Balzac’s maxim that “behind every great fortune lies a great crime” may yet prove a fitting epitaph for American capitalism. A recent survey by the Wall Street Journal reveals that CEOs at major US financial and real estate firms converted tens of millions of dollars of overvalued stock into cash prior to the eruption of the current financial crisis, even as many of their corporations approached the precipice.
The Journal analyzed the fortunes of CEOs from 2003 to 2007 based on executive compensation and stock sale data. Fifteen of these CEOs took home more than $100 million in cash during this period. At the high end was Charles Schwab, who made over $816 million from his self-named accounting firm, almost all of it from stock sales.
Of the 120 publicly traded firms the Journal analyzed, CEOs cashed out a total of more than $21 billion. However, data was gathered only from publicly traded companies, and thus does not include similar fortunes that have been made by “hedge fund chiefs, Wall Street traders, and executives who sold their companies outright.” Nor did it include data related to exit packages, the multimillion-dollar “golden parachutes” awarded to retiring or fired executives.
Two months ago, federal food regulators said they were unable to set a safety threshold for the industrial chemical melamine in baby formula. Now, however, they found a way to settle on a standard that allows for higher levels than those found in U.S.-made batches of the product.
Food and Drug Administration officials on Friday set a threshold of 1 part per million of melamine in formula, provided a related chemical is not present. They insisted the formulas are safe.
The agency had left the impression of a zero tolerance on Oct. 3 when it stated: “FDA is currently unable to establish any level of melamine and melamine-related compounds in infant formula that does not raise public health concerns.”
The FDA and other experts said they believe the melamine contamination in U.S.-made formula had occurred during the manufacturing process, rather than intentionally. The U.S. government quietly began testing domestically produced infant formula in September, soon after problems with melamine-spiked formula surfaced in China.
“Let them fail; let everybody fail! I made my fortune when I had nothing to start with, by myself and my own ideas. Let other people do the same thing. If I lose everything in the collapse of our financial structure, I will start in at the beginning and build it up again.”
– Henry Ford, February 11, 1934
The gang of terrorists who wreaked mayhem in Mumbai for three days were made to believe by their Lashkar bosses that they were not
being sent on a suicide mission and that they would be coming back alive.
In a sensational disclosure made by Ajmal, the jihadi nabbed alive by Mumbai cops, the group had planned to sail out on Thursday. Their recruiters had even charted out the return route for them and stored it on the GPS device which they had used to navigate their way to the Mumbai shoreline.
Ajmal made another important disclosure: that all terrorists were trained in marine warfare along with the special course Daura-e-Shifa conducted by the Lashkar-e-Taiba in what at once transforms the nature of the planning from a routine terror strike and into a specialized raid by commandos.
Battle-hardened ATS officials are surprised by the details of the training the terrorists were put through before being despatched for the macabre mission. This was very different from a terrorist attack, and amounted to an offensive from the seam, said a source.
The account of Ajmal also strengthens the doubt of the complicity of powerful elements in the Pakistani establishment. According to him, the group set off on November 21 from an isolated creek near Karachi without the deadly cargo of arms and ammunition they were to use against the innocents in Mumbai. The group received arms and ammunition on board a large Pakistani vessel which picked them up the following day. The vessel, whose ownership is now the subject of an international probe, had four Pakistanis apart from the crew.
A day later, they came across an Indian-owned trawler, Kuber, which was promptly commandeered on the seas. Four of the fishermen who were on the trawler were killed, but its skipper, or tandel in fishermen lingo, Amarjit Singh, was forced to proceed towards India. Amarjit was killed the next day, and Ismail the terrorist who was killed at Girgaum Chowpaty took the wheel.
A trained sailor, Ismail used the GPS to reach Mumbai coast on November 26. The group, however, slowed down its advance as they had reached during the day time while the landing was planned after dusk. The group shifted to inflatable boats, before disembarking at Badhwar Park in Cuffe Parade.
One answer to these questions is that nobody likes a party pooper. While the housing bubble was still inflating, lenders were making lots of money issuing mortgages to anyone who walked in the door; investment banks were making even more money repackaging those mortgages into shiny new securities; and money managers who booked big paper profits by buying those securities with borrowed funds looked like geniuses, and were paid accordingly. Who wanted to hear from dismal economists warning that the whole thing was, in effect, a giant Ponzi scheme?
Well, Krugman, why not follow the Chinese example for how to handle a Ponzi scheme?
China has executed a businessman convicted of bilking thousands of investors out of $416 million in a bogus ant-breeding scheme, state media reported Thursday.
The official Xinhua News Agency said Wang Zhendong, who was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to death in February last year, was executed in north China’s Liaoning province on Wednesday.
The death penalty is used broadly in China. Though usually reserved for violent crimes, it is also applied for nonviolent offenses that involve large sums of money or if they are seen to threaten social order.
Former U.S. Treasury secretary Robert Rubin said the near-collapse of Citigroup Inc, where he is a senior counselor, was due to the buckling financial system and not his own mistakes, according to an interview published on The Wall Street Journal’s website on Friday.
Rubin, who is also a director at Citigroup, acknowledged he was involved in a board decision to ramp up risk-taking in 2004 and 2005, according to the paper, and said if executives had executed the plan properly, the bank’s losses would have been less.
The Journal said Rubin has earned $115 million in pay since 1999, excluding stock options.
“I bet there’s not a single year where I couldn’t have gone somewhere else and made more,” said Rubin, according to the Journal.
Under state law, God is Kentucky’s first line of defense against terrorism.
The 2006 law organizing the state Office of Homeland Security lists its initial duty as “stressing the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth.”
Specifically, Homeland Security is ordered to publicize God’s benevolent protection in its reports, and it must post a plaque at the entrance to the state Emergency Operations Center with an 88-word statement that begins, “The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.”
State Rep. Tom Riner, a Southern Baptist minister, tucked the God provision into Homeland Security legislation as a floor amendment that lawmakers overwhelmingly approved two years ago.
As amended, Homeland Security’s religious duties now come before all else, including its distribution of millions of dollars in federal grants and its analysis of possible threats.
A resident takes cover for possible return fire as National Security Guard commandoes fire at suspected militants holed up at Nariman House in Colaba, Mumbai, India, Friday, Nov. 28, 2008. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)
(more pictures at the link)
Babies with a severe form of epilepsy risk having their diagnosis delayed and their treatment compromised because of a company’s patent on a key gene.
It is the first evidence that private intellectual property rights over human DNA are adversely affecting medical care.
Deepak Gill, head of neurology at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, said he would test at least 50 per cent more infants for the SCN1A gene – which would diagnose the disabling Dravet syndrome – if the hospital could conduct the test in-house.
But rights to the gene are controlled by the Melbourne-based Genetic Technologies, which has already threatened to stop public hospitals testing for breast cancer gene mutations, and the hospital will not risk a similar problem.
Specialists are sending blood samples to Scotland, and only babies whose seizure patterns closely resemble Dravet syndrome are tested. This means children with slightly different symptoms may be treated with the wrong medicines for months, potentially retarding their development.
Apparently, the rights of corporations are more important than human life.
I’m pleased to announce that the Linux 2.6 kernel has been ported to Apple’s iPhone platform, with support for the first and second generation iPhones as well as the first generation iPod touch. This is a rough first draft of the port, and many drivers are still missing, but it’s enough that a real alternative operating system is running on the iPhone.
It’s official: Brits do not, at the end of the day, want to think outside the box, touch base, indulge in blue-sky thinking or, for that matter, get pro-active with some 360° thinking.
That’s the verdict of a YouGov poll into “buffling” – the irresistible urge to turdspurt business jargon in the hope it makes you look linguistically in the loop while pushing the lexicographical envelope.
Of all the buffling outrages, “thinking outside of the box” topped the most-despised list, followed by “touch base” and “at the end of the day”.
If your heart can stand it, here are the top 20 Strategy Boutique Newspeakisms:
- Thinking outside of the box
- Touch base
- At the end of the day
- Going forward
- All of it
- Blue sky thinking
- Out of the box
- Credit crunch
- Heads up
- Singing from the same hymn sheet
- Ducks in a row
- Thought shower
- 360° thinking
- Flag it up
- Pushing the envelope
- At this moment in time
- In the loop
My brother-in-law went through security at Auckland domestic airport and witnessed a passenger having to fish out her nail scissors from her handbag and leave them behind. He went through security and then boarded his plane. After being seated he could smell petrol. He knew you shouldn’t be able to smell petrol on a plane, because planes don’t use petrol. The smell got worse and eventually he got the attention of one of the flight attendants. They started to look around to see where it was coming from. They found in the overhead compartment a chainsaw in a bag that was leaking petrol into the compartment. His plane was delayed as the owner was identified and the chainsaw removed and put with the main luggage. The owner of the chainsaw said security had stopped him but had let him through because it wasn’t one of the things on their list to confiscate.
An environmental expert told a court in Ecuador that oil company Chevron Corp should pay $27 billion in compensation for environmental damage in the country, the company said on Wednesday.
The lawsuit, which peasants and Indians in Ecuador brought in the early 1990s, contends that Texaco, which Chevron bought in 2001, polluted the jungle and damaged their health by dumping 18 billion gallons (68 billion liters) of contaminated water from 1972 to 1992.
General Motors Corp., criticized by U.S. lawmakers for its use of corporate jets, asked aviation regulators to block the public’s ability to track a plane it uses.
It could be worse. If you embarrass the British Government, they arrest you for terrorism…
“An Administrative Review Board has reviewed the information about you that was talked about at the meeting on 02 December 2005 and the deciding official in the United States has made a decision about what will happen to you. You will be sent to the country of Afghanistan. Your departure will occur as soon as possible.”
American International Group Inc., the insurer that said yesterday it scrapped bonuses for top executives after a U.S. bailout, will still pay 130 managers “cash awards” to stay with the firm, including $3 million to retirement services chief Jay Wintrob.
Wintrob, 51, will get the “retention” payment in two installments, the first in April 2009 and the rest a year later, New York-based AIG said today in a regulatory filing. The firm previously disclosed the program in a Sept. 26 filing and said today that Wintrob and Chief Financial Officer David Herzog elected to get the payments four months later than planned.
“We’ve said they aren’t eligible for annual bonuses, and they’re not,” Nicholas Ashooh, spokesman for AIG, said today in an interview. “What we’re talking about are retention agreements — they’ve been pushed back by several months — and it’s our hope that those businesses will be sold in several months.”
So just rename them, and you think nobody will notice?
In 2006, Citigroup signed a 20-year, $400 million contract to name the Mets’ new stadium in Queens Citi Field. As recently as last week, the troubled financial-services conglomerate said it had no intention of backing out of the deal for the new stadium — the replacement for Shea Stadium, which is being demolished.
Well now, with Citigroup getting a second multi-billion-dollar rescue from the federal government, two City Council members would like to see Uncle Sam get some credit.
The Royal Society of Chemistry is today reclaiming the word chemical from the advertising and marketing industries.
It has been misappropriated and maligned as synonymous with “poison”. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently defended an advert which perpetuated the myth that natural compounds are free of chemicals.
The truth, as any right-minded person will say, is that everything we eat, drink, drive, play with and live in is made of chemicals – both natural and synthetic chemicals are essential for life as we know it.
If, as the ASA says, the public believes materials can be “100% chemical free”, the RSC will soon be inundated with examples from people wishing to claim the £1 million pound bounty announced today by the RSC.
Dr Neville Reed, a director of the RSC, said today: “I’d be happy to give a million pounds to the first member of the public who could place in my hands any material I consider 100% chemical free.
A big spam-spewing botnet shut down two weeks ago has been resurrected, security researchers said today, and is again under the control of criminals.
Okay, now imagine giving that line to one of those artists back in the ’50s drawing pictures of the future, and tell them to have a go with it.