Monthly Archives: February 2016

Elizabeth Warren Highlights Key Weakness in Clinton’s Wall Street Donation Defense

Huffington Post:

Hillary Clinton has been fielding questions for months about her Wall Street speaking fees and campaign contributions, in every interview, town hall, and debate. And rightly so; we all know how the banks’ fraudulent behavior tanked the economy, and everyone – Left, Right, and Center – is disgusted with what Citizens United has done to campaign finance. Clinton’s defense has become streamlined and simple: sure, she took money from banks, but so did Obama – and he still passed very strict regulation on the banks. It seems effective; but there’s a huge problem with this argument – so huge, in fact, that it transforms it from a defense into a powerful critique. To understand why, we turn to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass).

Warren recently published a report, titled Rigged Justice: 2016; How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easy. She published an editorial at the same time, in which she outlines and interprets her findings. She starts off by referring to candidates “feverishly pitching their legislative agendas.” As she shows, however, laws don’t mean anything if they aren’t enforced — and it turns out, in far too many cases, they effectively haven’t been. Here’s Warren:

In a single year, in case after case, across many sectors of the economy, federal agencies caught big companies breaking the law — defrauding taxpayers, covering up deadly safety problems, even precipitating the financial collapse in 2008 — and let them off the hook with barely a slap on the wrist. Often, companies paid meager fines, which some will try to write off as a tax deduction.

In fact, under Obama not a single Wall Street CEO has been prosecuted for fraud. She goes on:

These enforcement failures demean our principles. They also represent missed opportunities to address some of the nation’s most pressing challenges. Consider just two areas — college affordability and health care — where robust enforcement of current law could help millions of people.

After giving an example of failed enforcement in each, and then one more in banking, she goes on:

Presidents don’t control most day-to-day enforcement decisions, but they do nominate the heads of all the agencies, and these choices make all the difference.

(Emphasis mine). She cites examples of agencies which, under strong leadership, have truly served the public good, then another example where weak leadership has failed to. Finally, she concludes:

Each of these government divisions is headed by someone nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The lesson is clear: Personnel is policy.

It is so simple that it is obvious once she has pointed it out; and yet most people rarely, if ever, consider the impact of presidential nominations – and of late they have likely done so only because Warren blocked a nominee over their strong ties to the industry they were to police. It’s clear, these are the kinds of regulators who don’t regulate – and don’t prosecute. Warren doesn’t put it in such harsh terms, but this is a scathing indictment of the Obama administration. If there were any question about why Obama has not been a Progressive, it is answered here.

Warren closes:

Legislative agendas matter, but voters should also ask which presidential candidates they trust with the extraordinary power to choose who will fight on the front lines to enforce the laws. The next president can rebuild faith in our institutions by honoring the simple notion that nobody is above the law, but it will happen only if voters demand it.

Which brings us back to Clinton, and her defense.

It is true, Obama passed strong Wall Street reform; but under his watch not a single Wall Street CEO has been prosecuted, and regulation has been lax. Do we believe Clinton might also pass strong laws? Maybe so; but Warren has proven that the laws are meaningless if they go unenforced. The real question is, would Clinton nominate strong regulators? If we judge her by Obama – as she has repeatedly insisted we should – we must conclude that she would not. In fact, Warren may just have revealed how those massive donations and speaking fees get repaid: by putting the foxes in charge of the henhouse.

By comparison, Bernie Sanders has never taken big money from any industry or individual; he has campaigned so successfully in part for that reason. Could we trust him to nominate strong regulators? Not just his current campaign, but everything about his career says we can without a doubt count on him to do so – as Warren knows well.

Barclays must face electricity price-fixing lawsuit in U.S.

A U.S. judge ordered Barclays Plc (>> Barclays PLC) to face a proposed class-action lawsuit in which a California water utility accused the British bank of illegally manipulating electricity prices in the western United States, causing purchasers to overpay.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan on Monday said the Merced Irrigation District can pursue two claims that Barclays violated federal antitrust law, and one claim that the bank violated a California unfair competition law.

In July 2013, Barclays was fined $435 million by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for allegedly manipulating electricity prices in California and other western U.S. states from November 2006 to December 2008.

Read on.

GE gets subpoena over subprime mortgage operation

DOJ investigating whether General Electric broke any laws from 2005 to 2007

The Department of Justice subpoenaed General Electric’s records containing subprime mortgages from GE’s financial services business WMC Mortgage Corp.

On Friday, GE disclosed in its annual report, that its lending unit, GE Capital, and defunct subprime lending unit WMC, received the subpoenas in January.

According to Reuters:

The conglomerate said it learned in December that the department was probing purchase or sale of residential mortgage loans between Jan. 1, 2005 and Dec. 31, 2007.

“We will cooperate with the Justice Department’s investigation, which is at an early stage,” GE said in a filing on Friday.

According to the DOJ’s investigation, currently there are 14 lawsuits relating to pending mortgage loan repurchase claims with WMC.

Read on.

First Federal Bank of Kansas City reaches $2.8 million settlement for redlining

First Federal Bank of Kansas City agreed to a $2.8 million settlement over charges that the bank excluded minority neighborhoods from its lending service area, a practice commonly known as redlining.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, First Federal Bank of Kansas City allegedly redlined several neighborhoods where the majority of the residents are African-American, thereby limiting residential mortgage lending to persons based upon their race, which is a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

The settlement agreement stems from two complaints filed on Oct. 5, 2015 by two fair housing groups that accused First Federal Bank of Kansas City of redlining.

The groups, the nonprofit organizations Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council and Legal Aid of Western Missouri, alleged that the bank’s lack of market penetration in African-American communities in the urban core (East Side) of Kansas City, Missouri made residential real estate products less available to people based on race.

Read on.

Clinton Aligns with Republicans to Hide Wall Street Influences in Speeches

Donald Trump will use this to attack Clinton’s honesty to the voters if he is the GOP Presidential nominee.

Observer:

In the recent CNN Democratic Presidential Town Hall, Hillary Clinton continued to dodge calls to release transcripts of her private speeches to Goldman Sachs and other large Wall Street firms.

“Sure. If everybody does it—and that includes the Republicans,” Ms. Clinton replied. What she failed to acknowledge is that Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio haven’t given any recent private speeches—let alone to Wall Street—and Donald Trump’s only speeches have been to real estate firms and commercial shopping centers, which makes sense because he works in those industries.

Ms. Clinton’s complaint that she is being unfairly targeted is merely a divergent tactic. The release of transcripts from paid speeches is being pushed on every presidential candidate—but it’s only Ms. Clinton who has something to release that could contradict the campaign platform she is running.

Ms. Clinton’s use of the Republicans as a shield from facing this issue is absurd, and she should be called out by the media for it. She was never a banker and never worked in the financial industry. What was delivered privately to the leaders of Wall Street firms reveals her true intentions regarding financial reform, because she spoke to them as a politician.

The only candidates running on platforms to regulate and reform Wall Street are Ms. Clinton and Mr. Sanders. No voter—a Clinton supporter or otherwise—should take her word until the relationship between Ms. Clinton and Wall Street is transparent. Her refusal to release the transcripts is an impediment to democracy and contradicts her claims that she has been fighting against special interests her entire political career.

 

Clipping the United States’ Hedge Funds

Truthout:

 

Hedge funds and their billionaire managers offer up a powerful symbol of the forces that are driving America’s political and economic inequality. Getting the names and faces of these hedge fund billionaires before the public can help us tell a vivid story of what’s gone wrong with our economy and our politics – and help us build a movement to slice away at that billionaire power.

The “Hedge Clippers” campaign is doing plenty of that slicing. Begun in New York and now active in several other states, the effort is organizing at the state and federal levels around seemingly separate issues that range from school privatization and public sector cutbacks to environmental degradation and the ongoing assault on worker rights.

But these issues have much more in common than a first glance might suggest. They all trace back to the business and political practices of some of our country’s largest and wealthiest hedge funds.

Billionaire hedge fund managers have been leveraging huge amounts of investor capital to extract enormous cash payouts for themselves, the ultimate in “winner-take-all” economics. To squeeze out these payouts, they’ve been pressuring the enterprises they dominate to slash wages, eliminate pension and health benefits, and offshore middle-class jobs.

Snowden Sums Up The Presidential Campaign With Just One Tweet

 

2016: a choice between Donald Trump and Goldman Sachs.
4:07 PM – 27 Feb 2016
5,088 RETWEETS6,351 LIKES