JP Morgan Chase, Credit Suisse pay $416.9m penalties for phony residential mortgage-backed securities

JP Morgan Chase and Credit Suisse will pay a combined $416.9 million to settle US civil charges that they misled investors in the sale of risky mortgage bonds prior to the 2008 financial crisis…

JP Morgan would pay $296.9 million, while Credit Suisse will pay $120 million in a separate case, with the money going to harmed investors, the US Securities and Exchange Commission said.

Both settlements addressed alleged negligence or other wrongdoing in the packaging and sale of risky residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS), including at the former Bear Stearns Co, which JP Morgan bought in 2008. The banks settled without admitting wrongdoing and in separate statements said they were pleased to settle…

Goldman Sachs in 2010 agreed to pay $550 million, also without admitting wrongdoing, to settle SEC charges that it misled investors in a complex mortgage bond transaction.

The enforcement actions are the second and third from a “working group” of federal and state agencies created this year by President Barack Obama to investigate misconduct related to RMBS that contributed to the financial crisis.

And they ain’t over and done, yet.

Life, Death and Deficits – courtesy of Paul Krugman

America’s political landscape is infested with many zombie ideas — beliefs about policy that have been repeatedly refuted with evidence and analysis but refuse to die. The most prominent zombie is the insistence that low taxes on rich people are the key to prosperity. But there are others.

And right now the most dangerous zombie is probably the claim that rising life expectancy justifies a rise in both the Social Security retirement age and the age of eligibility for Medicare. Even some Democrats — including, according to reports, the president — have seemed susceptible to this argument. But it’s a cruel, foolish idea — cruel in the case of Social Security, foolish in the case of Medicare — and we shouldn’t let it eat our brains.

First of all, you need to understand that while life expectancy at birth has gone up a lot, that’s not relevant to this issue; what matters is life expectancy for those at or near retirement age. When, to take one example, Alan Simpson — the co-chairman of President Obama’s deficit commission — declared that Social Security was “never intended as a retirement program” because life expectancy when it was founded was only 63, he was displaying his ignorance. Even in 1940, Americans who made it to age 65 generally had many years left.

Now, life expectancy at age 65 has risen, too. But the rise has been very uneven since the 1970s, with only the relatively affluent and well-educated seeing large gains. Bear in mind, too, that the full retirement age has already gone up to 66 and is scheduled to rise to 67 under current law. With the aid of chickshit Democrats during the Reagan Reign.

This means that any further rise in the retirement age would be a harsh blow to Americans in the bottom half of the income distribution, who aren’t living much longer, and who, in many cases, have jobs requiring physical effort that’s difficult even for healthy seniors. And these are precisely the people who depend most on Social Security…

Social security is responsible for no portion of the deficit whatsoever. It has always paid for itself. Management costs are a tenth or less of comparable private insurance. The growth in costs from changing demographics a decade or so down the road can be fixed with a new regulation containing just three words. Remove the cap! Instead of capping SSA contributions at ~$105K salary, end the cap and we’re good into the 22nd Century.

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Karl Rove’s SuperPAC blatantly ignores federal election law

A watchdog group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission and the FBI against U.S. superpac Crossroads GPS for not disclosing its contributors.

In the complaint to the FEC and the letter to the FBI, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said Crossroads GPS violated federal election law by failing to disclose the identities of contributors, as mentioned by Crossroads head Karl Rove, who donated $6 million specifically to fund independent expenditures in the Ohio Senate race.

CREW said Crossroads GPS also broke the law by soliciting donations to be spent on the Virginia, Montana and Nevada Senate races, but failed to disclose the donors.

“Karl Rove and Crossroads GPS didn’t just skirt around the edges of the law. This time it appears they jumped headlong into a criminal conspiracy,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said Thursday in a release.

Federal law requires groups such as Crossroads GPS to disclose sources of its money to the FEC if the donors earmarked their funds for specific advertisements.

CREW said during an August fundraiser, Rove said an anonymous donor gave Crossroads GPS $3 million specifically for the Ohio Senate race, telling Rove it was a “matching challenge” dependent on the group raising another $3 million for the race. Crossroads GPS spent $6.36 million on independent expenditures in the Ohio race, but did not disclose any donors in any of the reports filed with the FEC.

During the same event, CREW alleged, Crossroads GPS showed participants an ad it made for five other Senate races, after which former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Crossroads GPS President Steven Law asked donors for more money, which CREW said presumably was to fund the ads or others similar to them. Crossroads GPS spent $17.4 million in these races after the fundraiser, but did not disclose any donors in the reports it filed, CREW said.

Face it. The Republican Party has the ideological wing of the Supreme Court in their pants pocket. The sleazy Citizens United decision proved it. It opened the floodgates for just about any expense, fundraising, rathole money to be protected from public oversight during and after an election.

The solution will require Congressional legislation – and replacing a few of the outdated conservative flunkies on the Supreme Court.

Salt Lake City police join technology move to headcams

Video surveillance cameras that eye supermarkets, car parks and train stations are something many people are used to by now. But one US police force is making the headlines for trying to take this a step further: clipping cameras on the side of all their officers’ heads via glasses, helmets or hats. They can record a crime scene or any interaction with the public, adding to the footage already produced by dashboard cameras in their cars.

On Wednesday a police chief in Salt Lake City, Utah, announced his intention to make wearable cameras mandatory at his police department.

But perhaps the development should not be such a surprise. In fact, wearable cameras have been used by officers for some time to document on-the-scene actions.

Supporters of the technology highlight the fact that they are made in such a way that officers cannot edit the footage, helping to ensure transparency.

However, there are concerns about privacy

“All of our motor officers are using the most current camera on a daily basis,” says Commander Scott Schubert from Pittsburgh Police Department.

“Unlike an in-car video that stays positioned in front of the car, the helmet or glasses-mounted cameras go wherever the officer goes and records what the officer observes.

“I think it’s a great resource because it provides transparency and helps to ensure accountability, by the officers and the public, during police interaction.

“It also provides valuable information that can assist with the successful prosecution of crimes, protect officers from false complaints, and assist with addressing valid complaints involving police conduct…”

We have at least one police department here in New Mexico using one or another variation on the theme. Poisonally, I’m in favor of having a record of what happens at any arrest – or even an investigation. Under the best of circumstances, our memory is fallible.

So far, the recordings have been called upon for information about crime scenes, incidents involving complaints about the police, validating complaints against perps. The one issue not addressed in the article – and it can be sorted by the software record – is that cops have already figured out that if they’re getting ready to break the law themselves, preparing to violate procedures – they simply turn the camera off and prevent the recording.

That should require an immediate review with the watch commander.