Deferred Prosecution Agreements and AIG

Remember the flap in the last few years about deferred prosecution agreements? The flap started when it was reported that John Ashcroft’s firm had gotten a $52 million deal from his former colleague, NJ US Attorney Chris Christie, to monitor an out-of-court settlement with medical device company Zimmer Holdings. Bush’s DOJ loved the deferred prosecution agreements because they provided a way to "crack down" on corporate crime without dismantling the company. But there were problems with the agreements. Cronies were secretly getting the deals to serve as monitors. And–as Eric Lichtblau reported last year–people wondered whether the agreements served as "get out of jail free" cards for big corporations to elude punishment for accounting fraud.

Deferred prosecutions have become a favorite tool of the Bush administration. But some legal experts now wonder if the policy shift has led companies, in particular financial institutions now under investigation for their roles in the subprime mortgage debacle, to test the limits of corporate anti-fraud laws.

Firms have readily agreed to the deferred prosecutions, said Vikramaditya S. Khanna, a law professor at the University of Michigan who has studied their use, because “clearly it avoids a bigger headache for them.”

Some lawyers suggest that companies may be willing to take more risks because they know that, if they are caught, the chances of getting a deferred prosecution are good. “Some companies may bear the risk” of legally questionable business practices if they believe they can cut a deal to defer their prosecution indefinitely, Mr. Khanna said.

Legal experts say the tactic may have sent the wrong signal to corporations — the promise, in effect, of a get-out-of-jail-free card. The growing use of deferred prosecutions also suggests one road map the Justice Department might follow in the subprime mortgage investigations.

Well, as the WSJ reminds us today, AIG entered two deferred prosecution agreements in the last several years and there was a monitor actively involved as AIG engaged in the practices that brought down our financial system.

AIG has paid lawyer James Cole and his firm, Bryan Cave LLP, about $20 million to oversee business practices at the insurer, according to people familiar with the matter. His reports on the company’s progress, periodically delivered to federal regulators since 2005, aren’t public.

Mr. Cole was installed inside AIG as a monitor, or independent consultant, as part of a $126 million settlement struck in November 2004 between AIG and the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission.

That pact, called a deferred-prosecution agreement, arose from allegations that the insurer sold products that helped companies manipulate their financial earnings. As part of the settlement, the Justice Department agreed not to pursue criminal charges against the company in exchange for implementing reforms and the review of certain financial transactions by Mr. Cole.

[snip]

His original assignment, which began in January 2005, was to investigate financial transactions dating back to 2000 in which AIG helped companies smooth earnings. Some of those transactions were structured by the insurer’s financial-products group, the unit that would later write billions of dollars in credit-default-swap contracts that turned sour.

His responsibilities broadened in November 2006, after a separate settlement with the SEC and New York state authorities. In that case, AIG paid $1.6 billion to resolve an inquiry into accounting irregularities and bid-rigging allegations. That agreement called for Mr. Cole to examine AIG’s controls on financial reporting as well as oversight over corporate governance in areas such as compliance.

Here are the documents describing the settlements: 2004, 2006.

Now, WSJ raises AIG’s deferred prosecution agreements to suggest that Cole, AIG’s monitor, might be a good source of information on what went wrong at AIG. Cole has been submitting reports on AIG’s financial practices since 2005 (and his contract extends through November of this year) and those reports, while confidential, might tell us what went on at AIG. 

But shouldn’t we be asking how it is that AIGFP managed to sideline its auditor and set up its rickety financial deals under the nose of a monitor? Shouldn’t we be asking how it is that the reforms that Cole was purportedly overseeing failed so miserably? And shouldn’t we be asking Cole whether the rot at AIG is restricted to AIGFP, or whether it still extends into AIG’s insurance business?

Update: Here’s what DOJ said last year when pitching how great DPAs were to John Conyers:

The agreements promote the public interest in ferreting out crime by encouraging corporate cooperation in obtaining the evidence necessary to prosecute individuals and other.corporations who have engaged in misconduct. Perhaps most importantly, by requiring solid ethics and compliance programs, the agreements encourage corporations to root out illegal and unethical conduct, prevent recidivism, and ensure that they are committed to business practices that meet or exceed applicable legal and regulatory mandates. Thus, these agreements can help restore the integrity and preserve the financial viability of a corporation that had descended into corruption and criminal conduct.

Guess that "preserve the financial viability" bit didn’t work out so well for AIG, huh?

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95 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    Gosh, Marcy — we better set up a special eight-figure retention bonus to keep Cole on the job as AIG’s monitor. If we lose him when his contract expires, there’s no telling HOW long it will take to unwind the mess.

    /snark

  2. looseheadprop says:

    From his firm bio at Bryan Cave

    Appointed as the Independent Consultant for American International Group, Inc., to exam its transactions and oversee the revision of its corporate compliance and financial disclosure policies

    Appointed Special Counsel to the House Ethics Committee for its investigation of Speaker Newt Gingrich

    Counseled Arthur Andersen in its efforts to revamp its document management and compliance procedures after the Enron related events were uncovered

    Represented the Chief Risk Officer of Enron

    This guy has had the confidence of crinimally risky MOTU for years

    http://www.bryancave.com/jmcole/

    • phred says:

      LHP, I was just about to comment on the fact that oversight clearly isn’t the problem (despite Timmy’s testimony yesterday), rather it is the absence of enforcement of the laws we’ve already got (both state and federal). Now from your comment it is even more clear that lack of enforcement wasn’t a mistake, it was policy.

      With a guy like Cole doing the “monitoring”, I highly doubt those classified reports would reveal anything useful. More likely, he was helping AIG game the system.

      • looseheadprop says:

        I don’t think Cole is a co-conspirator. But I do think he may have been in a too deferrential miindset

        • phred says:

          Perhaps, but as PJ points at @13, he was on the AIG payroll. I know (as you subsequently point out @31) that that payment is supposed to be a penalty for the company, but when a person is paid by someone they can develop a sense of obligation, even if that is not the original intent of the payment system. Even if Cole didn’t actively help in any untoward activities in AIGFP, it’s not clear to me that he did enough to stop them either.

          • looseheadprop says:

            phred,

            That critism has been a topic of SOOOOO much discussion within the IPSIG community. Most of the IPSIG work I do, I’m paid by the government entity (which is more like being a special prosecutor) or I’m paid by an organization that wants to be investigated and get out ahead of it’s problem before the feds or the state comptroller comes knocking, so they can catch the culperate and demonstrate that it was one or a few bad actors, not a systemic problem and therfore avoid a PR nightmare.

            So, most of my IPSIG assignements, I have had cooperation from the entity paying my bill.

            The classic IPSIG/host relationship though IS fraught with conflict of interest issues

            • phred says:

              Ok, I’m caught up now ; ) So who decides when the government entity will pay the monitor versus when the company is forced to (leaving out the possibility you mentioned of a good company trying to root out its bad apples)? Perhaps the solution is to fine the company in question, put that money into a fund controlled by the government, then the government disburses that fund to all monitors. That way the monitors are obligated to the government (who pays them), it erases the original source of the funds by putting them into a big pool, and yet the companies get stuck with the cost as their penalty.

              • looseheadprop says:

                Ok, I’m caught up now ; ) So who decides when the government entity will pay the monitor versus when the company is forced to (leaving out the possibility you mentioned of a good company trying to root out its bad apples)? Perhaps the solution is to fine the company in question, put that money into a fund controlled by the government, then the government disburses that fund to all monitors. That way the monitors are obligated to the government (who pays them), it erases the original source of the funds by putting them into a big pool, and yet the companies get stuck with the cost as their penalty.

                Phred! we are soulmates!

                I have said that a million times, I have written that a million times, I have lobbied for that a million times.

                Shorter LHP = great idea!

                • phred says:

                  Oh boy! I’m LHP’s soulmate : ) I can die happy now (clinging tightly to my hard won hubcap ; )

                  FWIW, I hope you keep after “our” great idea ; ) This system is obviously broken and has to be fixed. I can’t think of a better person out there trying to get it fixed — good luck LHP!

                    • phred says:

                      Not from what you were saying about your bracket ; ) Or was that randiego??? I forget. I hear it’s been a rough year on brackets — I picked a good year to sit out (especially with the Badgers out in the 1st round — sheesh! I would have been toast ; )

            • scribe says:

              Y’know, LHP, a few weeks back there was a special on public TV about building Grand Central Station in NYC and the crimes and scandals which led up to it (the train wrecks and the dust and dirt and fires and all).

              They thought nothing of taking a corporation – the New York Central, one owned and operated by one of the most wealthy families in the country, and vital to the operation of the country’s most important city – and indicting it for the deaths of passengers in its care.

              No wussying around with “the impacts on the economy”, “don’t want to hurt the innocent co-workers”, “what about the shareholders”….

              None of that crap.

              Indict them and fight it out.

  3. looseheadprop says:

    However, before you trash the guy, IPSIGs (independant private sector inspecors general) do not have free reign to investiagte whatever they want.

    It depends on the terms of the monitorship agreement, if the agreement was drawn too norrowly–I think many of them are–the monitor/IPSIG has no right to stick his nose in other matters.

    WHite collar defnse counsel are VERY adept at gaming the DPA’s to hamstring the monitor

    • Peterr says:

      Marcy quotes the WSJ’s picture of his monitoring agreement above:

      His original assignment, which began in January 2005, was to investigate financial transactions dating back to 2000 in which AIG helped companies smooth earnings. Some of those transactions were structured by the insurer’s financial-products group, the unit that would later write billions of dollars in credit-default-swap contracts that turned sour.

      His responsibilities broadened in November 2006, after a separate settlement with the SEC and New York state authorities. In that case, AIG paid $1.6 billion to resolve an inquiry into accounting irregularities and bid-rigging allegations. That agreement called for Mr. Cole to examine AIG’s controls on financial reporting as well as oversight over corporate governance in areas such as compliance.

      He was working with AIGFP from day one, and it got broader from there. Looks to me as if there’s plenty of reason to think he was right where the mess was centered.

      I’m afraid we’re looking at one of two options: idiot or crook.

      • looseheadprop says:

        Peterr, I saw that. It’s not specific enough for me to understand WHAT particular transactions we are talking about.
        It’s clear it’s not every transaction in that time period.

        I do IPSIG work.And belong to an association that tries to maintain standards in theis feild.

        One of the biggest frustrations we complain about is when the DPA or the engagemetn letter are drawn too narrowly.

        • Peterr says:

          LHP, you’re not shanghaied into this work, are you?

          Correct me on the process, please, but I envision that the court and the two parties come to you and say “Here’s the dispute, and here’s the monitoring solution we propose. We’d like you to take the job of monitoring compliance with the solution.” You look at the proposal, and decide whether to take the job.

          If the DPA is too tight, it strikes me that the IPSIG would decline the job. If the IPSIG has already taken it before discovering the problem, is there a mechanism whereby you can go back to the court and say “Now that I’ve been poking around, I can see that I need a broader mandate. If I am bound by this narrow scope, I can’t do the job.”?

          • bmaz says:

            Peter – You are assuming this is a fair and righteous process with independent parties and a judiciary that is informed and powerful. That is not the case, Deferred prosecution agreements are between the accused and the government primarily, the court is not a full partner as it would be if there was a judgment through the court. With the Bush crew in office and the DOJ, it was all about cronyism. The DOJ was there to cut a favorable deal with their big business friends and appoint other crony friends to be the “independent monitors” so they could have huge paydays and do exactly what the crooks wanted. There was never an honest broker to be found among the lot of them; the scheme worked exactly as intended.

            • Peterr says:

              Thanks — that’s the piece I was missing. In my head, I thought this was similar to a plea agreement (without the pleading guilty part), where the parties brought a solution to the judge and the judge makes it binding.

              What, then, makes a deferred prosecution binding? Is it merely the threat that if the monitor sees something he/she doesn’t like or is prevented from doing the agreed-upon job, everyone goes back to court?

              And the only way to modify the scope of the assignment is to get DOJ and the defendant to agree to new terms? Yikes!

            • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

              With the Bush crew in office and the DOJ, it was all about cronyism. The DOJ was there to cut a favorable deal with their big business friends and appoint other crony friends to be the “independent monitors” so they could have huge paydays and do exactly what the crooks wanted.

              With all due respect, bmaz, given all the secrecy that we’ve seen, I suspect the primary motive was to keep ugly things out of court, legal, public documents.

              Secrecy by a less noticed route.

          • looseheadprop says:

            “Here’s the dispute, and here’s the monitoring solution we propose. We’d like you to take the job of monitoring compliance with the solution.” You look at the proposal, and decide whether to take the job.

            If the DPA is too tight, it strikes me that the IPSIG would decline the job. If the IPSIG has already taken it before discovering the problem, is there a mechanism whereby you can go back to the court and say “Now that I’ve been poking around, I can see that I need a broader mandate. If I am bound by this narrow scope, I can’t do the job.”?

            You get selected, usually be some form of RFP or RFQ process.
            (at least in the pre-Alberto days when there was just crony appointment)

            AFTER you are selected, the fianl documents are drawn up. Usually between the prosecutor and the defense counsel. SOmetimes with input from the judge.

            At this point, you know only what you have read inthe newspapers, so when you question the parameters of the assignment, the defense counsel accuses you of trying to expand the assignment just so you can charge more money.

            So, unless you happen to say something that really resonates with the prosecution or the judge, they know more about the case than you do –a lot more–at that point, so they just think you are being over cautious.And, of course, you have no detailed facts with which to back up your arguement.

            You can make a motion later down the road after you have gotten into the investigation and fianlly have some actual facts with which to back up you contention.

            The defense will litigate this motion to the death and appeal and do anything to stall.

            If you lose the motion, you may well feel that you must resign the monitorship. WAlter Mack famously resigned a monitorship of the Teamsters union because they were obstructing his investigation.

            The guy who replaced him was ,,,,, less agrresive? less obstinate in insisting on access to all releveant info? less….? what term do I want?

            So, if you think you are still doing some good (half a loaf better than no loaf argument) you may stay. If you think it has devolved into a farce–and many do, you quit.

            There are ZERO easy answers in the whole monitorship arena. Every answer is case specific. The IPSIG association, is more like a support group than a bar association, cause this work can drive you crazy

            • phred says:

              Wow. Obviously, I’m catching up, working my way through the thread piece by piece. Your description of the monitorship system sounds horrendous. As if it is pretty much doomed to failure from the beginning. Perhaps then I should lighten up on Cole, but I think a strong argument can be made to do away with the system entirely.

              • looseheadprop says:

                It COULD be a good system. It has been weakened considerbly over the last 8 years.

                But it always had sytemic conflict of interst tensions.

                You are right about that

            • Peterr says:

              Taking the job almost blind strikes me as the heart of the problem. You can’t ask the prosecution “Let me see your evidence” and the defense “Let me poke around your books for a couple of days” before taking the assignment? How can you even make an informed judgment on how long the job will take, the terms of payment for the job, whether the paramaters are appropriate, etc.?

              Talk about taking things on faith . . .

              • looseheadprop says:

                Taking the job almost blind strikes me as the heart of the problem. You can’t ask the prosecution “Let me see your evidence” and the defense “Let me poke around your books for a couple of days” before taking the assignment? How can you even make an informed judgment on how long the job will take, the terms of payment for the job, whether the paramaters are appropriate, etc.?

                Talk about taking things on faith . . .

                The second biggest gripe I hear form my colleagues?

                How do you figure out how to buget the assignment to give an RFP proposal.

                Me, I always buget worst case scenario, which is why I am always shocked when we make it onto the short list.

                Did I mention that there is HUGE competition for htese things? Usually severl rounds of eleiminations.

                • Peterr says:

                  LHP, I mean this in the nicest way . . . Are you and your IPSIG colleagues nuts?

                  Suppose you were seeking a doctor for treatment of a medical condition, and told the doctor “here are a few of my general symptoms.” Then, before you let the doctor to examine you directly or see your full medical history or run some tests, you demand that the doctor to tell you what kind of treatment you need, how much the treatment would cost, and how much of an inconvenience it would be on your lifestyle. If the doctor gave you a definitive answer (as opposed to “it depends what I see once I examine you and check your history and run some tests”), you’d probably have grounds for malpractice!

                  I hate to say it, but the more you describe it, the more it appears to be a system designed to cover asses, not seek justice and remedy past problems.

                  • looseheadprop says:

                    Peter, read my 65 above.

                    Monitrships have been around forever. Think of the Teamsters RICO conviction which led the appointment of a series of monitors and after a long time (I think, at least it seems this way from the outside) the lections were eventually cleaned up.

                    It’s not a single battle that you win, it’s a war. In fact it’s a war against mildew in the grout. Skip cleaning the bathroom for a couple of weeks and it comes back.

                    The nature of criminal and regulatory investigatiion has ALWAYS been, that you have to justify why you are investigating something.

                    Even when I was a prosecutor, I had to write investigative plans from a state of having no freaking clue what I was going t find.

                    Yet I had to go make a pitch for resources in the form of agents, equipment, office space, etc for my investiagtion BEFORE the investigation even began.

                    I have been living this crazy system most of my professional life.

                    It’s never easy,but it’s usually intersting

                    • Peterr says:

                      I hear what you’re saying, but if those investigative plans are written without giving the investigator the power to go where the evidence leads, and written giving not your supervising prosecutor but the one you are investigating the power to say “no, you’re not going to look at that,” your investigation isn’t worth a dime.

                      The teamsters example you use is post-conviction — a very different kettle of fish from what we’re talking about here. (See bmaz at 32) These monitors are designed to keep both sides out of a trial setting. The defense here has not been convicted of anything and is not admitting guilt, but instead is saying “come on in and take a look around, watch us for a while to make sure we’re on the straight and narrow, and let’s just set this whole trial thing aside.”

                      That can work if the monitor has a free hand, but if the defendant isn’t willing to truly let the monitor watch, then what’s gained by the government in deferring the prosecution? (Other than freeing up resources to go after other cases, that is.)

                      Post-conviction monitors to enforce the judgments of the court are one thing, but this is quite different. This is CYA for the company and being able to set a case aside as “dealt with” by the DOJ, leaving the ethical IPSIG to commiserate with his or her colleagues over the problems in the system and the unethical IPSIG to smile and simply line his/her pockets.

                    • looseheadprop says:

                      This is CYA for the company and being able to set a case aside as “dealt with” by the DOJ, leaving the ethical IPSIG to commiserate with his or her colleagues over the problems in the system and the unethical IPSIG to smile and simply line his/her pockets.

                      Yes

                  • looseheadprop says:

                    Oh and the Dr. analogy doesn’t really fit. In the case of the doctor, the patient comes to the dcotor for help and want s to be cured and therefore has an incentive to tell the doctr the truth an cooperate in his treatment.

                    Though if you are a “house” fan you know that all patients lie. Also if you are an American you know few patitents coopearte intheat whole diet and exercise thingy. But I digress.

                    In the IPSIG Dr’s case, the patient runs and hides from you. Complaine to Dr, Cutty that he is not sick and you are trying to gut him open to enrich yourself. Lies to you about everything and hides symptoms from you.

                    • Peterr says:

                      The analogy DOES fit, and you’ve just put your finger on why.

                      The patient, like the company, is trying to keep control, but if the system is to work, the control has to be in the hands of the doctor/IPSIG monitor. If the patient/company can dictate terms to the doctor/monitor, then they’re NOT truly trying to be cured, but have some other agenda or goal in mind. And if the doctor/monitor goes along with the patient/company’s idea of how this relationship is supposed to work, the whole setup goes straight to hell.

                      Some companies may come to an ISPIG for help, as you described above, but this AIG situation is not one of those cases. AIGFP didn’t want a monitor — they wanted the threat of prosecution to go away. Happily for them, it appears that the Bush DOJ gave them either an ineffective monitor or crafted the monitor’s authority so poorly that he was crippled. Either way, AIGFP got what they wanted: no trial, no judgment, and for the price of a monitor they got to keep going on with their merry games of accounting fraud and corporate gambling.

    • phred says:

      Too late, I already trashed the guy ; ) I’m not in a generous “benefit of the doubt” frame of mind these days. We would have been much better served by timely prosecutions instead of this deferred nonsense.

    • emptywheel says:

      I think that’s probably the case here–he said he didn’t have access to a lot of what AIGFP was doing, even though they had been monitored for a year before the second DFP. He was at corporate audit meetings, but not AIGFP ones, I think.

      • Peterr says:

        The link to the WSJ article in the post only brings up the first couple paragraphs for non-subscribers. A Google search using the article’s title, however, gets a link to the whole piece.

        Immediately following the quote Marcy gives above, comes this:

        Mr. Cole attended AIG board-committee meetings, including at least two audit-committee meetings during February 2008 in which the board discussed a finding by its auditors that there was “material weakness” in AIG’s accounting systems, according to board minutes.

        Various people have wondered at AIGFP’s relationships to other branches of the firm, given how they borrowed stocks from “healthy” parts of AIG and used those as collateral to get cash from counterparties so as to be able to speculate in the risky ventures. AIG built its own internal house of cards, then borrowed more money from outsiders to make the house bigger. The audit finding sounds like someone noticed what was going on — and Cole was in the room for that discussion.

      • scribe says:

        Not for nothing – remember that guy (Joseph St. Denis) who worked for Cassano, or at least around Cassano, who was warning in 2007 that the CDSs/CDOs were going belly up and then quit when they changed the organizational chart to keep him away from main corporate and its accountants and under Cassano’s thumb?

        And laid it all out in some detail in a letter to House investigators last October?

        How much you want to bet that AIG and AIGFP changed the organizational chart to keep the monitor away, and sent him [insert name of vice here] when they couldn’t otherwise keep him away?

        The cover for all this – keeping it under a nice warm blanket where it could grow and metastatize into the monster it has become – was the limitation on investor lawsuits that went in through the 1995 Securities Litigation reform act. You remember it – the one that was supposed to cut down on “frivolous litigation” so that “Business could do business without worrying about lawyers looking over their every move”?

        You gotta remember that the term “Frivolous litigation” is defined as “anything where the speaker of the term is a defendant”.

        And, it would seem, that the monitors Ashcroft/Gonzo allowed to be appointed were there specifically so “business could do business without worrying about lawyers looking over their every move”.

        • PJEvans says:

          TPM is saying that the entire risk management team seems to have been kept away from Cassano’s group, apparently at Cassano’s order request.

          The mess gets bigger and the stink gets worse: they’re wondering what [else?] was going on that Cassano didn’t want anyone knowing about.

          • scribe says:

            I understand that; my point is, if they did that to their own internal risk management people, what’s to say they didn’t monkey with the organizational chart (or other things) so as to make sure the monitor was equally hobbled?

            And, for that matter, what’s to say that the monitor merely reviewed whatever product it was that risk management was putting out rather than digging on its own, such that by walling risk management out of what was really going on, they were also walling out the monitor, though indirectly?

          • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

            I’ve only read as far as 24, and so far no one is saying, “Money laundering; offshore banking.”

            Also, be interesting to know whether there’s a tie in with BAE.

            And my memory is fuzzy, but wasn’t a ‘Greenberg’ of AIG also linked to the law firm Greenberg Traurig, where Abramoff worked while in Denver getting his mitts on natural resources and Indian resources…? I don’t want to make false linkages, but I have some hazy recollection that there are connections.

            Cassano was a protegee of Hank Greenberg, CEO of AIG.

      • looseheadprop says:

        It’s more than that.
        One of the BIG dangers when you are an IPSIG is that the whaite collar defense lawyers and the corporate regulatory lawyers will use the fact that you are there as a beard (behind your back)
        telling regulators or consumer groups or investor groups

        “look, if there was a problem with [the thing that is outside the scope of your assignment] wouldn’t our all knowing all seeing IPSIG have found it by now?”

        That’s another gripe I hear at meetings alot.

  4. plunger says:

    Virtually EVERYONE who serves the interests of the globalist oil/banking cartel while in office is richly rewarded when they leave, whether through speaking fees, book deals, corporate appointments or other excuses to make payola look like it is legitimate.

    The conspiracy is too massive to believe, so no one can see it – though it is undeniably there.

    The ENTIRE FUCKING SYSTEM IS A CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE.

    All of the people that we call elected officials are crooks. One need only observe how they are enriched over the span of time to comprehend how the system works.

    Remember McCain/Feingold and the effort to remove money from politics? How much money has McCain pocketed since its failure?

    Remember when Senator Dorgan fought against the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 – Senator Dorgan nailed it:



    But Then (from Wiki):

    In November 2005, Dorgan was accused of receiving campaign contributions from people who worked for companies connected to Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Because Dorgan is the top Democrat on the committee investigating Abramoff, questions were raised about a possible conflict of interest.

    In a statement released on November 28, 2005,[6] Dorgan responded by asserting that he has never personally met Jack Abramoff, nor has he ever received money from Abramoff. Dorgan did acknowledge receiving money from Abramoff’s clients, but the donations began prior to their involvement with Abramoff. Dorgan’s statement went on to say that he has supported the programs that benefited Abramoff’s clients years prior to the contribution.

    Dorgan’s statement pointed out other errors in the news reports, such as correcting who made a call to the Department of the Interior and for what purpose. The news reports claimed that one of Dorgan’s staff members made the call in order to express support for the program that benefited Abramoff’s clients, whereas in reality it was a staff member for the Chairman of the Interior Subcommittee who made the call, and the call was made in opposition to the program.

    On December 13, 2005 Dorgan announced that he was returning all donations from Abramoff’s clients as a precaution that the contributions may have been directed or requested by Abramoff.

  5. plunger says:

    Biden was taken in by the banking lobbyists at the height of the housing bubble to vote in favor of changing the bankruptcy code, to the sole benefit of the lenders and the extreme detriment of the American People.

    His reward – the White House.

    The banksters knew they had blown up yet another bubble for the purpose of popping it – and so did all of the elected officials (who now claim,yet again that “no one could have foreseen”). They are all just lying/thieving banking representatives in the disguise of politicians. Their efforts to keep Americans split down the middle are disingenuous and purposeful. The purpose has been the destruction of the Constitution and the implementation of a New World Order.

    Mission Accomplished
    .

  6. PJEvans says:

    AIG has paid lawyer James Cole and his firm, Bryan Cave LLP, about $20 million to oversee business practices at the insurer

    I’d think that being paid by the company he’s supposed to be watching might constitute a conflict of some kind. It certainly raises questions in my mind, about how good a job he actually did, and whether AIG pressured him to not see stuff.

    • looseheadprop says:

      No, it is a feature of the IPSIG system that was meant to make the “host” entity bear the cost of being monitored.

      The same way Bernie Madoff (or his wife) had to pay the cost of his ankle bracelet monitoringand the private security guards when he was under house arrest.

      It’s meant to be kind of a penalty

      • PJEvans says:

        I kind of figured that, but I think that there should have been insulation between him and the guys paying for him, so he might not have been pressured, if he was, inot saying things were fine when they weren’t. Or pressured into ignoring the rat-tracks across his desk.

  7. bmaz says:

    Yeah, this all worked out so well that even the Bush Administration couldn’t keep all the prosecutions “deferred”; because the AIG Reinsurance arm (and remember AIG was playing hoky poky by reinsuring themselves across their many lines of business) was the subject of notable convictions:

    Five former insurance executives were found guilty Monday of fraud and conspiracy in a scheme to manipulate the financial statements of the insurance company American International Group.

    The defendants — one from A.I.G. and four from the General Re Corporation — were convicted in Federal District Court in Hartford after a five-week trial.

    The defendants were convicted on all 16 charges, including conspiracy, securities fraud, mail fraud and lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sentencing is scheduled for May 15

    The transaction, undertaken with General Re, allowed A.I.G. to claim that it had increased its loss reserves — a crucial indicator of performance — by $500 million in 2000 and 2001, when Mr. Greenberg ran the company. The move helped A.I.G. persuade analysts that it was in better shape to pay claims, and helped increase its share price.

    A.I.G. has acknowledged that its accounting for the transaction was improper, and in 2006 it agreed to pay $1.6 billion to settle claims by federal and state regulators over improper accounting and bid rigging, among other charges.

    • looseheadprop says:

      Actually, that is EXACTLY how corporate deferred prosecution agreements are SUPPOSED to work.

      The corporation is not dissolved and the innocent employees are not thrown out of work. The individuals who actually committed the crimes int he corporations name, are supposed to go to jail.

      The corp then agrees to a series of reforms to prevent new crimes by other individuals and a monitor is appointed (at the corp’s expense) to investigated to see if hte reforms are being put in place, and if the reforms actually work in practice (by means to “testing” )

      • bmaz says:

        The corp then agrees to a series of reforms to prevent new crimes by other individuals and a monitor is appointed (at the corp’s expense) to investigated to see if hte reforms are being put in place, and if the reforms actually work in practice (by means to “testing” )

        Yeah, well, unless I am missing something, this didn’t work out for squat here. That IS my point.

        • looseheadprop says:

          I thik Marcy has it right.

          I suspect that what happened is that AIG (not unlike CHeny and Addington) kept both the Monitor and their internal risk management people confine to “lanes” and did not give them access to allt he info they needed to make informed decisions.

          You can smell a rat, you may see the rat poop and the nibbled piece of cheese, but because the rat is inside the wall, you never manage to see the actual rat.

          Invesigations do not always succeeed.

          People lie to, people shred stuff, people create two sets of books, –hard to believe I know, but some people to confess all the first time you talk to hem.

          Merely being under investigation does always = getting caught

          • bmaz says:

            Heh, you think I don’t know that? I spent the better part of my career keeping the rats clean, comfy and unconvicted. Still do on occasion.

            But here, it appears to me, that both the monitor and the DOJ didn’t give a rat’s ass, so to speak, about the stench of rat, obvious rat poop, rat teeth marks in what was left of the cheese of the sounds of the laughing rats in the thin walls. To me, that is just as criminal as AIG (of course for the right fee I will defend any of them).

      • phred says:

        From your description there appears to be an enormous assumption in how these deferred prosecutions are supposed to work and that is that the corporate execs want to abide by the law. It assumes that illegal conduct is not systemic in the executive suites of the company. So now you have AIG, where I suspect fraud wasn’t just tolerated, it was encouraged. How can you then have a functional deferred prosecution? I don’t see how it is possible. Also, even if Cole’s activities were circumscribed, if things didn’t look right, couldn’t he have gone to the SEC (or other appropriate agency) to come in an audit the company and make sure things were as they should be? If Cole felt he was being manipulated or that the culture didn’t feel right, wouldn’t there have been some way for him to light a fire under somebody to take a closer look?

        • looseheadprop says:

          From your description there appears to be an enormous assumption in how these deferred prosecutions are supposed to work and that is that the corporate execs want to abide by the law.,/blockquote> a deferred prosecution is NOT supposed to be considered by the prosecutor UNLESS they have made a determination that the comapny can be put back on an honset path and that they have caught or will soon have caught all the bad guys adn cleaned up the company.

          It assumes that illegal conduct is not systemic in the executive suites of the company. So now you have AIG, where I suspect fraud wasn’t just tolerated, it was encouraged. How can you then have a functional deferred prosecution?

          You can’t . The biggest fault lies with the prosecutors who allowed the DPA to be used. DPAs were both groosly overused in inappropriate cases AND had the guidleines for their use severly weakened (twice) really pulling the teeth out of the standards inthe Thompson memo.

          basically under shrub, the DPA’s were made so that a weak or craven prosecuor could do something pretty toothless. Basically, Bush’s DOJ kept the name, but junked most of the effective features.

          I don’t see how it is possible. Also, even if Cole’s activities were circumscribed, if things didn’t look right, couldn’t he have gone to the SEC (or other appropriate agency) to come in an audit the company and make sure things were as they should be?

          Don’t know, without knwing the speciifcs of what was in his particualr engagement letter AND what he might have found that was suspicious. Believe it or not, there are (limited) attorney client privledge issues. The ifo and IPSIG learns about a host, is NOT his do with as he sees fit

          If Cole felt he was being manipulated or that the culture didn’t feel right, wouldn’t there have been some way for him to light a fire under somebody to take a closer look?

          Yeah, you pull a Walter Mack and QUIT. It’s a form of what’s known as “noisey withdrawal” under the Sarbanes Oxley Act.

          You may not be able to say exactly WHY you quit. But you can say that you quit for ethica reason, and you can say that on the front page of the NYTimes.

          Then the company will sue you personally for lible, but you will go to heaven when you die.

    • bobschacht says:

      A.I.G. has acknowledged that its accounting for the transaction was improper, and in 2006 it agreed to pay $1.6 billion to settle claims by federal and state regulators over improper accounting and bid rigging, among other charges.

      So, this will now be paid from TARP funds, right?

      The shitpile grows bigger day by day, and the taxpayers– or their children– are getting screwed again.

      Bob in HI

  8. plunger says:

    That John Ashcroft stopped flying commercial aircraft in July 2001 on account of security considerations had nothing to do with warnings regarding September 11, because he said so to the 9/11 Commission.

    That former lead counsel for the House David Schippers says he’d taken to John Ashcroft’s office specific warnings he’d learned from FBI agents in New York of an impending attack – even naming the proposed dates, names of the hijackers and the targets – and that the investigations had been stymied and the agents threatened, proves nothing but David Schipper’s pathetic need for attention.

  9. BillE says:

    OT – but related Holder has chosen to side with Bush about the Office of Comptroller of Currency’s opinion that the states have no business in regulation of federally chartered banks/mortgage lenders.

    Like WTF is with that. The federal govt chose to not do anything to regulate so now no one can?

  10. Peterr says:

    Here’s the SEC’s press release about the deferred prosecution agreement from November 2004, in which they say

    The Securities and Exchange Commission (”Commission”) today filed a civil action against American International Group, Inc. (”Defendant AIG”) for violating antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws and for aiding and abetting violations of reporting and record-keeping provisions of those laws. The Commission’s action arises out of the conduct of Defendant AIG, primarily through its wholly owned subsidiary AIG Financial Products Corp. (”AIG-FP”), (collectively referred to as “AIG”) in developing, marketing, and entering into transactions that purported to enable a public company to remove certain assets from its balance sheet. . . .

    In its Complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, the Commission alleged that from at least March 2001 through January 2002, Defendant AIG, primarily through AIG-FP, developed a product called a Contributed Guaranteed Alternative Investment Trust Security (”C-GAITS”), marketed that product to several public companies, and ultimately entered into three C-GAITS transactions with one such company, The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (”PNC”). For a fee, AIG offered to establish a special purpose entity (”SPE”) to which the counter-party would transfer troubled or other potentially volatile assets. AIG represented that, under generally accepted accounting principles (”GAAP”), the SPE would not be consolidated on the counter-party’s financial statements. The counter-party thus would be able to avoid charges to its income statement resulting from declines in the value of the assets transferred to the SPE. The transaction that AIG developed and marketed, however, did not satisfy the requirements of GAAP for nonconsolidation of SPEs.

    The Commission alleged that while AIG was marketing the product, independent auditors for some potential counter-parties raised issues about whether certain features of the C-GAITS product could cause the product not to satisfy the GAAP requirements for nonconsolidation of SPEs. AIG did not inform the other potential counter-parties of these issues, except in one instance in which a potential counter-party used the same independent auditor as the potential counter-party that had communicated the issue to AIG. The Commission further alleged that AIG entered into three C-GAITS transactions with PNC to enable PNC to remove a total of $762 million in loan and venture-capital assets from its balance sheet. AIG was reckless in not knowing that these transactions did not satisfy the GAAP requirements for nonconsolidation of the assets by PNC.

    Emphasis added.

    The closer I get to this, the worse it smells. They were using accounting tricks and counterparties to evade accounting rules and independent oversight, and apparently continued doing so right up until the house of cards collapsed on them. Cole was brought in to examine what AIG-FP had been doing, going back to 2001, and to watch over (or set up a committee to watch over) transactions going forward.

    AIG-FP was at the center of his assignment, and Cole didn’t see anything? Something stinks here.

    Full complaint filed in District Court is here [pdf].

    • bobschacht says:

      Good catch, Peterr. What I wonder here is if there is adequate communication between DOJ and Treasury about these fraud cases. I’m worried that Geithner’s “solutions” to the present crisis may be written in ignorance of the fraud, and are structured in a way that gets the fraudsters off the hook rather than in the pokey where they belong. Any info on that?

      Bob in HI

      • looseheadprop says:

        is adequate communication between DOJ and Treasury about these fraud cases.

        NO there is not

  11. Peterr says:

    One other thing. AIG may have had over 100,000 employees in all its different units, but AIG-FP was small in terms of headcount. They may have been huge in terms of the amount of money they were tossing around, but (per the NYT), it was “a freewheeling little 377-person unit in London . . . run with almost complete autonomy, and with an iron hand, by Joseph J. Cassano.”

    Less than 400 people, and still the monitor assigned to watch over the “creative” bookkeeping products they were selling at AIG-FP couldn’t see anything wrong going on here?

  12. plunger says:

    AIG and the entire mortgage industry were laundering drug money for the CIA. That’s why virtually no one is allowed to look inside the bundled financial instruments to dissect them. Many of the payoffs being made through AIG are to a rogues gallery at the top of the actual seat of power. How much taxpayer money has found its way into accounts controlled by George HW Bush?

    The fact that we can’t have access to the names of the recipients of our money, who placed short bets against the future of the United States, is itself, evidence of racketeering, conspiracy, fraud and treason.

  13. rkilowatt says:

    IIRC, we are yet to see the purported retention contracts.

    They seem a form of deferred salary contract, wherein a party gets the residual part of his annual salary if he remains in place for the current year…i.e., if he balks at doing what he is ordered due to legal or ethical misgivings, and leaves at that point, he does not receive his full salary for work done up to that point.

    Per accounting auditor St.Denis, the defined “bonus” is paid in December for the year ending November [as November approaches, there is tremendous pressure on employee lest he demur and risk losing entire deferred portion of annual salary.

    Mind these are defined bonuses. Such clever arrangements are not uncommon. They can be financial whips to penalize any counter-intention to corporate policies…like perpetrating fraud.

  14. emptywheel says:

    LHP

    Do you know anything about what was going on at Fraud in DOJ during this period? The first AIG DFP was signed by Joshua Hochberg, Acting CHief of Fraud, with Paul Pelletier as Deputy. The second one was signed by Paul Pelletier, by early 2006 Acting Chief at Fraud, without anyone else signing.

    I’m wondering why the turnover (two acting Fraud Chiefs in a year and a half) and what role Pelletier had here.

    • looseheadprop says:

      What was going on in the Fraud division and the anti trust division and teh civil rights division and and and

      was that all the talen either left in disgust or were forced out.

      OK maybe not EVERY last bit of talent, there may be one or two decent one left who managed to hide from sight for 8 years, but they would not be able to hide if they were doing the big cases now would they?

      • emptywheel says:

        I guess I’m wondering if this was something more systematic. Whether they cherry picked people for Fraud in the same way they did the USA offices.

        • looseheadprop says:

          Not that I know of, which doesn;t mean it didn’t happen. When you say “cherry pick” all the “talent” was deliberatley chucked. That seems like cherry picking to me sorta

      • bobschacht says:

        “What was gooing on in the Fraud divison and the anit trust divison and teh civil rights division and and and”

        Isolating these from each other may have been a design feature of the Bush modus operandi. How do you bridge those divides, from a managerial point of view?

        I suppose that one of the things is that there has to be an atmosphere conducive to sharing at cabinet meetings. Here I’m fantasizing:
        Geithner: We’ve got this problem over at AIGFP…
        Holder: Tim, we’ve got three investigations of AIGFP going on over at DOJ; should we get our staffs together on this?

        Am I being naive? How does it/should it work?

        Bob in HI

        • looseheadprop says:

          Am I being naive?

          Bob, I love ya baby, but yes, I think you are being naive.

          This is the federal govt, with people doing their own empire buiding and manuvering for power. It ain’t an Andy Hardy movie

  15. plunger says:

    Hat Tip to Acquarius74:

    Here’s some pages from Michael C. Ruppert’s book, ‘Crossing The Rubicon’:

    AIG:

    Pg 56: “Maurice “Hank” Greenberg: The CEO of AIG insurance and manager of the third largest pool of investment capital in the world was floated as a possible CIA director by Bill Clinton in 1995. FTW [www.fromthewilderness.com] exposed Greenberg’s and AIG’s long connection to CIA drug trafficking and covert operations in a two-part series that was interrupted by the attacks of September 11. Under Greenberg’s stewardship, an AIG subsidiary severely bent several laws in conjunction with the Arkansas Development Financial Authority (ADFA) to establish what many have alleged was a first-class money laundering operation for drug funds arising from CIA-connected cocaine smuggling into Mena, Arkansas in the 1980s,

    Pg 67: In that series, FTW reported that AIG employed in its San Francisco legal offices the wife of Medellin Cartel co-founder Carlos Lehder….Our investigation later disclosed that AIG had been tied to US covert operations going back to the World War II and conclusively linked to the heroin trade. We also reported that AIG owned and operated the largest private fleet of full-sized airliners and cargo planes on he planet….”

    • looseheadprop says:

      OK, now I am really gooingto freak you guys out.

      AIG owned March and McClellan which in turn owned Kroll WHich is one of the largest IPSIG and PI firms anywhere.

      Greenburg installed his son as president of Kroll.

      Fox, meet henhouse.

  16. sojourner says:

    I have a thought to throw out that is slightly related. This may come across as totally radical, and maybe it should be. Corporations, for the most part, are defined somewhere as “beings,” just as humans are. I am not a legal scholar, but I do recall reading about that in the past.

    Perhaps there should be a capital punishment defined for corporations that engage in continued malfeasance, or behavior that does not support the general health and welfare of the US economy, its goals, or its needs as may be expressed. Obviously, there would have to be some definition and thought given to how this would be applied, but at the very least the top officers should be automatically considered complicit in such a conviction with accompanying penalties. Stockholders would lose their investments in the event of a conviction.

    The result? I bet there would be considerably more attention paid to corporate governance and compliance with the law!

    Somewhere, we have gotten into a mindset that no one should lose money from their investments and the government keeps shoring up these companies. Put a capital punishment in place and watch what happens!!

    • looseheadprop says:

      Perhaps there should be a capital punishment defined for corporations

      There already IS a corporate death penalty. It’s called issolution and is usually required by state law if a corp is convicted of certain felonies.

      It was to AVOID this, and avoid throwing innocent emplyees out of work, the DPA were inveted.
      Imagine if 4 guys inteh accoutnign Dept at GM committed a massive fraud using GM resources and manged to carry it out b/c GM had lax internla controls?

      Shoud GM be dissolved and all the the guys working on the assebly line be thrown out of work and made to suffer for soemthing done by people they have never even met?

      Ah, but if you could just prosecute the 4 guys in accounting and get GM execs to agree to put in striciter internal controlls and have GM pay for soemone to come in and make sure that those controls were not only implemented as promised, but actually worked as hoped for?

      Would you think that was a good idea? Especailly if you knew that in addition to throwing all those innocent assembly line workers out of there jobs, corporate dissolution would also wipe out shareholder value and pension plans were heavily invested inthose shares?

      Gee, would want teh auto workers AND the little old ladies to starve just so you could have the easy satisfaction of knowing htat you KILLED the comapnay?

      See, it’s not so easy to assign blame

          • BayStateLibrul says:

            I understand, but if a DPA prevents dissolution than it acts more as a “court of last appeal”….
            Instead of a capital death penalty, we have life without parole, or
            perhaps a commuted sentence for good behavior….

  17. rkilowatt says:

    Madoff is a class-act; a poster child for class-war. Who can forever forsake riches to live by his own, mere honest labors?

  18. phred says:

    but you will go to heaven when you die

    LOL! Well, I’m glad there’s a silver lining ; )

    I’ve gotta scoot, but thanks so much for explaining this system, I really appreciate it! I know it’s come up in the past, but I find I often need refreshers on all these legal issues.

  19. bobschacht says:

    There’s a lot of talk about entitlement reform in Washington these days. Maybe it is about time to have some entitlement reform….

    …like reforming the entitlement that sez financial product managers don’t need to worry about creepy things like “risk”– just take out a little AIG pixie dust insurance and *poof*, your risk disappears. If things get too dicey, the good ol’ American taxpayer will bail you out!

    I think the past 8 years have seen the growth of a vast entitlement psychology among bankers and financial product planners. No fear of failure, no fear of prosecution, rich people are entitled to their profits! It’s the American way! Profit without risk of financial or legal jeopardy! the Devil take the hindmost! If you’re making less than 10% on your investments, you’re not being creative enough! You’re entitled as a member of the new privileged class to double digit earnings!

    Yes, I think its time for some entitlement reform on Wall Street.

    Bob in HI

  20. Leen says:

    what a bunch of horseshit. “deferred prosecution agreements” for fat cats.

    Just why did a friend of mine(he has three children and a wife) do six years in prison for the cultivation of marijuana. Our prisons are filled with people like this. No “deferred prosecution agreement” for him.

    Or for the young woman (22)I met the other day who in our local courthouse who had just been in jail for two weeks for possession of marijuana (have no idea how much). This young woman was in an orange prison jumpsuit and her wrist and ankles were shackled. WTF. Her mother and her 2 year old child were with her as well as the public defender.

    And these fat cats walk with DPA’s. There is not one ounce of doubt in my mind why so many people feel such disrespect for our so called justice system. Not one ounce of doubt

  21. Leen says:

    this just makes me sick to my stomach….Obama “no one is above the law”
    Holder”no one is above the law”
    Leahy “no one is above the law”
    Pelsoi “no one is above the law”
    Whitehouse “no one is above the law”

    Hogwash

  22. Stephen says:

    So there is criminal negligence but no criminal financial negligence, even if it takes down the world economy?

  23. bmaz says:

    LHP, you seem under the impression that the rest of this sordid world operates by your standards; they do not. Not even close. The GOJ was sympathetic and hands off with AIG and then sanctioned a monitor who was even more ineffectual. Who watches the criminal watchers?

    • looseheadprop says:

      Nah, Bmaz. I know I am an odd duck. Most people just roll their eyes whren I start yabbering about ethics.
      That’s why I like here, You guys don’t make fun of me every time I say the owrd “integrity”

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        As long as ‘integrity’ remains a owrd, you’re safe. If it becomes a ‘word,’ trouble could occur ;-))

  24. JohnLopresti says:

    One of the things Partnoy mentioned recently, when asked what degree of improvement would US reg tightening effect, was that in other countries the GAAP is different, easy to hide offBalanceSheet finance, as Enron utilized.

    Allegory as a vehicle has circumscriptions, in some of the above thread, the tests might be upon hair for trace minerals and DNA.

    I once worked in a good outfit in which a few corrupt individuals did little too egregiously but when board pressure mounted upon those devious few managers, I had the occasion to witness a fiscal official write double checks to the auditor then provide a script of the condition of the findings in the books, in a side room while the board waited for the final report, which script the auditor then parrotted to the ‘vigilant’ board minutes later. Then the regular onStaff accounting people kept finding an indelible double entry in the payables; a call to tech support revealed a backdoor to “erase” and re-state; the books of account started looking neat after that key became a way to adjust what had been indelible. I read of one large computer industry firm that encountered some conflict in similar regard ages ago, though in that instance the issue was the computer firm manufactured accounting software, so, GAAP in that environment was to avoid running one’s own code as the accounting program, but somehow they managed to corrupt the thirdpartyvendor accounting software.

  25. Leen says:

    lhp what did you think of what Senator Dorgan had to say about AIG, CDSs’ and accountability

    Senator Dorgan on the RAchel Maddow show
    Senator Dorgan on the Rachel Maddow show “restore portions of Glass Steagall”

    He also said that we “nee a select committee of the U.S. Senate with subpoena power that gives us the narrative of what happened”

    “we need a financial task force down at the Justice Dept working on these issures” right now

    Dorgan “we need regulation its not a four letter word, we need effective regulation”
    http://christyhardinsmith.fire…..on-dorgan/

    _________________________________________________________________

    Keith Olberman special comment on Bank Bailouts
    http://www.truthout.org/video/032009S

    Break up the banks, regulate financial industries, roll back legal protections, make liable the officers of these corporations.

    • bobschacht says:

      That was a good segment on Rachel Maddow show! Dorgan was the guy who predicted the current mess 10 years ago when Glass-Steagall was gutted. He should be put in charge of the re-regulation efforts.

      Bob in HI

  26. orionATL says:

    let’s see:

    what do you get when construct a panoramic picture from the following still shots?

    – an obama administration justice dept which insists on pressing forward with “state secrets” claims, skitters about on issues involving renditions and guantanamo detainees, and shows no interest in illegal wiretapping the the NSA

    – an obama administration treasury department that pays continuing great deference to a failed and fraudulent “market system” for creating new money capital; that seems inclined to use public money to help rich-guys-who-screwed-up-the financial-system get rich again (on that public money); and that shows no inclination to actively and openly investigate how the financial crisis of the fall of ‘08 happened.

    – an obama administration office of management and budget which seriously underestimates (by some trillions of $)the cost of “getting the economy going again”?

  27. bmaz says:

    Oh, well, now that is straight out of the Book of Duh!

    By the way, in case you haven’t been watching, the Arizona Wildcats are getting the absolute shit kicked out of them by Louisville right now. Way brutal.

    • bobschacht says:

      Well, I’m watching Arizona’s Lady Sun Devils tomorrow. They’re in the Sweet Sixteen of the Women’s BB Tournament, and face Texas A & M, who are a higher seed. ASU beat a higher seeded team to make it to the Sweet 16 in a thrilling finish. They’re playing without their starting shooting guard, who got injured a month ago.

      I’m not predicting outcomes, just enjoying watching.

      Bob in HI

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