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ALUMNI?

Among all the things in state government we could (and do) point out and complain about, this might seem a bit trivial.

But why, at an institution of higher learning, would someone attach this license plate frame to his vehicle when he is the only occupant?

“Alumni” necessarily implies multiple occupants, all of whom are proud graduates. The proper term should be “alumnus,” which is the singular form.

And lest you think I’m picking on LSU, be assured that other schools are equally guilty. Louisiana Tech, ULL, ULM, Southern, Nicholls State, Grambling, McNeese, Southeastern….all of ’em sell these frames in their gift shops.

So do Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Arkansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Georgia and most likely every other college and university in America—probably even the Ivy League schools.

Speaks wonders for higher education, does it not?

Oh well, just something I’ve wanted to get off my chest for quite a while.

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“According to Edmonson, the new governor told him on the night of the election, at a party at the Hotel Monteleone, that he had never even considered another candidate for superintendent.”

Baton Rouge Advocate story of March 15, 2017.

 

“Please tell me your intentions as to the re-appointment of Mike Edmonson.”

Tom Aswell

From: John Bel Edwards Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 12:50 PM To: Tom Aswell Subject: Re: QUESTION

I don’t intend one way or the other.

 

Email exchange between LouisianaVoice Publisher Tom Aswell and gubernatorial candidate John Bel Edwards on Oct. 27, 2015.

BOTTOM LINE? Someone’s lying.

 

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1399909

Bloomberg News Service on March 1 published a STORY that said global megabanks have paid $321 billion in fines for such non-banking-like practices as money laundering, market manipulation and even terrorist financing since the market crash of 2008.

And while $321 billion may sound impressive, Bloomberg failed to mention that because of those same banks, President George W. Bush had little choice but to sign the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 that pumped more than twice that amount, $700 billion of taxpayer bailout funds, into the failed banks that precipitated the Great Recession of 2008.

Most financial advisers would describe that as a negative return on investment.

Adding insult to injury, $1.6 billion of that $700 billion was used to award multi-million dollar bonuses to CEOs of the very firms that got us into the mess to begin with. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/16b-of-bank-bailout-went-to-execs/

Bloomberg also failed to mention that those fines had little effect on those who perpetuated the crimes but did have a significant impact on stockholders and retirees, those, in other words, who had nothing to do with the massive fraud carried out on such a grand scale.

In fact, in 2010, former Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozilo was fined $22.5 million and ordered to pay another $45 million in restitution as his penalty for reaping a profit of $141.7 million from stock sale, according to Mary Kreiner Ramirez and Steven A. Ramirez, authors of The Case for the Corporate Death Penalty (New York University Press, 2017). So, despite the penalties, he walked away with a net gain $74.2 million, or a 52 percent return, sending a clear signal his peers that “crime does in fact pay,” the authors wrote.

There are also two questions Bloomberg neglected to address:

  1. What the total cost of the runaway greed and reckless actions of firms like AIG, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Countrywide, and J.P. Morgan to stockholders, retirees and American taxpayers in general?
  2. How many top tier officers at these firms who condoned, encouraged and/or actively participated in the illegal practices went to jail?

The answer to the first question is an eye-popping $15 trillion, according to Ramirez and Ramirez.

The answer to the second question is just as unbelievable: ONE.

In fact, as of Jan. 28, that last date that STATISTICS were updated by the Bureau of Prisons, there were exactly 555 people serving federal jail sentences for banking, insurance, embezzlement and counterfeiting. That comes to .3 percent (three-tenths of one percent) of the total federal prison population.

By contrast, there were 82,109 in federal prison for non-violent drug offenses (46.4 percent of the total), and 14,853 imprisoned on immigration charges (8.4 percent).

At this point it might be fair to ask just who did the most lasting damage to the nation’s economy?

It would also be fair to question why, if only one Wall Street banker went to jail, how is that there are 555 imprisoned for banking- and insurance-related offenses? The answer to that is those offenders, situated on Main Street instead of Wall Street, lacked the political clout in Washington that the leaders of the megabanks enjoyed.

Is that an over-simplification of the circumstances? Probably, but it’s interesting to compare the actions of different White House administrations in handling financial crises.

President Obama’s first Attorney General, Eric Holder, in his “too big to fail” proclamation, said, “I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications…it (prosecution) will have a negative impact on the economy.”

Obama, for his part, said, “One of the biggest problems about the…financial crisis and the whole subprime lending fiasco is that a lot of that stuff wasn’t necessarily illegal, it was just immoral or inappropriate or reckless.”

Wasn’t necessarily illegal? Both statements stretch credulity to its breaking point and are in themselves, disgraceful because federal laws were clearly broken knowingly and willfully.

It wasn’t always that way. For example, in the wake of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, more than 1,100 bankers were indicted and 839 were convicted.

Enron, the seventh-largest company in the U.S. at the turn of the century, is another example of how the feds went after those who played fast and loose with the rules. President George H.W. Bush called on Enron CEO Kenneth Lay to run the World Economic Summit in Houston in 1990 and in 1992, Lay co-chaired the reelection campaign of Bush the First.

Enron and its affiliates also contributed more than $888,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2000, the year that George W. Bush was elected President and another $1.3 million to the Republican Party. Lay and his wife personally contributed $238,000 to George W. Bush campaigns and inauguration celebrations and raised another $100,000 from friends. To the younger Bush, Lay was known as “Kenny boy.”

Still, Enron and its top executives were not immune from prosecution by Bush the Second.

Despite the access to the highest levels of government enjoyed by Enron and Lay, he and Jeff Skilling, his successor as Enron CEO, were indicted by the Department of Justice in 2004 and though the two combined to spend some $60 million on their defense, Lay was convicted on all counts and Skilling on 19 of 28 counts of securities fraud.

George W. Bush’s Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself from the Enron investigation because Enron and Lay both were major financial supporters in Ashcroft’s Missouri unsuccessful Senate re-election campaign. His chief of staff, David Ayers, also took himself out of the investigation of Enron. That was as it should have been.

Enron’s accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, was convicted of shredding Enron documents and both Enron and Arthur Andersen soon ceased to exist.

The same fate befell CenTrust Savings Bank, Drexel Burnham Lambert investment bank, and WorldCom—all because of flagrant violations of federal securities laws and each was prosecuted by the administrations of the two Bushes. WorldCom, in fact, was the largest bankruptcy in history when it went under in 2002.

Evidently, those firms were not considered too big to fail.

By contrast, Obama’s Attorney General Holder and Lanny Breuer, chief of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Criminal Division, did not remove themselves from DOJ’s investigation of the investment banks that brought on the Great Recession of 2008. This despite the fact that both men had worked for the same law firm of Covington & Burling which included among its clients such eminent Wall Street banking firms as Bank of America (Countrywide’s successor), Citigroup, and JP Morgan Chase.

In fact, at the time Holder was tapped as attorney general, he was co-chairing Covington & Burling’s white-collar defense unit. Good training in case you’re ever called on to investigate your former bosses.

Breuer returned to Covington & Burling in 2013 followed by his boss Holder in July 2015, giving Holder at least a reason for his strained, if not borderline unprincipled logic for not pursuing criminal indictments against the megabanks.

Following Holder’s departure, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates (Remember her? She’s the one President Trump fired after she refused to enforce his illegal immigration order) issued a DOJ memo (turns out she was pretty good at memos that cut right to the chase) on Sept. 9, 2015, that reversed Holder and Breuer’s DOJ policy toward pursuing individual accountability, both criminally and civilly, for corporate wrongdoing. The memorandum said the policy change was to maximize DOJ’s “ability to deter misconduct and to hold those who engage in it accountable.”

The comparison between the approaches of two Bushes and Obama to bankers’ disdain for securities laws to the detriment of the entire country represents a stark role reversal for the perceived political philosophies of the Republican and Democratic administrations.

And now, President Trump has expressed his determination to roll back the Dodd-Frank bill passed after the 2008 recession for the express purpose of preventing a recurrence of the runaway greed that nearly wrecked the world economy.

In fact, he wants to remove all regulation of Wall Street banks, quite possibly the most dangerous single cartel in American society.

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Motivated solely by curiosity I asked a long-time respected (now retired nuts & bolts) reporter in Monroe, Louisiana, recently if the media there had covered the still exploding scandal involving the hierarchy of the Louisiana State Police and the Governor’s alleged “stacking” of the LSP Commission which acts as a kind of Civil Service Board in order to allegedly protect the top people at LSP accused of various improprieties. Coverage of this has occupied a lot of television air time in south Louisiana for the past week or so along with plenty of space in the major newspapers in that region of the state. Herewith, a verbatim transcript of that conversation:

Me: “Has the Monroe media reported ANY of the Louisiana State Police Scandal?”

Retired newspaperman: “Not only NO, but HELL no!”

Me: “Why do you suppose that is?”

Retired newspaperman: “There really are no local media left.”

I’d mark that as a sad commentary for an area the size of Monroe-West Monroe which boasts three network-affiliated television stations, a Gannett daily, and at least two community-oriented weeklies. It’s enough to make you wonder if this is the kind of thinking that could put northeast Louisiana back behind the infamous “cowhide curtain.”

—Email received by LouisianaVoice from retired Monroe investigative reporter Ken Booth, now living in Arizona.

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Folks, I don’t want to claim any undue credit (after all, it was The Baton Rouge Advocate that broke the story about the trip to San Diego by 15 State Police personnel).

But I believe I can honestly say if LouisianaVoice had not broken the original story about State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson’s attempt to pad his retirement income illegally way back in 2014, none of the ensuing stories would ever have come to light.

If Louisiana Voice had not revealed all the other questionable practices at LSP—promotions of those with prescription drug addictions, troopers smuggling underage women into gambling casinos illegally, a trooper having sex with a woman in the back seat of his state patrol car, troopers being paid for being on the clock when in fact they were in the sack—the San Diego trip would never have been a blip on anyone’s radar.

If LouisianaVoice had not broken the story about the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association laundering money through its executive director to political campaigns—again, illegally—the practice would probably never have come to light.

And these are just the stories about State Police. We cover them all. We broke the story about Superintendent of Education John White’s plan to share sensitive student data with Rupert Murdoch. We revealed practices by White and Jindal’s staff to communicate via private email accounts in order to hide their activities from the public.

It was LouisianaVoice that broke the story about the shredding of documents at the Department of Health and Hospitals much to the consternation of the Secretary of State’s office. And it was LouisianaVoice that keeps you informed about state contracts going to big campaign donors.

It was LouisianaVoice that first revealed that former director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Murphy Painter was being set up by Jindal. It was LouisianaVoice that informed you of the activities of Painter’s successor Troy Hebert, including highly questionable activities involving a female restaurant manager in New Orleans.

And finally, it was LouisianaVoice that helped rein in the State Dentistry Board and to curb its illegal practices of extorting heavy fines from practicing dentists with threats of license revocations.

If you agree that we’ve done a pretty fair job of monitoring the activities of our elected and appointed officials, I ask that you consider helping defray our legal, travel, insurance, and research costs.

Doing this isn’t free even though we do not charge a subscription fee nor do we accept advertising.

We rely on your generosity and we only do this twice a year. The current fundraiser will run only a few more days.

Please help us continue our efforts. You may click on the yellow “DONATE” button to the right to contribute by credit card or you may send checks or money orders to:

Capital News Service/LouisianaVoice

P.O. Box 922

Denham Springs, LA 70727

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