Thursday, January 10, 2008

Another Harvard Grad in the Slammer

The Financial Times remarked on the crackdown of insider trading that resulted in the sentencing of Goldman Sachs & Co. associate Eugene Plotkin, another Goldman Sachs employe, a Merrill Lynch analyst, a federal grand juror, and two employees of a printing firm in Wisconsin who who furnished pre-publication copies of Business Week’s “Inside Wall Street.

FT says that while certain colourful schemes such as the one hatched by Mr Plotkin were fairly easy for the government to spot, insider trades by sophisticated Wall Street groups such as hedge funds remained much harder to uncover.

Eugene Plotkin, 28, a former associate at Goldman Sachs & Co., was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison last week after his August 2007 plea of guilty to a series of insider trading schemes that netted more than $6.7 million in illegal gains that benefited Plotkin and five other conspirators, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Plotkin was also fined $10,000 and ordered to forfeit the proceeds from the schemes.
Associated with him in the network were David Pajcin, another Goldman Sachs employee; Stanislav Shpigelman, a Merrill Lynch analyst; Jason Smith, a federal grand juror in New Jersey who provided information about a Bristol-Myers Squibb investigation; Nickolaus Shuster and Juan Renteria, two employees of a Wisconsin printer who furnished pre-publication copies of Business Week’s “Inside Wall Street” column, according to Southern District U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia.

Shpigelman was sentenced to 37 months and Smith was sentenced to 33 months in prison. Shuster, Renteria and Pajcin are awaiting sentencing. Paigin will be sentenced Jan 18. Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch, both headquartered in Lower Manhattan, were not charged in the case.

FT: Plotkin was a one-time competitive ballroom dancer. And Harvard graduate. The New Jersey postal working serving as a grand juror supplied tips about a government investigation into Bristol-Myers Squibb, the drugs company. Prosecutors said. Mr Plotkin also tried to enlist strippers to glean information from investment bankers about pending merger deals.

The scheme, hatched in a Russian day spa, was said by the government to include illegal trades on pending deals, including Adidas's acquisition of Reebok International in 2006.

Fun reading: A Merrill Lynch Analyst, A Postal Worker, Business Week Employees and An Exotic Dancer - That Equals Nearly Five Years by Chuck Gallagher Business Ethics Speaker.

Dealbreaker calls it the "best insider trading scandal of 2006." "We call it the best not because it worked that well—that might be interpreted as encouraging effective wrong-doing—but because it involved steam rooms in Russian bath houses, central European dead drop grandmothers, strippers and the classic “let’s steal Business Week” move. It’s like Wall Street meets Eastern Promises."

From the Los Angeles Times: Other insider trading convictions include: An ex-Morgan Stanley vice president and her husband, a former ING Groep analyst, were sentenced to 18 months in prison for trading on confidential news. Employees from Bear Stearns Cos. and Credit Suisse Group have been convicted or accused of trading on inside information.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Creepy City of the Year Award

Taxing 40% of the U.S. and you didn't even know it.

Long Beach OKs fee on cargo to fund green efforts

The Port of Los Angeles is expected to enact a similar measure. Drivers protest, saying they can't afford to operate newer, cleaner trucks.
By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer December 18, 2007
After years of unsuccessful attempts, the Long Beach Harbor Commission on Monday approved a $1.6-billion tax on cargo to raise money to combat air pollution and clear the way for expansion projects.

The "special cargo fee" will help subsidize a fleet of newer, cleaner short-haul diesel trucks at port terminals, but it has come under fire from truck drivers who say they cannot afford to operate modern, cleaner-running models.

Port authorities acknowledged that the fee may ultimately increase the cost of goods shipped by container. However, they also contend they cannot continue to move goods, or expand terminal operations, without reducing health risks of air pollution, linked to 2,400 deaths a year.

The Port of Los Angeles is scheduled to consider a similar fee Thursday. The president of the Los Angeles Harbor Commission, David Freeman, indicated Monday that the "dirty truck" fee would be easily approved. The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports currently handle 40% of the goods imported into the United States.Pressure to slash port-related pollution has been motivated in part by the increase in trade at the two ports, as well as studies showing that the ports account for 25% of the diesel particulate emissions in the Los Angeles Basin, and more particulate-forming nitrogen oxide emissions than all 6 million cars in the region.

Beginning June 1, 2008, a $35 charge will be placed on every loaded 20-foot equivalent cargo container entering or leaving the Long Beach port by truck. Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cardero expects the fee to generate $1.6 billion by 2012 to help fund a less-polluting green fleet.

"Today's vote will ensure that, in a short time, only the cleanest trucks will operate at the ports," Cardero said. "The next step will be to work with the trucking industry and other stakeholders to coordinate a smooth transition to a cleaner truck fleet."

"There are no other ports in the nation that come close to what we're doing on the environmental front," Cardero told more than 200 people who attended the hearing at the Port of Long Beach headquarters. "We've got to grow green."

Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster agreed. "This tariff is an important milestone for our community," he said in a statement. "It puts the costs for cleaner air where it belongs -- on the prices of goods sold."

Earlier on Monday, however, more than 150 of the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex's 16,000 mostly low-income, Spanish-speaking independent contract truckers gathered at the entrances of five terminals to express this concern: Even though the program would help underwrite the purchase of the new vehicles, they cannot afford to maintain trucks with computer-controlled engines requiring overhauls every three to five years.

Many truckers earn about $8 an hour and rely on friends and "curbside" mechanics for discount repair work. Blowing whistles and holding up signs, the protesting truckers said they want trucking companies to buy the new trucks and hire them to drive the rigs."We all support cleaner air, but none of us wants a loan or a grant to buy a new truck," said truck driver Miguel Pineda, 37, of Lynwood. "If these plans become law, I won't be able to put food on the family table."

Environmentalists have been pushing for container fees for three years. Facing a likely veto by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) agreed in September to set aside a proposal to impose a $60 charge on each loaded 40-foot container to help ease port congestion and air pollution. A year earlier, Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill by Lowenthal.

Siding with shipping and retail industries, Schwarzenegger said he was opposed to a container fee because it could have hurt U.S. exports by raising shipping costs and did not provide for public-private partnerships that could increase funding for port and transportation projects.Port authorities believe they have the authority to exercise their rights as landlords and impose the tax.

The Long Beach commission's action followed the November approval by the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports of a phased ban on old, dirty diesel trucks. That plan calls for replacing the entire fleet with models that meet 2007 pollution standards by 2012.The truck ban and container fees are critical portions of the landmark Clean Air Action Plan endorsed by both ports a year ago as part of a strategy to reduce truck diesel emissions by 80%.

In January, the ports are expected to vote on perhaps the most crucial and controversial piece: setting standards for port control over trucking companies, and who should own and maintain the new trucks.

Trucking companies and shippers have argued that the ports lack the legal authority to force them to purchase the fleet, which would begin depreciating in value almost immediately.

If they were compelled to employ 16,000 drivers, the firms say, they would be vulnerable to union organizing.

Environmental groups led by the Natural Resource and Defense Council, however, support a proposed concession system that would put drivers on company payrolls. "This is the most sustainable and accountable system for fixing the broken trucking system," Adrian Martinez, a defense council attorney, told the Long Beach commissioners.

Nonetheless, critics on all sides of the issue are growing frustrated by continuing delays of the Clean Air Action Plan, which was supposed to have been in place nearly a year ago.In an interview, Monday, Rupal Patel of an environmental group called Communities for Clean Ports, echoed the sentiments of many people at Monday's hearing. "The ports' claims of proceeding in good faith loses spirit with each delay," she said, "because the situation is so dire."
Look carefully at the Board of Directors for Communities for Clean Ports and tell me what's odd there. These people aren't cleaning the air. They're cleaning your wallets.

The environmental front group also worries excessively about 2400 premature deaths annually from "pollution," a concern they don't seem to feel the victims of unchecked crime. Mainly, folks, because there isn't a buck to be made in actually doing something useful in life except sucking money out of the economy.

The crime rate per capita in Long Beach.
Murder is 1.34 times the National Average
Robbery is 1.35 times the National Average
Aggravated assault is 1.15 times the National Average
All violent crime is I 1.25 times the National Average
Car theft is 1.31 times the National Average
Arson is 1.53 times the National Average
Source: link

And then there is the infamous Halloween Hate Crime you probably never read about. Forty or fifty youths taunted three girls. Nine teenagers began to beat the girls with skateboards. They robbed them and took their clothes. The injuries were horrific. A lone man in a car got out to help them and eventually police came. Months later, the Good Samaritan declined to identify the youths because of fear of retaliation.

See Long Beach Hate Crime
And Long Beach Hate-Crime Verdict
See Long Beach Halloween Crime Beatings press conference on YouTube

The sentence?
A judge convicted nine teens — eight female and one male — of felony assault, with a hate-crime enhancement against all but one, All were sentenced to probation, community service, or home confinement. They also must attend a hate-crime education program and apologize to the victims. NPR take on the sentencing.
The judge was Juvenile court judge Gibson W. Lee.

Of course, if you never heard of any of this, it's probably because the victims were white and the perpetrators were black. And it's the story the media chose to ignore totally.