Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More Cowbell . . .

Catching up on newsworthy events from a very busy 2012.  Below are links to stories that caught our attention this past year, but never quite made it onto our blog roll.  Happy Holidays and memorable reflections on a simultaneously exciting and challenging 2012.

From March 2012:

Tech Titans Fund Undocumented Students
The Wall Street Journal reported that Silicon Valley heavy-hitters, tired of waiting on Congress to pass the DREAM Act, were acting to assist undocumented graduates to stay and work in the United States.

Homeowners Battle Banks to Stop Foreclosures . . .  and Win
MSNBC reported that homeowners were taking their banks to court when they were faced with foreclosure and a bank that was unwilling to negotiate or work with the homeowner.  In many of these cases, because the banks could not prove homeownership or its practice of "robo-signing," the foreclosures were halted by the courts.

Former Coca-Cola Bottling Executive Charged with Insider Trading
The Washington Post reported that Steve Harold, a former Vice-President of Strategy and Innovation at Coca-Cola had been charged by the SEC with insider trading.  During a 2010 acquisition of a bottling company, Harold purchased 15,000 shares of Coca-Cola Enterprises (through his wife's brokerage account), the day before the acquisition was announced.  The next day, Coke's stock soared and Harold reaped a profit of $87,000 on an investment of about $290,000.

Bank Officials Cited in Churn of Foreclosures
The New York Times reported "Managers at major banks ignored widespread errors in the foreclosure process, in some cases instructing employees to adopt make-believe titles and speed documents through the system despite internal objections, according to a wide-ranging review by federal investigators."

From April 2012:

Lobbying Disclosures Shake Up Proxy Season
Business 2 Community reported that "[a]ctivist shareholders are aggressively pushing to get broan new lobbying disclosure initiatives on proxy ballots this year, in an effort to convince a number of corporations to voluntarily disclose campaign contributions to investors. . . .  Advocates of the new proposals are billing them as ‘a natural extension’ of shareholder campaigns calling for greater political spending transparency, which have led nearly 100 companies over the last seven years to voluntarily increase information available on company websites relating to campaign contributions."

Insider Trading Riddle:  Why Do The Rich Risk It?
Three high-profile cases beg the question, why do the wealthy risk insider trading?  In the past several years, three millionaires/billionaires have been accused/convicted of insider trading, all at profits that netted very little in comparison to their net worth, including Mark Cuban, Martha Stewart and Raj Rajaratnam.  Stewart saved $45,000 in losses based on her insider trading; Cuban avoided losing $750,000 of his $2.3 billion net worth by allegedly engaging in insider trading; and Rajaratnam was convicted of insider trades that took in $60 million, as his company managed $7 billion.  Why?

When Shareholders Make Their Voices Heard
From Gretchen Morgenson in the New York Times, the Dodd-Frank "say on pay" provisions are actually making an impact on executive compensation.  Though not binding, these votes, particularly when negative, are inspiring corporate executives to change their compensation structures and in some cases, take pay cuts.  "[An] example of a shareholder-induced change came at Johnson & Johnson. In 2011, its pay practices got a thumbs-down from a quarter of the shares voted at its annual meeting. This year, J.& J. revamped its long-term incentive program for executives. Out went longstanding cash payments for long-term incentives. Now, the company awards stock units that vest only over three years and after meeting three goals aligned with shareholder returns. The company’s proxy statement said the change came 'as a result of what we learned in 2011.'"

Why People Hate the Banks
Joe Nocera, in a New York Times op-ed, describes banking practices that justify the public's genuine distrust of banks and in some cases abhorrence of them.  Nocera writes:  "As it turns out, this same kind of awful behavior [subprime mortgage abuse] has been taking place inside the credit card collections departments of the big banks. Records are a mess. Robo-signing has been commonplace. Collections practices hurt primarily the poor and the unsophisticated, just like foreclosure practices. (I sometimes wonder if banks would make any profits at all if they couldn’t take advantage of the poor and unsophisticated.)."

From October 2012:

Mississippi Town Sued Over "School-to-Prison-Pipeline"
The Corporate Justice Blog continues to monitor the evils of the "prison-industrial-complex" and school-to-prison seems another byproduct of the broken prison regime in the United States.  The Department of Justice is suing a town and school district in Meridian, Mississippi for operating a system in which students are denied basic constitutional rights, sent to court and incarcerated for minor school infractions.  Further, ColorLines reports that the school-to-prison-pipeline has just received its first-ever airing before the United States Senate.

From December 2012:

That Terrible Trillion
Economist Paul Krugman talks about the federal deficit and describes, as Keynes would have, that an economic depression is not the appropriate time to cut government spending.

The GOP's Electoral College Scheme
As reported in The Nation, "Republicans alarmed at the apparent challenges they face in winning the White House are preparing an all-out assault on the Electoral College system in critical states, an initiative that would significantly ease the party's path to the Oval Office."

No comments:

Post a Comment