The Billionaire Loophole: The Private Equity Tax Escape
Financial Entanglement and Developing Countries
Sin and Society: Part 1
The Predators' Ball Resumes: Financial Mania and Systemic Risk
The Foreclosure Epidemic: The Cost to Families and Communities of the Predictable Mortgage Meldown
Greed At a Glance
The Uncharitable Rich
Ill health, the San Francisco Business Times reports, has forced Claude Rosenberg, a mega millionaire investment manager, to shut down the only U.S. nonprofit solely dedicated to encouraging rich people to give away more of their money.
Now near 80, Rosenberg has spent his retirement years patiently explaining that wealthy people can easily afford to contribute far more to charity than they currently do.
That explaining began with a 1994 book that looked at the giving of people in the United States who make over $1 million a year. In 1991, these people contributed, on average, a modest $87,000 to charity. They could have upped their contributions 10 times over, Rosenberg noted, and still ended the year with higher household net worths than when the year started.
Rosenberg founded the nonprofit NewTithing Group to spread his book's message, and his ideas would get a hearing, in the Wall Street Journal and a host of other prestigious publications. NewTithing staff, in all, spent nearly a decade actively pushing the give-more cause.
The wealthy, for their part, didn't push back. They simply, as a group, ignored Rosenberg. Almost completely. The difference between what the wealthy could give to charity and what they actually did give increased over the course of Rosenberg's advocacy.
In 1991, households that collected over $1 million in income could have easily afforded to give $40 billion more to charity than they did. In 2000, NewTithing noted in a 2002 report, these top-tier households could have afforded to give $128 billion more, over three times as much.
Powerless on Pay
Shareholders at Telstra, Australia's largest phone company, are shouting out a loud protest against over-the-top CEO pay. But no one seems to be listening.
Shareholders in Australia have the legal right to vote on executive pay, and this fall, at the Telstra annual meeting, two thirds of the votes cast opposed the near $20 million the Telstra board had okayed for CEO Sol Trujillo, a former top exec at the Denver-based US West.
Telstra board members, for their part, plan to ignore the shareholder vote. The board pay committee chair, Charles Macek, says Trujillo's shareholder critics "have no expertise whatsoever."
Telstra's angry shareholders also have no legal right to stop Telstra from paying Trujillo the $20 million. Australian law gives shareholders the right to only a non-binding "say on pay," the same non-binding right that Representative Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts, is currently seeking for U.S. shareholders.
Overall, says a new study from the the Australian Council of Super Investors, Aussie CEO pay has been increasing four times faster than average worker pay.
What can you give people who have everything? Gregory Patrick makes a nice living off knowing the answer. Patrick runs DreamMaker International, a travel company that specializes in creating unique "experiences" for the ultra-rich.
How unique? For one wealthy couple vacationing in Italy, DreamMaker arranged a quickie charter jet to Vienna for a Sting concert, followed by an all-night party with the band. Back in Italy, the company set up a shopping trip for the wife with a real-life member of the Gucci family and placed the husband in a luxury car race from Florence to Portofino.
DreamMaker's Patrick also knows what the wealthy don't want: any close contact with the hoi polloi. For his deep-pocketed clients, he notes, taking a jaunt on a cruise ship would be "out of the question."
Observes Patrick: "They'd rather have a red hot poker shoved in their eye."
Outrage in the Owner's Box
Texas billionaire Jerry Jones, Forbes reports, now owns the most valuable pro sports franchise in the entire world - and Jones can thank the little people for the honor. Their tax dollars are footing a third of the bill for the new $1.1 billion football stadium that will host his Dallas Cowboys starting in 2009.
The new stadium, says Forbes, ups the overall value of the Cowboys to $1.5 billion.
Meanwhile, over in Seattle, local officials are refusing to bankroll a new arena for the pro basketball SuperSonics. The private equity kingpin who runs the Sonics, Clayton Bennett, is fuming. He's threatening to move the team to Oklahoma unless Seattle coughs up serious tax dollars.
A possible solution? Sports writer David Zirin is talking "municipalization," a campaign to claim the team, through eminent domain, for the people of Seattle.
If the city owned the Sonics, says Zirin, any profits from a future new arena would go into Seattle schools and health care, not "another wing on Bennett Manor."
- Sam Pizzigati, editor of Too Much, an online weekly on excess and inequality