Tag Archives: Banking

Obama’s TPP negotiators received huge bonuses from big banks

Obama TPP negotiators received huge bonuses from big banks Obamas TPP negotiators received huge bonuses from big banks

A controversial trade deal being touted by the White House is expected to give American corporations broad new authority if approved. Now according to newly released documents, big banks gave millions to the execs that are now orchestrating the agreement.
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Investigative journalist Lee Fang wrote for Republic Report on Tuesday this week that two former well-placed individuals within the ranks of Bank of America and CitiGroup were awarded millions of dollars in bonuses before jumping ship to work on the Trans-Pacific Partnership on behalf of the White House.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is a widely-contested trade deal between the US and 11 other nations adjacent to the Pacific Rim, and has been negotiated by representatives for those countries in utmost secrecy. According to leaked excerpts of the TPP and remarks from experts following the news closely, though, it’s believed that the arrangement would allow corporations to oppose foreign laws while at the same time limiting the abilities for governments to regulate those entities.

On Tuesday, Fang wrote that two major United States-based financial firms have significantly awarded former executives who have since attracted the attention of President Barack Obama and subsequently been offered positions that put them directly involved in TPP talks.

Former Bank of America investment banker Stefan Selig, Fang acknowledged, received more than $9 million in bonus pay after he was nominated to join the Obama administration in November. And Michael Froman, the current US trade representative, was awarded over $4 million from Citigroup when he left them in 2009 in order to go work for the White House. Republic Report were provided those statistics through financial disclosures included in Fang’s article.

When Selig was asked to head the International Trade Administration by the White House last November — a Commerce Department job — the New York Times considered it “a rare appointment of a Wall Street banker by the Obama administration.” If he is confirmed by the Senate as expected, he will work directly with US trade officials on hammering out final arrangements for the TPP. Froman has been the US trade representative since last June, and according to his biography on that department’sofficial website, is directly overseeing TPP discussions.

In Fang’s report, he noted that such hefty bonuses aren’t unusual on Wall Street.

“Many large corporations with a strong incentive to influence public policy award bonuses and other incentive pay to executives if they take jobs within the government,” he wrote.

But with the TPP expected to have serious implications on the corporate and financial realms, the appointments of Selig and Froman raise new questions about the potential influence of Wall Street on an already widely-disputed trade deal.

“The controversial TPP trade deal has rankled activists for containing provisions that would newly empower corporations to sue governments in ad hoc arbitration tribunals to demand compensation from governments for laws and regulations they claim undermine their business interests,” Fang acknowledged.“A fact-sheet provided by Public Citizen explains how multi-national corporations may use the TPP deal to skirt domestic courts and local laws. The arrangement would [allow] corporations to go after governments before foreign tribunals to demand compensations for tobacco, prescription drug and environment protections that they claim would undermine their expected future profits.”

“Not only do US treaties mandate that all forms of finance move across borders freely and without delay, but deals such as the TPP would allow private investors to directly file claims against governments that regulate them, as opposed to a WTO-like system where nation states (ie the regulators) decide whether claims are brought,” Boston University associate professor Kevin Gallagher told Fang.

When WikiLeaks released a draft version of a section of the TPP last year, the anti-secrecy group warned that “Particular measures proposed include supranational litigation tribunals to which sovereign national courts are expected to defer, but which have no human rights safeguards

tpp1 300x168 Obamas TPP negotiators received huge bonuses from big banks

No wonder they kept it secret,” internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom told RT at the time. “What a malicious piece of US corporate lobbying. TPP is about world domination for US corporations. Nothing else.”

Last month, leaked memos obtained by the Huffington Post suggested that the US has lost almost all international support from the 11 other Pacific Rim nations engaged in TPP discussions.

Source: RT

US eases rules for banks to do business with licensed pot shops

US eases rules for banks todo business with licensed pot shops US eases rules for banks to do business with licensed pot shops

The Obama administration released on Friday new rules that aim to ease relationships between banks and legal marijuana shops. Banks have been reluctant to allow pot businesses to open accounts given the contradictions between federal and state laws.
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The new guidelines created by the US Department of Justice and the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) signal to banks they can evade the federal government’s wrath as long as the marijuana businesses they are transacting with are following state law and have filed the proper paperwork.

“The Department shares the concerns of public officials and law enforcement about the public safety risks associated with businesses that handle significant amounts of cash,” Justice Dept. spokeswoman Allison Price said in a statement. “These guidelines, together with the Treasury Department’s guidance to financial institutions, are intended to increase the availability of financial services for marijuana businesses — that are licensed and regulated — while at the same time preserving and enhancing important law enforcement tools.”

Though several states have legalized medical marijuana, it wasn’t until Colorado and Washington state passed laws in the last year allowing broader sales of pot that pushed the need for new banking rules. High-profile burglaries of shops in Colorado – the first and only state that has permitted retail outlets to legally sell marijuana to adults for recreational purpose – have occurred in the last month. The shops are targeted based on their necessity to carry cash on hand, given the lack of assurance on the part of banks and credit unions that doing business with marijuana outlets wouldn’t conjure the ire of federal law enforcement.

“There’s a public safety component to this. Huge amounts of cash, substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited, is something that would worry me just from a law enforcement perspective,” US Attorney General Eric Holder said on Jan. 23 during a speech at the University of Virginia.

Friday’s announcement is intended to open up banking services – accepting deposits, offering payroll checks, easing the acceptance of credit cards – for pot shops licensed with a state to sell either medicinal or recreational marijuana.

“Now that some states have elected to legalize and regulate the marijuana trade, FinCEN seeks to move from the shadows the historically covert financial operations of marijuana businesses,” FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery said in a statement. FinCen’s mission is mostly concerned with anti-money laundering laws and keeping banks from serving as fronts for criminal groups.

Yet, according to Politico, the memos issued Friday are sparse in solid details, likely because the Obama administration, in working with states that have legalized pot, has been accused of ignoring the illegality of marijuana use on the federal level.

Nevertheless, the directive tells prosecutors in states where marijuana is legal that they should focus on eight areas of law enforcement pertaining to pot businesses, including drug sales to minors, using a business as a front to sell other illegal drugs or working with drug gangs or cartels.

Banks must verify with their state whether a marijuana business is licensed. Banks also must follow the businesses closely and report suspicious activity to federal authorities in order to stay clear of violating anti-money laundering laws, FinCen said. The federal agency said banks must be aware of whether the stores are making more money than expected from selling marijuana.

The Justice Dept. and FinCen said the new rules do not grant any activity immunity from prosecution, again highlighting the delicate nature of marijuana legalization for federal agencies.

The guidelines are mostly aimed at smaller banks rather than large national banks, which are unlikely to associate with pot outlets anytime soon.

“Through our outreach we were led to believe that there would be perhaps some banks that would be willing to offer these services and probably some of the smaller, medium banks rather than some of the largest ones in this country,” a senior FinCEN official said.

Despite the new directive, banks and their lobbying groups are working on a bill in Congress that would ensure further protection from running afoul of anti-money laundering laws.

Source: RT

Industry powers with access to TPP plans lavish money on Congress

RT TPP 1 Industry powers with access to TPP plans lavish money on Congress

Operatives of top global corporations, which spend great amounts of cash to lobby Congress, are also part of a small group in the US outside the Obama administration that can access working plans on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

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According to data analyzed by government transparency advocate MapLight, current members of Congress received around US$24 million in the last ten years from organizations represented on an exclusive industry board, created and staffed by Congress. This board has inside access – such as not even granted to members of Congress, much less the public – to the highly-secretive negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which promises to give powerful industry players more clout over global trade rights.

The United States is currently in negotiations with 11 other Pacific Rim nations on the lucrative trade pact known as theTrans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which aims to liberalize trade among the signees. Among the contentious issues in the TPP is that the agreement stipulates new powers for multinationals that would allow them to challenge country laws in privately run international courts. Washington has endorsed such powers in previous trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but conditions in the TPP could grant multinational more powers to challenge a wider range of laws. Under NAFTA several companies including Dow Chemicals and Exxon Mobil have sought to overrule regulations on fracking, oil drilling, and drug patents.

“The United States, as in previous rounds, has shown no flexibility on its proposal, being one of the most significant barriers to closing the chapter,” said a memo from one of the participating countries obtained by the Huffington Post.

Ultimately, the pact would give corporate entities much more influence over commerce, elevating“individual foreign firms to equal status with sovereign nations,” consumer rights advocate Public Citizen says on its website.

Thus far in the multi-year negotiations of TPP, a small cadre of people have had open access to the working documents involved in the various sections of the trade pact. On the contrary, members of the US Congress, for example, must visit the offices of the United States Trade Representative to review the provisions. They are not allowed to bring anyone with them, nor can they make copies of any documents pertaining to the working agreement.

Yet aside from those in the Obama administration, only members of the United States Trade Representative’s advisory system, including the 18-member Industry Trade Advisory Committee on Intellectual Property Rights (ITAC-15), can freely access TPP negotiation documents on intellectual property.

Members of the ITAC-15 include representatives from companies like GE, Cisco Systems, Yahoo, Verizon, AT&T, and Johnson & Johnson, and entities such as the Recording Industry Association of America, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

The ITAC-15 does not include public advocacy organizations, academics or any non-industry experts.

The industry trade advisory system was created and staffed by members of Congress. In fact, the ITAC-15 is made up of several top political spenders that have offered millions of dollars to influential Congress members in recent years, data organized by MapLight shows.

MapLight found that – from Jan. 1, 2003 to Dec. 31, 2012 – the 18 organizations that have representatives on the ITAC-15 gave almost $24 million to current members of Congress in that time period via political action committees, among other avenues that are legally required to be disclosed.

AT&T has given over $8 million to current members of Congress, more than any other ITAC-15 entities.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner has been given $433,350 from ITAC-15 organizations, more than any other individual in Congress.

Congressional Democrats have gotten $11.4 million from the organizations, while Republicans have received $12.6 million.

A handful of Congress members sponsoring legislation that would give the Obama administrationmore power over the congressional process of approving TPP – barring amendments to the pact, for example – have received a total of $758,295 from the ITAC-15 groups. These members include: Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus ($140,601), Senate Finance Ranking Member Orrin Hatch ($178,850), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman David Camp ($216,250), House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade Chairman Devin Nunes ($86,000), and House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions ($136,594).

Meanwhile, a new report released this week showed that US corporations spent $185 million in 2012 alone via nonprofit groups that are not legally required to divulge either their sources of funding or how they spend that money.

“Ranking among the biggest donors are energy giant Exelon Corp., health insurer WellPoint Inc. and technology titan Microsoft Corp.,” the Center for Public Integrity said in its findings.

“The millions of dollars in corporate expenditures highlighted by the Center for Public Integrity’s research flowed to more than 1,000 politically active nonprofits, from major trade associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to pro-business alliances such as the Fix the Debt Coalition.”

 

Source: RT