Saturday Reads Around The Internets - Criminal Profits 3.6% of Global GDP

Welcome to the weekly roundup of great articles, facts and figures. These are the weekly finds that made our eyes pop.


Criminal Proceeds are 3.6% of Global GDP in 2009

A new United Nations report shows illicit criminal profits are 3.6% of global GDP, or over $2 trillion. Over 2.5% of global GDP was laundered money, through the financial system.

While tax evasion is #1 for criminal activity, drugs are right up there, about 20% from 1990 estimates. Excluding tax evasion, criminal enterprise was $300 billion in the U.S. for 2010, or about 2.0% of U.S. GDP.

If there is ever an argument to legalize marijuana, this has to be it. Drugs (all drugs including marijuana) were 0.4% of US GDP. That's huge! It seems the ultimate cash crop is still cocaine from 1990 figures, so legalizing marijuana would generate more like 0.1% US GDP instead of 0.4%. Still, if pot was legal, that's one hell of an economic stimulus for the U.S. economy. Think about the tax revenues instead of handing over U.S. dollars to drug cartels.


If Health Care Costs So Much, How Come We Can't Get a Price Quote?

Ever try to find out how much a medical procedure costs, or comparison shop generally on health care? Then you know, you can't get a straight answer on prices. Now a new GAO study confirms your experience, you can't get a straight answer on prices, even for simple lab tests:

For its study, the GAO contacted 17 randomly selected hospitals to ask how much a knee replacement, a very common surgery, would cost. Here’s what they heard back: “None of the hospital representatives could provide a complete cost estimate for a full knee replacement, meaning the price given was not reflective of any negotiated discounts, was not inclusive of all associated costs, and did not identify consumers’ out-of-pocket costs.”

Physicians did slightly better: when the GAO contacted 18 doctors to ask how much a diabetes screening would cost, four came up with a complete price estimate.


Americans Stay Put

Physical mobility has slowed to a crawl. Why? They don't have money to move. Yes, migration is expensive.

Young adults are staying put, often with their parents. Older people aren't able to retire to beachfront or lakeside homes.

U.S. mobility is at its lowest point since World War II.


Public Pensions Down 3/4th of a Trillion

The Census Bureau has some scary numbers on state and local public pensions.

The nation's state and local public employee retirement systems had $2.5 trillion in total cash and investment holdings in 2009, a $726.1 billion or 22.7 percent decrease from $3.2 trillion in 2008, according to new statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. This follows a $176.7 billion loss the previous year.


Goldman Sachs Sued Over Stuffed CDO

An Austrian Hedge fund, is suing Goldman Sachs over the Timberwolf CDO. It was front loaded with worthless mortgages.

Basis Yield sued three months after a U.S. judge dismissed a similar case, saying the fund could not sue in federal court under U.S. securities laws because its investment in the Timberwolf 2007-1 collateralized debt obligation did not qualify as a "domestic" transaction.

Timberwolf was cited in a scathing U.S. Senate panel report in April that faulted Goldman, Deutsche Bank AG and others for hawking debt they expected to perform poorly.

That report said Goldman kept marketing Timberwolf even after Thomas Montag, an executive who is now Bank of America Corp's co-chief operating officer, in an email to a colleague called Timberwolf "one shitty deal."

In the new complaint, the Basis Yield fund said it entered $80.8 million of credit default swaps related to "triple-A" and "double-A" rated Timberwolf debt. It said it also bought $12.3 million of "triple-B" rated debt tied to subprime residential mortgages and issued by another CDO, Point Pleasant 2007-1.


How Creepy Foreclosure Attorneys Celebrate Halloween

Check out how foreclosure attorneys, making a fortune by foreclosing on people, celebrate Halloween, (h/t/ Naked Capitalism):

A third photograph shows a corner of Baum’s office decorated to look like a row of foreclosed homes. Another shows a sign that reads, “Baum Estates” — needless to say, it’s also full of foreclosed houses. Most of the other pictures show either mock homeless camps or mock foreclosure signs — or both.


Lies, Lies and Threats of Violence

The FTC is finally recognizing debt collectors are out of control:

"Look, I am trying to help your company. This matter is serious and will cause problems at the job."

That's allegedy what employees at Rincon Debt Management, a debt collection company based in Corona, California, were supposed to say when they were trying to get money out of someone.

Except sometimes, according to a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission, the person they were trying to put pressure on didn't owe any money at all.

Rincon, along with six other California companies, is a defendant in a formal complaint filed earlier this month by the FTC. On Wednesday, a U.S. district court halted activity at all seven companies and had their assets temporarily frozen.