In July 2008, Florida lawyer Lynn Szymoniak received foreclosure papers on her home. Szymoniak had encountered financial difficulties after spending several years caring for her ailing mother while simultaneously fighting her own health problems, and failed to re-negotiate her adjustable-rate mortgage with her lender.
On Tuesday, the shareholders of Marshall and Ilsley (M&I) Bank of Wisconsin "voted" to give $71 million in bonuses to failed executives as part of an acquisition deal. "Voted" may not be the right word, since CEO Mark Furlong opened and closed the meeting within the span of five minutes, allowing no discussion and no questions from the dozen or so shareholders in the room. Furlong has apparently learned Robert's Rules of Order from his friend Governor Scott Walker and the rest of the gang in the Wisconsin Capitol.
At a rally held in front of Chase Bank on Capitol Square in Madison, Wisconsin today, a few dozen people gathered to air their grievances against Chase and other U.S. corporations who will pay no taxes for 2010. Jeff Kravat of MoveOn hosted the rally along with Gene Lundergan, who gathered a group of four or five people to present a tax bill of almost $2 billion to the branch bank manager. This bill, for $1.988 billion, was drawn up using Chase's 2010 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and a December 2008 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report (pdf). When Lundergan, Steve Hughes of Young Progressives and several others approached the front entrance of the bank, they were refused admission by the security guard, so they left the bill propped in the front window.
On April 14 the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Darrell Issa (R-California), held a hearing on state and municipal debt where the key question was State Budget Cuts: Choice or Necessity?
Chairman Issa started off by framing the issue in a manner that was thrilling to Wall Street barons and corporate big wigs. He said that states will face a shortfall of $112 billion in 2012 and the reasons for this were "obvious." The primary reasons, according to Issa, are reckless spending and unfunded or underfunded pension funds. The 2008 Wall Street financial crisis and the staggering job loss, which caused state and federal tax revenues to tank, were not mentioned.
And so it went. Flying in the face of fact and reason, Republicans insisted that states spend too much and that the best way to attack the state deficit problem is on the back of unionized workers, their only organized opposition in the electoral arena.
While Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan prepares to shut down the federal government to prove that government is bad, analysts say the radical agenda of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker suffered a major set back today as his good friend incumbent Justice David Prosser was defeated for Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Facebook event can be found here. M&I Bank got a $1.7 billion bailout while working people get sold out. Their CEO got a golden parachute of $18 million only to turn around with his M&I Bankster cronies to be the largest contributors to Scott Walker's campaign.
Working people are fed up with big banks and the attacks on working families. We're not going to take it anymore.
On the day that the bill passed the Wisconsin Assembly effectively ending 50 years of collective bargaining in Wisconsin and eviscerating the ability of public unions to raise money through dues, a new front opened in the battle for the future of Wisconsin families.
Bagpipes blaring, hundreds of firefighters walked across the street from the Wisconsin Capitol building, stood outside the Marshall and Ilsley Bank (M&I Bank) and played a few tunes -- loudly. Later, a group of firefighter and consumers stopped back in at the bank to make a few transactions. One by one they closed their accounts and withdrew their life savings, totaling approximately $190,000. See a video clip. After the last customer left, the bank quickly closed its doors, just in case the spontaneous "Move Your Money" moment caught fire.
According to its newly-minted website, the Advocates "are dedicated to supporting the University of Wisconsin-Madison ... [and] will promote greater accountability through enhanced autonomy for this unique institution." This lobbying effort is similar to efforts afoot in other states to use state budget issues to privatize public higher education institutions and put more assets and power at the disposal of powerful corporate interests.
NPR's Planet Money recently reported on astroturf activities in the financial sector. "Forgery: The Latest Tactic To Sway Finance Rules" focuses on the behind the scenes fight over the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill. The Dodd-Frank bill is now in the agency rulemaking stage and financial sector lobbyists have descended en masse on the pertinent federal agencies, lobbying in person and via comment letters to the Federal Register. Some firms seem to think their advocacy would be more effective if it came from grassroots groups and not corporations. As NPR reports: "In an effort to influence the new rules, somebody sent several forged letters to the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, a key government agency. The letters were sent as part of the public comment process for an arcane rule that could have big financial implications." The rule involved proposal to limit conflicts of interest at derivatives clearinghouses. The forged letters were supposedly from an exec at Heinz (the food company), a Burger King franchise owner, a local judge, a county sheriff and a dozen other concerned citizens. But in reality they were sent from a PR firm on contract with an unnamed client. The Wall Street Journal has named the PR firm as Dewey Square Group and its subcontractor, Goggans Inc. as culprits in the fiasco, but the firm's client is still unknown. The faux letters contain verbatim language railing against the "cartel-like control" of banks in the derivatives market, certainly a legitimate complaint. The fact that financial services firms -- perhaps those who want the opportunity to be part of the cartel -- had to hire PR companies to develop fake "grassroots" to counter the big banks underscores the continued absence of real, organized grassroots in the financial services debates. One notable exception is Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) a coalition of over 250 of labor, consumer, housing, and other public interest groups, that advocates for consumer protection and a more stable and secure financial system. Find out more at Ourfinancialsecurity.org.