Tag Archives: bankruptcy

Agenda 21 & Bankruptcy

Sustainable Development & Bankrupt cities & utilities


They’re going down like bowling pins; municipalities, public utilities. The website, Governing.com promises ongoing updates of this bankruptcy map.  The media always cites government employee pension plans and I’m sure that burden is a major factor.  Rarely mentioned is the huge and unpublicized cost of  participation in U.N. Agenda 21/ICLEI/Sustainable Development schemes. 
Click on the city names below for a link to their sustainable development plan.
Stockton, CA
Status: Filed for bankruptcy
Date: 6/28/2012
Debt or Deficit Amount: $26 million
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Status: Filed for bankruptcy
Date: 7/3/2012
Debt or Deficit Amount: $43 million
San Bernardino, CA
Status: Filed for bankruptcy
Date: 8/1/2012
Debt or Deficit Amount: $46 million

 
Boise County, ID
Status: Bankruptcy filing rejected
Date: 9/8/2011
Debt or Deficit Amount:$5.4 million 
 
Jefferson County, AL
Status: Filed for bankruptcy
Date: 11/9/2011
Debt or Deficit Amount:More than $4 billion
 
Harrisburg, PA
Status: Bankruptcy filing rejected, defaulted on payments
Date: 3/10/2012
Debt or Deficit Amount: More than $300 million
 
These may be just the tip of the iceberg.   The map below is an indication of current ICLEI-affiliated municipalities.   How many more local governments will hit the wall?


ICLEI-USA Full Member List is here

 
 
 
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What happens when Greece defaults?

For months now, the European Union and the IMF have been grappling with Greece’s unmanageable debt and economic bankruptcy — to no avail. That failure has already precipitated panic runs on banks in Greece and Spain. It is looking more and more likely Greece will default and may even exit the Eurozone entirely.
But what does that mean?
We know what happens when individuals in the U.S. declare bankruptcy: debts are wiped clean, but at the cost of the individual’s inability to secure future loans and credit. Is that also what happens to entire countries that default?
Simply put, “default” means that a country tells its creditors it won’t be making any more payments on its debts.
Financial Times has an interactive graphic that attempts to answer that question by describing the likely consequences of a country defaulting. Here’s the flow-chart (click chart to enlarge):

You can also see a break-down of the flow-chart and listen to an accompanying audio by going on the FT website. Click here!
For readers who prefer an outline text approach instead of a flow-chart, here are the consequences of Greece defaulting on its debt:
1. New lending to govt stops → govt cannot pay its bills → economy stalls; govt employees lose their jobs; streets explode in protests and riots → eventually new loans are secured.
2. At the same time, the value of Greece’s govt bonds plummets → Greece’s banking system faces collapse → eventually new loans are secured to shore up the banks.
3. The fear and possibility is that Greece’s default will be contagious, resulting in the fall in value of the govt bonds of other Eurozone countries, as well as a collapse of non-Greek banks.
I’m now thoroughly confused. From the flow-chart, it appears that whether a country defaults or not, the eventual result is the same:

New Loans

But that’s exactly what the Eurozone (in reality, Germany) has been doing with Greece — extending new loans to shore up that country — which has only succeeded in “kicking the can” further down the road.
Can someone explain this better than I (or the FT flow-chart) can?
~Eowyn

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Why the Collapse of MF Global Should Frighten You

I try to not do apocalyptic posts because I do not want to unduly alarm our readers. But I can’t dodge this one because I believe the subject is genuinely disturbing.
I apologize for springing this on you all at Thanksgiving — a time when we should all be enjoying being with family and friends, instead of worrying about our finances and the condition of our country’s economy.

MF Global's CEO Jon Corzine with his buddy


On October 31, 2011, MF Global, a huge global financial derivatives broker, declared bankruptcy. In so doing, it became the largest Wall Street firm to collapse since the Lehman Brothers incident in September 2008, and the 8th largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.
As a financial derivatives broker, MF Global provided exchange-traded derivatives, such as futures and options as well as over-the-counter products such as contracts for difference (CFDs), foreign exchange and spread betting. MF Global was also a primary dealer in United States Treasury securities.
The Wall Street Journal reported that MF Global filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after its misguided investment of more than $6 billion in sovereign bonds issued by some of Europe’s most indebted countries. That is bad enough. But it gets worse.
MF Global broke its (and the U.S. government’s) rules on keeping customer money separate from its own trading accounts, and used some of its clients’ funds to invest in sovereign bonds issued by indebted European countries. When that investment went bust, leading to MF Global’s bankruptcy, lost too are the clients’ assets the brokerage wrongfully had used for its investment.
Here’s a timeline of what happened:

  • On August 31, 2011, MF Global had $7.3 billion in customer assets, according to Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) data.
  • On October 25, 2011 MF Global reported a $191.6 million quarterly loss as a result of trading on European government bonds.
  • In response, Moody’s and Fitch cut the company’s credit rankings to junk. 
  • Through the weekend of October 29/30, the firm’s board met in New York to consider options including a sale to avert failure, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation. MF Global’s CEO Jon Corzine, — a Democrat, former U.S. Senator, former New Jersey governor, and former Goldman Sachs chief executive — reportedly tried, unsuccessfully, to find a buyer.
  • MF Global was stopped from doing new business with the New York Fed until it showed it was able to fulfill its responsibilities as a primary dealer, according to a statement on the regulator’s website. Trading in MF Global’s stock was halted.
  • On October 30, 2011, MF Global filed for bankruptcy.
  • That same day, Oct. 30, one of MF Global’s units reported a “material shortfall” (translated: “missing cash”) in customer funds — a shortfall estimated by James W. Giddens, the trustee overseeing the wind-down of the brokerage, to be $1.2 billion.
  • That same day, the parent company froze customer accounts with $5.45 billion. It is feared that MF Global Holdings Ltd. may have moved hundreds of millions of dollars from its futures client accounts to other accounts before its Oct. 31 bankruptcy.
  • One of MF Global’s clients who lost money is Gerald Celente, the founder and publisher of The Trends Journal. Celente revealed that he has lost his gold futures funds (valuing more than six figures) that he had with Lind-Waldock, a commodities futures brokerage owned by MF Global.
  • In papers filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, MF Global listed debt of $39.7 billion and assets of $41 billion. U.S. regulators have subpoenaed MF Global’s auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, for information on the segregation of assets belonging to clients trading on U.S. commodity exchanges. The company is being investigated by regulators for money missing from client accounts. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is also reviewing trades in MF Global Holdings Ltd. convertible bonds to determine whether some investors sold the debt based on confidential information before the firm’s demise.
On the subject of whether some investors had insider info before MF Global’s demise, Lew Rockwell writes on Nov. 16, 2011, quoting Gary North:

“Both the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange were charged with overseeing MF Global, their clearing member. If we are to believe them, they had no idea of any difficulties within the firm before customer accounts went missing just a few days before the collapse. But someone clearly knew of the cratering positions and imminent collapse of MF Global, as billions of dollars of accounts were “coincidentally” withdrawn, writes Huffington Post’s Daniel Dicker, noting how funds in accounts owned by the billionaire Koch brothers were withdrawn just in time, clearly suggesting that big players got a “heads up” that MF Global was going down.”

Gerald Celente


All of which led Gerald Celente, speaking to Eric King at King World News, to issue this warning to the public:

What’s the take away from this? It’s to make sure you have every penny in your pocket. Because just like MF (Global) screwed everybody else, you’re also gonna get the shaft, I don’t care who it is. What’s gonna happen when you get a message from your brokerage, from Fidelity or somebody… You have ETFs [Exchange-traded fund]? Oh, there’s a little error over here, we don’t have your money. We don’t have your positions…. So the takeaway is to make sure you have every penny in your possession.”

Ann Barnhardt


The MF Global bankruptcy also prompted Ann Barnhardt, the president of Barnhardt Capital Management (a cattle and grain hedge brokerage), to take the unprecedented and heroic step of shutting down her firm and liquidating all customer brokerage and options accounts, so as to prevent losses in what she says is a system that is no longer functioning with integrity and is suicidally risk-laden. The rule of law is non-existent, instead replaced with godless, criminal political cronyism.”
In a letter to her clients, Barnhardt calls the MF Global bankruptcy nothing other than theft of customer cash by Jon Corzine. She warns:

“No informed person can continue to engage these markets, and no moral person can continue to broker or facilitate customer engagement in what is now a massive game of Russian Roulette.

I have learned over the last week that MF Global is almost certainly the mere tip of the iceberg. There is massive industry-wide exposure to European sovereign junk debt. While other firms may not be as heavily leveraged as Corzine had MFG leveraged, and it is now thought that MFG’s leverage may have been in excess of 100:1, they are still suicidally leveraged and will likely stand massive, unmeetable collateral calls in the coming days and weeks as Europe inevitably collapses. I now suspect that the reason the Chicago Mercantile Exchange did not immediately step in to backstop the MFG implosion was because they knew and know that if they backstopped MFG, they would then be expected to backstop all of the other firms in the system when the failures began to cascade – and there simply isn’t that much money in the entire system. In short, the problem is a SYSTEMIC problem, not merely isolated to one firm.

Karl Denninger


Karl Denninger was the CEO of MCSNet in Chicago, one of the area’s first Internet providers. He is a founding contributer to conservative blog, The Market Ticker, and was one of the early members of the Tea Party movement. He now supports the Occupy Wall Street movement, and is the author of Leverage: How Cheap Money Will Destroy the World, November 2011. In his Market Ticker of Nov. 22, 2011 (h/t FOTM’s Joseph!), Denninger wrote:

“We’re done folks.

CNBC is reporting that there are now clients running out of the markets entirely because they do not believe their customer funds are safe.

That’s the end of it. The belief that there are more MF Globals has now taken hold. The thieves have pushed it too far and now we’ve got the start of a global liquidity run, and with good reason.

The authorities both in the regulatory side and on the prosecutorial side have refused to put a stop to the thievery and now the risk factors have turned into realized risk.

The market is done folks. You can be right but if you make your bet in the markets, are right, and then get screwed anyway when someone steals the money and nobody goes to jail there comes a time when people begin to understand that it can happen to them and will unless they depart the market.

We’re there folks.

Oh sure, there will be rallies and there will be selloffs. But there is no longer a market, there is no longer a thing to trade, and there is no longer a reason to believe that superior analysis will lead to profit or even safety.

This isn’t just about speculators – it is also about farmers, shippers, airlines, manufacturing concerns, everyone in business who has a need to hedge.

More than four years ago I said that the government had to step in and demand that both off-balance sheet games be ended permanently and in all forms and that all derivatives had to be put on an exchange, without exception, and that every dollar of underwater position had to be backed by an actual dollar of capital in real money, held and known to be safe.

The regulators refused and now it appears that what was put up on a regulated exchange was effectively stolen.

Well folks, then none of your investment accounts — not your IRA, 401k, not even your bank account — is safe.

Diversification is a strategy but the risk remains. It is up to you to decide how much you’re willing to risk losing to a crook. If the answer is “none” or you cannot reduce the at-risk portion of your assets to what you’re willing to lose to fraud then you can no longer participate in the market at all, in any form, nor even do business with a bank.

That sucks, but it is what it is and if this meme spreads — and it will until it’s stopped — we run the risk of a “sudden stop” economic event.

I hope you’re ready for it — I am to the best of my ability, and you ought to be.”

+++

What this all means is the following:

  • The contract between financial corporations like MF Global and the people is broken.
  • The “little people” entrust their hard-earned cash to the corporation to manage, for a handsome fee. But, instead of stewarding their clients’ money, the corporation takes that money to invest in dubious vehicles, such as government bonds issued by heavily indebted countries — without their clients’ knowledge, much less permission. Put bluntly, this is theft.
  • Our government is supposed to regulate and supervise the financial corporations’ activities. But the regulators, as in the case of Bernie Madoff, didn’t and do not do what taxpayers are paying them to do.
  • The corporation’s investments go bust. It declares bankruptcy. Its clients’ monies have disappeared or are “frozen” (which means the same thing: You can’t withdraw your money from the institution).
  • Bankruptcy means the corporation’s total debts are more than its total assets, which means there is no money to pay the clients. And since the various financial instruments offered by brokerages such as MF Global are not government-insured, this means the clients cannot recover their money, unless Congress decides to step in with a bail-out, which only means even more debt for an already broke United States of America.

This is not the first time a large financial institution has robbed and lost the money of its clients. Think the S&L crisis of the 1980s, the Madoff investment scandal in 2008. and the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy of 2008.
Nor is this the first time government regulators failed to do their job.
When institutions — financial and government — violate their compact with the people, basic trust erodes. But societies, especially highly complex societies like ours, cannot operate without a certain level of basic trust. In its place, we increasingly see short-sighted selfishness and rapacious greed. It’s every man for himself….
I’m not a financial adviser and I’m not offering any financial advice here. But if you have any money invested with brokerages, get professional independent financial advice. Better yet, learn about the various investment vehicles by reading and listening to financial advisers on talk radio. It’s not really that complicated. Then, THINK FOR YOURSELF.

Updates:

On Nov. 23, 2011, a judge ruled that MF Global’s clients won’t be allowed to form a committee to represent their interests in bankruptcy court.
Gary Gensler, the head of CFTC — the federal government agency that’s supposed to oversee MF Global — just so happens to have worked under Jon Corzine when both were at Goldman Sachs.
Jon Corzine, who has been publicly silent since his brokerage’s spectacular collapse, has been asked to appear before the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House financial Services Committee on 15 December. Read about his hearing, here.
~Eowyn

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BREAKING…Senate Approves Debt Ceiling Increase


The die is cast. America goes down the tubes….
The US Senate just passed a deal struck between Republicans, Democrats and President Barack Obama to increase the US debt ceiling and avert a default. The bill passed the Senate by 74 votes to 26. Obama is due to speak shortly and then sign the deal into law. The bill raises the debt limit by up to $2.4 trillion from $14.3 trillion.
To read the rest of the news article, go here.
For a succinct explanation of why this is a bad bill, see “6 Things Wrong With the Debt Deal.”

More bad news (from Drudge):

REID VOWS TO RAISE TAXES...
REPORT: Fiscal Conservatives Barred from Spending Cuts Committee...
HOUSE CHEER$ TRILLION$ MORE IN DEBT...
LARGEST DEBT HIKE IN HISTORY…
Adds $7 trillion…
Personal income stalls; spending drops, first decline since '09...
~Eowyn

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Canary In Coalmine: Alabama Town Stops Pension Payment


All across the United States, unfunded public pensions are a looming disaster-in-the-making.
The state of New Jersey is an example.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, New Jersey residents have the largest unfunded pension liabilities in the nation. The state disclosed last Thursday that its unfunded pension liability for some 800,000 state government employees (teachers, police officers, firefighters, judges, bureaucrats) grew 18% from $45.8 billion to $53.9 billion in 2009, and that the state has only 62% of the pension funds necessary to pay future promised obligations.
NJ Gov. Christie has recommended a wide range of changes for public employment pensions, including rolling back benefits by as much as 9%, increasing the retirement age for teachers from 62 to 65, and requiring all state employees to contribute 8.5% of their salaries to the state pension system, instead of the 3% some public employees now pay. Still, even these changes might not be enough to make a meaningful dent on the state’s unfunded pension obligations.
The Wall Street Journal reports that cities across America are raising property taxes, largely to cover rising pension and health-care costs for their employee and retirees. The problem is that higher property taxes can end up being self-defeating, forcing homeowners with expensive properties to move to states with lower property taxes, with the result that the state ends up collecting even less tax revenue despite the higher tax rates.
Now, a town in Alabama has done the seeming unthinkable — it stopped sending pension checks in contravention of state laws.
Prichard, Alabama, is the canary in America’s unfunded pensions coalmine.

Michael Cooper and Mary Williams Walsh write for the New York Times, December 22, 2010, Alabama Town’s Failed Pension Is a Warning:

Last week, retirees asked the City Council for some help before Christmas. Then Prichard did something that pension experts say they have never seen before: it stopped sending monthly pension checks to its 150 retired workers, breaking a state law requiring it to pay its promised retirement benefits in full.

Since then, Nettie Banks, 68, a retired Prichard police and fire dispatcher, has filed for bankruptcy. Alfred Arnold, a 66-year-old retired fire captain, has gone back to work as a shopping mall security guard to try to keep his house. Eddie Ragland, 59, a retired police captain, accepted help from colleagues, bake sales and collection jars after he was shot by a robber, leaving him badly wounded and unable to get to his new job as a police officer at the regional airport. Far worse was the retired fire marshal who died in June. Like many of the others, he was too young to collect Social Security. “When they found him, he had no electricity and no running water in his house,” said David Anders, 58, a retired district fire chief. “He was a proud enough man that he wouldn’t accept help.”
The situation in Prichard is extremely unusual — the city has sought bankruptcy protection twice — but it proves that the unthinkable can, in fact, sometimes happen. And it stands as a warning to cities like Philadelphia and states like Illinois, whose pension funds are under great strain: if nothing changes, the money eventually does run out, and when that happens, misery and turmoil follow.
It is not just the pensioners who suffer when a pension fund runs dry. If a city tried to follow the law and pay its pensioners with money from its annual operating budget, it would probably have to adopt large tax increases, or make huge service cuts, to come up with the money. Current city workers could find themselves paying into a pension plan that will not be there for their own retirements. In Prichard, some older workers have delayed retiring, since they cannot afford to give up their paychecks if no pension checks will follow.
So the declining, little-known city of Prichard is now attracting the attention of bankruptcy lawyers, labor leaders, municipal credit analysts and local officials from across the country. They want to see if the situation in Prichard, like the continuing bankruptcy of Vallejo, Calif., ultimately creates a legal precedent on whether distressed cities can legally cut or reduce their pensions, and if so, how.
Prichard is the future,” said Michael Aguirre, the former San Diego city attorney, who has called for San Diego to declare bankruptcy and restructure its own outsize pension obligations. “We’re all on the same conveyor belt. Prichard is just a little further down the road.”
Many cities and states are struggling to keep their pension plans adequately funded, with varying success. New York City plans to put $8.3 billion into its pension fund next year, twice what it paid five years ago. Maryland is considering a proposal to raise the retirement age to 62 for all public workers with fewer than five years of service. Illinois keeps borrowing money to invest in its pension funds, gambling that the funds’ investments will earn enough to pay back the debt with interest. New Jersey simply decided not to pay the $3.1 billion that was due its pension plan this year. Colorado, Minnesota and South Dakota have all taken the unusual step of reducing the benefits they pay their current retirees by cutting cost-of-living increases; retirees in all three states are suing.
No state or city wants to wind up like Prichard.
…Prichard…was a boom town until the 1960s…. Prichard’s pension plan was established by state law during the good times, in 1956, to supplement Social Security. By the standard of other public pension plans, and the six-figure pensions that draw outrage in places like California and New Jersey, it is not especially rich. Its biggest pension came to about $39,000 a year, for a retired fire chief with many years of service. The average retiree got around $12,000 a year. But the plan allowed workers to retire young, in their 50s. And its benefits were sweetened over time by the state legislature, which did not pay for the added benefits.
For many years, the city — like many other cities and states today — knew that its pension plan was underfunded. As recently as 2004, the city hired an actuary, who reported that “the plan is projected to exhaust the assets around 2009, at which time benefits will need to be paid directly from the city’s annual finances.”
The city had already taken the unusual step of reducing pension benefits by 8.5% for current retirees, after it declared bankruptcy in 1999, yielding to years of dwindling money, mismanagement and corruption. (A previous mayor was removed from office and found guilty of neglect of duty.) The city paid off its last creditors from the bankruptcy in 2007. But its current mayor, Ronald K. Davis, never complied with an order from the bankruptcy court to begin paying $16.5 million into the pension fund to reduce its shortfall.
A lawyer representing the city, R. Scott Williams, said that the city simply did not have the money. “The reality for Prichard is that if you took money to build the pension up, who’s going to pay the garbage man?” he asked. “Who’s going to pay to run the police department? Who’s going to pay the bill for the street lights? There’s only so much money to go around.”
Workers paid 5.5%  of their salaries into the pension fund, and the city paid 10.5%. But the fund paid out more money than it took in, and by September 2009 there was no longer enough left in the fund to send out the $150,000 worth of monthly checks owed to the retirees. The city stopped paying its pensions. And no one stepped in to enforce the law.
The retirees, who were not unionized, sued. The city tried to block their suit by declaring bankruptcy, but a judge denied the request. The city is appealing. The retirees filed another suit, asking the city to pay at least some of the benefits they are owed. A mediation effort is expected to begin soon. Many retirees say they would accept reduced benefits.
Companies with pension plans are required by federal law to put money behind their promises years in advance, and the government can impose punitive taxes on those that fail to do so, or in some cases even seize their pension funds. Companies are also required to protect their pension assets. So if a corporate pension fund falls below 60 cents’ worth of assets for every dollar of benefits owed, workers can no longer accrue additional benefits. (Prichard was down to just 33 cents on the dollar in 2003.)

Read the rest of the New York Times article HERE. (The Times requires you to register and log in)
~Eowyn

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