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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

Category: Business legal issues
June 30, 2014 at 2:40 PM

The Hobby Lobby can of worms

Today’s Supreme Court ruling  said that a “closely held” company such as Hobby Lobby can opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to provide contraception coverage on religious grounds. Although the majority decision by the court’s conservatives (elections have consequences) is said to be “very specific” to this case, one wonders where it…

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April 3, 2014 at 10:37 AM

McCutcheon, corruption and the economy

Combined with Citizens United, the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling on McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission is the most aggressive and far-reaching piece of judicial activism in modern American history. It will ensure the country’s transformation into an oligarchy where wealth controls politics and policy. This is actually very bad for most business and capitalism as a…

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March 8, 2013 at 10:22 AM

Too big to jail

So let me get this straight. Eric Holder, the chief law-enforcement officer of the United States, is unwilling to say that the president won’t use a drone to kill an American citizen on American soil, provoking a heroic (real) filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul. But the Attorney General is very clear about what happens when big banks break the law. He told the Senate Judiciary Committee:

I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy, and I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large.

So this is why the Obama administration has refused to apply the rule of law to the frauds and hustles that brought on the Great Recession. The criminal syndicates, aka large financial institutions, are too big to jail.

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December 1, 2011 at 9:46 AM

A decade later, Enron seems so quaint

Friday marks the 10th anniversary of Enron’s chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. Americans learned that this lionized giant, which seemed to represent the future of energy and corporate success, was in fact a bundle of frauds and hustles.

Led by the politically connected Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, Enron was honored as “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six consecutive years by Fortune magazine. There was no there there. In the place of actual productive work was a bunch of complex frauds and gambling in energy markets that led to blackouts in California. In the end, 22,000 employees lost their jobs and shareholders — the stock was heavily pushed to investors by Wall Street — were wiped out. So were the workers, who put most of their 401(k) savings in Enron shares. They’re still picking up the pieces of their lives.

Enron’s sins sound familiar: Using deregulation to create swindles, a lapdog board of directors and the co-conspiracy in the whole con by one of the world’s most respected accounting firms, Arthur Andersen, and Citigroup’s Sandy Weill. As the house of cards collapsed, the entire poker game fell down for similar frauds at WorldCom, HealthSouth and Tyco.

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June 21, 2011 at 9:50 AM

The Supremes deal another blow to working Americans

In the late 1990s, Merrill Lynch faced a class-action lawsuit alleging that women brokers faced gender discrimination in promotions, wages, account distributions and other areas of employment. Eight former or then current brokers brought the suit in 1997 and some 2,900 women were eligible to join the class. This was back in the day when female brokers were breaking into this all-male province and Mother Merrill was among the most resistant to change.

It wasn’t alone in facing a class-action. Salomon Smith Barney allowed the notorious “boom-boom room,” where, as the Times of London recounts, male employees described female colleagues as “whores” and worse.

Strippers and lap dancers were hired, pregnancy derided. … They took their lead from their boss, Nicholas Cuneo, who made no secret of his hostility to career women. Male colleagues enjoyed the partying; Salomon Smith Barney appreciated the profits he made.

Full disclosure: My future wife worked at both firms as a pioneering female broker and received a modest payout. But the justice the women won, and the fairness that resulted in the workplace, would not have been possible with today’s Supreme Court, as was made astonishingly clear in the Wal-Mart decision.

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