BP Manager In Charge of Cleaning Up the Gulf Oil Spill – Instead of Actually Cleaning Up – Committed Insider Trading and Sold $1 Million of BP Stock Before the Extent of the Spill Became Public Knowledge

The Head of BP Also Sold Shares After Problems With the Well Were Apparent to Insiders

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced today:

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a former 20-year employee of BP p.l.c. and a senior responder during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill with insider trading in BP securities based on confidential information about the magnitude of the disaster.  The price of BP securities fell significantly after the April 20, 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, and the subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, resulted in an extensive clean-up effort.

According to the SEC’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, BP tasked Keith A. Seilhan with coordinating BP’s oil collection and clean-up operations in the Gulf of Mexico and along the coast.  Seilhan, an experienced crisis manager, directed BP’s oil skimming operations and its efforts to contain the expansion of the oil spill.  The complaint alleges that within days, Seilhan received nonpublic information on the extent of the evolving disaster, including oil flow estimates and data on the volume of oil floating on the surface of the Gulf.

Seilhan sold his family’s BP securities after he received confidential information about the severity of the spill that the public didn’t know,” said Daniel M. Hawke, chief of the Division of Enforcement’s Market Abuse Unit.

***

The complaint alleges that by April 29, 2010, in filings to the SEC, BP estimated that the flow rate of the spill was up to 5,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd).  The company’s public estimate was significantly less than the actual flow rate, which was estimated later to be between 52,700 and 62,200 bopd.  The information that Seilhan obtained indicated that the magnitude of the oil spill and thus, BP’s potential liability and financial exposure, was likely to be greater than had been publicly disclosed.

According to the complaint, while in possession of this material, nonpublic information, and in breach of duties owed to BP and its shareholders, Seilhan directed the sale of his family’s entire $1 million portfolio of BP securities over the course of two days in late April 2010.  The trades allowed Seilhan to avoid losses and reap unjust profits ….

Interestingly, the head of BP – Tony Hayward – sold 1.4 million pounds worth of BP shares a few weeks before the start of the Gulf oil spill.  While – at first glance – this sound like it could not possibly have been connected to the Gulf spill, BP actually had major problems with the Gulf well months before the spill. In other words, the spill hadn’t yet happened … but it should have been obvious to knowledgeable insiders that the well was highly dangerous and unstable.

Sadly, Mr. Seilhan, Mr. Hayward and the rest of the BP team made normal oil-skimming procedures impossible because they sunk the oil with Corexit dispersant … so the oil skimmers couldn’t get to it.

And it is beyond doubt that BP and the government blatantly low-balled the amount of oil spilled.

Indeed, most people still don’t understand that – while the well was “capped” in 2010 – top experts say that the oil spill could have increased  the amount of oil flowing form natural seeps in the area … so that more oil continues to leak into the Gulf for years.   Indeed,  large oil slicks have flowed for years after the BP well was capped (and BP’s explanation for this phenomenon doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.)

Postscript:  Some BP personnel were criminally indicted for manslaughter and lying to federal investigators.

But the U.S. has let BP back into the Gulf.  And BP is going to drill even deeper … with an even greater potential for disaster (and see this).

Posted in Business / Economics, Politics / World News | Leave a comment

Bankers are Behind the Wars

All Wars Are Bankers’ Wars

Former managing director of Goldman Sachs – and head of the international analytics group at Bear Stearns in London (Nomi Prins) -  notes:

Throughout the century that I examined, which began with the Panic of 1907 … what I found by accessing the archives of each president is that through many events and periods, particular bankers were in constant communication [with the White House] — not just about financial and economic policy, and by extension trade policy, but also about aspects of World War I, or World War II, or the Cold War, in terms of the expansion that America was undergoing as a superpower in the world, politically, buoyed by the financial expansion of the banking community.

***

In the beginning of World War I, Woodrow Wilson had adopted initially a policy of neutrality. But the Morgan Bank, which was the most powerful bank at the time, and which wound up funding over 75 percent of the financing for the allied forces during World War I … pushed Wilson out of neutrality sooner than he might have done, because of their desire to be involved on one side of the war.

Now, on the other side of that war, for example, was the National City Bank, which, though they worked with Morgan in financing the French and the British, they also didn’t have a problem working with financing some things on the German side, as did Chase

When Eisenhower became president … the U.S. was undergoing this expansion by providing, under his doctrine, military aid and support to countries [under] the so-called threat of being taken over by communism … What bankers did was they opened up hubs, in areas such as Cuba, in areas such as Beirut and Lebanon, where the U.S. also wanted to gain a stronghold in their Cold War fight against the Soviet Union. And so the juxtaposition of finance and foreign policy were very much aligned.

So in the ‘70s, it became less aligned, because though America was pursuing foreign policy initiatives in terms of expansion, the bankers found oil, and they made an extreme effort to activate relationships in the Middle East, that then the U.S. government followed. For example, in Saudi Arabia and so forth, they get access to oil money, and then recycle it into Latin American debt and other forms of lending throughout the globe. So that situation led the U.S. government.

Indeed, JP Morgan also purchased control over America’s leading 25 newspapers in order to propagandize US public opinion in favor of US entry into World War 1.

And many big banks did, in fact, fund the Nazis.

The BBC reported in 1998:

Barclays Bank has agreed to pay $3.6m to Jews whose assets were seized from French branches of the British-based bank during World War II.

***

Chase Manhattan Bank, which has acknowledged seizing about 100 accounts held by Jews in its Paris branch during World War II ….”Recently unclassified reports from the US Treasury about the activities of Chase in Paris in the 1940s indicate that the local branch worked “in close collaboration with the German authorities” in freezing Jewish assets.

The New York Daily News noted the same year:

The relationship between Chase and the Nazis apparently was so cozy that Carlos Niedermann, the Chase branch chief in Paris, wrote his supervisor in Manhattan that the bank enjoyed “very special esteem” with top German officials and “a rapid expansion of deposits,” according to Newsweek.

Niedermann’s letter was written in May 1942 five months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the U.S. also went to war with Germany.

The BBC reported in 1999:

A French government commission, investigating the seizure of Jewish bank accounts during the Second World War, says five American banks Chase Manhattan, J.P Morgan, Guaranty Trust Co. of New York, Bank of the City of New York and American Express had taken part.

It says their Paris branches handed over to the Nazi occupiers about one-hundred such accounts.

One of Britain’s main newspapers – the Guardian – reported in 2004:

George Bush’s grandfather [and George H.W. Bush's father], the late US senator Prescott Bush, was a director and shareholder of companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany.

The Guardian has obtained confirmation from newly discovered files in the US National Archives that a firm of which Prescott Bush was a director was involved with the financial architects of Nazism.

His business dealings … continued until his company’s assets were seized in 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act

***

The documents reveal that the firm he worked for, Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH), acted as a US base for the German industrialist, Fritz Thyssen, who helped finance Hitler in the 1930s before falling out with him at the end of the decade. The Guardian has seen evidence that shows Bush was the director of the New York-based Union Banking Corporation (UBC) that represented Thyssen’s US interests and he continued to work for the bank after America entered the war.

***

Bush was a founding member of the bank [UBC] … The bank was set up by Harriman and Bush’s father-in-law to provide a US bank for the Thyssens, Germany’s most powerful industrial family.

***

By the late 1930s, Brown Brothers Harriman, which claimed to be the world’s largest private investment bank, and UBC had bought and shipped millions of dollars of gold, fuel, steel, coal and US treasury bonds to Germany, both feeding and financing Hitler’s build-up to war.

Between 1931 and 1933 UBC bought more than $8m worth of gold, of which $3m was shipped abroad. According to documents seen by the Guardian, after UBC was set up it transferred $2m to BBH accounts and between 1924 and 1940 the assets of UBC hovered around $3m, dropping to $1m only on a few occasions.

***

UBC was caught red-handed operating a American shell company for the Thyssen family eight months after America had entered the war and that this was the bank that had partly financed Hitler’s rise to power.

Indeed, banks often finance both sides of wars:


(The San Francisco Chronicle also documents that leading financiers Rockefeller, Carnegie and Harriman also funded Nazi eugenics programs … but that’s a story for another day.)

The Federal Reserve and other central banks also help to start wars by financing them .

The most decorated American military man in history said that war is a racket, and noted:

Let us not forget the bankers who financed the great war. If anyone had the cream of the profits it was the bankers.

The big banks have also been laundering money for terrorists. The big bank employee who blew the whistle on the banks’ money laundering for terrorists and drug cartels says that the giant bank is still aiding terrorists, saying:

The public needs to know that money is still being funneled through HSBC to directly buy guns and bullets to kill our soldiers …. Banks financing … terrorists affects every single American.

He also said:

It is disgusting that our banks are STILL financing terror on 9/11 2013.

And see this.

According to the BBC and other sources, Prescott Bush, JP Morgan and other leading financiers also funded a coup against President Franklin Roosevelt in an attempt – basically – to implement fascism in the U.S. See this, this, this and this.

Kevin Zeese writes:

Americans are recognizing the link between the military-industrial complex and the Wall Street oligarchs—a connection that goes back to the beginning of the modern U.S. empire. Banks have always profited from war because the debt created by banks results in ongoing war profit for big finance; and because wars have been used to open countries to U.S. corporate and banking interests. Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan wrote: “the large banking interests were deeply interested in the world war because of the wide opportunities for large profits.”

Many historians now recognize that a hidden history for U.S. entry into World War I was to protect U.S. investors. U.S. commercial interests had invested heavily in European allies before the war: “By 1915, American neutrality was being criticized as bankers and merchants began to loan money and offer credits to the warring parties, although the Central Powers received far less. Between 1915 and April 1917, the Allies received 85 times the amount loaned to Germany.” The total dollars loaned to all Allied borrowers during this period was $2,581,300,000. The bankers saw that if Germany won, their loans to European allies would not be repaid. The leading U.S. banker of the era, J.P. Morgan and his associates did everything they could to push the United States into the war on the side of England and France. Morgan said: “We agreed that we should do all that was lawfully in our power to help the Allies win the war as soon as possible.” President Woodrow Wilson, who campaigned saying he would keep the United States out of war, seems to have entered the war to protect U.S. banks’ investments in Europe.

The most decorated Marine in history, Smedley Butler, described fighting for U.S. banks in many of the wars he fought in. He said: “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

In Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John Perkins describes how World Bank and IMF loans are used to generate profits for U.S. business and saddle countries with huge debts that allow the United States to control them. It is not surprising that former civilian military leaders like Robert McNamara and Paul Wolfowitz went on to head the World Bank. These nations’ debt to international banks ensures they are controlled by the United States, which pressures them into joining the “coalition of the willing” that helped invade Iraq or allowing U.S. military bases on their land. If countries refuse to “honor” their debts, the CIA or Department of Defense enforces U.S. political will through coups or military action.

***

More and more people are indeed seeing the connection between corporate banksterism and militarism ….

Indeed, all wars are bankers’ wars.

Posted in Business / Economics, Politics / World News | Leave a comment

It’s Time to Ditch the Consumer Price Index (CPI)

So why does the government maintain such a transparently inaccurate and misleading metric? For three reasons.

That the official rate of inflation doesn’t reflect reality is obvious to anyone paying college tuition and healthcare out of pocket. The debate over the accuracy of the official consumer price index (CPI) and personal consumption expenditures (PCE–the so-called core rate of inflation) has raged for years, with no resolution in sight.

The CPI calculates inflation based on the prices of a basket of goods and services that are adjusted by hedonics, i.e. improvements that are not reflected in the price of the goods. Housing costs are largely calculated on equivalent rent, i.e. what homeowners reckon they would pay if they were renting their house.

The CPI attempts to measure the relative weight of each component:

Many argue that these weightings skew the CPI lower, as do hedonic adjustments. The motivation for this skew is transparent: since the government increases Social Security benefits and Federal employees’ pay annually to keep up with inflation (the cost of living allowance or COLA), a low rate of inflation keeps these increases modest.

Over time, an artificially low CPI/COLA lowers government expenditures (and deficits, provided tax revenues rise at rates above official inflation).

Those claiming the weighting is accurate face a blizzard of legitimate questions. For example, if healthcare is 18% of the U.S. GDP, i.e. 18 cents of every dollar goes to healthcare, then how can a mere 7% wedge of the CPI devoted to healthcare be remotely accurate?

In my analysis, the debate over inflation is intrinsically flawed. What really matters is not the overall rate of inflation, which can be endlessly debated, but the purchasing power of earned income, i.e. wages and the exposure to real-world costs.

In other words, those households with zero exposure to college tuition and the full costs of daycare, medical care and healthcare insurance may well experience low inflation, while the household paying the full costs of daycare, college tuition and healthcare insurance will experience soaring inflation.

Here’s one example of how CPI fails to capture real-world inflation/loss of purchasing power. Let’s say an employee works for a company or agency that pays his/her healthcare insurance. The monthly cost has risen from $1,000/month to $1,500/month. The employee’s wage has remained stagnant but the total compensation costs paid by the employer have gone up by $500/month.

Now the employer shifts that $500/month to the employee as their share of the healthcare insurance cost. Since the average full-time worker earns around $40,000 a year, and pays around 18% in taxes, their take-home pay is around $33,000 annually.

The employee’s co-pay of $6,000 a year ($500/month) represents 18% of their take-home wage. This is an 18% reduction in earnings, or the equivalent of 18% inflation (i.e. a reduction in purchasing power).

This shifting of the skyrocketing burden of healthcare costs acts the same as 20% inflation, yet it doesn’t even register in the current CPI.

The geography of inflation doesn’t register, either. Soaring rents in Brooklyn, NY and the San Francisco Bay Area have a profound effect on those exposed to these rapidly rising costs, yet these impacts are massaged to zero by national CPI calculations.

So once again we have a bifurcated society: those protected by the state from rising costs and those exposed to real-world reductions in purchasing power. Households that receive government subsidies and direct payments have little exposure to real-world healthcare costs, since they are covered by Medicaid, and modest exposure to housing if they receive Section 8 benefits (Section 8 recipients pay 30% of their income for rent, regardless of the market price of the rental). Retirees on Medicare also have limited exposure to the real-world costs of their care paid by the government.

If we analyze inflation by these two metrics, we find the middle class is increasingly exposed to skyrocketing real-world prices. Pundits in the top 5% have the luxury of pontificating on the accuracy of the CPI while those protected by government subsidies and coverage have the luxury of wondering what all the fuss is about. Only those 100% exposed to the real costs experience the full fury of actual inflation.

So why does the government maintain such a transparently inaccurate and misleading metric? For three reasons: 1) it is useful propaganda; 2) it suppresses the state’s cost-of-living increases and 3) it lowers the government’s cost of borrowing. The benefits of reducing COLA adjustments are self-evident, as is the benefit of borrowing money at low rates of interest, but the propaganda benefits are more subtle.

The key to enabling the endless printing of money that enriches the banks and the top .1% is low inflation. Asset bubbles can be inflated, ballooning the wealth of the owners of the assets, as long as inflation is near-zero.

Indeed, the Federal Reserve claims it must print money to counter low inflation.

Meanwhile, in the real economy, those exposed to the real costs of college tuition, healthcare, childcare, etc. are seeing their purchasing power evaporate like a puddle of water in Death Valley. The Fed needs low inflation to justify its continuing enrichment of the financial elite, and the Federal government needs low inflation to keep its COLAs and borrowing costs low.

There are two ways to mask real-world reductions of purchasing power: 1) skew the CPI by distorting the component percentages, hedonics and how costs are measured, and 2) protect enough of the populace from real-world increases so they no longer care. Seniors, who famously vote in droves, have no idea what their Medicare benefits actually cost. As a result, they have no experience of healthcare inflation /reduction of purchasing power.

This works in all sorts of industries. As I have often mentioned here, the F-35 Lightning fighter aircraft costs in excess of $200 million each, roughly four times the cost of the F-18F it replaces. This extraordinary inflation is not experienced directly by the taxpayer who is paying for the boondoggle, as the Federal government borrows trillions of dollars to pay for such boondoggles, effectively passing the inflated costs on to future generations.

These costs are hidden by the low cost of borrowing trillions to pay for boondoggles. If real-world inflation is (say) 5%, then interest rates would typically adjust to a few points above that rate, to compensate capital for the erosion of purchasing power. If the Treasury had to pay 7% to borrow money, the interest cost would soon cripple Federal spending. People would be forced to focus on how all those trillions of dollars are being spent, and to whose benefit.

But with borrowing costs so low, nobody cares.

The solution? One, abolish the Fed and let the market discover interest rates, and two, abandon the simplistic notion that one number of inflation has any meaning in a complex economy with numerous subsets of exposure to market costs and the loss or gain of purchasing power.

Will we muster the will to look past failed models and metrics? Sadly, the answer is no. Why?

As I noted yesterday in What’s the Difference Between Fascism, Communism and Crony-Capitalism? Nothinga system set up to enrich political and financial elites is incapable of reform. the only way the CPI will ever be replaced is when the Status Quo collapses in a heap of lies and insolvency. Until then, propaganda and gaming the system to protect vested interests will rule.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

World War O

Painting by Anthony Freda: www.AnthonyFreda.com

 

When George W. Bush unleashed unnecessary wars of aggression on Iraq and elsewhere, many writers dubbed it “World War W“.

Now, Obama is close to intentionally or unintentionally unleashing “World War O”.

Bush’s lying his way into an Iraq war and then using torture to try to justify it were war crimes.

But Iraq was a third-rate army … while Russia has nuclear weapons.   Even if such weapons of mass destruction are not unleashed, there could still be an unintentional nuclear catastrophe.

And China may not sit idly by while its close ally – and economic partner – is challenged.

World War O would be bad indeed.

Postscript: Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail.    But the Neocons are back (they never actually left), and the powers-that-be are desperate for a war to distract the population.  And the American media is banging on the war drums as loudly as it can.

Posted in Politics / World News | 8 Comments

Is U.S. Media Coverage of Ukraine and Syria Even WORSE than Its Coverage of Iraq?

Unprecedented Propaganda Blitz

Over the last year, we’ve documented that – despite all of the mea culpas for horrible Iraq coverage – the U.S. media’s coverage of Ukraine and Syria is just as biased, superficial and pro-war.

Former Associated Press and Newsweek reporter Robert Parry – who broke several of the biggest stories regarding Iran-Contra, and recipient of the George Polk Award for National Reporting in 1984 -  writes that U.S. media coverage of the conflict in Ukraine is even worse than Iraq:

In my four-plus decades in journalism, I have never seen a more thoroughly biased and misleading performance by the major U.S. news media. Even during the days of Ronald Reagan – when much of the government’s modern propaganda structure was created – there was more independence in major news outlets. There were media stampedes off the reality cliff during George H.W. Bush’s Persian Gulf War and George W. Bush’s Iraq War, both of which were marked by demonstrably false claims that were readily swallowed by the big U.S. news outlets.

But there is something utterly Orwellian in the current coverage of the Ukraine crisis, including accusing others of “propaganda” when their accounts – though surely not perfect – are much more honest and more accurate than what the U.S. press corps has been producing.

There’s also the added risk that this latest failure by the U.S. press corps is occurring on the border of Russia, a nuclear-armed state that – along with the United States – could exterminate all life on the planet. The biased U.S. news coverage is now feeding into political demands to send U.S. military aid to Ukraine’s coup regime.

The casualness of this propaganda – as it spreads across the U.S. media spectrum from Fox News to MSNBC, from the Washington Post to the New York Times – is not just wretched journalism but it is reckless malfeasance jeopardizing the lives of many Ukrainians and the future of the planet.

Media coverage of Syria is also  arguably worse than of Iraq.

After all, the American media trumpeted false claims about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction.  But – with Syria – the American media is studiously ignoring the fact that:

Of course, the corporate media is always pro-war and pro-empire.  But now the large “alternative” media outlets – such as Drudge and Huffington Post – are also beating the war drums as loudly as they can.

So you’ll hear scary stories that terrorists in Syria are a threat to the U.S.  … but you won’t hear that the U.S. has been planning regime change in Syria for 20 years straight (and see this), or that the U.S. and its allies are the ones who pumped up those terrorists in the first place.

You’ll be told that Russia will start World War 3 if we don’t launch a military campaign in Ukraine … but you won’t hear that that the U.S. has planned on taking control of Ukraine since 1997, or that the former Ukrainian Security Chief alleges that the new neo-Nazi government was behind the sniper attacks which turned the West against the old regime in the first place.

You won’t hear any of that when the media is trying to sell a war …

http://cdn4.iheardin.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Anthony-Freda-War-Box.jpg
Painting by Anthony Freda: www.AnthonyFreda.com
Posted in Politics / World News | 8 Comments