Book picks similar to
Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite by Jake Bernstein
Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street's Great Foreclosure Fraud
David Dayen - 2016
They called it foreclosure fraud: millions of families were kicked out of their homes based on false evidence by mortgage companies that had no legal right to foreclose.Lisa Epstein, Michael Redman, and Lynn Szymoniak did not work in government or law enforcement. They had no history of anticorporate activism. Instead they were all foreclosure victims, and while struggling with their shame and isolation they committed a revolutionary act: closely reading their mortgage documents, discovering the deceit behind them, and building a movement to expose it.Fiscal Times columnist David Dayen recounts how these ordinary Floridians challenged the most powerful institutions in America armed only with the truth—and for a brief moment they brought the corrupt financial industry to its knees.
Kids for Cash: Two Judges, Thousands of Children, and a $2.6 Million Kickback Scheme
William Ecenbarger - 2012
Angelia was fourteen when she and a friend scrawled “Vote for Michael Jackson” on five stop signs. Charged with vandalism and defacing public property, Angelia was sent by Ciavarella to PA Child Care without her epilepsy medication and suffered a grand mal seizure her second night. Fifteen-year-old Charlie, arrested for unknowingly purchasing a stolen motorbike, was convicted of a felony and sent to PA Child Care for six weeks.Matthew, Angelia, and Charlie are just three children among the thousands who appeared in Ciavarella’s courtroom between 2003 and 2008 and were sent away—often with no attorney present and after only cursory hearings—to a detention facility in which, it later came to light, Ciavarella had a personal financial stake. As Kids for Cash reveals, this miscarriage of justice underscores a multitude of problems with our juvenile justice system, which too often criminalizes standard adolescent behavior, treats adolescents more harshly than if they were adults, and denies them their most fundamental constitutional rights.William Ecenbarger, a Pulitzer Prize and George Polk Award–winning investigative journalist who covered the case for the Philadelphia Inquirer, now gives us the first book-length account of this shocking story. In the tradition of true-crime legal thrillers from The Executioner’s Song to A Civil Action, Ecenbarger exposes a deeply corrupt and broken system that ruined the lives of many children and ultimately led to the judge’s conviction on charges of racketeering, fraud, tax violations, money laundering, extortion, and bribery. Fastidiously researched and utterly propulsive, Kids for Cash takes us deep inside a profoundly flawed legal system, revealing the twisted and haunting realities of America’s juvenile justice system.
Big Dirty Money: The Shocking Injustice and Unseen Cost of White Collar Crime
Jennifer Taub - 2020
Selling loose cigarettes on a city sidewalk can lead to a choke-hold arrest, and death, if you are not among the top 1%. But if you're rich and commit mail, wire, or bank fraud, embezzle pension funds, lie in court, obstruct justice, bribe a public official, launder money, or cheat on your taxes, you're likely to get off scot-free (or even win an election). When caught and convicted, such as for bribing their kids' way into college, high-class criminals make brief stops in minimum security "Club Fed" camps. Operate the scam from the executive suite of a giant corporation, and you can prosper with impunity. Consider Wells Fargo & Co. Pressured by management, employees at the bank opened more than three million bank and credit card accounts without customer consent, and charged late fees and penalties to account holders. When CEO John Stumpf resigned in "shame," the board of directors granted him a $134 million golden parachute.This is not victimless crime. Big Dirty Money details the scandalously common and concrete ways that ordinary Americans suffer when the well-heeled use white collar crime to gain and sustain wealth, social status, and political influence. Profiteers caused the mortgage meltdown and the prescription opioid crisis, they've evaded taxes and deprived communities of public funds for education, public health, and infrastructure. Taub goes beyond the headlines (of which there is no shortage) to track how we got here (essentially a post-Enron failure of prosecutorial muscle, the growth of "too big to jail" syndrome, and a developing implicit immunity of the upper class) and pose solutions that can help catch and convict offenders.
The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use "Plain English" to Rob You Blind
David Cay Johnston - 2011
A big reason is that so little of the news . . . addresses the private, government-approved mechanisms by which price gouging is employed to redistribute income upward.”You are being systematically exploited by powerful corporations every day. These companies squeeze their trusting customers for every last cent, risk their retirement funds, and endanger their lives. And they do it all legally. How? It’s all in the fine print.David Cay Johnston, the bestselling author of Perfectly Legal and Free Lunch, is famous for exposing the perfidies of our biggest institutions. Now he turns his attention to the ways huge corporations hide sneaky stipulations in just about every contract, often with government permission.Johnston has been known to whip out a utility bill and explain line by line what all that mumbo jumbo actually means (and it doesn’t mean anything good, unless you happen to be the utility company). Within all that jargon, disclosed in accordance with all legal requirements, lie the tools these companies use to rob you blind. Even worse is what’s missing—all the contractually binding clauses that companies hide elsewhere yet still enforce and abuse. Consider, for example, how:An insurance company repeatedly delayed paying for a paralyzed man’s vital care despite court orders to pay up. Laws in nineteen states let companies like Goldman Sachs, General Electric, and Procter & Gamble pocket the state income taxes withheld from their workers’ paychecks for up to twenty-five years. A little-known government rule gives safety waivers to deadly industrial facilities secretly located underneath schools and playgrounds. The “FCC Charge” on your phone bill, which appears to be a government fee, actually goes straight to the phone company.Johnston shares solutions you can use to fight back against the hundreds of obscure fees and taxes that line the pockets of big corporations, and to help end these devious practices once and for all.
Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens
Nicholas Shaxson - 2011
Nicholas Shaxson, a former correspondent for the Financial Times and The Economist, argues that tax havens are a central cause of all these disasters.In this hard hitting investigation he uncovers how offshore tax evasion, which has cost the U.S. 100 billion dollars in lost revenue each year, is just one item on a long rap sheet outlining the damage that offshoring wreaks on our societies. In a riveting journey from Moscow to London to Switzerland to Delaware, Shaxson dives deep into a vast and secret playground where bankers and multinational corporations operate side by side with nefarious tax evaders, organized criminals and the world's wealthiest citizens. Tax havens are where all these players get to maximize their own rewards and leave the middle class to pick up the bill.With eye opening revelations, Treasure Islands exposes the culprits and its victims, and shows how:*Over half of world trade is routed through tax havens*The rampant practices that precipitated the latest financial crisis can be traced back to Wall Street's offshoring practices*For every dollar of aid we send to developing countries, ten dollars leave again by the backdoorThe offshore system sits much closer to home than the pristine tropical islands of the popular imagination. In fact, it all starts on a tiny island called Manhattan. In this fast paced narrative, Treasure Islands at last explains how the system works and how it's contributing to our ever deepening economic divide.
The Monster: How a Gang of Predatory Lenders and Wall Street Bankers Fleeced America--and Spawned a Global Crisis
Michael W. Hudson
Anything that benefited production - that benefited me and benefited my wallet - I'd do it." The sales force at Ameriquest Mortgage took this philosophy to heart. They watched the Hollywood white-collar-crime flick "Boiler Room" as a training tape, studying how to pitch overpriced deals to unsuspecting home owners. They learned how to forge signatures on mortgage paperwork and create fake documents in "cut-and-paste" operations they dubbed "The Lab" or "The Art Department."In this stunning narrative, award-winning reporter Michael W. Hudson reveals the story of the rise and fall of the subprime mortgage business by chronicling the rise and fall of two corporate empires: Ameriquest and Lehman Brothers. As the biggest subprime lender and Wall Street's biggest patron of subprime, Ameriquest and Lehman did more than any other institutions to create the feeding frenzy that emboldened mortgage pros to flood the nation with high-risk, high-profit home loans. It's a tale populated by a remarkable cast of the characters: a shadowy billionaire who created the subprime industry out of the ashes of the 1980s S&L scandal; Wall Street executives with an insatiable desire for product; struggling home owners ensnared in the most ingenious of traps; lawyers and investigators who tried to expose the fraud; politicians and bureaucrats who turned a blind eye; and, most of all, the drug-snorting, high-living salesman who tell all about the money they made, the lies they told, the deals they closed.Provocative and gripping, The Monster is a searing exposé of the bottom-feeding fraud and top-down greed that fueled the financial collapse.
Banking Bad: Whistleblowers, Corporate Cover-ups and One Journalist's Fight for the Truth
Adele Ferguson - 2019
Its revelations rocked the nation. Even defenders of the banks were blindsided.Few people were more instrumental in bringing about the commission than journalist Adele Ferguson. Through her exposes in print and on television, she pursued the truth about funds mismanagement, fraud, lack of probity, and the hard-sell culture that took over the finance industry after deregulation in the 1980s. But it wasn't just light-touch regulators and crooked bankers growing fat on bonuses she put under the spotlight. It was also their victims - men and women who had lost everything, and had no recourse when they discovered empty accounts, egregious fees, forged documents and broken promises.Now in Banking Bad, Ferguson tells the full story of the power imbalance, toxic culture and cover-ups. She describes the long fight for justice by whistleblowers, victims and political mavericks, and she looks at the outcomes of the royal commission - the falls from grace, the damaging hubris, the scathing assessment of the regulators, and the colossal compensation bill - an estimated $10 billion.Finally, she asks where to from here? In May 2019, the Coalition government, which resisted calls for a royal commission, was re-elected. Bank stocks surged and lending regulations were loosened. Will it all be business as usual from now on, or have our financial executives learned that their wealth cannot come at the expense of ordinary Australians?
Kleptopia: How Dirty Money Is Conquering the World
Tom Burgis - 2020
A magisterial account of the money and violence behind the world’s most powerful dictatorships.” –Washington PostIn this shocking, meticulously reported work of narrative nonfiction, an award-winning investigative journalist exposes “capitalism’s monster”—global kleptocracy—and reveals how it is corrupting the world around us.They are everywhere, the thieves and their people. Masters of secrecy. Until now we have detected their presence only by what they leave behind. A body in a burned-out Audi. Workers riddled with bullets in the Kazakh Desert. A rigged election in Zimbabwe. A British banker silenced and humiliated for trying to expose the truth about the City of London.They have amassed more money than most countries. But what they are really stealing is power.In this real-life thriller packed with jaw-dropping revelations, award-winning investigative journalist Tom Burgis weaves together four stories that reveal a terrifying global web of corruption: the troublemaker from Basingstoke who stumbles on the secrets of a Swiss bank, the ex-Soviet billionaire constructing a private empire, the righteous Canadian lawyer with a mysterious client, and the Brooklyn crook protected by the CIA.Glimpses of this shadowy world have emerged over the years. In Kleptopia, Burgis connects the dots. He follows the dirty money that is flooding the global economy, emboldening dictators, and poisoning democracies. From the Kremlin to Beijing, Harare to Riyadh, Paris to the White House, the trail shows something even more sinister: the thieves are uniting. And the human cost will be great.
The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates
Peter T. Leeson - 2009
With swashbuckling irreverence and devilish wit, Peter Leeson uncovers the hidden economics behind pirates’ notorious, entertaining, and sometimes downright shocking behavior. Why did pirates fly flags of Skull & Bones? Why did they create a “pirate code”? Were pirates really ferocious madmen? And what made them so successful? The Invisible Hook uses economics to examine these and other infamous aspects of piracy. Leeson argues that the pirate customs we know and love resulted from pirates responding rationally to prevailing economic conditions in the pursuit of profits.The Invisible Hook looks at legendary pirate captains like Blackbeard, Black Bart Roberts, and Calico Jack Rackam, and shows how pirates’ search for plunder led them to pioneer remarkable and forward-thinking practices. Pirates understood the advantages of constitutional democracy — a model they adopted more than fifty years before the United States did so. Pirates also initiated an early system of workers’ compensation, regulated drinking and smoking, and in some cases practiced racial tolerance and equality. Leeson contends that pirates exemplified the virtues of vice — their self-seeking interests generated socially desirable effects and their greedy criminality secured social order. Pirates proved that anarchy could be organized.Revealing the democratic and economic forces propelling history’s most colorful criminals, The Invisible Hook establishes pirates’ trailblazing relevance to the contemporary world.
Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy
Matt Stoller - 2019
A concentration of power, whether in the hands of a military dictator or a JP Morgan, was understood as autocratic and dangerous to individual liberty and democracy. This idea stretched back to the country’s founding. In the 1930s, people observed that the Great Depression was caused by financial concentration in the hands of a few whose misuse of their power induced a financial collapse. They drew on this tradition to craft the New Deal. In Goliath, Matt Stoller explains how authoritarianism and populism have returned to American politics for the first time in eighty years, as the outcome of the 2016 election shook our faith in democratic institutions. It has brought to the fore dangerous forces that many modern Americans never even knew existed. Today’s bitter recriminations and panic represent more than just fear of the future, they reflect a basic confusion about what is happening and the historical backstory that brought us to this moment. The true effects of populism, a shrinking middle class, and concentrated financial wealth are only just beginning to manifest themselves under the current administrations. The lessons of Stoller’s study will only grow more relevant as time passes. Building upon his viral article in The Atlantic, “How the Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul,” Stoller illustrates in rich detail how we arrived at this tenuous moment, and the steps we must take to create a new democracy.
Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis
James Rickards - 2011
dollar. Today we are engaged in a new currency war, and this time the consequences will be far worse than those that confronted Nixon.Currency wars are one of the most destructive and feared outcomes in international economics. At best, they offer the sorry spectacle of countries' stealing growth from their trading partners. At worst, they degenerate into sequential bouts of inflation, recession, retaliation, and sometimes actual violence. Left unchecked, the next currency war could lead to a crisis worse than the panic of 2008.Currency wars have happened before-twice in the last century alone-and they always end badly. Time and again, paper currencies have collapsed, assets have been frozen, gold has been confiscated, and capital controls have been imposed. And the next crash is overdue. Recent headlines about the debasement of the dollar, bailouts in Greece and Ireland, and Chinese currency manipulation are all indicators of the growing conflict.As James Rickards argues in Currency Wars, this is more than just a concern for economists and investors. The United States is facing serious threats to its national security, from clandestine gold purchases by China to the hidden agendas of sovereign wealth funds. Greater than any single threat is the very real danger of the collapse of the dollar itself.Baffling to many observers is the rank failure of economists to foresee or prevent the economic catastrophes of recent years. Not only have their theories failed to prevent calamity, they are making the currency wars worse. The U. S. Federal Reserve has engaged in the greatest gamble in the history of finance, a sustained effort to stimulate the economy by printing money on a trillion-dollar scale. Its solutions present hidden new dangers while resolving none of the current dilemmas.While the outcome of the new currency war is not yet certain, some version of the worst-case scenario is almost inevitable if U.S. and world economic leaders fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. Rickards untangles the web of failed paradigms, wishful thinking, and arrogance driving current public policy and points the way toward a more informed and effective course of action.
Daylight Robbery: How Tax Shaped Our Past and Will Change Our Future
Dominic Frisby - 2019
We've been told this since the beginning of civilisation. But what if we stopped to question our antiquated system? Is it fair? And is it capable of serving the needs of our rapidly-changing, modern society? In Daylight Robbery, Dominic Frisby traces the origins of taxation, from its roots in the ancient world, through to today. He explores the role of tax in the formation of our global religions, the part tax played in wars and revolutions throughout the ages, why, at one stage, we paid tax for daylight or for growing a beard. Ranging from the despotic to the absurd, the tax laws of the past reveal so much about how we got to where we are today and what we can do to build a system fit for the future.'This entertaining, surprising, contrarian book is a tour de force!' - Matt Ridley, author of The Evolution of Everything'In this spectacular gallop through history, Frisby shows how taxation has warped, stunted and thwarted human progress' - Mark Littlewood, Director General, Institute of Economic Affairs'Against all expectations, Dominic's book on tax is a real page-turner. His historical interpretation and utopian ideas will outrage Left and Right. Both should read the book' - Steve Baker, MP for Wycombe and Member of the House of Commons Treasury Committee 'Fascinating book which exposes the political and economic basis of tax. A must read for those of us who believe in simpler, lower taxes' - Rt Hon Liz Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade'Both amusing and informative, it's a romp' - Bill Bonner, author of Empire of Debt
American Prison: A Reporter's Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment
Shane Bauer - 2018
An award-winning investigative journalist, he used his real name; In American Prison, Bauer weaves a much deeper reckoning with his experiences together with a thoroughly researched history of for-profit prisons in America from their origins in the decades before the Civil War. For, as he soon realized, we can't understand the cruelty of our current system and its place in the larger story of mass incarceration without understanding where it came from. Private prisons became entrenched in the South as part of a systemic effort to keep the African-American labor force in place in the aftermath of slavery, and the echoes of these shameful origins are with us still.