The Banksters don’t seem to have a very strong hand…

This is a neat story.  Anyone can research, and find out something, and change the lives of many:

How Two Civilian Sleuths Brought Foreclosure Problems to Light
Thursday 14 October 2010

by: Tony Pugh  |  McClatchy Newspapers

Palm Beach, Forida – More than a year before lenders, law firms and document companies began owning up to widespread paperwork problems with their foreclosure filings, Lisa Epstein and Michael Redman already knew that something was wrong – very wrong.

Redman, a former online automobile consultant, got his first taste of the problem in early 2008, when he tried to help a relative who was facing foreclosure.

As he tried to determine which of three or four supposed lenders held the note, Redman, 35, realized that not only did he not know the answer, neither did any of the companies that were asking for payment.

The Banksters don’t seem to have a very strong hand…

Another one bits the dust…

Some really sad news about an architecture firm.  But it is not just any architecture firm, it was one  of the best, winning many awards, attracting top talent, with a huge portfolio of diversified projects.  Murray O’Laoire, or MOLA as it was often known as, states on its website:

“We employ almost 200 staff across a wide range of disciplines from architects and architectural technologists to planners, urban designers, interior designers and landscape architects.

MÓLA’s mission is to make good architecture.”

No more.

The last news update on their website informs:

We regret to inform you that at a meeting of the creditors of Murray O’Laoire Architects on the 9th April 2010, the company was placed into creditors liquidation….

This is a real loss. Architecture firms are quite delicate–they depend on growth, they are small and their exposure to liability is quite high.  What’s more, their value as cultural actors far outweighs the economic value that they manifest.  If society values Art and the public realm, someone needs to do some fast thinking and even faster acting to save what are irreplaceable cultural agents.  Certainly, any one given firm can fail, but what is happening now is a whole sale slaughtering of architectural firms, and it won’t be good for anyone if these firms a dispersed and their collective memory erased.  In the USA alone over 40,000 architects are out of work since the beginning of the financial Crises, and it doesn’t look like it is going to get better any time soon.

Here’s a couple of pictures of some of their best work.  Their work on the Irish Pavilion at the Hanover Fair 2000 shows a wonderful sense of contrast and deep use of materials, full of cultural references as well as wonderful integration of Art, and just a intrinsic sense of craftsmanship and and excellent sense of proportion, all executed extremely well:

http://www.murrayolaoire.com/civic/projects/expo2000/index.html

Cork School of Music:

http://www.murrayolaoire.com/education/projects/csm/index.html

[In the interests of Full Disclosure, yes, eee_eff is an Architect, and he is very fortunate to be very actively working, but knows many who are not so lucky…]

Another one bits the dust…

Quote of the Week

“The government should create, issue, and circulate all the currency and credit needed to satisfy the spending power of the government and the buying power of consumers. The privilege of creating and issuing money is not only the supreme prerogative of government, but it is the government’s greatest creative opportunity. THE FINANCING OF ALL PUBLIC ENTERPRISE, and the conduct of the treasury will become matters of practical administration. Money will cease to be master and will then become servant of humanity.”

Abraham Lincoln

I am not sure I completely agree with this quote, but it’s change of perspective sure is refreshing, and very timely, too.

Quote of the Week

Use It and You will Lose It (Banking Secrecy edition)

I noted before that if companies actually use some of the unfair laws they have managed to “put on the books” those laws will change. This is especially true in the Web 2.0 world, where any piece of news will be broadcast, and broadcast, and rebroadcast, and the big corporations don’t control the distribution and media channels the way that they used to. The example I gave was the DMCA (DMCA–use it and you will lose it, Gang of Eight, May 05, 2007), from but there are other examples as the current Kaupthing scandal shows.  As covered at wikileaks, your premier source for news:

Continue reading “Use It and You will Lose It (Banking Secrecy edition)”

Use It and You will Lose It (Banking Secrecy edition)

Bank of America points the finger…at the cause of the financial crises…

Courtesy of Information Landmine, here we have Bank of America pointing their finger at what’s behind the financial crises: dead people..

Paul Kelleher: Yes, I’m calling to inform you that my mom died on the 24th of January.

Bank of America Estates representative: I’m sorry. Oh, it looks like she never even missed a payment. That’s too bad. Well, how are you planning to take care of her balance?

PK: I’m not going to. She has no estate to speak of, but you should feel free to just go through the standard probate procedure. I’m certainly not legally obligated to pay for her.

BOA: You mean you’re not going to help her out?

PK: I wouldn’t be helping her out — she’s dead. I’d be helping you out.

BOA: Oh, that’s really not the way to look at it. I know that if it were my mother, I’d pay it. That’s why we’re in the banking crisis we’re in: banks having to write off defaulted loans.

“I lost it there,” Kelleher, a mild-mannered 30-year-old who lives in Brookline, Mass., where he works remotely for a Washington DC-based non-profit, told TPMMuckraker. When pressed, he said, the estates rep backed off that last claim, but only a little, continuing to suggest that cases like his mothers had played a role in the financial crisis.

The rep’s apparent intention, as Kelleher described it, was to mislead him into believing that he was obligated — at first legally, then, failing that, morally — to cover his mother’s debt (which, in any case, was not large: she had had a $1000 limit on her card). Of course, Kelleher was sophisticated enough to know that’s not true. But how many other less savvy callers in similar situations, he wondered, might respond to the rep’s breezy “how are you planning to take care of her balance?,” with a confused “I guess I’ll mail in a check”?

And what bothered Kelleher as much as the estate rep’s insensitivity, not to mention her apparent effort to deceive, was the impression he got that she wasn’t winging it.

“It seemed rote,” Kelleher said. “It was too naturally delivered to have been a misstatement.”

That impression was strengthened when Kelleher eventually spoke with the rep’s supervisor, Eric Davis. Kelleher said that when he recounted his conversation with the rep, Davis apologized — for what, exactly, it was unclear — but told him: “That’s not how she meant it

Bank of America points the finger…at the cause of the financial crises…

Katherina Pister’s comments at VOX

Checking Dani Rodrik’s blog I’d noticed a new post that’s really pretty sharp. First, Dani had noticed an interesting post at Vox’s Global Crisis Debate by Katherina Pistor.  I liked Katherina Pister’s post  at Vox too.  In fact, I’d say that Dani actually underestimates the potential of the thinking that underlies that post.  The key excerpt:

The major argument against standardization as the cure all for financial crisis, however, is not that the wrong model was chosen. Nor is it the most common critique of legal standardization, namely that one model does not fit all. Instead, the idea that effective market regulation can be achieved by standardizing rules and regulations on the most successful model at the time is deeply flawed for the following reasons. First, it treats legal institutions as endowments and ignores the need for maintenance and adaptation not only to local conditions, but also to future change. Second, it creates the illusion that a given market is institutionally sound and thereby disguises problems that may trigger future crises. Third, the selection of ‘best practice’ models tends to reward regulatory regimes based on simple quantitative outcome variables, such as market size, even when market size may be the product of a bubble, while ignoring volatility and other risk factors.

So here’s my response to Dani (cross-posted over at his excellent blog also):

Continue reading “Katherina Pister’s comments at VOX”

Katherina Pister’s comments at VOX

Crowdsourcing the G20 Agenda…

As covered at Dani Rodrik’s excellent weblog, here’s your chance to form the G20 agenda…of course, it’s not really very broadly crowdsourced, just to “professional economists,” that is to those who are paid to be wrong about the economy, as opposed to those who are just normally wrong about the economy…

Want to shape the G20 agenda?

Here is your chance. VoxEU.org launched today its Global Crisis Debate, a partnership with the UK government aimed at generating ideas for the April 2 summit of the G20.

The debate is organized around five headings:

  • Development (Moderator: Dani Rodrik)
  • Macro (Moderator: Philip Lane)
  • Regulation (Moderator: Luigi Zingales)
  • Institutional reform (Moderator: Francesco Giavazzi)
  • Open markets (Moderator: Richard Baldwin)

The debate on economic development is off to a good start with contributions from Nancy Birdsall, Jose Antonio Ocampo, Arvind Subramanian, and Yung Chul Park along with a lead commentary from me.  I look forward to your input.

Crowdsourcing the G20 Agenda…