Category

Conspiracy & Corruption

Combating the Cons: Where Should Victims of Financial Scams Turn?

Today's story "Classic Cons: 10 Financial Scams Fair-Minded Investors Should Avoid," describes just a few of the financial scams investors should watch out for. If you have reservations about a potential investment opportunity, or if you've been victimized by a financial scam, you might turn to one or more of the following agencies.

Better Business Bureau – With offices nationally, in every state and most large and mid-sized cities, the BBB can alert you to problems with local businesses, work-at-home programs, distributorships, sales routes you can buy and other one-on-one type rip-offs. They usually have lists of current online offers that are suspect or drawing lots of complaints. You can access the national BBB Web site at http://www.bbb.org/us/
and navigate to your home state or city chapter from there.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – Information is available on all securities-related fraud issues and investment scams, and you can file your own personal complaints or suspicions online at http://www.sec.gov/complaint.shtml. You can write them at: Securities and Exchange Commission, Office of Investor Education & Assistance, 450 Fifth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20549-0213, or fax a complaint to 202-942-9634. You also can verify financials and regulatory standing on all publicly traded U.S. companies by accessing the SEC's EDGAR Database at: http://www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml.

Your SEC complaint can be anonymous or you can provide only limited personal data. However, the more information you give them, the more likely they'll be able to help you. Either way, include specific details about how, why and when you were bilked with any contact info you have on the fraudulent person or company involved.

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Classic Cons: 10 Financial Scams Fair-Minded Investors Should Avoid

When Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager wrote the tune "Everything Old Is New Again," they were probably hoping for no more than a Top 40 hit. Instead, the song became an oft-recorded classic, mostly because the title proved a truism in so many areas – especially in the seamy world of financial fraud.

Indeed, over the past 40 years, only one new entry has been added to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) roster of "Top 10" investment scams – the very broad category of "Internet fraud." The other financial rip-offs listed are merely new versions of tried and true swindles that have been around for decades or more – from Ponzi schemes and pyramid systems to phony stock offerings and commodity cons.

The big difference is that the one new category – Internet fraud (and the computers on which the Internet operates) – has greatly increased the frequency, speed and effectiveness of the other types of financial fraud, as well as exponentially increasing the scammers' take.

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Money Morning Mailbag: Big Banks Under Fire for Metals-Market Manipulation

A New York Post article in May reported that the Department of Justice had launched an investigation into the supposed metals-market manipulation by JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM).

The article alleged that JPMorgan, which holds a number of derivatives in precious metals, attempted to lower the price of silver for its own profit. JPMorgan was quick to issue a response, stating there was no criminal or civil investigation into the company's silver trading practices.

But as word spread around the Web, readers' comments poured in with concerns over the news:

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Money Morning Mailbag: Wall Street Expects Money to Arbitrate Financial Reform

Financial regulation overhaul cleared another hurdle last week when the Senate approved its financial reform bill. However, the inclusion of a derivatives trading restriction left Wall Street wondering why its political contributions weren't doing the talking.

The financial industry was surprised when a provision created by Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-AR, requiring banks to spin off their derivatives trading arms remained in the Senate's proposal. Wall Street lobbyists are now reaching out to the members of the Senate and House conference committee who will reconcile the two bills. The Senate named its committee appointees Tuesday, which included Lincoln.

The Financial Services Roundtable, a lobbying group representing financial companies, has already started meeting with House members who it believes will be involved in the final process and could help cut the provision.

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Goldman Director Linked to Insider Trading on Buffett Investment

Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam Rajat may have engaged in insider trading on Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) stock by profiting from a tip from Rajat Gupta, a director at Goldman, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person it didn't identify.

The new disclosure stems from a government examination into whether Gupta gave inside information to Mr. Rajaratnam about a $5 billion investment Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A, BRK.B) made in the Wall Street bank before it became public knowledge.

In a March 22 court filing, the government revealed more details about the information it alleges Rajaratnam received, alleging that he or "co-conspirators" traded on non-public information, including advance notice about the Buffett investment in Goldman.

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Goldman's First-Quarter Profit Doubles to $3.46 Billion, Even as its Fraud Probe Takes on an International Twist

Investment-banking giant Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) – the target of a civil fraud case filed by U.S. securities regulators – yesterday reported that its first-quarter earnings nearly doubled, even as the probe against it took on an international twist.

The New York-based Goldman said it earned reported first quarter earnings of $3.46 billion today (Tuesday), or $5.59 a share, an increase of 91% from earnings of $1.66 billion, or $3.39 a share, for the same period a year ago. The earnings report came just days after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil fraud case against the Wall Street financial heavyweight.

Goldman's earnings beat analysts' average estimates of $4.16 a share. Its investment bank income revenue rose to $12.78 billion, and its fixed-income, currency and commodities trading generated net revenue of $7.39 billion.

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How the Goldman Sachs Fraud Case Could Accelerate Wall Street Reform

When the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced Friday that it had filed a fraud action against Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS), the news hit the financial markets like a carefully targeted bomb.

The Goldman Sachs fraud case, which relates to the investment bank's subprime-mortgage business, caused the financial giant's shares to nosedive 12.8%. The fallout spread to the broader markets, too, causing the Dow Jones Industrial Average to drop 1.1% and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index to skid 1.6%.

That reaction wasn't overblown.

Depending on how rough the SEC wants to play it, the case has the potential to shut down the cartel known as Wall Street. It could even jump-start the kind of sweeping overhaul that legal or regulatory reformists have so far failed to launch.

To see how the government fraud case against Goldman Sachs could force Wall Street to reform, please read on...

Guilty Plea by Rio Tinto Execs Shines Light on Complexity of China's Iron Ore Market

When four Rio Tinto PLC (NYSE ADR: RTP) executives stunned observers by pleading guilty to bribery charges in a Shanghai courtroom, it brought to light the unorthodox and complicated nature of doing business in China's iron ore industry.

Unlike corrupt transactions in other resource-rich countries where customers often receive bribes or kickbacks in exchange for arranging lucrative contracts, in China just the opposite is often the case.

The Rio Tinto executives, for instance, were accused of receiving bribes in return for delivering supplies of highly-desirable iron ore – the key commodity in China's burgeoning steel-making industry.

The four executives admitted receiving $13.5 million (92.18 million yuan) between them in bribes, China's state news agency Xinhua reported, citing court documents. They could face up to 20 years in prison.

But the gist of the story revolves around China's chaotic iron-ore trading system.

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Lehman Execs Have No One to Blame but Themselves

The U.S. bankruptcy-court examiner investigating the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. issued a stinging report Friday that accused senior executives of freewheeling accounting practices that led to the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history and sparked the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

The 2200-page report, authored by Anton Valukas, chairman of the Chicago-based law firm Jenner & Block LLP, also excoriated Wall Street investment banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) and Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) for finally pushing Lehman over the edge by demanding more collateral and changing guarantee agreements, Bloomberg News reported.

But the report says ultimate responsibility for its collapse can be attributed to a wrong-headed business model that rewarded excessive risk and encouraged leverage – problems that were brought to a head by the investment banks and government agencies.

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FTC Sues Intel in Antitrust Action as EU Settles With Microsoft

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission sued Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) yesterday (Wednesday) accusing the world's leading computer chipmaker of illegally using pricing deals and other tactics "to stifle competition and strengthen its monopoly."

The complaint says Intel tried to block "superior" products by rivals and deprived consumers of choice and innovation for 10 years.

"Intel has engaged in a deliberate campaign to hamstring competitive threats to its monopoly," said Richard A. Feinstein, the FTC's director of competition.

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