Category Archives: Corporate governance

“Economics Upside Down” or Why “Free Markets” Don’t Exist

This is an instructive interview with Ha-Joon Chang, author of the new book “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism.” He debunks some widely accepted beliefs, such at the existence of “free markets” or the necessity of “free trade” for the development of capitalism.

Enjoy!

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Some Background on How the Roosevelt Institute Got Into Bed With Pete Peterson, the Enemy of Social Security (Updated)

Readers may be aware of the firestorm this blog kicked off by criticizing the decision of the Roosevelt Institute to accept a grant from the Peterson Foundation (later disclosed to be $200,000) to have its Campus Network, a group of college students affiliated with the Institute, its Campus Network, to prepare a budget for a Peterson-funded event, the “Fiscal Summit”. The purpose of the exercise was to discuss ways to reduce the fiscal deficit, when the Roosevelt Institute has heretofore taken the position that budget cuts at this juncture are bad policy (we cited papers by Joe Stiglitz, Rob Johnson, and Tom Ferguson as examples;many other Roosevelt Fellows, including Bill Black, Jamie Galbraith, Randy Wray, Rob Parenteau, and Marshall Auerback, have made similar arguments).

The Roosevelt Institute has issued rebuttals on its own site (“Speaking Truth to Power” by Andrew Rich, the president of the Roosevelt Institute. Some people associated with the Institute have also spoken out in favor of the participation in the Peterson event, such as Mike Konczal, and Zachary Kolodin.

After writing a second post on this disgraceful episode, and cross posting one from Jon Walker, which analyzed the health care recommendations in the students’ budget and found them to be sorely wanting, I had wanted to step back from this fray a bit. However, readers continue to ask for an explanation as to how the Roosevelt Institute came to make the decision to cast its lot with Peterson.

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Adulterous Failed Banker Fred Goodwin’s New Human Shield

Back in March, and courtesy of Naked Capitalism’s US locale, we arbed away Fred Goodwin’s superinjunction, which banned UK reporting of his affair with a junior director at RBS. After more challenges by the UK newspapers, the superinjunction has now been amended: it’s OK to identify Fred Goodwin as the failed banker with the wandering body part; but still not OK to identify his partner, who is referred to in the official documents by the code letters “VBN”.

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Bribes Work: How Peterson, the Enemy of Social Security, Bought the Roosevelt Name

Bribes work. AT&T gave money to GLAAD, and now the gay rights organization is supporting the AT&T-T-Mobile merger. La Raza is mouthing the talking points of the Mortgage Bankers Association on down payments. The NAACP is fighting on debit card rules. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute supported the extension of the Bush tax cuts back in December. While it seems counter-intuitive that a left-leaning organization would support illiberal extensions of corporate power, in fact, that is the role of the DC pet liberal. This dynamic of rent-a-reputation is greased with corporate cash and/or political access. As the entitlement fight comes to a head, it’s worth looking under the hood of the DC think tank scene to see how the Obama administration and the GOP are working to lock down their cuts to social programs.

And so it is that the arch-enemy of Social Security, Pete Peterson, rented out the good name of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the reputation of the Center for American Progress, and EPI. All three groups submitted budget proposals to close the deficit and had their teams share the stage with Republican con artist du jour Paul Ryan. The goal of Peterson’s conference was to legitimize the fiscal crisis narrative, and to make sure that “all sides” were represented.

Now this tidy fact is not obvious if you check the Peterson Foundation publicity for its “Fiscal Summit:”

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Row Over New IMF Chief Intensifies (Updated)

We wrote a couple of days ago about the young versus old economy struggle over who will be the next leader of the IMF in the wake of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s resignation. Ever since its inception, the IMF had had a European in charge. Christine Lagarde, the finance minister of France, is the favorite, and the US and Europe have enough votes to determine the outcome.

Representatives of several emerging economies voiced their objections, pointing to a comment made by Jean-Claude Junker, president of the Euro group, in 2007: “The next managing director will certainly not be a European”.

The Financial Times reports that the unhappiness has gone beyond complaints in the media to an open rift.

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Battle Over IMF Chief: Proxy War Over Power of Banks?

There’s a fight afoot over who will be the next head of the IMF. Yours truly is not making odds on this one, save that Christine Lagarde is getting far and away the most attention in the media and more generally, a big push is on to have a European take the reins. The logic is that with the eurozone mess far and away the biggest priority, the new IMF chief needs to have credibility with the major actors, and that argues for a European choice.

The contrary camp is the “the countries formerly known as emerging” who point out that it is their turn to have an IMF head from one of their countries. The IMF has been led by a European since its inception. Even though votes have been rejiggered to give younger economies more weight, the mature ones still are in control of the outcome.

But what is intriguing are the arguments that follow, which reveal what the real stakes are.

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Rajat Gupta and McKinsey’s Dented Reputation

A new story by Suzanna Andrews for BusinessWeek on Rajat Gupta, the former McKinsey managing director alleged to have fed tips to convicted insider trader Raj Rajaratnam, is mainly about Rajat, but it does have a damning tidbit about McKinsey:

McKinsey had a culture of superiority, says one longtime client, who declined to be identified, adding that consultants at the firm really seemed to think they were better than anyone else in the business world. This CEO is still shocked recalling an incident in the late 1980s, when a McKinsey team offered to provide him with a road map of what his competitors were doing. When asked how they could produce such information, he was told that McKinsey also worked with his competitors, but he could trust McKinsey to know what was confidential information and what was to be kept private. He says arrogance permeated the firm.

Felix Salmon deems this revelation to be of what a “presumably-representative McKinsey team would do in the course of normal business.” Having been at the firm at around that time (the mid 1980s), the reality was more complicated, but in the end points to the same troubling conclusion: a lack of adequate (one might say any) meaningful controls on client work.

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On Short-Termism and the Institutionalization of Rentier Capitalism

Andrew Haldane and Richard Davies of the Bank of England have released a very useful new paper on short-termism in the investment arena. They contend that this problem real and getting worse. This may at first blush seem to be mere official confirmation of most people’s gut instinct. However, the authors take the critical step of developing some estimates of the severity of the phenomenon, since past efforts to do so are surprisingly scarce.

A short-term perspective is tantamount to applying an overly high discount rate to an investment project or similarly, requiring an excessively rapid payback. In corporate capital budgeting settings, the distortions are pronounced:

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Bill Black: My Class, right or wrong – the Powell Memorandum’s 40th Anniversary

Yves here. Black’s post discusses a turning point that is not as well known as it ought to be. Thanks to reader John M for bring this post to my attention.

By Bill Black, an Associate Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He is a white-collar criminologist, a former senior financial regulator, and the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One. Cross posted from New Economic Perspectives

August 23, 2011 will bring the 40th anniversary of one of the most successful efforts to transform America. Forty years ago the most influential representatives of our largest corporations despaired. They saw themselves on the losing side of history. They did not, however, give in to that despair, but rather sought advice from the man they viewed as their best and brightest about how to reverse their losses. That man advanced a comprehensive, sophisticated strategy, but it was also a strategy that embraced a consistent tactic – attack the critics and valorize corporations!

He issued a clarion call for corporations to mobilize their economic power to further their economic interests by ensuring that corporations dominated every influential and powerful American institution. Lewis Powell’s call was answered by the CEOs who funded the creation of Cato, Heritage, and hundreds of other movement centers.

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Your Humble Blogger Asked Larry Summers a Question He Did Not Like

A funny thing happened at the INET conference. First, I got to ask Larry Summers a question because Martin Wolf, who was moderating the session, is a good sport. Normally, at this sort of event, only At Least Semi Big Names get to interact with Big Names. Yours truly is a minimum of a rank or two below At Least Semi Big Names.

You will find our question at 55:40.

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David Apgar: What Was So Unpredictable about Deepwater Horizon?

By David Apgar, the Director of ApgarPartners LLC, a new business that applies assumption-based metrics to the performance evaluation problems of development organizations, individual corporate executives, and emerging-markets investors, and author of Risk Intelligence (Harvard Business School Press 2006) and Relevance: Hitting Your Goals by Knowing What Matters (Jossey-Bass 2008). He blogs at WhatMatters.

It’s tempting to look for a little consolation on the anniversary of the oil spill from BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in the idea that our worst industrial accidents are unpredictable and not the result of negligence. The only trouble is that the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was predictable.

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Jim Boyce: Tax Havens or Financial Sinkholes?

By James K. Boyce, who teaches economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is co-author, with Léonce Ndikumana, of Africa’s Odious Debts: How Foreign Loans and Capital Flight Bled a Continent, to be published this year by Zed Books.

Tax havens have got a lot of press lately. In Britain, the UK Uncut movement has mounted demonstrations across the country against tax dodging by large corporations and wealthy individuals – making the connection between profits parked abroad and deficits and budget cuts at home.

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Conflicted JP Morgan Next up for a Reputation Hit

Louise Story at the NYT has this: In the summer of 2007, as the first tremors of the coming financial crisis were being felt on Wall Street, top executives of JPMorgan Chase were raising red flags about a troubled investment vehicle called Sigma, which was based in London. But the bank chose not to move […]

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Buzz Potamkin: Still Getting Away With Murder Manslaughter

By Buzz Potamkin, former studio executive and producer, in the biz for 40+ years, now a consultant

Today is the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

Readers of this blog will notice a certain resemblance between Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, proprietors of the Triangle Waist Company, and today’s financial industry titans: serial fires (at least 4 previously, apparently at times with excess inventory, all conveniently insured), disregard for risk, blatant violation of governmental regulations and codes, use of corporate veils, aggressive legal representation, friendly “powers that be,” and continued unaltered conduct after the fact. Neither of them ever went to jail: both were beneficiaries of Judge Thomas C.T. Crain’s overly limiting jury charge in their trial for manslaughter in the death of 24-year old Margaret Schwartz, and both were cleared in the death of 23-year old Jacob Klein by Judge Samuel Seabury’s instructions to that jury to find for the defendants. (If you, humble reader, notice a certain pattern in judges named Crain and Seabury presiding in the cases of victims named Schwartz and Klein, let me not dissuade you.)

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