Putin & Trump Investigation: Ryan, McConnell, Chaffetz & Their Donor Money Swamp

The Resistance News

February 17,2017

Putin had breached the American election and many suspect also trump. And therefore calls to investigate Putin & Trump is widespread. Standing in the way, as of this blog post, is GOP’s Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell & Jason Chaffetz.

Paul Ryan, basically, said (source): “Russia hacking into American election is important, but lets forget it.” Mitch McConnell, basically said, in answering question on a probe of Russia & Trump (source): “I am happy what Trump is doing.” And Jason Chaffetz, basically, said (source): “I will investigate leaks of information .”

I have been on R&R, but earlier, a twitter friend sent me, latest top 20 donor to Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan & Jason Chaffetz who block probe into Putin & Trump various critical issues. And she asked me to study & give her some ideas on what to do next, as she wants to boycott & protest donors.

On the list she gave me, yes, there are out-of-reach to protest & boycott pressure, like Goldman Sachs & Blackstone on list, but there also other donor might be really responsive to boycott & protest, like big donor to Jason Chaffetz is Amazon & Nu Skin. And then for Paul & Mitch, there are names like Nike, Apple, General Electric, America Express, Delta Airlines & other.

Yes, my friend the women, have lead a few boycott & protest and saw really amazing results & I sure she can do same to i.e. Amazon.

But overall though, when it comes to Trump, latest I heard, many horses ago since I on R&R, is Paul, Mitch & Jason have sold out America & Americans, good & best interest, to serve & help Trump with Partisan Politics for their Partisan goals & so here, this specific issue I told my women twitter friend, even if she run a great boycott & protest campaign, against, i.e. Amazon or Apple or America Express & they stop donating to Paul, Mitch & Jason, I do not think it will impact them much.

Again, all three have their Partisan goals & also in play, in Paul, Mitch & Jason donation game are lots of finance & banks, again i.e. Goldman Sachs & Blackstone, JP Morgan & other. And look at the Executive Order Trump just pass on Wall Street, that helped Wall Street and banks greatly.

So I think Paul, Mitch & Jason, really does not care much if they lose donations from i.e. Amazon, Apple and other, & last heard, this is exactly what Mitch said, he happy what Trump doing, particularly with banks. Anyway, my women friend still asked I do some research on money going to Paul, Mitch & Jason, & here is the blog post

Paul Ryan

Paul Davis Ryan, Jr. (/ˈraɪən/; born January 29, 1970) is an American politician who is the 54th and current Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

Ryan is a member of the Republican Party who has served as the U.S. Representative for Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district since 1999. Ryan previously served as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, from January 3 to October 29, 2015, and, before that, as Chairman of the House Budget Committee from 2011 to 2015. He was the Republican Party nominee for Vice President of the United States, running alongside former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts in the 2012 election.[1][2] Ryan, together with Democratic Senator Patty Murray, negotiated the landmark Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013.[3][4][5]

On October 29, 2015, Ryan was elected to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives following Boehner’s retirement, and named lobbyist John David Hoppe as his Chief of Staff.[6][7] Ryan is the first person from Wisconsin to hold this position.[8]

Contents

 

The following is the top donor to Paul Ryan (meaning not PACs):

Rank Contributor Hires lobbyists? Lobbying firm?* Lobbyist(s)
give to
member?
Total Indivs PACs
1 Bank of America $85,644 $75,644 $10,000
2 Nike Inc $70,300 $69,300 $1,000
3 Blackstone Group $68,000 $68,000 $0
4 Pfizer Inc $63,255 $53,255 $10,000
5 Apple Inc $62,850 $62,850 $0
6 Blue Cross/Blue Shield $61,350 $38,850 $22,500
7 Elliott Management $56,700 $56,700 $0
8 Berkshire Hathaway $51,565 $41,565 $10,000
9 Blackrock Inc $50,700 $40,700 $10,000
10 Northwestern Mutual $49,970 $36,970 $13,000
11 Comcast Corp $46,301 $36,301 $10,000
12 USAA $45,120 $35,120 $10,000
13 Fedex Corp $42,800 $32,800 $10,000
14 Cerberus Capital Management $41,400 $36,400 $5,000
15 Koch Industries $39,522 $29,522 $10,000
16 Cushman & Wakefield $38,125 $38,125 $0
17 American Electric Power $37,250 $27,250 $10,000
18 Alliance Resource Partners $33,500 $33,500 $0
19 Akin, Gump et al $32,925 $22,925 $10,000

 

Addison MitchellMitchMcConnell, Jr. (born February 20, 1942) is an American politician and the senior United States Senator from Kentucky. A member of the Republican Party, he has been the Majority Leader of the Senate since January 3, 2015. He is the 15th Republican and the second Kentuckian to lead his party in the Senate.[1] McConnell is the longest-serving U.S. Senator in Kentucky history.[2]

During the administration of President Barack Obama, McConnell was known to the left as being an obstructionist,[3] while opinion on the right was sharply divided. Some on the right praised him for tenacity and courage,[4] while others criticized him for being part of the political establishment and not keeping his promises to conservatives.[5]

From early 2016, McConnell refused to schedule Senate hearings for Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, to replace Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016. Garland’s nomination remained before the Senate for 294 days, from March 16, 2016 until it expired on January 3, 2017, more than double the time of any other Supreme Court nomination.[6]

McConnell has repeatedly been found to have the lowest home state approval rating of any sitting senator.[7][8]

Contents

 

The following is the top donor to Mitch McConnell

Rank Contributor Hires lobbyists? Lobbying firm?* Lobbyist(s)
give to
member?
Total Indivs PACs
1 Blackstone Group $217,700 $203,700 $14,000
2 Goldman Sachs $118,425 $105,925 $12,500
3 Kindred Healthcare $104,650 $89,650 $15,000
4 Humana Inc $103,300 $93,300 $10,000
5 NorPAC $100,151 $100,400 $-249
6 JPMorgan Chase & Co $97,075 $87,075 $10,000
7 Alliance Resource Partners $96,150 $91,150 $5,000
8 DaVita HealthCare Partners $94,625 $77,125 $17,500
9 Votesane PAC $82,500 $82,500 $0
10 Citigroup Inc $79,300 $69,300 $10,000
11 Peabody Energy $76,800 $66,800 $10,000
12 General Electric $75,955 $66,455 $9,500
13 American Express $72,750 $62,250 $10,500
14 Blue Cross/Blue Shield $72,050 $52,050 $20,000
15 Berkshire Hathaway $65,250 $55,250 $10,000
16 Capital Group Companies $65,200 $50,200 $15,000
17 Metlife Inc $62,150 $53,150 $9,000
18 Exxon Mobil $61,301 $41,301 $20,000
19 Apollo Global Management $58,300 $58,300 $0
20 Delta Air Lines $55,900 $49,900 $6,000

The following is the top donor to Jason Chaffetz

Jason E. Chaffetz (/ˈtʃeɪfᵻts/; born March 26, 1967) is the U.S. representative for Utah’s 3rd congressional district, first elected in 2008. He is a member of the Republican Party. He has been the chairman of the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform since 2015.

Some of his political positions include opposition to the Affordable Care Act, same-sex marriage and the scientific consensus on climate change. He has expressed skepticism over mandatory vaccinations and pledged to hold hearings to determine their safety. He has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration’s conduct in the 2012 Benghazi attack. He has also been critical of Planned Parenthood. He opposes net neutrality and has held hearings to investigate the FCC‘s decision to adopt net neutrality rules in 2015.

Chaffetz came to prominence in 2015 for his extensive investigations into Hillary Clinton. He rescinded his endorsement of Donald Trump in early October 2016 but expressed his intent to vote for him three weeks later. Having investigated Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration extensively, Chaffetz drew criticism after the 2016 election for an unwillingness to investigate or challenge what ethics experts describe as Trump’s “nakedly unconstitutional” conflicts of interest. He drew criticism again in January-February 2017 for his refusal to investigate White House National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn’s ties to Russia after it was revealed that U.S. counterintelligence agents were investigating him for his communications with Russian officials.

Contents

 

Rank Contributor Hires lobbyists? Lobbying firm?* Lobbyist(s)
give to
member?
Total Indivs PACs
1 Amazon.com $49,900 $39,900 $10,000
2 Nu Skin Enterprises $33,500 $28,500 $5,000
3 Kojaian Companies $15,600 $15,600 $0
4 Goldman Sachs $15,000 $2,500 $12,500
5 Delta Air Lines $14,100 $9,100 $5,000
6 Blue Cross/Blue Shield $13,500 $0 $13,500
7 Sinclair Companies $13,300 $13,300 $0
8 Alphabet Inc $12,700 $2,700 $10,000
9 Comcast Corp $12,600 $2,600 $10,000
10 Wilmerhale Llp $12,500 $12,500 $0
11 Zions Bancorp $12,200 $7,700 $4,500
12 Best Buy $12,000 $3,000 $9,000
12 Citigroup Inc $12,000 $0 $12,000
14 Microsoft Corp $11,700 $4,200 $7,500
15 Suburban Collection $10,800 $10,800 $0
15 True Science $10,800 $10,800 $0
17 MacAndrews & Forbes $10,400 $5,400 $5,000
18 Optimum Software Solutions $10,100 $10,100 $0
19 4Life Research $10,000 $10,000 $0
19 AT&T Inc $10,000 $0 $10,000
19 Council for Responsible Nutrition $10,000 $1,000 $9,000
19 Home Depot $10,000 $0 $10,000
19 International Council of Shopping Cntrs $10,000 $0 $10,000
19 Koch Industries $10,000 $0 $10,000
19 KPMG LLP $10,000 $0 $10,000
19 Mastercard Inc $10,000 $0 $10,000
19 Micron Technology $10,000 $0 $10,000
19 National Auto Dealers Assn $10,000 $0 $10,000
19 National Beer Wholesalers Assn $10,000 $0 $10,000
19 Northrop Grumman $10,000 $0 $10,000
19 Pfizer Inc $10,000 $0 $10,000
19 Pro Star Fulfillment $10,000 $10,000 $0
19 United Parcel Service $10,000 $0 $10,000

The following is some information on their donors:

1

Bank of America

Bank of America (abbreviated as BofA) is an American multinational banking and financial services corporation headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. It is the second largest bank holding company in the United States by assets.[5] As of 2016, Bank of America is the 26th largest company in the United States by total revenue. In 2016, Forbes listed Bank of America as the eleventh largest company in the world.[6]

Bank of America provides its products and services through operating 5,100 banking centers, 16,300 ATMs, call centers, and online and mobile banking platforms. Its Consumer Real Estate Services segment offers consumer real estate products comprising fixed and adjustable-rate first-lien mortgage loans for home purchase and refinancing needs, home equity lines of credit, and home equity loans.[7]

The bank’s 2008 acquisition of Merrill Lynch made Bank of America the world’s largest wealth management corporation and a major player in the investment banking market.[8] According to the Scorpio Partnership Global Private Banking Benchmark 2014 it had assets under management (AuM) of US$1,866.6 Bn, an increase of 12.5% on 2013.[9]

The company held 12.2% of all bank deposits in the United States in August 2009,[10] and is one of the Big Four banks in the United States, along with Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo—its main competitors.[11][12] Bank of America operates—but does not necessarily maintain retail branches[13]—in all 50 states of the United States, the District of Columbia and more than 40 other countries. It has a retail banking footprint that serves approximately 50 million consumer and small business relationships at 5,151 banking centers and 16,259 automated teller machines (ATMs).[14]

Bank of America has been the subject of many lawsuits and investigations regarding both mortgages and financial disclosures dating back to the financial crisis, including a record settlement of $16.65 billion on August 21, 2014.[15][16][17]

Controversies

Parmalat controversy

Parmalat SpA is a multinational Italian dairy and food corporation. Following Parmalat’s 2003 bankruptcy, the company sued Bank of America for $10 billion, alleging the bank profited from its knowledge of Parmalat’s financial difficulties. The parties announced a settlement in July 2009, resulting in Bank of America paying Parmalat $98.5 million in October 2009.[123][124] In a related case, on April 18, 2011, an Italian court acquitted Bank of America and three other large banks, along with their employees, of charges they assisted Parmalat in concealing its fraud, and of lacking sufficient internal controls to prevent such frauds. Prosecutors did not immediately say whether they would appeal the rulings. In Parma, the banks were still charged with covering up the fraud.[125]

Consumer credit controversies

In January 2008, Bank of America began notifying some customers without payment problems that their interest rates were more than doubled, up to 28%. The bank was criticized for raising rates on customers in good standing, and for declining to explain why it had done so.[126][127] In September 2009, a Bank of America credit card customer, Ann Minch, posted a video on YouTube criticizing the bank for raising her interest rate. After the video went viral, she was contacted by a Bank of America representative who lowered her rate. The story attracted national attention from television and internet commentators.[128][129][130] More recently, the bank has been criticized for allegedly seizing three properties that were not under their ownership, apparently due to incorrect addresses on their legal documents.[131]

WikiLeaks

In October 2009, WikiLeaks representative Julian Assange reported that his organization possessed a 5 gigabyte hard drive formerly used by a Bank of America executive and that Wikileaks intended to publish its contents.[132]

In November 2010, Forbes magazine published an interview with Assange in which he stated his intent to publish information which would turn a major U.S. bank “inside out”.[133] In response to this announcement, Bank of America stock dropped 3.2%.[134]

In December 2010, Bank of America announced that it would no longer service requests to transfer funds to WikiLeaks,[135] stating that “Bank of America joins in the actions previously announced by MasterCard, PayPal, Visa Europe and others and will not process transactions of any type that we have reason to believe are intended for WikiLeaks… This decision is based upon our reasonable belief that WikiLeaks may be engaged in activities that are, among other things, inconsistent with our internal policies for processing payments.”[136]

In late December it was announced that Bank of America had bought up more than 300 Internet domain names in an attempt to preempt bad publicity that might be forthcoming in the anticipated WikiLeaks release. The domain names included as BrianMoynihanBlows.com, BrianMoynihanSucks.com and similar names for other top executives of the bank.[137][138][139][140] Nick Baumann of Mother Jones ridiculed this effort, stating: “If I owned stock in Bank of America, this would not give me confidence that the bank is prepared for whatever Julian Assange is planning to throw at it.”[141]

Sometime before August 2011, it is claimed by WikiLeaks that 5 GB of Bank of America leaks was part of the deletion of over 3500 communications by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a now ex-WikiLeaks volunteer.[142][143]

Anonymous

On March 14, 2011, one or more members of the decentralized collective Anonymous began releasing emails it said were obtained from Bank of America. According to the group, the emails document “corruption and fraud”, and relate to the issue of improper foreclosures. The source, identified publicly as Brian Penny,[144] was a former LPI Specialist from Balboa Insurance, a firm which used to be owned by the bank, but was sold to Australian Reinsurance Company QBE.[145]

Mortgage business

The state of Arizona has investigated Bank of America for misleading homeowners who sought to modify their mortgage loans. According to the attorney general of Arizona, the bank “repeatedly has deceived” such mortgagors. In response to the investigation, the bank has given some modifications on the condition that the homeowners refrain from criticizing the bank.[146]

Accounts of Iranians frozen

In May 2014 many Iranian students in the U.S. and some American-Iranian citizens realized their accounts have been frozen by Bank of America.[147] Although Bank of America denied to reveal any information or reason regarding this, some Iranians believe that it is related to sanctions against Iran.[148] Betty Riess, a spokeswoman for Bank of America, told MintPress News via email, “We do not close accounts on the basis of nationality, nor do we close accounts without notice to customers.”[149] However, account holders believe there could be a relationship between this action and their national origin.[150] Although most account holders say they did not receive any notification prior their accounts being frozen, Bank of America insists that they do not freeze any account without prior notification.[151] When it was reported that Bank of America was closing the accounts of Iranians living in the U.S. and Iranian-Americans, there was speculation that the bank did so on the basis of discriminatory ideology, since Bank of America did not give these individuals any reason why their accounts were being closed. The bank responded to these accusations, arguing that it was only following the rules put forth by the U.S. federal government regarding economic relations between the U.S. and Iran.[149]

Investment in mountaintop removal

Bank of America has been criticized for its heavy investment in the environmentally damaging processes of coal mining, especially through mountaintop removal (MTR).[152] On May 6, 2015, the company announced that it would “reduce [its] credit exposure … to the coal mining industry,” i.e. reduce its financing of companies engaging in MTR, coal mining, and coal power production. The company stated that pressure to divest from universities and environmental groups led to this policy change.[153]

2

Nike

Nike, Inc. (official, US /ˈnaɪki/; also, non-US /ˈnaɪk/)[note 1] is an American multinational corporation that is engaged in the design, development, manufacturing and worldwide marketing and sales of footwear, apparel, equipment, accessories and services. The company is headquartered near Beaverton, Oregon, in the Portland metropolitan area. It is one of the world’s largest suppliers of athletic shoes and apparel[5] and a major manufacturer of sports equipment, with revenue in excess of US$24.1 billion in its fiscal year 2012 (ending May 31, 2012). As of 2012, it employed more than 44,000 people worldwide. In 2014 the brand alone was valued at $19 billion, making it the most valuable brand among sports businesses.[6]

The company was founded on January 25, 1964, as Blue Ribbon Sports, by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight,[1] and officially became Nike, Inc. on May 30, 1971. The company takes its name from Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. Nike markets its products under its own brand, as well as Nike Golf, Nike Pro, Nike+, Air Jordan, Nike Blazers, Air Force 1, Nike Dunk, Air Max, Foamposite, Nike Skateboarding, and subsidiaries including Brand Jordan, Hurley International and Converse. Nike also owned Bauer Hockey (later renamed Nike Bauer) between 1995 and 2008, and previously owned Cole Haan and Umbro.[7] In addition to manufacturing sportswear and equipment, the company operates retail stores under the Niketown name. Nike sponsors many high-profile athletes and sports teams around the world, with the highly recognized trademarks of “Just Do It” and the Swoosh logo.

Controversy

Nike has contracted with more than 700 shops around the world and has offices located in 45 countries outside the United States.[75] Most of the factories are located in Asia, including Indonesia, China, Taiwan, India,[76] Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, Philippines, and Malaysia.[77] Nike is hesitant to disclose information about the contract companies it works with. However, due to harsh criticism from some organizations like CorpWatch, Nike has disclosed information about its contract factories in its Corporate Governance Report.

Sweatshops

Nike has been criticized for contracting with factories (known as Nike sweatshops) in countries such as China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Mexico. Vietnam Labor Watch, an activist group, has documented that factories contracted by Nike have violated minimum wage and overtime laws in Vietnam as late as 1996, although Nike claims that this practice has been stopped.[78] The company has been subject to much critical coverage of the often poor working conditions and exploitation of cheap overseas labor employed in the free trade zones where their goods are typically manufactured. Sources for this criticism include Naomi Klein‘s book No Logo and Michael Moore documentaries.

Campaigns have been taken up by many colleges and universities, especially anti-globalisation groups, as well as several anti-sweatshop groups such as the United Students Against Sweatshops.[79]

As of July 2011, Nike stated that two-thirds of its factories producing Converse products still do not meet the company’s standards for worker treatment. A July 2011 Associated Press article stated that employees at the company’s plants in Indonesia reported constant abuse from supervisors.[80]

Child labor allegations

During the 1990s, Nike faced criticism for the use of child labor in Cambodia and Pakistan in factories it contracted to manufacture soccer balls. Although Nike took action to curb or at least reduce the practice, they continue to contract their production to companies that operate in areas where inadequate regulation and monitoring make it hard to ensure that child labor is not being used.[81]

In 2001, a BBC documentary uncovered occurrences of child labor and poor working conditions in a Cambodian factory used by Nike.[82] The documentary focused on six girls, who all worked seven days a week, often 16 hours a day.

Strike in China factory

In April 2014, one of the biggest strikes in mainland China took place at the Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings Dongguan shoe factory, producing amongst others for Nike. Yue Yuen did underpay an employee by 250 yuan (40.82 US Dollars) per month. The average salary at Yue Yuen is 3000 yuan per month. The factory employs 70,000 people. This practice was in place for nearly 20 years.[83][84][85]

Justin Gatlin sponsorship

In March 2015, Nike drew criticism after announcing a new sponsorship deal with American sprinter Justin Gatlin who had served two bans for doping. Nike had previously dropped Gatlin after his second failed drug test and resulting long term ban. Critics said that Nike was sending out a bad message by endorsing an athlete who has never been repentant for his actions and still causes widespread discontent within the sport. English sprinter Marlon Devonish described the deal as “a kick in the teeth to the 99% of guys who are clean”.[86][87][88][89]

Environmental record

According to the New England-based environmental organization Clean Air-Cool Planet, Nike ranks among the top three companies (out of 56) in a survey of climate-friendly companies.[90] Nike has also been praised for its Nike Grind program (which closes the product lifecycle) by groups like Climate Counts.[91] One campaign that Nike began for Earth Day 2008 was a commercial that featured basketball star Steve Nash wearing Nike’s Trash Talk Shoe, which had been constructed in February 2008 from pieces of leather and synthetic leather waste from factory floors. The Trash Talk Shoe also featured a sole composed of ground-up rubber from a shoe recycling program. Nike claims this is the first performance basketball shoe that has been created from manufacturing waste, but it only produced 5,000 pairs for sale.[92]

Another project Nike has begun is called Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program. This program, started in 1993, is Nike’s longest-running program that benefits both the environment and the community by collecting old athletic shoes of any type in order to process and recycle them. The material that is produced is then used to help create sports surfaces such as basketball courts, running tracks, and playgrounds.[93]

A project through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found workers were exposed to toxic isocyanates and other chemicals in footwear factories in Thailand. In addition to inhalation, dermal exposure was the biggest problem found. This could result in allergic reactions including asthmatic reactions.[94][95]

Marketing strategy

Nike promotes its products by sponsorship agreements with celebrity athletes, professional teams and college athletic teams.

Advertising

In 1982, Nike aired its first national television ads, created by newly formed ad agency Wieden+Kennedy (W+K), during the broadcast of the New York Marathon. The Cannes Advertising Festival has named Nike its Advertiser of the Year in 1994 and 2003, making it the first company to receive that honor twice.[96]

Nike also has earned the Emmy Award for best commercial twice since the award was first created in the 1990s. The first was for “The Morning After,” a satirical look at what a runner might face on the morning of January 1, 2000 if every dire prediction about the Y2K problem came to fruition.[97] The second was for a 2002 spot called “Move,” which featured a series of famous and everyday athletes in a variety of athletic pursuits.[98]

Beatles song

Nike was criticized for its use of the Beatles song “Revolution” in a 1987 commercial against the wishes of Apple Records, the Beatles’ recording company. Nike paid US$250,000 to Capitol Records Inc., which held the North American licensing rights to the recordings, for the right to use the Beatles’ rendition for a year.

Apple sued Nike Inc., Capitol Records Inc., EMI Records Inc. and Wieden+Kennedy for $15 million.[99] Capitol-EMI countered by saying the lawsuit was “groundless” because Capitol had licensed the use of “Revolution” with the “active support and encouragement of Yoko Ono, a shareholder and director of Apple.”

Nike discontinued airing ads featuring “Revolution” in March 1988. Yoko Ono later gave permission to Nike to use John Lennon‘s “Instant Karma” in another advertisement.

New media marketing

Nike was an early adopter of internet marketing, email management technologies, and using broadcast and narrowcast communication technologies to create multimedia marketing campaigns.

Minor Threat advertisement

In late June 2005, Nike received criticism from Ian MacKaye, owner of Dischord Records, guitarist/vocalist for Fugazi and The Evens, and front man of the defunct punk band Minor Threat, for appropriating imagery and text from Minor Threat’s 1981 self-titled album‘s cover art in a flyer promoting Nike Skateboarding‘s 2005 East Coast demo tour.

On June 27, Nike Skateboarding’s website issued an apology to Dischord, Minor Threat, and fans of both and announced that they have tried to remove and dispose of all flyers. They stated that the people who designed it were skateboarders and Minor Threat fans themselves who created the advertisement out of respect and appreciation for the band.[100] The dispute was eventually settled out of court between Nike and Minor Threat.

 

Nike 6.0

As part of the 6.0 campaign, Nike introduced a new line of T-shirts that include phrases such as “Dope”, “Get High” and “Ride Pipe” – sports lingo that is also a double entendre for drug use. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino expressed his objection to the shirts after seeing them in a window display at the city’s Niketown and asked the store to remove the display. “What we don’t need is a major corporation like Nike, which tries to appeal to the younger generation, out there giving credence to the drug issue,” Menino told The Boston Herald. A company official stated the shirts were meant to pay homage to extreme sports, and that Nike does not condone the illegal use of drugs.[101] Nike was forced to replace the shirt line.[102]

NBA uniform and apparel deal

In June 2015, Nike signed an 8-year deal with the NBA to become the official apparel supplier for the league, beginning with the 2017–18 season. The brand takes over for Adidas, who provided the uniforms and apparel for the league since 2006. Unlike previous deals, Nike’s logo will appear on NBA game jerseys – a first for the league.[103]

3

Blackstone

The Blackstone Group L.P. is an American multinational private equity, alternative asset management and financial services corporation based in New York City. As the largest alternative investment firm in the world,[3] Blackstone specializes in private equity, credit and hedge fund investment strategies.[4]

Blackstone’s private equity business has been one of the largest investors in leveraged buyout transactions over the last decade, while its real estate business has actively acquired commercial real estate. Since its inception, Blackstone has completed investments in such notable companies as Hilton Worldwide, Merlin Entertainments Group, Equity Office Properties, Republic Services, AlliedBarton, United Biscuits, Freescale Semiconductor, Vivint,[5] and Travelport.[6]

Blackstone was founded in 1985 as a mergers and acquisitions boutique by Peter G. Peterson and Stephen A. Schwarzman, who had previously worked together at Lehman Brothers, Kuhn, Loeb Inc. Over the course of two decades, Blackstone has evolved into one of the world’s largest private equity investment firms.[3] In 2007, Blackstone completed a $4 billion initial public offering to become one of the first major private equity firms to list shares in its management company on a public exchange.[7][8] Blackstone is headquartered at 345 Park Avenue in Manhattan, New York City, with eight additional offices in the United States, as well as offices in London, Paris, Düsseldorf, Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Madrid, Mumbai, and Dubai.[9]

Stephen Allen Schwarzman (born February 14, 1947) is an American investor, private equity manager, and philanthropist. He is the chairman and CEO of the Blackstone Group, a global private equity firm he established in 1985 with former US Secretary of Commerce Pete Peterson. His personal fortune is estimated at $10.2 billion as of January 2017. As of 2017, Forbes ranked Schwarzman at 113th on its World’s Billionaires List.[1][2]

He currently chairs President Donald Trump‘s Strategic and Policy Forum.[3]

Schwarzman is a Republican. He is a long-time friend of President Donald Trump and provides outside counsel[34], and currently chairs President Donald Trump‘s Strategic and Policy Forum.[35]. In response to criticism for his involvement with the Trump administration, Schwarzman penned a letter to current Schwarzman Scholars, arguing that “having influence and providing sound advice is a good thing, even if it attracts criticism or requires some sacrifice.”[36]

In early 2016, he said that in a two-candidate race he would prefer Donald Trump to Ted Cruz, saying that the nation needed a “cohesive, healing presidency, not one that’s lurching either to the right or to the left.”[37]. He had previously made a donation to Marco Rubio in 2014. He also endorsed and fundraised for Mitt Romney in 2012.[38]

In 2010, Schwarzman drew controversy for comparing President Obama’s proposal to increase taxation on ‘carried interest’ profits to Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939. Schwarzman later apologized for the analogy.[39][40] He raised $100,000 for George W. Bush.[41]

Peter GeorgePetePeterson (Peter Petropoulos) (born June 5, 1926) is an American businessman, investment banker, philanthropist, and author, who served as United States Secretary of Commerce from February 29, 1972 to February 1, 1973. He is also known as founder and principal funder of The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which he established in 2008 with a $1 billion endowment. The group focuses on raising public awareness about U.S. fiscal-sustainability issues related to federal deficits, entitlement programs, and tax policies.[1] In recognition of his support, the influential[2] Peterson Institute for International Economics was named in his honor in 2006.

Before serving as Secretary of Commerce, Peterson was Chairman and CEO of Bell & Howell, from 1963 to 1971. From 1973 to 1984 he was Chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers. In 1985 he co-founded the private equity firm, the Blackstone Group, which went public in 2007. Peterson was Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations until retiring in 2007, after being named chairman emeritus. In 2008, Peterson was ranked 149th on the “Forbes 400 Richest Americans” with a net worth of $2.8 billion.

Peterson has been named the most influential billionaire in U.S. politics.[3]

On August 4, 2010, it was announced that he had signed “The Giving Pledge.” He was one of 40 billionaires, led by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who agreed to give at least half their wealth to charity.[4] Most of his giving has been to his own foundation, The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which focuses on raising public awareness about long-term fiscal sustainability issues.

From 2007 through 2011, Peterson is reported to have contributed $458 million to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, to promote the cause of fiscal responsibility, which its opponents regard as unjustified fiscal austerity.[18]

4

Goldman Sachs

The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. is an American multinational finance company that engages in global investment banking, investment management, securities, and other financial services, primarily with institutional clients.

Goldman Sachs was founded in 1869 and is headquartered at 200 West Street in Lower Manhattan, New York City, with additional offices in other international financial centers.[4] The firm provides asset management, mergers and acquisitions advice, prime brokerage, and underwriting services to its clients, which include corporations, governments, and individuals. The firm also engages in market making and private equity deals, and is a primary dealer in the U.S. Treasury security market.

Due to its involvement in subprime mortgages, Goldman Sachs was hit hard by the 2008 economic crisis,[5] and was subsequently rescued as part of a massive U.S. government bailout.

Former Goldman executives who moved on to government positions include former U.S. Secretaries of the Treasury Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson; current United States Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin; European Central Bank President Mario Draghi; former Bank of Canada Governor and current Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney and the current Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull.

Political contributions

Goldman Sachs employees have donated to both major American political parties, as well as candidates and super PACs belonging to both parties. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Goldman Sachs and its employees collectively gave $4.7 million in the 2014 elections to various candidates, leadership PACs, political parties, 527 groups, and outside spending entities.[271] In the 2016 election cycle, Goldman employees were reported (as of September 2016) to have donated $371,245 to the Republican National Committee and $301,119 to the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. Goldman Sachs forbade its top level employees from donating to Trump.[272]

In 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued regulations that limit asset managers’ donations to state and local officials, and prohibit certain top-level employees from donating to such officials.[272][273] This SEC regulation is an anti-“pay-to-play” measure, intended to avoid the creation of a conflict of interest, or the appearance of a conflict of interest, as Goldman Sachs has business in managing state pension funds and municipal debt.[272][273] In 2016, Goldman Sachs’s compliance department barred the firm’s 450 partners (its most senior employees) from making donations to state or local officials as well as “any federal candidate who is a sitting state or local official.”[272] One effect of this rule is to bar Goldman partners from directly donating to Donald Trump‘s presidential campaign, since Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Mike Pence, is the sitting governor of Indiana. Donations to Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign are not barred by the policy, since neither Clinton nor her running mate Tim Kaine are sitting state or local officials.[272][273]

 

Controversies

Goldman has been harshly criticized, particularly in the aftermath of the 2007–2012 global financial crisis, where some alleged that it misled its investors and profited from the collapse of the mortgage market. That time — “one of the darkest chapters” in Goldman’s history (according to the New York Times[115]) — brought investigations from the Congress, the Justice Department, and a lawsuit from the SEC[116][117]—to whom it agreed to pay $550 million to settle.[118] It was “excoriated by the press and the public” (according to journalists McLean and Nocera[119]) — this despite the non-retail nature of its business that would normally have kept it out of the public eye.[120][121] Visibility and antagonism came from the $12.9 billion Goldman received—more than any other firm—from AIG counterparty payments provided by the New York Federal Reserve bailout; the $10 billion in TARP money it received from the government (though the firm paid this back to the government); and a record $11.4 billion set aside for employee bonuses in the first half of 2009.[122][123] While all the investment banks were scolded by congressional investigations, the company was subject to “a solo hearing in front of the Senate Permanent Subcommitee on Investigations” and a quite critical report.[120][124] In a widely publicized story,[125] Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone characterized the firm as a “great vampire squid” sucking money instead of blood, allegedly engineering “every major market manipulation since the Great Depression … from tech stocks to high gas prices”[125][126][127][128]

Goldman Sachs has denied wrongdoing. It has stated that its customers were aware of its bets against the mortgage-related security products it was selling to them, and that it only used those bets to hedge against losses,[129] and was simply a market maker. The firm also promised a “comprehensive examination of our business standards and practices”, more disclosure and better relationships with clients.[130]

Goldman has also been accused of an assortment of other misdeeds, varying from a general decline in ethical standards,[131][132] working with dictatorial regimes,[133] cozy relationships with the US federal government via a “revolving door” of former employees,[134] insider trading by some of its traders,[135] and driving up prices of commodities through futures speculation.[136] Goldman has denied wrongdoing in these cases.

Sale of Dragon Systems to Lernout & Hauspie

In 2000, Goldman Sachs advised Dragon Systems on its sale to the Belgian company, Lernout & Hauspie. L&H later collapsed due to accounting fraud. Jim and Janet Baker, founders and together 50% owners of Dragon, filed a lawsuit against Goldman Sachs, alleging that the firm did not warn Dragon or the Bakers of the accounting problems of the acquirer, and that this led to the loss of their portion of the sale price of $580 million, which was paid entirely in the form of the acquirer’s stock. On January 23, 2013 a federal jury rejected the Bakers’ claims and found Goldman Sachs not liable to the Bakers for negligence, intentional and negligent misrepresentation, and breach of fiduciary duty.[137]

Involvement in the European sovereign debt crisis

Goldman is being criticized for its involvement in the 2010 European sovereign debt crisis. Goldman Sachs is reported to have systematically helped the Greek government mask the true facts concerning its national debt between the years 1998 and 2009.[138] In September 2009, Goldman Sachs, among others, created a special credit default swap (CDS) index to cover the high risk of Greece’s national debt.[139] The interest-rates of Greek national bonds have soared to a very high level, leading the Greek economy very close to bankruptcy in March and May 2010 and again in June 2011.[140] Lucas Papademos, Greece’s former prime minister, ran the Central Bank of Greece at the time of the controversial derivatives deals with Goldman Sachs that enabled Greece to hide the size of its debt.[141] Petros Christodoulou, General Manager of the Greek Public Debt Management Agency is a former employee of Goldman Sachs.[141] Mario Monti, Italy’s former prime minister and finance minister, who headed the new government that took over after Berlusconi’s resignation, is an international adviser to Goldman Sachs.[141] So is Otmar Issing, former board member of the Bundesbank and the Executive Board of the European Bank.[141] Mario Draghi, the new head of the European Central Bank, is the former managing director of Goldman Sachs International.[141] António Borges, Head of the European Department of the International Monetary Fund in 2010–2011 and responsible for most of enterprise privatizations in Portugal since 2011, is the former Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs International.[141] Carlos Moedas, a former Goldman Sachs employee, is the current Secretary of State to the Prime Minister of Portugal and Director of ESAME, the agency created to monitor and control the implementation of the structural reforms agreed by the government of Portugal and the troika composed of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Peter Sutherland, former Attorney General of Ireland is a non-executive director of Goldman Sachs International. These ties between Goldman Sachs and European leaders are an ongoing source of controversy.[141]

Employee’s Views

Greg Smith resignation letter

In his March 2012 resignation letter, printed as an op-ed in The New York Times, the former head of Goldman Sachs US equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) attacked the company’s CEO and president for losing the company’s culture, which he described as “the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years”. Smith said that advising clients “to do what I believe is right for them” was becoming increasingly unpopular. Instead there was a “toxic and destructive” environment in which “the interests of the client continue to be sidelined”, senior management described clients as “muppets” and colleagues callously talked about “ripping their clients off”.[131][132] In reply, Goldman Sachs said that “we will only be successful if our clients are successful”, claiming “this fundamental truth lies at the heart of how we conduct ourselves” and that “we don’t think [Smith’s comments] reflect the way we run our business.”[142] Later that year, Smith published a book titled Why I left Goldman Sachs.[143]

According to the New York Times‘s own research after the op-ed was printed, almost all the claims made in Smith’s incendiary Op-Ed–about Goldman Sachs’s turned out to be “curiously short” on evidence. The New York Times never issued a retraction or admitted to any error in judgment in initially publishing Smith’s op-ed.[144]

What Happened to Goldman Sachs by Steven Mandis

In 2014 a book by former Goldman portfolio manager Steven George Mandis was published entitled What Happened to Goldman Sachs: An Insider’s Story of Organizational Drift and Its Unintended Consequences.[145][146] Mandis also has a PhD dissertation about Goldman at Columbia University. Mandis left in 2004 after working for the firm for 12 years.[147] In an interview Mandis said, “You read about Goldman Sachs and it’s either the bank is the best or the bank is the worst, this is not one of those books—things are never black or white.” According to Mandis, there was an “organizational drift” in the company’s evolution.

Cristina Chen-Oster and Shanna Orlich Lawsuit

In 2010, two former female employees filed a lawsuit against Goldman Sachs for gender discrimination. Cristina Chen-Oster and Shanna Orlich claimed that the firm fostered an “uncorrected culture of sexual harassment and assault” causing women to either be “sexualized or ignored”. The suit cited both cultural and pay discrimination including frequent client trips to strip clubs, client golf outings that excluded female employees, and the fact that female vice presidents made 21% less than their male counterparts.[148]

California bonds

On November 11, 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported that Goldman Sachs had both earned $25 million from underwriting California bonds, and advised other clients to short those bonds.[149] While some journalists criticized the contradictory actions,[150] others pointed out that the opposite investment decisions undertaken by the underwriting side and the trading side of the bank were normal and in line with regulations regarding Chinese walls, and in fact critics had demanded increased independence between underwriting and trading.[151]

Personnel “revolving-door” with US government

During 2008 Goldman Sachs received criticism for an apparent revolving door relationship, in which its employees and consultants have moved in and out of high level U.S. Government positions, creating the potential for conflicts of interest. The large number of former Goldman Sachs employees in the US government has been jokingly referred to “Government Sachs”.[134] Former Treasury Secretary Paulson is a former CEO of Goldman Sachs. Additional controversy attended the selection of former Goldman Sachs lobbyist Mark Patterson as chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, despite President Barack Obama‘s campaign promise that he would limit the influence of lobbyists in his administration.[152] In February 2011, the Washington Examiner reported that Goldman Sachs was “the company from which Obama raised the most money in 2008” and that its “CEO Lloyd Blankfein has visited the White House 10 times.”[153]

Former New York Fed Chairman’s ties to the firm

Stephen Friedman, a former director of Goldman Sachs, was named Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in January 2008. Although he had retired from Goldman in 1994, Friedman continued to own stock in the firm. Goldman’s conversion from a securities firm to a bank holding company in September 2008 meant it was now regulated by the Fed and not the SEC. When it became apparent that Timothy Geithner, then president of the New York Fed, would leave his role there to become Treasury Secretary, Friedman was granted a temporary one-year waiver of a rule that forbids “class C” directors of the Fed from direct interest with those it regulates. Friedman agreed to remain on the board until the end of 2009 to provide continuity in the wake of the turmoil caused by Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy. Had the waiver not been granted, the New York Fed would have lost both its president and its chairman (or Friedman would have had to divest his Goldman shares).[154] This would have been highly disruptive for the New York Fed’s role in the capital markets, and Friedman later said he agreed to stay on the NY Fed board out of a sense of public duty, but that his decision was “being mischaracterised as improper”.[155]

Media reports in May 2009 concerning Friedman’s involvement with Goldman, and in particular, his purchase of the firm’s stock when it traded at historical lows in the fourth quarter of 2008,[154] fueled controversy and criticism over what was seen as a conflict of interest in Friedman’s new role as supervisor and regulator to Goldman Sachs. These events prompted his resignation on May 7, 2009. Although Friedman’s purchases of Goldman stock did not violate any Fed rule, statute, or policy, he said that the Fed did not need this distraction. He also stated his purchases, made while approval of a waiver was pending, were motivated by a desire to demonstrate confidence in the company during a time of market distress.[156]

Insider trading cases

In 1986, Goldman Sachs investment banker David Brown pleaded guilty to charges of passing inside information on a takeover deal that eventually was provided to Ivan Boesky.[157] Robert M. Freeman, who was a senior Partner, who was the Head of Risk Arbitrage, and who was a protégé of Robert Rubin, was also convicted of insider trading, for his own account and for the firm’s account.[158]

In April 2010, Goldman director Rajat Gupta was named in an insider-trading case. It was said Gupta had “tipped off a hedge-fund billionaire”, Raj Rajaratnam of Galleon Group, about the $5 billion Berkshire Hathaway investment in Goldman in September, 2008. According to the report, Gupta had told Goldman the month before his involvement became public that he wouldn’t seek re-election as a director.[135] In early 2011, with the delayed Rajaratnam criminal trial about to begin,[159] the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced civil charges against Gupta covering the Berkshire investment as well as confidential quarterly earnings information from Goldman and Procter & Gamble (P&G). Gupta was board member at P&G until voluntarily resigning the day of the SEC announcement, after the charges were announced. “Gupta was an investor in some of the Galleon hedge funds when he passed the information along, and he had other business interests with Rajaratnam that were potentially lucrative…. Rajaratnam used the information from Gupta to illegally profit in hedge fund trades…. The information on Goldman made Rajaratnam’s funds $17 million richer…. The Procter & Gamble data created illegal profits of more than $570,000 for Galleon funds managed by others, the SEC said.” Gupta was said to have “vigorously denied the SEC accusations”. He is also a board member of AMR Corp.[160]

Gupta was convicted in June 2012 on insider trading charges stemming from Galleon Group case on four criminal felony counts of conspiracy and securities fraud. He was sentenced in October 2012 to two years in prison, an additional year on supervised release and ordered to pay $5 million in fines.[161]

Stub month and allegedly misleading results in December 2008

In April 2009, Goldman Sachs was accused of misleading investors by having “puffed up” its Q1 earnings by creating a December “orphan month” into which it shifted large writedowns, so they did not appear in any “quarterly number”.[162][163] In April 2009, the company reported a $780 million net loss for the single month of December alongside Q1 2009 (Jan–Mar) net earnings of $1.81 billion[162][164][165]

However, the accounting change to a calendar fiscal year, which created the stub month of December 2008, was required when the firm converted to a bank holding company and declared in Item 5.03 of its Form 8-K U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing of December 15, 2008.[166] The December loss also included a $850 million writedown on loans to bankrupt chemical maker LyondellBasell, as reported in late December (the chemical maker formally declared bankruptcy on January 6 but the loan would have been marked-to-market – it became clear in mid/late-December that Lyondell would not be able to meet its debt obligations).[167][168]

Most financial analysts and the mainstream financial press (Bloomberg L.P., Reuters, etc.), aware of the accounting change and deteriorating market conditions into December, were not surprised by the December loss. Merrill Lynch took at least $8.1 billion of losses in the same period.[169] However, their lack of reaction and reporting of what was a widely expected result may have contributed to the surprise attributing this as a sign that the firm was trying to hide losses in December. On the contrary, the results of December 2008 were discussed up front and in detail by CFO David Viniar in the first few minutes of the firm’s Q1 2009 conference call, and were fully declared on page 10 of its earnings release document.[164][170]

On April 22, 2009, Morgan Stanley reported a $1.3B net loss for the single month of December, alongside a $177M loss for the first quarter (Jan–Mar).[171][172] However, whereas Goldman Sachs’s first-quarter earnings (Jan–Mar) were well-above forecasts[173] (which led to the speculation that the firm may have ‘conveniently’ shifted losses into December), Morgan Stanley’s results for the same Jan–Mar period were below consensus estimates.[174] This, in addition to Morgan Stanley’s losses in December, would appear to support Goldman’s rejection of the notion that they deliberately shifted losses into December.[175] Like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley converted to a bank holding company after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.

In June 2009, the firm made some of the largest bonus payments in its history due to its strong financial performance.[37][176]

Involvement with the bailout of AIG

American International Group (AIG) was bailed out by the US government in September 2008 after suffering a liquidity crisis, whereby the Federal Reserve initially lent $85 billion to AIG to allow the firm to meet its collateral and cash obligations.

In March 2009, it was reported that, in 2008, Goldman Sachs, (alongside other major US and international financial institutions), had received billions of dollars during the unwind of credit default swap (CDS) contracts purchased from AIG, including $12.9 billion from funds provided by the US Federal Reserve to bail out AIG.[177][178][179] (As of April, 2009, US Government loans to AIG totaled over $180 billion). The money was used to repay customers of its security-lending program and was paid as collateral to counterparties under credit insurance contracts purchased from AIG. However, due to the size and nature of the payouts there was considerable controversy in the media and amongst some politicians as to whether banks, including Goldman Sachs, may have benefited materially from the bailout and if they had been overpaid.[162][180] The New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced in March 2009 that he was investigating whether AIG’s trading counterparties improperly received government money.[181]

Firm’s response to criticism of AIG payments

Goldman Sachs has maintained that its net exposure to AIG was ‘not material’, and that the firm was protected by hedges (in the form of CDSs with other counterparties) and $7.5 billion of collateral.[182] The firm stated the cost of these hedges to be over $100 million.[183] According to Goldman, both the collateral and CDSs would have protected the bank from incurring an economic loss in the event of an AIG bankruptcy (however, because AIG was bailed out and not allowed to fail, these hedges did not pay out.)[184] CFO David Viniar stated that profits related to AIG in Q1 2009 “rounded to zero”, and profits in December were not significant. He went on to say that he was “mystified” by the interest the government and investors have shown in the bank’s trading relationship with AIG.[185]

Considerable speculation remains that Goldman’s hedges against their AIG exposure would not have paid out if AIG was allowed to fail. According to a report by the United States Office of the Inspector General of TARP, if AIG had collapsed, it would have made it difficult for Goldman to liquidate its trading positions with AIG, even at discounts, and it also would have put pressure on other counterparties that “might have made it difficult for Goldman Sachs to collect on the credit protection it had purchased against an AIG default.”[186] Finally, the report said, an AIG default would have forced Goldman Sachs to bear the risk of declines in the value of billions of dollars in collateral debt obligations.

Goldman argues that CDSs are marked to market (i.e. valued at their current market price) and their positions netted between counterparties daily. Thus, as the cost of insuring AIG’s obligations against default rose substantially in the lead-up to its bailout, the sellers of the CDS contracts had to post more collateral to Goldman Sachs. The firm claims this meant its hedges were effective and the firm would have been protected against an AIG bankruptcy and the risk of knock-on defaults, had AIG been allowed to fail.[183] However, in practice, the collateral would not protect fully against losses both because protection sellers would not be required to post collateral that covered the complete loss during a bankruptcy and because the value of the collateral would be highly uncertain following the repercussions of an AIG bankruptcy.[citation needed] As with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, wider and longer-term systemic and economic turmoil brought on by an AIG default would probably have affected the firm and all other market participants.[citation needed]

Final AIG meetings on September 15 at the New York Federal Reserve

Some have said, incorrectly according to others,[187] that Goldman Sachs received preferential treatment from the government by being the only Wall Street firm to have participated in the crucial September meetings at the New York Fed, which decided AIG’s fate. Much of this has stemmed from an inaccurate but often quoted New York Times article.[188] The article was later corrected to state that Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, was “one of the Wall Street chief executives at the meeting” (emphasis added). Bloomberg has also reported that representatives from other firms were indeed present at the September AIG meetings.[189] Furthermore, Goldman Sachs CFO David Viniar has stated that CEO Blankfein had never “met” with his predecessor and then-US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to discuss AIG;[190] However, there were frequent phone calls between the two of them.[191] Paulson was not present at the September meetings at the New York Fed. It is also a lesser known fact that Morgan Stanley was hired by the Federal Reserve to advise them on the AIG bailout.[192]

According to the New York Times, Paulson spoke with the CEO of Goldman Sachs two dozen times during the week of the bailout, though he obtained an ethics waiver before doing so.[193] While it is common for regulators to be in contact with market participants to gather valuable industry intelligence, particularly in a crisis, the Times noted he spoke with Goldman’s Blankfein more frequently than with other large banks. Federal officials say that although Paulson was involved in decisions to rescue A.I.G, it was the Federal Reserve that played the lead role in shaping and financing the A.I.G. bailout.[193]

$60 million settlement for Massachusetts subprime mortgages (2009)

On May 10, 2009, the Goldman Sachs Group agreed to pay up to $60 million to end an investigation by the Massachusetts attorney general’s office into whether the firm helped promote unfair home loans in the state. The settlement will be used to reduce the mortgage payments of 714 Massachusetts residents who had secured subprime mortgages funded by Goldman Sachs. Michael DuVally, a spokesman for Goldman, said it was “pleased to have resolved this matter,” and declined to comment further. This settlement may open the door to state government actions against Goldman throughout the United States aimed at securing compensation for predatory mortgage lending practices.[194]

Abacus mortgage-backed CDOs (2010)

 

See also: Merrill Lynch § CDO controversies, and Magnetar Capital

In April 2010, the SEC charged Goldman Sachs and one of its vice presidents, Fabrice Tourre, with securities fraud. The SEC alleged that Goldman had told buyers of one of its investment deals (a type called a “synthetic CDO”), that the underlying assets in the deal had been picked by an independent CDO manager, ACA Management. In fact, a short investor betting that the CDO would default (Paulson & Co. hedge fund group) had played a “significant role” in the selection,[116] and the package of securities turned out to become “one of the worst-performing mortgage deals of the housing crisis”.[195] On July 15, 2010, Goldman settled, agreeing to pay the SEC and investors US$550 million.[118] In August 2013 Tourre was found liable on six of seven counts by a federal jury.[196][197]

Unlike many investors and investment bankers, Goldman Sachs anticipated the Subprime mortgage crisis that developed in 2007-8.[129] Some of its traders became “bearish” on the housing boom beginning in 2004 and developed mortgage-related securities, originally intended to protect Goldman from investment losses in the housing market. In late 2006, Goldman management changed the firm’s overall stance on the mortgage market, from positive to negative. As the market began its downturn, Goldman “created even more of these securities”, no longer just hedging or satisfying investor orders but “enabling it to pocket huge profits” from the mortgage defaults, (according to business journalists Gretchen Morgenson, Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera).[198][199]

The complex securities were known as synthetic CDOs (collateralized debt obligations). They were called synthetic because unlike regular CDOs, the principal and interest they paid out came not from mortgages or other loans, but from premiums to pay for insurance against mortgage defaults—the insurance known as “credit default swaps“. Goldman and some other hedge funds held a “short” position with the securities, paying the premiums, while the investors (insurance companies, pension funds, etc.) receiving the premiums were the “long” position. The longs were responsible for paying the insurance “claim” to Goldman and any other shorts if the mortgages or other loans defaulted.

Through April 2007 Goldman issued over 20 CDOs in its “Abacus” series[200] worth a total of US$10.9 billion. All together Goldman packaged, sold, and shorted a total of 47 synthetic CDOs, with an aggregate face value of US$66 billion between July 1, 2004, and May 31, 2007.[201]

But while Goldman was praised for its foresight, some argued its bets against the securities it created gave it a vested interest in their failure. These securities performed very poorly (for the long investors) and by April 2010, Bloomberg reported that at least US$5 billion worth of the securities either carried “junk” ratings, or had defaulted.[202] One CDO examined by critics which Goldman bet against, but also sold to investors, was the US$800 million Hudson Mezzanine CDO issued in 2006. Goldman executives stated that the company was trying to remove subprime securities from its books in the Senate Permanent Subcommittee hearings. Unable to sell them directly it included them in the underlying securities of the CDO and took the short side, but critics (McLean and Nocera) complained the CDO prospectus did not explain this but described its contents as “‘assets sourced from the Street’, making it sound as though Goldman randomly selected the securities, instead of specifically creating a hedge for its own book.”[203] The CDO did not perform well and by March 2008—just 18 months after its issue—so many borrowers had defaulted that holders of the security paid out “about US$310 million to Goldman and others who had bet against it”.[129] Goldman’s head of European fixed-income sales lamented in an email made public by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the “real bad feeling across European sales about some of the trades we did with clients” who had invested in the CDO. “The damage this has done to our franchise is very significant.”[204]

Critics also complain that while Goldman’s investors were large, ostensibly sophisticated banks and insurers, at least some of the CDO securities and their losses filtered down to small public agencies—”money used to run schools and fix potholes and fund municipal budgets”[205]—via debt sold by a structured investment vehicle of IKB bank, an ABACUS investor.[206]

In public statements Goldman claimed that it shorted simply to hedge and was not expecting the CDOs to fail. It also denied that its investors were unaware of Goldman’s bets against the products it was selling to them.[129] This article describes the intricate links between Goldman Sachs trader, Jonathan M. Egol, synthetic collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O., ABACUS, and asset-backed securities index (ABX).

Goldman is also alleged to have tried to pressure the credit rating service Moody’s to rate its products higher than the fundamentals called for.[129][207]

2010 SEC civil fraud lawsuit

The particular synthetic CDO that the SEC’s 2010 fraud suit charged Goldman with misleading investors with was called Abacus 2007-AC1. Unlike many of the Abacus securities, 2007-AC1 did not have Goldman Sachs as a short seller, in fact it lost money on the deal.[208] That position was taken by the customer (John Paulson) who hired Goldman to issue the security (according to the SEC’s complaint). Paulson and his employees selected 90 BBB-rated mortgage bonds[195][209] that they believed were most likely to lose value and so the best bet to buy insurance for.[118] Paulson and the manager of the CDO, ACA Management, worked on the portfolio of 90 bonds to be insured (ACA allegedly unaware of Paulson’s short position), coming to an agreement in late February 2007.[209] Paulson paid Goldman approximately US$15 million for its work in the deal.[210] Paulson ultimately made a US$1 billion from the short investments, the profits coming from the losses of the investors and their insurers. These were primarily IKB Deutsche Industriebank (US$150 million loss), and the investors and insurers of another US$900 million—ACA Financial Guaranty Corp,[211] ABN Amro, and the Royal Bank of Scotland.[212][213]

The SEC alleged that Goldman “materially misstated and omitted facts in disclosure documents” about the financial security,[116] including the fact that it had “permitted a client that was betting against the mortgage market [the hedge fund manager Paulson & Co.] to heavily influence which mortgage securities to include in an investment portfolio, while telling other investors that the securities were selected by an independent, objective third party,” ACA Management.[212][214] The SEC further alleged that “Tourre also misled ACA into believing … that Paulson’s interests in the collateral section [sic] process were aligned with ACA’s, when in reality Paulson’s interests were sharply conflicting.”[212]

In reply Goldman issued a statement saying the SEC’s charges were “unfounded in law and fact”, and in later statements maintained that it had not structured the portfolio to lose money,[215] that it had provided extensive disclosure to the long investors in the CDO, that it had also lost money (US$90 million), that ACA selected the portfolio without Goldman suggesting Paulson was to be a long investor, that it did not disclose the identities of a buyer to a seller and vice versa as it was not normal business practice for a market maker,[215] and that ACA was itself the largest purchaser of the Abacus pool, investing US$951 million. Goldman also stated that any investor losses resulted from the overall negative performance of the entire sector, rather than from a particular security in the CDO.[215][216]

While some journalists and analysts have called these statements misleading,[217] others believed Goldman’s defense was strong and the SEC’s case was weak.[218][219][220]

Some experts on securities law (such as Duke University law professor James Cox), believed the suit had merit because Goldman was aware of the relevance of Paulson’s involvement and took steps to downplay it. Others, (including Wayne State University law professor Peter Henning), noted that the major purchasers were sophisticated investors capable of accurately assessing the risks involved, even without knowledge of the part played by Paulson.[221]

Critics of Goldman Sachs point out that Paulson went to Goldman Sachs after being turned down for ethical reasons by another investment bank, Bear Stearns who he had asked to build a CDO for him. Ira Wagner, the head of Bear Stearns’s CDO Group in 2007, told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that having the short investors select the referenced collateral as a serious conflict of interest and the structure of the deal Paulson was proposing encouraged Paulson to pick the worst assets.[222][223] Describing Bear Stearns’s reasoning, one author compared the deal to “a bettor asking a football owner to bench a star quarterback to improve the odds of his wager against the team.”[224] Goldman claimed it lost US$90 million, critics maintain it was simply unable (not due to a lack of trying) to shed its position before the underlying securities defaulted.[208]

Critics also question whether the deal was ethical, even if it was legal.[225][226] Goldman had considerable advantages over its long customers. According to McLean and Nocera there were dozens of securities being insured in the CDO—for example, another ABACUS[227]—had 130 credits from several different mortgage originators, commercial mortgage-backed securities, debt from Sallie Mae, credit cards, etc. Goldman bought mortgages to create securities, which made it “far more likely than its clients to have early knowledge” that the housing bubble was deflating and the mortgage originators like New Century had begun to falsify documentation and sell mortgages to customers unable to pay the mortgage-holders back[228]—which is why the fine print on at least one ABACUS prospectus warned long investors that the ‘Protection Buyer’ (Goldman) ‘may have information, including material, non-public information’ which it was not providing to the long investors.[228]

Critics also worry about the attention drawn in Europe to the losses of European banks that might undermine the position of the US “as a safe harbor for the world’s investors.”[226]

In the end, SEC suit did not go to court.[229] On July 15, 2010, three months after it filing, Goldman agreed to pay US$550 million—US$300 million to the U.S. government and US$250 million to investors, one of the largest penalties ever paid by a Wall Street firm.[118] The company did not admit or deny wrongdoing, but did admit that its marketing materials for the investment “contained incomplete information”, and agreed to change some of its business practices regarding mortgage investments.[118]

Other prosecutorial actions

On April 14, 2011, the United States Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a 635-page report entitled Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse which described some of the causes of the financial crisis. The report alleged that Goldman Sachs may have misled investors and profited from the collapse of the mortgage market at their expense.[230] The Chairman of the Subcommittee referred the report to the U.S. Department of Justice to determine whether Goldman executives had broken the law,[231] and two months later the Manhattan district attorney subpoenaed Goldman for relevant information on possible securities fraud,[115][232] but on August 9 the Justice Department announced it had decided not to file charges against Goldman Sachs or its employees for trades made during the subprime mortgage portfolio.[233]

The 2010 Goldman settlement did not cover charges against Goldman vice president and salesman for ABACUS,[208] Fabrice Tourre.[118]

Tourre unsuccessfully sought a dismissal of the suit,[234][235][236][237] which then went to trial in 2013. On August 1, a federal jury found Tourre liable on six of seven counts, including that he misled investors about the mortgage deal. He was found not liable on the charge that he had deliberately made an untrue or misleading statement.[197]

Alleged commodity price manipulation

A provision of the 1999 financial deregulation law, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, allows commercial banks to enter into any business activity that is “complementary to a financial activity and does not pose a substantial risk to the safety or soundness of depository institutions or the financial system generally.”[238] In the years since the laws passing, Goldman Sach and other investment banks (Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase) have branched out into ownership of a wide variety of enterprises including raw materials, such as food products, zinc, copper, tin, nickel and, aluminum.

Some critics (such as Matt Taibbi) believe that allowing a company to both “control the supply of crucial physical commodities, and also trade in the financial products that might be related to those markets,” is “akin to letting casino owners who take book on NFL games during the week also coach all the teams on Sundays.”[238] New York Times journalist David Kocieniewski accused Goldman Sachs (and other Wall Street firms) of “capitalizing on loosened federal regulations” to manipulate “a variety of commodities markets”, citing “financial records, regulatory documents and interviews with people involved in the activities.” (The commodity highlighted by Kocieniewski and also mentioned by Taibbi was aluminum.[136])

Goldman Sachs Commodity Index and the 2005–2008 Food Bubble

Goldman Sachs’s creation of the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index has been implicated by some in the 2007–2008 world food price crisis.

In a 2010 article in Harper’s magazine, Frederick Kaufman argued that Goldman’s creation of the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index[239] helped passive investors (pension funds, mutual funds and others) enter the markets, through its own fund and through other commodity funds (sponsored by JPMorgan, Chase, AIG, etc.) following Goldman’s lead. These funds disturbed the normal relationship between supply and demand, making prices more volatile and defeating the purpose of the exchanges (price stabilization) in the first place.[240][241][242]

In a June 2010 article, The Economist defended Goldman Sachs and other oil index-tracking funds citing a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that found commodities without futures markets and ignored by index-tracking funds also saw price rises during the period.[243]

See also 2000s commodities boom for a discussion on specific causes of the 2000s commodities boom.

Aluminum price and supply

In August 2013, Goldman Sachs was subpoenaed by the federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission as part of an investigation into complaints that Goldman-owned metals warehouses had “intentionally created delays and inflated the price of aluminum.”[244] In December 2013 it was announced that 26 cases accusing the Goldman Sachs Group Inc.—along with JPMorgan Chase & Co., the two investment banks’ warehousing businesses, and the London Metal Exchange in various combinations—of violating U.S. antitrust laws, would be assigned to U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest in Manhattan.[245]

Following Goldman’s purchase of the aluminum warehousing company Metro International[246] in 2010, the wait of warehouse customers for delivery of aluminum supplies to their factories—to make beer cans, home siding and other products—went from an average of six weeks to more than 16 months, “according to industry records.”[127][136]

The cause of this was alleged to be Goldman’s ownership of a quarter of the national supply of aluminum—a million and a half tons—in network of 27 Metro International warehouses Goldman owns in Detroit, Michigan.[136][247]

“Aluminum industry analysts say that the lengthy delays at Metro International since Goldman took over are a major reason the premium on all aluminum sold in the spot market has doubled since 2010.”[136] The price increase has cost “American consumers more than $5 billion”[248] according to former industry executives, analysts and consultants.[136]

To avoid hoarding and price manipulation, the London Metal Exchange requires that “at least 3,000 tons of that metal must be moved out each day”. Goldman has dealt with this requirement by moving the aluminum—not to factories, but “from one warehouse to another”—according to the Times.[136]

According to Lydia DePillis of Wonkblog, when Goldman bought the warehouses it “started paying traders extra to bring their metal” to Goldman’s warehouses “rather than anywhere else. The longer it stays, the more rent Goldman can charge, which is then passed on to the buyer in the form of a premium.”[249][250] The effect is “amplified” by another company in the Netherlands (Glencore), which is “doing the same thing in its warehouse in Vlissingen”.[250]

Michael DuVally, a spokesman for Goldman Sachs, has said the cases are without merit[245] and Robert Lenzner at Forbes says Goldman’s control is only 3% of the global market and so too small to give it pricing power.[251]

Oil futures speculation

See also: 2000s commodities boom

Investment banks, including Goldman, have also been accused of driving up the price of petrol/gasoline by speculating in the oil futures market. In August 2011, “confidential documents” were leaked “detailing the positions”[252] in the oils futures market of several investment banks[253]—including Goldman Sachs—on one day (June 30, 2008), just before the peak in high petrol/gasoline prices. The presence of positions by investment banks on the market was significant for the fact that the banks have deep pockets, and so the means to significantly sway prices, and unlike traditional market participants, neither produced oil nor ever took physical possession of actual barrels of oil they bought and sold. It was “a development that many say is artificially raising the price of crude” according to Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones.[252] However another source states “Just before crude oil hit its record high in mid-2008, 15 of the world’s largest banks were betting that prices would fall, according to private trading data….”[254]

In April 2011, a couple of observers—Brad Johnson of the blog Climate Progress[255] and Alain Sherter of CBS News MoneyWatch[256]—noted that Goldman Sachs was warning investors of a dangerous spike in the price of oil. Climate Progress quoted Goldman as warning “that the price of oil has grown out of control due to excessive speculation” in petroleum futures, and that “net speculative positions are four times as high as in June 2008.” when the price of oil peaked.[257]

It stated that “Goldman Sachs told its clients that it believed speculators like itself had artificially driven the price of oil at least $20 higher than supply and demand dictate.”[255] Sherter noted that Goldman’s concern over speculation did not prevent it (along with other speculators) from lobbying against regulations by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to establish “position limits”, which would cap the number of futures contracts a trader can hold, and thus prevent speculation.[256]

According to Joseph P. Kennedy II, by 2012, prices on the oil commodity market had become influenced by “hedge funds and bankers” pumping “billions of purely speculative dollars into commodity exchanges, chasing a limited number of barrels and driving up the price”.[258] The problem started, according to Kennedy, in 1991, when

just a few years after oil futures began trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, Goldman Sachs made an argument to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission that Wall Street dealers who put down big bets on oil should be considered legitimate hedgers and granted an exemption from regulatory limits on their trades. The commission granted an exemption that ultimately allowed Goldman Sachs to process billions of dollars in speculative oil trades. Other exemptions followed[258]

and “by 2008, eight investment banks accounted for 32% of the total oil futures market.”[258]

Initial public offering kickback bribes

Goldman Sachs is accused of asking for kickback bribes from institutional clients who made large profits flipping stocks which Goldman had intentionally undervalued in initial public offerings it was underwriting. Documents under seal in a decade-long lawsuit concerning eToys.com‘s initial public offering (IPO) in 1999 but released accidentally to the New York Times show that IPOs managed by Goldman were underpriced and that Goldman asked clients able to profit from the prices to increase business with it. The clients willingly complied with these demands because they understood it was necessary in order to participate in further such undervalued IPOs.[259] Companies going public and their initial consumer stockholders are both defrauded by this practice.[260]

Taylor-related civil and criminal case

Former Goldman Sachs trader Matthew Marshall Taylor was convicted of hiding $8.3 billion worth of unauthorized trades involving derivatives on the S&P 500 index by making “multiple false entries” into a Goldman trading system. When Goldman Sachs management uncovered the trades, Taylor was immediately fired. The trades cost the company $118 million, which Taylor was ordered to repay. In 2013, Taylor plead guilty to charges and was sentenced to 9 months in prison in addition to the monetary damages.[261]

Danish utility sale (2014)

Goldman Sachs’s purchase of an 18% stake in state-owned Dong EnergyDenmark‘s largest electric utility—set off a “political crisis” in Denmark. The sale—approved in January 30, 2014—sparked protest in the form of the resignation of six cabinet ministers and the withdrawal of a party (Socialist People’s Party) from Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt‘s leftist governing coalition.[262] According to Bloomberg Businessweek, “the role of Goldman in the deal struck a nerve with the Danish public, which is still suffering from the aftereffects of the global financial crisis.” Protesters in Copenhagen gathered around a banner “with a drawing of a vampire squid—the description of Goldman used by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone in 2009”.[262] Opponents expressed concern that Goldman would have some say in Dong’s management, and that Goldman planned to manage its investment through “subsidiaries in Luxembourg, the Cayman Islands, and Delaware, which made Danes suspicious that the bank would shift earnings to tax havens.”[262]

Libya investment losses (2013)

In January 2014, the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) filed a lawsuit against Goldman for $1 billion after the firm lost 98% of the $1.3 billion the LIA invested with Goldman in 2007.[263][264] Goldman made more than $1 billion in derivatives trades with the LIA funds which lost almost all their value but earned Goldman $350 million in profit.[265][266] In court documents firm has admitted to having used small gifts, occasional travel and an internship in order to gain access to Libya’s sovereign wealth fund.[267] In August 2014 Goldman dropped a bid to end the suit in a London court.[263] In October 2016, after trial, the court entered a judgment in Goldman Sachs’s favor.

Improper securities lending practices

In January 2016, Goldman Sachs agreed to pay $15 million after it was found that a team of Goldman employees, between 2008 and 2013, “granted locates” by arranging to borrow securities to settle short sales without adequate review. However, U.S. regulation for short selling requires brokerages to enter an agreement to borrow securities on behalf of customers or to have “reasonable grounds” for believing that it can borrow the security before entering contracts to complete the sale. Additionally, Goldman Sachs gave “incomplete and unclear” responses to information requests from SEC compliance examiners in 2013 about the firm’s securities lending practices.[268]

Malaysia 1MDB scandal

U.S. prosecutors are examining the role of Goldman Sachs in helping Malaysia’s sovereign fund, 1MDB, to raise more than $6 billion. The 1MDB bond deals are said to generate “above-average” commission and fees for Goldman Sachs amounting close to $600m or more than 9 percent of the proceeds.[269]

Goldman Sachs is reported by the Wall Street Journal to be under investigation for the $3 billion bond created by Goldman for 1MDB. Prosecutors are investigating if the bank failed to comply with the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act, which requires financial institutions to report suspicious transactions to regulators.[270]

Political contributions

Goldman Sachs employees have donated to both major American political parties, as well as candidates and super PACs belonging to both parties. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Goldman Sachs and its employees collectively gave $4.7 million in the 2014 elections to various candidates, leadership PACs, political parties, 527 groups, and outside spending entities.[271] In the 2016 election cycle, Goldman employees were reported (as of September 2016) to have donated $371,245 to the Republican National Committee and $301,119 to the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. Goldman Sachs forbade its top level employees from donating to Trump.[272]

In 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued regulations that limit asset managers’ donations to state and local officials, and prohibit certain top-level employees from donating to such officials.[272][273] This SEC regulation is an anti-“pay-to-play” measure, intended to avoid the creation of a conflict of interest, or the appearance of a conflict of interest, as Goldman Sachs has business in managing state pension funds and municipal debt.[272][273] In 2016, Goldman Sachs’s compliance department barred the firm’s 450 partners (its most senior employees) from making donations to state or local officials as well as “any federal candidate who is a sitting state or local official.”[272] One effect of this rule is to bar Goldman partners from directly donating to Donald Trump‘s presidential campaign, since Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Mike Pence, is the sitting governor of Indiana. Donations to Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign are not barred by the policy, since neither Clinton nor her running mate Tim Kaine are sitting state or local officials.[272][273]

5

Heathcare Industry

Physicians and other health professionals are traditionally the largest source of federal campaign contributions in this sector, which contributed a record $260.4 million to federal candidates during the 2012 election cycle. Aside from doctors’ associations, pharmaceutical companies and HMOs are consistently generous givers. Certain industries within the sector, such as nurses, give more generously to Democrats, but on the whole Republicans traditionally have gained the most from contributions by health interests.

Democrats received 55 percent of health sector cash in the 2008 cycle and 51 percent in the 2010 cycle. However, in the 2012 cycle, contributions from the health sector favored Republicans once again.

The health sector will be most affected in upcoming years by the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a major restructuring of national health care policy that became law in 2010. The sector has been split on the law, with many doctors’ associations opposing it while pharmaceutical companies backed it.

The health sector’s lobbying efforts, have yet to match the more than $552 million it spent in 2009. In 2013, these interests spent more than $483 million on lobbying, more than $226 million of which came from the pharmaceutical industry. That industry includes the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, Eli Lilly, Amgen and Pfizer, each of which spent more than $8 million on lobbying in 2013. Other top lobbying spenders in the health sector include the American Hospital Association, which spent more than $19 million and the American Medical Association, which spent more than $18 million on lobbying in 2013.

6

Amazon

Amazon.com (/ˈæməzɒn/ or /ˈæməzən/), also called Amazon, is an American electronic commerce and cloud computing company that was founded on July 5, 1994 by Jeff Bezos and is based in Seattle, Washington. It is the largest Internet-based retailer in the world by total sales and market capitalization.[14] Amazon.com started as an online bookstore, later diversifying to sell DVDs, Blu-rays, CDs, video downloads/streaming, MP3 downloads/streaming, audiobook downloads/streaming, software, video games, electronics, apparel, furniture, food, toys, and jewelry. The company also produces consumer electronics—notably, Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets, Fire TV and the Echo—and is the world’s largest provider of cloud infrastructure services (IaaS).[15] Amazon also sells certain low-end products like USB cables under its in-house brand AmazonBasics.

Amazon has separate retail websites for the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Australia, Brazil, Japan, China, India, and Mexico. Amazon also offers international shipping to certain other countries for some of its products.[16] In 2016, Dutch and Polish language versions of the German Amazon website were launched.[17][18]

In 2015, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the United States by market capitalization,[19] and is, as of 2016 Q3, the fourth most valuable public company.[20]

Jeff Bezos (/ˈbeɪzoʊs/;[5] born Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen; January 12, 1964) is an American technology and retail entrepreneur and investor. He is the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Amazon.com, which has become the world’s largest online shopping retailer.[6] The company began as an Internet merchant of books and expanded to a wide variety of products and services, most recently video streaming and audio streaming. Amazon.com is currently the world’s largest Internet sales company on the World Wide Web.[7]

Bezos’ other diversified business interests include aerospace and newspapers. He is the founder and manufacturer of Blue Origin (founded in 2000) with test flights to space beginning in 2015, and plans for commercial suborbital human spaceflight beginning in 2018.[8] In 2013, Bezos purchased The Washington Post newspaper.[9] A number of other business investments are managed through Bezos Expeditions.

Bezos currently ranks as the 5th richest person in the world (excluding royalty and dictators), with an estimated net worth of US$71.8 billion as of January 2017,[2] just behind fellow Americans, investment mogul Warren Buffett in third,[10] and Bill Gates in first.[11][12]

On August 5, 2013, Bezos announced his purchase of The Washington Post for $250 million in cash. Amazon.com was not to be involved.[45] “This is uncharted terrain,” he told the newspaper, “and it will require experimentation.”[45] Shortly after the announcement of intent to purchase, The Washington Post published a long-form profile of Bezos on August 10, 2013.[4] The sale closed on October 1, 2013, and Bezos’s Nash Holdings LLC took control.[46]

In March 2014, Bezos made his first significant change at The Washington Post and lifted the online paywall for subscribers of a number of U.S. local newspapers including The Dallas Morning News, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.[47] Bezos revealed in 2016 that he conducted no due diligence when accepting the first offer from former The Washington Post owner, Donald E. Graham.[48]

Bezos was named World’s Worst Boss by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), at their World Congress, in May 2014. In making the award, Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC, said “Jeff Bezos represents the inhumanity of employers who are promoting the American corporate model…”[74] An article in the New York Times described working for Bezos and Amazon in the offices as a grueling and inhumane experience with many employees regularly being terminated or quitting.[75]

Under Bezos’ direction, Amazon has been criticized as “stingy” in its corporate giving practices.[64][76]

Journalist Shawn McCoy contrasted the philanthropic practices of Amazon and Bezos with the comparatively more generous Microsoft (also based near Seattle) and fellow billionaire Bill Gates.[77] Some found Bezos more akin to Steve Jobs, who was skeptical of philanthropy and made few donations.[78][79]

Bezos Expeditions

Companies that have been funded at least in part by Bezos Expeditions include (this list is incomplete):[50][51]

 

Controversies

Main article: Amazon.com controversies

Since its founding, the company has attracted criticism and controversy from multiple sources over its actions. These include: luring customers away from the site’s brick and mortar competitors,[105] poor warehouse conditions for workers; anti-unionization efforts; Amazon Kindle remote content removal; taking public subsidies; its “1-Click patent” claims; anti-competitive actions;[106] price discrimination; various decisions over whether to censor or publish content such as the WikiLeaks website; LGBT book sales rank;[107][108] and works containing libel, facilitating dogfight, cockfight, or pedophile activities. In December 2011, Amazon faced backlash from small businesses for running a one-day deal to promote its new Price Check app. Shoppers who used the app to check prices in a brick-and-mortar store were offered a 5% discount to purchase the same item from Amazon.[109] Companies like Groupon, eBay, and Taap.it countered Amazon’s promotion by offering $10 off from their products.[110][111] The company has also faced accusations of putting undue pressure on suppliers to maintain and extend its profitability. One effort to squeeze the most vulnerable book publishers was known within the company as the Gazelle Project, after Bezos suggested, according to Brad Stone, “that Amazon should approach these small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.”[77] In July 2014 the Federal Trade Commission launched a lawsuit against the company alleging it was promoting in-app purchases to children, which were being transacted without parental consent.[112][113]

Sales and use taxes

 

Main article: Amazon tax

Poor working conditions

Amazon has attracted widespread criticism by both current employees, which refer to themselves as Amazonians,[114] and former employees,[115][116] as well as the media and politicians for poor working conditions. In 2011 it was publicized that at the Breinigsville, Pennsylvania warehouse, workers had to carry out work in 100 °F (38 °C) heat, resulting in employees becoming extremely uncomfortable and suffering from dehydration and collapse. Loading-bay doors were not opened to allow in fresh air as “managers were worried about theft”. Amazon’s initial response was to pay for an ambulance to sit outside on call to cart away overheated employees.

Some workers, “pickers”, who travel the building with a trolley and a handheld scanner “picking” customer orders can walk up to 15 miles during their workday, and if they fall behind on their targets, they can be reprimanded. The handheld scanners feedback to the employee real-time information on how fast or slowly they are doing; the scanners also serve to allow Team Leads and Area Managers to track the specific locations of employees and how much “idle time” they gain when not working.[117][118] In a German television report broadcast in February 2013, journalists Diana Löbl and Peter Onneken conducted a covert investigation at the distribution center of Amazon in the town of Bad Hersfeld in the German state of Hessen. The report highlights the behavior of some of the security guards, themselves being employed by a third party company, who apparently either had a Neo-nazi background or deliberately dressed in Neo-Nazi apparel and who were intimidating foreign and temporary female workers at its distribution centers. The third party security company involved was delisted by Amazon as a business contact shortly after that report.[119][120][121][122][123]

In March 2015, it was reported in The Verge that Amazon will be removing 18 months long non-compete clauses from its US employment contracts for hourly-paid workers, after criticism that it was acting unreasonably in preventing such employees from finding other work. Even short-term temporary workers have to sign contracts that prohibit them from working at any company where they would “directly or indirectly” support any good or service that competes with those they helped support at Amazon, for 18 months after leaving Amazon, even if they are fired or made redundant.[124][125]

A substantial New York Times article published on August 16, 2015, described evidence of an intimidating and confrontational working culture for the company’s office workers.[19]

In an effort to boost employee morale, on November 2, 2015, Amazon announced that it would be extending 6 weeks of paid leave for new mothers and fathers. This change includes birth parents and adoptive parents and can be applied in conjunction with existing maternity leave and medical leave for new mothers.[126]

Lobbying

Amazon lobbies the United States federal government and state governments on issues such as the enforcement of sales taxes on online sales, transportation safety, privacy and data protection, and intellectual property. According to regulatory filings, Amazon.com focuses its lobbying on the US Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Reserve. Amazon.com spent roughly $3.5 million, $5 million, and $9.5 million on lobbying, in 2013, 2014, and 2015, respectively.[127]

Amazon.com was a corporate member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) until it dropped membership following protests at its shareholders’ meeting May 24, 2012.[128]

The initiative Choice in eCommerce was founded on May 8, 2013 by several online retailers in Berlin, Germany.[129][130][131][132][133][134][135][136][137] The cause was, in the view of the initiative, sales bans and online restrictions by individual manufacturers. The dealers felt cut off from their main sales channel and thus deprived them the opportunity to use online platforms like Amazon, eBay or Rakuten in a competitive market for the benefit of their customers.

In 2014, Amazon expanded its lobbying practices as it prepared to lobby the Federal Aviation Administration to approve its drone delivery program, hiring the Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld lobbying firm in June.[138] Amazon and its lobbyists have visited with Federal Aviation Administration officials and aviation committees in Washington, D.C. to explain its plans to deliver packages.[139]

7

Nu Skin

Nu Skin Enterprises is an American multilevel marketing company which develops and sells personal care products and dietary supplements (under the Pharmanex brand).[3] Nu Skin was founded in 1984 in Provo, Utah.[4] The company originated in the U.S. and began its first foreign operation in Canada in 1990. One year later, the company began operations in Asia with the opening of Hong Kong.[5] In 1996 the company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The company markets its products in 54 markets through a network of approximately 1.2 million independent distributors.[2]

In the 1990s, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated Nu Skin over complaints of its multilevel marketing practices.[6] In 1992, Nu Skin reached settlements with 5 states which had accused the company of deceptive advertising and overstating the income earned by distributors.[7] In 1994, following an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the company paid $1 million and signed a consent decree prohibiting it from making deceptive or unsubstantiated claims about its products.[8] In 1997, the company paid an additional $1.5 million to the FTC to settle ongoing allegations of unsubstantiated promotional claims.[9] In January 2014, the Chinese government announced that it was investigating Nu Skin following a People’s Daily newspaper report calling it a “suspected illegal pyramid scheme.” In 2016, Nu Skin settled $47 Million for operating a pyramid scheme after a being sued by China in a Utah federal court.[10] Nu Skin was also forced to pay another $750,000 for bribing a top Chinese official with funds from Nu Skin’s charitable division after a US Securities and Exchange Commission probe.[11]

Scrutiny and reception

In the early 1990s, Nu Skin was investigated by the states of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan over allegations of misleading marketing practices.[7] Ultimately, in 1992 the company settled with 5 of these states, admitting no wrongdoing but agreeing to pay the states’ investigative costs, refund disgruntled distributors, and revamp its promotional practices.[24][25][26][27] However, the Connecticut Attorney General did not agree to those terms and sued Nu Skin, charging the company with misleading its distributors and operating a pyramid scheme.[7][28][29] Nu Skin admitted to no wrongdoing or violation of law and paid Connecticut $85,000 for consumer-protection programs as part of a settlement.[30]

In 1997, the Attorney General of Pennsylvania sued Nu Skin, alleging that the company operated a pyramid scheme through a subsidiary, QIQ Connections. The Attorney General’s office alleged that distributors paid for the right to market technology services which did not, in fact, exist. Nu Skin discontinued the QIQ subsidiary, allowing those who had paid QIQ to transition to Big Planet, another Nu Skin interest marketing Internet technology. The president of Big Planet described the pyramid-scheme allegations as a matter of “a few distributors who in their enthusiasm have been overzealous in some of their marketing activities.”[6]

In 2010, Nu Skin was listed among Forbes “100 Most Trustworthy Companies”.[31]

In 2012, Stanford University sent a cease and desist letter to halt the use of the name of one of its researchers in Nu Skin’s advertising claims.[32] Stanford later released a statement regarding its long-standing, research-based relationship with Nu Skin explaining that the letter was sent to Nu Skin as a request by Stuart Kim, PhD, a professor at Stanford. Kim requested in the letter that his name be removed from Nu Skin’s marketing materials as he is no longer involved with research funded by Nu Skin. However, the letter did not recognize the existing research relationship between Stanford and Nu Skin. Stanford apologized for any misunderstandings that may have resulted.[33]

Also in 2012, Citron Research issued a report “stating that Nu Skin’s sales model on mainland China, the fastest growing market in direct-selling, amounted to an illegal multi-level marketing scheme.”[32] Nu Skin dismissed the claims, calling its sales model in China kosher and stating that it had no plans to change its business model in China.[34] In January 2014, the Chinese government announced that it planned to investigate Nu Skin for allegedly operating an illegal pyramid scheme, causing the company’s stock price to plunge. At least one analyst is optimistic about the outcome.[35] Following the investigation, it was announced in March 2014 that the Chinese government would fine Nu Skin for approximately $540,000 dollars due to illegal sales as well as making false product claims.[36]

In February 2014, a securities fraud class action lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Utah against Nu Skin Enterprises, Inc. on behalf of investors who purchased or otherwise acquired the common stock of the Company during the period from July 10, 2013 through January 16, 2014.[37]

Evaluation of supplements

The Pharmanex LifePak Anti-Aging supplement was tested by ConsumerLab.com, and was reported as failing the overall review due to failing to clearly indicate its total Vitamin A content per FDA requirements.[38]

 

Political activities

In 2011, two Utah-incorporated business entities linked to top executives of Nu Skin each made a $1 million contribution to Restore Our Future, a “Super PAC” established by former aides to US presidential candidate Mitt Romney to support his bid for the White House.[39][40]

Beginning in 1989 Jason Chaffetz worked as a professional spokesman for the company for about ten years.[41] Chaffetz was elected U.S. Representative of Utah’s 3rd congressional district in 2008.

8

Kojaian

Kojaian Management Corporation owns and operates industrial real estate properties. It provides leasing, property management, construction management, and development services to its clients. The company’s properties are located in Grand Rapids airport area, Walker, Byron Center, Holland, and Zeeland, Michigan. The company was incorporated in 1985 and is based in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Mr. C. Michael Kojaian has been the Chief Executive Officer at Grubb & Ellis Realty Advisors Inc. since December 2007. Mr. Kojaian serves as President at Kojaian Ventures, L.L.C. He has been Chief Operating Officer at Kojaian group of companies since 1998. He founded Kojaian Management Corporation, a real estate investment firm headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan since January 1988 and serves as an executive Vice President of the company. Mr. Kojaian has been Chairman and Director of Grubb & Ellis Realty Advisors Inc. since September 7, 2005. Mr. Kojaian serves as Chairman of Kojaian Ventures L.L.C. He has been a Director of Kojaian Management Corp. since January 1988. He serves as a Director of FYI Corporation. He serves as a Director of Flagstar Bank and the United States President Export Council. He served as an Independent Director at Arbor Realty Trust Inc. since June 2003. Mr. Kojaian served as the Chairman and Director of Grubb & Ellis Company from January 6, 2009 to February 10, 2012. Mr. Kojaian served as the Chairman and Director of Grubb & Ellis Co. of Grubb & Ellis Realty Advisors Inc. since June 2002. He served as a Director of Flagstar Bancorp. Inc. since 1997. Mr. Kojaian served as a Director of Grubb & Ellis Company since December 1996. He served as a Director of JPE Inc.

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