America Has an Infrastructure Crisis: Gas Pipes Exploding; Concrete Basements Collapsing; Lead in Water; the 100-Year Flood that Comes Annually

During Hurricane Sandy, Photo of Lobby of 140 West Street in Lower Manhattan, Released by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 17, 2018 ~ As thousands of residents of North and South Carolina remain in shelters in the aftermath of catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Florence, zoning and planning boards across America are signing off on the plans of developers to build new communities in areas with inadequate water drainage and runoff facilities. At the same time, large expanses of lush native vegetation with the ability to absorb heavy rains are being replaced with concrete sidewalks and driveways, exacerbating the flooding problem. Government safeguards against over-development are being rolled back or simply ignored in towns and cities across the country by officials too cozy with moneyed developers who finance the government officials’ political campaigns. Last Thursday, 8600 customers of Columbia Gas in the towns of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, Massachusetts were ordered from their homes as more than 60 area homes erupted in flames and … Continue reading

Company Involved in Massachusetts Gas Explosions Has History of Blasts

Over 60 Homes Were Damaged by Fire and at least Three Exploded in Massachusetts on September 13, 2018 as a Result of a Natural Gas Problem.

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 14, 2018 ~ As thousands of people were fleeing their coastal homes in the Carolinas yesterday to be safe from the approaching wrath of Hurricane Florence after five days of warnings, thousands more were forced from their homes in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, Massachusetts yesterday. The Massachusetts evacuations came without prior warning as more than 60 homes erupted in flames yesterday and at least three exploded from a natural gas malfunction involving the utility company, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts. Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield told local reporters that “It looked like Armageddon,” saying he could see “billows of smoke coming from Lawrence behind me” and “pillars of smoke in front of me from the town of Andover.” The Associated Press reported that “some local officials described scenes of panic as residents rushed to evacuate, many wondering if their homes would be next … Continue reading

For Over a Century, the New York Times Has Praised Big Bank Consolidation

Sanford (Sandy) Weill, the Man Who Put the Serially Charged  Citigroup Behemoth Together

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 13, 2018 ~ For more than a century, the New York Times has championed some of the most despised men on Wall Street in their power grabs of other banks. The resulting mega bank concentration has crippled competition, crippled democracy in the U.S. and led to unprecedented wealth and income inequality in our nation. And yet, to many Americans, the New York Times is considered a progressive newspaper. It is notable that the New York Times was founded with big bank money. Adolph S. Ochs purchased the New York Times in 1896 for $75,000. John Pierpont Morgan Sr. of the powerful Wall Street bank, JPMorgan, provided $25,000 of that money. When the Times celebrated its 100th anniversary  in 1996, it noted that the Pierpont Morgan Library was exhibiting “the original letter Ochs wrote to his wife, Effie, describing a meeting he had with … Continue reading

The Chorus Grows for the Fed to Buy Up Stocks in the Next Wall Street Crisis

Olivier Blanchard

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 12, 2018 ~ There is now a growing chorus of people trying to legitimize the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, having the option of buying stocks in the next financial crisis. This is such a stunning and dangerous development that it deserves to be on the front page of every newspaper in America – before President Donald Trump attempts to sign an Executive Order authorizing it. (We’re only half-joking about that.) This is the highly suspicious timeline of the clamor to give the Fed carte blanche to do as it pleases when Wall Street blows itself up again: Tuesday, September 4, 2018: JPMorgan Chase sends a research report to its clients which includes this statement from Marko Kolanovic, a Senior Analyst at the bank:  “It remains to be seen how governments and central banks will respond in the scenario of a great liquidity … Continue reading

As White House Coups Go, Wall Street Has Staged Plenty

Donald Regan, Former U.S. Treasury Secretary  from Merrill Lynch

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 11, 2018 ~ The reverberations from the New York Times OpEd last week, where an anonymous “senior official” in the Trump administration effectively described a coup taking place to stop the President’s mad impulses, are still shaking the nation. But President Donald Trump, from the day he took office, has been little more than a titular figure head for the fossil fuels industry – with Koch Industries in particular calling the shots. The Trump administration took the unthinkable step of removing the United States from the Paris Climate Accord and there is breaking news that the Environmental Protection Agency will ease rules on methane gas emissions for oil and gas companies like Koch Industries. The only real difference between this coup and past coups is that Koch Industries and its front group, Freedom Partners, are so much more in your face than Wall … Continue reading

Bernanke, Geithner, Paulson: The Fed Should Be Able to Make Secret Trillion Dollar Loans Again

Marketplace, an American Public Media Program, Interviews (left to right) Timothy Geithner, Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke in March 2018

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 10, 2018 ~ There seems to be a growing amount of concern these days about another epic financial crash on Wall Street. That, in itself, is a concern. After all, we’ve had only two great crashes in the past 89 years: one from 1929 to 1933 and one from 2008 to 2009. Why is another crash on the tip of so many tongues today? Last week JPMorgan Chase released a lengthy research report in which its analyst Marko Kolanovic suggested that in the event of another major Wall Street crisis, the Fed should not only have its emergency powers restored to buy up toxic debt with abandon from Wall Street but that the Fed might also have to buy up stocks – an unprecedented action for the U.S. central bank – or at least unprecedented as far as the public knows. The outrage … Continue reading

JPMorgan Is Thinking Pitchforks and Fed Stock Buying in the Next Financial Crash

Occupy Wall Street Protesters Outside the New York Fed, September 17, 2012

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 7, 2018 ~ If you thought the U.S. outlook could not get any more dystopian, think again. JPMorgan Chase issued a report earlier this week to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2008 Wall Street crash and provide its outlook for what’s ahead. JPMorgan suggests that the next financial crash may be so cataclysmic that the Federal Reserve may have to enter the market to buy up stocks – something which the central bank has never done before in the U.S. or, at least, acknowledged doing, because stock ownership is heavily skewed to the one percent. JPMorgan further suggests that if the Fed did take this unprecedented step, it might lead to pitchforks in the street (our phrase) as a class war breaks out. (Imagine the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011 and 2012 and then amplify that by years of pent up … Continue reading

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

Koch Thumbnail

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”

Koch Thumbnail

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,

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