Yanis Varoufakis on capitalism's incompatibility with democracy

It's a not-very-well-kept secret that elements of the libertarian right believe that democracy is incompatible with capitalism (tldr: if majorities get to vote, they'll vote to tax rich minorities and since rich people are in the minority they'll always lose that vote); and as this persuasive and fascinating lecture and Q&A with former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis (previously) shows, the feeling is mutual. Read the rest

Security chips have not reduced US credit-card fraud

The US credit card industry was a very late adopter of security chips, lagging the EU by a decade or so; when they did roll out chips, it was a shambolic affair, with many payment terminals still not using the chips, and almost no terminals requiring a PIN (and some require a PIN and a signature, giving rise to the curiously American security protocol of chip-and-PIN-and-swipe-and-sign). Read the rest

Wells Fargo cuts 26,500 jobs, shutters branches, declares "excess capital" and drops $40.6 billion on stock buybacks

Wells Fargo is America's most scandal-haunted bank, which is quite an accomplishment in a heavily competitive field; now the bank has started closing its branches and cutting jobs (after pressuring employees to commit mass fraud on pain of being fired and blacklisted from the industry). Read the rest

Two Goldman Sachs bankers charged in multibillion-dollar Malaysian money-laundering scam

In 2015, the Malaysian government collapsed after a scandal involving embezzlement from the state-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund; the scandal shows no sign of slowing down, with fresh accusations against the country's business and political leadership surfacing regularly and one prime suspect, the financier and "tabloid party boy" Jho Low going on the run, a fugitive believed to be in China. Read the rest

America's most notorious patent troll, now bankrupt, values its bullshit patents at $1

For more than a decade, Shipping and Transit LLC (AKA Arrivalstar) has been aggressively pursuing dubious patent claims against public transit companies, shippers, and other businesses whose practices overlapped with Arrivalstar's absurd, obvious patents on using GPSes to figure out where stuff was. Read the rest

Steve Mnuchin stole Cesar Sayoc's house

Before Steve Mnuchin was in charge of the nation's economy, he was a foreclosure kingpin who left Goldman Sachs to found OneWest Bank (with money from George Soros!) in 2008; after the crisis, OneWest Bank acquired busted mortgage lender IndyMac, and became a notorious foreclosure mill, using robo-signed, back-dated, fraudulent documents to steal peoples' houses. Read the rest

China's panicked upper middle class are easy picking for offshore real estate scams

The combination of Chinese anti-corruption reforms and currency controls has China's storied "middle class" (a nebulously defined category whose size and wealth are the subject of multiple, conflicting accounts) scrambling for ways to get their money out of the country and to establish bolt holes to escape to, should the situation suddenly worsen. Read the rest

New Sanders bill: If a bank is too big to fail, it's too big to exist

In 2008, the Bush and Obama administrations both argued that they had a duty to transfer more than $700,000,000,000 of American taxpayers' money to the largest banks in the country, because these banks were "too big to fail" and allowing them to collapse would do much more harm than a mere $0.7 trillion subsidy. Read the rest

$100 bills outnumber $1s, and they're stuffed in our mattresses

For the first time, the most common US bill in circulation is the $100: these benjamins aren't being used to transact our daily business -- they're the preferred form of savings after a long spell of low inflation and nonexistent interest rates, when there are so many obvious reasons to distrust the banks. (via Naked Capitalism) Read the rest

Big Tech is building a $80B capex wall around its empire

Big Tech companies -- like all the apex predators of all the world's concentrated industries -- is swimming in cash; but unlike those other firms, Big Tech is not using the cash merely for financial engineering; it's doing actual engineering, sinking $80B this year into capital expenditures that will form a wall around the industry's incumbents, which new firms will have to scale in order to challenge them. Read the rest

Canada's legal weed stock-bubble is a re-run of the dotcom bubble

Canada and Uruguay are the only two countries to have legalised the recreational use of marijuana (the Netherlands has laws on the books against it, but they're not enforced); the Canadian Securities Exchange has been transformed into "the cannabis stock exchange," a latter-day NASDAQ filled with hyperinflated stocks in legal weed companies. Read the rest

Anonymous stock-market manipulators behind $20B+ of "mispricing" can be tracked by their writing styles

In a new Columbia Law and Economics Working Paper, Columbia Law prof Joshua Mitts uses "stylometry" (previously) to track how market manipulators who publish false information about companies in order to profit from options are able to flush their old identities when they become notorious for misinformation and reboot them under new handles. Read the rest

Denmark's largest bank laundered €200B through its Estonian branch, ignoring glaring warning signs

Before Thomas Borgen was CEO of Danske Bank, he ran the bank's Estonian branch from 2009-2013, presiding over years of neglect of basic, commonsense money-laundering controls, allowing more than €200B to flow through the bank from well-known financial secrecy jurisdictions like the British Virgin Islands, as well as Russia. Read the rest

Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of the collapse of 2008 and things are much, much worse

Nobody covered the Wall Street collapse, bailout, and corrupt resurgence better than Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, from giving Goldman Sachs its unforgettable epithet to covering the hearings on the bailouts to documenting the foreclosure mills, to deep dives into the sweetheart deals the banks got; to the revolving door between finance regulators and the finance sector to the rise of Occupy; to the consolidation of financial primacy after the collapse; to the double-standard for criminal justice revealed by the collapse; to the frauds that surfaced after the crash; to the tiny bright spots where bankers were brought to justice; all capped by an incandescent, outstanding book about the crisis and the systematic racial and economic justice it revealed. Read the rest

Big Tech is losing the public's trust in just the same way that Big Finance has

Writing in the New York Times, Nathaniel Popper notes a new current running through our discourse: the idea that Big Tech is not to be trusted, and should be broken up. Read the rest

Facebook to banks: give us our users' financial data and we'll let them bank with Facebook

Facebook wants to "deepen user engagement" with Messenger, and to that end, it's been pitching America's giant banks on joint enterprises where Facebook will get to see all your financial info (especially info on where you're shopping and what you're buying) to help it suck you into using Messenger for longer. Read the rest

Consumer Reports now evaluates products' security and privacy

Consumer Reports is arguably America's most trusted source of product reviews -- published by Consumers Union, a venerable nonprofit with a deserved reputation for scrupulous care and neutrality -- and for years it has been wrestling with how to address privacy and cybersecurity in modern products (disclosure: I have advised them some on this). Read the rest

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