New York Times OpEd Was Very Likely Written by a Koch Loyalist

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By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 6, 2018 ~ Last evening the New York Times dropped a bombshell just in time to dominate cable news programming for the next six hours. A “senior official” currently working inside the Trump administration penned an anonymous OpEd which the Times posted on its website last evening and is running in its print edition today. The anonymous writer explains that President Donald Trump is unfit to govern and that there is a coup taking place in the Federal government by unelected men but Americans should be comforted because these are “unsung heroes” and they are the “adults in the room” — even though we can’t know their names. To borrow a phrase from Bob Woodward’s new book on Trump’s reign in the White House, welcome to crazytown. Parsing the phrasing in the OpEd, there is a clear pattern of right-wing ideology – the … Continue reading

Is Sherrod Brown’s Senate Seat at Risk from Koch Industries’ Voter Operations?

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 5, 2018 ~ Koch Industries seems to have developed a secret sauce for winning elections. In January 2017 Time Magazine’s Philip Elliott reported that “In seven of the eight up-for-grabs U.S. Senate races last year, the Koch-backed candidate won. In all, Koch-backed candidates at all levels of races prevailed 96% of the time—a record any outside group would covet.” Now, despite polls showing Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown with a wide lead against his Republican challenger, U.S. Congressman Jim Renacci, there is reason to worry about what is going on in Ohio.  On April 21 The Australian published an intriguing news article by Michael Owen. It revealed that the South Australian Liberal party leader Steven Marshall (in reality a conservative party as opposed to how we think of liberals in the U.S.) had sent two of his key people to the U.S. state of … Continue reading

Is It Social Media or Corporate Surveillance? Facebook’s Business Model

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Testifies Before Congress on April 10, 2018 on His Company's Technology Failings

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 4, 2018 ~ It’s time to ask this question: is Facebook wearing the friendly façade of a social media company while actually operating as a high tech citizen surveillance center? We’ll get to that in a moment, but first a look at what an actual citizen surveillance center looks like in New York City. In 2012 we broke the story that the intrepid CBS investigative program, 60 Minutes, had aired a fawning piece on the Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center. That center is a high tech surveillance center built with over $150 million in taxpayers’ money that uses thousands of spy cameras owned by Wall Street banks together with thousands more owned by the New York City Police Department to spy on millions of law-abiding citizens in lower Manhattan. Data feeds from the cameras are routed to a central computer in the center … Continue reading

Did You Think the Volcker Rule Stopped Wall Street Banks from Owning Hedge Funds? Think Again.

NY Stock Exchange Trading Floor-150pix

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 31, 2018 ~ On August 22 Bloomberg News reported that Goldman Sachs is shuttering two hedge funds run out of Asia with approximately $1.4 billion in total assets. Goldman Sachs isn’t shuttering the funds because the Volcker Rule restricts its ownership of hedge funds but because, according to the report, one Goldman partner running one fund is retiring and the other is starting his own fund. Yesterday, Bloomberg News reported that JPMorgan Chase’s asset management division is liquidating “a $1 billion credit hedge fund” known as the Palm Lane Credit Opportunities Fund. The article said that “JPMorgan didn’t give a reason for the decision and a spokeswoman for the fund declined to comment.” A filing by Palm Lane Credit Opportunities Fund on August 24 of this year at the SEC, shows the hedge fund registered offshore in the Cayman Islands, and says its first … Continue reading

Looking Back on the Prosecution Failures after the 2008 Wall Street Crash

James A. Kidney

By James A. Kidney: August 30, 2018 ~ (Editor’s Note: James Kidney was a trial attorney at the SEC for 25 years until his retirement in 2014.) As the nation approaches the 10th anniversary of the demise of Lehman Brothers, which is popularly pegged as the beginning of the Great Recession, one is struck by the current events that tie back to the world-wide financial crisis of a decade ago. John McCain again is in the headlines, this time more sadly, as he was when he made a Hail Mary move by temporarily “suspending” his presidential campaign to address the financial crisis — an ill-considered action he came to regret. Big Wall Street banks are as up to their necks in risky derivatives, as in 2008. Once again, the political powers are reveling in a long bull market and listening to wealthy bankers proclaim a pressing need to be relieved … Continue reading

Trump’s Tweet Against Google Is Really about Boosting Koch-Funded “News”

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By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 29, 2018 ~ Yesterday, President Donald Trump accused Google in a Tweet of rigging its search results to suppress the “voices of Conservatives.” That’s the same complaint that the secretive Charles Koch network of super wealthy political operatives have been attempting to address with media front groups for more than a decade. Trump now appears to be using his bully pulpit in an effort to legitimize those Koch-funded media outlets. The billionaire fossil fuels magnate, Charles Koch, has a lot of balls in the air right now and some are at risk of falling to earth with a thud. He’s currently in a battle to beat out the National Republican Committee (RNC) as the go-to guy for voter database, data mining and targeted social media ads in the midterms and all future elections. (See our report: Koch Industries Is Staffing Up with Voter … Continue reading

Senator John McCain Wanted to Restore the Glass-Steagall Act: Here’s Why

Senator John McCain

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 28, 2018 ~ It’s not every day that one sees the names Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren and Republican Senator John McCain as the leading co-sponsors on the same piece of legislation. But that’s exactly what happened on July 11, 2013, two years later on July 7, 2015,  and again last year on April 6. Together with Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and Angus King (I-Maine), the four last year re-introduced the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act, an updated version of the Banking Act of 1933, which was also known as the Glass-Steagall Act. Senator McCain passed away on August 25, without seeing the passage of the legislation. If enacted, the legislation would separate traditional banks that hold deposits that are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) – and ultimately backstopped by the U.S. taxpayer – from the investment banks on Wall Street that underwrite … Continue reading

MIT Professor: Big Banks Are Using Data Profiling to Prey on Unsophisticated

Antoinette Schoar, MIT Professor

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 27, 2018 ~ The Kansas City Fed’s annual symposium in Jackson Hole is typically a dry affair with central bankers and economists expounding on theories that are incomprehensible to the average working person — whose focus is on making their monthly mortgage payment, saving for their children’s college tuition and building a nest egg for retirement. This past weekend’s event, however, produced one highly relevant paper for the average Joe. Professor Antoinette Schoar of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) spoke on the effect of investments by “JP Morgan Chase, Citi, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America into AI [artificial intelligence], machine learning and big data,” stating that their investments are “a multiple of all other banks.” Schoar warned that the “emergent Fintech technologies” that result from these large investments “might in fact reinforce concentration in the industry given the enormous economies of … Continue reading

Evidence Mounts that President Trump May Have a Serious Personality Disorder

President Donald Trump Tells Fox News that Americans Would End Up Poor Without His Brain in the White House

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 24, 2018 ~ The media’s focus on President Donald Trump currently revolves around whether he is or is not an unindicted co-conspirator in criminal campaign finance fraud following that implication by prosecution documents and his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, in Federal court testimony on Tuesday. Democrats want congressional hearings to gather more evidence while Republican leaders are simply ducking press interviews. The graver risk to the country, however, may stem not from whether Donald Trump is a crook but whether he is suffering from narcissistic personality disorder, a condition with the potential to elevate to dangerous psychotic behavior. Last year, 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts assessed Donald Trump’s behavior in the book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.  One of the most revealing articles came from Dr. Craig Malkin, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, lecturer for Harvard Medical School, and author of the … Continue reading

The Fed’s “Supervision” of Wall Street Has Made It More Dangerous

Randal Quarles, Vice Chairman for Supervision, Federal Reserve

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 23, 2018 ~  The Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation was signed into law on July 21, 2010 as the U.S. was still reeling from the aftermath of the epic 2008 Wall Street crash and economic meltdown. In addition to giving the Federal Reserve enhanced powers to supervise the behemoth bank holding companies on Wall Street, Section 1108 created a new position on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. The legislation reads: “The Vice Chairman for Supervision shall develop policy recommendations for the Board regarding supervision and regulation of depository institution holding companies and other financial firms supervised by the Board, and shall oversee the supervision and regulation of such firms.’’ The President of the United States was mandated to fill this slot and the Fed’s Vice Chairman for Supervision was to give semi-annual testimony to the Senate Banking and House Finance Committees. Under … Continue reading

Newspapers in Rural Areas Ignore Michael Cohen Bombshell

New York Daily News Front Page, August 22, 2018-iii

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 22, 2018 ~  The fact that the President’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty yesterday to an array of fraud charges and fingered the President as an unindicted co-conspirator in campaign finance fraud, which dominated cable news last night for a non-stop six hours, has failed to get front-page placement in newspapers across rural America. This news censorship may explain why suburban and urban voters give such a low approval rating to Donald Trump while rural voters continue to give the President high marks. Rural voters are simply being starved of important national news by their local newspapers. Consider the stark difference in reporting between the digital front pages of big city papers and their rural peers this morning: The New York Times leads today with the headline Cohen Pleads Guilty, Implicating President. The Washington Post has this: Cohen pleads guilty, implicates Trump in … Continue reading

Will Fed Chair Powell Respond to Trump’s Jabs in His Jackson Hole Speech?

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 21, 2018 ~ The Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, is slated to deliver a speech on Friday morning at an annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. President Donald Trump has made it known that he wants some economic help from the Fed in terms of keeping interest rates low. Speaking of Powell directly, Trump told Reuters yesterday: “I’m not thrilled with his raising of interest rates, no. I’m not thrilled.” All eyes on Wall Street will be watching for any hints in Powell’s speech that he’s sending a message to Trump that he won’t be taking any loyalty oath to the President. But aside from possible coded messaging to Trump to take his jackboot off the Fed’s turf, there are other important reasons to pay attention to the Jackson Hole gathering. It’s called the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Economic … Continue reading

Four Critical Changes Needed to Make Wall Street Work for America Again

NY Stock Exchange Trading Floor-150pix

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 20, 2018 ~ Last Thursday the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a statement regarding a new $10.5 million fine against Citigroup. The statement read: “Citigroup’s lax supervision and weak internal accounting controls allowed a handful of rogue traders to mismark positions over several years and, separately, resulted in the unnecessary loss of hundreds of millions of dollars of its shareholders’ assets to fraud.” Lax supervision, weak accounting controls, and losing hundreds of millions of dollars to fraud are not words the American taxpayer wants to be reading about Citigroup in 2018. This is the very same bank that received the largest bailout by the U.S. taxpayer in global banking history following its implosion during the Wall Street crash of 2008 due to grossly faulty internal controls. The reason that Citigroup was bailed out while Lehman Brothers was left to fail was that, … Continue reading

U.S. Media’s Use of Its Collective Voice Reveals a Tragic Truth about America

We Are Not Fake News (thumbnail)

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 17, 2018 ~ August 16, 2018 will be remembered as the day there was a collective awakening by America’s media that there was something intrinsically and morally and constitutionally wrong with not just the functioning of the President of the United States – but with America itself. In response to an August 10 appeal from the Boston Globe to newspaper editorial boards around the country to write and publish their thoughts on Trump’s “dirty war against the free press,” more than 300 newspapers responded yesterday. The Globe’s own editorial yesterday contained one of the most poignant phrases, stating that the President tosses out lies about the media “much like an old-time charlatan threw out ‘magic’ dust or water on a hopeful crowd.” You can read the coast-to-coast outpouring of editorials on what a free press means to democracy here. One of the most … Continue reading

Deutsche Bank and Citigroup Bleed More Equity Yesterday: The Reason Should Concern Us All

Deutsche Bank Headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 16, 2018 ~  Spasms in big Wall Street bank stocks have been happening on a serial basis over the past three years. (See here and here.) Yesterday offered another one of those bank warning signs to a Congress intent on further deregulation of an already dangerously deregulated market. As the stock market grappled yesterday with fears of sinking emerging market currencies leading to loan defaults at European banks that are derivative counterparties to the biggest banks on Wall Street, the Wall Street banking sector was a sea of red. Two banks in particular sold off more than others. Deutsche Bank is the big German lender that trades on the New York Stock Exchange. It closed with a loss of 2.61 percent versus a much milder decline of 0.76 percent in the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index. Posting a final trade of $11.19, Deutsche … Continue reading

Derivatives: Donald Trump’s Most Dangerous Knowledge Gap

President Donald Trump Addresses a Joint Session of Congress, February 28, 2017

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 15, 2018 ~ It has been soundly demonstrated that the President of the United States has a knowledge vacuum in proper presidential decorum, diplomacy, and accepted norms of behavior. Just yesterday the President Tweeted that a former black female colleague in the White House, Omarosa Manigault Newman, is a “crazed, crying lowlife” and a “dog.”  On June 25, the President Tweeted that a sitting black female member of Congress, Maxine Waters, is “an extraordinarily low IQ person,” despite her being elected to 14 consecutive terms to the House of Representatives. There’s a serious danger that the current occupant of the Oval Office defines American etiquette so far down that we are shunned by enlightened countries as a backward, rogue nation. America has already gone rogue in withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, the United Nations Human Rights Council, and the Iran nuclear deal. … Continue reading

Meet Dark Money’s Secret $68 Million Donor

Riverside County Sheriff Officers Guard the Entrance to a Rancho Mirage, California Luxury Resort Where the Koch Brothers Held their January 2011 Political Strategy Confab. Photo Courtesy of Michael Cline, ClineFoto.com

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 14, 2018 ~ In 2010 we broke the news that a secretive nonprofit called Donors Capital Fund (with the fingerprints of billionaire Charles Koch all over it) had forked over $17,778,600 to fund a widely distributed race-baiting film in the weeks before the 2008 election – an election in which the first black man, Barack Obama, was the Democratic candidate for President. Donors Capital Fund accepts donations from multiple donors and keeps their identities secret, so exactly who funded the actual payment for the film is still unknown. Recently, we decided to see what Donors Capital Fund has been up to lately. We went to the publicly filed tax returns available online at the Foundation Center and Guidestar. The most recent available tax return is for 2016. Curiously, the schedule of the tax return that shows to whom disbursements were made was missing … Continue reading

The $4 Trillion Answer to Why Turkey Is Rattling Wall Street Banks and Insurers

Bank Logos

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 13, 2018 ~ On Friday the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed with a loss of 196 points as contagion jitters from Turkey’s worsening situation rattled markets. Among the big Wall Street banks, these were the biggest losers: Citigroup, down 2.39 percent; Morgan Stanley, down 2.12 percent; Goldman Sachs, down 1.78 percent; Bank of America, down 1.30 percent; and JPMorgan Chase closed off by 0.98 percent. Deutsche Bank, the big German lender whose U.S. subsidiary has a big footprint on Wall Street, lost 4.68 percent. Deutsche Bank has now lost 41 percent of its market value since February. But the selloff didn’t stop there. Two big U.S. life insurers also tumbled on Friday. MetLife lost 3.19 percent while Prudential Financial was off by 2.97 percent. What do Wall Street banks and U.S. life insurers have to do with a selloff in Turkey’s currency? Not … Continue reading

Yes, James Freeman, We Do Know How Bad the Federal Reserve Is

Federal Reserve's FOMC Meeting in March 2014

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 10, 2018 ~ Earlier this week, James Freeman, the Assistant Editor of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, wrote an opinion piece headlined as “We’ll Never Know How Bad the Federal Reserve Is.” Freeman is also a Fox News contributor so one might be prone to suspect there is that typical right-wing bias to bash the Fed. Freeman, however, has a legitimate beef. His new book, “Borrowed Time: Two Centuries of Booms, Busts and Bailouts at Citi,” with co-author Vern McKinley was published this week and Freeman laments in the article about how the Fed “hides and then destroys documents.” If you’re a journalist attempting to compile a truthful and accurate account about a financial institution or a financial era and a key institution holding those documents refuses to release them, then the American people have lost the ability to exercise oversight of … Continue reading

Koch Advances Its Wall Street Playbook, Gutting the Office of Financial Research

Dino Falaschetti, Donald Trump's Nominee to Head the Office of Financial Research, Has Close Ties to Two Koch-Funded Front Groups

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 9, 2018 ~ As we have previously reported, there is indisputable documentation that Charles Koch, the fossil fuels billionaire who sits at the helm of Koch Industries, is in charge of the de-regulatory agenda in the Trump administration through a web of front groups. More proof came yesterday. Reuters announced that the Trump administration had “formally told” around 40 staff members of the Office of Financial Research (OFR) that “they will lose their jobs as part of a broader reorganization of the agency….” Reuters also reported that the agency’s budget has already been cut by 25 percent “to around $76 million.” Imagine having only $76 million to police an industry where just one of the big Wall Street banks, JPMorgan Chase, had profits of $8.32 billion in its last quarter. Charles Koch has long understood that if you can’t repeal the legislation that … Continue reading

Donald Trump’s Campaign Is Writing Out Strange Checks

President Donald Trump

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 8, 2018 ~ One would think that if you are the President of the United States and the subject of a criminal investigation; and your former campaign chief is currently on trial for tax evasion and bank fraud; and your former personal attorney for a decade had his office, hotel room, home and safety deposit box raided by the FBI – you would make sure that your campaign committee would be crossing every T and dotting every I so that you didn’t land in more hot water. But if you are Donald Trump, living close to the edge is what you do best. A review at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) of the checks written from the Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. account, the principal campaign committee for Trump’s reelection, produces some doozies. Donald Trump was sworn in on January 20, 2017 … Continue reading

Facebook Opens Door to More Federal Probes by Asking Banks for Data

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Testifies Before Congress on April 10, 2018 on His Company's Technology Failings

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 7, 2018 ~ Facebook is beginning to resemble one of those frat boys at a boozy party who keeps asking guys to punch him in the stomach to prove his masculinity. At a time when it’s under scrutiny on multiple continents for sharing its users’ personal information without their consent, it has decided to ask big U.S. banks to share their customers’ financial transaction information with Facebook, according to a report yesterday in the Wall Street Journal. The Journal reported that “The social-media giant has asked large U.S. banks to share detailed financial information about their customers, including card transactions and checking-account balances, as part of an effort to offer new services to users.” Three of the banks mentioned, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo, have been serially in trouble with Federal regulators for abusing their customers. The idea that these Wall Street … Continue reading

Financial Health of U.S. Consumer Will Determine Severity of the Next Recession

Total U.S. Household Debt and its Composition as of First Quarter 2018 (Source -- New York Fed)

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 6, 2018 ~ Approximately two-thirds of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) derives from the consumer. Without financially healthy consumers, the economy cannot prosper. In a July 30 interview on the cable news channel, CNBC, Jamie Dimon, the Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the U.S., said that “the consumer’s in good shape; their balance sheet’s in good shape.” On May 17 the Center for Microeconomic Data at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York released its Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit which raised some notable questions as to whether Jamie Dimon actually has his finger on the pulse of the U.S. consumer. According to the report, “aggregate household debt balances increased in the first quarter of 2018, for the 15th consecutive quarter. As of March 31, 2018, total household indebtedness stood at $13.21 trillion,” which is $536 billion … Continue reading

Banking in the U.S. Got a Lot More Dangerous this Week

Joseph Otting, Comptroller of the Currency

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 3, 2018 ~ The Trump administration seems hellbent on turning every Federal regulator into a snake oil salesman.  The latest scandal du jour comes yesterday from Politico’s Ben Lefebvre who reports that the Inspector General of the Interior Department is investigating whether the Interior’s head honcho, Ryan Zinke, colluded with the head of Halliburton to build him his dream brewery in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana. Against that backdrop, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) announced on Tuesday that financial technology companies, known as fintech, which provide various types of banking activities other than accepting insured deposits, will now be allowed to apply for a special purpose national bank charter and operate across state lines. The OCC announcement promptly followed a report from the U.S. Treasury which recommended that the OCC make the charter available. The immediate impact of gaining such a charter would … Continue reading

Wall Street’s Former Timid Cop, Mary Jo White, to Investigate Sex Allegations Against Les Moonves

Leslie Moonves, Chairman and CEO of CBS Corp.

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 2, 2018 A few minutes before midnight last night, CBS News announced that the Board of its parent corporation, CBS Corp., was putting two outside law firms in charge of investigating the sexual harassment allegations against its Chairman and CEO, Leslie (Les) Moonves and other executives in its CBS News division. Those two law firms are Covington & Burling and Debevoise & Plimpton.  According to the statement from CBS, the investigation at Covington & Burling “will be led by Nancy Kestenbaum and at Debevoise & Plimpton it will be led by Mary Jo White.” The selection of Mary Jo White is not likely to instill confidence among institutional holders of CBS stock who are familiar with her tenure as Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) during the Obama administration. The sexual allegations were revealed in an in-depth article by Ronan Farrow … Continue reading