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Archive for the ‘Financial Reform’ Category

If you read one thing today . . .

Down With Government Oversight
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Overheard:

Despite the Dow Jones Industrial Average bouncing back to where it was before the 2008 economic crisis and despite big profits being reported by many of the companies that were bailed out by the federal government, investors around the world are not too keen on the Obama administration, according to a Bloomberg article by Mike Dorning. It seems the only thing that might make them happy is complete global deregulation.

“The uncertainty around the administration’s approach to dealing with businesses and the lack of clarity on taxes has created an environment where companies are less likely to make incremental investments, which in turn is bad for future corporate profits and hence the investment climate,” says poll respondent Quinten Stevens, 46, managing partner of Stevens Asset Management LLC in Darien, Connecticut. “Hopefully, the recent election results will be a powerful wake-up call to significantly change their approach towards the private sector.”

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Arkush

Today’s Financial Times reports that Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), who plans to chair the House Committee on Financial Services, is urging watchdog agencies to ignore the law and let Wall Street run wild again – and with taxpayer money to boot.

Bachus wants the big banks to keep up the government-subsidized gambling that crashed the economy and cost millions of jobs. His position flatly contradicts the Volcker rule in the new Wall Street reform law, and it’s the wrong direction for the country.

If Bachus plans to take direction from Wall Street lobbyists and give the big banks more financial wrecking balls rather than make the economy work for ordinary Americans, we can expect more financial crises, more big bank bailouts and more lost jobs.

He should reconsider and commit himself to serving the public, not helping the likes of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs set new records for profits and bonuses.

David Arkush is director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

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Weissman

A staggering amount of money—$3.7 billion and counting—has been spent on the 2010 midterm elections that will be decided today.

Please join me at noon (EDT) this Wednesday, November 3, for a live, interactive online presentation: “Corporate Money and the Midterm Elections.”

I’ll review—and take your questions about—the election results, the unprecedented levels of corporate spending, and Public Citizen’s ongoing work to preserve democracy for We, the People.

This one-hour webinar is free and open to the public. Space is limited, so just fill out this simple registration form to reserve your virtual seat: www.citizen.org/election-webinar-registration

With the economy in crisis—and the Obama administration having made a fatal political (and policy) error by embracing Bush’s Wall Street bailout—corporations have sought to exploit an electorate that is, quite rightfully and understandably, outraged.

And the Supreme Court’s massively misguided decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has permitted corporations to spend all the money they want trying to influence your vote.

I hope you can join me and hundreds of fellow Public Citizens for the “Corporate Money and the Midterm Elections” webinar.

Take just a moment and register now so that you can join us!

Thank you.

P.S. No matter how much money Big Business spends to drown out the voice of the people, there is still one way to make your voice heard: Vote. If you haven’t participated in early voting, please be sure to vote today.

Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen.

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Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • 149: Number of independent groups that have spent money to influence this year’s elections (according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports through Oct. 25)
  • $176.1 million: Amount those groups have spent on the midterms
  • 10: Number of groups responsible for the bulk of that spending
  • 59.9 percent: The percentage of that money that comes from undisclosed sources

Public Citizen calls on electioneering groups to disclose corporate donors
Public Citizen has sent a letter to all groups that are conducting electioneering communications or independent expenditures in the 2010 elections, urging them to disclose to the public the sources and amounts of corporate contributions they use for their campaign spending.

Disclosed corporate funds are a fraction of what is hidden, heavily favor Republicans
Tapping into what few disclosure records exist of campaign spending by outside groups in the 2010 elections, Public Citizen has identified about 200 corporate contributors to a mere 29 independent groups that have reported their funding sources to the Federal Election Commission. These disclosure records account for (more…)

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Just two years after the Wall Street banks were bailed out and just three months after we passed a tough new law to rein them in, the Wall Street bankers want weak regulations so they can keep making risky bets with your money.

Because of the upcoming election, the banks apparently thought nobody would notice that they redeployed their horde of lobbyists to try to weaken the new rules as they’re being written.

They were wrong. We noticed. And we need your help to fight back.

Regulators with the Financial Stability Oversight Counsil are accepting public comments on the new law’s important “Volcker rule.” The rule is named for Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve and a vocal White House official who called on Congress to stop banks from making risky bets for their own profit while relying on taxpayer bailouts if the bets go bad.

Here’s how you can help:

1. Follow this link, and you’ll get to the page where you can submit a comment about the Volcker rule.

2. Next, cut and paste the SAMPLE COMMENT at the end of this post into the comment box. Fill out all the required information (First Name, Last Name, and Organization Name).

3. In the required field that asks for your “Organization Name” write “PUBLIC CITIZEN MEMBER.”

4. Click “Submit.”

The banks have already submitted their regulatory comments. Now it’s our turn! (more…)

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Today’s Flickr Photo

Flickr photo by woodleywonderworks.

If you read one thing today . . .

There are a lot of books and movies popping up about the causes and consequences of the 2008 financial meltdown but, apparently, there aren’t many that look at the sub-prime mortgage racket the way Michael W. Hudson does in his book, The Monster: How A Gang of Predatory Lenders and Wall Street Lenders Fleeced America—And Spawned A Global Crisis. Hudson talks to Mother Jones about how the sub-prime market began in Southern California:

If you had to pick one figure that did more than anyone else to grow the subprime market, and grow it into the monster that it became, it would be Roland Arnall. Now, Countrywide and Angelo Mozilo played a big role, but they were very late to the game. Mozilo, especially in the ’90s, was nervous about subprime, and worried about getting into it. It wasn’t until Ameriquest and a few other Orange County-based subprime outfits really showed that you could make lots and lots of money, and really started threatening Countrywide’s market share, that Countrywide got into it.

Overheard:

Monday kicked off Jon Stewart’s week in Washington, D.C., which ends, of course, with the mother of all rallies, the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on Saturday. In a segment about NPR’s firing of Juan Willliams, Stewart tosses to Jason Jones who is driving around, lost, looking for the Supreme Court. Anyone who has tried to drive in the nation’s capitol will get this:

“I’m in a six-lane traffic circle that leads to an underpass . . . and that leads to another goddamn traffic circle. This Frenchified city layout makes no freaking sense. How hard is it to lay out a grid?”

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The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court is now on record saying he doesn’t read the fine print.

Much of that fine print is there just to take away consumer rights. If Supreme Court justices don’t even read it, one hopes they will limit the damage that corporations can do with it.

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Today’s Flickr Photo

Flickr photo by gradualepiphany.

If you read one thing today . . .

Are the feds serious about investigating banks for their shady foreclosures? One D.C.  insider told the Washington Post’s Zachary A. Goldfarb that, if nothing else, they’re putting on a nice show of force. “In more than 25 years dealing with major financial crisis issues, I have never seen this many agencies focused on a single issue,” said Andrew Sandler, a lawyer who works on government investigations. Goldfarb writes:

After reports surfaced in recent weeks that large banks filed court documents across the country that had not been properly prepared or reviewed, federal investigators want to determine whether similar paperwork was submitted to housing agencies to get insurance payouts, the source said.

In some cases, bank employees have acknowledged signing documents without reviewing them. If similar filings were made to housing agencies, this could violate federal law, which makes it a crime to lie about substantive matters to the federal government.

Overheard

File this one under the stranger than fiction folder. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Virginia, called up Anita Hill over the weekend to offer an “olive branch,” of sorts. Mrs. Thomas was willing to let bygones be bygones if Hill, now a Brandeis law professor, would simply apologize for being so mean at Justice Thomas’ confirmation hearings so many years ago. Remember that Hill testified about sexual harassment that she says happened while she worked for Thomas at the EEOC. According to CNN, the voicemail left on Hill’s answering machine by Mrs. Thomas said:

“Good morning, Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas. I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology some time and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. OK, have a good day.”

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The trailer for the new Charles Ferguson documentary, Inside Job, looks great. The movie, which is narrated by Matt Damon, looks at the causes behind the 2008 economic meltdown, i.e. the financial deregulation that began with Reagan, the insatiable greed on Wall Street and the complicity of federal regulators who turned a blind eye to Wall Street’s reckless behavior. The movie had a limited opening this past weekend.

The documentary, which a group of critics voted the best film at the 2010 Cannes film festival, was also praised by Roger Ebert, who called it a “devastating” indictment of Wall Street:

It is a very angry, very carefully argued, brutally clear documentary about how the American financial industry set out deliberately to defraud the ordinary American investor. It was directed by Charles Ferguson (below), whose academic, business and government backgrounds make him unusually well-qualified for this subject. The remorseless narration is by Matt Damon.

Here is the argument of the film, in four sentences. From Roosevelt until Reagan, the American economy enjoyed 40 years of stability, prosperity and growth. Beginning with Reagan’s moves against financial regulation, that sound base has been progressively eroded. The crucial federal error (in administrations of both parties) was to allow financial institutions to trade on their own behalf. Today many large trading banks are betting against their own customers.

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If Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and their “competing” Washington D.C. rallies don’t have your attention by now, you  a) have just woken up from a 25-year coma b) live in a shack in Montana where you are working on your great anti-technology manifesto, or c) are among the 4 percent of the population who truly believes President Obama might actually have been born in the Alpha Centauri solar system.

When both Big Os — Oprah and Obama — endorse your Rally to Restore Sanity, you know you might be on to something. Since Sept. 16, when Stewart announced his Oct. 30 rally, along with Stephen Colbert’s satirical March to Keep Fear Alive, 180,000 people on Facebook have said they plan to attend the event, while another 100,000 have said they might.

Public Citizen plans to be there, and we’ve been encouraging people to submit ideas for signs that we’ll hand out at the rally on the National Mall. We plan to pick the slogan that we think best sums up the message we want to share with the throngs of people who will be packed in front of the Lincoln Memorial. So far, more than 3,000 slogans have been entered in our “What Sign Should I Bring to Jon Stewart’s ‘Rally to Restore Sanity’ ” contest. Another 1,000 people have joined the accompanying Facebook page, and hundreds more are spreading the word on Twitter with the hashtag #signs4sanity.

Picking the best one is going to be difficult. We’ll be asking our Facebook fans to help, but in the end,  we may have to resort to the old picking a slogan out of a hat method. You can read the thousands of sign suggestions and enter your own at www.citizen.org/jon-stewart-sanity-rally-signs.

Generally, the sign suggestions fall into five categories: (more…)

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