May 21, 2012

Political Corruption Is Responsible for $3 ATM Fees

How much does corruption cost you?  When you use a non-network ATM, it’s usually a $3 fee, just for accessing your own money.  The cost to the bank charging you that money, however, is just 37 cents.  That’s price gouging, and when you add it all up, it’s a total of $7 billion annually that goes from those who use out of network ATMs straight to the banks, card networks, and independent machine operators.  This problem is much worse if you are only taking out a small amount of money to get you through the day, like $20 …

Continue Reading »

May 18, 2012

Crime Pays: Walmart Outperforms Dow by 4% Since Bribery Scandal Broke

On April 21, the New York Times’s David Barstow broke a major story about Walmart’s alleged extensive bribery in Mexico to expand its presence there.  Yet, as you can see from the chart above, Walmart’s stock has recovered all of its value since the story, and it has outperformed the Dow by 4%.  The threat of legal action against Walmart executives and the company itself is apparently something investors just don’t care about.  Warren Buffett, no less, says he hasn’t changed his opinion on the stock.  He finds this scandal the result of a few bad apples, and …

Continue Reading »

April 16, 2012

Filing Taxes Is Easy When Your Government Isn’t Bought By Intuit

The Republic Report’s story on how Intuit lobbies to make filing taxes annoying has sparked a fascinating conversation on Reddit.  We still haven’t heard from the White House on why they haven’t implemented their campaign promise to make pre-filed tax forms a reality, but we did hear just how easy it is to file in other countries where Intuit doesn’t control their tax filing process with $9M of lobbying money.

Here’s Australia (the government has a demo).

You go and download a program from the tax office web site (which has all the tax changes for that year). You run it, stick in your …

Continue Reading »

April 15, 2012

Corruption Is Why You Can’t Do Your Taxes in Five Minutes

Here’s a chart of Intuit’s lobbying expenditures in Congress, courtesy of Open Secrets. I suspect that some of that nine million dollars of lobbying by that company since 2008 has gone to making it more annoying for you and me to file our taxes.

Here’s what I mean.

In some countries, the equivalent of their IRS sends citizens a form listing what they owe.  In California, the state has a program called ReadyReturn that lets you do this for California state taxes.  You sign it and send it back, and it takes a few minutes. But for most of us, this …

Continue Reading »

April 9, 2012

Corruption Responsible for 80% of Your Cell Phone Bill

Last year, a new company called Lightsquared promised an innovative business model that would dramatically lower cell phone costs and improve the quality of service, threatening the incumbent phone operators like AT&T and Verizon.  Lightsquared used a new technology involving satellites and spectrum, and was a textbook example of how markets can benefit the public through competition.  The phone industry swung into motion, not by offering better products and services, but by going to Washington to ensure that its new competitor could be killed by its political friends.  And sure enough, through three Congressmen that AT&T and Verizon had funded (Fred …

Continue Reading »

March 30, 2012
Former Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN). Bayh now works on several lobbying campaigns on behalf of corporate interests.

At Banking Event, Senator-Turned-Lobbyist Evan Bayh Echoes Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine,” Says Crisis is the Only Way to Make “Progress”

Ex-Senator Evan Bayh, a lobbyist for financial services industry firms like VISA (as well as many other corporate interests), spoke at an industry event late last year to give his thoughts on the political dynamic in the US.  What he said could be lifted straight out of Naomi Klein’s book, “The Shock Doctrine”, whose thesis is that political elites use crisis moments to create structural change.  Here’s Bayh, according to an account in an industry newsletter:

At a recent industry event, former Senator Evan Bayh provided an update on the banking industry as it relates to the U.S. economy. …

Continue Reading »

March 29, 2012

How You Can Meet Some Financial Services Lobbyists and the Staffers Who Love Them

Last week, you learned about former banking committee staffer Scott Eckel, who should just be settling into his new job as head of lobbying for Charles Schwab. Eckel is now earning money based on his connections crafted during his time as a public policy-maker, which is a nice clear a case of Backdoor Bribery. Below is an invitation to another form of corruption, the “Financial Services Industry Meet and Greet.” This is a kind of meat market, where staffers and lobbyists interact, exchange gossip and information, and set up fundraisers and potential job interviews (both ways, from lobbyist …

Continue Reading »

March 21, 2012

Banking Committee Policy Advisor Scott Eckel: “I will begin work in my new role as Vice President, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, at Charles Schwab & Co”

Just got this email.

From: Eckel, Scott
Sent: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 1:09 PM
Subject: New Opportunity

Friends and Colleagues —

Wanted to let you all know that this Friday will be my last day with Chairman Garrett and the Capital Markets Subcommittee.  As of Monday, March 26th, I will begin work in my new role as Vice President, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, at Charles Schwab & Co.

It has been a real privilege to work for Mr. Garrett and with all of you over the last three years, and I look forward to opportunities to continue working with you and keeping in touch in my new role.

My new …

Continue Reading »