Pilant's Business Ethics

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Tag: Enron

Closing Generating Plants to Manipulate the Market

!!@@#dddddd444plate18-thClosing Generating Plants to Manipulate the Market

I remember when Enron closed generating plants for “maintenance” back in the good old days of extorting money from the citizens. These maintenance periods coincided with peak demand in California and helped Enron generate billions in profits. And I remember that many public officials were shocked that anyone would think something suspicious was going on.*(see below)

An ethical businessman makes money by selling a service or a product. An unethical businessman manipulates the market to make money. Making money the ethical way is too slow when you can lobby regulators to look the other way while you cut the supplies of electricity to raise the price. It is fast profits, a high return on an investment, good results for the next quarter, and it leaves in the dust the ethical businessman.

If this process is not regulated, then the unethical manipulators will drive the ethical producers out of the electrical business. This is a kind of Social Darwinism in which the unprincipled and immoral displace their competitors producing a mediocracy of the ethicless. A society that values simply making money by whatever means necessary will embrace such mediocracy since only a fool would act ethically when money can be made. So in time, all producers will act to manipulate and cheat as opposed to making an honest dollar.

The dishonest profit destroys the moral fabric of a society?

Probably not the best place to raise children?

James Pilant

Enron-style price gouging is making a comeback | Al Jazeera America

via Enron-style price gouging is making a comeback | Al Jazeera America.


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Subverting Pensions for Profit

 Subverting Pensions for Profit


There are real plots, real conspiracies. It’s a sad thing that people sometimes unite not for ethical or moral principles but for the destruction of people’s lives, for predation, for money at any cost.


One of the constant themes in the lust for profits has been the conversion of public goods into private possessions: public and charity hospitals often run by churches converted into private property; parks, highways, parking meters, converted into private ventures, America’s public lands opened up for fracking in the one of the greatest land grabs in all of recorded history … I can go on and on. Subverting pensions for profit is just the latest fad in the series.


Here is another one, public pension funds being converted into Wall Street Piggy Banks, looted with fees and then fed into speculation for anyone’s profit but the pension fund’s. It is as if the national looting of the last generation, the conversion of pensions into the predatory and vicious 401K’s didn’t generate enough profit, we must never stop looting, never stop stealing, never stop creating fictitious crises to be exploited.


Maybe this one can be stopped. I would like to see that.


James Pilant


The right’s sinister new plot against pensions – Salon.com




As state legislatures prepare for their upcoming sessions, you will no doubt hear a lot about public pensions. More specifically, you will hear allegations that states are going bankrupt because of their pension obligations to public employees. These claims will inevitably be used to argue that states must renege on their pension promises to retirees.This is what I’ve called the Plot Against Pensions in a report I recently completed for the Institute for America’s Future. Engineered by billionaire former Enron trader John Arnold, championed by seemingly nonpartisan groups like the Pew Charitable Trusts and operating in states throughout America, this plot is not designed to strengthen pensions or to save taxpayer money, as its proponents claim. It is designed to slash public employees’ guaranteed retirement income in order to both protect states’ corporate welfare and, in some cases, enrich Wall Street.Consider the math of state budgets. According to Pew’s estimates, “The gap between states’ assets and their obligations for public sector retirement benefits (is) $1.38 trillion” over 30 years. As the Center for Economic and Policy Research notes, this gap was not caused by benefit increases, as conservatives suggest. Data prove that most of it was caused by the stock market decline that accompanied the 2008 financial colla


via The right’s sinister new plot against pensions – Salon.com.

From around the web.

From the web site, Brave New World.


Finding: Conservative activists are manufacturing the perception of a public pension crisis in order to both slash modest retiree benefits and preserve expensive corporate subsidies and tax breaks.


States and cities have for years been failing to fully fund their annual pension obligations. They have used funds that were supposed to go to pensions to instead finance expensive tax cuts and corporate subsidies. That has helped create a real but manageable pension shortfall. Yet, instead of citing such a shortfall as reason to end expensive tax cuts and subsidies, conservative activists and lawmakers are citing it as a reason to slash retiree benefits.


Finding: The amount states and cities spend on corporate subsidies and so-called tax expenditures is far more than the pension shortfalls they face. Yet, conservative activists and lawmakers are citing the pension shortfalls and not the subsidies as the cause of budget squeezes. They are then claiming that cutting retiree benefits is the solution rather than simply rolling back the more expensive tax breaks and subsidies.


According to Pew, public pensions face a 30-year shortfall of $1.38 trillion, or $46 billion on an annual basis. This is dwarfed by the $80 billion a year states and cities spend on corporate subsidies. Yet, conservatives cite the pension shortfall not as reason to reduce the corporate subsidies and raise public revenue, but instead as proof that retiree benefits need to be cut.


Finding: The pension “reforms” being pushed by conservative activists would slash retirement income for many pensioners who are not part of the Social Security system. Additionally, the specific reforms they are pushing are often more expensive and risky for taxpayers than existing pension plans.



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Personal Dharma at work (via The Divine Comedy)

Well, it looks like India is catching up with America in terms of corporate financial scandals. What makes this blog really interesting, is that it’s from one of the people involved in breaking the case. It has a little bit of the detective in it. That’s rare in a business blog.

Further, our intrepid writer launches into a fairly lengthy discussion of business ethics, my turf. It’s a perceptive piece.

Please give it a read. Remember business ethics is a worldwide issue.

James Pilant

Today was the first day after the big day. Satyam finally came out with its financials last evening – restated to incorporate the impact of the 1.5 billion dollar scam perpetrated by its erstwhile chairman – in what can only be termed as India’s answer to Enron. It was a proud moment for my team in finance – a moment of tremendous achievement and collaboration between us at the office of the Chief Financial Officer, our Finance team, our consulta … Read More

via The Divine Comedy

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Exempt Energy Companies From New Derivatives Rules?

Alain Sherter warns that such an exemption (in negotiation in Congress) is fraught with risk. While energy companies can use derivatives to even out pricing or limit their risk they can also (like Enron) get into what is essentially gambling.

James Pilant

From the article

Concerns that energy companies want to dodge proposed restrictions on derivatives can be summarized in two words: Andrew Hall. He’s the star trader who stood to collect a $100 million bonus from Citigroup (C) until controversy over the windfall forced the banking giant to send Hall packing, along with his lucrative energy brokerage unit — straight into the arms of Occidental Petroleum (OXY).

The 2009 deal wasn’t merely the result of mounting political heat on Wall Street, however. It also underscored a trend in which financial firms and a range of companies use derivatives, leverage and other tools of modern finance to place bets on grain, gold, crude oil and other commodities. If energy companies once used derivatives strictly to hedge against price, currency or interest-rate changes, now they see these securities as a way to boost profits. But at what risk? As one equity analyst said of Occidental after it acquired the Citi subsidiary, called Phibro:

They never gambled before, and now they own the casino.

Sherter has a definite way of putting things.


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