr. Hatch voted in favor.

    Aides to the senators said some heavy donors had won and others had lost in the Medicare negotiations - proof that the legislative outcome was based on the merits. "What is the best policy for Montanans and people across the country lies at the heart of every decision Chairman Baucus makes," said Meaghan Smith, a spokeswoman for Mr. Baucus. "It's as simple as that."


    This is how our corrupt government now operates. Money and greed controls all in the corporatocracy we live in.

    Medicare gets shafted and then conservatives and stupid dems say it needs to be overhauled because it “costs too much”.

    McConnell, Baucus and Hatch have violated their oath to the country. Many others do the same daily.

    To those opposed to their hard-earned money being “gifted” to those people in support programs: does this "gifting" piss you off?

    I didn’t think so.
    Last edited by Atypical; 01-27-2013 at 04:40 PM.

  5. Atypical is offline
    02-03-2013, 05:21 PM #155
    Exxon, Chevron Made $71 Billion Profit In 2012 As Consumers Paid Record Gas Prices

    By Rebecca Leber on Feb 1, 2013

    While 2012 might not be a banner year for Big Oil profits, it wasn’t a bad one either. With just BP left to announce 2012 earnings, Big Oil earned well over $100 billion in profits last year, while the companies benefit from continued taxpayer subsidies. Average gas prices also hit a record high last year, showing how a drilling boom may help oil companies’ profit margins, but not consumers’ wallets.

    ExxonMobil — now the most valuable company in the world, passing Apple — earned $45 billion profit in 2012, a 9 percent jump over 2011. Meanwhile, Chevron earned $26.2 billion for the year. In the final three months of the year, the companies earned $9.95 billion and $7.2 billion respectively.

    Here are the highlights of how Exxon and Chevron spend their earnings:


    Exxon received $600 million annual tax breaks. In 2011, Exxon paid just 13 percent in taxes. The company paid no taxes to the U.S. federal government in 2009, despite 45.2 billion record profits. It paid $15 billion in taxes, but none in federal income tax.

    Exxon’s oil production was down 6 percent from 2011.

    In fourth quarter, Exxon bought back $5.3 billion of its stock, which enriches the largest shareholders and executives of the company.

    Exxon’s federal campaign contributions totaled $2.77 million for the 2012 cycle, sending 89 percent to Republicans.

    The company spent $12.97 million lobbying in 2012 to protect low tax rates and block pollution controls and safeguards for public health.

    Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson received $24.7 million total compensation.

    Exxon is moving ahead with a project to develop the tar sands in Canada.


    In October, Chevron made the single-largest corporate donation in history. Chevron dropped $2.5 million with the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC to elect House Republicans.

    The bulk of Chevron’s federal contributions came from the super PAC donation, for a total of $3.87 million for the 2012 cycle. 85 percent went to Republicans.

    Chevron spent $9.55 million lobbying Congress in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    Chevron paid 19 percent U.S. taxes last year (half of the top corporate tax rate of 35 percent), and received an estimated $700 million in annual tax breaks last year.

    Chevron was fined $1 million for a refinery fire that sent 15,000 Richmond, California residents to the hospital. Though the company faces $10 million in medical expenses, Chevron earns it back in a couple of hours.

    With Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhillips reporting $35 billion in combined profit in 2012, BP is the last company left to announce its profits for the year.


    Here are a few comments after this article that are well done.

    Mulga Mumblebrain says:
    February 1, 2013 at 4:50 pm
    As the ancient Greek philosophers discerned, greed, or pleonexia, is literally infinite, truly insatiable, amongst those afflicted by it. A society owned and totally controlled by this type, must, inevitably, consume itself, which is where we are now.

    Systemic Disorder says:
    February 1, 2013 at 11:31 am
    And don’t forget that Exxon Mobil is one of the primary funders of front groups that deny global warming. Just a small marketing cost for it.

    Mulga Mumblebrain says:
    February 1, 2013 at 4:51 pm
    A society where truth and scientific reality is determined by the weight of money, has the sickness unto death, and we are in the palliative care ward.

    Matt says:
    February 2, 2013 at 10:22 am
    These companies now function as monopolies. They do not compete. The laws of supply and demand are inconsequential, unless they can be used to justify an arbitrary increase in price to the consumer. They are the tail wagging the dog.

    As I have said before, the viciousness of the "capitalist" mindset is to deny assistance to those who need it and give it, instead, to those that do not.

    That is anti-human to its core, and they feel no shame in supporting that philosophy while people suffer because of it. They just don't care.

  6. Atypical is offline
    02-08-2013, 02:24 PM #156
    New Proof That JPMorgan Lied To Customers. Why No Criminal Charges?

    When an independent analysis of JPMorgan Chase exposed “serious flaws” in the company’s home loans, it did what Wall Street does best, hid the evidence. In documents released this week, officials found proof that the company “adjusted” the critical reviews it received by buying and selling a new set of home-loan portfolios, creating a “sanitized” pool of data in the process. The move allowed the financial powerhouse to gloss over serious faults in its loans and sell mortgages that appeared healthy to the consumer. The suit, which includes a “trove of internal emails and employee interviews,” may be an important stepping stone in the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s landmark $200 billion case.


    In a 2007 e-mail, titled “Banking overrides,” a JPMorgan due diligence manager asks a banker: “How do you want to handle these loans?” At times, they whitewashed the findings, the documents indicate. In 2006, for example, a review of mortgages found that at least 1,154 loans were more than 30 days delinquent. The offering documents sent to investors showed only 25 loans as delinquent.

    A person familiar with the bank’s portfolios said JPMorgan had reviewed the loans separately and determined that the number of delinquent loans was far less than the outside analysis had found.

    At Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, employees also had the power to sanitize bad assessments. Employees at Bear Stearns were told that they were responsible for “purging all of the older reports” that showed flaws, “leaving only the final reports,” according to the court documents.

    Such actions were designed to bolster profit. In a deposition, a Washington Mutual employee said revealing loan defects would undermine the lucrative business, and that the bank would suffer “a couple-point hit in price.”

    Ratings agencies also did not necessarily get a complete picture of the investments, according to the court filings. An assessment of the loans in one security revealed that 24 percent of the sample was “materially defective,” the filings show. After exercising override power, a JPMorgan employee sent a report in May 2006 to a ratings agency that showed only 5.3 percent of the mortgages were defective.

    Such investments eventually collapsed, spreading losses across the financial system.

    New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman said that overall losses from flawed mortgage-backed securities from the years 2005and 2007 were $22.5 billion.

    In a statement shortly after he sued JPMorgan Chase, Schneiderman said the lawsuit was a template “for future actions against issuers of residential mortgage-backed securities that defrauded investors and cost millions of Americans their homes.”

    Yet U.S. attorney general Eric Holder still has not filed a single criminal charge against any Big Banker, or sent any of them to jail. It's far past time he got started, and Jamie Dimon is just as good a starting point as any.



    Just how a lot of business is done in the Corporate States of America while the big, bad guvmint looks the other way. Nothing to see here folks; move along.
    Last edited by Atypical; 02-08-2013 at 02:28 PM.

  7. Atypical is offline
    02-22-2013, 04:45 PM #157

    CFTC Chairman: LIBOR Still “Not Clean” Was Often “Completely Made Up”

    By: DSWright Friday

    Gary Gensler, the head of the Commodities Future Trading Commission (CFTC), has made a pretty depressing admission to the BBC. During an interview on one of the greater financial scandals in modern times, the rigging of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), Chairman Gensler submitted that the global benchmark for interest rates is still “not clean” and was often “completely made up.”

    “We have a lot more work to do,” Gary Gensler, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, told the BBC in London.

    He suggested that the rate was often “completely made up”…

    Libor, which is set in London, is meant to reflect the average rate that banks pay to lend to each other and is used to benchmark everything from car loans and mortgages to complex financial transactions around the world.

    This means that the entire financial system is fraudulent. To repeat, if Libor is still ” not clean” then every loan based off of Libor – most loans everywhere – are based on “completely made up” rates.

    So enjoy paying your car, home, or business loan. The interest rate will be X plus whatever number Wall Street conjures up that helps the bank’s trading book. And no, of course, they will not face serious prosecutions – that could cause the bank’s to go out of business and break Lanny Breuer’s heart. Then who would rig the interest rates? See, they are necessary.

    This is truly disgusting. It is one thing to be a slave to Wall Street it is quite another to have them dangle the chains in your face.


    This grotesque act, in play over many years, will apparently not be investigated and the perps prosecuted just like the world-wide financial meltdown. But don't get caught eating cookies from Walmart. (look it up)

    No one should doubt the absolute control business has over our government and country and much of the rest of the world. The costs to our freedom, well-being and our finances are incalculable.
    Last edited by Atypical; 02-22-2013 at 05:53 PM.

  8. Atypical is offline
    02-26-2013, 03:27 PM #158
    This Supreme Court Case Could Give Corporations Even More Power to Screw Consumers

    On Wednesday, the US Supreme Court will hear a case that has the potential to give big corporations free rein to write contracts that prevent consumers from ever holding them accountable for fraud, antitrust violations, or any other abuses of consumer and worker protection laws now on the books. It's a case that hasn't gotten much attention, but should.

    The case, Italian Color v. American Express, was brought by a California Italian restaurant and a group of other small businesses that tried to sue the credit card behemoth for antitrust violations. They allege Amex used its monopoly power to force them to accept its bank-issued knock-off credit cards as a condition of taking regular, more elite American Express cards—and then charging them 30 percent higher fees for the privilege.

    The small businesses claims were pretty small individually, not more than around $5,000 per shop. So, to make their case worth enough for a lawyer to take it, they banded together to file a class action on behalf of all small businesses affected by the practice. In response, Amex invoked the small print in its contract with them: a clause that not only banned the companies from suing individually but also prevented them from bringing a class action. Instead, Amex insisted the contract required each little businesses to submit to the decision of a private arbitrator paid by Amex, and individually press their claims. (Arbitration is heavily stacked in favor of the big companies, as you can read more about here and here.)

    The restaurants estimated, with good evidence, that because of the market research required to press an antitrust case, arbitration would cost each of them almost $1 million to collect a possible maximum of $38,000, making it impossible to bring their claims at all. After a lot of litigation, the little guys prevailed in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that the arbitration clause was unconscionable because it prevented the plaintiffs from having their claims heard in any forum. The court said the arbitration contract should be invalidated and that the class action should go forward in a regular courtroom. (Sonia Sotomayor sat on one of the appeals before heading to the high court and is recusing herself from the case as a result.) Now Amex is appealing and arguing that some of the high court's recent decisions in favor of big companies mean it has every right to use contracts to deprive the little guys of access to the legal system.

    Consumer advocates are worried about how the court's going to decide this case. Under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts, the court has been especially amenable to the sorts of arguments Amex is making, and the results have been pretty damaging to consumers. The Alliance for Justice has a list here of some of the types of cases that were thrown out after the court's last pro-business decision about mandatory arbitration, which allowed companies to use arbitration clauses to trump state consumer and worker protection laws. It's not pretty.

    If the court rules in favor of Amex, big companies will essentially be able to immunize themselves from any legal accountability, simply by forcing customers and employees to sign a contract to get a job or a cellphone or a bank account. Civil and consumer rights laws will stay on the books, but big companies will be able to ignore them.


    Use the link above for additional details (links in the article) about this potential travesty.
    Last edited by Atypical; 02-26-2013 at 04:10 PM.

  9. Atypical is offline
    02-27-2013, 02:38 PM #159
    Seafood Fraud Abounds in the United States (Video)

    Behold another example of the collapse of U.S. regulatory structure: One of the largest seafood fraud investigations in the world found that one-third of seafood products sold in restaurants and grocery stores across the country were mislabeled according to Food and Drug Administration standards.

    The Washington, D.C.-based ocean conservation group Oceana conducted DNA tests on 1,215 seafood samples from 674 retail outlets in 21 states.

    “The most commonly mislabeled types of fish in our study were snapper—87 percent of those were something else—and tuna—where 59 percent were something else as well,” said report author and senior Oceana scientist Dr. Kimberly Warner.

    The potential for the mislabeling of foreign products is high. According to Beth Lowell, the group’s campaign director, the U.S. imports more than 90 percent of its seafood, “yet less than 1 percent is inspected specifically for seafood fraud.”

    The consequences are numerous. Customers can be charged too much and exposed to fish they are allergic to or which contains high concentrations of toxins. And fishermen and suppliers of uncommon seafood who label their products honestly can lose out on a sale and see the value of their catch decline as the market swells with ersatz varieties.

    —Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.


    Of the most commonly collected fish types, samples sold as snapper and tuna had the highest mislabeling rates (87 and 59 percent, respectively), with the majority of the samples identified by DNA analysis as something other than what was found on the label. In fact, only seven of the 120 samples of red snapper purchased nationwide were actually red snapper. The other 113 samples were another fish.

    Our findings demonstrate that a comprehensive and transparent traceability system – one that tracks fish from boat to plate – must be established at the national level. At the same time, increased inspection and testing of our seafood, specifically for mislabeling, and stronger federal and state enforcement of existing laws combatting fraud are needed to reverse these disturbing trends.


    So, we don't need regs, corporations will police themselves, the market will keep everyone honest, blah, blah, blah...


    Enjoy dinner this evening - whatever you think it is.

  10. Atypical is offline
    03-07-2013, 08:23 PM #160
    Elizabeth Warren Slams Federal Regulators Over Bank Money Laundering

    On Thursday, the Senate held a hearing to ask federal regulators why they are not stopping banks from allowing money laundering. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was the highlight of the show, slamming a Treasury official who refused to weigh in on whether the banks should face more severe penalties.

    In December, the giant international bank HSBC was fined $1.9 billion for illegally allowing millions in Mexican drug trafficking money to be laundered through its accounts. But it's not just HSBC—this is a systemic problem. Ten banks have been penalized in recent years for failure to comply with anti-money laundering rules. The Senate banking committee held the hearing in order to interrogate regulators at the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency about why they are not doing more to stop these kinds of shenanigans.

    All of the regulators said they were working on improving regulations and enforcement and protested that it was up to the Department of Justice—not them—to decide whether prosecution was appropriate. (The Justice Department did not have a witness at the hearing.) They were reluctant to weigh in on whether they thought HSBC should have faced trial, even though they consult closely with the DOJ on bank activities. That infuriated Warren:

    The US government takes money laundering very seriously for a good reason. And it puts strong penalties in place… It's possible to shut down a bank... Individuals can be banned from ever participating in financial services again. And people can be sent to prison. in December, HSBC admitted to... laundering $881 million that we know of... They didn't do it just one time... They did it over and over and over again… They were caught doing it, warned not to do it, and kept right on doing it. And evidently made profits doing it. Now, HSBC paid a fine, but no individual went to trial. No individual was banned from banking and there was no hearing to consider shutting down HSBC's actives in the US.... You're the experts on money laundering. I'd like your opinion. What does it take? How many billions of dollars do you have to launder for drug lords and how many sanctions do you have to violate before someone will consider shutting down a financial institution like this?

    David Cohen, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at Treasury, responded that his department had imposed on HSBC "the largest penalties we've imposed on any financial institution."

    Warren got annoyed. "I'm asking: what does it take to get you to move towards even a hearing to consider shutting down operations for money laundering?" she said.

    Cohen kept evading and Warren got more annoyed."I'm not hearing your opinion on this," she said. "What does it take even to say, 'here's where the line is'? Draw a line, and if you cross that line you're at risk for having the bank closed."

    Cohen said he had views, but couldn't get into it.

    "It's somewhere beyond $881 million in drug money," Warren concluded on her own, and went on to spell out the injustice of it all. "If you're caught with an ounce of cocaine, you're going to go to jail... But if you launder nearly a billion dollars for international cartels and violate sanctions you pay a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed a night."

    "How would you explain this to your neighbor?" Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) asked, noting that the fine slapped on HSBC amounted to about one percent of its profits over 10 years. "Does that really send a message?"

    The regulators reiterated they were working on improving oversight and such, but admitted that they were not doing enough. Jerome Powell, who is on the board of governors at the Federal Reserve, conceded that big banks may not only be too big to to fail, but also too big to prosecute. "Until we finish [writing the rules implementing Dodd-Frank financial reform law] I couldn't look [my neighbor] in the eye… I don't think it's fair."

    Nah, we should continue to bailout the banks that cause world-wide financial catastrophe; we should allow them to get special treatment by the fed; we should never prosecute the "executives" that cause these crimes; we should allow the banks to launder money for the drug-cartels and just fine them without any criminal prosecutions; and we should fry anyone that we catch with an ounce of marjiuana because that is what the "war on drugs" calls for.

    Money and greed is all you have to know to tell you how our government works.

    Ain't capitalism great?

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