Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dept. Of "Top 10 Lists: "Top Ten" Ethical Collapses of '09

Alternet links to CREW for their essay on the most egregious ethical lapses affecting the political/DC Village-class in their familiar, laconic, insouciant voice, enumerating each in a poetic taxonomy rather than an ascending or descending, strictly numeric order. Along with each case, the CREW appends a season's wish...Via Alternet:
Madoff, Sanford and Murtha are just a few who made it onto the top 10 list of the nation's most ethically challenged players of the year. This list of the year's top 10 ethics scandals was compiled by the staff of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington -- better known as CREW.
H/w I C&P the first segment, and repeat the headlines of the subsequent cases.

Let Them Eat Cake!

As the federal government authorized the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to bail out the nation's failing financial institutions, the Wall Street executives responsible for the financial meltdown awarded themselves $18.4 billion in bonuses. AIG, which is now 80 percent owned by American taxpayers, doled out $165 million in executive bonuses. Merrill Lynch authorized $3.6 billion in bonuses after receiving $10 billion from the government and on the brink of bankruptcy, $209 million of which went to 10 bankers alone. President Obama voiced the public's anger over the bonuses, stating, "It is shameful. And part of what we're going to need is for the folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint and show some discipline and show some sense of responsibility."

In June 2009, the White House appointed Kenneth Feinberg as "special master for compensation," more commonly known as the "pay czar," to oversee the compensation for senior executives and the top 100 earners at AIG, Bank of America, Citigroup, General Motors, GMAC, Chrysler and Chrysler Financial, all companies that received money through TARP.

Although the pay czar is taking steps to limit bonuses, Wall Street expects to dole out bonuses 40 percent higher than 2008 levels, totaling an estimated $26 billion, by the end of 2009. The federal pay czar is currently trying to force AIG to cut back on $198 million in bonuses. Meanwhile, the government still awaits TARP repayments from some of these firms.

CREW's holiday wish: For the federal government's pay czar to exert his authority over bailed out firms to stop excessive bonuses, demonstrating that the government really does value the interests of Main Street at least as much as Wall Street.
Mighty nice thought, but since the latest officer installed to monitor compliance for the feds comes to his new job fresh from the Goldman-Sachs teat--and undoubtedly anticipating taking his new-found experience to the Street in a couple of years, ad an enormous premium--that might be a case of asking too much...

The remaining nine sub-heads are:
  • The SEC: Failing to Catch Madoff Since '92
  • Public Corruption Prosecutions Were So 2009
  • What, the FEC Is Supposed to Enforce (Not Gut) Campaign Finance Laws
  • How Sen. John Ensign Is Losing Friends and Alienating Constituents
  • Gov. Mark Sanford's Excellent Argentinian Adventure
  • Rep. Charlie Rangel and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year
  • Sure, the Senate Passed Ethics Legislation. Oh, Did You Think That Meant Something?
  • Earmarks Traded for Campaign Contributions? CREW is Shocked. Shocked.
  • No Really, Congress Will Drain the Swamp Next Year...Promise
In every case, of course, their wishes are as earnest and unlikely as in the first. But they have to be 'serious,' it's in the discourse.

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