Category Archives: Legal

Financial Times on Private Equity Firm Grifting and Arrogance

The Financial Times weighed in today with a long, well-researched piece, Private equity: A fee too far, on an issue we’ve discussed for some time, that of private equity firm oh-too-cleverness and too often, outright pilfering, in its dealings with investors, who include public pension funds, foundations, endowments, and insurers. This article is far more […]

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Former CalPERS CEO Pleads Guilty to Bribery, Fraud, Including Taking Cash in Paper Bags

Several readers sent accounts from the California press on the latest sordid chapter in a long-standing, large scale pay-to-play scandal at the giant California public pension fund, CalPERS. Earlier this month, state papers reported disclosed that the former CEO, Frank Buenrostro, had cut a plea bargain with Federal prosecutors and was turning evidence on his (alleged) former partner in crime, placement agent and former CalPERS board member Alfred Villalobos. We’d heard privately before that story broke that the charges against Buenrostro were about to be greatly expanded, which is likely what lead the former CEO to fold. But as a CalPERS insider told us, “It was a race to see who was going to cut a deal first.”

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Ignacio Portes: Paul Singer v. Argentina – Where Did All That Debt Come From?

With Argentina’s payment to the holders of its restructured debt on June 30th in limbo at the Bank of New York Mellon, blocked by Federal Judge Thomas Griesa, and the 30 day grace period to official default ticking away, financial pundits have taken a keen interest in the biggest debt struggle in memory.

Some have been very critical of both the judge’s interpretation of the pari passu clause that created this mess and, more importantly, of his damaging precedent. But no one seems able to resist adding digs at Argentina, even when generally supporting its position in the litigation.

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How Mandatory Arbitration Cheats Consumers

A few weeks ago, the topic of arbitration clauses became a contretemps when General Mills tried the remarkably cheeky stunt of trying to assert that consumers who had downloaded coupons or simply liked the company on Facebook had given up their right to sue if they were harmed by using its products and could seek remedy only through “informal negotiation via email” or arbitration. The firestorm of criticism forced the food giant to back down.

But consumers and other customers, like small businesses, are increasingly being denied access to courts though the use of mandated “pre-dispute” arbitration clauses and these are often paired with class action waivers.

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Maine Supreme Court Hands Major Defeat to MERS Mortgage Registry

Yesterday, we wrote about a major loss by the electronic mortgage registry, MERS, in a major Federal court case in Pennsylvania. MERS suffered an additional blow via an important adverse decision in the Maine Supreme Court, against Tom Cox, the attorney who first made robosigning a national issue.

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France Has Hissy Fit Over BNP Paribas Fine and Dollar Dominance

France appears to have taken its public relations strategy for dealing with $8.9 billion fine against BNP Paribas from an old saying among lawyers: “If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.” Here’s the guts of the French compliant, which is that the US is abusing the power of dollar dominance:

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Bill Black on Real News: BNP Paribas Fine Shows Financial Crime Still Pays

This Real News Network interview with Bill Black provides a good high-level overview of what is right and (mainly) wrong with the $8.9 billion settlement with BNP Paribas over money-laundering charges. Black stresses that financial crime remains a very attractive activity for both the enterprise and its employees. As usual, no executives were charged or even fined, although thanks to the intervention of New York financial services superintendent Benjamin Lawsky, eleven employees of the French bank lost their jobs.

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New York’s Schneiderman Accepts Red Cross’ “Trade Secrets” Excuse to Hide Sandy Spending

It’s not clear what to make of an attorney general who opens an investigation and then accepts lame excuses for maintaining secrecy from its target, in this case, the American Red Cross. We’re flagging this example because it exemplifies an effort by organizations to use “trade secrets” as a pretext for hiding more and more of their dealings with governments. This is absurd, since the premise of Federal and state Freedom of Information Act laws is that government records should be open to the public, and that includes records of entities doing business with government agencies. In other words, if you want to have government bodies as your customers, one of the costs of doing business is having your formal interactions with them subject to public review.

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Ignacio Portes: Paul Singer v. Argentina – A Thriller Reaches Its Climax

The protracted legal saga between Argentina and NML Capital, Paul Singer’s hedge fund, owner of a fraction of Argentina’s non-restructured, pre-2001’s default debt, went through a decisive moment last week, when the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear Argentina’s appeal. With the “stay” order lifted after the Supremes Court’s decision, Argentina faced a huge conundrum that needs solving before June 30th, when an interest payment on its restructured debt is due.

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Peter Van Buren: Shredding the Fourth Amendment in Post-Constitutional America

Yves here. Van Buren continues his examination of what he calls the “post-Constitutional era”. This post focuses on the loss of privacy, a presumption enshrined in the Fourth Amendment. Van Buren describes how Fourth Amendment rights have been eviscerated in the post 9/11 era, such as by permitting the surveillance state to pour through millions of records using subpoenas rather than search warrants.

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Bill Black: Obama’s Latest Betrayal in Favor of the Big Banks: TISA

Yves here. I’ve taken the liberty of editing down Bill Black’s post slightly to bring readers more quickly to his correctly outraged discussion of the latest Wikileaks expose on a trade deal that has managed to go completely under the radar: the Trade in Services Agreement, otherwise known as TISA. We wrote about this troubling news when the story broke. Astonishingly, the mainstream media has taken no notice of this release. Black’s discussion is accessible to lay readers, and I hope you’ll circulate it in the interest of raising awareness of how the Administration intends to sell out the US to banks, Big Pharma, and other multinationals.

Black explains how TISA is designed to replicate, indeed, optimize the criminogenic environment that made fraudulent financial CEOs wealthy by “looting” “their” banks.

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