Deadliest corporate crime in US history ending with 84 guilty pleas


Josh Edelson/AFP

On Tuesday, PG&E Corp. will plead guilty 84 separate times to involuntary manslaughter — the deadliest corporate crime in U.S. history.

That admission in a California courtroom will mark the end of one portion of the power company’s legal travails after its equipment sparked the largest wildfire in state history, consuming the town of Paradise. Many who lost loved ones or homes to the 2018 conflagration may not find much comfort in the utility paying a $4 million fine…For the company it amounts to conceding that “the evidence will show beyond a reasonable doubt that we killed 84 people and burned down a town by a criminally reckless fire,”…

PG&E calls the plea agreement “an important step in taking responsibility for the past and working to create a better future for all concerned…We want to do right by the victims and the communities…”

Well, all right, then. Says, no one.

Bankruptcy Booming Among Older Americans


Lawrence Sedita, 74Roger Kisby/The New York Times

For a rapidly growing share of older Americans, traditional ideas about life in retirement are being upended by a dismal reality: bankruptcy.

The signs of potential trouble — vanishing pensions, soaring medical expenses, inadequate savings — have been building for years. Now, new research sheds light on the scope of the problem: The rate of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy is three times what it was in 1991, the study found, and the same group accounts for a far greater share of all filers.

Driving the surge, the study suggests, is a three-decade shift of financial risk from government and employers to individuals, who are bearing an ever-greater responsibility for their own financial well-being as the social safety net shrinks.

The transfer has come in the form of, among other things, longer waits for full Social Security benefits, the replacement of employer-provided pensions with 401(k) savings plans and more out-of-pocket spending on health care. Declining incomes, whether in retirement or leading up to it, compound the challenge.

But, hey, if you’re a Trumplican, Don’t Worry, Be Happy. You have no shortage of folks to hate, to blame, and your own political party that keeps the rich afloat and you at the ready to help – them – out.

Bankrupt coal company wants to give 6 top execs $12 million in bonuses – everyone else got pink slips

Peabody Energy Corporation…is asking a bankruptcy judge to let it pay up to $12 million in bonuses to the coal-mining company’s top executives.

Peabody president and CEO Glenn Kellow and five other executives are in line for the bonuses…

Peabody, which is asking Judge Barry Schermer to approve the payments, says the bonuses are warranted in light of the fact that the success of its restructuring requires “extraordinary efforts” from its leaders…

Peabody says the two executive bonus plans it is putting forward are in line with the bankruptcy code. One plan would pay bonuses this year and next if Peabody meets profitability and safety-improvement goals. Bonuses would be triggered under another plan depending on when Peabody emerges from bankruptcy and would be tied to the financial performance of its U.S. and Australian divisions, cash flow targets and the extent of the work it does to reclaim the land it mines.

All tasks expected from any mining company. Unless it’s run by greedy thugs.

Peabody, the largest US coal miner, joins Arch Coal in bankruptcy

Peabody Energy, the nation’s largest coal miner, has filed for bankruptcy protection as a crosscurrent of environmental, technological and economic changes wreak havoc across the industry.

Mines and offices at Peabody, a company founded in 1833 by 24-year-old Francis S. Peabody, will continue to operate as it moves through the bankruptcy process. However, Peabody’s planned sale of its New Mexico and Colorado assets were terminated after the buyer was unable to complete the deal.

The company’s bankruptcy filing comes less than three months after another from Arch Coal, the country’s second-largest miner, which followed bankruptcy filings from Alpha Natural Resources, Patriot Coal and Walter Energy.

New energy technology and tightening environmental regulations have throttled the industry and led to a wave of mine closures and job cuts. Peabody makes most of its money by selling its coal to major utilities that power the nation’s electric grid.

New drilling techniques allowed U.S. energy companies to free enormous amounts of natural gas, driving prices lower. The result of those plunging prices and changing environmental regulations has pushed major utilities to choose natural gas over coal to power electric grids…

The end is in sight.

The Daily Show did what Donald Trump asked — it found he was lying about his meat and more

Phony products

A week ago, Donald Trump won primaries in Michigan, Mississippi, and Hawaii, and then proceeded to give perhaps the strangest victory speech in the history of American presidential races. Trump had assembled a pile of meat, wines, a pyramid of bottled water, and one magazine to make a point that he is a successful businessman.

You see, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney had said that Trump was really bad at running companies and was good at running them into the ground, and mentioned things like Trump’s steak company and magazine as failures. Not content to let this go and walk away with his delegates, Trump assembled these things — the meat, the water, a magazine — onstage at a Republican primary victory speech to show that he’s good at running businesses.

You just have to go check the records, folks,” Trump said, specifically referring to Trump Wine. “In fact, the press. I’m asking you, please check.”

So the team at The Daily Show did. And they found out he was lying and telling half-truths about many of the products on stage:

“Trump Steaks” do not currently exist, and you can’t buy one for $50 (which Trump mentions in his speech). Trump Steaks were actually sold by Sharper Image, whose CEO at the time said that virtually none of the Trump Steaks sold.

“Trump Wine” is not affiliated with Donald Trump, who said he owned it without a debt or a mortgage to pay. On the Trump Winery website, it says clearly that it is not owned or affiliated with Donald Trump.

“Trump Magazine” went out of circulation in 2009 and published 10 issues. But Trump referred to a magazine called the Jewel of Palm Beach in his speech and called that his magazine. It’s the magazine that is supplied in his hotels, and he is not the publisher.

“Trump Water” is generic bottled water that “he slapped his name on.”

All that meat, that pyramid of water, the bottles of wine, and that lonely magazine that Trump brought onstage to prove that he’s a great businessman were all just bunk. And he had the audacity to ask the press to call him on his lies.

Lots of politicians lie. Trump lies all the time. Because he learned to be cunning while wasting his daddy’s money through several bankruptcies – doesn’t mean he’s smart. It doesn’t require lots of smarts to comprehend how gullible Americans can be. The history of phonies elected and re-elected – from Nixon to George W – proves that. The history of religious hustlers from radio days to palatial megachurches proves that.

The producers who put him on so-called reality TV – the cheapest serial programs in the history of the medium – proved that. And the obedient consumers of crap TV now line up for the ultimate crap politician.

Arch Coal stuffed $8 million into the pockets of execs the day before bankruptcy


Ex-Governor Freudenthal sold his shares in Arch just before bankruptcy

Arch Coal paid its top executives more than $8 million in bonuses the business day before the company filed for bankruptcy in January, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri filings published last week.

Securities and Exchange Commission records also show that 12 company insiders exercised or converted about 88,000 “phantom stocks”…worth more than $70,000 that same Friday, Jan. 8, 2016.

On the following Monday, Jan. 11, Arch announced it had filed for bankruptcy protection…

The most notable transactions Arch made in the days before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to court and SEC filings, were payments of $8.12 million in bonuses to seven of its corporate officers, including its CEO, Chief Financial Officer and president…

Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said the bonus payments “could be very likely voided by a bankruptcy court.”

Bankruptcy courts scrutinize a company’s financial transactions and payments made during the 90 days before that firm filed for protection. Hufbauer called the $8.12 million on the eve of bankruptcy “really suspicious…”

Of the 12 insiders named in transactions with phantom stock, 10 were board members and the remaining two were Drexler, the CFO, and Cochran, senior vice president of operations…a form filed Jan. 12 but dated four days before lists David Freudenthal, the former Democratic governor of Wyoming, and shows that 2,757 shares worth $2,288.31 were disposed of.

“It seems strange that you would have such a coincidence,” said Thaya Brook Knight, associate director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute, referring to the short window between the Friday transactions and the Monday morning bankruptcy declaration.

Court documents also show Arch made two other payments on the business day before it sought bankruptcy protection.

One was a $12,540 payment to the Algonquin Golf Club in St. Louis, where the firm is headquartered, and the other a $10,680 payment to the Bellerive Country Club, also in St. Louis.

Hey, these captains of industry have to use up some of that free time they now have – since the company they guided through the seas of American commerce has sunk. Playing golf will at least keep them walking around in the fresh air.

Biggest coal company in the United States misses loan payment – may file bankruptcy


Burn, baby, burn – not much longer — Click to enlarge

The largest American coal miner, Peabody Energy, is delaying an interest payment due this week and warned that it may have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Shares of Peabody Energy Corp. plummeted more than 40 percent before the market opened Wednesday. Its shares have already lost half their value in the last three months.

A slowing global economy and toughening environmental standards have slammed the coal industry, which is already beset by bankruptcies, shuttered mines and layoffs. Many electric power companies have shifted to using natural gas, which costs less than coal and produces less pollution…

And there’s an increasing number of regions smart enough to move towards the future by developing wind power and solar power.

St. Louis-based Peabody said it didn’t pay more than $70 million in interest payments that were due Tuesday. If the company doesn’t make the payment in 30 days, it would default and its said there’s “substantial doubt” it would be able to go on.

More of these dinosaurs need to join the bankruptcy parade. Not just for financial reasons – though they’ve been hustling consumers for years with political pimps at their side. They are representative of bankrupt technology, 19th Century practices and methods. Time to go.

Zombies vs Vampires — legal battle between corrupt medical labs

Right now a dead, bankrupt and corrupt laboratory company is suing an active, morally bankrupt lab company. No matter who eventually wins the court battle all of us — patients, Medicare, insurance companies, not to mention our entire health and legal systems — will lose.

Health Diagnostics Laboratory is the zombie lab company. After raking in hundreds of millions of dollars in a few short years for its owners and others, HDL went out of business last year. The reason: the company’s business model was illegal and unethical.

The company bribed doctors to order unnecessary tests — lots of unnecessary tests. Then it told patients that they would not be billed for the tests. This is also illegal.

But in its heyday the company reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in payments from Medicare and insurance companies.

True Health Diagnostics is the vampire lab company. When HDL went out of business this new company bought its remaining assets and adopted its business model of bribing doctors to order their tests and not collecting the patients’ portion of the bill. (Despite the company’s denials, True Health appears to have close connections with at least some of the major figures involved with HDL.)

Late last year the surviving legal remnant of HDL began efforts to collect from patients on some of the bills on which the company had promised, in writing, never to collect…

Patients panicked when they suddenly found themselves faced with thousands of dollars in bills. Naturally many of them called their doctors to complain, and many of the doctors complained to their True Health sales reps, since in many cases this was the same person.

True Health in turn panicked. It threatened to sue HDL. If doctors and patients believed that there was even a small chance that patients would be held responsible for thousands of dollars for their tests then their entire sleazy business model would topple like a house of cards. So the company sent letters to doctors, telling the doctors to tell their patients to ignore the letters.

This did not sit well with HDL, which then sued True Health…

I have no idea how the legal issues here will be resolved. I don’t know if patients who were promised they would never receive a bill can be held responsible for those bills because those promises were illegal. This kind of situation is exactly why we have so many lawyers but so little justice.

But I do know this: the one thing missing in the battle of the zombie lab versus the vampire lab is justice.

The responsible figures — the HDL leaders, its salesmen, and, especially, the doctors who ordered and profited from all these unnecessary tests — are not being held responsible. Many of the same doctors and salesman who participated in the earlier HDL scheme are now participating in the True Health scheme…

We’ll probably never know how many hundreds of millions of dollars were made by the HDL executives and salesmen and the doctors who participated in their scheme. And unless people start going to jail there will be no incentive to stop more schemes like this. Civil suits, by the government or by private insurance companies, will simply be viewed as the cost of doing business.

Gotta love self-regulating, self-policing crafts, trades, industries. Seems to me a great deal of what is involved here is plain and simple fraud. Some of it must have crossed state lines. If states won’t act responsibly – well, that’s why we have federal attorneys.

Bankrupt corporate coal creeps still want million$ in executive bonuses


Click to enlargeBillings Gazette

A government watchdog agency has filed an objection to Alpha Natural Resources’ proposal to pay executive bonuses of up to $11.9 million in 2016, arguing the bankrupt coal company cannot justify the additional pay at a time when it has recorded steep losses and sought to cut retiree benefits…

Alpha has argued the bonuses are necessary to retain key executives during its Chapter 11 proceedings. But in court filings submitted Friday, the trustee’s office challenged that argument. The government noted Alpha’s request to pay bonuses coincided with a $1.3 billion loss in 2015 and a plan to save $3 million annually by cutting retiree benefits.

“According to Alpha, these executives need these bonuses as an incentive to do the very jobs they were hired to do, that they are already highly compensated for with generous salaries, and which their fiduciary duties compel them to do,” the government wrote. “Such bonuses cannot be justified under the facts and circumstances of this case.”

Alpha declined comment…on the government’s filing.

The company filed for bankruptcy protection in August with roughly $4.2 billion in debt. Mining operations have continued as Alpha attempts to restructure its balance sheet and emerge from Chapter 11…

Alpha last recorded a profit in 2011. It’s earnings have been hamstrung in the years since by oversupplied thermal and metallurgical coal markets, stiff competition from natural gas and a large debt burden created by its $7.1 billion purchase of Massey Energy Co. in 2011.

The company has continued to pay its executives handsomely. Alpha CEO Kevin Crutchfield received $7.8 million in total compensation in 2014, financial filings show. Former President Paul Vining took home $4.5 million, the chief financial officer made $1.9 million and Executive Vice President Brian Sullivan earned $1.6 million.

None of whom – obviously, given bankruptcy – deserve a bloody cent.