Ireland jails three senior bankers for their role in the 2008 economic crash


Denis Casey on his way to the JoyClodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Three senior Irish bankers were jailed on Friday for up to three-and-a-half years for conspiring to defraud investors in the most prominent prosecution arising from the 2008 banking crisis that crippled the country’s economy.

The trio will be among the first senior bankers globally to be jailed for their role in the collapse of a bank during the crisis.

The lack of convictions until now has angered Irish taxpayers, who had to stump up 64 billion euros – almost 40 percent of annual economic output – after a property collapse forced the biggest state bank rescue in the euro zone.

The crash thrust Ireland into a three-year sovereign bailout in 2010 and the finance ministry said last month that it could take another 15 years to recover the funds pumped into the banks still operating.

Former Irish Life and Permanent Chief Executive Denis Casey was sentenced to two years and nine months following the 74-day criminal trial, Ireland’s longest ever.

Willie McAteer, former finance director at the failed Anglo Irish Bank, and John Bowe, its ex-head of capital markets, were given sentences of 42 months and 24 months respectively.

All three were convicted of conspiring together and with others to mislead investors, depositors and lenders…

None of the defendants reacted visibly to the sentencing before being led away by officers to Mountjoy Prison, the country’s largest…

Overdue. Throw away the key.

Banks in the United States and Britain have paid billions of dollars in fines and settlements connected to wrongdoing over their handling of subprime loans that helped cause the crisis. But no senior industry executives in those countries have been sent to jail.

We’re number 2, we’re number 2


Jesse Philips

New Mexico is the second-most federally dependent state in the nation behind only Mississippi, according to a new report from the financial website Wallethub.

That’s actually down one spot from last year, when the site ranked it No. 1 in the nation.

WalletHub compared the 50 states based on state residents’ dependency and state government dependency, looking specifically at each state’s return on taxes paid to the federal government (calculated by dividing federal funding by IRS collections); its share of federal jobs and federal funding as a percentage of state revenue.

New Mexico ranked highest in the nation in terms of federal contracts received and second-highest in federal grants received. It was fourth in return on taxes paid to the federal government, eighth in federal funding as a percentage of state revenue and fifth in its share of federal jobs.

Federal spending in New Mexico has long made up a huge share of the state’s economy. The state is home to two national laboratories, and federal land management agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management also have a large presence. The state’s persistently high poverty rate and aging population mean it also draws a large share of federal social spending, including Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

This is one of the so-called improvements that are bleated by hacks who praise our moderate Republican governor. Susana Martinez gets the moderate title because she hasn’t succeeded in being as corrupt an idjit as Sam Brownback of Kansas or Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. In addition, they have wholly tame conservative state legislatures that let them experiment with curing economic problems with direct additions of poverty, handing tax dollars back to corporate treasuries, slicing-and-dicing education.

Governor Susana tried all of those – and didn’t succeed. She put some healthcare providers out of business with phony claims of fraud. The Republican tradition of lying about voter registration wasted $200K – and came up with about a dozen improperly-registered immigrants, most of whom didn’t vote anyway.

She has succeeded in increasing unemployment. She gets bonus points from the Republican National Committee for that one. Meanwhile, maintaining the highest-paid scientists dedicated to death and destruction in the world remains a higher priority than dealing with climate change. Los Alamos coneheads love her.

Hopefully, she’ll be Donald Trump’s choice for vice-president.

Feds investigate organic farming fraud in Idaho

Federal investigators believe a routine inspection by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture last year turned up a case of organic-farming fraud in Southern Idaho.

❝ Prosecutors are seeking to seize vehicles, farming equipment, cash and other property belonging to Saul Farms and its owners, Bernard and Roza Saul, of Bliss, under suspicion the property was purchased with fraudulent proceeds. They say the Sauls repeatedly bought nonorganic seed and resold it as organic, which commands higher prices.

Prosecutors also want a federal judge to grant them access to a $1 million property that includes a residence and 438 acres in Buhl purchased by the Sauls, though they are not seeking to seize that property.

No charges have been filedyet.

The owners of businesses in other states that bought what they thought was organic alfalfa seed told the Statesman they now are scrambling to find new suppliers. Farmers and seed-handlers that bought from Saul Farms or its sister company, Bliss Seed, supply dairy and beef operations across the Midwest, the East Coast and the Southeast.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office on Feb. 11 filed a legal complaint in U.S. District Court in Twin Falls County to seize the property, based on events Boise-based FBI agent Drew McCandless recounted in an affidavit.

Oops! RTFA for beaucoup information about regulatory oversight of organic producers in Idaho.

What will be the repercussions for the organic dairies, etc., growing alfalfa from this seed to sell organic food products?

Singapore jails megachurch founder and five other officials for fraud


Reuters

❝Six senior officials of Singapore’s City Harvest megachurch have been jailed over a $35 million fraud case.

❝The evangelical church’s pastor and founder, Kong Hee, was jailed for eight years – others received between 21 months and six years.

❝The court ruled last month the group had misused church finances to fund the music career of Kong’s wife, Sun Ho…❞

❝State prosecutors said before sentencing it was “the largest amount of charity funds ever misappropriated in Singapore’s legal history”.❞

❝Known for its slick image and wealth-focused brand of Christianity, City Harvest Church (CHC) has some 17,500 members in Singapore and branches around the world.

❝In 2002, its launched what it called the Crossover Project – a scheme to evangelise through Ms Ho’s music career.❞

Hey, she’s still on the outside. Let’s see what she can do on her own. Try reality TV in the GOUSA. 🙂

Call for investigation of NRA fraud, political misuse of donations

sensible-gun-laws

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington requested the Internal Revenue Service open an examination into the finances of the National Rifle Association after the group failed to disclose more than $33.5 million it spent on political activity over six years. CREW also called on the Federal Election Commission to audit the NRA’s campaign arm, the NRA Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF), and its lobbying arm, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), after the group apparently violated federal election law by soliciting donations for the NRA-ILA that went instead to the NRA-PVF.

Between 2008 and 2013, the NRA-ILA, an internal division of the NRA, reported to the FEC and in annual financial statements that it spent more than $33.5 million on political activity. However, for each of those years, the NRA stated on its Form 990 tax return that it did not engage in any political activity at all, and the group did not once file a Schedule C disclosing its political expenditures. This failure to disclose political activity appears to violate federal law and, if it was intentional, could violate several criminal statutes. The NRA blamed the failure to disclose its political activity on a “clerical error” but did not express any intention to amend its Form 990 returns or file Schedule Cs…

The NRA-ILA reported to the FEC nearly $11 million in independent expenditures and member communications expressly advocating election or defeat of candidates for federal office between 2008 and 2013, and disclosed on annual financial statements prepared by an independent auditor spending more than $22.5 million on fundraising and administrative expenses for its political action committee, NRA-PVF, during the same period. All of these expenditures were for political activities that needed to be reported on the organization’s tax filings but were not.

CREW also called on the FEC to audit the NRA-PVF and NRA-ILA because it appears these groups may have solicited donations in violation of federal election law by failing to disclose to donors that their money would be used for political purposes. The NRA also appears to have violated federal election law by soliciting donations from the general public, which it is prohibited from doing as a member organization, and by failing to disclose the employer and/or occupation of its contributors.

It’s always heartwarming to witness rightwing nutball organizations like the NRA ignoring essential transparency requirements while they blather about conspiracies against their pet demento issues. Perish the thought they actually live up to anything approaching ethical standards -0 like any normal business entity.

They set the standard for corruption even higher than Congressional Republicans.

Scientist faked HIV breakthrough — sentenced to prison

A former Iowa State University scientist who altered blood samples to make it appear he had achieved a breakthrough toward a potential vaccine against HIV was sentenced on Wednesday to more than four and a half years in prison for making false statements in research reports.

Dong-Pyou Han, 58, also must pay $7.2m to a federal government agency that funded the research. He entered a plea agreement in February admitting guilt to two counts of making false statements.

Government prosecutors said Han’s misconduct dates to 2008 when he worked at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland under Professor Michael Cho, who was leading a team testing an experimental HIV vaccine on rabbits. Cho’s team began receiving NIH funding, and he soon reported the vaccine was causing rabbits to develop antibodies to HIV, which was considered a major breakthrough. Han said he initially accidentally mixed human blood with rabbit blood, making the potential vaccine appear to increase an immune defense against HIV, the virus that can cause Aids. Han continued to spike the results to avoid disappointing Cho, his mentor, after the scientific community became excited that the team could be on the verge of a vaccine.

Iowa State recruited Cho in 2009, and his team – including Han – continued the research with NIH funding. A group of researchers at Harvard University found in January 2013 the promising results had been achieved with rabbit blood spiked with human antibodies…

Government prosecutors sought prison time to serve as a deterrent to Han and others who might consider research fraud.

Is this a positive sign – or window dressing? I’d like to believe it’s the former.

There are new science review publications rolled out by hustlers just to give the appearance of peer-review – for a fee. There is no shortage of quacks ripping off the current generation of Luddites every week with junk science to reinforce – and profit from – fears of modern medicine.

Arrest warrant out for nuclear powerplant developer


“Don, honey, we can put the executive swimming pool over there”

Don Gillispie — who pitched a plan to build a nuclear power plant in Southwest Idaho until federal investigators accused his company of fraudulent activity — didn’t show up for two arraignment hearings this week in an ongoing criminal case.

The first time, on Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Larry M. Boyle rescheduled the arraignment for Thursday, court documents state. When Gillispie also missed that hearing, prosecutors asked the judge to issue a warrant for Gillispie’s arrest, the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed.

Gillispie is accused of duping investors to buy stock in Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. (AEHI) at an artificially inflated price and then funnelling the money to himself and his company’s former vice president, Jennifer Ransom. Prosecutors could now charge him with failure to appear in the case. For one count, wire fraud, that could mean up to 10 additional years in prison if he is convicted…

Also, U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge reissued a judgment against Gillispie and AEHI in a several-year-old civil case brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission…

From the $14.6 million in investor money received, Gillispie and Ransom “received significant salaries and other compensation that they did not report as income to the Internal Revenue Service,” according to court files.

Do your due diligence, folks, before you invest a penny of your hard-earned income. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably ain’t.

Canada’s right-wing government is falling apart on its own

It’s a good thing for Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he’s been out of the country.

Last weekend, in an apparent attempt to distance himself from whatever was about to emerge at the trial of disgraced Senator Mike Duffy, the Conservative leader took off for Iraq and Kuwait.

He ostensibly made the surprise trip to bolster the troops there who are training Kurdish fighters. However, to more cynical political observers, the visit was a blatant attempt to win back military support after last year’s brutal budget cuts to veterans services and benefits. But really? It was all about the photo ops, the stage-managed appearances before the red maple leaf blazing behind fighter jets carefully arranged nose-to-nose just so…

Then there was the case of Omar Khadr, the Canadian-born man captured at age 15 in Afghanistan and imprisoned for nearly half his life at Guantanamo Bay. In 2012, he was finally repatriated to Canada after pleading guilty in 2010 before a US military tribunal to five war crimes. Sentenced to eight years to be served in Canada, he won bail late last month in an Alberta court…

The Harper government, which trots out Khadr as the very scary model of a terrorist, going so far as to bar media access to him, did everything it could to fight his release – as expected. It announced an appeal of the bail decision and then, when it seemed that the proceedings couldn’t be stopped, tried for a stay.

But, on Thursday, Khadr won his freedom on strict conditions and emerged before a horde of reporters. Social media exploded with Canadians’ overwhelmingly favourable reactions to his charisma and humble demeanour, with many remarking on how Khadr’s appearance put the lie to the Harper government myth of the cut-throat, murderous terrorist, the political football they kick around as they play to their base in their terrorists-under-every-bed tactics…

The week grew worse still…Damaging evidence was being produced in the Ottawa courtroom where Senator Mike Duffy, a former Canadian TV star, is facing 31 charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud related to his living and travel expenses.

Conservative MPs were called to testify that taxpayers were subsidising party fundraising efforts by flying Duffy around the country. Even more detrimental to the PMO were revelations of emails exchanged between Harper’s most trusted senate appointees and his top staffers documenting attempts to alter an audit report and conceal its findings.

Probably the week’s most stinging blow came from Harper’s home province of Alberta where, on Tuesday, in a stunning election upset, the provincial NDP won a majority, toppling a 44-year reign by the Conservatives…

Resource sector shares immediately dropped. Newly elected premier Rachel Notley had promised to terminate government support for the Northern Gateway pipeline to the British Columbia coast, and the Keystone XL pipeline to the Texas Gulf coast, two projects that have been the centrepiece of the Harper government’s economic strategy. She also discussed raising the royalties that resource companies pay to the public treasury, royalties that are reportedly the lowest in the world.

When the prime minister returns from his travels, he may find that the political chickens have come home to roost.

Best quote? Opposition leader Tom Mulcair of the New Democratic Party charged, “This is pure Richard Nixon”.

How to win friends & buy influence in Washington DC — Google edition

The Wall Street Journal recently published a report based on accidentally released documents about FTC’s two-year investigation into Google. The 160-page document concluded that Google’s “conduct has resulted—and will result—in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets.” I am sure Yelp and others would agree with that conclusion, and are contemplating further action.

The search results manipulation by Google has resulted in complaints that are far worse than anything FTC could have done — people have complained of declining quality and user experience. The emergence of social and mobile environments have taken some zing out of Google. Nevertheless, the WSJ report and reading through the excerpts made me wonder if there is a correlation between FTC investigation and Google’s lobbying efforts…

And after Om’s intro to the topic – we might look back at this:

Google News buries news of Google’s FTC investigation

After the embarrassing leak of a U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigation that described how Google shifted around its search results to harm competition, Google News has shifted its search results to harm journalism, promoting instead a fluff piece glorifying Google…

The exposé of Google’s “strategy of demoting or refusing to display, links to certain vertical websites in highly commercial categories,” as described in the FTC’s 2012 investigation, which concluded that “Google’s conduct has resulted – and will result – in real harm to consumers and to innovation,” was essentially erased from existence in 2013 when Google agreed to make a few minor changes to avoid a federal antitrust lawsuit.

The Wall Street Journal noted that the FTC Commission watered down its public conclusions issued about Google before letting the company off the hook, leaving the findings of the staff investigation secret for two years.

Daniel Lyons reply is included in the AppleInsider article as an update.

Read it – and judge for yourself.