Citibank is dodging newly-enacted federal laws aimed at protecting consumers from unfair credit card company practices. The new law prohibits credit card companies from raising interest rates whenever they like, on short notice or no notice, and for no particular reason.
It's really unbelievable. The way that Goldman Sachs keeps sticking its foot in it is simply unbelievable. Let's not review their gross profits and bonuses, or their many failed public relations schemes to gloss over unseemly profits, a practice we have dubbed "greedwashing". Let's simply recap this week's news.
On Sunday, the New York Times detailed in a front-page expose' how Goldman may have hastened the demise of AIG, and perhaps the global economy, by betting that the housing market would collapse and jacking up its insurance for mortgage securities with AIG to extract more and more money from the firm as the housing market went south.
On the day that Punxsutawney Phil emerged to predict a long hard winter, Americans picked up the newspaper to read that AIG, the bankrupt insurance giant, was going to pay out $100 million in bonuses to its failed financial products division. Kenneth Feinberg, President Obama’s pay czar, announced that these were “grandfathered” retention payments and that the unit had taken a $20 million dollar reduction in bonuses.
Like Bill Murray in the classic film Groundhog Day, we are being forced to live this day over again.
Republicans are on the defensive. As we enter the 2010 election cycle, Republicans are a bit worried that Americans might remember how their maniacal push to deregulate Wall Street resulted in the collapse of the global economy on their watch. They need a new message to appeal to hard-hit voters. To the rescue comes renowned Republican strategist and spinmeister Frank Luntz.
Davos is a small resort town in Switzerland best known for hosting the World Economic Forum (WEF), an annual meeting of global political and business elites. Every year the biggest boosters of the "neoliberal" economic policy agenda of deregulation, unfettered global trade and strict International Monetary Fund (IMF) rules for poor countries, convene at Davos to pat each other on the back.
Now that these policies have almost brought the world to ruin, one would expect these global titans to be self-reflective and perhaps even apologetic. Mostly they were absent.
The debate over banks and banking came front and center this week. In his toughest language yet, President Barack Obama vowed to veto financial reform legislation that is not tough enough on Wall Street. "The lobbyists are already trying to kill it," Obama told Congress in his State of the Union address. "Well, we cannot let them win this fight.
The White House has invited a special guest to attend President Obama's State of the Union address: Trevor Yager, the openly gay founder and co-owner of TrendyMinds, a successful advertising and public relations firm based in Indianapolis, Indiana. The President will feature the agency for its growth and charitable contributions in 2009, and as an example of a business that has benefited from White House policies.
While President Obama is in Washington talking about putting a freeze on government spending, soon millions of American families will be out in the cold. In one month, one million Americans are slated to lose their unemployment insurance. Millions more will follow.
Opposition has been mounting to the reconfirmation of Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve Chairman. In recent days, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) and John McCain (R-AZ) announced that they would vote no. Today, Senator Tom Harkin told the DesMoines Register he would be a no vote. If Bernanke does not get a vote this week, before the formal end of his first term, it would send shock waves through Wall Street.
Although he was named Time magazine's "Man of the Year" due to his handling of the financial crisis, Boxer and Feingold reprise a bit of forgotten history. “Dr. Bernanke played a lead role in crafting the Bush administration’s economic policies, which led to the current economic crisis. Our next Federal Reserve chairman must represent a clean break from the failed policies of the past,” said Boxer.
The President took on Wall Street Thursday. Stocks plummeted, consumer activists cheered. Now we are talking.
Obama's throwdown comes hard on the heels of the special election in Massachusetts in which public outrage over the bank bailout and the state of the staggering economy played a major role. As we have already reported, Republican Scott Brown seized the Democratic stronghold by billing himself as a man of the people and using public dismay with the Wall Street bailout to his advantage on the campaign trail. On Thursday, Obama showed he got the message.
For the first time, the President's narrative directly blamed Wall Street for the crisis and proposed a major structural reform to business-as-usual. After freeing former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker from the closet he had been stuffed in at the Treasury Department, Obama brought him out to announce new measures long advocated by Volcker.