Daily Archives: March 28, 2016

CFPB complaints from military community up 13%

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s fourth annual Servicemembers report for 2015 showed 19,200 complaints from members of the military community, which is 13% more than what was reported in 2014, according to the report. The total number of complaints in 2015 by all consumers totalled 271,600.

Debt collection, mortgages and credit reporting topped the list as the most complained-about issues.

According to an article in the CFPB Monitor, the most common mortgage complaint related to the inability to make payments, including problems with loan modifications, collections and foreclosures. “In particular, service members complained about loss mitigation options when receiving a permanent change of station order, requiring them to relocate,” the article stated.

A total of 46% of military complaints concerned debt collection. The military complaints were double those of the general consumer population where debt collection is concerned.

A deeper look into the issues shows that 44% of the debt collection complaints were from debts that service members believed they did not owe, according to the report. Another 17% of complaints involved the ways debt collectors tried to contact them, including contacting a third party such as a commanding officer. Some of the complaints, about 13%, involved the collection of medical bills that service members believed was covered by VA health insurance.

Read on.

Banks Ordered to Defend Suit Claiming Benchmark Rate Was Rigged

  • Suit by Alaska pension fund can proceed to trial, judge rules
  • Bank of America, Barclays accused of rigging ISDAfix rate

Bank of America Corp., Barclays Plc and a dozen more banks must face investor claims that they rigged a benchmark used in the sales of interest-rate derivatives and other financial instruments.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan Monday rebuffed the banks’ request to throw out antitrust lawsuits accusing the institutions of colluding to set ISDAfix, affecting trillions of dollars of financial instruments. The rate is used to set prices on interest-rate swap transactions, commercial real-estate mortgages and other securities.

An Alaska pension fund and other investors raised “plausible allegations that a conspiracy among the defendants existed,” Furman said in a 36-page ruling. He allowed antitrust and breach-of-contract contract claims to proceed to trial, while throwing out other allegations.

Starting in 2009, the banks used electronic chat rooms and other means of private communication to set ISDAfix, typically submitting identical rate quotes, investors said in their suit. They are seeking billions in losses tied to the alleged rate-fixing scheme.

John Yiannacopoulos, a Bank of America spokesman, had no immediate comment on Furman’s ruling. Kerrie Cohen, a Barclays spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Many Banks

Investors also named as defendants Deutsche Bank AG, BNP Paribas SA, HSBC Holdings Plc, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, Credit Suisse Group AG, UBS AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Nomura Holdings Inc., Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Read on.

Cybercrime: Banks ‘Rewarding’ Bad Behaviour

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe says banks should not refund cybercrime victims, as it “rewards” them for lax internet security.

Banks are “rewarding” customers for being lax about security when they refund money lost through cybercrime, according to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe.

The Metropolitan Police commissioner says customers should be given incentives to tighten their passwords and update anti-virus software instead.

He said banks could make people more security conscious by refusing to reimburse people who had failed to protect themselves.

“If you are continually rewarded for bad behaviour, you will probably continue to do it but, if the obverse is true, you might consider changing behaviour,” he told The Times.

GCHQ says that 80% of cybercrime – which costs £1bn a year – could be prevented by more complex passwords and updated security software.

Read on.

CIA photographed detainees naked before sending them to be tortured

Classified pictures showing CIA captives bruised, blindfolded and bound raise new questions about US’s willingness to use ‘sexual humiliation’ on suspects

The CIA took naked photographs of people it sent to its foreign partners for torture, the Guardian can reveal.

A former US official who had seen some of the photographs described them as “very gruesome”.

The naked imagery of CIA captives raises new questions about the seeming willingness of the US to use what one medical and human rights expert called “sexual humiliation” in its post-9/11 captivity of terrorism suspects. Some human rights campaigners described the act of naked photography on unwilling detainees as a potential war crime.

Unlike video evidence of CIA torture at its undocumented “black site” prisons that were destroyed in 2005 by a senior official, the CIA is said to retain the photographs.

In some of the photos, which remain classified, CIA captives are blindfolded, bound and show visible bruises. Some photographs also show people believed to be CIA officials or contractors alongside the naked detainees.

It is not publicly known how many people, overwhelmingly but not exclusively men, were caught in the CIA’s web of so-called “extraordinary renditions”, extra-judicial transfers of detainees to foreign countries, many of which practised even more brutal forms of torture than the US came to adopt. Human rights groups over the years have identified at least 50 people the CIA rendered, going back to Bill Clinton’s presidency.

It is also unclear how many of those rendition targets the CIA photographed naked.

The rationale for the naked photography, described by knowledgeable sources, was to insulate the CIA from legal or political ramifications stemming from their brutal treatment in the hands of its partner intelligence agencies.

Stripping the victims of clothing was considered necessary to document their physical condition while in CIA custody, distinguishing them at that point from what they would subsequently experience in foreign custody – despite the public diplomatic assurances against torture that the US demonstrably collected from countries with a record of torturing detainees.

Read on.

Scranton on track to create foreclosure registry

A property management company will soon create a registry of foreclosed homes in Scranton to support the latest city effort to fight blight.

Community Champions is just waiting for the city to finalize an ordinance creating the abandoned property registry — which should happen within a couple weeks — to start its work, Councilman Wayne Evans said.

The plan is for the firm to create and maintain the list to ensure owners properly maintain vacant foreclosed homes and city code enforcement staff know whom to contact if, for example, the grass grows several feet high, sidewalks are not shoveled or broken windows are not repaired.

“One of the problems we constantly hear at neighborhood association meetings is that buildings are not being taken care of,” council President Joe Wechsler said. “The buildings they’re talking about often end up being owned by banks.”

The proposed fee for registration is $200, of which $100

would pay the contractor and $100 would go to the city, likely funding a small grant program to help first-time home-buyers.

Read on.

How One Reporter Got the Police Shooting Video Everyone Wanted

We more Brandon Smiths as journalists not media whores…

Propublica:

Brandon Smith, an independent journalist, forced public disclosure of the video (which sharply contradicted police’s recounting of events) by suing the city after his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was denied. On this week’s podcast, Smith speaks with ProPublica senior reporter Julia Angwin about how he was the only journalist in Chicago to sue for the video, the challenges and benefits of practicing journalism independently in his free time, and his thoughts on what “counts” as journalism.

Highlights from their conversation:

    • A judge ordered the tape’s release just three months after Smith filed his lawsuit.
      Smith: We asked him, “Please speed this up. This is really important.” If the Freedom of Information Act is for anything, it’s for this case. This is a case wherein a representative of the government literally killed someone and people want to know why.

 

    • Smith, whose legitimacy as a journalist has been questioned, disagrees with the notion that journalists can’t be activists.
      Smith: If something is heinous enough, you almost have to come out and take a stance against that thing. If you’re a journalist reporting on the Iraq War, and you find that huge numbers of birth defects are occurring in areas where battles took place, then you kind of have a duty, if someone asks you a personal question about it…to say, “This is not a cool thing that the United States government used depleted uranium bullets.” … I don’t think that makes them an activist only. They’re a journalist reporting this story, trying to tell the facts.

 

  • Smith left a secure reporting job, choosing to work independently instead.
    Smith: I had this beat where I had to cover certain things. I had to make sure I had a few stories every week. Those stories had to be on this topic of city government. I did that for a while and just kept thinking, “Man, there are such bigger stories out there with national implications, many of them.” I was literally not allowed to report on them.

The Hits Just Keep On Coming: Valeant CEO To Testify Under Oath, Following Accusation Of Merger Agreement Violation

It’s been a terrible month for investors in Valeant (and Pershing Square) and it is about to get even worse following news that the outgoing CEO of the troubled company, which is under scrutiny for dramatically hiking the price of older drugs, has been summoned to testify at a U.S. congressional hearing on April 27, the panel said on Monday.

According to Reuters, the Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing comes as the Canadian-based company is coping with a variety of federal investigations into its accounting practices that led to a restatement and delays in the filing of its annual report.

Valeant said last week CEO Michael Pearson would step down, after a board committee probing the company’s ties to specialty pharmacy Philidor Rx Services had found accounting problems dating back to December 2014. Billionaire William Ackman, whose Pershing Square Capital Management owns a 9 percent stake in Valeant, has joined the company’s board.

Pearson’s testimony under oath will take places as prosecutors in Massachusetts and Manhattan are probing Valeant’s pricing and distribution channels, while the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating its accounting and disclosure issues.

Read on.