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Posts Tagged ‘BANK OF AMERICA’

“SCARFACE” AND REAL-LIFE BANKSTERS

In Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on March 3, 2017 at 10:37 am

It’s a scene familiar to anyone who’s seen Scarface, the 1983 classic starring Al Pacino as a Cuban drug dealer who makes it big in the cocaine business.

Scarface - 1983 film.jpg

Tony Montana (Pacino) is holding court in his Florida estate.  His visitor is a WASP-ish banker.

Bankers as a rule don’t make house calls. But Tony is no ordinary customer–his men literally haul bags full of bills into the bank when making deposits.

Except that now the banker has some unpleasant news for Tony:

We’re not a wholesale operation.  We’re a legitimate bank.  The more cash you give me……the harder it is for me to rinse.

“The fact is I can’t take any more of your money unless I raise the rates on you.”

TONY: You gonna raise…

BANKER: I gotta do it.

BANKER: The IRS is coming….

TONY: Don’t give me that shit! Let’s talk. I’m talking. I go low, you go high. I know the game. This is business talk.

BANKER: Let me explain something. The IRS is coming down heavy on South Florida. There was a Time magazine story that didn’t help. 

There’s a recession. I got stockholders I got to be responsible for.  I got to do it, Tony.

TONY: We’ll go somewhere else.  That’s it.   

BANKER: There’s no place else to go. 

TONY: Fuck you, man! Fuck you! I’ll fly the cash myself to the Bahamas.  BANKER: Once maybe. Then what? You’ll trust some monkey in a Bahamian bank with millions of your hard-earned dollars? Come on, Tony. Don’t be a schmuck. Who else can you trust? That’s why you pay us what you do. You trust us.

Stay with us. You’re a well-liked customer. You’re in good hands with us.

(At this point, movie audiences burst into laughter.  The line, “You’re in good hands with us” seemed directly lifted from the slogan used by Allstate Insurance: “You’re in good hands with Allstate.”)

Now, fast forward to 2014.

A Reuters news story dated May 21, 2014 noted that investigators from the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were probing Charles Schwab and Bank of America Corporations Merrill Lynch brokerage.

The SEC wants to determine if these brokerages violated anti-money laundering rules that require financial institutions to know their customers.

Broker-dealers are required to establish, document and identify customers and verify their identities in compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act.

In 2012, David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen, ordered regulators to guarantee that financial institutions are identifying the true beneficial owners of their accounts.

The reason: Drug cartels and terrorist groups have become highly creative in hiding and transferring their illegal funds.

According to sources close to the investigation, Charles Schwab and Merrill accepted shell companies and persons with phony addresses as clients.

In both cases, some of the accounts were eventually linked to drug cartels.  Some of those accounts held hundreds of thousands of dollars; others held millions.

A Texas rancher and Charles Schwab client transferred money to a holding company that was actually a shell company.

Most of the Schwab clients being investigated lived near the Mexican border. Some were linked to Mexican drug cartels.

Click here: Exclusive: SEC probes Schwab, Merrill, for anti-money laundering violations – sources | Reuters

No further stories could be found on the Internet to update the progress of these investigations.

In fact, the government should have assumed long ago that brokerage companies were engaging in such behavior.

As Niccolo Machiavelli warned in The Discourses, his landmark book on how to preserve freedom within a republic:

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. 

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself. 

But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

Whenever the creating of wealth becomes an end in itself, all other ends are sacrificed to this.

Greed begins in the neurochemistry of the brain. A neurotransmitter called dopamine fuels our greed. The higher the dopamine levels in the brain, the greater the pleasure we experience.

Harvard researcher Hans Breiter has found, via magnetic resonance imaging studies, that the craving for money activates the same regions of the brain as the lust for sex, cocaine or any other pleasure-inducer. 

But snorting the same amount of cocaine, or earning the same sum of money, does not cause dopamine levels to increase. So the pleasure-seeker must increase the amount of stimuli to keep enjoying the euphoria.

Federal investigators need to view large concentrations of wealth as sources for at least potential corruption.

And they should ruthlessly–and routinely–investigate those sources, whether in the vaults of the Mafia or of major financial institutions.

IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT

In Business, Politics on May 14, 2012 at 12:00 am

“Unfortunately, a lot of young folks haven’t had the opportunity to really understand how the economy works,” GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney told WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Nor, said Romney, do they understand “what it takes to put people to work in real jobs, and why we have banks, and what banks do.

“It’s a very understandable sentiment if you don’t find a job, and you can’t see rising incomes. You’re going to be angry and looking at someone to blame.”

On May 9, protesters held massive demonstrations outside Bank of America’s shareholder meeting in Charlotte.  Their ranks included victims of home foreclosures, environmentalists and Occupy Wall Street activists.

But Romney did offer a target for the protesters’ wrath: “The president and the old school liberals that have not gotten this economy turned around.”

Of course, it’s understandable that Romney should feel as he does:

  • As a prominent member of America’s privileged 1%, he commands a fortune estimated at $250 million.
  • His wife, by his admission, drives “a couple of Cadillacs.”
  • And he has “some friends who are NASCAR team owners.”
  • Not to mention a Swiss bank account and offshore investments in the Cayman Islands.
  • It has been estimated that Romney has amassed twice the net worth of the last eight presidents combined.
  • He would rank among the four richest presidents in American history if elected.

So, there you have it.

If you’re one of the estimated 14 to 25 million unemployed or under-employed Americans, don’t look to Romney or the GOP for help or even sympathy.

It’s all your fault.

It’s your fault that, today, more than 2 million Americans have been unemployed for at least 99 weeks—the cutoff point for unemployment insurance in the hardest-hit states.

It’s your fault that the longer a person is out of work, the less likely s/he is to find an employer willing to hire.

It’s your fault that all “job creating” programs have one thing in common: They apply plenty of carrots–but absolutely no sticks.

It’s your fault that the government must bribe employers–through tax credits or tax breaks–to entice them to behave like patriots instead of parasites.

It’s your fault that there are no penalties for employers whose refusal to hire condemns millions of their fellow citizens to disaster.

It’s your fault that corporations across the country are now sitting atop $2 trillion in profits. 

It’s your fault that their CEOs are using those monies for enriching themselves, their bought-off politicians, their families—and occasionally their mistresses.

It’s your fault that CEOs are using those monies to buy up their corporate rivals, throw even more Americans into the streets, and pocket their profits.

It’s your fault that CEOs are using those profits to create or enlarge companies outside the United States.

It’s your fault that the one expense CEOs refuse to underwrite is hiring their fellow Americans.

It’s your fault that CEOs want to pay their un-American employees far lower wages than would be tolerated by employees within the United States.

It’s your fault that CEOs want to escape American employee-protection laws–such as those mandating worker’s compensation or forbidding sexual harassment.

It’s your fault that CEOs want to escape American consumer-protection laws–such as those banning the sale of lead-contaminated products (a hallmark of Chinese imports).

It’s your fault that CEOs want to escape American laws protecting the environment–such as those requiring safe storage of dangerous chemicals.

It’s your fault that the loss of jobs within the United States owes to companies’ moving their operations abroad—solely to pay substandard wages to their new employees.

It’s your fault that mass firings of employees usually accompany corporate mergers or acquisitions.

It’s your fault that many employers victimize part-time employees, who are not legally protected against such threats as racial discrimination, sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions.

It’s your fault that many employers refuse to create better than menial, low-wage jobs.

It’s your fault that right-wing politicians encourage corporate employers to extort “economic incentives” from cities or states in return for moving to or remaining in those areas.

It’s your fault that such “incentives” usually absolve employers from complying with laws protecting the environment and/or workers’ rights.

It’s your fault that many employers refuse to provide medical and pension benefits—nearly always in the case of part-time employees, and, increasingly, for full-time, permanent ones as well.

It’s your fault that such employers want, in short, to enrich themselves at the direct expense of their country. 

It’s your fault if you’ve forgotten that, in decades past, such conduct used to be called treason–and punished accordingly.

It’s your fault that crime rates are now rising, due to rising unemployment.

And it’s your fault if you vote for GOP politicians who support such corrupt and ruinous policies.

THE MARK OF (HERMAN) CAIN

In Business, History, Politics on October 6, 2011 at 12:20 pm

“Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks.  If you don’t have a job and you are not rich, blame yourself!”

That’s the message that businessman-GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain has for the 14 million Americans now desperately searching for work.

It comes in an October 5 interview Cain gave to the business-slanted Wall Street Journal.

“What do they want?” Cain asked when asked about the “Occupy Wall Street” protests, now entering their third week

“I don”t have facts to back this up, but I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration.”

Cain could have “the facts” if he so desired.

In its June 8 cover-story on “What U.S. Economic Recovery?  Five Destructive Myths,” Time magazine warned that profit-seeking corporations can’t be relied on to ”make it all better.”

Wrote Rana Foroohar, Time‘s assistant managing editor in charge of economics and business:

“There is a fundamental disconnect between the fortunes of American companies, which are doing quite well, and American workers, most of whom are earning a lower hourly wage now than they did during the recession.

“The thing is, companies make plenty of money; they just don’t spend it on workers here.

“There may be $2 trillion sitting on the balance sheets of American corporations globally, but firms show no signs of wanting to spend it in order to hire workers at home.”

In short:  Giving even greater tax breaks to mega-corporations–the standard Republican mantra–has not persuaded them to stop “outsourcing” jobs. Nor has it convinced them to start hiring Americans.

While embarrassingly overpaid CEOs squander corporate wealth on themselves, millions of Americans can’t afford medical care or must depend on charity to feed their families.

Cain and his right-wing supporters thus take a “my-corporation-right-or-wrong” view that totally ignores:

  • The loss of jobs within the United States owing to companies’ moving their operations abroad—solely to pay substandard wages to their new employees.
  • The mass firings of employees which usually accompany corporate mergers or acquisitions.
  • The widespread victimization of part-time employees, who are not legally protected against such threats as racial discrimination, sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions.
  • The refusal of many employers to create better than menial, low-wage jobs.
  • The widespread employer practice of extorting “economic incentives” from cities or states in return for moving to or remaining in those areas. Such “incentives” usually absolve employers from complying with laws protecting the environment and/or workers’ rights.
  • The refusal of many employers to provide medical and pension benefits—nearly always in the case of part-time employees, and, increasingly, for full-time, permanent ones as well.
  • Rising crime rates, due to rising unemployment.

Cain said the banks were in part to blame with the 2008 financial crisis, but he said, “We’re not in 2008 — we’re in 2011!”

This, in turn, ignores the increasingly predatory behavior of the nation’s largest banks, such as Bank of America.  BofA recently announced that, starting next year, it would charge customers $5 a month to use their debit cards, whose use had previously been free.

According to the New York Times: Wells Fargo and Chase are testing $3 monthly debit card fees. Regions Financial, based in Birmingham, Ala., plans to start charging a $4 fee next month, while SunTrust, another regional powerhouse, is charging a $5 fee.

The move comes as U.S. banks are seeking to increase their revenue in the wake of new regulations on the financial industry. Starting in October, a cap will be placed on how much banks can charge for overdraft fees.

In addition, banks will face a limit on how much they can charge merchants when customers use debit cards to purchase goods and services.  In 2009, this generated $19 billion in revenues.

David Lazarus, the consumer columnist for the Los Angeles Times, put this into perspective on the September 30 edition of PBS Newshour.

“The Federal Reserve says that it pretty much costs about 4 cents to process a debit card transaction, considering the huge economies of scale, 4 cents. So that means the current average of 44 cents represents a 1,000 percent profit.

“So now….that’s going to be cut in roughly half to 21 cents.  Well, that’s still a 500% profit. If you can’t make money off a 500% profit margin, you are in the wrong line of work.”

For Cain, the wealthy former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, those protesting economic policies favoring the richest 1% of the country are “unAmerican” and “anti-capitalism.”

Every major Republican Presidential candidate since the end of World War II has attacked his opponents as “unAmerican.”

In raising this slander once more, Cain has joined the ranks of such famous right-wing candidates as Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin.

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