The aim of this section is to supply chronological documentation of the scope and reach of the EHM system in the years since Confessions of an Economic Hit Man was first published. Among the following items are reports by nonprofit organizations and government bodies, leaked documents and other confidential materials, journalistic investigations, and more. Some items focus on a single, specific instance of EHM activity; others document systematic actions by a variety of entities over long periods. This list is not meant to be comprehensive but rather to illustrate the extent to which the EHM system infiltrates every aspect of our global economy.
I either have quoted directly from articles and reports or have summarized and paraphrased their content, and I have identified key points in boldface. I have not attempted to verify the information provided or the conclusions reached by these sources. Thus, the analyses, opinions, and conclusions presented below are those of the authors, publications, and websites referenced, not my own. I leave it to you to arrive at your own conclusions.
* A United Nations study argues that tied aid is “strangling” nations, as reported by the Inter Press Service news agency: “Donor money that comes with strings attached cuts the value of aid to recipient countries 25–40 percent, because it obliges them to purchase uncompetitively priced imports from the richer nations, says a new UN study on African economies. . . . ‘The United States makes sure that 80 cents in every aid dollar is returned to the home country,’ says Njoki Njoroge Njehu, director of 50 Years is Enough, a coalition of over 200 grassroots non-governmental organizations.”
* Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) releases a report that follows up on an earlier series of United Nations reports that documented “the links between business, resource exploitation, and conflict” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The RAID report, titled Unanswered Questions: Companies, Conflict and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, includes a section examining the banking sector, which cites (among other infractions) the United Nations allegation that “MIBA [Societé Minière de Bakwanga, the state-owned diamond mining company] accounts held by Belgolaise Bank have been used to conduct financial transactions involving the purchase of armaments by the Government of the DRC.”
United Nations press release on the report:
* Global Justice Now (formerly the World Development Movement) releases a report titled Zambia: Condemned to Debt — How the IMF and World Bank Have Undermined Development. The report “clearly demonstrates that the IMF and World Bank’s involvement in Zambia has been unsuccessful, undemocratic, and unfair. The evidence suggests that the past twenty years of IMF and World Bank intervention have exacerbated rather than ameliorated Zambia’s debt crisis. Ironically, in return for debt relief, Zambia is required to do more of the same.”
* In The Great American Jobs Scam (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2005), Greg LeRoy exposes the “$50 billion-a-year scam in which — in the name of ‘job creation’ — corporations play states and cities against each other to win hefty taxpayer subsidies that routinely exceed $100,000 per job.” Later, LeRoy’s organization Good Jobs First releases a “Megadeals” report identifying 240 corporate subsidy awards “with a total state and local cost of $75 million or more each” — more than $64 billion cumulatively. These are subsidies designed to attract or keep industry (and jobs), but which in fact function as legal bribery, to the tune of an average of $456,000 per job. These deals are made possible by some of the most brazen EHMs working today: so-called site location consultants, people who “present themselves as indispensable middlemen between communities seeking investments and companies deciding where to locate new facilities.” Site location consultants are paid as much as 30 percent of the final subsidy package, giving them a perverse incentive to force state and local governments into offering outrageous packages that are worth far more than the corporation can return in jobs and taxes.
* Global Justice Now releases a report titled One Size for All: A Study of IMF and World Bank Poverty Reduction Strategies. Following widespread criticism of the “structural adjustment conditionalities” imposed by the World Bank and the IMF on economically developing countries, the World Bank announced a new approach to promote local ownership of the process: Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers. The Global Justice Now report analyzes the content of fifty such PRSPs and finds that the policies contained within them are in fact “remarkably similar” to the harmful policies of previous structural adjustment programs.
* William Easterly, a professor of economics and former research economist at the World Bank, publishes The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (New York: Penguin, 2006). An American Library Association review by Bryce Christensen describes it as follows: “Though he acknowledges that such projects have succeeded in some tasks — reducing infant mortality, for example — Easterly adduces sobering evidence that Western nations have accomplished depressingly little with the trillions they have spent on foreign aid. That evidence suggests that in some countries — including Haiti, Zaire, and Angola — foreign aid has actually intensified the suffering of the poor. By examining the tortured history of several aid initiatives, he shows how blind and arrogant Western aid officers have imposed on helpless clients a postmodern neocolonialism of political manipulation and economic dependency, stifling democracy and local enterprise in the process.”
* The World Bank approves $215 million in loans and grants to support an Ethiopian health services project; in 2009, financial support is extended by an additional $540 million. According to insiders, as reported in a 2015 article by the Huffington Post and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, tens of millions of dollars are diverted from the World Bank funds to support Ethiopia’s “villagization” effort — a process marked by intimidation, violence, and rape, according to a 2012 report by Human Rights Watch called “Waiting Here for Death”: Forced Displacement and “Villagization” in Ethiopia’s Gambella Region.
* A World Bank–funded project in Kenya’s Cherangani Hills leads to the forced eviction of thousands of indigenous Sengwer people, according to an investigation by the Huffington Post and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, published in 2015. Advocates for the Sengwer say that “the bank’s funding of the project put the Sengwer in danger because the project redrew the Cherangani Hills’ protected Forest Reserve in a way that included thousands of them inside the reserve’s boundaries,” thereby giving the Kenyan authorities a “pretext for evicting them.” Furthermore, “cash from the World Bank also provided the equipment the KFS [Kenya Forest Service] needed to launch its mass eviction campaign.”
* Zambia is forced to pay $15.5 million to vulture fund Donegal International for a loan Zambia took out from Romania in 1979, which Donegal bought from Romania in 1999 for $3.2 million. Donegal had been suing for $55 million.
* In A Game As Old As Empire (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2008), edited by Steven Hiatt, twelve distinguished authors explore the many facets of modern-day economic hit men and the devastating consequences of the corporatocracy.
* EHMs cause a global financial crisis. On September 16, 2008, the failures caused by large US financial institutions — experienced by the exposure of subprime loans and credit default swaps — devolve into a global economic crisis, European bank failures, and stock value reductions worldwide. These and other factors contribute to a global recession that many consider to be the worst since the Great Depression.
* The European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad), a network of fifty-one nongovernmental organizations from sixteen European countries, releases a report titled Critical Conditions: The IMF Maintains Its Grip on Low-Income Governments. “This report finds that since the Conditionality Guidelines were approved, the IMF has not managed to decrease the number of structural conditions attached to their development lending. Moreover, the Fund continues to make heavy use of highly sensitive conditions, such as privatization and liberalization. Eurodad’s analysis finds that a quarter of all the conditions in Fund loans approved after 2002 still contain privatisation or liberalisation reforms.”
* The Jubilee USA Network releases a briefing note titled Are IMF and World Bank Economic Policy Conditions Undermining the Impact of Debt Cancellation? “[Twelve] years since the inception of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) in 1996, the main debt relief program at the World Bank and IMF, the initiative suffers from serious flaws. Among them are the harmful economic policy requirements attached to both debt relief and lending from the IMF and World Bank. These harmful policy requirements . . . are undermining and sometimes even negating the benefits of debt cancellation. . . . These requirements often hurt the poorest and most vulnerable people and should be stopped immediately to enable debt relief to meet its life saving promise.”
* In an article for the Nation, James S. Henry, a senior adviser to the Tax Justice Network and author of The Blood Bankers: Tales from the Global Underground Economy (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2003), recounts the staggering extent of the offshore financial industry. From the article: “In the last thirty years, fueled by the globalization of financial services, lousy lending, capital flight and mind-boggling corruption, a relatively small number of major banks, law firms, accounting firms, asset managers, insurance companies and hedge funds have come to launder and conceal at least $10 trillion to $15 trillion of private untaxed anonymous cross-border wealth.”
* The International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth releases a one-pager examining IMF policy prescriptions and conditionalities. Titled Is the Washington Consensus Dead?, the paper describes the harmful effects of conditionalities in no uncertain terms: “The simple truth is that conditionalities are paternalistic. They are meant to alter behaviour and induce changes in economic, political and social structures. They also serve as a sort of collateral; in some cases they are a form of coercion to ensure adoption of otherwise unpalatable reforms.”
* More proof that economic hit men continue to manipulate economic forecasts to “sell” IMF policies. The Center for Economic and Policy Research releases a report titled IMF-Supported Macroeconomic Policies and the World Recession: A Look at Forty-One Borrowing Countries, which examines Stand-By Arrangements, Poverty Reduction and Growth Facilities, and Exogenous Shocks Facilities between the IMF and forty-one countries. “The paper finds that 31 of the 41 agreements contain pro-cyclical macroeconomic policies. These are either pro-cyclical fiscal or monetary policies — or in 15 cases, both — that, in the face of a significant slowdown in growth or in a recession, would be expected to exacerbate the downturn. . . . In many cases the Fund’s pro-cyclical policies were based on over-optimistic assumptions about economic growth. For example, of the 26 countries that have had at least one review, 11 IMF reports had to lower previous forecasts of real GDP growth by at least 3 percentage points, and three of those had to correct forecasts that were at least 7 percentage points overestimated. Most likely there will be more downward revisions to come.”
* Jackals are alive and as active as ever. Honduran President Manuel Zelaya is ousted in what some allege is a CIA-supported coup d’état. Shortly after the coup, the New York Times reports on US administration denials of CIA involvement; two years later, the former culture minister of Honduras, Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle, outlines US involvement on Democracy Now!, using cables released by WikiLeaks as evidence.
* The Guardian publishes leaked memos from Barclays bank that purport to reveal “a number of elaborate international tax avoidance schemes by the SCM (Structured Capital Markets) division of Barclays.” According to these documents, Barclays is alleged to have been “systematically assisting clients to avoid huge amounts of tax they should be liable for across multiple jurisdictions.” Barclays obtained a court injunction that night, forcing the Guardian to remove the documents from its Web archive. WikiLeaks releases the original leaked memos and describes the circumstances.
* Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler is alleged to have earned a 500 percent return as a middleman on a mining deal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and is alleged to have cheated the DRC’s government out of $60 million (one of Gertler’s many dealings in the DRC, as detailed by Bloomberg.com).
* An op-ed in the Guardian likens the International Monetary Fund to a cold-blooded murderer in the way it punishes developing economies. On the IMF’s actions against Latvia: “Latvia missed a 200 million euro disbursement from the IMF in March for not cutting its budget enough. According to press reports, the government wants to run a budget deficit of 7 percent of GDP for this year, and the IMF wants 5 percent. Latvia is already cutting its budget by 40 percent, and is planning to close some public hospitals and schools in order to make the IMF’s targets, prompting street protests.”
* WikiLeaks releases vast numbers of documents and files related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the collections become known as the “war logs.” As summarized on Alternet.org: “These ‘Afghan War Logs,’ like the Iraqi war logs after them, and much material in WikiLeaks’ recent release of diplomatic cables, reveal above all that US Executive war-making is marked by massive deception of the American people — particularly lying about (1) the enormous civilian casualties the US is causing and (2) its claim to be pursuing a ‘counter-insurgency strategy’ designed to install a democratic Afghan government. The Times and Guardian stories describe how these official US documents reveal constant US Executive Branch lying to the American people.”
* In the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, the US Supreme Court declares “the corporate expenditure ban unconstitutional, holding that independent expenditures [can] not be constitutionally limited in federal elections, and implicitly that corporations [can] give unlimited amounts to other groups to spend, as long as the expenditures [are] made independently from the supported candidate” — thus giving rise to the super PAC.
* Global Justice Now releases a report titled The Great Hunger Lottery: How Banking Speculation Causes Food Crises. The report examines the “astonishing surge in staple food prices over the course of 2007–2008, when millions went hungry and food riots swept major cities around the world,” and shows how this crisis “was fueled by the behavior of financial speculators.” Continued speculation on food commodities “has led to food prices becoming unaffordable for low-income families around the world, particularly in developing countries highly reliant on food imports.”
* ProPublica launches an investigation (ongoing through 2015) into the Wall Street “money machine,” exploring how Wall Street “took advantage of complicated mortgage-based instruments to reap billions, only to exacerbate the eventual crash.” One of its more recent articles (published in April 2014) examined the conviction of former investment banker Kareem Serageldin and attempted to understand “why the largest man-made economic catastrophe since the Depression resulted in the jailing of a single investment banker — one who happened to be several rungs from the corporate suite at a second-tier financial institution.”
* Mother Jones documents the US government’s longtime kowtowing to big oil in an article titled US Government, Brought to You By Big Oil. The article provides extensive evidence in support of the argument that “the oil companies not only write their own regulations and perform their own oversight; they also set energy policy and draft laws.”
* Vulture funds’ debt repayment suit steals Liberian funds earmarked for much-needed postconflict development. In the same year that Liberia is awarded $4.6 billion in debt relief from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the country is forced to settle with Hamsah Investment and Wall Capital, two so-called vulture funds, which sued Liberia in 2009 for a $6.5 million loan originally taken out from US-based Chemical Bank in 1978. The amount the vulture funds were suing for purportedly climbed to a whopping $43 million by 2010; Liberia agreed to settle for just over 3 percent of that amount.
* Eurodad releases a report titled How to Spend It: Smart Procurement for More Effective Aid, which condemns “tied aid” and estimates that, of $69 billion annually, “more than 50 percent of total official development assistance is spent on procuring goods and services for development projects from external providers. . . . ‘Tying aid’ to the condition that all purchases are made from firms from donor countries is the least effective form of procurement. It turns aid into boomerang aid: a financial flow that is only channelled to developing countries on the books. Although first agreements to untie aid were signed at the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] in 2001 . . . about 20 percent of bilateral aid is still formally tied. Development projects funded with tied aid are also 15 to 40 percent more expensive. Furthermore, in reality the majority of formally untied aid contracts from bilateral agencies also go to donor country firms. Two-thirds are awarded to firms from OECD countries, and 60 percent ‘in country,’ to firms from the donor country that funds a project.”
The full report can be found on Eurodad’s website:
* WikiLeaks releases the “PetroCaribe Files,” documenting “how the US tried — and failed — to scuttle a Venezuelan oil deal even though it would bring huge benefits to Haiti’s impoverished people.”
* A cable released by WikiLeaks “shows how US and international donors pushed ahead with a rigged presidential election” in Haiti.
* Khalil Nakhleh, a former development worker and consultant in Palestine, publishes a book titled Globalized Palestine: The National Sell-Out of a Homeland (Ewing Township, NJ: Red Sea Press, 2011). According to the Amazon.com description: “The book asserts that aid advanced to Palestine under occupation is political aid par excellence, advanced to the Palestinians specifically to acquiesce and submit to an imposed political agenda and program. It shackles, mortgages, and holds hostage the entire current society and future generations in political and economic debt. It is aid that focuses on consumption and mortgaging people. It is aid that is anti-production and anti-liberation.”
* Global Justice Now releases a report titled Power to the People? How the World Bank–Financed Wind Farms Fail Communities in Mexico. By examining the case study of the La Mata and La Ventosa wind farm in Oaxaca — the World Bank’s “flagship Clean Technology Fund (CTF) project in Mexico” — the report “shows that the CTF is a flawed model for climate financing, with inherent biases towards funding energy utilities and the private sector in middle income countries. In dispersing loans rather than grants, the CTF risks loading further debt onto poorer countries contrary to the original purpose of climate financing.” Regarding the La Mata and La Ventosa wind farm specifically, the report finds that all of the electricity created by the project will be “sold at a discounted rate to Walmart,” that the project “misrepresented its finances to gain additional funding from the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism,” and that the project will be used to promote further private sector wind projects in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec — projects that “have met with considerable local resistance . . . amidst concerns that they form part of an attempt ‘to grab indigenous lands and convert them into resources for the market.’”
* Global Justice Now releases a report titled Broken Markets: How Financial Market Regulations Can Help Prevent Another Global Food Crisis. The report “shows how financial speculation has boomed, turning commodity derivatives into just another asset class for investors, distorting and undermining the effective functioning of agricultural markets. It shows how the changes in the financial markets translate into changes in the prices of food, and the devastating impact this has had on the world’s poorest people.”
* “Did Lobbying Cause the Financial Crisis?” asks a headline in the Economist. The answer — It seems so, yes — comes from a paper, written by three IMF economists and published in the National Bureau of Economic Research, titled A Fistful of Dollars: Lobbying and the Financial Crisis. The paper establishes a strong correlation between lobby activity, deregulation, riskier loans, and ultimately — after it all went wrong — bailouts. As described in the Economist, the paper finds that “banks were an active participant in deregulation, pushing for weaker rules that allowed all those ill-advised mortgage loans. . . . The IMF economists found that lenders that lobbied the most also tended to make riskier loans. They also found that the areas of the country dominated by lenders who spent the most lobbying dollars also tended to have higher rates of default. Lastly, if you thought there was connection between Washington connections and bailouts, you would be right as well. The economists found that the firms that lobbied the most were also the most likely to get bailout cash.”
* The Democratic Republic of the Congo narrowly escapes being forced to repay an illegal $100 million debt to an American vulture fund. FG Hemisphere wins a suit in the Jersey Islands against the country, and the court awards $100 million on a debt that the fund originally purchased for a $3 million. Happily, however, in the following year, the purchase is proven to be illegal, and the UK Privy Council rules in a final judgment that the vulture fund cannot collect the $100 million award. This ruling, unfortunately, came too late to prevent the DRC from being forced to settle with another American vulture fund, Red Mountain Finance, in 2002; the DRC agreed to pay $8 million on a debt that Red Mountain reportedly bought for $800,000, and for which they then sued for $27 million.
* A team of complex system theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich identifies a “super-entity” of a mere 147 gigantic transnational corporations that control 40 percent of global operating revenues. Most of these are financial institutions, according to the research. The scientists describe the map of economic power as a “bow tie,” with a strongly concentrated core.
* Investigative journalist Greg Palast exposes the seedy connections between the oil industry, the banking industry, and governmental agencies in his book Vultures’ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores (New York: Plume, 2012). The book reveals “how environmental disasters like the Gulf oil spill, the Exxon Valdez, and lesser-known tragedies such as Tatitlek and Torrey Canyon are caused by corporate corruption, failed legislation, and, most interestingly, veiled connections between the financial industry and energy titans.” Palast condemns the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, and central banks as “puppets for big oil.”
* Following the one-year anniversary of the start of Occupy Wall Street, Bloomberg reports that “in 2010, the top 1 percent of US families captured as much as 93 percent of the nation’s income growth, according to a March paper by Emmanuel Saez, a University of California at Berkeley economist who studied Internal Revenue Service data.”
* Indian political activist Arundhati Roy argues that corporate philanthropy is just another method of control and influence, in her article “Capitalism: A Ghost Story,” published in Outlook India. From the article: “As the IMF enforced Structural Adjustment, and arm-twisted governments into cutting back on public spending on health, education, childcare, development, the NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] moved in. The Privatisation of Everything has also meant the NGO-isation of Everything. As jobs and livelihoods disappeared, NGOs have become an important source of employment, even for those who see them for what they are. . . . [T]he corporate or Foundation-endowed NGOs are global finance’s way of buying into resistance movements, literally like shareholders buy shares in companies, and then try to control them from within.”
* The Libor scandal reveals “a widespread plot by multiple banks — most notably Deutsche Bank, Barclays, UBS, Rabobank, and the Royal Bank of Scotland — to manipulate [Libor] interest rates for profit starting as far back as 2003. In 2015, investigations continued to implicate major institutions, exposing them to civil lawsuits and shaking trust in the global financial system.” A former trader for Morgan Stanley suggests that “the misreporting of Libor rates may have been common practice since at least 1991.”
* ProPublica launches a series of reports called Buying Your Vote: Dark Money and Big Data. Initial investigations focus on campaign spending during the 2012 presidential election. Ongoing investigations through 2015 include reports on the rise of super PACs, the “Kochtopus” (the purportedly vast and shadowy network of institutions financed by the Koch brothers), and loopholes in campaign finance laws. Collectively, these reports illustrate the frightening influence of corporate lobbying on public policy.
* Global Justice Now releases a briefing that describes how UK aid “is being used to encourage private sector involvement in developing countries, whether this is in the form of supporting pro-market policies or directly channeling aid money through companies.” The briefing includes mention of £11 billion in UK aid support for the World Bank’s creation of “special economic zones” in Bangladesh, including “export processing zones,” which “are essentially onshore tax havens for multinational companies.” According to this report, new special economic zones would restrict trade union activities and freedom of association.
* An internal review by the World Bank for nine of its projects shows that the bank systematically underestimates the number of people who will be adversely affected by its development initiatives: “The number of affected people turned out to be, on average, 32 percent higher than the figure reported by the bank before approving the initiatives, understating the number of people affected by the nine projects by 77,500.” A 1994 internal review examined 192 projects and found that “the real number of affected people averaged 47 percent higher than previously estimated.”
* A New York Times DealBook article, “How Mandela Shifted Views on Freedom of Markets,” by Andrew Ross Sorkin, reveals how, during Mandela’s trip to Davos for a meeting of the World Economic Forum, proponents of the EHM system convinced Nelson Mandela to open up South Africa’s markets, fueling growing inequality in South Africa from 1993 to the present. Mandela’s decision allowed international corporations to stake major claims in South African companies, Sorkin reports. “Barclays, for example, acquired Absa, South Africa’s largest consumer bank, in 2005. Iscor, the country’s largest steel maker, was sold to Lakshmi Mittal’s LNM in 2004. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China bought a big stake in Standard Bank, South Africa’s largest financial services company, in 2008. And Massmart, a South African supermarket chain, sold a majority stake to Walmart in 2011.”
* JPMorgan Chase reaches a $13 billion settlement with the US Justice Department and purportedly admits that “it, along with every other large US bank, had engaged in mortgage fraud as a routine business practice, sowing the seeds of the mortgage meltdown.”
* Corporations’ influence in Washington: The New York Times reports on a bill that was allegedly written, essentially, by Citigroup: “One bill that sailed through the House Financial Services Committee this month — over the objections of the Treasury Department — was essentially Citigroup’s, according to e-mails reviewed by the New York Times. The bill would exempt broad swathes of trades from new regulation.”
* Inclusive Development International, the International Accountability Project, the Bank Information Center, and Habitat International Coalition–Housing and Land Rights Network submit a report to the World Bank Safeguards Review titled Reforming the World Bank Policy on Involuntary Settlement. The report states that the price being paid by people affected by the World Bank’s approach to forced evictions “is unconscionably high. Large-scale resettlement has been shown — time and again — to be an exceedingly difficult activity to do in a manner that upholds human rights, and one that results in extreme poverty and injustice for affected people.”
* Global Justice Now releases a report titled Banking While Borneo Burns: How the UK Financial Sector Is Bankrolling Indonesia’s Fossil Fuel Boom. The report analyzes the finance behind the Indonesian fossil fuel industry, which has had devastating social, economic, and environmental effects on Indonesia’s people and land. Findings draw a direct link between “the equity issues, syndicated loans and flotations” of the UK financial sector and the “evictions, deforestation and climate change on the ground.” A second report by the same organization focuses on a single project: “BHP Billiton is planning to build a series of massive coal mines that would destroy primary rain forest, deprive indigenous peoples of their customary land, and pollute water resources relied on by up to 1 million people.”
* Global Justice Now releases a briefing on coal exploitation in the Cerrejón mine in Colombia. Expansion of the mine has led to human rights abuses (including the destruction of villages and the exploitation of cheap labor), and the coal that is extracted “is almost exclusively for export to rich countries.” The briefing calculates that the three owners of the mine (BHP Billiton, Anglo American, and Xstrata) have been financed by British banks, investors, and pension funds (including Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, and the Royal Bank of Scotland) to the tune of approximately £25 billion since 2009.
* Global Justice Now releases a briefing titled Web of Power: The UK Government and the Energy-Finance Complex Fuelling Climate Change. The report reveals that “one third of ministers in the UK government are linked to the finance and energy companies driving climate change.” The size and entrenched nature of the “energy-finance complex” is driven home with staggering numbers: £900 billion (the value of fossil fuel shares on the London Stock Exchange; higher than the GDP of all of sub-Saharan Africa) and £170 billion (the value of bonds and share issues underwritten by the top five UK banks from 2010 to 2012; “more than 11 times the amount the UK contributed in climate finance for developing countries”).
* In “HRC and the Vulture Fund: Making Third World Poverty Pay for LGBT Rights,” human rights activist and scholar Scott Long examines the ugly source of a $3 million donation to the Human Rights Campaign, the largest US gay organization. The donation comes from two big contributors to the Republican Party; one is Paul Singer, who runs a vulture fund that supposedly “makes profits from the debt incurred by Third World countries . . . and from the misery it causes their citizens.” Long examines what could be called the insidious nature of vulture funds and their effects: “Vulture funds operate by buying up a country’s distressed debt just as the original lenders are about to write it off — usually, as the Guardian describes it, when the country ‘is in a state of chaos. When the country has stabilised, vulture funds return to demand millions of dollars in interest repayments and fees on the original debt.’” According to Jubilee USA, “As of late 2011, 16 of 40 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) surveyed by the International Monetary Fund were facing litigation in 78 individual cases brought by commercial creditors. Of these, 36 cases have resulted in court judgments against HIPCs amounting to approximately $1 billion on original claims worth roughly $500 million.”
* ProPublica launches a series of investigative reports into Goldman Sachs and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, using audio recordings made secretly by then–Fed examiner Carmen Segarra. Segarra claims she was fired for refusing to assert the validity of Goldman Sachs’s conflict-of-interest policy, despite facing pressure, among other disagreements. The “Fed tapes” investigation (ongoing through 2015) reveals a damning history of the Fed’s “deference” to Wall Street.
* James S. Henry, a senior adviser to the Tax Justice Network and author of The Blood Bankers (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2003), discusses how tax havens and offshore banking cripple developing nations in a TEDx-RadboudU talk.
* Eurodad releases a report titled Going Offshore: How Development Finance Institutions Support Companies Using the World’s Most Secretive Financial Centres. From the executive summary: “Developing countries lose billions of dollars every year through tax avoidance and evasion. Tax havens play a pivotal role in this by providing low or no taxation and by promising secrecy, allowing businesses to dodge taxes and remain largely unaccountable for their actions. Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) are government-controlled institutions that, as this report shows, often support private sector projects that are routed through tax havens, using scarce public money. By supporting projects in this way, DFIs are helping to reinforce the offshore industry as they are providing income and legitimacy.”
* Eurodad releases a report titled Hidden Profits: The EU’s Role in Supporting an Unjust Global Tax System 2014. The report compares each country “with its fellow EU member states on four critical issues: the fairness of their tax treaties with developing countries; their willingness to put an end to anonymous shell companies and trusts; their support for increasing the transparency of economic activities and tax payments of transnational companies; and their attitude towards letting the poorest countries get a seat at the table when global tax standards are negotiated.” Findings include evidence that “practices which facilitate tax dodging by transnational corporations and individuals are widely used, in some cases so governments can claim to be ‘tax competitive.’ This is creating a ‘race to the bottom’ — meaning that many countries are driving down standards to try to attract transnational corporations to their countries. Some of the countries that have been most successful in attracting companies — Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands — are also currently under investigation by the European Commission for making competition-distorting arrangements with transnational companies behind closed doors.”
* Global Justice Now releases a report titled Carving Up a Continent: How the UK Government Is Facilitating the Corporate Takeover of African Food Systems. The report describes how UK aid monies purported to “support improvements to agriculture and food security in Africa . . . are in fact geared towards helping multinational companies to access resources and bringing about policy changes to facilitate those countries’ expansion in Africa.” The report reveals evidence that “the pro-corporate approach of [such] initiatives . . . is likely to exacerbate hunger and poverty through increased land-grabbing, insecure and poorly paid jobs, the privatisation of seed and a focus on producing for export markets rather than to feed local populations.”
* WikiLeaks releases documents revealing that Australian prime minister Tony Abbott is moving forward with “secret trade negotiations aimed at bringing about radical deregulation of Australia’s banking and finance sector.” As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, “Highly sensitive details of the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) negotiations . . . show Australian trade negotiators are working on a financial services agenda that could end the Australian government’s ‘four pillars’ banking policy and allow foreign banks much greater freedom to operate in Australia. It could also see Australians’ bank account and financial data freely transferred overseas, and allow an influx of foreign financial and information technology workers.”
* Big bank traders are exposed for manipulating foreign exchange rates; evidence against them includes chat groups called the Bandits’ Club, the Mafia, and the Cartel, in which they apparently brag about rate fixing. As reported by CNN: “Citigroup, Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, and Royal Bank of Scotland were fined more than $2.5 billion by the US after pleading guilty to conspiring to manipulate the price of dollars and euros. The four banks, plus UBS, have also been fined $1.6 billion by the Federal Reserve, and Barclays will pay regulators another $1.3 billion to settle related claims. The first four banks operated what they described as ‘The Cartel’ from as early as 2007, using online chat rooms and coded language to influence the twice-daily setting of benchmarks in an effort to increase their profits.”
* A joint investigation by ProPublica and Frontline exposes definite evidence of an intimate relationship between American corporation Firestone and brutal Liberian warlord Charles Taylor in the early 1990s: “Firestone served as a source of food, fuel, trucks and cash used by Taylor’s ragtag rebel army, according to interviews, internal corporate documents and declassified diplomatic cables. The company signed a deal in 1992 to pay taxes to Taylor’s rebel government. Over the next year, the company doled out more than $2.3 million in cash, checks and food to Taylor, according to an accounting in court files,” in return for protection.
* The Nation exposes the deception and secrecy of America’s lobby industry in an article titled “Where Have All the Lobbyists Gone?.” Thanks to legal loopholes that allow those in the lobbying industry to remain officially unregistered as lobbyists, the industry is “going underground.” While only 12,281 lobbyists were registered in 2013, experts say the “true number of working lobbyists is closer to 100,000.” Additionally, although official spending on lobbyists in the US in 2013 was $3.2 billion, the article estimates the unofficial total as $9 billion. Jeffrey Sachs estimates an unofficial total of $30 billion, which he breaks down sector by sector in his book The Price of Civilization (New York: Random House, 2011). The primary economic impact of lobbyists is the securing of government subsidies for giant corporations, whether through tax credits, fee reductions, giveaways, or simple subsidies.
* A New York district court rules that the Democratic Republic of the Congo must pay two vulture funds — Themis Capital and Des Moines Investments — a total of about $70 million, $50 million of which represents interest on the original debt, which was valued at roughly $18 million when the funds acquired it from Citibank and others in 2008.
* A team of more than fifty journalists associated with the Huffington Post and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists launches an investigative project titled “Evicted & Abandoned.” The in-depth, ongoing report, How the World Bank Broke Its Promise to Protect the Poor, documents the people who have been displaced by World Bank projects in Ethiopia, Honduras, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Peru, and elsewhere. The introduction of the report reveals the terrifying scope of the ramifications: “From 2004 to 2013, the bank’s projects physically or economically displaced an estimated 3.4 million people, forcing them from their homes, taking their land or damaging their livelihoods, ICIJ’s analysis of World Bank records reveals.”
* Global Justice Now releases a briefing titled Privatising Power: UK Aid Funds Privatization in Nigeria. The report states, “As part of a £100 million project run by consultants Adam Smith International, the UK is using an estimated £50 million of aid money to support energy sector privatisation in Nigeria. Although the process is yet to be completed, the results so far have been disastrous, with Nigerian people facing higher prices, poor service and regular blackouts. The companies involved in the privatisation have made many workers redundant and had to be bailed out by the central bank in 2014.”
* The New York Times describes how the “sale of US arms fuels the wars of Arab states”: “To wage war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia is using F-15 fighter jets bought from Boeing. Pilots from the United Arab Emirates are flying Lockheed Martin’s F-16 to bomb both Yemen and Syria. Soon, the Emirates are expected to complete a deal with General Atomics for a fleet of Predator drones to run spying missions in their neighborhood. As the Middle East descends into proxy wars, sectarian conflicts and battles against terrorist networks, countries in the region that have stockpiled American military hardware are now actually using it and wanting more. The result is a boom for American defense contractors looking for foreign business in an era of shrinking Pentagon budgets — but also the prospect of a dangerous new arms race in a region where the map of alliances has been sharply redrawn.”
* Deutsche Bank reaches a $2.5 billion settlement in the recent Libor scandal, against charges that the international financial giant “conspired to manipulate global interest rate benchmarks.”
* The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), a member of Eurodad, publishes a report called Fool’s Gold: How Canadian Mining Company Eldorado Gold Destroys the Greek Environment and Dodges Tax through Dutch Mailbox Companies. As described by Eurodad: “This report reveals that Greece’s economic recovery is being undermined by large-scale tax avoidance — enabled by the Netherlands. At the same time, Greece endures harsh austerity measures imposed by the European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF which are supported by the Netherlands.”