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Looting Main Street -Tiabbi. long but vital read on the near-crash of Birmingham Ala. by JP Morgan

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underpants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-09-10 07:25 PM
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Looting Main Street -Tiabbi. long but vital read on the near-crash of Birmingham Ala. by JP Morgan
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/32906678/looting_main_street/print

Birmingham became the poster child for a new kind of giant-scale financial fraud, one that would threaten the financial stability not only of cities and counties all across America, but even those of entire countries like Greece. While for many Americans the financial crisis remains an abstraction, a confusing mess of complex transactions that took place on a cloud high above Manhattan sometime in the mid-2000s, in Jefferson County you can actually see the rank criminality of the crisis economy with your own eyes; the monster sticks his head all the way out of the water. Here you can see a trail that leads directly from a billion-dollar predatory swap deal cooked up at the highest levels of America's biggest banks, across a vast fruited plain of bribes and felonies "the price of doing business," as one JP Morgan banker says on tape all the way down to Lisa Pack's sewer bill and the mass layoffs in Birmingham.

Once you follow that trail and understand what took place in Jefferson County, there's really no room left for illusions. We live in a gangster state, and our days of laughing at other countries are over. It's our turn to get laughed at. In Birmingham, lots of people have gone to jail for the crime: More than 20 local officials and businessmen have been convicted of corruption in federal court. Last October, right around the time that Lisa Pack went back to work at reduced hours, Birmingham's mayor was convicted of fraud and money-laundering for taking bribes funneled to him by Wall Street bankers everything from Rolex watches to Ferragamo suits to cash. But those who greenlighted the bribes and profited most from the scam remain largely untouched. "It never gets back to JP Morgan," says Pack.

They means Charles LeCroy and Bill Blount, the two principals in what would become the most important of all the corruption cases in Jefferson County. LeCroy was a banker for JP Morgan, serving as managing director of the bank's southeast regional office. Blount was an Alabama wheeler-dealer with close friends on the county commission. For years, when Wall Street banks wanted to do business with municipalities, whether for bond issues or rate swaps, it was standard practice to reach out to a local sleazeball like Blount and pay him a shitload of money to help seal the deal. "Banks would pay some local consultant, and the consultant would then funnel money to the politician making the decision," says Christopher Taylor, the former head of the board that regulates municipal borrowing. Back in the 1990s, Taylor pushed through a ban on such backdoor bribery. He also passed a ban on bankers contributing directly to politicians they do business with a move that sparked a lawsuit by one aggrieved sleazeball, who argued that halting such legalized graft violated his First Amendment rights. The name of that pissed-off banker? "It was the one and only Bill Blount," Taylor says with a laugh.

And here's the kicker. Last year, when Jefferson County, staggered by the weight of its penalties, was unable to make its swap payments to JP Morgan, the bank canceled the deal. That triggered one-time "termination fees" of yes, you read this right $647 million. That was money the county would owe no matter what happened with the rest of its debt, even if bondholders decided to forgive and forget every dime the county had borrowed. It was like the herpes simplex of loans debt that does not go away, ever, for as long as you live. On a sewer project that was originally supposed to cost $250 million, the county now owed a total of $1.28 billion just in interest and fees on the debt. Imagine paying $250,000 a year on a car you purchased for $50,000, and that's roughly where Jefferson County stood at the end of last year.
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BrklynLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-09-10 07:26 PM
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1. Thanks for this!!!
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underpants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-09-10 07:28 PM
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2. I hadn't heard about Tiabbi in a while
I thought he might have infiltrated the tea baggers

so I looked up his blog

This is the HOW TO that have brought down tons of cities
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BrklynLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-09-10 09:14 PM
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4. I think he is a great writer....
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dixiegrrrrl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-09-10 07:38 PM
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3. I like Taibbi...thanks.
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Vinnie From Indy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-09-10 11:18 PM
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5. We do live in a gangster society now
Our political system has been acquired. Heads they win, tails all of America loses.
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