Daily Archives: August 28, 2016

THE SECRET JUSTICE SYSTEM THAT LETS EXECUTIVES ESCAPE THEIR CRIMES

A parallel legal universe, open only to corporations and largely invisible to everyone else, helps executives convicted of crimes escape punishment. Part one of a BuzzFeed News investigation.

Imagine a private, global super court that empowers corporations to bend countries to their will.

Say a nation tries to prosecute a corrupt CEO or ban dangerous pollution. Imagine that a company could turn to this super court and sue the whole country for daring to interfere with its profits, demanding hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars as retribution.

Imagine that this court is so powerful that nations often must heed its rulings as if they came from their own supreme courts, with no meaningful way to appeal. That it operates unconstrained by precedent or any significant public oversight, often keeping its proceedings and sometimes even its decisions secret. That the people who decide its cases are largely elite Western corporate attorneys who have a vested interest in expanding the court’s authority because they profit from it directly, arguing cases one day and then sitting in judgment another. That some of them half-jokingly refer to themselves as “The Club” or “The Mafia.”

And imagine that the penalties this court has imposed have been so crushing — and its decisions so unpredictable — that some nations dare not risk a trial, responding to the mere threat of a lawsuit by offering vast concessions, such as rolling back their own laws or even wiping away the punishments of convicted criminals.

This system is already in place, operating behind closed doors in office buildings and conference rooms in cities around the world. Known as investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS, it is written into a vast network of treaties that govern international trade and investment, including NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Congress must soon decide whether to ratify.

These trade pacts have become a flashpoint in the US presidential campaign. But an 18-month BuzzFeed News investigation, spanning three continents and involving more than 200 interviews and tens of thousands of documents, many of them previously confidential, has exposed an obscure but immensely consequential feature of these trade treaties, the secret operations of these tribunals, and the ways that business has co-opted them to bring sovereign nations to heel.

The BuzzFeed News investigation explores four different aspects of ISDS. In coming days, it will show how the mere threat of an ISDS case can intimidate a nation into gutting its own laws, how some financial firms have transformed what was intended to be a system of justice into an engine of profit, and how America is surprisingly vulnerable to suits from foreign companies.

The series starts today with perhaps the least known and most jarring revelation: Companies and executives accused or even convicted of crimes have escaped punishment by turning to this special forum. Based on exclusive reporting from the Middle East, Central America, and Asia, BuzzFeed News has found the following:

  • A Dubai real estate mogul and former business partner of Donald Trump was sentenced to prison for collaborating on a deal that would swindle the Egyptian people out of millions of dollars — but then he turned to ISDS and got his prison sentence wiped away.
  • In El Salvador, a court found that a factory had poisoned a village — including dozens of children — with lead, failing for years to take government-ordered steps to prevent the toxic metal from seeping out. But the factory owners’ lawyers used ISDS to help the company dodge a criminal conviction and the responsibility for cleaning up the area and providing needed medical care.
  • Two financiers convicted of embezzling more than $300 million from an Indonesian bank used an ISDS finding to fend off Interpol, shield their assets, and effectively nullify their punishment.

When the US Congress votes on whether to give final approval to the sprawling Trans-Pacific Partnership, which President Barack Obama staunchly supports, it will be deciding on a massive expansion of ISDS. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton oppose the overall treaty, but they have focused mainly on what they say would be the loss of American jobs. Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, has voiced concern about ISDS in particular, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren has lambasted it. Last year, members of both houses of Congress tried to keep it out of the Pacific trade deal. They failed.

Read on.

Trump is Goldman’s Golden Goose

By William K. Black
August 23, 2016     Kansas City, MO

The reporting of Susanne Craig of the New York Times and David Cay Johnston, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting when he was with that paper, and has recently published The Making of Donald Trump, combine to allow us to draw a critical insight about Trump and Goldman Sachs.  From Susanne Craig, we learn:

[A]n office building on Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan, of which Mr. Trump is part owner, carries a $950 million loan. Among the lenders: the Bank of China, one of the largest banks in a country that Mr. Trump has railed against as an economic foe of the United States, and Goldman Sachs, a financial institution he has said controls Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, after it paid her $675,000 in speaking fees.

Goldman Sachs is infamous for two things, both of them relevant here.  Its senior managers encourage the most incestuous of relationships between the government and the firm.  The revolving door is an exclusive penthouse elevator that rockets Goldman executives back and forth from positions of immense power in government and the firm.  As the then President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City (now, Deputy Chair of the FDIC) told a small group of us several years ago: “For the last 20 years we’ve been holding an auction to fill the position of U.S. Treasury Secretary – and of late Goldman Sachs has been winning.”

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There Are Real Reasons to Bring Back Glass-Steagall

When both major parties endorsed restoring the Glass-Steagall Act in their campaign platforms last month, they reaffirmed the powerful hold that the Glass-Steagall principle of separating commercial and investment banking has on the public imagination.

Glass-Steagall has become politically popular for good reason. The public understands that reducing the size and (especially) the complexity of our major publicly supported banking institutions is crucial to a healthier financial system. Restoring some version of the Glass-Stegall firewall between commercial and investment banking is a direct and powerful means to that end. There’s also an understanding that the financial system was generally more stable during the 60 years in which Glass-Steagall was in force.

Unfortunately, much of the inside-the-beltway commentary on Glass-Steagall does not add depth and substance to the public debate and is often inappropriately dismissive and shallow. A number of respected experts on the banking system, such as Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Vice Chairman Thomas Hoenig, are strong supporters of Glass-Steagall. But too many other commenters dismiss Glass-Steagall for reasons that are at best half-truths and at worst censor the robust debate that we need to have about our current system of universal banking.

Read on.

Someone Using The Email Address Of Trump’s Doctor Demanded Money For An Interview

Certainly, the email address and website raises red flags….

Someone using an email address connected to Harold Bornstein, Donald Trump’s doctor, apparently doesn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to cash in on the GOP presidential nominee’s campaign.

Bornstein wrote a letter in December saying Trump would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” The doctor told NBC News on Friday that he had written the letter in five minutes while a limo waited outside.

A Huffington Post reader pointed out that the letter mentioned a website that wasn’t actually registered until several months after the endorsement of Trump’s health was written, so I sent an email on Saturday afternoon to the Gmail address listed in the letter’s header.

Someone replied from the address a little after 1 a.m. on Sunday, saying he or she wanted money to talk.

“325 per hour in advance,” the person wrote.

THE HUFFINGTON POST
HuffPost’s initial inquiry to Harold Bornstein’s email address.

I asked the person to confirm that they were in fact Trump’s doctor. HuffPost would not pay for an interview, I wrote, but would this person still be willing to answer some questions?

The response was curt: “No.”

THE HUFFINGTON POST

Was he or she declining to do an interview, or were saying they weren’t Trump’s doctor?

“Yes, no,” the person wrote back.

Read on.

And the doctor’s office phone and fax numbers seem correct according to information on doctor’s website:

Gastroenterology, Internal Medicine

Practice locations:

  • Harold N. Bornstein, MD
    101 East 78th Street
    New York, NY 10075

    Fax: (212) 988-6602

Here is Hillary Clinton’s doctor letter on her health that was dated July 28, 2015. And here is Clinton’s doctor Dr. Lisa R. Bardack, MD’s information on the medical office website:

Lisa R. Bardack, MD

Director of Internal Medicine, Mount Sinai Health System at CareMount Medical

Awarded Top Doctor

Primary Specialty Internal Medicine

Mount Kisco Office: 914-242-1370Locations

On a side note: As of February 2016, Mount Kisco Medical Group (MKMG) changed its name to CareMount Medical.

Senators probing EpiPen price hike received donations from Mylan PAC

Well, well, well….

A political committee for Mylan has donated to most of the Senate committee that has asked the drugmaker to explain price increases for allergy treatment EpiPen and could grill executives in a hearing on the matter.

The Mylan Inc. PAC has given $13,500 to four current members of the Senate Judiciary Committee since 2014, including $5,000 to ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont and $5,000 to the Senate’s likely next Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York. Since 1999, the PAC has donated more than $60,000 to 11 current members of the 20-person judiciary committee. Most of those donations came after 2008.

This illustrates the reach of Mylan’s political effort, which extended to candidates and political action committees in 22 states between December, 2014, to the end of 2015. The Mylan PAC had $95,500 in political contributions for that period, while incurring $319,000 in indirect lobbying expenses as part of trade association membership.

Read on.

Lawmakers eye protections for reverse-mortgage borrowers

New York lawmakers are moving to boost protections for reverse-mortgage borrowers in foreclosure — after a report by The Post.

Last month, The Post broke the story about a rising tide of foreclosures on reverse mortgages, risky home equity loans made to senior citizens. This wave of foreclosures threatens to throw some of New York’s most vulnerable residents out on the street.

Now Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn) and Sen Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester) have introduced bills aimed at providing second-mortgage holders with the same protections as first-mortgage borrowers.

There are two key changes. The first is written notification, including a notice with contact information for free nonprofit foreclosure-prevention assistance, to the borrower 90 days before the lender files a foreclosure case. In addition, the new law will mandate a settlement conference for borrower and lender to try to work out a deal under the watchful eye of a judge or court-appointed referee.

Read on.