A Top Goldman Banker Raised Ethics Concerns. Then He Was Gone. – The New York Times

By the tight-lipped standards of Goldman Sachs, the phone call from one of the firm’s most senior investment bankers was explosive.James C. Katzman, a Goldman partner and the leader of its West Coast mergers-and-acquisitions practice, dialed the bank’s whistle-blower hotline in 2014 to complain about what he regarded as a range of unethical practices, according to accounts by people close to Mr. Katzman, which a Goldman spokesman confirmed. His grievances included an effort by Goldman to hire a customer’s child and colleagues’ repeated attempts to obtain and then share confidential client information.Mr. Katzman expected lawyers at the firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, which monitored the hotline, to investigate his allegations and share them with independent members of Goldman’s board of directors, the people close to Mr. Katzman said.The complaints were an extraordinary example of a senior employee’s taking on what he perceived to be corporate wrongdoing at an elite Wall Street bank. But they were never independently investigated or fully relayed to the Goldman board.

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Congress Approves First Big Dodd-Frank Rollback – The New York Times

By Alan Rappeport and Emily Flitter May 22, 2018
“WASHINGTON — A decade after the global financial crisis tipped the United States into a recession, Congress agreed on Tuesday to free thousands of small and medium-sized banks from strict rules that had been enacted as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law to prevent another meltdown.In a rare demonstration of bipartisanship, the House voted 258-159 to approve a regulatory rollback that passed the Senate this year, handing a significant victory to President Trump, who has promised to “do a big number on Dodd-Frank.”

The bill stops far short of unwinding the toughened regulatory regime put in place to prevent the nation’s biggest banks from engaging in risky behavior, but it represents a substantial watering down of Obama-era rules governing a large swath of the banking system. The legislation will leave fewer than 10 big banks in the United States subject to stricter federal oversight, freeing thousands of banks with less than $250 billion in assets from a post-crisis crackdown that they have long complained is too onerous.”

Opinion | Just Saying Yes to Drug Companies – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“Last week we learned that Novartis, the Swiss drug company, had paid Michael Cohen — Donald Trump’s personal lawyer — $1.2 million for what ended up being a single meeting. Then, on Friday, Trump announced a “plan” to reduce drug prices.

Why the scare quotes? Because the “plan” was mostly free of substance, controlled or otherwise. (O.K., there were a few ideas that experts found interesting, but they were fairly marginal.) During the 2016 campaign Trump promised to use the government’s power, including Medicare’s role in paying for prescription drugs, to bring drug prices down. But none of that was in his speech on Friday.

And if someone tries to convince you that Trump really is getting tough on drug companies, there’s a simple response: If he were, his speech wouldn’t have sent drug stocks soaring.

None of this should come as a surprise. At this point, “Trump Breaks Another of His Populist Promises” is very much a dog-bites-man headline. But there are two substantive questions here. First, should the U.S. government actually do what Trump said he would do, but didn’t? And if so, why haven’t we taken action on drug prices?”

Opinion | Letting Sprint and T-Mobile Merge Is a Terrible Idea – by Tim Wu – NYT

“The merits of some mergers make for a close case, but the proposed merger between the mobile carriers Sprint and T-Mobile, which would create a new telecommunications behemoth, is not one of them. Basic economics strongly suggests the proposed combination should be dead on arrival, at least if the nation’s antitrust law still stands for competition and lower prices for consumers. In addition, the recent history of telecommunications and similar industries indicates that allowing consolidation to just three “majors” — Verizon, AT&T and the new T-Mobile (merged with Sprint) — is a terrible idea.

The problem for Sprint and T-Mobile is that they themselves have done such a good job of proving the merits of the four-way competition they now seek to eliminate. In 2011, the government held the line at four competitors by blocking a proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, and it did so again in 2014, when it blocked an effort by Sprint to buy T-Mobile. Result: The “wireless wars” — intense price and service competition that even skeptics of government action concede have been good for consumers and the economy.

T-Mobile, the self-proclaimed “uncarrier,” has done an admirable job of attacking termination fees, abusive contracts and other mistreatment — often outperforming regulators as an agent of consumer protection. Sprint, meanwhile, has come to excel in its role as a price-cutting maverick. Allow me to advertise for Sprint: Did you know that it offers a service for $60 with an unlimited data plan?”

DL;  Then Tim Wu describes how consolidation in the Airlines from 6 to 3 carriers has screwed the public. He writes, do you want the cell phone companies to be able to act like these behemoth airlines. They are now very profitable!!

Small Idea for the New York Times Paper Edition – by David Lindsay

To  the editors of the New York Times

I recently realized an idea that could help the survival  of the New York Times Paper Edition for several more centuries. Perhaps I exaggerate, but it is unlikely you will be around to know.

We read the New York Times paper edition religiously Friday through Sunday, and there is always an awkward and embarrassing conflict. We can not comfortably share the first section. While I am reading the front page and its leads into the depths of section one,  my fabulous lady cannot read the editorial page and op-ed page, since they are attached umbilicallly to the front page and page three, and vice a versa.

Alas, this conflict has disturbed the wa, or peace and harmony, of our household.

The solution is so simple. Just move the editorial page and op-ed page to the center of section one, as a two sheaf, with 4 printed paged Pullout, so one member of a household can read the front page, and the contents of section one, while another member of the household can read the editorials and op–ed.  

The only possible improvement to this simple idea, would be to cut the center sheaf  into two separate pages,  so that one could pull out both the editorial page and op-ed page separately, so that three people could enjoy starting with section one at the same time.

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam, which came out this September, and blogs at The TaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com

Why Are Democrats Helping Trump Dismantle Dodd-Frank? – The New York Times

“This week, the Senate begins debate on the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, known as the Crapo bill for its primary sponsor, Mike Crapo, a Republican senator from Idaho. The bill would roll back or eliminate parts of the Dodd-Frank Act.

The Crapo bill is unusual in today’s hyperpartisan environment: It has over 10 Democratic co-sponsors, many from swing or red states and up for re-election this year — like Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Jon Tester of Montana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri — making its passage possible.

Why would some Democrats provide support for a rollback of Dodd-Frank? Proponents argue that this bill provides much needed relief for community banks and credit unions, which, these proponents claim, face enormous difficulties. They also say that it doesn’t endanger financial reforms aimed against the largest and most dangerous players.

But that view is mistaken: This bill goes far beyond the health of community banks and credit unions. It removes protections for 25 of the top 38 banks; weakens regulations on the biggest players and encourages them to manipulate regulations for their benefit; and saps consumer protections.”

The Teachers Revolt in West Virginia – by Michelle Goldberg – NYT

“Two years ago, The Washington Post ran a long piece about West Virginia called, “How the birthplace of the American labor movement just turned on its unions.” It described how, following the Republican takeover of the Legislature in 2014, the state passed a so-called right-to-work law prohibiting mandatory union dues. Such laws have badly undermined unions in other states, and for people who care about organized labor, it was a bitter irony to see one enacted in a place once famed for its militant labor movement. The state also repealed a law mandating that workers on public construction projects are paid prevailing industry rates.

Labor in West Virginia seemed beaten down.That’s one reason the statewide teachers’ strike in West Virginia, which on Monday entered its eighth day, is so thrilling. Strikes by teachers are unlawful in the state, and their unions lack collective bargaining rights. Nevertheless, in a revival of West Virginia’s long-dormant tradition of bold labor activism, teachers and some other school employees in all of the state’s 55 counties are refusing to return to work until lawmakers give them a 5 percent raise, and commit to addressing their rapidly rising health insurance premiums.”

David Lindsay Jr.

Hamden, CT 

This report flunks, like all the others I’ve heard on this subject. No one will say what the salaries of these teachers are, where they start, where they end. What is the average total package. Facts and numbers matter, and it grieves me that the best this lousy op-ed can do, is cite a massive paper.

In Reply to the top comment, I added:

David Lindsay Jr.

Hamden, CT 

Lack of numbers in the piece is very disappointing. Here is what I found. “Teacher Salaries in West Virginia by Education As teachers further their educations and gain experience in the field, they receive pay increases that reflect their dedication and hard work. Salaries vary between school districts, but the following are some examples of the salaries you can expect in West Virginia: Experience Bachelor’s Master’s At 3 years $30,871 $33,399

At 6 years $ 32,670 $35,199

At 9 years $34,226 $36,754

At 12 years $35,783 $38,311 Source: West Virginia Department of Education

DL: It’s too bad this piece didn’t include such numbers. They are lower than expected.

Next important question, what are the median salary levels state-wide for West Virginina. Facts matter.

The Supreme Court’s Power Play Against Labor – by Linda Greenhouse – NYT

“Here’s a possible solution to the most commented-upon mystery growing out of the Supreme Court’s argument this week in a case of crucial importance to the future of public employee unions: Why did the normally loquacious Justice Neil M. Gorsuch stay silent? Could the junior justice have caught something from Justice Clarence Thomas, who famously went a decade without asking a single question? Was Justice Gorsuch overcome by the knowledge that with his eight colleagues tied four to four — as revealed by the vote two terms ago in a nearly identical case that was argued but not yet decided by the time of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death — he holds the fate of organized labor in his hands?

No, nothing as tantalizing as that. I think the answer is probably a good deal more pedestrian. The lawyer representing the labor union, David C. Frederick, is Justice Gorsuch’s former law partner. When President Trump nominated Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court a year ago, Mr. Frederick published an opinion essay in The Washington Post under the headline: “There Is No Principled Reason to Vote Against Gorsuch.” Identifying himself as “a longtime supporter of Democratic candidates and progressive causes,” Mr. Frederick called Judge Gorsuch “a longtime friend” and described him as “brilliant, diligent, open-minded and thoughtful.” So why would Justice Gorsuch beat up on his old friend when Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Anthony M. Kennedy were doing an enthusiastic job of it?”

“The challengers, supported by the Trump administration, maintain that this longstanding distinction between chargeable and nonchargeable expenses is unsupportable because everything a public employee union does is inherently political. Thus, they argue, it violates the First Amendment for the objectors to have to support the union in any way, and therefore the precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, must be overruled.

In support of this argument, Justices Alito and Kennedy were obsessively focused on unions as political actors that could, in Justice Alito’s words, “push a city to the brink and perhaps over the brink into bankruptcy.” Their goal was to show that public employee unions are political to their very core.

“Do you think that this case affects the political influence of the unions?” Justice Kennedy asked Mr. Frederick. When the lawyer began his answer with a No, Justice Kennedy went on, with evident sarcasm:

“So you’ve — I can try to find a union newsletter which says don’t worry about the Supreme Court, our political influence will be exactly the same as it was before, if this case comes out against us?”

“That’s not a chargeable expense, Justice Kennedy,” Mr. Frederick began. “We’re talking about —” “

David Lindsay Jr.

Hamden, CT 

Unions and Collective Bargaining power. This is a difficult subject. In Hamden and the State of CT, we have a too much power in the public employee unions, or, for complex reasons, they negotiated for overly generous, and unsustainable pension and work benefits, that now endanger the economies of the state and local governments. Meanwhile, we have workers at places like Walmart, Subway, and home nursing aides, who are so poorly paid, that they remain in poverty after working full time. How will this extreme haircut affect these two problems? On the one hand, we have unionized public service labor that is overpowerful, and needs a haircut, and poorly paid service workers in the private sector, who desperately need more collective bargaining power, and better wages and benefits. The benefit of this right wing hair cut it that it might bring some support to Hamden and Connecticut against the unsustainable benefits agreed to in the last 40 years or so. Will this haircut throw out many babies with the bathwater? Or will it curb the the excesses of big labor, while allowing for a new growth in unionization in the private sector where collective bargaining is so desperately needed. The answer probably lies in the practices of counties like Germany, and the Scandinavian countries, where the social net is stronger, which allows for more risk taking. David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com

The C.E.O. Who Stood Up to President Trump: Ken Frazier Speaks Out – The New York Times

DL:  This is a good story. Mr. Ken Frazier’s grandfather was a slave, and his father was a janitor.

Oddly, I have a personal connection to a part small part of the story below. When my mother died, in 2005, of a stroke, we learned she had been taking Vioxx, and discussed suing Merck, but decided that there were too many other factors, to blame the company that supplied one of her medications.

“Mr. Frazier attended Pennsylvania State University. After earning a degree from Harvard Law School, he went to work Drinker Biddle & Reath, a law firm in Philadelphia. While there, he began representing Merck, and also took on pro bono work.

He spent several summers in South Africa teaching black law students. And he took on the case of James Willie “Bo” Cochran, a black inmate on death row who had been convicted of killing a white store manager.

After looking at the evidence, Mr. Frazier and his colleagues became convinced of Mr. Cochran’s innocence. They eventually secured him a new trial, and he was acquitted in 1997.

“It was by far the most important thing that I’ve ever done in my life, full stop, professionally,” Mr. Frazier said. “This is a man who was facing an execution date for a crime he did not commit.”  Mr. Frazier joined Merck 1992 and rose through the ranks, overseeing the company’s defense against lawsuits related to the anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx, and, as chief executive since 2011, prioritizing the development of drugs to treat cancer.”

What Every Indie Author Needs to Know About E-Books -Publishersweekly.com

“Manuscript to E-Book

While the manuscript is getting a final proof, an author can begin taking steps to actually turn it into an e-book. The text must be formatted so it wraps and resizes as readers zoom in or out or toggle between devices, the table of contents needs to be made clickable, and in a format that works for every retailer. Authors can do this themselves with a few hours of technical self-education, or pay for a service to take care of it.

For those going the DIY route, the manuscript will need to be converted into two documents (assuming you are looking to publish across all major e-book platforms): A MOBI file for Amazon Kindle; and an EPUB file for other e-book retailers, including Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, Sony, and Apple iBooks.Authors can utilize Smashwords Direct to upload their EPUB or Word document onto the Smashwords platform, following the company’s particular style guide. While just doing this could allow authors to distribute their book to every major retailer beyond Amazon, the Smashwords “meatgrinder” automated conversion technology gives authors limited choice in how their final layout looks.

“I want my e-books to look the way I want them to look,” says LJ Cohen, author of several self-published novels as well as detailed guides on e-book formatting. “So I send the Word document to the meatgrinder, and once it gets approved in the catalog, then I upload my hand-coded EPUB file on top of that.”

To do this for EPUB and MOBI, first use a word processor program that allows for cleaning up formatting and creating custom fonts, paragraphs, and headings. A number of software programs are available for converting documents into EPUB and MOBI files. These include free tools PressBooks, Leanpub, and Jutoh (which has a for-purchase version offering more functions) for both EPUB and MOBI, or Sigil for EPUB files. The programs Scrivener and Apple Pages can export EPUB files but cost money.But perhaps the most popular conversion program in the industry remains Calibre, which converts documents to both MOBI and EPUB. It is free, versatile, and works for both Mac and PC as more than a simple e-book converter.”

Source: What Every Indie Author Needs to Know About E-Books