The Slap on the Wrist Financial and Corporate Crime Fines

corporate alliance pledgeHave you ever noticed that large corporations can get away with pretty much anything? Over and over again a major scandal breaks and in the end the fines are pennies on the dollar for the profits gained by these nefarious financial activities.

Banks can launder money with impunity and the consequences are a small fine in comparison to the profits made. No matter how egregious there are no criminal chargers or revoking of the bank's charter.

The British bank Standard Chartered said on Thursday that it expected to pay $330 million to settle claims by United States government agencies that it had moved hundreds of billions of dollars on behalf of Iran.

At first glance the record $1.9 billion HSBC fine for laundering Mexican drug cartel money looks like a solid. Yet buried in the fine print, HSBC avoids charges via deferred prosecution.

Suffering Ado About Oil

Earlier today the containment cap was off the riser. Oil and gas was spewing into the gulf for a good 8 hours. One of the vents was damaged and the cap had to be removed. There were also two deaths in the oil spill recovery team. It is now back on and they are collecting and burning about 27,000 barrels of oil per day. Spill estimates currently range between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels per day.

Gas entered one of the lines which actually cools the containment cap. A robot arm from one of the ROVs accidentally bumped a vent, at which point gas went up the line. That line is used to heat the containment gap so the gas doesn't form hydrates (freeze).

Even more despairing, a boat captain working on the clean up, shot himself. From MSNBC:

The deaths reported Wednesday were not tied to the containment operation. The Coast Guard said the workers had been involved in cleanup operations did that their deaths did not appear to be work related.

One death was a boat captain who died of a gunshot wound, a Coast Guard spokesman said. Further details were not immediately available.

To watch all of the spillcams at once, click here or click here and finally here.

Here is the official coast guard website on the spill.

Big Oil - First Nigeria then the World

Big oil in Nigeria - executions, pollution and suffering (Image)

Michael Collins

The big oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is not the first to threaten a people's way of life.

Just ask the Ogoni people from Nigeria's oil rich central Niger Delta. Their experience over decades offers a model of things to come without serious changes in consumption and regulation.

The Kill Switch, The Military, Reality Finance and The Plutonomy

Information Asymmetry

A recent news item mentioned that everyone's hero, Joe Lieberman, has proposed new legislation in the US Congress which would allow the president a "kill switch" to control and halt various portions of the Internet in the advent of national emergency.

Regardless of who the president might be, and I have as little faith in President Obama as I had in the previous bunch of presidents, going back to at least Nixon, this would represent the same possible conditions as we've observed in Myanmar, China and Iran; namely the censorship of the Web when they so desire.

This is what economists call "information asymmetry" -- or controlling the flowing information, or a controlled flow of information for selective profit and gain.

As I recently mentioned in a previous post, this administration's treasury department appears to be following the recommendation of avoidance of banning naked swaps, completely at odds of the mood over in the Eurozone!

This should leave everyone rather skeptical, especially given the record of our president when he was a senator; lobbying on behalf of, and attempting to pass legislation to establish a national DNA database for all citizens.

The Military

The Sovereign State of BP - Down for the Count?

Michael Collins

British Petroleum has operated as though it were a sovereign state since its inception. When they blew the well at their Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, it never occurred to them that they would have to take orders from anybody. But that may change largely due to their inability to stop the flow of oil after nearly sixty days of gushing.

President Obama was clear in his speech last night. If any entity is going down as a result of the catastrophe, it will be BP. Today, Obama meets with BP's Chairman of the Board, Carl-Henric Svanberg, and the man he told the chairman to fire, Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward.

Two sovereign states will collide. The outcome is a foregone conclusion.

Enduring Ado About Oil

With the new estimates on oil gushing into the gulf, currently at 4300 to 24,300 barrels a day, more economic impact studies are being released on the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. Spillonomics estimates currently range from $29 billion to over $70 billion in direct costs for the spill and clean up. A study on the spill's economic impact on Florida estimates losses at $11 billion and 195,000 lost jobs. There are 2.8 million jobs associated with tourism alone in the gulf region. The fishing industry in Louisiana is estimated at $2.4 billion.

Earth Economics estimates the Mississippi Delta to be worth $330 billion and $1.3 trillion and provides an economic annual benefit of $12-$47 billion per year.

There is now a residential real estate estimate of a 10% decrease in gulf coast property values as a result of the spill. These losses alone are estimated at $4.3 billion dollars.

In BP We Trust

During the recent weeks, when we learned that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is refused access to research and measure the spill by British Petroleum (BP), and the US Coast Guard warns reporters, research scientists and engineers away from the area, stating that they are simply following orders --- from BP --- one might surmise the sovereignty of the United States of America has been ceded to an oil multinational.

It would certainly appear that way. Many complaints have been heard from a variety of scientists and engineers, eager to monitor, research and learn from this catastrophe, in order to better prepare, and avoid, future such occurrences.

But what of the past decade and BP's other adventures?

Well, in this study by the GAO from October of 2007 (p.54):

In another case, on June 28, 2006, CFTC brought an enforcement action against BP Products North America, Inc., alleging, among other things, that BP cornered the physical propane market and manipulated the price of propane in February 2004.63 Also on June 28, 2006, DOJ announced that a former BP trader had pled guilty to conspiracy to manipulate and corner the physical propane market.(emphasis added - JW)

Hmmm......interesting stuff here!

The Road to Predatory Capitalism

We have repeatedly heard over the past decade how “things just happened.”

How “…nobody could have foreseen that.”

Or, how everything came about due to “..unintended consequences.”

Conscious actions have intended consequences.

While at the same time we have repeatedly witnessed how the major perpetrators, culprits and predators go unscathed, facing no consequences for the abominations against the public.

In fact, we have observed them to be unjustly rewarded again and again and again.

Then there are those of us who must hustle endlessly for the next month’s mortgage payment, or rent due, or the next meal, are constantly chided with the admonition that “…we must innovate our way out of this!”

We, Kimosabe????

“We” have innovated endlessly, only to find ourselves bereft of employment while the technology we developed has been transferred, along with our jobs, offshore!