Sunday, February 1, 2009

Bailed Out Banks are Robbing Americans Blind

The TARP package (more appropriately know as the Bailout) continues to prove it has been one of the biggest robberies of American taxpayer money.

Maybe congress should have had a clue to what was coming when the execs showed up in private jets begging for money. Why were the auto execs questioned about arriving in jets and the Wall street thiefs were not?

We were told the funds from TARP were intended to free up the lending funds in order to make credit more accessable to employers, business, and lenders. None of which has happened.

Instead, the investment banking industry has had the 2nd poorest year in terms of performance, yet the execs have had the 6th best year in bonuses at $18.4 billion. Other execs at Merrill Lynch spent $1.2 million redecorating; including $87,000 for an area rug, and $1,400 for a trashcan.

They are asking for more bailout money! Someone needs to put an end to this. This is the most blatant robbery ever.

AP Investigation: Banks sought foreign workers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Banks collecting billions of dollars in federal bailout money sought government permission to bring thousands of foreign workers to the U.S. for high-paying jobs, according to an Associated Press review of visa applications.

The dozen banks receiving the biggest rescue packages, totaling more than $150 billion, requested visas for more than 21,800 foreign workers over the past six years for positions that included senior vice presidents, corporate lawyers, junior investment analysts and human resources specialists. The average annual salary for those jobs was $90,721, nearly twice the median income for all American households.

The figures are significant because they show that the bailed-out banks, being kept afloat with U.S. taxpayer money, actively sought to hire foreign workers instead of American workers. As the economic collapse worsened last year — with huge numbers of bank employees laid off — the numbers of visas sought by the dozen banks in AP's analysis increased by nearly one-third, from 3,258 in fiscal 2007 to 4,163 in fiscal 2008.

The AP reviewed visa applications the banks filed with the Labor Department under the H-1B visa program, which allows temporary employment of foreign workers in specialized-skill and advanced-degree positions.

It is unclear how many foreign workers the banks actually hired; the government does not release those details. The actual number is likely a fraction of the 21,800 foreign workers the banks sought to hire because the government limits the number of visas it grants to 85,000 each year among all U.S. employers.

During the last three months of 2008, the largest banks that received taxpayer loans announced more than 100,000 layoffs. The number of foreign workers included among those laid off is unknown.

Foreigners are attractive hires because companies have found ways to pay them less than American workers.

White House, Senate take aim at Wall Street bonuses

By Susan Cornwell
Friday, January 30, 2009; 3:47 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington moved to crack down on Wall Street bonuses on Friday as a Democratic senator proposed capping employee salaries at companies receiving government aid and the White House pledged action from President Barack Obama as well.

Sen. Claire McCaskill proposed a law that would prevent executives from making more money than the U.S. president -- $400,000 a year -- until their companies no longer rely on government aid such as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that bails out banks.

McCaskill, a close ally of Obama who represents Missouri, announced her legislation a day after the president said he was outraged by a report of some $18 billion in Wall Street bonuses being paid while taxpayer money was being used to shore up the crumbling financial system.

At the White House, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president's upcoming plan for financial stability also would address executive compensation and bonuses.

"I think you will see the president and his economic team outline a plan to deal with what he found irresponsible yesterday," Gibbs told reporters. "Stay tuned, because something on that is coming soon." He declined to say more.

Obama on Thursday said recent Wall Street bonuses in the current situation were "shameful." His administration is working on options to help stabilize the U.S. banking industry after various experts have said the $700 billion already allocated to the bank rescue program in recent months will not be enough.


The head of the Congressional Budget Office told Congress this week he thought U.S. banks would need hundreds of billions of dollars more.

Public outcry has grown over reports of corporate excess by companies getting bailout funds, including Citigroup Inc, which intended to purchase a private jet, and bonuses paid by Merrill Lynch & Co, now owned by Bank of America Corp.

Citigroup later canceled the plane order. Bank of America's Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis ousted former Merrill chief John Thain this month after Merrill awarded large bonuses just days before the merger closed, and following huge losses that led Bank of America to obtain $20 billion of government aid to absorb Merrill.

McCaskill, an early endorser of Obama's presidential candidacy, gave an angry speech on the Senate floor Friday in which she said an average of $2.6 million dollars had been paid in bonuses to executives from the first 116 banks that got money from the TARP rescue plan.

"I am mad," she said. "We have bunch of idiots on Wall Street that are kicking sand in the face of the American taxpayer. ... They don't get it!"

Her office said the $400,000 compensation cap she was proposing would include salary, bonuses and stock options.

"We should have done it in the first place," McCaskill said of the proposed salary cap, "but I don't think any of us thought these guys were this stupid."

Obama is also working with Congress to pass a stimulus plan of over $800 billion in tax relief and government spending to try to revive the moribund economy.

(Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Brian Moss)

Nobody needs an office decorated with greed


It was the wastebasket.

That did it for me.

No, you can't justify $87,000 for a rug and you can't justify $35,000 for a commode -- yes, a commode -- but you really, really can't explain $1,400 for a wastebasket.

Made out of parchment.

Who buys a wastebasket that can catch fire faster than the trash inside it?

These were just some of $1.22-million decorating expenses incurred by John Thain, the former chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch who was ousted after merging with Bank of America for hiding last-quarter losses of around $15 billion.

Fifteen billion in losses?

That's a lot of wastebaskets.

Yet that didn't stop Thain from whining about his dismissal, it didn't stop him from seeking a $10-million bonus for himself, and it didn't stop him from rushing out billions -- yes, again, billions -- in bonuses for his executives even as he was taking billions of our taxpayer money for a bailout.

Honestly. Where do you begin with this guy?

Trying to justify things

Let's begin here, with Thain's lame attempt to explain himself in an interview with CNBC.

When a reporter asked why he felt a need to redecorate the office after inheriting it from his predecessor in late 2007, Thain said this:

"Well, heh, um, his office was very different, uh, than, uh, the, the general decor of, uh, Merrill's offices. Uh, it really would have been, uh, very difficult, uh, for, uh, me to use it in the form that it was in."

The "uh's" say it all. Come on. How bad could an ex-CEO's office be? Were there dead animals in there? Dry rot? Mold?

"So in an environment where jobs are being cut and clearly salaries are being cut and the firm is reporting all of these losses," the CNBC reporter asked, "did it occur to you at some point ... 'I'd better to put this off?' "

"Remember," Thain shot back, "this was back in, it really started in, December of '07, so the financial industry hadn't melted down yet. I had every expectation that Merrill Lynch would be a large, successful company."

So, in his mind, that would have justified $1.22 million on decorating. Because profits would be up. Stock price would be high. And people like Thain could do whatever they wanted to do. He could order an $18,000 George IV desk because, after all, he was a king himself, wasn't he?

And therein lies the problem. Even as he is being pasted in the media, Thain (whose corporate nickname was once I-Robot) doesn't get why he can't still be a Master of the Universe, where CEOs rule the game because they're smarter, faster and, doggone it, richer than the rest of us.

Of course, Thain ran off for a ski vacation when news emerged that his company lost billions. So I guess "braver" isn't one of his adjectives.

Make an example of all of 'em

Now, Thain is hardly the only CEO dipped in a sense of privilege. True, he was paid a whopping $83 million in 2007 and stood to earn as much as $120 million last year, so you'd think he could have purchased his own $16,000 coffee table.

Instead, when things went sour, he still wanted his bonus. He blamed the economy for the losses. Of course, he never credited the economy when everything was shooting up. Then it was somehow just his brilliance.

Or maybe it was the commode.

Either way, he needs to be held up and lambasted. Sure, he points to other companies, he claims this is par for the course in Wall Street, he wonders, why pick on him?

Which reminds me of a scene in the movie "Stand By Me" where a young hero pulls a gun on a gang of thugs led by Keifer Sutherland. Sutherland says, "What are you gonna do, shoot all of us?"

And the kid says, "No ... only you."

For now, begin with Thain. Shame him, deride him, hold him up and then move on to the next guy who does this, because the spineless nature of these guys will quickly emerge: They all want to be rich; none of them wants to be humiliated.

We have endured such shameless behavior before (remember Tyco's Dennis Kozlowski and his $6,000 shower curtain?), but in this New Depression, it can't be tolerated and it can't be sloughed off. Enough is enough. If they won't stop this elitist immorality, the government should make them.

Remember, it's our money being given out. And $1 million could be 20 middle-class jobs, 20 Americans who wouldn't have to sell their homes or pull their kids from college -- just so the Thains of the world can toss their trash into parchment.

No comments:

Post a Comment