Finance Reporter for The New York Times
They’re called “qualified private activity bonds,” and they’re intended to encourage public works through a tax break. In reality, though, they often go to subsidize private projects—everything from a winery in North Carolina to a golf resort in Puerto Rico to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the offices of Goldman Sachs in New York. Louise Story, investigative reporter for The New York Times explains how this loophole gets used.
A three-part investigation by our partner The New York Times may offer some unsettling news for both taxpayers and local officials who have assumed that providing attractive incentives to businesses would create jobs. Investigative reporter Louise Story explains her findings.
Our panel of social, political and pop-cultural experts to tell us about the stories you may have missed this week.
When Goldman Sachs employee Greg Smith handed in his letter of resignation, he did so in the most public manner possible — by posting it in the pages of The New York Times. In his letter, the former derivatives trader described the firm's working environment as "toxic and destructive" and accused their culture of placing company profits over client interest whenever possible.
After the financial meltdown of 2008 people looked to the Securities and Exchange Commission to use its regulatory powers to get to the bottom of the crisis and possibly craft suitable punishments to prevent the same mistakes in the future. Regulation is supposed to discourage not reward bad decisions. But an analysis conducted by our partner The New York Times shows the agency has repeatedly allowed the biggest firms to avoid punishments.
This week, President Obama delivers the State of the Union, then travels to five states that promise to be key battlegrounds for this year's election: Iowa, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Michigan. As the President begins his swing state tour, Republican candidates will be setting up camp in Florida, preparing for two debates in the next primary state.
A business and tech story that has the ring of the inevitable to it. A company that practically alone, created the modern global high-tech consumer culture has declared bankruptcy. Eastman Kodak, this morning a penny stock on the New York Stock exchange. The company that invented consumer photography, more than a century ago has filed for bankruptcy, taken out a credit lifeline, put it's portfolio of storied patents on the block, and started a clock which may tick down to the total end of an American technology story that is among other things emblematic of the digital age we live in.
The Journal of Consumer Research recently published a study called "Overestimating Others' Willingness to Pay" which outlines the "overvaluing bias": the tendency to overvalue what another person would pay by nearly 40 percent. While this phenomenon is not new to social psychologists, it clearly influenced the years of easy credit and has more broadly moved Americans away from cash to credit cards.
Bank of America, which now owns mortgage giant Countrywide Financial, will pay $335 million for Countrywide discriminating against minorities during the 2004-2008 housing boom. Countrywide brokers are accused of steering blacks and Latinos into more costly home loans than white borrowers with the same financial profile. An estimated 200,000 people were affected.
Republican presidential candidates held their final debate last night in Sioux City just weeks before the Iowa caucus takes place on January 3. In the Fox News debate candidates attempted to draw distinctions from one another and defend their record to conservative voters. The latest New York Times/CBS News poll shows Newt Gingrich gaining ground on consistent front runner Mitt Romney. But some voters are still undecided.
The House Commodity Futures Trading Commission's review of MF Global are getting closer to finding out where 1.2 billion dollars of investor's funds went. Former Chief Executive John Corzine has testified he does not know where the funds went, and was unaware that any customer money was missing until October 30th of this year. The now bankrupt brokerage firm made a 6.3 billion dollar bet on European sovereign debt.
Much has been made of the top one percent of American wage earners in recent headlines. The Occupy movements have made them the living embodiment of the nation’s growing income inequality. But, new federal tax data shows that the story may be slightly more complicated than we originally thought.
Jon Corzine, the former head of investment firm MF Global, told lawmakers he did not intend to break any rules and that he has no idea where $1.2 billion in missing money is during testimony before Congress on Thursday. The New Jersey Democrat became the first former U.S. Senator to be subpoenaed by Congress in more than a century. During his testimony, Corzine repeatedly apologized to investors and customers, saying he never ordered any movement of money out of clients' accounts.
Occupy Wall Street encampments have been disappearing across the country. But after seeing seeing their presence steadily diminish in recent weeks as cold weather and police-led evictions have cleared camps, Occupy has found a new rallying cry. "Foreclose on banks, not people" is the maxim of a new viral video from Occupy Our Homes, the next iteration of the movement. Occupy Our Homes began a major campaign Tuesday, staging marches in 25 cities, and taking over foreclosed properties for homeless families.
Standard and Poor's announced on Monday that it is considering a credit rating downgrade for both Germany and France, the euro zone's two biggest economies. The move takes place as euro zone countries meet in Brussels in an attempt to stop the ongoing crisis. The two countries currently have a top-notch AAA rating from the agency. Standard and Poor's said that 13 additional euro zone countries are also vulnerable to downgrade as a result of the continent’s economic crisis.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has filed a suit against Bank of America, JP-Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and GMAC Mortgage, accusing them of "unfair and deceptive business practices." She is seeking damages for borrowers who were hurt by these banks foreclosure practices, which range from filing fraudulent legal paperwork to the use of so-called "robo-signers" and refusing to follow lending laws.
A federal judge rejected a $285 million settlement between Citigroup and the Securities and Exchange Commission, objecting to the practice of allowing banks to settle fraud cases without admitting guilt. Citi may now face a trial over the sale of toxic mortgages which cost investors millions but made the bank profit. The judge said the public has a right to "the transparency of financial markets whose gyrations have so depressed our economy and debilitated our lives."
Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year. As always, many stores are opening their doors earlier and extending sales for longer periods of time. Plus there's a rise in consumer confidence this month. So this year, the shopping period looks promising for retailers. It's estimated that 152 million people plan to shop this weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. That's up 10 percent from last year. But despite the good news, the economy is still weak.
In the aftermath of the financial crisis, Wall Street executives tried to deflect the blame onto various culprits — government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie May and Freddie Mac for keeping interest rates low, consumers who lied about their credit history, or annual income. But Michael Lewis, former CEO of failed bank IndyMAC, isn't blaming consumers or investors. Lewis, who has been accussed of fraud and misleading investors, is pointing the finger at regulators.