Is your banker ‘Dazed and Confused’ over White House assurances about banking for pot dealers?

OK. So, maybe Dazed and Confused isn’t the pot classic that Up in Smoke is, but the cult coming-of-age film set in the ’70s featured enough grass to rank as Rolling Stone’s No. 2 “Stoner Movie of All Time.” More important, Dazed and Confused seems to perfectly capture the reaction to Friday’s announcement from the Justice and Treasury Departments aimed at addressing the biggest challenge facing the almost-legal marijuana industry today — lack of access to banks.

Banks have refused to do business with marijuana dispensaries operating within the bounds of state laws for fear of being prosecuted themselves. Federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug on par with heroin, which means a bank doing business with a marijuana shop can be accused of money laundering and racketeering. This has left dispensaries in the 20 states and Washington, D.C., that allow marijuana distribution in a challenging position; they can’t let their bankers know how they make money…

Friday’s moves by the Justice and Treasury Departments gave many hope that the Feds were making significant changes to address this banking problem. Instead, the memos show that the industry is still dealing with a basic issue: Despite all the changes to state laws, popular support and President Obama’s recent remark that he considers marijuana no more dangerous than alcohol, marijuana is still 100% illegal under federal law. So, it’s no wonder you might be dazed and confused listening to the reactions that followed the release of the memos…

The Colorado Bankers Association calls this guidance a red light for banks, stating, “At best, this amounts to ‘serve these customers at your own risk,’ and it emphasizes all of the risks…Where does this leave the fledgling multi-billion dollar industry? Very much where it’s been.

Although marijuana entrepreneurs are increasingly comfortable starting businesses under permissive state laws and a federal “look the other way” policy, the federally regulated banking system needs certainty

Trish Regan ends the piece by trivializing it all as election year politics. As cynical as I am, I don’t share the politics of many of those at Bloomberg. I’d like to presume that Obama and Holder went to the trouble of calling for opening service to the pot trade to save folks a lot of hassles. That brings in as many or more votes than a John Boehner tap dance.

She and Matt Miller got into a heated discussion on camera over the piece and though they both wasted time trying to talk over each other, I think she made the most sense. Fact is – and I’ve checked with my personal community banker, again – your community bank isn’t anymore likely than a chain store bank to open an account for a pot dealer who’s obeying all the local laws until and unless they receive assurances that would satisfy the most anal regulator.

Leaked data reveals much about hidden global wealth

They are a large and diverse group that includes a Spanish heiress; the daughter of the former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos; and Denise Rich, the former wife of the disgraced trader Marc Rich, who was pardoned by President Bill Clinton. But, according to a trove of secret financial information released Thursday, all have money and share a desire to hide it.

And, it seems safe to say, they — and thousands of others in Europe and far beyond, in places like Mongolia — are suddenly very anxious after the leak of 2.5 million files detailing the offshore bank accounts and shell companies of wealthy individuals and tax-averse companies.

The leaked files include the names of 4,000 Americans, celebrities as well as more mundane doctors and dentists.

It is not the first time leaks have dented a thick carapace of confidentiality that usually protects the identities of those who stash money in the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein and other havens. Nor, in most cases, is keeping money in such places illegal…

…Lifting the curtain on the identities of those who keep their money offshore is likely to cause particular anger in austerity-blighted Europe, where governments have been telling people to tighten their belts but have mostly turned a blind eye to wealthier citizens who skirt taxes with help from so-called offshore financial centers…

The consortium of investigative journalists did not specify how it got the information or where it came from. On its Web site, the group said “the leaked files provide facts and figures — cash transfers, incorporation dates, links between companies and individuals — that illustrate how offshore financial secrecy has spread aggressively around the globe, allowing the wealthy and the well connected to dodge taxes and fueling corruption and economic woes in rich and poor nations alike.”

I’m confident there ain’t anyone from my neighborhood on the list. Might be some folks from the posh end of town, though. 🙂

Sites run by black-hat hackers and thieves closed in global raid

Dozens of websites offering credit card details and other private information for sale have been taken down in a global police operation. Britain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) says raids in Australia, Europe, the UK and US are the culmination of two years of work.

Credit card numbers or bank account details of millions of unsuspecting victims were sold for as little as £2. Two Britons and a man from Macedonia were arrested, with 36 sites shut down.

Some of the websites have been under observation for two years…During that period the details of about two-and-a-half million credit cards were recovered – preventing fraud, according to industry calculations, of at least £0.5 billion…

Not surprisingly, criminal gangs try to recruit the smartest hackers or code-writers to both steal data from unsuspecting internet users, and make their own websites as secure and hard to trace as possible.

But many senior figures at the big internet service providers and domain name registration companies are traditionally anti-establishment and can be suspicious of police interference. They are often reluctant to agree to anything that could be perceived as curtailing the freedom of the web, such as preventing anonymous domain registrations.

SOCA officers and their counterparts at Interpol, the FBI and at other law enforcement agencies around the world, say they have been working hard to “influence” the industry, and they are hoping that those efforts will lead to changes that could make their job easier in future.

Without the help of the industry, or a massive investment in law enforcement, it will be increasingly hard to keep track of the millions of items of illegal data being traded in cyberspace

Of course, the coppers could start hiring geeks of their own. Certainly, the FBI, CIA do that. And the NSA is almost wholly staffed by hackers who are gray – at best.

60+ charged in Zeus cybercrime roundup

U.S. prosecutors have unveiled charges against more than 60 defendants allegedly involved in a global cybercrime scheme that used the Zeus Trojan and other Internet viruses to steal over $ 3 million dollars from U.S. bank accounts.

The scheme was engineered by unnamed hackers based in Eastern Europe who hijacked bank accounts…

The mouse and the keyboard can be far more effective than the gun and the mask,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told reporters.

Prosecutors described a complex “money mule” organization in which foreigners who entered the United States on student visas were recruited as “mules” to open bank accounts under fake names. The accounts were then used to receive and transfer the stolen funds, they said.

Federal prosecutors announced charges against 37 defendants, while Manhattan District Attorney prosecutors charged 36 people on top of 19 previously arrested. City and federal prosecutors said a number of those charged were not yet in custody.

London’s Metropolitan Police arrested 19 people on Tuesday in a possibly related case in which 6 million pounds were allegedly stolen from a number of unidentified major world banks.

There still is no patch for stupidity.