Month: July 2008

More Evidence that Arbitration is a Racket

This sad tail of corruption as a feature, not a bug, in arbitration courtesy of Jane Bryant Quinn.

Short story, people screwed over in auction rate security deals will likely have to be heard by arbitrators whose own companies are the subjects of actions by people screwed over in auction rate security deals.

This will be an issue that I will start dunning candidates on, because binding arbitration is a racket.

CIA Starts Leaking Dirt on Pakistani ISI

Pakistan denies this, but we have reports that a CIA operative met with Pakistani and presented evidence of close links and support between al Queida and the people in the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Pakistan’s state security apparatus is focused on a war with India, and when it’s not focused on that, it’s looking at reducing Indian influence in the area, so at allies with Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, which provides sanctuary for al Queida.

These people are not reliable allies with regard to combatting al Queida, the Taliban, or terrorism in general as a result.

More Taser Abuse

The police come across a 16 year old boy lying on the street, having fallen from an overpass, and having a broken foot and broken back, and it appears that the officers Tasered him 19 times because he ignored their requests to get up, so they tortured him.

And then we have the second death in as many months in the Charlotte jail from Taser Abuse. In the first case, they tasered someone for 37 seconds…but that cop is still on the force.

This won’t change unless/until Tasers are classified as lethal weapons.

Boeing Looks for New Ways to F%$@ Up Labor Management Relations

It looks like Boeing, the only company incompetent enough to get engineers to go out on strike and stay out,* is playing chicken with it’s unions again, though this time it’s the International Association of Machinists (IAM), who are far more likely to strike than the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA).

There may not be much that Boeing is good at, but forcing its employees out on bitter strikes is one of the few.

With the 787 at least 14 months behind schedule, they can’t afford a strike, but they are still pushing to screw the employees on pensions and healthcare.

Smooth move guys.

*The SPEEA went out for 40 days in 2000, despite the fact that it was a bunch of engineers, who generally hate unions, and the union was up to that point considered a joke.

Merrill Lynch CDO Sale at Far Less than 22¢ on the Dollar

Yesterday, I wrote about a 5.7 billion write-down that Merril was taking on CDOs.

It turns out that the numbers, which showed them getting 22¢ on the dollar are completely bogus. They took an even bigger haircut than reported.

Nouriel Roubin has the details, but the cliff notes version is:

  • Merrill financed the purchase.
  • The finance rate is at sub market rates.
  • The security for the deal is the same CDO crap that they are selling
  • Merrill has, “would absorb any losses on the CDOs beyond $1.68 billion”

Their face value is $30.6 billion, so this figures to a 5.5¢ on the dollar worst case.

WTO Talks are Done, for Now at Least

Issues between the US and India and China over farm exports killed the deal.

Not surprising. As Krugman notes, trade deals are not about real free trade, but rather “enlightened mercantilism”, so he doesn’t see it as the end of the world.

I am actually far less of a free trader than he is, and I see the current deals as damaging people far more than it helps people, so I think that some changes, including more transparency in adjudication bodies and the elimination of the idea that regulation is a taking, should be a core value to proceed.

FDIC Puts Brakes on overed Bonds

As I wrote earlier, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is pushing a new (for the US, at least) sort of bond, the covered bond, to unfreeze the mortgage credit markets.

Well, it looks like the FDIC just put up a road block, saying that it is considering limiting these new bonds to 4% of bank liabilities.

It has expressed concern about the instruments might place additional risk on them:

“The FDIC is concerned that unrestricted growth, while the FDIC is evaluating the potential benefits and risks of covered bonds, could excessively increase the proportion of secured liabilities to unsecured liabilities,” the agency said. In other words, Back off my insurance fund. The agency did say it would consider revising its guidance after it has a chance to evaluate the effect of covered bonds on banks.

The FDIC could refuse to cover these bonds in the event of a bank failure, and as such, if they institute this policy, it may very well put a stake through the proposal’s heart.

Of course, these days, all real estate loans are risky instruments.

Loan Servicers Under Stress

One of the funny bits of the current mortgage market is that even when the banks hold the loans, they don’t generally handle the money.

They pass this off to loan servicing firms, who send out the bills, collect checks, handle escrow, etc.

Well, it appears that they have to make payments of interest and principal to the loan holders for accounts up to 90 days delinquent, in addition to handling property tax payments, and as a result, they are taking a beating from the skyrocketing rate of delinquencies.

H/t HousingWire

Economics Update

The Bush administration is now, finally, predicting a slowing economy, with a GDP growth rate of 1.6%…though with a higher prediction of inflation at 3.8%, it’s a net contraction, which is why they are also predicting an increase in the unemployment rate.

Given this environment, it is unsurprising that home prices fell in May by 0.9%, 15.8% year over year, which is grim.

What is surprising is that Consumer confidence was up a bit, to 51.9 from 51.0, but even 51.9 is very pessimistic.

We may be seeing a bottom of consumer pessimism, which is different from seeing a bottom to the credit crisis.

The slowdown seems to be driving the price of oil down, as well as the price of retail gasoline, and falling energy prices seem to be bolstering the dollar versus foreign currencies, though the bad news on Japanese unemployment, a 2 year high, may have contributed to this.

Still, the banks are buying lots of money from the Federal Reserve to deal with the liquidity problems, $75 billion this time, so we ain’t out of the woods.

For your amusement, a cartoon:

No Bail for Wilkes

Brent Wilkes, who was convicted of bribing Randy “Duke” Cunningham, has been told that if he has a friend who wishes to post the $1.4 million for bail, his name must be made public.

This person, referred to as a former business associate, whoever he or she is, has made it clear that they would lose their job if their name became public, so I guess he stays in jail pending appeal.

If anyone has an idea who this person is, I want to know.

Ted Stevens Indicted

I’ll avoid the “tubes” and the “incredible hulk” jokes, as most of the ‘net does snark better than me.

In any case, he has been indicted on 7 counts related to concealing income from gifts from lobbyists and their firms, once again proving that it’s the cover-up that will get you.

Interestingly enough, the Republicans in Alaska are so corrupt they don’t have a replacement, with the most likely replacement, Sarah Palin, who is under investigation about misuse of power to get her ex-brother-in-law fired from the State Police.

Also note that the party can replace Stevens up to 48 days before the general election, so he could drop out.

That being said, I’ll enjoy some Schadenfreude, and you can donate to the Democratic challenger, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich at my ActBlue page.