RBS bankers joked about destroying the US housing market

The Guardian:

RBS bankers joked about destroying the US housing market after making millions by trading loans that staff described as “total fucking garbage”, according to transcripts released as part of a $4.9bn (£3.8bn) settlement with US prosecutors.

Details of internal conversations at the bank emerged just weeks before the 10-year anniversary of the financial crisis, which saw RBS rescued with a £45bn bailout from the UK government.

Noted purely for the record.  Banks, eh?

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GAVIN ESLER: Why I’ve changed my mind on Brexit

Gavin Esler in The New European:

What is the purpose of truth and facts and news in a world of disinformation, where lying at the top has become normalised? The slippery concept of ‘balance’ needs to be rethought. Serious politicians and real experts cannot be ‘balanced’ by obscure talking heads whose main qualification is a university degree in blarney.

Take, for instance, the ubiquitous antipodean, an Australian called Chloe Westley. She was formerly with Vote Leave and is now a rising star in the so-called TaxPayers’ Alliance. Spokesmen and women from obscure pressure groups maybe occasionally worthwhile guests on television and radio, but Westley is now a regular fixture.

The clear message is that what she has to say must somehow be important and authoritative. But is it? Curiously for someone who knows everything there is to know about the golden post-Brexit future for 65 million of us, Westley claims not to know key details about who actually funds her salary.

When challenged on Radio 4 by the impressive Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston about corporate and big business donations, the otherwise omniscient Westley was unable to confirm if, say, her opposition to a sugar tax is encouraged by funding from the sugar lobby or other big financial interests.

Private organisations are entitled to keep their funding secret. But when the TPA spokeswoman repeatedly comes into your home and mine on the public airwaves, their source of funding is a vital public interest matter. Organisations in our Disinformation Age need to come clean, or not be invited to come on television and radio programmes except very occasionally. ‘Come Clean Or Don’t Come On’ is a good principle for other supposedly ‘independent’ think tanks too, including the pro-Brexit Institute of Economic Affairs.

The IEA was recently exposed in a sting operation offering access for wealthy US potential donors to right-wing British politicians. Every dog should have a chance to howl. But since those who howl repeatedly on television are rewarded by broadcasters with a veneer of credibility, they need to come clean to deserve it.

So what can we do to minimise the damage?

First, continue to expose the Brexit fantasies, accurately and fairly assessing whether any of them are ever likely to work. Second, compare the promises of the Brexit Bunch with what they actually do with their own lives and finances. Third, we need to follow the money – the Leave campaign money, the money behind the curiously-funded Leave-supporting “think tanks”, and other organisations. And fourth, we need to keep an eye on those speculators for whom a chaotic few months until the Brexcrement hits the fan could prove remarkably profitable.

One hopes that if Esler, a senior ex-BBC journalist, is speaking out in public there is at least a debate within the BBC.

Did Austerity Cause Brexit?

Thiemo Fetzer at Warwick University:

Did austerity cause Brexit? This paper shows that the rise of popular support
for the UK Independence Party (UKIP), as the single most important
correlate of the subsequent Leave vote in the 2016 European Union (EU) referendum,
along with broader measures of political dissatisfaction, are strongly
and causally associated with an individual’s or an area’s exposure to austerity
since 2010. In addition to exploiting data from the population of all
electoral contests in the UK since 2000, I leverage detailed individual level
panel data allowing me to exploit within-individual variation in exposure to
specific rules-based welfare reforms as well as broader measures of political
preferences. The results suggest that the EU referendum could have resulted
in a Remain victory had it not been for a range of austerity-induced welfare
reforms. These reforms activated existing economic grievances. Further, auxiliary
results suggest that the underlying economic grievances have broader
origins than what the current literature on Brexit suggests. Up until 2010,
the UK’s welfare state evened out growing income differences across the skill
divide through transfer payments. This pattern markedly stops from 2010
onwards as austerity started to bite.

The perfect storm, Cameron and Osborne.

BBC and Brexit

New York Times and Trump

 

Policy Failure: The Role of “Economics” in AT&T-Time Warner and American Express

Pro-Market:

The recent AT&T and Amex decisions showcase the pitfalls of considering antitrust cases solely on the basis of economic analysis and may have the effect of immunizing tech giants from serious antitrust scrutiny, argue Marshall Steinbaum of the Roosevelt Institute and James Biese in this op-ed.

Antitrust cases are increasingly driven solely by “economic” analysis. Yet in many cases, economic evidence provides false certainty that leads courts astray. The very idea of consumer harm under the antitrust laws has largely become synonymous with economic inefficiencies and net costs to consumers, typically in the form of higher prices. This restrictive view of antitrust requires courts and enforcers to consider false, biased, and irrelevant evidence in satisfaction of misguided legal requirements supposedly grounded in economics. As a result, the real-world economic problems that should be the focus of antitrust economists are too often ignored.

Two recent blockbuster antitrust cases illustrate the pitfalls of relying on the wrong economics when enforcing the law. First, Judge Richard Leon’s ruling in U.S. v. AT&T allowing the AT&T-Time Warner merger to proceed was a spectacle of flawed economic analysis on both sides of the courtroom. Second, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Ohio v. American Express accepted as gospel a skewed understanding of economic theory concerning “two-sided platforms” that may have the unfortunate effect of immunizing tech giants like Google, Amazon, Uber, and Facebook, as well as powerful labor market monopsonists, from serious antitrust scrutiny.