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Highlights—May 29, 2010

  • Barron's: IBM Insiders Sell Over $40 Million in Stock. By Miriam Gottfried. Excerpts: J. Randall MacDonald, senior vice president for human resources at IBM, sold 45,635 shares for almost $6 million, an average price of $130.62 each on May 18. After the sale, he held 41,454 shares. ix other insiders -- senior VPs Linda S. Sanford, Rodney C. Adkins, Virginia M. Rometty, Steven A. Mills and Jon C. Iwata and director Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and chief executive of American Express (AXP) -- sold a combined $33.9 million worth of stock at an average price of $131.05 between April 28 and May 13. On May 14, John E. Kelly III, another senior VP, sold $3 million in shares at an average price of $129.89 each and exercised options and sold the resulting shares for another $3.2 million. This is the largest cluster sale at the company since August 2008, according to InsiderScore.com.
  • Bloomberg BusinessWeek: IBM’s Palmisano May Step Down Next Year in Historic Succession. By Katie Hoffmann. Excerpts: International Business Machines Corp. Chief Executive Officer Sam Palmisano will probably cede the post next year, raising the possibility of the first female or first black CEO in the 99-year-old company’s history. Three of IBM’s last four chief executives have stepped down at 60, with the exception being John Akers, who was forced out by IBM’s board before he reached that age. Palmisano, who has led the company for more than eight years, will hit that mark next July. IBM’s tradition of CEOs stepping aside at 60 helps retain top executives, said Val Rahmani, former general manager of an IBM security software business. ...

    One leading candidate is Ginni Rometty, who has overseen IBM’s sales effort for more than a year. Before that, she headed global business services where she spearheaded the integration of PwC Consulting, the company’s second-largest acquisition and a key step in shifting its strategic focus to services. “She’s really a ‘Let’s just get it done’ person, but not in an abrasive manner,” said John Chen, CEO of Sybase Inc., a database software maker that partners with IBM. “One time we went and met with her, she sat there and spent the time going through details. A lot of top-level people would just expect their staff to summarize.”

    Another possibility is Rod Adkins, also 51, who heads IBM’s hardware group and supply chain. Adkins, who is black, is a member of the company’s technology team, which oversees IBM’s technical strategy. “He’s very much the young engineer who made it,” Rahmani said. “And very well-regarded technically. A great product visionary.” ...

    Bob Moffat, a former senior vice president who led the mainframe, storage and server businesses, was considered a frontrunner until he was arrested in October for leaking insider information to an outside consultant. He resigned, pleaded guilty and faces up to six months in prison. Adkins, who then headed the semiconductor unit, took on Moffat’s duties as well. “Before I left, it was all about Ginni and Bob Moffat,” Rahmani said. “Now of course, no one talks about Bob that way.”

  • Wall Street Journal: IBM to Buy AT&T's Sterling Unit for $1.4 Billion. By Spencer E. Ante. Excerpt: In a move aimed at beefing up its e-commerce software business, International Business Machines Corp. agreed to purchase software maker Sterling Commerce from AT&T Inc. for $1.4 billion. The deal underscores a more aggressive effort by IBM to expand its business through a string of software acquisitions. Sterling, based in Dublin, Ohio, would be IBM's biggest software acquisition since 2008, when it acquired Cognos Inc. for $4.9 billion.
  • MSN Money: Can you be retired and not know it? If you lose your job in your 50s, you may have a tough time finding a new one -- and that's a game changer if you had planned to work (and save) for a few more years. By Liz Pulliam Weston. Excerpts: Carol Friery thought she was doing everything right. The warehouse manager loyally stuck with the same company for 17 years, contributing 10% of her income to her 401k and avoiding credit card debt. Then the company announced it was closing the Rhode Island warehouse where she worked, and Friery was laid off at age 58. Now, after 18 months of fruitless job searching, Friery believes she's involuntarily retired. "I've applied anywhere and everywhere," said Friery, who lives in Somerset, Mass. "I've applied in my field and out of my field. . . . I thought I was doing OK with retirement planning and savings, but I didn't expect this."

    Americans increasingly are working longer, but Friery is part of a significant countertrend: older Americans who lose their jobs and can't find replacements, forcing them into early retirement. The unemployment statistics are grim for those over 55. The typical duration of joblessness is nearly 30% longer than for younger workers, and half of those who lose their jobs are still looking for work six months later.

  • Bloomberg: IBM’s Moffat, Chiesi Were ‘Intimate,’ U.S. Says. By David Glovin. Excerpts: Robert Moffat, the former International Business Machines Corp. executive who pleaded guilty in the Galleon Group LLC insider-trading scheme, had an “intimate relationship” with accused tipster Danielle Chiesi, prosecutors said in court. Moffat admitted to securities fraud and conspiracy in March and is scheduled to be sentenced in July. He faces six months in prison at most. Today at the sentencing of Mark Kurland, a co- founder of New Castle Funds LLC and Chiesi’s former boss, a defense lawyer said Kurland deserved no more prison time than Moffat. ...

    A former 31-year IBM veteran, Moffat admitted in court in March that in 2008 he leaked information to Chiesi about IBM, Lenovo Group Ltd. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. He said he told Chiesi about disappointing sales of IBM servers, a pending restructuring at AMD and earnings at Lenovo. Moffat said he learned the information because he served as a non-voting member of Lenovo’s board and because he knew that IBM had been asked by AMD to use a license as part of its restructuring. ...

    At IBM, the world’s largest computer-services company, Moffat oversaw the personal-computer business and helped sell that unit. Before his arrest, he was among the candidates to succeed Sam Palmisano as chief executive officer, according to people familiar with IBM’s thinking.

  • eWeek: IBM to Add About 800 Jobs in Missouri by 2012. By Don Sears. Excerpts: Big Blue is opening another service delivery center in the United States and plans to hire 800 workers of varying levels by 2012, according to a news release. This time the facility is in Columbia, Mo. It's the third such U.S.-based center to be opened in the Midwest--the other two are in Dubuque, Iowa, and Lansing, Mich. All three are located in university- and college-rich areas, so there will be no shortage of entry-level and graduate student workers to employ.

    Reading between the lines, these facilities appear to be U.S.-based data centers or server farms. Exact job titles and salary levels were not published by IBM, but expect a fair number of systems administration, storage specialist and data center operator positions. My guess is that they are mostly lower- to midlevel positions based on the description from the company ("The facility will be operational in the fall of 2010, and by the end of 2012 should be fully staffed with a variety of IT positions ranging from entry level up to experienced professional"). Remember, salaries in the Midwest outside of Chicago are generally lower than those paid on the coasts and in larger Southern cities. ...

    This is good PR for IBM, which gets to say, "Hey, see, we like American workers. We still hire here!" But does it make up for the 10,000 North American jobs lost at IBM in 2009? Hardly.

    The company refuses to tell the media how many U.S.-based employees it has anymore or to even acknowledge when it has laid off workers, so take this announcement with a grain of salt. Let's be honest here: IBM likes to tell you how many employees it has when it makes the company look good. But if you're in one of these cities in the Midwest and you need a data center gig, there are some opportunities here.

  • Associated Press, courtesy of Forbes: Columbia council endorses IBM project. By Alan Scher Zagier. Excerpts: One week after city leaders hailed an incentive-laden effort to lure IBM and hundreds of new jobs to town, the project easily passed its first hurdle Monday night. The seven-member Columbia City Council voted unanimously to buy an abandoned office building for $3.05 million. Starting in November, IBM will rent the building for $1 a year over 10 years, with a five-year renewal option.

    That's along with an addition $28 million in state tax incentives. And while officials continued to tout the promise of a needed economic boost to the sagging local economy, at least one council member - and several citizens who spoke at the public hearing - cautioned about offering too much, too soon to Columbia's newest corporate citizen.

  • Columbia Daily Tribune: Union group claims IBM jobs ‘shifted’ Griggs: Many will be locals. Excerpts: A union group that watches IBM employment numbers contends the company that is about to put down stakes in Columbia is simply shifting jobs, not creating them. “To us, it’s just like musical chairs,” said Lee Conrad, national coordinator for IBM@Alliance, a chapter of the Communication Workers of America Local 1701. Conrad’s organization is seeking collective bargaining rights for IBM workers. Conrad’s interest was piqued May 17 when IBM officials joined Gov. Jay Nixon and a collection of local economic development leaders in announcing that the company planned to locate a technical service delivery center in Columbia. With the lure of some $30 million in state and local economic incentives, IBM plans to hire as many as 600 workers by the end of 2012.

    But Conrad said IBM has been cutting positions in the United States and sending those positions to India and other countries. Conrad said IBM has eliminated 14,000 jobs across the country in just the past year and a half. “There are thousands of people losing jobs,” Conrad said, “then there’s a lot of glitter and hoopla over job creation in another location. That’s just contradictory.” ...

    Yesterday, Conrad circulated an e-mail with the subject line “Reality Check” that contends that when IBM opened a service delivery center last year in Dubuque, Iowa, employees who were going to be displaced at other IBM facilities — in what IBM called “resource action” — had been told they could keep their jobs if they moved to Dubuque. Other published reports and information on Conrad’s website claim that IBM has a history of pulling up stakes after meeting tax break requirements to look in other states for another hefty incentive package.

  • KOMU-TV (Columbia, MO): New Doubts for IBM. By Adrienne Pedersen and Ashley Colley. Excerpts: New doubts are being raised about IBM's future in Columbia after staring in Iowa more than a year ago. "A home run for Mid-Missouri and one for the entire Show-Me State," said Governor Nixon. Officials expect a home run with IBM but it's still early in the game.

    300 miles away the people of Dubuque, Iowa have been at bat for about a year with the technology company and IBM made similar promises to both communities including: 1300 jobs for Dubuque and 800 for Columbia, competitive salaries, community involvement and help for local schools. Dubuque city officials say, so far, IBM's filled about two-thirds of the 1300 jobs.

    David Heiar from Dubuque Economic Development said, "The commitment from IBM was that the average jobs, and this includes some of the benefits, would be in the $45,000 range but many of the recent college grads who are coming here are probably more in the $32,000 range $30 to $35,000." "A lot of them were seeing it probably as their first jobs and I think when they first announced it was like boy there's gonna be all these high paying jobs and I think there was a little over inflation of that," said Dubuque Remax employee Greg Adams

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • IBM Associate System Engineer in Bangalore (India): (Current Employee) “Bad Company to start your career,very misleading job description.” Pros: 1.Good exposure to different technologies and lot of work experience in a short time. 2. Pays high to people who join the company after a few years of experience. 3. Night Cab facility. Cons: 1. Rude Managers, show total disrespect for employees. 2. Managers promise a lot of stuff but don't do what they say. 3. Lot of work and lot of work pressure. 4. Very bad compensation to people who join as ELTP's with very less growth chances. 5. Loyalty to your manager would get you a good rating and not the quality of your work. 6. Make you do more documentation (clerical work) rather than software engineering work. 7. They make you pay for the team outings (that's cheap!) 8. Treat freshers as school kids, give you assignments and you have written tests (even after 3 years into the job !!) 9. Absolutely no work life balance. 10. They make you stay late and don't pay for that. Only few of the shifts are approved and the rest are rejected. Your manager will show you his teeth and say budget constraint. And if you don't want to work late...they say you are not cooperative and screw your ratings 11. Flexible working hours means --- you can be called for work any time any where --- as per their convenience. 12. They give more importance to their business than your aspirations. 13. Zero benefits. 14. Managers come up with twisted policies like you can't order food if you stay late and take cab. Advice to Senior Management 1. Please stick to what you say. Do not give misleading promises. 2. Stop hiring managers who know nothing other than shouting at people, assigning work and bossing over. 3. Please hire managers with technical background who do their work instead of distributing their work amongst the teams 4. Very bad leadership.
    • IBM Executive Program Manager in Austin, TX: (Past Employee - 2009) “Great IBM Career.” Pros: IBM is always on the forefront of IT technology and services such as Cloud Computing and High Performance Computing. It allows individuals to have a challenging IT career involved in many different, diverse roles. They have a good formal and informal mentoring program as well. IBM's values and promotes it's innovative employees. Cons: Being a large company, an employee can get lost in the masses. Becoming an expert in your assigned area is the best way to benefit yourself and your current organization. This allows you to also be considered for the next great opportunity to move into when a career change is so desired. Advice to Senior Management: It is important to protect your most valuable resource...your experienced IT professional staff.
    • IBM Senior Managing Consultant in Charlotte, NC: (Current Employee) “The Wheels Seem to be Coming Off.” Pros - A few good people left in GBS - Benefits are not bad - Pay is okay Cons - Projects committed to that are not reasonable - Lack of leadership and clarity - No real career track - No training curriculum - Training is virtually non-existent. Advice to Senior Management - Treat your people as assets. They are the business. - In today's world mediocre is not enough, you must do better.
    • IBM Technical Analyst in Gaithersburg, MD: (Past Employee - 2009) “Not your mother's or father's IBM.” Pros: Unlimited resources for information in order to self-learn multiple IT disciplines. Still carries prestige with others. Many employees are spectacular and top achievers. Cons: In practice, workloads kept increasing as downsizings were common. Came to be where employees were working around the clock in global environments. Acquiring a sweatshop atmosphere with small or nonexistent salary increases for the general population. New management by fear, intimidation and bullying style becoming prevalent. Advice to Senior Management: Stop doing everything just for immediate stock price increase. Treat your employees as humans and invest in them. Go back to your core values in practice, not just as a collection of catchy phrases.
    • IBM Program Manager in Dallas, TX: (Current Employee) “IBM work.” Pros: They have good compensation if you like using the 401k to plan for retirement. They are usually fair with performance reviews and give a lot of vacation from 3-5 weeks and 12 holidays. Cons: They are moving many jobs to India and Brazil. Not a good place to work if your job can be done remotely. They used to have values such as 'respect for the individual' that they have abandoned Advice to Senior Management: You need to stop moving jobs overseas as we are now losing very good people and replacing them with lower skilled cheaper labor that have no loyalty and leave when get a better pay package.
    • IBM Project Manager: (Past Employee - 2010) “Pros & Cons working for IBM.” Pros: Flexible work schedule, pay & benefits, talented people. Cons 1) Always reorganizing, making it a difficult work environment. Don't see the benefits to all the reorgs; 2) Cumbersome process tools that are not integrated and not user friendly, adding time to getting things done. 3) Company's strategy is to move 30% of work force overseas, plus they are filling local positions with contractors. Advice to Senior Management: All the reorganizing over the years seems like busy work for the executives to justify their existence. Too many layers of management, 7 layers above a Senior PM. What do they all do?? IBM hires qualified professional people, why do they need 7 layers of mgmt above these people, the worker bees?
    • IBM Sales Representative: (Past Employee - 2008) “Bleed Blue.” Pros: Professionalism Value and respect employees. Constant Change. Cons: Barbara and politics Cheap with client entertaining. Advice to Senior Management: Remove some of the Barbara and politics (layers) to get the job done. Too much stacking in the channel during sales process
  • eWeek: Demand Up for Full-Time Workers, Report Says. By Don E. Sears. Excerpts: April was one of the best months for full-time job opportunities for technology professionals in a long time, according to a monthly report on job vacancies and trends from technology job board Dice.com. Full-time tech jobs were up 20 percent from March and outnumbering contract positions posted on the site by over 13,000. Contract positions have been flat, though the contract and "skills-based" work category has been a steady part of technology job opportunities over the past year. "In order to add permanent staff, companies must have confidence in their business outlook—and that's exactly what we are starting to see," Tom Silver, a senior vice president at Dice, wrote in the monthly report. "And there's no doubt where companies are looking for the fresh talent: your employees."
New on the Alliance@IBM Site
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  • Reality Check! 800 IBM jobs to be “created” in Missouri What about the 14,000 IBM jobs lost?
    • IBM is marching into Columbia, Missouri with a promise of creating 800 jobs. Oh by the way, $28 million in tax incentives please. This for a company that has billions in cash.
    • The Alliance@IBM is certainly all for job creation. We are also for job retention. But that is not what is happening in IBM.
    • In the last year and a half IBM has terminated almost 14,000 US employees and moved much of their work offshore. Where are the jobs for them? Will they be re-called and offered jobs in Columbia? Sorry, IBM doesn’t value its employees enough to do that. Of the 800 jobs to be “created” how many will be new hires? In the case of Dubuque, many IBM employees from around the country were told—move or be gone.
    • What of the wages for Columbia’s new IBM employees? The example of Dubuque and other US Global delivery centers is enlightening. Average salary in the older sites at East Fishkill and Boulder is $70,000. In the newer Dubuque it is $50,000. That is factoring in the higher paid IBMers that transferred to Dubuque. And that won’t last because as employees have told us, band levels and pay scales are dropping for the transferees. Let’s face it: job “creation” in Columbia and Dubuque is also about lowering wages in IBM.
    • So while there may be some IBM glitter in the eyes of Columbia residents right now it is important to ask IBM questions on job creation and what will happen when the contract runs out. Above all taxpayers must demand transparency and accountability from IBM. A link to an excellent article “IBM’s trail of broken promises” is here.
  • To Alliance@IBM supporters: The Alliance is the only organization that advocates and supports IBM employees and ex-employees. In fact, there are few like it in the Information Technology field. It is always difficult to keep an organization like this alive, but as a supporter you know how important it is that we exist. We are calling on you today to help keep us alive another year by joining as a member or associate member. See our online forms below. As our membership has dropped, it is imperative that we gain new members or this organization and web site will cease to exist. Help us keep our organizing and advocacy work alive!
  • General Visitor Comments: Due to a lack of membership growth the comment sections will be closed until we see sufficient growth in full membership, associate membership or donations. Many of you that visit our site have not yet joined, but seem to value its existence. The only comment section that will remain open will be Job Cuts Reports. If you have information that you want the Alliance to know about please send to ibmunionalliance@gmail.com. Information of importance will be put on the front page of this web site. To join go here: Join The Alliance! or here: Join The Alliance!
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  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 5/24/10: What cities like Dubuque and Columbia do not realize is that once the tax and other job-creation incentives are over in ten years, there are zero incentives to keep the work or jobs there. These are temporary locations - just ask the Republic of Ireland and former Dublin campus employees how they feel about getting the shaft from IBM. -Frank-
    • Comment 5/25/10: Hey Columbia, MO talk to Tulsa, OK and find out the REAL story about job "creation" with IBM. IBM and its executives are no better than snake oil salesman. Total charlatans and fakes. They just take the money in tax breaks and incentives, cry for more and run. -okie_dokied-
    • Comment 5/25/10: 12 jobs lost at the CSC in Ballarat this week. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 5/26/10: 2 days of cuts - Baulkham Hills Australia - operators, SDM's, project managers, RAMP, Automation, PCM - approx 40 in 2 days. When asked when this will stop, reply from L2 management "Get used to it GR is here to stay - and more cuts to follow". Just a matter of time. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 5/26/10: Another round of RAs in Australia this week. -Aus-
    • Comment 5/26/10: In CA: SWG contractors told of week long furlough and that they should not work overtime until told otherwise -NotInIndia-
    • Comment 5/27/10: CDI sent along notice of overtime elimination through 5 July 2010. -CDI_Drone-
    • Comment 5/28/10: Yep - I was made redundant in March/April. And yes there are more happening this week. It was the best that ever happened to me, IBM was getting so hard to put up with in their attitude to those that make them their money - I'm also selling off my stock asap. Good luck to those that are being hit this week. -ex-ibm-aussie-
    • Comment 5/28/10: The annoying spam from Artech recruiters for GDFs has started to increase once again. Could this be a sign of a huge push to increase low-skill/low-wage staff there to correlate with an RA? -Porkchop-
News and Opinion Concerning the U.S. Financial Crisis
Minimize "It is a restatement of laissez-faire-let things take their natural course without government interference. If people manage to become prosperous, good. If they starve, or have no place to live, or no money to pay medical bills, they have only themselves to blame; it is not the responsibility of society. We mustn't make people dependent on government- it is bad for them, the argument goes. Better hunger than dependency, better sickness than dependency."

"But dependency on government has never been bad for the rich. The pretense of the laissez-faire people is that only the poor are dependent on government, while the rich take care of themselves. This argument manages to ignore all of modern history, which shows a consistent record of laissez-faire for the poor, but enormous government intervention for the rich." From Economic Justice: The American Class System, from the book Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn.

  • New York Times op-ed: The Old Enemies. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: So here’s how it is: They’re as mad as hell, and they’re not going to take this anymore. Am I talking about the Tea Partiers? No, I’m talking about the corporations.

    Much reporting on opposition to the Obama administration portrays it as a sort of populist uprising. Yet the antics of the socialism-and-death-panels crowd are only part of the story of anti-Obamaism, and arguably the less important part. If you really want to know what’s going on, watch the corporations.

    How can you do that? Follow the money — donations by corporate political action committees.

    Look, for example, at the campaign contributions of commercial banks — traditionally Republican-leaning, but only mildly so. So far this year, according to The Washington Post, 63 percent of spending by banks’ corporate PACs has gone to Republicans, up from 53 percent last year. Securities and investment firms, traditionally Democratic-leaning, are now giving more money to Republicans. And oil and gas companies, always Republican-leaning, have gone all out, bestowing 76 percent of their largess on the G.O.P.

    These are extraordinary numbers given the normal tendency of corporate money to flow to the party in power. Corporate America, however, really, truly hates the current administration. Wall Street, for example, is in “a state of bitter, seething, hysterical fury” toward the president, writes John Heilemann of New York magazine. What’s going on?

    One answer is taxes — not so much on corporations themselves as on the people who run them. The Obama administration plans to raise tax rates on upper brackets back to Clinton-era levels. Furthermore, health reform will in part be paid for with surtaxes on high-income individuals. All this will amount to a significant financial hit to C.E.O.’s, investment bankers and other masters of the universe. Now, don’t cry for these people: they’ll still be doing extremely well, and by and large they’ll be paying little more as a percentage of their income than they did in the 1990s. Yet the fact that the tax increases they’re facing are reasonable doesn’t stop them from being very, very angry. ...

    So what President Obama and his party now face isn’t just, or even mainly, an opposition grounded in right-wing populism. For grass-roots anger is being channeled and exploited by corporate interests, which will be the big winners if the G.O.P. does well in November. If this sounds familiar, it should: it’s the same formula the right has been using for a generation. Use identity politics to whip up the base; then, when the election is over, give priority to the concerns of your corporate donors. Run as the candidate of “real Americans,” not those soft-on-terror East coast liberals; then, once you’ve won, declare that you have a mandate to privatize Social Security. It comes as no surprise to learn that American Crossroads, a new organization whose goal is to deploy large amounts of corporate cash on behalf of Republican candidates, is the brainchild of none other than Karl Rove.

  • Huffington Post: Financial Reform: A Win for Wall Street, A Cold Shoulder for Main Street. By Arianna Huffington. Excerpts: t's mission accomplished for financial reform. Unfortunately, it's more of a Bush 43 "mission accomplished" than an Apollo 13 "mission accomplished." That's because the financial reform bill passed by the Senate last week, like Bush's ship deck ceremony, is more notable for what it has left to still be done.

    The Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 will do no such thing. First, it doesn't do enough to rein in Wall Street. It doesn't end "too big to fail" banks, doesn't create a Glass-Steagall style firewall between commercial and investment banking, keeps taxpayers on the hook for future bailouts, and leaves open dangerous loopholes in the regulation of derivatives. And we can expect more loopholes to be inserted as the bill heads to conference committee. In D.C., crafting a bill without them would be like baking bread without yeast. Though you can't see them, they're what makes a Washington bill rise.

    There's a reason a longtime investment banker, speaking to the New York Times, said of his colleagues' reaction to the new bill, "If you talk to anyone privately, there's a sigh of relief." Don't expect a similar reaction on Main Street. Despite its name, this bill will not be restoring financial stability to the tens of millions of hardworking Americans whose lives have been turned upside down by the economic crisis. ...

    And, as Laura Bassett reported on HuffPost, many workers who have managed to hold onto their jobs are increasingly doing so only by accepting less pay and taking on a higher share of their health care costs. "My company didn't eliminate my job, they just eliminated my salary," wrote marketing director Mike Cheaure in an email. "I was back at work as a freelancer the next day working at 1/4 the pay and no benefits." The experience has made him very familiar with the new reality. "For us, the American Dream is gone," he said. "Now it's just getting by." ...

    And what about that recent surge in consumer spending that spawned talk of "green shoots" and "recovery?" Turns out, there was a surge in spending -- but almost exclusively by the rich. As the LA Times' Don Lee put it, the "little-noticed reality" behind the "encouraging numbers" was that "much of the new spending has come not from America's broad middle class but from a small slice of affluent people at the top." In fact, according to the Labor Department, the richest 20 percent of American households accounted for 40 percent of all spending.

    As the Washington Post reported last week, "lavish fringe benefits" are back at the top end of corporate America, including "country club dues, chauffeured drivers, personal financial planning services, home security systems and parking." Of the 29 biggest public companies that took taxpayer money, around one in three decided to funnel some of it to its chief executive. As the Post's Tomoeh Murakami Tse dryly put it: "Those raises contrast with the belt-tightening that many Americans have experienced during the recession." Nell Minow, co-founder of the Corporate Library, put it more directly: "Marie Antoinette could fit into this crowd without missing a beat." ...

    Objections that were, no doubt, the end product of the mother of all lobbying campaigns by every sector of the financial industry. Of course, the line between Senator, staffer and lobbyist is pretty blurry these days. A joint report released by SEIU, the Campaign for America's Future, and the Public Accountability Initiative found that the finance industry has 70 former members of Congress and 940 former federal employees on its lobbying payroll. This includes 33 chiefs of staff, 54 staffers of the House Financial Services Committee and Senate Banking Committee (or of a current member of those committees), and 28 legislative directors. Five of Senate Banking Committee chair Chris Dodd's former staffers are now working as banking lobbyists, as are eight former staffers for Banking Committee powerhouses Richard Shelby and Chuck Schumer. And the revolving door spins both ways. As Arthur Delaney reported on HuffPost, 18 percent of current House Financial Services committee staffers used to work on K Street. All told, the financial industry has spent nearly $600 million on lobbying since the collapse of Bear Stearns in March of 2008 -- almost a million dollars a day.

  • Huffington Post: Wall Street's Victory Lap. By Simon Johnson. Excerpts: By now you have probably realized -- correctly -- that "financial reform" has turned into a victory lap for Wall Street. When they saved the big banks, with massive unconditional support (both explicit and implicit) over a year ago, top administration officials promised they would be back later to fix the underlying problems. This they -- and Congress -- manifestly have failed to do. ...

    Our banking structure remains unchanged, the rules will be tweaked at the margins, and the incentive and belief system that lies behind reckless risk-taking has only become more dangerous. (The back story, if you can still stomach it, is in 13 Bankers). ...

    Legal authority against market manipulation would be greatly strengthened and there would be more protection for whistleblowers. And the kind of transaction that Goldman entered into with Greece -- a swap transaction with the goal of reducing measured debt levels, effectively deceiving current and future investors, would become more clearly illegal. All of this is entirely reasonable and responsible -- and completely opposed by the most powerful people on Wall Street.

  • Jim Hightower: Attach the Deformers. Excerpts: Wall Street reform. How hard could it be for the US Senate to do this job? After all, terms like "Wall Street banker," "hedge fund operator," and "derivatives speculator" are curse words among the general public. These are the narcissistic hiesters who wrecked our economy, yet they've gotten away with a multitrillion-dollar bailout for their banks and multimillion-dollar bonuses for themselves. So passing a bill to stop such thievery in the future seems like something even a senator could do.

    But after months and months, the financial regulatory reform bill is staggering out of the senate as a hodgepodge of compromises, loopholes, and fiendishly convoluted amendments. It reads like something that bankers, operators, and speculators themselves patched together to avoid reform.

    That's because it largely is. This bill drew industry lobbyists like road kill draws vultures. Not just a lot of lobbyists, but the "connected ones" – those high-salaried K-Streeters who have insider access because... well, because they are insiders.

    A recent report written by the Public Accountability Institute, reveals that the six biggest Wall Street banks alone hired 243 lobbyists who previously held top positions in government, including 54 former staffers to the Senate and House committees now handling the reform bill. Titled, "Big Bank Takeover," the report notes that 16 of these Congress-to-K-Street, revolving-door lobbyists come from the staff of former-Sen. Trent Lott, who previously was the Republican Leader of the Senate, and former-Rep. Dick Gephardt, who previously was the Democratic leader in the House. And, just to put the icing on this rich cake, both Lott and Gephardt are also now lobbying for the banks.

If you hire good people and treat them well, they will try to do a good job. They will stimulate one another by their vigor and example. They will set a fast pace for themselves. Then if they are well led and occasionally inspired, if they understand what the company is trying to do and know they will share in its sucess, they will contribute in a major way. The customer will get the superior service he is looking for. The result is profit to customers, employees, and to stcckholders. —Thomas J. Watson, Jr., from A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM.

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