In theory, a seven figure annual pay packet should be more than enough to live on. In the UK, only the top 1% of income taxpayers earn anything more than £150k according to figures from the Office of National Statistics. In the US, the top 1% of people earn more than $370k according to the Internal Revenue Service. And yet, some bankers in the top bracket are having money troubles.
“It’s really not that unusual to find Wall Street bankers who are close to declaring themselves bankrupt,” said Gary Goldstein, co-founder of U.S. search firm Whitney Partners. “Some people are really struggling.”
Claims that bankers are having problems making ends meet won’t do much to ingratiate them to the public. At last week’s Barclays Annual General Meeting, Joan Woolard, a pensioner from the north of England berated Barclays for overpaying its bankers. Anyone who wanted more than £1m ($1.5m) a year was simply a “greedy b*stard,” said Woolard.
For some people working in financial services, however, £1m is simply what’s needed to cover the cost of living.
“You get a lot of people who have a very expensive lifestyle,” said Louise Cooper, a former Goldman Sachs salesperson and financial analyst at Cooper City. “They will always have a nanny, private schools for the children and they will have a very big expensive house. All of this has to be paid for out of taxable income,” she points out. “With a top tax rate of 45%, this means that you need to be earning nearly double what you’re spending.”
Jose Rodriguez thinks the new movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden is “well worth seeing.” But the retired CIA veteran has reservations about its gut-churning portrayal of the CIA’s treatment of detainees. Which is rich, coming from the man who destroyed the video footage documenting many of those brutal agency interrogations.
In an op-ed for the Washington Post on Friday, the former chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and its clandestine service takes issue with Zero Dark Thirty‘s torture scenes. Those scenes are admittedly hard to watch. They show terrified, disoriented and bloodied detainees kept awake for days on end by having their arms painfully suspended from the ceilings of secret jails; stuffed into tiny wooden boxes when they don’t cooperate with their inquisitors; and waterboarded on soiled mattresses while interrogators bark questions. They also largely match up with the minimal public disclosure of how the post-9/11 program actually operated.
But they offend Rodriguez, who describes himself as “intimately involved in setting up and administering” a program he has steadfastly denied amounted to torture. Most CIA detainees weren’t subject to what he euphemistically calls “enhanced interrogation.” Those who were experienced “harsh measures for only a few days or weeks at the start of their detention.” And director Kathryn Bigelow left out all the bureaucratic red tape CIA interrogators encountered: “To give a detainee a single open-fingered slap across the face, CIA officers had to receive written authorization from Washington.”
Except there’s a problem with Rodriguez’s account that he sidesteps in calling the film inaccurate. While at the CIA, Rodriguez himself destroyed nearly 100 video recordings of brutal interrogations, including those of two al-Qaida figures who most definitely were subjected to “harsh measures,” Abu Zubaydah and 9/11 architect Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. If Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal are in the dark about torture — like the rest of the country — Rodriguez is a big part of the reason why.
People’s expectations tend to stretch far beyond anything that resembles reality. And the people whose expectations tend to stretch furthest beyond reality — especially at Christmas — are known by the colloquial term “the young.”
We should, therefore, bow in solemn gratitude to writer Jon Hendren, who tears himself away from his own personal Xmas in order to retweet the messages of those who aren’t happy with their gifts.
Yes, the young, the feckless, the occasionally heartless.
Here’s a tweet — retweeted by Hendren — offered in advance of Santa wafting down a sooted chimney.
@annemcgerber groaned: “If I got a black iPad I’d probably kill myself.” Yes, there’s nothing more disappointing than getting a black iPad.
U.S. software guru John McAfee, fighting deportation from Guatemala to Belize to face questions about the slaying of a neighbor, said on Saturday he wants to return to the United States.
“My goal is to get back to America as soon as possible,” McAfee, 67, said in a phone call to Reuters from the immigration facility where he is being held for illegally crossing the border to Guatemala with his 20-year-old girlfriend.
I bet he now wishes he had been paying his taxes instead of avoiding them.
Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was so confident of victory against President Barack Obama that he spent $25,000 for victory fireworks, had already drawn up a list of White House appointments and took it easy on election day when his opponents were still working hard to get out the vote.
Political insiders tell Capitol Hill Blue that Romney didn’t think he could lose and was genuinely “shell shocked” when he lost the Presidential race in an electoral vote landslide to Obama.
“He was supremely confident and delayed conceding the race as long as possible because he just didn’t believe he would lose,” says one senior aide. “It was overconfidence based on inaccurate assumptions and flawed data.”
In conversations with campaign insiders, a portrait of a clueless campaign emerges, driven by a candidate so sure of himself that he ignored all the obvious warning signs.
“Mitt is not accustomed to losing,” says one friend. “It was a bitter pill for him.”
Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian mass killer, has complained about his conditions in prison, with grievances ranging from not being able to keep moisturiser in his cell to the temperature of his coffee.
Josef Fritzl, who held his daughter captive in a cellar for 24 years and fathered seven children with her, has divorced his wife of 52 years for failing to visit him in prison, a magazine reported on Thursday.
“I wouldn’t want to whine,” Schiff said.
According to Senator Dodd, "technology business interests" are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into corporate pawns rather than coming to the table to find solutions. "It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services," he writes. "It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today."
"It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests," he writes.
"A so-called ‘blackout’ is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals," the Senator continues. "It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this ‘blackout’ to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy."
Shame on those evil piracy-promoting people at Wikipedia putting their business interests ahead of… wait, what? Wait, no, it’s DANGEROUS to black out those websites. Be careful out there today.
Real estate magnate Donald Trump suggested Wednesday it’s not much fun flirting with the idea of running for president in the face of relentless attacks and ridicule.
“Nobody said it was going to be easy, but I had no idea I would get hammered in the way I’ve been hammered the past few weeks,” Trump said in Nashua, New Hampshire.
While Rehberg calls himself poor and complains that he’s struggling, the fact is that he is, as of 2009 records, the 14th richest member of the House of Representatives. Opensecrets.org estimates that his average net worth in 2009 was $31 million. If he’s struggling on that, one has to wonder if he’s really a good arbiter of what’s fair for Main Street America.
An elliptical statement by Beck’s production company and Fox News said: "Glenn intends to transition off of his daily programme, the third highest rated in all of cable news, later this year."
But the statement also put a face-saving spin on the decision to end Beck’s show, quoting Fox News’s chief executive Roger Ailes: "Glenn Beck is a powerful communicator, a creative entrepreneur and a true success by anybody’s standards. I look forward to continuing to work with him."
David Brock of Media Matters for America, one of Beck’s most vociferous critics, said: “After losing more than 300 advertisers and seeing more than a million viewers abandon his show, the only surprise is that it took Fox News months to reach this decision.”
These days, however, tax-cutters are hardly even trying to make the trickle-down case. Yes, Republicans are pushing the line that raising taxes at the top would hurt small businesses, but their hearts don’t really seem in it. Instead, it has become common to hear vehement denials that people making $400,000 or $500,000 a year are rich. I mean, look at the expenses of people in that income class — the property taxes they have to pay on their expensive houses, the cost of sending their kids to elite private schools, and so on. Why, they can barely make ends meet.
And among the undeniably rich, a belligerent sense of entitlement has taken hold: it’s their money, and they have the right to keep it. “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes — but that was a long time ago.
The spectacle of high-income Americans, the world’s luckiest people, wallowing in self-pity and self-righteousness would be funny, except for one thing: they may well get their way. Never mind the $700 billion price tag for extending the high-end tax breaks: virtually all Republicans and some Democrats are rushing to the aid of the oppressed affluent.
You see, the rich are different from you and me: they have more influence. It’s partly a matter of campaign contributions, but it’s also a matter of social pressure, since politicians spend a lot of time hanging out with the wealthy. So when the rich face the prospect of paying an extra 3 or 4 percent of their income in taxes, politicians feel their pain — feel it much more acutely, it’s clear, than they feel the pain of families who are losing their jobs, their houses, and their hopes.
New FEC filings show that American Crossroads, the Karl Rove-backed group that is pouring money into attack ads targeting Democrats around the country, continues to be funded virtually entirely by billionaires.
In August, American Crossroads raised $2,639,052. Fully $2.4 million of that — or 91 percent – came in the form of gifts from just three billionaires.
BP’s Managing Director, Bob Dudley, reacts to the seeing for the first time the viral hit video "BP Spills Coffee" in a PBS interview. He says that the video has "deeply affected" the staff at BP and it "makes their shoulders go down."
The telecommunications giant AT&T said on Friday that it would take a $1 billion noncash accounting charge in the first quarter because of the health care overhaul and might cut benefits it offers.
Don’t let the head line fool you.
The charges are related to a 2003 law providing a prescription-drug benefit under Medicare. At the time it was adopted, some companies were threatening to drop drug coverage for their retirees, since this would now be available through Medicare. Congress voted them a 28% tax-free subsidy for continuing to provide coverage to retirees eligible for Medicare.
The subsidies caused the cost of companies’ obligations for retiree benefits to decline. AT&T, for example, saw its obligation drop by $1.6 billion at the time. ”
Boo hoo. The companies are loosing a subsidy and now are complaining and making it look at more health care bill defects. Bullshit. In the end, a single payer system, aka the so called public option, will be the only solution. To expect profit motivated companies to ever live up to their commitments and social responsibilities to their employees is fantasy.
Senior bankers and board members at Deutsche Bank are considering their positions after heated rows over the decision not to pay bonuses at the group.
Deutsche Bank, which is expected to unveil first quarter profits this week of around €800m (£720m), is facing a revolt by angry managers furious at the decision of the chief executive, Josef Ackermann, to not take his bonus. Senior staff felt compelled to follow suit.
A source close to the bank said: “Ackermann came out and said he wasn’t going to take a bonus last year and forced the hand of the board and others. They simply had no choice but to forgo their bonuses. But bankers live for their bonuses and are furious at the handling of all this.”
Wall Street and Washington: Will those two crazy kids ever get together again?
To judge from the assembled Wall Street luminaries at The Wall Street Journal’s Future of Finance Conference, it might take marriage counseling, because the folks here are full of anger at the way they have been treated by Washington:
“We have no rule of law in this country,” groused one financial executive. “We slammed Russia for years, saying we would not do business there because there was no rule of law. Look what’s happening here. We don’t know what Congress will do next. They’re ignoring all the old rules, and they’re making new rules whenever they want.”
The executive and one of his rivals commiserated over how betrayed they feel by U.S. lawmakers. “I want my campaign contributions back,” the executive said. His companion agreed, “When the government embraces this kind of destructive populism, they have to understand the dangers that it presents to our economy –and our personal safety. It is hard to put that fire out.”
Barbara Corcoran, a real estate executive, said that most well-to-do families take at least two vacations a year, a winter trip to the sun and a spring trip to the ski slopes.
Total minimum cost: $16,000.
A modest three-bedroom apartment, she said, which was purchased for $1.5 million, not the top of the market at all, carries a monthly mortgage of about $8,000 and a co-op maintenance fee of $8,000 a month. Total cost: $192,000. A summer house in Southampton that cost $4 million, again not the top of the market, carries annual mortgage payments of $240,000.
Many top executives have cars and drivers. A chauffeur’s pay is between $75,000 and $125,000 a year, the higher end for former police officers who can double as bodyguards, said a limousine driver who spoke anonymously because he does not want to alienate his society customers.
“Some of them want their drivers to have guns,” the driver said. “You get a cop and you have a driver.” To garage that car is about $700 a month.
A personal trainer at $80 an hour three times a week comes to about $12,000 a year.
The work in the gym pays off when one must don a formal gown for a charity gala. “Going to those parties,” said David Patrick Columbia, who is the editor of the New York Social Diary (newyorksocialdiary.com), “a woman can spend $10,000 or $15,000 on a dress. If she goes to three or four of those a year, she’s not going to wear the same dress.”
Total cost for three gowns: about $35,000.
Not every bank executive has school-age children, but for those who do, offspring can be expensive. In addition to paying tuition, “You’re not going to get through private school without tutoring a kid,” said Sandy Bass, the editor of Private School Insider, a newsletter that covers private schools in the New York City area. One hour of tutoring once a week is $125. “That’s the low end,” she said. “The higher end is 150, 175.” SAT tutors are about $250 an hour. Total cost for 30 weeks of regular tutoring: $3,750.
Two children in private school: $64,000.
As news of the plan leaked last night, wealthy Wall Street went into panic mode, insisting that the caps would ruin the financial industry. It’s “a nightmare for any financial institution,” CNBC host Joe Kernen proclaimed this morning, while Fox Business host Alexis Glick said it was evidence of Obama being “a little anti-business.” Others insisted that the “draconian” caps would drive the “best and the brightest” away from Wall Street and that Obama’s anger over executive bonuses was misplaced:
“That is pretty draconian — $500,000 is not a lot of money, particularly if there is no bonus.” [James F. Reda, founder and managing director of James F. Reda & Associates]
“If I didn’t pay [bonuses], the people were going to go. … These people didn’t choose to cure cancer. These people didn’t choose to do public service work…These people chose to make money.” [Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric]
“The consequences of it are going to be a massive brain drain of senior talent from those companies that have taken TARP money to those companies that have not.” [Donald Straszheim, managing principal at Straszheim Global Advisor]
The kind of brains that got companies into the position of having to take TARP money should be drained, so I don’t really see the problem..
amd_madoffThe many Bernard Madoff investors who withdrew money from their accounts over the years are now wrestling with an ethical and legal quandary.
What they thought were profits was likely money stolen from other clients in what prosecutors are calling the largest Ponzi scheme in history. Now, they are confronting the possibility they may have to pay some of it back.
Hundreds and maybe thousands of investors in Madoff’s funds have been withdrawing money from their accounts for many years. In many cases, those investors have withdrawn far more than their principal investment.
“I had a call yesterday from a guy who said, ‘I’ve taken out more money then I originally put in, but I still had $1 million left with Madoff.
Should I file a $1 million claim?’” said Steven Caruso, a New York attorney specializing in securities and investment fraud. “I’m hard-pressed to give advice in that situation,” Caruso said.
Under pressure from federal authorities, the Swiss bank UBS is closing the hidden offshore accounts of its well-heeled American clients, potentially allowing their secrets to spill into the open.
In a step that would have once been unthinkable in the rarefied world of Swiss banking, UBS will shut about 19,000 accounts that prosecutors suspect have gone undeclared to the Internal Revenue Service.
UBS will transfer the assets to other banks or other divisions within UBS, or will mail checks directly to the account holders, creating paper trails for federal prosecutors who are examining whether UBS clients used such accounts to evade taxes.
The clients now face stark choices: they can cash their checks, and thereby alert the authorities to any potential wrongdoing, or not cash them, effectively losing their money.
He’s still out of a job, and can’t find a publisher for his book.
Alberto Gonzales, who has kept a low profile since resigning as attorney general nearly 16 months ago, said he is writing a book to set the record straight about his controversial tenure as a senior official in the Bush administration.
Mr. Gonzales has been portrayed by critics both as unqualified for his position and instrumental in laying the groundwork for the administration’s “war on terror.” He was pilloried by Congress in a manner not usually directed toward cabinet officials.
“What is it that I did that is so fundamentally wrong, that deserves this kind of response to my service?” he said during an interview Tuesday, offering his most extensive comments since leaving government.
Uhm, let’s see.
There is the politicalization of the Justice Department, including widespread employment discrimination, and the infamous US Attorney scandal. There was his racing to the hospital bed of an extremely ill John Ashcroft to get the man, still recovering from major surgery, to sign a re-authorization of secret wire tapping that the AG’s temporary fill-in, James Comey, wouldn’t sign. He signed torture memos. He destroyed the DoJ’s Civil Rights Division. Things were so bad, Justice’s own Inspector General investigated him on charges of perjury and obstruction, not exactly exonerating Gonzales.
We can add warrantless-searches, the Military Commissions Act, GITMO torture, abandoning the Geneva Conventions and shocking tolerance for corruption of a department that, for the benefit of the nation and the rule of law, must maintain its independence, to the list.
Add in almost no redeeming qualities. As Adam Cohen, chief legal analyst for CBS News wrote not long ago, “He brought shame and disgrace to the Department because of his lack of independent judgment on some of the most vital legal issues of our time. And he brought chaos and confusion to the department because of his lack of respectable leadership over a cabinet-level department among the most important in the nation.
“He neither served the longstanding role as “the people’s attorney” nor fully met and tamed his duties and responsibilities to the constitution. He was a man who got the job not because he was supremely qualified or notably well-respected among the leading legal lights of our time, but because he had faithfully and with blind obedience served President George W. Bush for years in Texas (where he botched clemency memos in death penalty cases) and then as White House counsel (where he botched the nation’s legal policy on torture).”
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which sued Bernard Madoff last month for allegedly directing a $50 billion fraud, won’t make public a list of his assets filed yesterday, the regulator said.
That little, eh?
“I think one of the fears here is that much of this money may be in offshore funds,” Columbia Law School Professor John Coffee told Bloomberg Television, adding that the SEC wants to keep the assets secret to protect them. “There is the danger that foreign regulators and foreign creditors may seek to seize that money if the names and sources are made public.”
Which is just another way to say the money is gone. Well, asses are already begin covered:
Major accounting firms such as BDO Seidman, KPMG, McGladrey & Pullen and PricewaterhouseCoopers audited the statements of the various funds that fed money to Bernard L. Madoff Investments. The firms told their investors that everything was A-OK.
Then Madoff was arrested for allegedly running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, and investors got the devastating phone call: Oops, disregard previous statements. Sorry about that.
The question for investors is, are the auditors legally liable for their mistake?
As a general rule, auditors don’t dig deeply into partnerships that farm out money for others to invest. They look only at the top layer — that is, the partnership itself. Madoff sent audited reports to Ascot and the other feeder funds, which incorporated them into the statements sent to investors. The funds’ own auditors checked that the numbers added up. Period. End of story.
Disgraced money manager Bernard Madoff’s suspected $50 billion fraud scheme looks set to burn even those who pulled their investments out long before the scandal rippled into the global financial system.
Such investors may have counted themselves fortunate, withdrawing their money years ago to buy a house or to pay for a daughter’s education, and may have even sighed with relief because they ended ties with Madoff long before the scandal erupted late last week.
But they, too, could face trouble, lawyers say. Because of a legal concept known as “fraudulent conveyance,” they could be forced to return their profits and even some of their initial investments to help offset losses incurred by others entangled in the long-running Ponzi scheme.
The world’s 50 richest Arabs have lost a staggering $25 billion between them in the last year, as the global financial crisis sweeps through the region.The figures are revealed in the Arabian Business 2008 Rich List, which will be published on Sunday.
The list shows that the average fortune of the top 50 has slipped to $3.99 billion – down from $4.99 billion last year. In total, the top 50 now hold between them $199.48 billion – a fall of 12 percent on last year.
This year’s list also contains nine new entries, with 21 risers and 18 fallers on the list. As a sign of the downturn in global stock, nine of the top ten on this year’s list have seen their wealth decline.
Jodi Hamilton began her senior year of high school in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., this fall on the usual prosperous footing. Her parents were providing a weekly allowance of $100 and paying for private Pilates classes, as well as a physics tutor who reported once a week to their 4,000-square-foot home.
But in October, Jodi’s mother lost her lucrative job managing a huge dental practice in the Bronx, landing in one closer to home that requires more hours for less money. Pilates was dropped, along with takeout sushi dinners, and Jodi’s allowance, which covers lunch during the week, slipped to $60. Instead of having a tutor, Jodi has become a tutor, earning $150 a week through that and baby-sitting.