Last fall, we spent a fair amount of time reading through John Podesta’s emails, courtesy of Wikileaks, and grew increasingly astonished with each passing day at the number of apparent conflicts of interest created by the Clinton Foundation which seemed to be nothing more than a front created for the Clintons to peddle their influence around the world in return for staggering “charitable” donations. Take, for example, our posts which questioned whether the CEO of Dow Chemical, Andrew Liveris, made very sizable contributions to the Clinton Foundation just so he could get an audience with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss his failed $9 billion joint venture with Kuwait. Here are a couple of posts which provide some background: New Hillary Emails Expose Bill Pushing Meetings With Foundation Donors, Requests For “Diplomatic Passports” Did Foundation Donor Dow Chemical Seek Hillary “Favor” To Settle $9 Billion Lawsuit With Kuwait? Or, there was that time that Hillary was offered $12 million from Moroccan King Mohammed VI just to host her annual “Clinton Global Initiative” meeting in his country. And don’t even get us started on Doug Band who spent years with the Clintons before starting his own “consulting” practice called Teneo (see: Doug Band Exposes Foundation’s “For-Profit Activity Of President Clinton (i.e., Bill Clinton, Inc.)“) Now, an exclusive report on the “McCain Institute” published earlier today from the Daily Caller (DC) has us wondering who else in Congress might just be running miniature Clinton Foundation-ish organizations and enriching their personal families in the process.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 20, 2017.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s interactions with Turkish officials has expanded to include Flynn’s former business partner, Bijan Kian, Reuters reported Tuesday. However, the news agency said it’s unclear whether Kian is suspected of criminal activity, or if investigators are just trying to understand the role he played in a transaction involving their old company, Flynn Intel Group, and a Netherlands-based company owned by a Turkish businessman who’s believed to have connections with the Turkish government. The announcement also has implications for the Trump administration. Kian had a hand in picking intelligence agency personnel and was privy to high-level conversations regarding US intelligence as a member of President Donald Trump’s national security transition team. He also led most of the Flynn Intel Group’s research and lobbying for the Turkish businessman in question, the Associated Press reported. ‘Investigators are also looking at whether payments from foreign clients to Flynn and his company…were lawful, according to two separate sources with knowledge of the broad inquiry into Flynn’s business activities. That includes payments by three Russian companies and a Netherlands-based company, Inovo, controlled by Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, they said. The FBI’s interest in Kian has not been previously reported. Kian played a central role in securing and overseeing the Inovo contract, two people with knowledge of that project said.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 20, 2017.
The next leg of the insatiable Wall Street heist has begun under the new U. S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Under the guise of empowering Americans ‘to make independent financial decisions,’ the Treasury released its set of recommendations for financial reform on Monday. Far from empowering Americans, the new recommendations would effectively place a bigger blindfold on consumers, blocking further their ability to differentiate between serially corrupt financial institutions on Wall Street and those that make an effort at playing by the rules. (The latter being an almost extinct species.) Wall Street’s fingerprints are all over the Treasury recommendations. The report has singled out for particular scalpel treatment the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which Wall Street loathes because of its independence. The acronym ‘CFPB’ appears 315 times in the 147-page report. One passage reads as follows: ‘A significant restructuring in the authority and execution of regulatory responsibilities by the CFPB is necessary. The CFPB was created to pursue an important mission, but its unaccountable structure and unduly broad regulatory powers have led to predictable regulatory abuses and excesses. The CFPB’s approach to rulemaking and enforcement has hindered consumer access to credit, limited innovation, and imposed unduly high compliance burdens, particularly on small institutions. Treasury’s recommendations include: making the Director of the CFPB removable at will by the President or, alternatively, restructuring the CFPB as an independent multi-member commission or board; funding the CFPB through the annual appropriations process; adopting reforms to ensure that regulated entities have adequate notice of CFPB interpretations of law before subjecting them to enforcement actions; and curbing abuses in investigations and enforcement actions.’
The Chicago police department continues to march toward what it calls ‘policing in the 21st century.’ If their conduct is any indication, that police work would include systemic corruption, unlawful detention, torture, racial profiling and mass surveillance. However, activists and journalists continue to work hard to expose even more abuses that might still lurk in the shadows. Some progress has been made. Derrick Broze reported in January of last year about Chicago activist, Freddy Martinez, who filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the CPD in 2014. Martinez was seeking details regarding the much-maligned use of Stingray cell phone surveillance. Despite the Chicago PD refusing to answer the request, a Cook County, Illinois judge ordered the Chicago Police Department to allow her to review documents related to cell phone surveillance tools. This case is illustrative of the pressure that needs to be exerted if we are to get answers about what our public servants are truly doing on our behalf. But Stingray surveillance is merely one component of a much larger surveillance network that Chicago has set up and continues to expand, which even includes an explicit mission to embrace ‘predictive policing’ – essentially, the concept of pre-crime that most people hoped was relegated purely to science fiction.
In a development that will likely grab media attention in the US, Russian police detained Kremlin opposition leader Alexei Navalny, according to his Twitter feed on Monday, hours before he called on supporters to mount an unsanctioned protest against corruption near the Kremlin. Navalny’s wife wrote on his Twitter account that he had been detained near the entrance of his home but that plans for the protest in central Moscow hadn’t changed. Earlier in the day, the presidential hopeful had announced rallies against official corruption Monday, the Russia Day holiday, and protesters gathered in numerous other cities. Similar protests led by Navalny drew thousands in March in Moscow and several other cities across Russia, in what the WSJ dubbed “a rare challenge to the rule of President Vladimir Putin.” Photos from cities around the country on Monday, an official holiday known as Russia Day, showed thousands of protesters at fresh rallies. Vladimir Putin vowed to punish people who broke the law after the March protests at anti-corruption rallies organized by Navalny that were mostly unsanctioned in 80 cities across Russia, the biggest unrest in five years. Police arrested 1,500 people nationwide, including more than 1,000 in Moscow, and a handful are being prosecuted for attacking police.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 12, 2017.
Not much has come out of the James Comey testimony, except that the most egregious violation of federal law was the incident which took place between Comey and Loretta Lynch regarding Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. Now, top Democrat Diane Feinstein is calling for an investigation into possible illegal activities. It’s actually a little surprising that this investigation demand is coming from a Democrat. Normally, the party members tow the line and balk those who look at corruption by their own. The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee called for a congressional investigation into former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe on Sunday. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) said she’s concerned by former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony Thursday that Lynch asked him to downplay his ‘investigation’ into the Democratic presidential nominee as merely a ‘matter.’
With Moon Jae-In’s victory in South Korea, the period of tension on the Korean Peninsula is likely to end. With the rise to power of the new president, South Korea can expect a sharp decline in hostilities with North Korea as well as a resumption of dialogue with China. An expected and highly anticipated victory was confirmed in South Korea on May 9, with candidate Moon winning South Korea’s presidential race over his rivals Hong Joon-pyo (Liberty Korea Party) and Ahn Cheol-soo (People’s Party). After the resignation and arrest of former President Park Geun-hye over an immense corruption scandal, public opinion turned away from her party in favour of the main opposition representative, a center-left lawyer specializing in humanitarian issues. Moon spent several years in the opposition party advocating for greater cooperation in the region and dialogue with Pyongyang as well as with Beijing, representing quite a contrast to Guen-Hye’s pro-Americanism. Along the lines of Duterte in the Philippines, Moon intends to resume dialogue with all partners in order not to limit his options in the international arena. Such an approach reflects the essence of the multipolar world order: cooperation and dialogue with all partners in order to achieve a win-win outcome. Looking at the situation in the region, the victory of a politician who seems to have every intention of negotiating an agreement rather than supporting military escalation seems to provide for a hopeful future for China and her neighbors. The level of cooperation and trade between South Korea and China is fundamental to the economy of both countries, so a return to the negotiating table over the issues surrounding the deployment of THAAD are a hopeful sign that the business communities of China and South Korea value deeply.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 15, 2017.
An American citizen has been taken into custody on suspicion of ‘hostile acts’ against the North Korean government, officials said Sunday. ‘A relevant institution of the DPRK detained American citizen Kim Hak Song on May 6 under a law of the DPRK on suspension of his hostile acts against it,’ the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said. DPRK is an acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. ‘A relevant institution is now conducting a detailed investigation into his crimes,’ the Agency added. An employee of the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, Kim is the fourth American citizen to be held by the North Korean regime, and the second to be detained in just two weeks. Another U. S. citizen, Kim Sang Duk, also known as ‘Tony Kim,’ was arrested on Apr. 22 at Pyongyang Airport under suspicion of similar charges, ‘committing criminal acts of hostility’ against the regime.
Despite President Donald Trump’s repeated assertions that he might support breaking up big banks, Wall Street isn’t worried. Yet. The calm is fueled by signals from administration aides in private meetings with industry executives to discuss rolling back financial rules, a Trump priority. While not making any assurances, the officials aren’t harping on the issue, according to people who have participated in or been briefed on the discussions. In fact, the topic of reviving Glass-Steagall, the 1933 law separating investment and commercial banking, rarely comes up. Just last month, Trump’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn eased the concerns of at least two bank chief executives officers who called him after he spoke approvingly of Glass-Steagall in a meeting with senators, people familiar with the matter said. Neither Cohn nor the Treasury Department’s Craig Phillips made a case for splitting up banks when they met recently with an important financial lobbying group, said some attendees. There is also a sense in the industry that lawmakers have little appetite to take on another controversial legislative fight, especially one that would anger big donors. Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, are particularly loath to support such a dramatic reshaping of the banking system.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn likely broke the law by failing to disclose foreign income he earned from Russia and Turkey, the heads of the House Oversight Committee said Tuesday. As The Washington Post reports, committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said they believe Flynn neither received permission nor fully disclosed income he earned for a speaking engagement in Russia and lobbying activities on behalf of Turkey when he applied to reinstate his security clearance, after viewing two classified memos and Flynn’s disclosure form in a private briefing Tuesday morning.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 25, 2017.
Taxpayers are forced to cover much of the costs of defense attorneys for highly-paid federal managers facing termination or criminal charges, thanks to a cozy deal engineered in part by a law firm whose lobbyists helped draft and gain passage of legislation requiring it, The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group (TheDCNF) has found. Lobbyists for the Washington, D. C., law firm Shaw, Bransford & Roth (Roth) – which earns its money representing federal employees who are being disciplined – ‘proposed’ and secured passage of the obscure bill Congress passed in 1996, according to the website of a group connected to the firm. That bill requires taxpayers to pay for legal insurance for management-level employees. Roth lawyer Anthony Vergnetti then left the firm to launch the Federal Employee Defense Services (FEDS), just such a legal insurance business that, Vergnetti acknowledges, primarily steers clients to Roth when they have insurance claims, and profits off their premiums when they don’t. Roth got its legislative sway by operating through the Senior Executives Association (SEA), which is ostensibly an organic group representing managers, but which is actually founded and run by the law firm’s partners and employees, as TheDCNF showed last year. SEA collects dues from members and pays lobbyists from Roth to conduct legislative advocacy, according to lobbying disclosures.
Three organizations have filed lawsuits against President Trump’s administration for not publicly disclosing White House visitor logs. According to The Hill, the lawsuits were filed against the Department of Homeland Security by The National Security Archive, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University after the administration failed to release the records pursuant to several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. ‘We hoped that the Trump administration would follow the precedent of the Obama administration and continue to release visitor logs, but unfortunately they have not.’ CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. ‘Given the many issues we have already seen in this White House with conflicts of interest, outside influence, and potential ethics violations, transparency is more important than ever, so we had no choice but to sue.’ ‘President Obama routinely released the data we’re seeking with no damage to presidential privilege, and this information is central to the Secret Service mission and thus clearly agency records subject to FOIA,’ Tom Blanton, the director of the National Security Archive, said in a statement.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 10, 2017.
President Trump night released details of the personal finances of his staffers late on Friday, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka, which once again confirmed that most of the people in his immediate circle are very wealthy. The legally required disclosure documents provided a snapshot of assets and positions held by personnel when they first entered their new jobs at the White House, and before they started selling stocks and other assets that could pose conflicts of interest, according to White House ethics officials. Curiously, the White House did not actually create a public depository of the filings, so AP, Propublica and the NYT created a shared drive for all the disclosures so far. .@nytimes @AP @politico And we're off. Since the White House is not posting the documents publicly, we ( @nytimes @AP) are: — ProPublica (@ProPublica) March 31, 2017
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 1, 2017.
Yesterday the NFL granted Mark Davis his request to move the Raiders from Oakland to Las Vegas. The move creates multiple losers: Las Vegas hotel customers who will see room taxes rise to pay for the $750 million in subsidies for the new stadium, the city of Oakland who still carries debt from the Raiders old venue, and the infamous fans that made up the Raiders’ iconic ‘Black Hole’ who are losing their football team just after witnessing their first playoff performance in almost 15 years. Beyond the blatant crony capitalism of government-financed stadiums, there are many reasons to doubt the wisdom of the team’s decision. After all, unlike the Rams and Chargers move to Los Angeles, Las Vegas has no history of supporting professional football. The most significant attempt, the Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL, only averaged 22,619 fans, ranking 5th out of the league’s 8 teams. Other attempts, including multiple Arena League teams and the short lived UFL, were financial flops. Of course, none of these products have the power of the National Football League, so perhaps this time will be different. At league meetings, a key part to selling relocation was the idea that fans of other teams would travel to Las Vegas to enjoy the city’s attractions along with the game. Of course, if the market had faith in this business model, investment wouldn’t have needed politicians to find investment. It is worth noting that the new Las Vegas NHL team will be playing at a facility backed entirely by private investment. Maxing out at 20,000 seats, it has one-third of the capacity of the Raiders venue – but cost less than a quarter of the projected costs of the Raiders’ future facility.
An investigative reporting coalition recently released a report alleging a multi-billion dollar money laundering operation that has affected hundreds of banks and companies in 96 countries including the repeat offender, HSBC. In 2012, HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, settled with the U. S. Government, avoiding criminal prosecution of its executives, for helping to launder money for Mexican drug cartels as well as Al Qaeda. According to the US Senate’s report, which investigated the matter, HSBC provided a ‘gateway for terrorists to gain access to U. S. dollars and the U. S. financial system.’ Loretta Lynch, while serving as the U. S. District Attorney in NY, said HSBC engaged in a ‘sustained and systemic failure to guard against the corruption of our financial system by drug traffickers and other criminals and for evading U. S. sanctions law.’ As a result of the criminal charges for money laundering and admitted guilt in four counts against the global banking firm – the megabank was let off with a slap on the wrist. ‘HSBC has agreed to forfeit 1.256 billion dollars, the largest forfeiture amount ever by a financial institution for a compliance failure,’ Lynch stated.
Lengthy standing ovation from the Freedom Caucus when @POTUS walked into the Cabinet Room just now. Big momentum toward #RepealAndReplace. pic.twitter.com/N1FLGAVFMN — Cliff Sims (@CSims45) March 23, 2017
Summary of the chaotic day’s key events: GOP House leaders delayed their planned vote Thursday to repeal and replace “Obamacare,” which as AP put it was a “stinging defeat” for Paul Ryan and President Trump in their first major legislative test. The decision came after Trump failed to reach agreement with a bloc of rebellious conservatives. Moderate-leaning Republican lawmakers were also bailing on the legislation, leaving it short of votes. At least 30 Republicans said they opposed the bill, enough to defeat the measure. But the number was in constant flux amid the eleventh-hour lobbying. The bill could still come to a vote in coming days, but canceling Thursday’s vote is a significant defeat. It came on the seven-year anniversary of President Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act, years that Republicans have devoted to promising repeal. “No deal,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N. C., said after he and his group of more than two dozen rebellious conservatives met with Trump to try to get more concessions to reduce requirements on insurance companies. The Republican legislation would halt Obama’s tax penalties against people who don’t buy coverage and cut the federal-state Medicaid program for low earners, which the Obama statute had expanded. It would provide tax credits to help people pay medical bills, though generally skimpier than Obama’s statute provides. It also would allow insurers to charge older Americans more and repeal tax boosts the law imposed on high-income people and health industry companies. The measure would also block federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year, another stumbling block for GOP moderates.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 23, 2017.
Government’s meddling in the healthcare business has been disastrous from the get-go. Since 1910, when Republican William Taft gave in to the American Medical Association’s lobbying efforts, most administrations have passed new healthcare regulations. With each new law or set of new regulations, restrictions on the healthcare market went further, until at some point in the 1980s, people began to notice the cost of healthcare had skyrocketed. This is not an accident. It’s by design. As regulators allowed special interests to help design policy, everything from medical education to drugs became dominated by virtual monopolies that wouldn’t have otherwise existed if not for government’s notion that intervening in people’s lives is part of their job. But how did costs go up, and why didn’t this happen overnight? It wasn’t until 1972 that President Richard Nixon restricted the supply of hospitals by requiring institutions to provide a certificate-of-need.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 22, 2017.
It’s no secret that there is a concerted effort underway to do everything possible to remove President Donald Trump from office. From Russian ties to business conflicts of interests, both Democrats and Republicans are actively working to find chinks in the President’s armor. But for those with hope of change in their hearts, Democrat Senator Diane Feinstein says there is a possibility that Trump will eventually remove himself from office by filing his own resignation. Speaking to a crowd during a town hall-style Questions and Answers session, Feinstein was asked how Congress is going to deal with Trump’s alleged illegal activities: Journalist: We don’t know what’s happening but we know that he is breaking laws every day, he’s making money at Mar-a-lago, he’s getting copyrights in China, he has obvious dealings with Russia, the Dakota pipeline… there’s some many things that he’s doing that are unconstitutional… how are we going to get him out? Feinstein: We have a lot of people looking at this… Technical people… I think he’s going to get himself out… I think sending sons to another country to make a financial deal for his company and then have that covered with government expenses… I think those government expenses should not be allowed.. we are working on a bill that will deal with conflict of interest… it’s difficult…
This post was published at shtfplan on March 18th, 2017.
Literally no one knows the true ‘value’ of equity research, not even the investment banks that are selling it. Up until now, equity research has been treated as a ‘freebie’ given away to institutional clients in return for trading commissions but that is all about to change thanks to the European Union’s MiFID II regulations, which require asset managers to separate trading commissions from investment-research payments. Unfortunately, at least for the Investment Banks of the world, while the cost of generating equity research may be substantial, it turns out that the true ‘value’, as defined by institutional clients’ maximum willingness to pay for reports, may be much less. Which is shocking given the creativity required to constantly generate new variations of daily reports politely suggesting that you “Buy The Fucking Dip.” As Bloomberg notes today, the regulatory change slated to take effect next January could cost the I-banks $300 million in fees. Asset-managers in Europe and the U. S. will probably cut more than $300 million from research budgets in anticipation of regulations aimed at rooting out conflicts of interest in the market for investment information. That’s according to a survey of 99 fund managers and traders conducted by consulting firm Greenwich Associates, which assessed the shake-up coming to the multi billion-dollar market for investment research over the next year. The European Union’s MiFID II regulations, which require asset managers to separate trading commissions from investment-research payments, will have a ‘clearly negative’ impact on the amount of commission money that is spent on research and advisory services, according to the Stamford, Connecticut-based firm’s findings released Tuesday. While the budget cuts will be ‘relatively modest’ at individual asset-managers, research providers across the board fear the new law will prompt ‘a substantial decrease’ in buy-side spending.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 15, 2017.