Category Archives: Media watch

Did New York Times’ Dealbook Throw a Source Under the Bus in TPG Suit Against Ex-Employee/Ex-White House Staffer?

If a lawsuit filed yesterday by TPG is to be taken at face value, the private equity kingpin has been the subject of a nasty extortion attempt by a vengeful now former employee, Adam Levine. Levine allegedly not only threatened to use his PR clout to bring down the firm, but purloined confidential materials from TPG’s systems and doctored at least one before sending it to a reporter at New York Times’ Dealbook. And TPG further claims it had good reason to be worried because Levine asserted that it was his grand jury testimony, shortly after he left the Bush White House as a member of its communications team, that brought down Scooter Libby.

But the real bombshell in the filing is the way that the New York Times’ Dealbook looks to have thrown Levine, an alleged source, under the bus.

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Is Power8, Sponsor of Everton FC, Fulham FC and RCD Espanyol, a Giant Ponzi?

Yves here. Richard Smith is on the trail of what looks to be his biggest international scam find ever, orders of magnitude larger than the usual below the radar single to low double digit million dollar/pound/euro operation that he has ferreted out in the past. And mind you, even though he focuses on the dubious looking inter-corporate relationships and the often evident lack of normal investors protections and business substance, these companies sell hope and glamour to typically credulous retail investors who lose their money and have no recourse.

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Private Equity Miscreant Freeman Spogli Illustrates Investor and SEC Cowardice

Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times released an important story over the holiday period on how a mid-sized private equity firm, Freeman Spogli, with $4 billion under management, was found to have made serious violations of its investment agreement. The SEC’s fund examination unit stated that Freeman Spogli, in two of its older funds, FS Equity Partners V (“FS V”)and FS Equity Partners VI (“FS VI”), looked to have repeatedly violated of fee-sharing agreements and to have operated as an unregistered broker-dealer. It asked for Freeman Spogli to make full restitution of the failure to reduce management fees and provide evidence that required reimbursements that looked to have been, um, ignored were actually made.

While Morgenson has done a fine job of presenting the facts of the case, we beg to differ with her as to some of the inferences she draws. She sees this case as a real step forward for investors. We see it as showing how loath both investors and the SEC to take serious action even in the face of clear-cut evidence of misconduct.

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Bill Black: Obama and Holder Choose Banksters Over Whistleblowers

Yves here. At this point, the Obama administration’s fealty to banksters is a “dog bites man” story. Nevertheless, it’s useful to catalogue particular incidents to show how consistent its behavior is. The latest case study is its shoddy treatment of whistleblowers.

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NYTimes Dealbook’s Dishonest Salvo at Elizabeth Warren Over Calling Out an Unqualified Nominee for Treasury Post

Even though Andrew Ross Sorkin and his mini-empire, the New York Times Dealbook, are reliable defenders of their Big Finance meal tickets, they’ve managed to skim above, if sometimes just barely above, abject intellectual dishonesty. But Dealbook has published not one but three pieces in as many weeks in defense of an unacceptably weak Obama Administration nominee for an important Treasury post, the Under Secretary of Domestic Finance.

The candidate is Antonio Weiss, a Lazard mergers and acquisitions professional who was elevated to head of investment banking in 2009. There’s no doubt that Weiss is accomplished. The non-trivial problem, as Elizabeth Warren and others have pointed out, is that Weiss’ experience and skills have absolutely nothing to do with the Treasury role.

What is striking is the way that Sorkin and his colleagues have launched what amounts to a media war against Warren in defense of Weiss, and have shameless resorted to a drumbeat of Big Lies in the hope that their messaging will stick. The fact that they can’t even mount a proper case on its merits speaks volumes about Weiss’ qualifications for the job.

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Bill Black: Mortgage Appraisal Fraud is Baaack…Because Bank Execs Profit From It

Yves here. Financiers and their media amplifiers keep trying to blame their bad conduct, like mortgage appraisal fraud, on powerless customers, so people like Bill Black have to keep swatting down their misrepresentations. Sadly, this crisis topic is back all too soon due to lack of regulatory vigilance.

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Bill Black: The New York Times Thinks Jailing Banksters Would Cause a “Bind”

Yves here. Bill Black continues to heap well-deserved scorn on efforts to defend New York Fed president William Dudley’s revealing performance in Senate testimony last week. In its efforts to pretend that the New York Fed can’t possibly be expected to regulate, the Grey Lady goes beyond the usual hoary canard that jailing banksters is just too hard (as in trying to say that what they perpetrated didn’t break any laws, when plenty of writers, such as Charles Ferguson, long form in Predator Nation, and yours truly, among plenty of others, have cited both legal theories and fact sets that show the reverse). The additional bogus claim is….drumroll…that keeping banks out of criminal and improper conduct is somehow inconsistent with making sure they “operate successfully”. In other words, the Times is effectively saying that banks have become so dependent on criminal and near-criminal conduct as profit sources that regulators dare not deprive them of that out of fear of weakening their financial performance.

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Bill Black: Why the New York Fed Isn’t Trustworthy

Yves here. Readers may recall that we criticized the New York Times’ reporting on an important story on a criminal investigation underway involving both Goldman and New York Fed employees. A Goldman employee who had worked at the New York Fed and his boss were fired because the ex-Fed staffer allegedly had obtained confidential bank supervisory information. A New York Fed employee was also fired immediately after the Goldman terminations. The piece was composed as if the intent was to be as uninformative as possible and still meet the Grey Lady’s writing standards. Readers were left in the dark as to where the two Goldman employees fit in the organization and what the sensitive information was.

Bill Black dug through later news reports, did some additional sleuthing, and based on is experience as a regulator, concluded that there is no way the Goldman employee, Rohit Bansal, didn’t recognize that he was misusing confidential bank supervisory information. That matters because whether or not breach is criminal hinges on whether he “willfully” broke the law.

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Russia Can Survive An Oil Price War

Yves here. This article is an important sanity check on the impact of the current oil price war on Russia. We’ve seen similarly skewed conventional wisdom on the Saudis: “No, they can’t make it on a fiscal budget basis at below $90 a barrel,” completely ignoring the fact that the Saudis clearly believe it is in their long-term interest to suffer some costs to inflict pain on some of their enemies, and render some (a lot) of shale oil and alternative energy development uneconomical, which increases their ability to extract more in the long term from their oil asset.

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Why is Anyone Surprised that Abenomics Failed?

In case you managed to miss it, there’s been a fair bit of hand-wringing over the fact that Japan has fallen back into a recession despite the supposedly heroic intervention called Abenomics, whose central feature was QE on steroids.

But Japan of all places should know that relying on the wealth effect to spur growth has always bombed in the long term.

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Hedges and Wolin on How New-Style Propagandizing Promotes Inverted Totalitarianism

Yves here. The Real News Network continues with its discussion between Chris Hedges and Sheldon Wolin of what Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism.” One of the focuses here is how skillful fragmentation of the public, and keeping various groups separate from, and better yet, suspicious of each other, has helped greatly reduced the cost of keeping this system in place.

Younger readers may not recognize how radical the transformation of public discourse has been over the last 40 years. While there were always intellectuals who were largely above consuming much mass media, as well as political groups on the far right and left that also largely rejected it, in the 1960s and well into the 1980s, mass media shaped political discourse. There were only three major broadcast networks: ABC, NBC, CBS. They hewed to generally the same outlook. Similarly, there were only two major news magazines: Time and Newsweek, again with not much distance between in their political outlook. The Wall Street Journal was a stock market newspaper with little general news coverage. The New York Times didn’t aspire to be a national newspaper until the 1990s. Local newspapers were much more influential in their markets then than now, but they seldom deviated much from the national middle of the road, pro-middle class sentiment. The sort of fragmentation that this interview mentions is in part a result of the Karl Rove strategy of focusing on hot-button interests of narrowly-sliced interest groups, along with media fragmentation which has made it easier to target, as in isolate, them.

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Slugfest Over Taibbi Exodus From First Look Fails to Address Editorial Meddling Doubts

As reader Christopher put it, this got ugly fast.

Yesterday, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Schill, and John Cook issued a joint “inside story” on why Matt Taibbi left First Look. Let us note that it is pretty much unheard for journalists to report on personnel matters at their own employer, particularly so rapidly after a story breaks. The reason for the haste, and the focus on l’affaire Taibbi, appears to be to get out in front of an article coming out in New York Magazine about their patron, Pierre Omidyar.

The real issue, as we discussed in our earlier post, is whether this account supports the claim made in Omidyar’s press release about Taibbi’s departure: that it has nothing to do with editorial independence. As we’ll discuss, this story does not lay that issue to rest; in fact, it attempts to draw a bright shiny line between “corporate” matters like overall direction, editorial philosophy, mix of stories, as well as routine matters like expense controls, and “editorial freedom”. The distinctions aren’t that tidy. The degree of retrading of Taibbi’s deal with Omidyar and ongoing pressure to keep refocusing a shifting mission looks like bad faith. And one reads between the lines that Omidyar might have cooled on Taibbi’s plans to venture out of satire into more costly and more disruptive investigative reporting.

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Matt Taibbi Leaving First Look

Matt Taibbi has been missed. He went into a writing black hole when he decamped from Rolling Stone to Pierre Omidyar’s wannabe media empire, First Look in February. But when the billionaire’s news venture was launched, the press was sloppy in reporting on Omidyar’s financial commitment. It was widely depicted as a $250 million venture, when the tech titan never committed anywhere near that amount of funding. Admittedly, it takes time to get a new publication going, but the lack of any apparent progress was becoming noteworthy. From the outside, it looked like the project might be going pear-shaped, and it appears it did.

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