Senate Hearing: Facebook CEO Zuckerberg Is Questioned on Ties to CIA-Funded Company

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: April 11, 2018 As Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg fingered his cheat sheet of canned answers to a barrage of questions from Senators yesterday on how Facebook had allowed a Trump-backed political operation to harvest personal data from 87 million of its users, Zuckerberg attempted to channel motherhood, apple pie, dorm room entrepreneurism and an altruistic desire to connect people around the world in one harmonious melding of human spirit. Unfortunately, the facts just kept getting in the way. There was the questioning from Senator Richard Blumenthal pointing out that Facebook had been caught red-handed in 2011 by the Federal Trade Commission in egregious abuses of its users’ personal data. Blumenthal said current activities at Facebook showed that Facebook was in “violation of the FTC consent decree.” Another uncomfortable moment came when Senator Patrick Leahy asked if Special Counsel Robert Mueller had issued subpoenas to … Continue reading

Wall Street’s Insidious Connection to the FBI’s Raid on Trump’s Lawyer

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: April 10, 2018 As the news broke yesterday that the office, home and hotel room of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, had been raided yesterday by the FBI, CNN was ferociously soliciting opinions from a myriad of folks on why Special Counsel Robert Mueller had not overseen the raid but had simply made a referral to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) which oversaw the raid. No one had any concrete answers for CNN. For years, Wall Street On Parade has been documenting and reporting on how the Federal courts and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York function as a protection racket for Wall Street. For decades, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the SDNY has been populating itself through a gold-plated revolving door to Wall Street’s biggest and coziest law firms. This … Continue reading

Facebook Hearings Will Miss the Point, Just Like the JPMorgan Chase Hearings

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: April 9, 2018 Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, will testify before a joint session of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee tomorrow afternoon. He’ll head to the Hill again on Wednesday morning to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Zuckerberg’s testimony comes as a result of the stunning testimony that Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, gave to the British Parliament on March 27 of this year on how tens of millions of Facebook users had their private information obtained without their permission by Cambridge Analytica, a company deeply involved in the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Zuckerberg conceded in a public statement on April 4 that the privacy breach by Cambridge Analytica could have affected as many as 87 million Facebook users. Zuckerberg also acknowledged that “most” of its 2 billion worldwide users may have had their profiles scraped … Continue reading

Trump’s Remarks Send Dow Futures Plunging 360 Points Last Night

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: April 6, 2018 If you have ever watched the past Chairs of the Federal Reserve give their semi-annual testimony before the U.S. House and Senate, you are aware of how carefully they parse their words to avoid rattling the stock or bond markets. That’s how people in high places in government with insider information behave. But now we have Rambo in the Oval Office, randomly throwing grenades into already wildly fluctuating markets. This leads foreign investors as well as U.S. investors to question if they want their life savings to be invested in this carnival barker-like circus. Bloomberg News underscores this reality with an article today about a $60 billion money manager who is considering selling all of his U.S. assets because of the political risk. At around 8:40 p.m. last eve, we settled in to watch the news. We learned that President Trump … Continue reading

Facebook and JPMorgan Chase: Case Studies in Exploitive Monetization

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: April 5, 2018 Last week the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, gave a harsh critique on how Facebook is making its money. Cook told an MSNBC Town Hall: “The truth is we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer, if our customer was our product. We’ve elected not to do that.” Cook has good reason to believe that Facebook has “monetized” its customers. After a whistleblower from the data mining company, Cambridge Analytica, exposed that Facebook had allowed the private information on 50 million Facebook users to be exploited for micro-targeting on behalf of the Trump presidential campaign, the company has come under withering criticism. Yesterday, in a press conference, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, conceded to reporters that the privacy breach by Cambridge Analytica could have affected as many as 87 million Facebook users. The company also announced … Continue reading

Today’s Markets Show the Need to Return to Defined Benefit Pension Plans

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: April 4, 2018 The 401(k) was never a genuine plan to help Americans better prepare for retirement. Like everything else that Wall Street spends hundreds of millions of dollars to lobby for each year, the 401(k) was a wealth-transfer mechanism to enrich the denizens of Wall Street while transforming the mindset of the rank and file worker into shareholder capitalists. The fantasy expanded as the “ownership society,” during the George W. Bush administration. The Wall Street implosion of 2008-2009, which devastated the 401(k)s of most Americans and led to stress, anxiety and health issues for millions of hardworking citizens, should have been the wake up call to Congress on the need to return to corporate-funded pension plans known as Defined Benefit plans because they “define” a monthly payment that will be made at retirement age. The 401(k) promises no guaranteed monthly payment but simply … Continue reading

Will the Stock Market’s Tech Rout End Like the Dot.com Bust?

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: April 3, 2018 Last year the iconic investor, Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, penned his annual missive to shareholders. It contained this nugget: “Above all, it’s our market system – an economic traffic cop ably directing capital, brains and labor – that has created America’s abundance. This system has also been the primary factor in allocating rewards.” If that statement is true, then the $2.3 trillion that the U.S. stock market vaporized over the past two months is nothing for investors to worry about. But if the market is not efficiently directing capital, if it’s a system where everything from stock research, to high frequency trading, to Dark Pools, to over-the-counter derivatives, to revolving-door regulators is rigged to benefit insiders, then buckle your seat belts for the wild ride that’s coming. The reality is that careful Wall Street watchers have known for … Continue reading

Are the Big Banks Putting a Gun to the Head of the U.S. Consumer – Again?

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: April 2, 2018 Last Thursday, President Trump told a union crowd in Ohio that the U.S. is enjoying “the greatest economy we have ever had.” If that is so, why is Trump piling on more national debt to boost the economy through fiscal spending? The answer appears to rest in the fact that much of the economic growth in the United States is being financed by consumer debt. The serious threat to that economic growth is that interest rates are rising on big chunks of that consumer debt with virtually no restraints on what the mega Wall Street banks can charge to struggling Americans. According to the 2017 year-end study on “Household Debt and Credit” from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, household debt has increased for 14 consecutive quarters and now stands at $13.15 trillion, an historic milestone that eclipses the former … Continue reading

Was Robert Mercer’s Vast Operation to Put Trump in the White House Just About Tax Avoidance?

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: March 29, 2018 While Robert Mercer was donating $25 million to Republican campaigns in the 2016 election cycle and building a vast network of social media projects like Cambridge Analytica to digitally target voters “inner demons,” James Simons, the founder of the hedge fund, Renaissance Technologies, where Mercer made his billions, was working the other side of the street. Simons pumped $27 million into the coffers of Democratic candidates and related campaign committees. Included in that amount from Simons was $11 million that went into Priorities USA, a SuperPac supporting Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for the presidency. What “hedge” funds do is hedge their bets in the markets. It’s common sense to think they would also hedge their political bets. Mercer and Simons have the following in common: both are computer scientists with doctorates who previously worked on military projects; both made billions of … Continue reading

Market Bubble? 5 Tech Stocks Go From $1.88 Trillion to $3.4 Trillion in Less than 3 Years

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: March 28, 2018 After experiencing carnage at the end of last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 344.8 points yesterday or 1.43 percent of its value. But the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed down with a percentage loss of more than twice that amount at minus 2.93 percent. Individual tech stocks far outpaced the losses in the broader market with Facebook closing down 4.90 percent; Alphabet (parent of Google) closing down 4.57 percent; Microsoft ending the session with a loss of 4.60 percent; Amazon down 3.78 percent; and Apple losing a more modest 2.56 percent. Wall Street’s love affair with tech is rapidly turning into a “stormy” relationship. Back on August 27, 2015, we quoted Tan Teng Boo, the founder and CEO of Capital Dynamics, saying that just five U.S. stocks — Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon  — are worth more than the Frankfurt, … Continue reading

Trump and Brexit: Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower Gives Bombshell Testimony to British Lawmakers

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: March 27, 2018 Christopher Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower who has thus far exposed how Steve Bannon and his money-backer, billionaire hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, created Cambridge Analytica, which harvested private data from 50 million Facebook users to help Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, testified for almost four hours this morning before British lawmakers in the Commons Culture Committee. His testimony was explosive at times. Wylie is testifying before the British lawmakers because the same people and companies involved in the social media data mining and micro-targeting for Trump’s presidential campaign were also involved in the June 23, 2016 Brexit vote in the U.K. where citizens voted in a referendum to take the U.K. out of the European Union. Wylie testified that a Canadian company, AggregateIQ (AIQ), developed the software for Cambridge Analytica, describing it as a “proxy” firm and “money laundering operation.” He … Continue reading

“Masking”: A Mass Conspiracy Inside Merrill Lynch

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: March 26, 2018 At last we know why the New York State Attorney General’s office has decided to sideline the Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. Department of Justice and become the self-appointed watchdog over Wall Street’s Dark Pools: it’s helping its hometown industry by doling out tiny fines and never digging too deep. This past Friday’s fine against Merrill Lynch’s Dark Pool marks the fourth time since 2014 that the office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has leveled a meaningless fine of less than $50 million against the Dark Pools of Wall Street’s mega banks that are making billions of dollars in profits each year through what Senator Bernie Sanders calls a “business model of fraud.” (Schneiderman’s office brought earlier charges against Barclays, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank.) On Friday, Schneiderman’s office issued a press release on its $42 million … Continue reading

Wall Street Is Winning By Going Dark

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: March 22, 2018 As front page news focuses more and more on the Russia-Trump investigation, there is rarely an in-depth journalistic investigation into the dangerous risks building up on Wall Street that makes front page news. And yet, as we know from the epic financial crisis of 2008, an unreformed Wall Street presents the gravest threat to America’s long-term vitality and economic might. Take, for example, what happened this past Monday. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) awarded a record $83 million to three whistleblowers from one of America’s largest retail brokerage firms, Merrill Lynch, part of the sprawling Bank of America. That bank holds $1.4 trillion in deposits, much of which is FDIC insured and backstopped by the U.S. taxpayer — the same taxpayer that bailed out Bank of America in 2008. The SEC maintains the confidentiality of whistleblowers who come to … Continue reading

Trump, Bannon and Cambridge Analytica: The Money Trail Leads to the Mercers

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: March 21, 2018 Last evening, the Washington Post reported that Steve Bannon was the individual overseeing the earliest collection of Facebook data for Cambridge Analytica in 2014. The company is under investigation in both the U.S. and U.K. for data mining private information on more than 50 million Facebook users to target voters for the 2016 Trump presidential campaign. Bannon, with funding from billionaire hedge fund manager, Robert Mercer, was involved in the launch of Cambridge Analytica in 2013. Both Bannon and Mercer served on the Cambridge Analytica Board after its founding. Bannon is the former executive chairman of Breitbart News which also received funding from Mercer. Bannon also served as CEO of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and as senior counselor to the 45th president for the first seven months of his term until a falling out last year. Robert Mercer was a … Continue reading

Has Facebook and Cambridge Analytica Put Democracy at Risk in Both the U.S. and U.K.?

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: March 20, 2018 For over a year, Carole Cadwalladr has been reporting in the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper about the bizarre overlap between the people and companies involved in Donald Trump’s rise to the Presidency in the U.S. and the June 23, 2016 Brexit vote in the U.K. where citizens voted in a referendum to take the U.K. out of the European Union. Now, one of those companies, Cambridge Analytica, is the subject of intense focus on both sides of the pond. Last evening in the U.S., cable news aired video of Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, speaking with undercover reporters about a political dirty tricks campaign the company could run. Nix cited an example of setting up hidden cameras to catch a politician saying he would accept a bribe or the company could send in girls to seduce the politician. Nix said: … Continue reading