Tag Archives: corruption

Did JPMorgan Chase Manipulate Electricity Prices?

JPMorgan Chase may have been involved in the manipulation of electricity prices in California and the Midwestern United States.

JPMorgan Chase may have been involved in the manipulation of electricity prices in California and the Midwestern United States.

It’s been a banner couple of weeks for the folks over at JPMorgan Chase. Aside from the chance that they could end up in the circular firing squad over the Libor scandal, there was the bit about a “trade gone bad” costing the company $5.9 billion in the last quarter, it has been reveled over the past couple of weeks that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is taking a look into whether the bank manipulated electricity rates in their favor in the western and Midwestern United States over a period of years.

The electricity investigation involves whether JPMorgan’s bidding strategies extracted “inflated” or “excessive” payments from two wholesale power markets serving California and several Midwest states. The bank’s commodities business owns or has rights to output from several electric generators.

The result of such inflated or excessive payments would likely be passed along to the customers in the areas served by those markets. It’s the most efficient form of trickle down economics there is!

If this all has a twinge of familiarity it’s because a touch more than a decade ago, a company from Houston, TX, by the name of Enron was caught an energy price manipulation scheme of its own. The scandal eventually cost the company it’s existence, investors billions of dollars, and the CEO (among others) his freedom. While it does not appear the crimes of JPMorgan are anywhere near as egregious, it does raise a “really, you’re going to do that?” eyebrow that is probably both morally justified by the rest of us and looked down at disdainfully by some of the less-than-moral members of the trading markets – few as they are among the industry.

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Ukraine’s Former Prime Minister Sent to Prison Camp

Yulia Tymoshenko, former Ukraine Prime Minister, waves from a prison window in November of 2011. She has since been moved to a remote prison camp.

Yulia Tymoshenko, former Ukraine Prime Minister, waves from a prison window in November of 2011. She has since been moved to a remote prison camp.

Ukraine has had a rather wild political life over the past decade. A sea change election in 2004 saw the pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych nearly steal the vote from the pro-European candidate Viktor Yushchenko. Yushchenko himself was a victim of dioxin poisoning during the campaign – a murky incident that points in the general direction of former Ukrainian security service deputy chief Volodymyr Satsyuk (who today lives safely in Russia).

As domestic and foreign election observers began to release information on voter fraud, up to a million people turned out to occupy the center of the capital Kiev until runoff elections were announced. Yushchenko won the re-vote, but his political career didn’t get much better. Peaking in popularity within six months of his election, Yushchenko would go on to see an approval rating only the U.S. Congress can be familiar with – the single digits, with disapproval in the mid 70′s by mid-2008 and continuing through the remainder of his term.

One of Yushchenko’s fellow Orange Revolutionaries, Yulia Tymoshenko, became Prime Minister under Yushchenko. The honeymoon did not last very long though as Tymoshenko’s government was dismissed by Yushchenko, and Tymoshenko was thrown under the bus for perceived economic weakness & instability in the ruling coalition. Tymoshenko would return to the post in 2007 behind a new coalition, and would wind up outlasting her former ally Yushchenko in a 2010 Presidential election – an election that saw the narrow victory of the still pro-Russian Yanukovych, six years after his 2004 defeat.

Tymoshenko went on the offensive against Yanukovych and his administration, becoming an outspoken thorn in his side as an opposition leader. Her bloc would boycott Yanukovych’s inauguration ceremony, and raise a rather loud stink about Ukraine’s securing of a treaty with Russia where they would lease naval bases to Russia in exchange for a guaranteed supply of natural gas. Weeks after this deal, Ukraine authorities reopened a case against Tymoshenko that was shut by the country’s supreme court in 2005 – alleging that Tymoshenko had tried to bribe supreme court judges. From here charges would morph until their ironic outcome: Tymoshenko was tried and found guilty in October of 2011 for signing a natural gas deal with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that was deemed to be “abuse of power”. This deal cut out a middle-man company in Ukraine, allowing the country to work directly with Russia – but it was deemed illegal by Yanukovych’s government, whereas Yanukovych’s deal involved the stationing of Russian military forces on Ukrainian soil.

Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison and ordered to pay $188 million to the state. While in prison in December she was arrested again on a tax evasion suspicion. She was placed on indefinite arrest and was moved on December 30th to a remote prison camp:

“Tymoshenko has been moved to a prison in the Kharkiv region,” the state penitentiary service said in a statement.

The European Union, which had planned to initial agreements on political association and free trade with Ukraine at a summit this month, put off the signing and cited Tymoshenko’s case as an example of selective justice in the former Soviet republic.

Yanukovich has refused to intervene and the parliament, dominated by his supporters, has turned down several proposals to remove her alleged offence from the criminal code.

Tymoshenko’s lawyers say she hopes that the European Court for Human Rights, where she has filed a case against Ukraine, will exonerate her. The court said this month it would fast-track the case.

International reaction has been harsh, with even Russia surprised by the severity of the sentence. Amnesty International has called for her release.

Newsbyte: Congress Insider Trading, Dorm Life & Pot Growing in Foreclosed Exurbs, NASA: No 2012 Fireball of Doom

In today’s issue:

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News of the World/News International’s phone hacking scandal continues to grow – Former PM Brown & 9/11 victims targeted

Rupert Murdoch continues to keep News of the World's Rebekah Brooks onboard in his media empire, despite the revelations of what transpired under her watch over the past decade.

Rupert Murdoch continues to keep News of the World's Rebekah Brooks onboard in his media empire, despite the revelations of what transpired under her watch over the past decade. (Photo: EPA)

In far too few words – it’s been a bad couple of weeks for Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. A phone hacking scandal that resulted in the perhaps brash decision to shutter News of the World has continued to grow almost out of control over the weekend and into the start of the new week.

The most costly effect to Murdoch’s empire may be a potential failed takeover of satellite television operator BSkyB. Once seen as a shoe-in for approval, the phone hacking controversy has fed into general nervousness over the grip of Murdoch’s influence over British media, with the takeover almost stopping dead in its tracks:

The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has referred News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB to the Competition Commission.

The move follows News Corp’s withdrawal of its proposed undertaking to spin off Sky News as part of its attempt to take over the broadcaster.

The spin-off of Sky News had initially been the key condition if News Corp was to be allowed to take over BSkyB.

But in light of the phone-hacking scandal, Mr Hunt had said he was seeking fresh advice from regulators.

“I am going to refer this [bid] to the Competition Commission with immediate effect and will be writing to them this afternoon,” Mr Hunt told the House of Commons.

Some MPs in the House of Commons are pushing for an up or down vote on whether Murdoch’s attempted acquisition will be allowed to continue onward in any way, shape, or form.

Outside of business effects, the actual hacking portion of the scandal continued to see its list of targets grow – adding former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Royal Family, and even victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

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British Tabloid “News of the World” closes amid hacking scandal

After a phone hacking scandal that could claim as many as 4,000 victims in the UK alone, Rupert Murdoch's "News of the World" publication is set to cease operations after this Sunday's issue.

After a phone hacking scandal that could claim as many as 4,000 victims in the UK alone, Rupert Murdoch's "News of the World" publication is set to cease operations after this Sunday's issue.

A low-level phone hacking scandal has blown up in the face of one of the United Kingdom’s most ruthless tabloids.  Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp-owned News of the World has been in varying degrees of trouble for the last half decade over hacking the voice mail of famous actors and prominent members of the British Parliament.

Recent revelations that the hacking scandal also included a 13 year old murder victim, relatives of dead soldiers, and perhaps even victims of the 7/7 London Train bombings.  An ITV report said that Scotland Yard was investigating claims that as many as 4,000 people had their voice mail hacked by people on the payroll of News of the World.

As the noose tightened at blinding speed around the paper, and with the loss of support of the entire British government, the writing was most assuredly on the wall.  With that in mind, as the BBC has reported:

This Sunday’s issue of the News of the World will be the last edition of the paper, News International chairman James Murdoch has said.
In the past few days, claims have been made that the paper authorised hacking into the mobile phones of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and the families of 7/7 bombing victims.

Mr Murdoch said proceeds from the last edition would go to good causes.

Downing Street said it had no role or involvement in the decision.
In a statement made to staff, Mr Murdoch said the good things the News of the World does “have been sullied by behaviour that was wrong – indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our company”.

“The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself.”

Some analysts believe that Murdoch has sacrificed News of the World in order to continue pursuing his desires for a UK media empire that will include BskyB, the UK’s largest satellite provider.

The Low Bar Set by Tearing Down Anthony Weiner

Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY), ran out of town because of scandalous twitter pictures.

Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY), ran out of town because of scandalous twitter pictures. (Photo: Reuters)

After two weeks of an embarrassing non-scandal scandal for now-former Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) that provided for some of the easiest comedic material for late night comedy programming since Lorena Bobbitt, the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives took a bold stand and were rewarded: they collectively turned their backs on Mr. Weiner and said he should resign from Congress, and he did just that.

The start-to-finish of this ordeal was quite quick.  The infringing photo was tweeted to a 21-year old on May 27th.  Mr. Weiner went with the “I was hacked” defense, which anyone who’s familiar with the internet (especially saying stupid things in a public forum, for example) knows doesn’t hold much water ever.  Conservative blogger Andrew Brietbart salivated over the story with more gathered pictures, threatening to leak those as well.  On June 6th, the day the first one of the Brietbart photos were leaked, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took the lead in bringing the knives out for Mr. Weiner:

“I am deeply disappointed and saddened about this situation; for Anthony’s wife, Huma, his family, his staff and his constituents,” the Democratic leader said in a statement. “I am calling for an Ethics Committee investigation to determine whether any official resources were used or any other violation of House rules occurred.”

With friends like these?  In any event, they were joined by Republican National Chair Reince Priebus calling for an outright resignation on June 7th, along with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA).  The bandwagon was joined on June 8th by more Democrats – Represenatives Schwartz (PA), Ross (AR), Michaud (ME), Tsongas (MA), Kissel (NC), and Donnely (IN).  Clearly these pictures needed to be stopped.

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The Band Plays on in Iran (QH: 25 July 2009)

Protesters gathered in dozens of cities around the world today to express their support for the Iranian people in their seemingly more and more long-shot hopes for real reform in that even-more-plain-as-day dictatorship.  It’s crazy to think but before the election it was widely accepted that no matter who was elected there would not be that much real change, and in the immediate aftermath there were those who were wondering if the 1979 Revolution was about to topple over.  Weeks of harsh crackdowns and violence seemingly has put an end to all of that, or at least most of it.  According to the Associated Press today, there is still some fight left in the people:

Witnesses say Iranian police and pro-government militia have attacked and scattered hundreds of protesters in Iran’s capital.

One of the witnesses says the protests were in response to demonstrations held around the world calling for the Iranian government to release opposition activists.

Protesters in Vanak and Mirdamad districts chanted “death to the dictator” and “we want our vote back” before they were attacked and beaten by police Saturday.

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The New York Times today has what could be a big, juicy economic corruption story going forward for the deep pockets of Wall Street.  Called “high frequency trading”, it confirms what many on the outside of Wall Street believe, and what was exactly summed up by Jon Stewart of all people during his smackdown of CNBC’s Jim Cramer earlier this year.  What “high frequency trading” does, when you drill down to the basics, is rig the game against the little guy – from Joe Trader all the way up to multi-million dollar mutual fund as opposed to the multi-billion kind.

Buyer A wants to buy 100 shares of General Electric this coming Monday morning at the open at $12.03/share – planning to invest $1,203.  The order is placed but before it actually gets to the market it goes into a thirty-millisecond purgatory where “high frequency traders” (really fast computers owned by really rich people/businesses) see that the order is coming and, with their quicker access to the markets, buy up all available shares at $12.03.  The order hits the market and instantly ticks up to $12.04, where the order is filled.  The “high frequency traders” dump their $12.03 purchases and profit the rather small looking margin.  It’s a small margin that multiplies by the millisecond to the tune of billions in extra profit per year, and perhaps outright market manipulation.  There might just be more on this later.

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Anti-gay bigots in Washington are trying their hardest to reverse an earlier State decision that granted all the rights to same-sex partners that heterosexual couples have.

Opponents of a measure that passed the Legislature this year giving same-sex domestic partners all the rights of married people turned in signatures to the secretary of state’s office Saturday in attempt to overturn the new law through a citizen referendum.

Referendum 71 needs 120,577 valid voter signatures to qualify for the fall ballot. Supporters say they turned in about 138,000 signatures.

Election officials suggest submitting about 150,000 signatures to offset any invalid signatures. Dave Ammons, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, said usually about 18 percent of signatures checked turn out to be invalid.

He said Saturday that R-71 backers were cutting it very close.

“They’re definitely running on fumes, in terms of trying to get their pad,” Ammons said.

The process of counting and verifying the signatures could go until the last week of August.  If R-71 proponents don’t have enough signatures, the domestic partnership expansion will immediately take effect. If the measure does qualify, voters will be asked to either approve or reject the new law.

The U.S. Enters an Exclusive Club of the World’s Worst

Iran, Syria, China: three countries that probably don’t bring out the best of thoughts in Americans’ minds. Leave China out and you have your typical freedom-hating Arabs. Add China in and you have your run of the mill America-hating countries. Add the United States to that list and you have a list of countries that normally wouldn’t appear next to each other regarding much of anything at all. Safe to say if the United States has something in common with Iran, Syria, and China, it’s not going to be a good thing.

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It did not seem like too much to ask…

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

It’s a simple line that introduces each and every president to their new term in office. It’s something that has been passed down from President to President and generation to generation. By no means will each and every President adhere to that line through and through, but the general idea is that the President will do their best – the best of their ability – to live up to that phrase. It may only be one line, but it is one line suggesting the defense of both this country as well as the laws which make it such a great place to be in human history. If a President can not adhere to that one simple line, that one simple oath, logically speaking that President does not deserve to hold that position of power any more.

Not so subtly, that brings us to our current President, our President for another year and a half, George W. Bush. To say he hasn’t lived up to that simple oath would be a bit of a stretch. To say he has burned it right along with the integrity of this country and the laws upon which it was founded would be a bit more in adherence with fact. Presidents have lied. They’ve lied about wars. They’ve lied about how they conduct policy foreign and domestic. Presidents have done things to undermine portions of this country and its Constitution, but never before in our 231 year history has a single President done so much across the board in every possible aspect of the office itself to completely undermine, destroy, and make an outright mockery of this country and everything it stands for.
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Halliburton: Fleeing the sinking ship

Everyone’s favorite company to rag on for being a front for evil in many ways, shapes, and forms – Halliburton – announced over the weekend that they are moving their headquarters from Houston, Texas, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The company claimed that the move was a response to going where the oil-related action is. I’m sure that the lack of tax has nothing to do with it much like escaping American law wouldn’t have anything to do with it either. Although unlike most tax havens, Hallibuton is not moving over there with a mailbox, the executives of the company and all are moving to the region as well. Perhaps they’ll get one of the shiny new buildings rising out of the empty desert that make up the city’s skyline.

It is, perhaps, the final and greatest prize for a corporation that has profited like no other early on in this new century. Driven by contracts relating to the Iraqi War, many of which “won” without a bid allowed from anyone else, Halliburton has made untold amounts of profits, legally and illegally, and will continue to do so for the remainder of this war, and whatever other one it may lead us into. Billions of dollars have flowed out before this company and yet they nickel and dime the best they can to make sure they have a firm grasp on every last cent of it. Whether it be the recent examples of the company serving our fighting men and women in Iraq spoiled food, or exposing them to contaminated water or for running up excessive charges on anything it could come up with in the past four years, Halliburton has and is milking the war effort for every last dime it can get.

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