Ex-Bank of America Exec Pleads Guilty to Bid-Rigging Municipal Bonds

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Wikimedia Commons
Bank of America Tower, NYC
Phillip Murphy, a former managing director at Bank of America, pleaded guilty on Monday for his role in a wide-ranging bid-rigging scheme that set artificial prices for municipal bond investment contracts.

Murphy, along with the 17 other defendants to plead guilty or get convicted, defrauded cities and counties who believed they were making investment agreements with the bank that offered them the best deal. Instead, the contracts went to predetermined winners, who sent kickbacks to the broker company, CDR Financial Products, charged with running the bidding process.

"Mr. Murphy ripped off hard working American taxpayers and cash-strapped municipalities all in pursuit of his own lucre," George Venizelos, who heads the FBI's New York Field Office, said in a statement.

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Federal Judge Hilariously Exasperated Over Hedge Fund Giant Steve Cohen's Never-Ending Divorce

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Like this, kind of, but with way more suing and allegations of skullduggery.
Here's a fun fact: if you're wealthy enough -- we mean really, really rich -- your divorce proceedings can literally last forever. That's the lesson we can all take away from the unhappy tale of hedge fund behemoth Steve Cohen, who runs the enormously lucrative, highly secretive S.A.C. Capital Advisors, and his ex-wife of 26 years, Patricia.

The couple married in 1979 and separated in 1988, but the squabbling over money continues to this very day, buttressed by Patricia's certainty that her ex-husband and his brother, Donald, hid lots of cash from her. In 2009, Patricia sued the Cohen brothers, alleging that they were engaged in nothing less than racketeering, insider trading, money laundering, misuse of the U.S. Postal System, and various other kinds of real bad fraud, and that they owed her roughly $300 million (she later reduced that claim to $8.25 million).

Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley threw out Patricia's racketeering claims, but ruled that Steve must still face her allegations of fraud and "breach of fiduciary duty." In the process, he threw out some serious zingers on the nature of love, marriage, and the dangers of trying to "spice up" one's divorce with RICO claims.

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State Settles With Five Illegal Payday Lenders for Less Than $310K Combined

Categories: Finance

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Gregory F. Maxwell via Wikipedia Commons
Payday loans--short-term, high-interest cash advances that often target low-income communities--are illegal in New York state. A 1976 law made it a felony to charge borrowers an interest rate above 25 percent. Because payday loans operate on quick lending cycles--usually two weeks--the annual interest rate climbs way above 100 percent, sometimes as high as 600 percent.

The state has been going after these lenders hard recently, with cease and desist letters and lawsuits. And on Monday Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that he had reached a settlement with five of them.

The five companies, all based in upstate New York, will pay a combined $$29,605.98 in fines, plus $279,605.98 in restitution.

If this song sounds familiar, it's because it's become the anthem of financial regulation: secure low settlement, proclaim victory.

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Mayor Bloomberg Metaphorically Hugs Metaphorical 'Vampire Squid'

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As a not-so-hot week for Goldman Sachs' came to a close, Mayor Bloomberg embraced the investment bank. The New York Times reports that Bloomberg visited Goldman's headquarters Thursday for some handshakes and burgers, and explained his support of the firm on his radio show Friday. "It's my job to stand up and support companies that are here in this city that bring us a tax base and that employ our people," he said on the show according to the Times.

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New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman To Head Obama's New Mortgage Agency

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Last night's presidential address was all about the state of our great nation, but New Yorkers got a nod with the announcement that our very own attorney general will head a new task force charged with investigating abusive lending and risky mortgages. You know, all that fun stuff that led to the housing crisis and destroyed our economy...

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will chair the new unit, which Barack Obama discussed in his speech last night, saying the group will target Wall Street and the big, bad banks and mortgage lenders that messed everything up for the rest of us.

"This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans," he said.

A task that big requires a New Yorker like Schneiderman, who was formerly a state senator representing the Upper West Side before he became the state's top law enforcement officer.

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Secrets of the Fed's $7.8 TRILLION Bank Bailout Revealed

Categories: Finance

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Gage Skidmore
Banks benefited even more from the public bailout than previously known.
It's been three years since the the cataclysmic financial crisis that nearly destroyed the global economy, and three years since the government offered up $700 billion in public money to prop up the banks that caused the crisis in the first place.

Those loans, offered up through the Treasury's TARP program, have now all been paid back with interest, and as far as the banks are concerned, everything's back to normal. It wasn't such a big deal anyway! They didn't even want to take that money! And they sure as hell don't think any further government regulation is necessary.

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I.M.F. Victim of 'Large and Sophisticated' Hacking Attack

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​The International Monetary Fund, once headed by new Tribeca resident and alleged sex offender Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has been hit by a cyber attack that an official called a "very major breach." Anonymous, is this you? The attack occurred over the last few months, but as of yet it's unclear as to what kind of information the hackers were able to get to. The I.M.F. has information in its databases that is "potentially market-moving," and communications with leaders that could be "political dynamite in many countries." At the beginning of the month, a spokesman for the fund said that they were aware of a possible threat from "hacktivist" collective Anonymous and were taking preventative measures.

For further reading, here's Anonymous' statement of purpose on the attack.

[NYT]

[rgray@villagevoice.com] [@_rosiegray]

Credit Card Debt Is 'Empowering' to Young Folks

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Crazy kids! Instead of being appropriately bewildered and concerned by credit card and education debts, young adults are feeling "empowered" by what they owe, according to a new study from Ohio State University. In fact, the more credit card and college loan debt they have, the better these incorrigible youngsters feel about themselves! Once they get to be a little older, however, say 28 to 34, they start getting stressed. As the scientists behind the study point out, credit card debt might be helping people feel good because they're not thinking about their debt at all but instead are thinking about what they can get with their credit cards -- a/k/a instant gratification. It's hard to compete with that.

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Anonymous Hackers Release Bank of America Emails in 'Black Monday' Leak

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Anonymous, the loosely organized hacktivist collective operating lately in support of WikiLeaks, dropped extensive correspondence at 12 a.m. on Monday between employees they claim were working for a previously Bank of America-owned insurance company, Balboa Insurance. According to Anonymous, the leak -- led by @OperationLeakS -- shows that the bank removed documents from loan files, and subsequently foreclosed on homes faultily. The correspondence is currently collected at BankofAmericasuck.com, where the leak is being referred to as "Black Monday," though other sites meant to host the documents, like http://boa.anonleaks.ch/, are currently down, possibly due to high traffic. "We are confident that his extravagant assertions are untrue," a Bank of America spokesperson said.

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WikiLeaks Will Target Bank of America Next

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As long speculated, Julian Assange's WikiLeaks will release classified documents from Bank of America, in a break from harassing international governments. The confirmation of the target comes via John Carney's NetNet blog at CNBC.com, where he sources an anonymous "person who has close contact with top people at Wikileaks." Speculation about Bank of America's vulnerability ramped up in November when Assange told Forbes that leaks would come from a large U.S. bank in early 2011. Today Assange claimed that more documents will be coming more quickly as he fights extradition to Sweden, though he did not confirm news regarding Bank of America.

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