Tuesday, May 29, 2018

White Collar Prosecutions Fall to Lowest in 20 Years

The 2017 Tax Cuts: How Polarized Politics Produced Precarious Policy, by Michael Graetz (Columbia)

Super fund members being short-changed billions every year, Productivity Commission report finds
Australia's superannuation system is an unlucky lottery for many members, with retirement nest eggs being diluted by unnecessary fees and underperforming ...

Superannuation fee 'rip-off' must be stopped, minister says
Kelly O'Dwyer says Productivity Commission report revealed funds not acting in members' interests.

Ivanka Trump's Chinese trademarks on products from baby blankets to coffins raise corruption concerns
Ivanka Trump's brand continues to win foreign trademarks in China and the Philippines, adding to questions about conflicts of interest at the White House, ...

The New Yorker – How the Math Men Overthrew the Mad Men – “The power of Math Men is awesome. Google and Facebook each has a market value exceeding the combined value of the six largest advertising and marketing holding companies. Together, they claim six out of every ten dollars spent on digital advertising, and nine out of ten new digital ad dollars. They have become more dominant in what is estimated to be an up to two-trillion-dollar annual global advertising and marketing business. Facebook alone generates more ad dollars than all of America’s newspapers, and Google has twice the ad revenues of Facebook. 

White Collar Prosecutions Fall to Lowest in 20 Years

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse: “Current prosecution levels represent the lowest number of white collar prosecutions in more than 20 years. Government case-by-case records, updated through April 2018, indicate a total of 3,249 new white collar crime prosecutions were brought during the first seven months of FY 2018. If this level of activity continues at the same pace, the annual total of prosecutions will be 5,570 for this fiscal year – a decline from last year. Overall, the data show that prosecutions of this type are down 31.3 percent from the level of 8,108 reported in 2008 and down 40.8 percent from the level of 9,412 reported in 1998. So far during FY 2018, relative to its population size, the Southern District of New York (Manhattan) was the most active federal district. It was followed by the Southern District of Florida (Miami) and the Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis). The federal district showing the greatest growth in the rate of white collar prosecutions compared to last year was the Southern District of Mississippi (Jackson).”
New Yorker – Ronan Farrow – “Missing Files Motivated the Leak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records – A law-enforcement official released the documents after finding that additional suspicious transactions did not appear in a government database.”
“Last week, several news outlets obtained financial records showing that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, had used a shell company to receive payments from various firms with business before the Trump Administration. In the days since, there has been much speculation about who leaked the confidential documents, and the Treasury Department’s inspector general has launched a probe to find the source. That source, a law-enforcement official, is speaking publicly for the first time, to The New Yorker, to explain the motivation: the official had grown alarmed after being unable to find two important reports on Cohen’s financial activity in a government database. The official, worried that the information was being withheld from law enforcement, released the remaining documents. The payments to Cohen that have emerged in the past week come primarily from a single document, a “suspicious-activity report” filed by First Republic Bank, where Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants, L.L.C., maintained an account. The document detailed sums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Cohen by the pharmaceutical company Novartis, the telecommunications giant A.T. & T., and an investment firm with ties to the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. The report also refers to two previous suspicious-activity reports, or SARs, that the bank had filed, which documented even larger flows of questionable money into Cohen’s account. Those two reports detail more than three million dollars in additional transactions—triple the amount in the report released last week. Which individuals or corporations were involved remains a mystery. But, according to the official who leaked the report, these SARs were absent from the database maintained by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN. The official, who has spent a career in law enforcement, told me, “I have never seen something pulled off the system… That system is a safeguard for the bank. It’s a stockpile of information. When something’s not there that should be, I immediately became concerned.” The official added, “That’s why I came forward.”

Facebook loses fight with IRS over 7B tax bill from overseas income The Register: “Facebook has lost its bid to throw out a tax bill on $7bn worth of income it had stashed overseas. A Northern District of California judge ruled in favor of the IRS this week, finding the Social Network did not have standing to challenge the tax bod’s finding that Facebook underreported its revenues via its Ireland-based subsidiary. The IRS found that, from the 2008 through 2010 tax years, Facebook failed to report (and pay taxes on) about $7bn of income. Facebook challenged that ruling, asking that the case be taken in front of the IRS Appeals board – an independent group that sorts out tax disputes. The US tax body moved to have the case thrown out, saying there was nothing on the books that oblige it to give Facebook an appeals hearing, certainly not with IRS Appeals…
Will Day - Contacting owners of anonymous Swiss bank accounts

The ATO’s fight against offshore tax evasion is continuing with compliance action now underway against more than 100 Australian taxpayers with links to Swiss banking

CNN Money Study – Almost half of US families can’t afford basics like rent and food – The economy may be chugging along, but many Americans are still struggling to afford a basic middle class life. “Nearly 51 million households don’t earn enough to afford a monthly budget that includes housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cell phone, according to a study released Thursday by the United Way ALICE Project. That’s 43% of households in the United States.”

Sleeping rough in Adelaide
CASE STUDY: Learning what people sleeping rough need from government and charities isn't easy ‒ especially when even their name is unknown.

Women in the workforce increasingly isolated & exploited
"The Government has responded to the increasing evidence of exploitation and its intersection with women’s workforce vulnerability by cutting advice and assistance to women workers." (The Power to Persuade)

Public can now search UK government’s entire digital archive - BusinessCloud: “The British government’s entire online presence comprising billions of web pages has been indexed and digitally archived to the cloud for the first time. Manchester tech firm MirrorWeb has devised an all-new indexing to create an accessible, searchable and user-friendly resource for the public. The National Archives’ gigantic 120TB web archive encompasses billions of web pages – from every government department website and social media account – from 1996 to the present. It took MirrorWeb – named among our 101 Rising Stars of the UK Start-up Scene last year – just two weeks to transfer the data from 72 hard drives at The National Archives to internal hard drives before transferring and digitally archiving more than two decades of government internet history to the cloud. As part of a four-year contract, MirrorWeb was tasked with both moving the data to the cloud using Amazon Web Services as well as indexing it. Indexing the data meant that MirrorWeb had to write a complete replacement for the UK Government Web Archives’ previous search functionality. As a result, 1.4bn documents were indexed and are now accessible and searchable to researchers, students and the members of the public who need to use them, enabling them to view websites and social media content in their original form as well as search for content on specific topics. John Sheridan, digital director of The National Archives, said: “We are preserving 1,000 years of British history and a big part of that is preserving the digital record of government today…”

ASIC bid to embed agents in big banks to clean up ... - The Australian