The Richest Rich Are in a Class by Themselves

econ_onepercentchartThe rallying cry of the Occupy Movement was that the richest 1 percent of Americans is getting richer while the rest of us struggle to get by. That’s not quite right, though. The bottom nine-tenths of the 1 Percent club have about the same slice of the national wealth pie that they had a generation ago. The gains have accrued almost exclusively to the top tenth of 1 Percenters. The richest 0.1 percent of the American population has rebuilt its share of wealth back to where it was in the Roaring Twenties. And the richest 0.01 percent’s share has grown even more rapidly, quadrupling since the eve of the Reagan Revolution.

Continue reading.

Apple and Google’s wage-fixing cartel involved dozens more companies, over one million employees

Back in January, I wrote about “The Techtopus” — an illegal agreement between seven tech giants, including Apple, Google, and Intel, to suppress wages for tens of thousands of tech employees. The agreement prompted a Department of Justice investigation, resulting in a settlement in which the companies agreed to curb their restricting hiring deals. The same companies were then hit with a civil suit by employees affected by the agreements.

This week, as the final summary judgement for the resulting class action suit looms, and several of the companies mentioned (Intuit, Pixar and Lucasfilm) scramble to settle out of court, Pando has obtained court documents (embedded below) which show shocking evidence of a much larger conspiracy, reaching far beyond Silicon Valley.

Confidential internal Google and Apple memos, buried within piles of court dockets and reviewed by PandoDaily, clearly show that what began as a secret cartel agreement between Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt to illegally fix the labor market for hi-tech workers, expanded within a few years to include companies ranging from Dell, IBM, eBay and Microsoft, to Comcast, Clear Channel, Dreamworks, and London-based public relations behemoth WPP. All told, the combined workforces of the companies involved totals well over a million employees.

Continue reading.

“Privatizing” Kosovo: The Madeleine Albright Way

The Balkan states of Albania and Kosovo are, without doubt, the most pro-American Muslim-majority countries in the world.  According to a new census including religious affiliation – the first since 1930 – Albania now counts 57% of its total population of 2.8 million as Muslim, down from 70% eighty-two years ago. Its Catholic population has remained stable at 10%, and Albanian citizens identifying themselves as Orthodox Christians have fallen from 20% in 1930 to about 7%.  Although Kosovo does not tally figures for religious communities, the Muslim share of the population is thought to be larger, at around 80%. Both republics are secular.  Americans are beloved in Albania thanks to a significant history of Albanian immigration and success in America, and early contributions by Albanians in the U.S. to the national movement for freedom from the Ottoman Empire. At the end of November, the Albanian government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha was prepared to vote with the U.S. against a Palestinian observer seat in the United Nations, and, following unsuccessful pressure to vote “yes,” from the Turkish Islamist prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Albania became the sole Muslim-majority UN member to abstain on the Palestinian issue.

Continue reading.

After JPMorgan $13B Deal, Banks Seek Protections in Future Bailouts

As the U.S. government closes in on a $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase & Co. over its mortgage practices, lawyers specializing in bank mergers are looking for ways to protect their clients from big losses in similar cases in the future.  A big chunk of the record settlement is attributed to bad mortgage loans at Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns – two banks that U.S. financial regulators encouraged JPMorgan to buy during the 2008 financial crisis.   That has triggered discussions among bank merger lawyers about how they can get indemnification clauses into future bailout deals, and obtain greater protection from losses from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which seizes and sells troubled banks.  When the FDIC coordinates the sale of such banks, it often agrees to limit the losses that the acquiring bank may face on troubled assets. It did this, for example, in 2008 to help Citigroup Inc. buy parts of Wachovia Corp., which was ultimately bought without government assistance by Wells Fargo & Co.

Continue reading.

Most Americans accumulating debt faster than they’re saving for retirement

A majority of Americans with 401(k)-type savings accounts are accumulating debt faster than they are setting aside money for retirement, further undermining the nation’s troubled system for old-age saving, a new report has found.  Three in five workers with defined contribution accounts are “debt savers,” according to the report released Thursday, meaning their increasing mortgages, credit card balances and installment loans are outpacing the amount of money they are able to save for retirement.  The imbalance is expanding even as policymakers are encouraging people to set aside more by offering generous tax breaks and automatically enrolling workers in retirement accounts that in some cases automatically escalate the amount of money over time.  Currently, workers with retirement savings accounts put aside more than 11 percent of their pay for retirement — 5 percent in their own accounts, and 6.2 percent in Social Security.  Despite that — and despite the $2.5 trillion the report says employers have poured into defined contribution accounts from 1992 to 2012 — the retirement readiness of most Americans has been slipping, according to the report by HelloWallet, a D.C. firm that offers technology-based financial advice to workers and conducts research of economic behavior.

Continue reading.

The Russia Left Behind

A few times every day, the high-speed train between St. Petersburg and Moscow barrels through the threadbare town of Lyuban. When word gets out that the head of Russia’s state railway company — a close friend of President Vladimir V. Putin — is aboard, the station’s employees line up on the platform standing at attention, saluting Russia’s modernization for the seconds it takes the train to fly through. Whoosh.  But Vladimir G. Naperkovsky is not one of them. He watched with a cold, blue-eyed stare as the train passed the town where he was born, with its pitted roads and crumbling buildings. At 52, having shut down his small computer repair business, Mr. Naperkovsky is leaving for another region in Russia, hoping it is not too late to start a new life in a more prosperous place. The reasons are many, but his view boils down to this: “Gradually,” he said, explaining his view of Lyuban, “everything is rotting.”

Continue reading.

Too Big To Fail Is Now Bigger Than Ever Before

The too big to fail banks are now much, much larger than they were the last time they caused so much trouble.  The six largest banks in the United States have gotten 37 percent larger over the past five years.  Meanwhile, 1,400 smaller banks have disappeared from the banking industry during that time.  What this means is that the health of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley is more critical to the U.S. economy than ever before.  If they were “too big to fail” back in 2008, then now they must be “too colossal to collapse”.  Without these banks, we do not have an economy.  The six largest banks control 67 percent of all U.S. banking assets, and Bank of America accounted for about a third of all business loans by itself last year.

Continue reading.

Fed robbing poor to pay rich

The Federal Reserve isn’t just inflating markets but is shifting a massive amount of wealth from the middle class and poor to the rich, according to billionaire hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller.  In an interview on “Squawk Box,” the founder of Duquesne Capital said the Fed’s policy of quantitative easing was inflating stocks and other assets held by wealthy investors like himself. But the price of making the rich richer will be paid by future generations.  “This is fantastic for every rich person,” he said Thursday, a day after the Fed’s stunning decision to delay tightening its monetary policy. “This is the biggest redistribution of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the rich ever.”  “Who owns assets—the rich, the billionaires. You think Warren Buffett hates this stuff? You think I hate this stuff? I had a very good day yesterday.”  Druckenmiller, whose net worth is estimated at more than $2 billion, said that the implication of the Fed’s policy is that the rich will spend their wealth and create jobs—essentially betting on “trickle-down economics.”  “I mean, maybe this trickle-down monetary policy that gives money to billionaires and hopefully we go spend it is going to work,” he said. “But it hasn’t worked for five years.”

Continue reading.

Top 1 percent take record share of U.S. income

WASHINGTON — The top 10 percent of earners took more than half of the country’s total income in 2012, the highest level recorded since the government began collecting such data a century ago, according to an updated study by prominent economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty.  The top 1 percent took more than one-fifth of the income earned by Americans, one of the highest levels since 1913, when the government instituted an income tax.  The figures underscore that even after the recession the country remains in a new Gilded Age, with income as concentrated as it was in the years that preceded the Depression of the 1930s, if not more so.  High stock prices, rising home values and surging corporate profits have buoyed the recovery-era incomes of the most affluent Americans, with the incomes of the rest still weighed down by high unemployment and stagnant wages.

Continue reading.

The Confidential Memo at the Heart of the Global Financial Crisis

When a little birdie dropped the End Game memo through my window, its content was so explosive, so sick and plain evil, I just couldn’t believe it.  The Memo confirmed every conspiracy freak’s fantasy: that in the late 1990s, the top US Treasury officials secretly conspired with a small cabal of banker big-shots to rip apart financial regulation across the planet. When you see 26.3 percent unemployment in Spain, desperation and hunger in Greece, riots in Indonesia and Detroit in bankruptcy, go back to this End Game memo, the genesis of the blood and tears.  The Treasury official playing the bankers’ secret End Game was Larry Summers. Today, Summers is Barack Obama’s leading choice for Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, the world’s central bank. If the confidential memo is authentic, then Summers shouldn’t be serving on the Fed, he should be serving hard time in some dungeon reserved for the criminally insane of the finance world.

Continue reading.

JPMorgan Looks to Pay to Settle U.S. Inquiries

JPMorgan Chase is pulling out its checkbook to help mend frayed relationships with the government.  But its new and conciliatory approach — a departure for the bank and its leader, Jamie Dimon, who generally has taken a hard line with the authorities — is yielding mixed results. Government officials, stung by the bank’s past displays of hubris, may drive up the price of settlements or resist the overtures altogether.

Continue reading.

The Bilderberg Group to meet in The Grove Hotel in Watford

A secretive meeting involving some of the most influential figures in Western Europe and North America will take place in Watford next month, the Watford Observer can reveal.  The Bilderberg Group will be meeting in The Grove Hotel between June 6 and June 8.  Around 100 invited dignitaries from around the world will descend on the town for a three-day conference and the entire 220-room hotel is booked out for the event.  The guestlist for the “small, flexible, informal and off-the-record international forum” is a closely guarded secret but previous participants are believed to include Prime Minister David Cameron, his predecessors Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher and Gordon Brown as well as Chancellor George Osborne, Henry Kissinger and first in line to the throne Prince Charles.

Continue reading.

Everything Is Rigged: The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever

Conspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game. We found this out in recent months, when a series of related corruption stories spilled out of the financial sector, suggesting the world’s largest banks may be fixing the prices of, well, just about everything.

Continue reading.

Celestial Globe

Former Israeli Intelligence Operatives Now Working For Hedge Funds

A company staffed with former operatives of Israel’s top intelligence agencies and founded with the help of the former head of the Mossad is being used by hedge funds looking for an edge in the financial markets.  Kela Israeli Intelligence has increasingly become a popular service on Wall Street. The firm employs about 40 former intelligence operatives and analysts, most of them ex-members of the Israeli army’s secretive 8200 unit, which is often described as Israel’s equivalent to the National Security Agency and believed to be behind the Stuxnet computer worm that attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Continue reading.