Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Bank of America’s odd categorization

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This seems very weird: twitter thread from Charlie Savage.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 May 2017 at 12:51 pm

Posted in Business

Companies Steal $15 Billion From Their Employees Every Year

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Ben Schiller reports in Fast Company:

When employers fail to pay overtime, withhold tips from waitresses and waiters, or misclassify workers as exempt from minimum wage regulations, they’re stealing income from the poorest members of society. “Wage theft,” the collective term for this practice, can take many forms. But it comes down to something simple: bosses stiffing workers out what they are legally owed.

This workplace larceny is worse than you might think. The Economic Policy Institute, a think-tank that investigates labor issues, analyzed records for the 10 most populous states. Looking just at one form of wage theft–failure to pay minimum wages in each state–it documents $8 billion in annual underpayments. Extrapolated across the U.S. as a whole, it calculates a total of $15 billion a year in employer misappropriation, which is more than the value of all the property stolen during robberies, burglaries, and auto thefts across the country.

The report finds 2.4 million workers affected across the ten states: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. And it says workers suffering minimum wage violations lose an average of $64 per week, almost a quarter of their weekly earnings. An average wage theft victim earns just $10,500 in wages a year–and loses up to $3,300 of that to unscrupulous bosses.

“Property crime is a better understood, more tangible form of crime than wage theft, and federal, state, and local governments spend tremendous resources to combat it,” the report, written by EPI analyst David Cooper and research assistant Teresa Kroeger, says. “In contrast, lawmakers in much of the country allocate little, if any, resources to fighting wage theft, yet the cost of wage theft is at least comparable to–and likely much higher than–the cost of property crime.”

Cooper and Kroeger say that wage theft could be reduced through better enforcement of labor laws, including increasing penalties for violators, protecting workers from retaliation, and improving collective bargaining rights. It notes that the U.S. Department of Labor, which is responsible for investigating minimum violations, is chronically under-staffed. In 2015, its Wage and Hour Division (WHD) employed about the same number of investigators as 70 years ago–about 1000–despite a huge expansion of the economy over that time. The U.S. workforce is about six times larger today (135 million in 2015) compared to the 1940s (22.6 million in 1948).

The Obama Administration expanded the WHD from 700 to 1,000 staff and appointed the first WHD administrator in more than a decade (other appointees had been held up in Senate confirmation battles). David Weil, a professor at Boston University and author of the book The Fissured Workplace: Why Work Became So Bad for So Many and What Can Be Done To Improve It, is credited with stepping up misclassification investigations and helping to prosecute several offenders of labor law. By contrast, President Trump has yet to appoint a WHD administrator (or many other positions at the U.S. Department of Labor). His original choice for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder–a rapid opponent of minimum wage laws–was never confirmed amid domestic abuse allegations. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, Trump’s second choice, is considered to be more favorable towards labor. But it remains to be seen how independent he’ll be from the White House and whether he builds on the enforcement regime of the last administration. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 May 2017 at 2:54 pm

Apple’s new $5 billion campus has a 100,000-square-foot gym and no daycare

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Amazing. I had thought Apple was a heads-up corporation. Guess not.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 May 2017 at 10:27 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Outlook for college grads

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Very interesting column by Danielle Paquette in the Washington Post on the impact of automation and AI on highly compensated jobs (banking, finance, software engineering). The column opens with:

The job title “Wall Street trader” once evoked sleek suits, martini-soaked lunches and chaotic offices  — a gateway to prosperity at a relatively young age. But earlier this year, Marty Chavez, the chief financial officer of Goldman Sachs, revealed that some of the investment bank’s well-paid humans were being replaced by unpaid robots.

Over the last seventeen years, the number of stock traders at the firm has shrunk from 600 to two, he told  a Harvard computer science symposium in January. . .

And it concludes with:

. . .“Investment banking is next on the chopping block,” Webb said. And engineering isn’t off the hook, either. “The next iteration of artificial intelligence,” she said, “is artificial intelligence creating software for itself.”

In one Google Brain experiment, for example, software became better at teaching itself tasks — such as navigating a maze, for example — than the engineers who were charged with making it smarter.

“That obviates the need,” she said, “for a human engineer.”

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2017 at 8:15 pm

Interesting possibility: Dutch Documentary May Have Contributed to Abrupt Dismissal of FBI Director Comey

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

Six days after Zembla, a Dutch public broadcasting program, aired an investigation of U.S. President Donald Trump’s business ties to Russian oligarchs and mobsters, Trump fired the man in possession of a great many more details on that matter: FBI Director James Comey. Next, Trump announced that his law firm, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, was providing a “certified” letter stating that he had no business interests in Russia. (That law firm, as ABC News was quick to point out, was itself named “Russia Law Firm of the Year” in 2016 by Chambers & Partners.)

The Morgan, Lewis & Bockius letter was dismissed as meaningless by multiple tax experts since Trump could easily have investments with Russian partnerships and offshore entities. The letter pertained only to investments in which Trump is “sole or principal owner.” These omitted minority partnership entanglements are precisely what the Dutch documentary explored. 

From last Tuesday evening, when the news first broke that President Donald Trump had fired Comey, CNN has called in more than a dozen experts on everything from constitutional law to national security to Watergate to parse each utterance from the President in his Tweets or TV news interviews on the Comey matter. This mind-numbing, week-long repetition resulted in absolutely nothing that one could call substantive in terms of advancing the American public’s knowledge of the President’s longstanding and labyrinthine ties to Russian oligarchs and mobsters. In fact, it has clouded the real question that the Congressional Intelligence Committees and the FBI should be asking.

The critical question is not whether Trump campaign associates colluded with Russia in the 2016 presidential election. That’s an important peripheral question but pales in comparison to the overarching question, which is: does Donald Trump have a long term business history with Russian criminal elements which renders him a national security risk to the United States.

On May 3, Dutch public television drilled down to this core question in a breathtaking documentary titled: The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump: the Russians. An economic investigator, James Henry, who has looked deeply into Trump’s Russian ties, is interviewed in the documentary. According to Henry, . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

15 May 2017 at 12:23 pm

Terminology change: They are “protections,” not “regulations”

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The whole purpose of regulations is to protect the public. So let’s call them “protections,” since that is what they are. Trump is not repealing environmental “regulations,” he’s doing away with environmental protections.

George Lakoff thought of this, and he’s right. A very good note at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 May 2017 at 1:20 pm

Trump’s Newest Wall Street Watchdog Sidesteps Ethics Scrutiny

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Jesse Hamilton and Robert Schmidt report in Bloomberg:

The Trump administration used a highly unusual personnel move to skirt Senate confirmation and standard ethics requirements when it installed a financial services lawyer atop a powerful banking regulator.

Keith Noreika’s transition from representing banks to overseeing them came courtesy of a quick two-step. He was made “first deputy” at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a designation that ensured he would ascend to the top job once it opened. Then the administration ousted Thomas Curry, an OCC head picked by Barack Obama who had imposed tough rules and record fines on lenders. Just like that, Noreika became acting comptroller.

While the OCC says Noreika has mitigated potential conflicts, there’s been no public disclosure of an ethics agreement or his former clients. He represented Wall Street firms and an online brokerage that needs the OCC’s sign-off to complete a merger, according to legal filings and a biography that was posted on the website of his previous employer, law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

Once Noreika assumed his post on midnight May 5, President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin gained a needed ally in their push to undo financial regulations, an effort that has started slowly because Obama holdovers still lead key agencies. But some Democratic lawmakers and ethics lawyers said the rush to get Noreika into the job is troubling.

‘Unvetted Attorney’

“Mr. Noreika is an unvetted attorney who lacks the experience to serve as an independent Wall Street watchdog,” Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, said in an email. “His work in the private sector creates an unprecedented series of conflicts of interest –- further underscoring the need for anyone serving as comptroller to go through the Senate confirmation process.”

Noreika’s position is supposed to be temporary. According to the OCC, he is a “special government employee,” a designation that comes with less stringent ethics rules and frees him from having to sign Trump’s ethics pledge, as long as he serves fewer than 130 days in a 365-day period. The pledge, usually required of all administration appointees, is meant to restrict officials from using their posts for personal gain and includes a 5-year lobbying ban.

The special employee status was designed for part-time government advisers — not the heads of agencies — and it allows those types of workers to earn money in the private sector during their service. Noreika, however, has severed ties to his law firm, OCC spokesman Bryan Hubbard said.

“I plan to abide by all ethical rules and guidelines and recuse myself wherever appropriate,” Noreika said in statement, adding that he’s “honored” to serve until the next comptroller is confirmed by the Senate. . .

Continue reading.

Trump is going to do a lot of damage to our country before he stops/is stopped.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 May 2017 at 11:15 am

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