Monthly Archives: November 2011
“The banks are doing exactly what they should be doing: they are reducing their risk toward this event. We can see that clearly as now Italian bonds are being sold off,” Clausen, who is also the chief executive officer of Nordea Bank AB (NDA), said in an interview in Stockholm. “They should keep doing what they are doing. The banks are actually moving out of the epicenter.”Comments »
U.S. Representative Spencer Bachus (R-AL) had access to highly sensitive financial information during the 2008 bailout debates that may have helped him earn tens of thousands of dollars by trading stock options, even as most Americans’ portfolios took a beating.
On Sunday, Rep. Bachus’s trading behavior came under fire in a 60 Minutes report based on Throw Them All Out, the book by investigative journalist and Breitbart editor that has triggered a political earthquake in Washington. Schweizer, who is also a Breitbart editor, devotes a significant portion of the book to exposing possible congressional insider trading.
Bachus’s trades during debate over the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) raise serious questions about whether he invested based on information he acquired as a result of his political power.
“Here’s the rub: all too often his trades coincided with his congressional work,” says Schweizer. “Bachus was neck-deep in crucial financial decision-making at the highest levels.”
BigGovernment.com has obtained and reviewed Rep. Bachus’s Fidelity stock options trading records. The dates of the congressman’s trading patterns paint a troubling picture.
Read the rest, including actual Fidelity records of Bachus’s trades, here.Comments »
Washington, D.C. is a town that runs on inside information – but should our elected officials be able to use that information to pad their own pockets? As Steve Kroft reports, members of Congress and their aides have regular access to powerful political intelligence, and many have made well-timed stock market trades in the very industries they regulate. For now, the practice is perfectly legal, but some say it’s time for the law to change.
The following is a script of “Insiders” which aired on Nov. 13, 2011. Steve Kroft is correspondent, Ira Rosen and Gabrielle Schonder, producers.
The next national election is now less than a year away and congressmen and senators are expending much of their time and their energy raising the millions of dollars in campaign funds they’ll need just to hold onto a job that pays $174,000 a year.
Few of them are doing it for the salary and all of them will say they are doing it to serve the public. But there are other benefits: Power, prestige, and the opportunity to become a Washington insider with access to information and connections that no one else has, in an environment of privilege where rules that govern the rest of the country, don’t always apply to them.
Questioning Pelosi: Steve Kroft heads to D.C.
When Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, and other lawmakers wouldn’t answer Steve Kroft’s questions, he headed to Washington to get some answers about their stock trades.
Most former congressmen and senators manage to leave Washington – if they ever leave Washington – with more money in their pockets than they had when they arrived, and as you are about to see, the biggest challenge is often avoiding temptation.
Peter Schweizer: This is a venture opportunity. This is an opportunity to leverage your position in public service and use that position to enrich yourself, your friends, and your family.
Peter Schweizer is a fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank at Stanford University. A year ago he began working on a book about soft corruption in Washington with a team of eight student researchers, who reviewed financial disclosure records. It became a jumping off point for our own story, and we have independently verified the material we’ve used.
Schweizer says he wanted to know why some congressmen and senators managed to accumulate significant wealth beyond their salaries, and proved particularly adept at buying and selling stocks.
Schweizer: There are all sorts of forms of honest grafts that congressmen engage in that allow them to become very, very wealthy. So it’s not illegal, but I think it’s highly unethical, I think it’s highly offensive, and wrong.
Steve Kroft: What do you mean honest graft?
Schweizer: For example insider trading on the stock market. If you are a member of Congress, those laws are deemed not to apply.
Kroft: So congressman get a pass on insider trading?
Schweizer: They do. The fact is, if you sit on a healthcare committee and you know that Medicare, for example, is– is considering not reimbursing for a certain drug that’s market moving information. And if you can trade stock on– off of that information and do so legally, that’s a great profit making opportunity. And that sort of behavior goes on.
Kroft: Why does Congress get a pass on this?
Schweizer: It’s really the way the rules have been defined. And the people who make the rules are the political class in Washington. And they’ve conveniently written them in such a way that they don’t apply to themselves.
The buying and selling of stock by corporate insiders who have access to non-public information that could affect the stock price can be a criminal offense, just ask hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam who recently got 11 years in prison for doing it. But, congressional lawmakers have no corporate responsibilities and have long been considered exempt from insider trading laws, even though they have daily access to non-public information and plenty of opportunities to trade on it.
Schweizer: We know that during the healthcare debate people were trading healthcare stocks. We know that during the financial crisis of 2008 they were getting out of the market before the rest of America really knew what was going on.
In mid September 2008 with the Dow Jones Industrial average still above ten thousand, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke were holding closed door briefings with congressional leaders, and privately warning them that a global financial meltdown could occur within a few days. One of those attending was Alabama Representative Spencer Bachus, then the ranking Republican member on the House Financial Services Committee and now its chairman.
Schweizer: These meetings were so sensitive– that they would actually confiscate cell phones and Blackberries going into those meetings. What we know is that those meetings were held one day and literally the next day Congressman Bachus would engage in buying stock options based on apocalyptic briefings he had the day before from the Fed chairman and treasury secretary. I mean, talk about a stock tip.
While Congressman Bachus was publicly trying to keep the economy from cratering, he was privately betting that it would, buying option funds that would go up in value if the market went down. He would make a variety of trades and profited at a time when most Americans were losing their shirts.
Congressman Bachus declined to talk to us, so we went to his office and ran into his Press Secretary Tim Johnson.
Read the rest here.Comments »
Former Speaker of the House–and current Minority Leader–Nancy Pelosi apparently bought $1 million to $5 million of Visa stock in one of the most sought-after and profitable initial public offerings (IPO) in American history, thwarted serious credit card reform for two years, and then watched her investment skyrocket 203%.
The revelation appears in Throw Them All Out, the new book by investigative journalist and Breitbart editor Peter Schweizer, which was the focus of 60 Minutes on CBS this evening, and which is featured in this week’s issue of Newsweek.
Schweizer’s investigation of Pelosi and other members of Congress–from both parties–raises a critical question: should it be legal for lawmakers to buy stocks in companies directly affected by their legislative efforts?
In early 2008, Nancy Pelosi and her real estate developer husband, Paul, were given an opportunity to buy into a Visa IPO. It was a nearly impossible feat–one that average citizens almost certainly could never achieve. The vast majority of purchase opportunities went to institutional investors, large mutual funds, or pension funds.
Despite Pelosi’s consistent railing against credit card companies, on March 18, 2008, the Pelosis bought between $1 million and $5 million (politicians do not have to report the exact amounts, only ranges) worth of Visa stock at the IPO price of $44 per share. Two days later, the stock price rocketed to $65 per share, yielding a 50% profit. The Pelosis then bought Visa twice more. By their third purchase on June 4, 2008, Visa was worth $85 per share.
How did Nancy Pelosi snag one of the most coveted initial public offerings in history? The facts are still emerging. Yet according to Schweizer, corporations that wish to build congressional allies will sometimes hand-pick members of Congress to receive IPOs. Pelosi received her Visa IPO almost two weeks after a potentially damaging piece of legislation for Visa, the Credit Card Fair Fee Act, had been introduced in the House. If passed, the bill would have cut into Visa’s profits substantially by lowering so-called “interchange fees,” the 1% to 3% charge retailers pay Visa when customers use Visa cards for purchases. Interchange fees are a critical source of revenue for the four credit card companies–$48 billion in 2008, to be exact.
If the Credit Card Fair Fee Act had been passed into effect, it would have amended antitrust laws to require credit card companies to enter negotiations with merchants over interchange fees, and it would have given the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission the power to arbitrate if the two sides failed to come to an agreement. For that reason, Visa and the other credit card companies strongly opposed the bill.
The Credit Card Fair Fee Act was exactly the kind of bill one would think then-Speaker Pelosi would have backed. “She had been outspoken about antitrust problems posed by insurance, oil, and pharmaceutical companies,” Schweizer notes, “and she was vocal about the need for controlling interest rates individual banks charged to use their credit cards.”
Initially, the Credit Card Fair Fee Act cleared the Judiciary Committee on a 19-16 vote, and the National Association of Convenience Stores began lobbying for a vote on the floor of the House. “It is imperative to tell your Representatives to request a vote on the House Floor from Nancy Pelosi,” the association urged its members. Still, with at least ten percent of the Pelosi family’s entire stock portfolio invested in a single stock, Nancy Pelosi clearly had a vested interest in ensuring that Visa’s profits were protected. And that is exactly what she accomplished. Despite broad public support for the bill—77% in one study—Pelosi saw to it that the bill never made it to the House floor.
Shortly thereafter, a second bill limiting collusion by the credit card companies on interchange fees was proposed. The Credit Card Interchange Fee Act of 2008, while not as strong as the first bill, would have required greater transparency from credit card companies in informing customers how much they were paying in interchange fees. Yet again, reports Schweizer, “this second bill suffered the same fate as the first, never making it to the House floor.”
By 2009, both bills had garnered even broader bipartisan support and were reintroduced. Under Speaker Pelosi, however, neither bill lived to see a vote on the House floor.
Read the rest here.Comments »
Related: S&P futs are +6.5Comments »
Thieves have nabbed a 3-foot-long copper sword atop Lincoln’s Tomb in what is believed to be the first theft at the site in more than a century.
An employee noticed last week that the sword was cut from a statue of a Civil War artillery officer, the (Springfield) State Journal-Register reported Saturday. Officials think the sword was stolen sometime between September and early November.
Nothing had been stolen from the Springfield site, which is the final resting place of Abraham Lincoln, since the sword on the same statue was taken more than 100 years ago, said Dave Blanchette, a spokesman for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Then, the sword was bronze.
“We just cannot imagine why someone would even think about doing it, let alone climb up the steps and actually do it,” Blanchette said.
The statue is on the tomb’s balcony, which is closed to visitors. Workers would likely have spotted a thief during the day, but no one guards the tomb at night, Blanchette said.
A security guard was posted overnight after a 1987 incident in which racist graffiti was spray-painted on the tomb. Five teenagers were arrested. But budget cuts ended that position within a few years of the incident, he said.
The rest of the statue was unharmed. Officials plan to fix the statue, Blanchette said.
Dedicated in 1874, Lincoln Tomb is the final resting place of Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary, and three of their four son, according to its website. The eldest son, Robert T. Lincoln, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
According to the website, “the 117-foot tomb, designed by sculptor Larkin Mead, is constructed of brick sheathed with Quincy granite. The base is 72-foot square with large semi-circular projections on the north and south sides. Double sets of north and south stairs lead to a terrace, above which rises the obelisk. At the corners of the shaft, large pedestals serve as bases for four bronze sculptures, each with a group of figures representing one of the four Civil War services—infantry, artillery, cavalry, and navy. A taller base on the obelisk’s south side holds a heroic bronze statue of Lincoln.”Comments »
Occupy Portland Overdoses and Public Safety Information – 11/12/11
On November 11, 2011, Portland Police officers assigned to the Occupy Portland encampments were contacted by people inside the camps about improvised weapons being found. Officers also received information that a man was going to damage police cars parked outside the encampments.
Officers made contact with the man and he relinquished his six foot long bamboo pole. No damage was done to any patrol cars and no arrests were necessary.
The Portland Police Bureau appreciates the ongoing efforts of people within the encampments to share information with officers about people committing crimes and stockpiling improvised weapons. Anyone with this kind of information should immediately share it with a police officer. Attached are two photos of items turned over to police from people within the Occupy Portland encampments.
Officers continue to see people packing up and leaving the encampments and officers are sharing information about shelter options with people in the encampments.
Teams of outreach workers continue to walk through the encampments and are providing information and assistance to homeless adults and youth in locating safe shelter space. Groups from Janus Youth Programs, JOIN, Transition Projects, Yellow Brick Road, Cascadia, and Can We Help have all been actively working with city officials and police to insure that people in need of services know where to go and how to obtain them.
The Portland Police Bureau anticipates that cooperation will continue with many people at the encampments and is encouraged by efforts to have a peaceful transition out of Chapman and Lownsdale Square parks. The Portland Parks Bureau is onsite and assisting people with clean up efforts of debris and unwanted property.
Friday afternoon at approximately 4:30 p.m., officers and medical personnel assisted a man suffering from a drug overdose in the middle of Lownsdale Square. The man was revived and transported to an area hospital for treatment.
This morning, Saturday November 12, at approximately 8:30 a.m., officers and medical personnel assisted a young woman suffering from a drug overdose. The woman, believed to be in her 20s, was revived and has been transported to an area hospital for treatment.
Attached are updated crime stats for the police patrol districts around the Occupy Portland encampments.Comments »
Earlier Friday, news broke that a Los Angeles area elementary school is facing some major criticism from parents after the district invited Grey to read to a group of first graders as part of the Read Across America program.
“I committed to this program with the understanding that people would have their own opinions about what I have done, who I am and what I represent,” she said in a statement.
“I am an actor. I am an artist. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a partner. I have a past that some people may not agree with, but it does not define who I am.
“I believe in the future of our children, and I will remain an active supporter and participant in education-focused initiatives.”
In response to the leaked email, Bachmann’s campaign released this statement:
“The liberal mainstream media elites are manipulating the Republican debates by purposely suppressing our conservative message and limiting Michele’s questions,” said campaign manager Keith Nahigian. “We need to show the liberal media elite that we won’t stand for this outrageous manipulation. Help us fight this affront by sharing this with your friends.”
A CBS spokesperson released a statement to Fox News stating: “It was a candid exchange about the reality of the circumstances — Bachmann remains at 4% in the polls.”
Congressman Ron Paul’s team was also upset with the lack of air time during the CBS debate.
“CBS’s treatment of Congressman Paul is disgraceful, especially given that tonight’s debate centered on foreign policy and national security,” wrote Gary Howard, Paul’s national campaign chairman. “Congressman Paul was only allocated 90 seconds of speaking in one televised hour.”
“CBS News, in their arrogance, may think they can choose the next president,” Howard said. “Fortunately, the people of Iowa, New Hampshire and across America get to vote and not the media elites.”
Republican presidential candidates said on Saturday they would stop Iran from developing an atomic bomb but differed over how to do it in a debate that tested their knowledge of world hotspots.
The economy has been the No. 1 issue for the 2012 election campaign, so the CBS News/National Journal debate offered a rare opportunity to hear the candidates explain how they would handle the job as commander-in-chief.
The candidates made no major stumbles during the first hour of the 90-minute gathering, but Texas Governor Rick Perry’s belief that the United States should consider eliminating foreign aid to Pakistan stirred debate among the candidates.
Newt Gingrich, who came to Spartanburg, South Carolina, riding a new wave of support as the conservative alternative to the more moderate Mitt Romney, declared he would launch covert operations within Iran in order to be able to deny them later.
Romney, who for months has been a front-runner to win the right to challenge President Barack Obama in the election next year, vowed in the debate at Wofford College to prevent Iran getting a nuclear weapon.
“One thing you can know is if we elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon,” said Romney, a former Massachusetts governor. “If you elect me … as the next president they will not have a nuclear weapon.”
The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, on Tuesday reported that Iran appears to have worked on designing an atomic bomb and may still be conducting secret research related to building such weapons.
Businessman Herman Cain, who has been dogged by sexual harassment allegations recently, said the only way to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon was through economic means, squeezing Tehran through sanctions and boosting Iran’s opposition movement.
Perry, hurt by a string of poor debate performances, including an embarrassing gaffe Wednesday night that some observers say might have crippled his campaign, was insistent that Washington should consider cutting aid to Pakistan.
While Gingrich agreed, Rick Santorum was adamantly opposed.
“Pakistan is a nuclear power,” Santorum said. “We cannot be indecisive about whether Pakistan is our friend. They must be a friend.”
None of the eight candidates on the stage have much in the way of foreign policy experience, save for former U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, but they all criticized Obama for mishandling U.S. relations abroad..Comments »
In 1972, Roger Mandingo, a University of Nebraska professor, received a grant from the National Pork Producer’s council to develop a technology that bound small “umarketable parts of the animal” into a formation that looked more appetizing. In other words, he figured out how to mold tripe, heart or stomach bits into something that looked like a choice cut of meat. Let’s say, the ribs.Comments »
Austerity has been passed in Italy and Berlusconi is expected to resign immediately.Comments »