Today's New York Times features a pricey, full-page ad by JP Morgan Chase on a new charitable project. "We believe it's important to listen to our customers and communities. That's why we created Community Giving and let the Facebook community vote on which local charities will receive $5 million in grants from Chase," the ad proclaims.
The New York Times' front page exposé on the role that Goldman Sachs has played in the Greek tragedy unfolding in Europe right now raises a huge number of concerns both for the U.S. economy and the financial reform measures now in Congress.
To recap, Greece and a number of other European Union (EU) countries are dangerously in debt. EU rules say member countries cannot have budget deficits that exceed three percent of GDP. Greece's debt is closer to 12 percent. Other countries including Spain, Ireland, Italy and Portugal are also in trouble. These countries are "too big to fail." A default by any one of them would rock the global markets, putting an end to the hopeful signs of an EU recovery and potentially leading to a "double dip" recession here in the United States.
Greece and perhaps the other EU nations have been hiding the extent of the debt for years. This week, it was revealed that they have been able to do this with the aid of major U.S. players like Goldman Sachs. The German magazine Der Spiegel broke the story that Greece did a billion-dollar currency swap with Goldman Sachs in 2002 that did not show up on the nation's books as debt.
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.