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
Names in the News
Privatizing EPA Inspections
The Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is planning to hire contractors to perform many of its audits while shifting resources away from public health issues, such as air and water pollution, according to an internal e-mail released in June by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
In the coming year, the e-mail indicates, the EPA Inspector General wants to concentrate on pursuing Bush administration policies on risk assessment and program evaluation.
The June 4, 2007 e-mail from acting EPA Inspector General Bill Roderick to his top staff proposes that for the 2008 fiscal year, the Inspector General (IG) reorganize its staff and priorities to:
"Oversight of EPA should not be put out for bid on eBay," states PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. Ruch notes that over the years, the Inspector General's office has repeatedly exposed EPA's over-reliance upon and mismanagement of contracts. "The next time EPA loses a laptop with sensitive information on it, all of the expertise within the IG on information security will be gone, replaced by private consultants."
A Dangerous Mixer
A group of 27 state attorneys general in June criticized Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. for producing and promoting alcoholic energy drinks that contain caffeine and other stimulants.
Citing serious health concerns, the attorneys general called on the company to provide readable warning labels that alert consumers about the health risks posed by these products.
Physicians and public health professionals have warned that combining caffeinated energy drinks with alcohol - a practice popular among young people - poses significant health and safety risks.
The stimulant in the energy drink may skew a person's sense of alertness without reducing the adverse effect of the alcohol on that person's motor skills or ability to react quickly.
"These alcoholic energy drinks are promoted and packaged in a way that is highly attractive to underage youth," Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley says. "Drinks such as Spykes are clearly designed to appeal to children in both taste and appearance, and their caffeine content dangerously masks the effects of the alcohol."
Anheuser-Busch's caffeinated alcoholic beverages include Spykes, TILT and Bud Extra. Anheuser-Busch did not respond to requests for comment.
DOJ: Soft on Fraud
The number of lawyers at the Fraud Section at the U.S. Department of Justice has been halved over the last 20 years, cut from 100 lawyers two decades ago to about 50 lawyers today.
That's according to Joshua Hochberg, a partner at the law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge in Washington, D.C.
Hochberg was chief of the Fraud Section from 1988 to 2005 when he joined McKenna Long.
"In part, some of the U.S. attorneys' offices have gotten more sophisticated in their own handling of white collar crime," Hochberg says. "In the healthcare area, almost every office has a healthcare task force that trains people to prosecute and investigate healthcare fraud. In part, there was a political view that Main Justice was too large and that prosecutors should be out on the streets in the local offices."
Hochberg says that while "politics never entered into any decision I was involved in," politics "sometimes plays a role in the allocation of resources."
"When resources are pulled from financial crimes and put into another area, that reflects a political decision that ultimately affects what we can do," Hochberg says. Hochberg says he doesn't think the recent political turmoil at the Department is slowing the prosecution of corporate crime. But he does believe it is having a substantial morale impact.
"I was chief of the Fraud Section for seven years, which was by far the longest tenure of any chief of the Section," Hochberg says. "During that time, we worked both sides of the fence. The political bosses changed. But there was always a healthy respect for the career professional, a willingness to listen to the advice of the career professional. That got out of whack. The career professionals feel in their gut that their role is significant. And whoever the political appointee is, it's the career professionals who protect the institution. And so now, there is a morale problem."
- Russell Mokhiber