General Electric

The FDA Demonstrates What “Targeting” Does

“They think they can be the Gestapo and do anything they want.” — Chuck Grassley, on learning his staffer’s emails had been surveilled by the FDA

It is utterly predictable that members of Congress only get concerned about heavy-handed surveillance when they get sucked up in the surveillance. And so it is that Chuck Grassley, who voted for the FISA Amendments Act, and Chris Van Hollen, who didn’t, are outraged that their offices have been dragged into the FDA’s invasive surveillance used to conduct a leak investigation.

The surveillance started in response to a belief that FDA scientists, upset that their concerns about the safety of medical diagnostic equipment had been overridden, leaked classified proprietary information to the NYT. But after targeting just 5 scientists suspected of the leak, the FDA developed profiles on 21 people thought to be conspiring against the agency.

What began as a narrow investigation into the possible leaking of confidential agency information by five scientists quickly grew in mid-2010 into a much broader campaign to counter outside critics of the agency’s medical review process, according to the cache of more than 80,000 pages of computer documents generated by the surveillance effort.

Moving to quell what one memorandum called the “collaboration” of the F.D.A.’s opponents, the surveillance operation identified 21 agency employees, Congressional officials, outside medical researchers and journalists thought to be working together to put out negative and “defamatory” information about the agency.

Mind you, Grassley and Van Hollen’s aides (and Van Hollen himself) were not themselves the targets of the leak investigation. The scientists were the targets. Continue reading

FHFA Shows TurboTax Timmeh Geithner What a REAL Long Weekend Is

Because after the bomb they just dropped on the finance world, I would imagine Geithner will be busy.

Here’s the listof banks they’re suing:

  1. Ally Financial Inc. f/k/a GMAC, LLC
  2. Bank of America Corporation
  3. Barclays Bank PLC
  4. Citigroup, Inc.
  5. Countrywide Financial Corporation
  6. Credit Suisse Holdings (USA), Inc.
  7. Deutsche Bank AG
  8. First Horizon National Corporation
  9. General Electric Company
  10. Goldman Sachs & Co.
  11. HSBC North America Holdings, Inc.
  12. JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  13. Merrill Lynch & Co. / First Franklin Financial Corp.
  14. Morgan Stanley
  15. Nomura Holding America Inc.
  16. The Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC
  17. Société Générale

FHFA explains,

These complaints were filed in federal or state court in New York or the federal court in Connecticut. The complaints seek damages and civil penalties under the Securities Act of 1933, similar in content to the complaint FHFA filed against UBS Americas, Inc. on July 27, 2011. In addition, each complaint seeks compensatory damages for negligent misrepresentation. Certain complaints also allege state securities law violations or common law fraud.

Finally, someone calls it fraud.

Update: Just scanned the BoA suit. Their suit is based on $6B of certificates, between Fannie and Freddie. The defaults and foreclosures range from 7.6 to 61.6%, perhaps averaging 30%.

To emphasize what a stinker BoA was, the complaint notes that even Countrywide thought BoA was going after high-risk loans very aggressively (note FHFA sued Countrywide in separate capacity).

BOA was one of the most aggressive competitors in the mortgage origination market. Even the top executives of Countrywide Financial Corp., the notorious mortgage lender singled out by the FCIC for having originated high-risk loans destined to bring “financial and reputational catastrophe,” FCIC Report at xxii, complained to each other at the time that BOA’s appetite for risky products was greater than that of Countywide. In a June 13, 2005 e-mail Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo wrote to President and COO David Sambol: “This is the third deal in the last 10 days that BoA has offered that is impossible to beat. In fact the other two were substantially worse than this one. It appears to me that BofA is making an aggressive move into mortgages once again.” [Emphasis in the complaint]

Yet in spite of the fact that they lay this out in detail, they specifically do not make any claim of fraud.

Plaintiff realleges each allegation above as if fully set forth herein, except to the extent that Plaintiff expressly excludes any allegation that could be construed as alleging fraud.

I find that rather curious–are they going easy on BoA because they’re already broke?

Though that can’t be it–they allege fraud throughout the Countrywide complaint.

Update: Here’s an interesting detail. The naming convention used for most of these complaints is FHFA v. [BankName]. But it’s different for five of them. Société Générale is a big long number (including, but not limited to, today’s date). Morgan Stanley and GE (two of the last ones uploaded) have some version of “Final Complaint.” And Countrywide and Ally have that plus a “Filing Copy” in the name.

I’m guessing that suggests additional iterations for those banks.

Real Reason For US Deficit: GE Greed-$14.2B Profit, $0 Tax

For all the caterwauling from the right and, stupifyingly, from the Obama Administration and Blue Dog left as well, here is the real reason the United States has the sizable deficit issues it does (well, in addition to the fact we will not tax even rich individuals appropriately either) – our biggest corporations pay no tax. Even when they make unholy amounts of profit. From a sobering article just up at the New York Times:

General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation, had a very good year in 2010.

The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.

Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

That may be hard to fathom for the millions of American business owners and households now preparing their own returns, but low taxes are nothing new for G.E. The company has been cutting the percentage of its American profits paid to the Internal Revenue Service for years, resulting in a far lower rate than at most multinational companies.

Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.’s giant tax department, led by a bespectacled, bow-tied former Treasury official named John Samuels, is often referred to as the world’s best tax law firm. Indeed, the company’s slogan “Imagination at Work” fits this department well. The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.

Read the whole article and weep for your and your children’s future. And then take a moment to consider that a competent political class, that was honest about their representation of their constituents and oath to office, would have moved the country away from this reverse Robin Hood dystopia instead of moving ever further down the black hole of elite and corporate greed, robber barons and neo-feudalism.

Jeff Immelt’s GE: The Too Biggest To Fail

In my first post on how stupid it was for Obama to pick Jeff Immelt for his election season commission to appear focused on jobs, I looked mostly at how much GE has been outsourcing manufacturing and technology. Though I mentioned GE’s status as another TBTF finance company, I didn’t explain that in depth.

Mike Konczal has a post in which he corrects Joe Klein’s misperception that GE is not another big finance company, and in the process shows how GE was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the government’s bailout of shadow banking in 2008-09.

In it, he shows how GE received the second biggest FDIC debt guarantees of any of the big finance firms, after only Citi. He borrows the graphic at the left from a Raj Date paper that also explains how GE leveraged (heh!) its teeny FDIC insured deposits to get a big debt guarantee.

Only a small fraction of GE Capital’s funding (some $24 billion in the middle of 2008) came through FDIC-insured deposits. Despite that, the structure of the FDIC’s Debt Guaranty Program enabled GE Capital to issue well more than that (more than $50 billion) in unsecured debt that was, in effect, taxpayer-guaranteed. In essence, the program was structured in a way that almost uniquely favored a shadow bank like GE — one with a relatively small depository, but with immense unsecured debt that had been issued by the depository’s affiliates.

Konczal then goes on to cite another paper explaining why this happened: GE used the credit rating it won in its manufacturing business to make a lot of big finance games possible.

1 run the industrial business for earnings;

2 add industrial services to cover hollowing out of the industrial base;

3 buy and sell companies through acquisition and divestment to achieve returns and growth objectives;

4 rely on large-scale acquisition to prevent like-for-like comparisons and to increase opacity and the power of narrative;

5 grow the financial-services business up to the limit of the company’s credit rating;

6 accept the balance-sheet costs in terms of return on capital but focus on managing return on equity and cost of capital;

7 add financial engineering to smooth earnings and manage growth….

[snip]

If the expansion of GE Capital rested on judgement and controls, it also reflected the structural advantage of the triple-A credit rating, which effectively made the financial business (as user of the credit rating) dependent on the industrial business (as credit-rating generator), and this in turn set limits on how much GE could expand without risking reclassification by credit-rating agencies. GE Industrial may be a low-growth business but it has high margins, is consistently profitable over the cycle and has funded almost all of the dividends that GE Consolidated has paid out, as well as providing the funds for acquisitions and repayment of debt. This solid industrial base is the basis for GE’s triple- A credit rating, which allows GE Capital to borrow cheaply the large sums of money that it lends on to consumers and commercial customers… [my emphasis]

Konczal summarizes the business model that Obama tapped, through Immelt, to build American jobs and competitiveness this way:

GE has been at the forefront of blurring a “financial services”-centric model of business onto the remains of a hollowed out manufacturing base, one kept in a minimal state just strong enough to qualify for high credit scoring.

In other words, Immelt and GE aren’t about building the jobs American needs (for graphic representation of that, see this post). Rather, they’re about transforming the fruits of American manufacturing into yet more destabilizing casino games.

And that’s what Obama picked today to lead his election-season effort to appear serious about job creation.

Sure, maybe it’ll fool the Joke Lines of the world into believing outsourcing to China is a solution to America’s job crisis. But those of us in flyover country seeing that jobs crisis up close are smarter than all that.

Sanders: I hope Immelt changes his mind, focuses on rebuilding manufacturing in the US

As I noted earlier, President Obama just named Jeff “Nut on China” Immelt  to head his election season effort to appear serious about jobs in the US.

I asked for a statement from Senator Bernie Sanders–who has been critical of the way Immelt and GE received welfare in the Fed bailout–about what he thought of the appointment. He seems as skeptical as I am. Here’s what he said at an event in Vermont:

“I hope he changes his mind and focuses on rebuilding the manufacturing sector here in the United States, not in China, and in the process creates millions of good-paying jobs,” Sanders said during a visit to this once-thriving industrial community in Vermont’s Connecticut River Valley.

“For the sake of our manufacturing sector and the collapsing middle class, let’s hope that Mr. Immelt’s appointment by President Obama indicates a transformation in his thinking,” Sanders added. “It is time for GE and other large and profitable corporations to start investing in America again.”

Obama’s Kabuki Jobs Council, Brought to You By “Nut on China” Jeff Immelt

When Google announced that Eric Schmidt was stepping down yesterday, I joked that Schmidt must be leaving to lead Obama’s campaign economy — the one he’ll use to get re-elected with. After all, Schmidt is one of the Obama’s closest CEO buddies, and he’s leaving at the same time as Jim Messina and Patrick Gaspard are leaving to take over the campaign infrastructure. The decision to close the Office of Political Affairs seems to indicate a decision to stop governing and start spinning wildly to ensure re-election. There’s no area where Obama will need to spin more wildly than with the economy, right?

Turns out, I wasn’t far off.

What else can you conclude from the news that Obama is replacing his President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, led by Paul Volcker, with a President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, led by General Electric CEO Jeff “Nut on China” Immelt?

President Obama has asked me to chair his new President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. I have served for the past two years on the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, and I look forward to leading the next phase of this effort as we transition from recovery to long-term growth. The president and I are committed to a candid and full dialogue among business, labor and government to help ensure that the United States has the most competitive and innovative economy in the world.

Aside from the tired DC trick of renaming the Council with the latest buzzwords — jobs and competitiveness — there’s all the things GE has done under Immelt that make the U.S. less competitive. I noted the other day that GE had signed a big deal with China that will involve us sharing our jet technology with China, which will ultimately help China compete with both GE and — China has said explicitly — Boeing. Then there’s the fact that, even as Immelt has been calling for manufacturing in the U.S., his company has been shutting U.S. plants to move the work to China.

While Immelt was calling for manufacturing to stay in the U.S., his company was at the same time shipping manufacturing jobs overseas by canceling an order with an American-based wind turbine maker, ATI Casting Service in LaPorte, Ind., so that GE could instead buy the parts from a factory in China.

Recently, ATI made $30 million worth of investments to buy, convert, and modernize a shuttered factory in economically ravaged Michigan so the company could provide more parts to GE as the green economy expands with federal stimulus funding. But a Chinese firm underbid ATI, and the factory faced having to lay off 302 union workers and shutter the plant.

In an aggressive bid to keep the factory open, ATI offered to match the price of the Chinese producers. GE once again said they would prefer to buy from China. The ATI plant is now closed, the jobs gone.

Then there is Immelt’s call for Free — not Fair — Trade in his op-ed announcing the Kabuki Council.

Free trade: America cannot expand its manufacturing base without greatly increasing the volume of goods it sells overseas. That is why I applaud the free-trade agreement recently concluded between the United States and South Korea, which will eliminate barriers to U.S. exports and support export-oriented jobs. We should seek to conclude trade and investment agreements with other fast-growing markets and modernize our systems for export finance and trade control. Those who advocate increasing domestic manufacturing jobs by erecting trade barriers have it exactly wrong.

And then, finally, there’s the little detail that GE managed, alone of “manufacturing companies” in the U.S., to turn itself into a Too Big To Fail overleveraged finance company in need of a $16 billion bailout from the government (as has happened with all the TBTF finance companies, bailouts have made GE’s financing business profitable again).

In short, no matter how many times Immelt gets up on a podium or in an op-ed and feigns an interest in American jobs, his actions make him the poster child for everything wrong with the U.S. economy right now.

And that’s what Obama is rolling out, as he moves into campaign mode, to convince Americans he’s going to do a damn thing about jobs.

Noted “Nut on China,” Jeff Immelt, Uses $16B Bailout to Share Technology with China

Remember this? Remember when Bernie Sanders used a chunk of his FiliBernie to note that GE CEO Jeff Immelt, whose company benefited from $16 billion in welfare from the federal government, was a big fan of outsourcing to China?

Gee! When GE had, a couple of years ago, some really difficult economic times, they needed $16 billion to bail them out, I didn’t hear Mr. Immelt going to China, China, China, China, China. I didn’t hear that. I heard Mr. Immelt going to the taxpayers of the United States for his welfare check. So I say to Mr. Immelt, and I say to all these CEOs that have been so quick to run to China, that maybe it’s time to start reinvesting in the United States of the America.

Well, that “Nut on China,” Immelt, will take the opportunity of Hu Jintao’s visit to the US this week to sign a deal that will share GE’s jet technology with a Chinese partner hoping to compete with Boeing and Airbus.

G.E., in the partnership with a state-owned Chinese company, will be sharing its most sophisticated airplane electronics, including some of the same technology used in Boeing’s new state-of-the-art 787 Dreamliner.

For G.E., the pact is a chance to build upon an already well-established business in China, where the company has booming sales of jet engines, mainly to Chinese airlines that are now buying Boeing and Airbus planes. But doing business in China often requires Western multinationals like G.E. to share technology and trade secrets that might eventually enable Chinese companies to beat them at their own game — by making the same products cheaper, if not better.

The other risk is that Western technologies could help China in its quest to play catch-up in military aviation — a concern underscored last week when the Chinese military demonstrated a prototype of its version of the Pentagon’s stealth fighter, even though the plane could be a decade away from production.

The first customer for the G.E. joint venture will be the Chinese company building a new airliner, the C919, that is meant to be China’s first entry in competition with Boeing and Airbus.

Now, I’m not surprised about this–this is what all companies hoping to do business in China do. In fact, GM is surely sharing technology with its Chinese partner at the same rates it was before it got an even bigger bailout from the federal government.

This is just the next phase of it, the next higher level of technology we give away to China, soon to be followed by our jobs.

You’d think we could have gotten more in exchange for that $16 billion we gave GE.

Bernie Sanders Quotes Jeff Immelt: “I am a Nut on China”

This was, IMO, the highlight of Bernie Sanders’ non-filibuster on Friday:

GE is of course one of our major corporations, and in fact this recent disclosure pointed out the taxpayers of this country, through the Fed, provided $16 billion in bailout to General Electric during the recent crisis. This is what the head, CEO, of General Electric, Jeffrey Immelt, said in 2002, December 6. Quote, Jeff Immelt, head of CEO [sic].

“When I am talking to GE managers, I talk China, China, China, China, China. [Five Chinas] You need to be there. You need to change the way people talk about it and how they get there. I am a nut on China. Outsourcing from China is going to grow to 5 billion. We are building a tech center in China. Every discussion today has to center on China. The cost basis is extremely attractive. You can take an 18 cubic foot refrigerator, make it in China, land it in the United States, and land it for less than we can make an 18 cubic foot refrigerator ourselves.”

End of quote. Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman, CEO of General Electric, quoted in an investor meeting, on December 6, 2002.

Gee! When GE had, a couple of years ago, some really difficult economic times, they needed $16 billion to bail them out, I didn’t hear Mr. Immelt going to China, China, China, China, China. I didn’t hear that. I heard Mr. Immelt going to the taxpayers of the United States for his welfare check. So I say to Mr. Immelt, and I say to all these CEOs that have been so quick to run to China, that maybe it’s time to start reinvesting in the United States of the America.

No word yet whether Jeff Immelt will be among the CEOs Obama hosts at the White House tomorrow. Though the companies of the CEOs who have been publicly invited–Google, Cisco, IBM, AmEx, Dow, and Pepsi–have been all pushing into China.

On Sunday, Masaccio described this entire CEO summit as just Obama’s effort to outsource the effort the government should, instead, be leading: job creation. I guess Obama has gone to the experts on that front!

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz @cocktailhag @lrozen But, hey, I am only 50+ years old+not an international sage who has called for intervention over years. Whatta I know?
2hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @cocktailhag @lrozen No, inspire of all the war drum bangers, I have, per long history, no respect, and only contempt.
2hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @cocktailhag Well, my original indoctrination to the principle was: "Long arm for taking, and a short arm for giving". About 30 years ago.
2hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Whats scary pathetic is that half wit "experts" in "press" are again agitating, just like Vietnam, Iraq, Libya etc for war in Syria+Ukraine
2hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz I am not sure you geniuses on the east coast with long arm for asking, and short arm for answering, actually give a shit about Sep of Pwrs.
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz I KNOW all you DC Press Peoples are all up on everything, but after weeks of telling you, now @lawfareblog says so, can you pay attention?
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Maybe the war drum bangers for Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Somalia+all the other asinine places in world are right; history says no. cc: @lrozen
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bmaz .@nicholsong Ooops, yeah, I fell for that BS back in the day, see: http://t.co/zj45YfdKlZ But turned out to be total bullshit. cc: @lrozen
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bmaz .@nicholsong You have something that says the current, apparent, Obama Admin. rolling desecration of the WPR is fine and dandy? Really?
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz So, sorry, hope I didn't insult any of high holy 30 somethings over petty little thing like Sep of Pwrs. Cause, you know #PoliticalBullshit
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Lawdy, I JUST CAN'T WAIT for some nubes at @TNR to tell me how freakin OK+normal it is for Obama to be desecrating WPR Separation of Powers.
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @timmathews Really, that is a great location, right in the heart of New Orleans. #BonusPointsForFalseCheer?
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