Pilant's Business Ethics

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Tag: Financial services

Ethics and the Personal Finance Industry

 

Ethics and the Personal Finance Industry

The personal finance industry can’t save us – Salon.com

How does the industry prey on our fears about our inability to save and plan for the future?

We can’t articulate that for all too many of us our problem is not an inability to manage and invest money effectively; it’s that we’re expected to do more and more with less and less. So we think we are individually messing up, that we lack the financial skills and smarts to get ahead. The financial services industry presents itself as our savior. But by doing that, it has to confirm our cultural bias that we are alone responsible for our financial fates.

You see this dynamic especially in personal finance and investment initiatives aimed at women, which contain an almost odd mix of the language of empowerment and infantalization. They tell us we are women, we are so strong because we do so much more around the home and work than men, but yet we are financial illiterates who have no clue. In fact, both sexes have low financial knowledge. Men have more money than women for the most obvious of reasons: they earn more.

You mention the work of economist Teresa Ghilarducci, “the most dangerous woman in America.” Who is afraid of her and why?

It became very clear to me while reporting this book that Teresa Ghilarducci had hit a nerve in the financial services sector that no one else had. The reason, to me, was obvious. Most other people discussing retirement reform schemes (Auto IRAs, Save More Tomorrow and the like) were talking about expanding the role – or at least the bottom line of — the current dominant players on the retirement scene. I mean the retail brokerages, the 401(k) plan providers, the dominant mutual fund companies and the like. Ghilarducci’s Guaranteed Retirement Accounts calls BS on this model. First, she points out how much money the current retirement is making on what we think is our money. Second, her model would bring new players in, and I mean new, powerful players – state pension funds, institutional investors, and hedge funds – into the game.

The personal finance industry can’t save us – Salon.com

Ethics and the Personal Finance Industry

Personal responsibility. I believe in it. I recognize the power of it, the usefulness of it. But circumstances have to be taken into consideration. We do get injured, become ill and suffer accidents. We can be killed by natural disaster or more mercifully, have homes or businesses destroyed. Choice and environment interact to produce our reality.

Here we have a situation which the personal finance industry proclaims loudly and persistently that if you only change your decision making and be tough on yourself, that you can attain financial stability and even possible eventual wealth. I would prefer that industry to look at this situation from a business ethics stand point and promise less because personal choice is only part of the equation. If a great majority of the American people had shared in the profits of the increased production and financialization of the last thirty years, I think most financial suffering might be attributable to poor planning. But here again, we have circumstances, downward wage pressure, very high unemployment, a replacement of stable pension with the disastrous 401K’s, the changes in the bankruptcy act, the plague of student loans, etc.

Americans of the middle class suffer from real wage pressure and for many, no amount of planning will fix those problems. Americans of the lower class are simply in the midst on an ongoing week to week, day to day, financial disaster.

Financial planning can be useful but only in proportion to the amount of disposable income in the individual cases. If the disposable income is inadequate, no amount of planning can fix it. Promising magical fixes from non-existent resources is not ethical. Financial planning is not for everybody.

James Pilant

From around the web –

From the web site, Personal Finance for Beginners:

Your questions in personal finance would revolve around the following:

How much money will be needed by you at various points in the future?
Where will this money come from (e.g. savings or borrowing)?
How can you protect yourself against unforeseen events in your lives, and risk in financial markets?
How can family assets be best transferred across generations (bequests and inheritance)?
How do taxes (tax subsidies or penalties) affect personal financial decisions?
Your Personal financial decisions will involve paying for education, financing durable goods such as real estate and cars, buying insurance, e.g. health and property insurance, investing and saving for retirement. Personal financial decisions may also involve paying for a loan.

From the web site, Finance for Youth: The Blog:

A couple of days ago, a young student approached me and asked me for some career advice. The student wanted to understand a little more about what banking and finance is about, and how it measures up in terms of their “dream job“. I was very impressed with this young student, because unlike many of their peers, they were actually trying to look at their future and start planning. This student, to be fair, is part of an advanced group of students. They get tutoring as part of their regular school day, they have additional instruction in note-taking and other study skills, and they are in advanced Math and English classes. They have a leg up over many students already. This young person seemed to have a leg up on even this group.

And from the web site, Nancyeewing:

You need to make a plan of what you really want in life that money can buy. Then you must find out how to get the money it takes to finance it and finally start to implement this plan. This is the long term part of your financial life – the process of personal financial development from the state you are in right now – to the state you want to be in. This journey toward financial freedom is in my opinion the most interesting and exciting part of personal financing you can have.

 

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America’s Financial Sector, Infested with Criminals?

Charles Ferguson: How Financial Criminalization Crashed the Economy, and the Culprits Got Off Scot-Free

It is no exaggeration to say that since the 1980s, much of the American (and global) financial sector has become criminalized, creating an industry culture that tolerates or even encourages systematic fraud. The behavior that caused the mortgage bubble and financial crisis was a natural outcome and continuation of this pattern, rather than some kind of economic accident.

Charles Ferguson: How Financial Criminalization Crashed the Economy, and the Culprits Got Off Scot-Free

I agree with Charles Ferguson. I’ve been following our financial disasters over the last five years and they are in many ways criminal enterprises, not that the Obama Administration seems to care.

We live in a nation with two standards of justice, one for the little people and one for a privileged elite.

I do not think I need to tell you of the horrible effects of injustice. The criminals will break the law again. The criminals will gain in power. The criminals will become even richer.

That is quite the lesson for our children and the larger society. Don’t work. Don’t labor. Steal. That’s the way of American Investment banking.

James Pilant

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Another White House Sell Out on the Big Banks

Another White House Sell Out on the Big Banks

Shouldn’t bankers be held to the same laws the rest of Americans have to obey? This is a no-brainer except in the Washington beltway where banks are considered the basis of the Republic rather than the modern equivalent of train robbing Western desperados. I don’t understand. Why is no one being prosecuted? I once lied to a judge. I didn’t know it was a lie until later. When I found out, I called him up (I was working for the state and dealt with the judge regularly) and explained and apologized. He reminded me that I could have gone to jail for that. I told I was well aware of it. And yet here, banks who lied to the judge, to the courts of the United States, are simply walking away. Unlike me, they knew they weren’t telling truth and unlike me, they were making enormous sums of money by lying, and they are not apologizing. Do you see anywhere in the agreement that they have to say, “I’m sorry.” I don’t see it.

There is a dual system of justice in this country, one for me and you, and one for the 1%. It’s very sad. We have been told that we live in a nation of laws, not of men. But the fact is we live in a nation of men, where one class is better than another in the eyes of the law.

James Pilant

Robo-Signing Bank Settlement is a Criminal Sell Out | Better Markets

“Let me help a few victims I created by ripping them off and illegally throwing them out of their homes by false court filings that I swore were true.”  That’s what the so-called mortgage settlement talks are really all about:  fraud, perjury and crimes.  That’s what these banks did and that’s what they are trying to buy their way out of.

The settlement discussions are the same: eliminate all or almost all liability for the bank and, most importantly, all bank officers and employees in exchange for a loan forgiveness or modification program.  Think about this:  the banks engaged in a years-long pattern and practice of what can only be described as fraudulent if not criminal conduct that would put anyone else in prison for years if not decades, yet banks get to buy off the cops with some money to help the victims they created.

Robo-Signing Bank Settlement is a Criminal Sell Out | Better Markets

Mortgage Settlement Is Great – For Big Banks

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The Banking Industry Gives Obama the Squeeze

President Barack Obama addresses reporters abo...

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Big banks have picked their candidate, and it’s Romney – from McClatchy

“We’ve seen a massive shift from Obama to the Republican candidates on the part of the financial industry,” said Carmen Balber of Consumer Watchdog, a California nonprofit that advocates for taxpayers and consumers. “Obviously, part of that has to do with a competitive primary. But we’ve definitely seen the financial services industry publicly chastise the president for going after financial reform.”

Big banks have picked their candidate, and it’s Romney | McClatchy

Isn’t this sweet? Barack Obama bails out the banks, protects them from prosecution for their crimes, installs banking industry figures in virtually every possible position in the government, pretended that the mortgage crisis wasn’t happening and was careful to give only the most measured criticism of the financial industry and the 1% – and his reward is massive contributions to this likely opponent.

For all of his compromise, for all of his favoritism, for all of his abandonment of the goals of justice and accountability, the President got less than nothing.

This was hardly unpredictable. The dramatic reactions of the wealthy investment to class to Obama’s mile criticism, the weak legislation of Dodd-Frank financial reform law, and the Occupy Wall Street movement demonstrated that Wall Street’s sense of entitlement and worthiness is fragile at the very least.

Only the most slavish devotion, only agreement on every point and only an acceptance of the financial industry as worthy, doing God’s Work, is adequate for the malefactors of great wealth.

The President should have realized this.

James Pilant

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Sign a Petition; Stop a Foreclosure

Scrooge and Bob Cratchit illustrated by John L...

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Sign a Petition; Stop a Foreclosure

 

Lauren Bloom writing in her blog is asking her readers to help a disabled woman keep her home. I join in this effort and ask you to sign a petition in the woman’s behalf.

Note to First Mortgage – don’t be a Grinch!

Ms. Chappell has posted a petition on Change.org asking First Mortgage Corporation to do the decent thing and let Ms. Bourchard pay off some of her mortgage through the Hardest Hit State Fund. It’s not as though First Mortgage Corporation wouldn’t get paid, folks – it just means that the company would have to do a little more paperwork. HUD currently has First Mortgage Corporation on hold while everyone works to find a more compassionate solution. Come on, First Mortgage! It’s Christmas, for pity’s sake – have a heart and don’t evict a disabled schoolteacher from her home. Even Ebenezer Scrooge would know better.

If you agree with me that Ms. Bouchard deserves the opportunity to stay in her home, you can sign the petition by clicking here.

Note to First Mortgage – don’t be a Grinch! | The Business Ethics Blog

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Bank of America’s Shifts Derivatives Risk to Taxpayers | The Charlotte Observer Newspaper

Bank of America’s Shifts Derivatives Risk to Taxpayers

Let’s make this simple. Derivatives are speculative instruments used to gamble on the success or failure of some monetary enterprise. Bank of America took these derivatives from one division (uninsured) to another (federally insured). They took a essentially a speculative gamble and moved it into a federally insured institution so that any losses will be born by the federal government.

Isn’t that just sweet?

– Well, it is if you are Bank of America

James Pilant

Lawmakers are criticizing Bank of America Corp. again, this time over the reported transfer of financial instruments from Merrill Lynch into the bank’s deposit-taking arm.

It’s a move the lawmakers say could put taxpayers on the hook for big losses – three years after the bank received billions in bailouts from the federal government.

Lawmakers criticize Bank of America’s transfers | CharlotteObserver.com & The Charlotte Observer Newspaper

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Hardshipping (via non-recourse life) A Personal Story of Foreclosure Disaster

This is another of the human tragedies associated with the foreclosure crisis. I think the policy makers flying in their circles above us have forgotten that it is real people who need their consideration.

James Pilant

Last week I finally submitted my hardship letter (and other proofs of personal financial humiliation). It’s not my best writing, but I’ll post it for you voyeurs and short-selling plagarists out there. Heck, I stole the words “financial ruin” myself from another online hardship letter sample.  It had a certain ring to it. What I really wanted to say was: C’mon bank people, we all know why we’re here. Please just look at the documents I provided a … Read More

via non-recourse life

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