Thursday, May 31, 2012

Is The U.S. #1 In Insider Trading? Egypt Makes A Move


Romania beats us out for the worst hunger among children, but just barely

We all want this country to be great-- although over on the plutocratic right, they define "this country" in more exclusionary terms than normal people do. I don't think rightists, for example-- and particularly not the Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand variety-- give two hoots that the U.S. now ranks second worst in childhood poverty of any countries in the developed world. And they count Romania-- the one we beat-- as part of the "developed world," which is kind of spurious to begin with. Even economic "basketcases" like Greece, Spain, Portugal, Poland and Ireland are doing better, in fact much better, than we are. (At least "we" in the inclusive meaning. I'm sure they're not doing as well as the Romney family and the families of Romney donors.)
Out of the 35 wealthiest countries analyzed by UNICEF, only one, Romania, had a child poverty rate above the 23 percent rate recorded in the U.S. The rate is based on the definition of relative poverty used by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which states a child is living in poverty if he or she is growing up in a household where disposable income, when adjusted for family size and compensation, is less than 50 percent of the median disposable income for the country in question.

Over in the U.K., which is also doing quite a bit better than the U.S. in this area, The Independent pointed out that "The Government's spending cuts will have a 'catastrophic' effect on British children... endangering their future health, education and employment."

I could be wrong about this-- I could be looking at it through the lens of youthful idealism-- but when I was a kid, one place where the U.S. seemed to have excelled beyond most other countries was in its abhorrence of corruption. And when I was a kid, I started tramping around the world. I remember marveling at how incredibly corrupt day to day life was in Asia. You even had to bargain with the stamp seller at post offices in India! Later I realized the corruption in the Third World was more up front and out in the open. Here it is more hidden and quasi-subtle, or, at least, less in your face. I've always said the richer someone is the more likely they are to be a grasping, avaricious crook. So why not rich countries too? Is that what we're #1 in? Corruption?

Let's take a very easy-to-understand aspect of corruption: insider trading. Here's how the SEC defines it (officially):
Illegal insider trading refers generally to buying or selling a security, in breach of a fiduciary duty or other relationship of trust and confidence, while in possession of material, nonpublic information about the security. Insider trading violations may also include "tipping" such information, securities trading by the person "tipped," and securities trading by those who misappropriate such information.
Examples of insider trading cases that have been brought by the SEC are cases against:

• Corporate officers, directors, and employees who traded the corporation's securities after learning of significant, confidential corporate developments;

• Friends, business associates, family members, and other "tippees" of such officers, directors, and employees, who traded the securities after receiving such information;

• Employees of law, banking, brokerage and printing firms who were given such information to provide services to the corporation whose securities they traded;

• Government employees who learned of such information because of their employment by the government; and

• Other persons who misappropriated, and took advantage of, confidential information from their employers.

Because insider trading undermines investor confidence in the fairness and integrity of the securities markets, the SEC has treated the detection and prosecution of insider trading violations as one of its enforcement priorities.

Members of Congress, for example, shouldn't be doing it, especially not Members who are on Committees dealing with non-public information. But that's exactly what House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus was routinely doing until he was called out on it-- he won reelection is a backward. low-info Alabama district anyway-- and that's exactly what House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon has been doing. McKeon isn't representing a backward Alabama district, however, and he's likely to be defeated in his reelection bid in November. The news on Insider Trading this week didn't come from corrupt congressmen like Bachus and McKeon. Bachus's case is still pending before the House Ethics Committee-- and McKeon is also up on charges in front of that committee, although most likely on other unrelated corruption charges involved with bribe-taking from Countrywide. The big news on insider trading came from Egypt, where it's become convenient for the ruling elite to crack down on two of Hosni Mubarek's sons.
Prosecutors charged Gamal and Alaa Mubarak, the imprisoned sons of former President Hosni Mubarak, with insider stock trading on Wednesday, just two days before both men are expected to hear the verdict in a criminal trial charging them with corruption during their father’s three decades of rule.

State television reported that the Mubarak brothers and seven other men, including the co-chief executives of Egypt’s most prominent investment bank, were charged with obtaining over $400 million through corrupt practices in relation to the 2007 sale of Al Watany Bank. Gamal and Alaa have been in prison since last spring.

The new charges against Mr. Mubarak’s children, once untouchable jet-setters, are another episode in the former ruling family’s fall from grace. Gamal Mubarak, 48, was once widely expected to inherit the presidency after his father’s death. Alaa, 49, is a once-prominent businessman who kept a low public profile.

And when will it become convenient from the ruling elite here to prosecute such crimes? Never... well, never unless the current ruling elite is replaced and it can happen before a new ruling elite is corrupted and gets ossified.

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