Part VII: Adventures in Finance
Death Takes a Policy: How a Lawyer Exploited the Fine Print and Found Himself Facing Federal Charges
ProPublica’s Jake Bernstein draws you right into the story of Joe Caramadre with a beautifully crafted description of a Rhode Island lawyer whose avidness for playing the angles may have taken him too far. Did Caramadre sharply exploit a legal loophole to extract a bonanza from an insurance product called a “variable annuity,” or did he commit fraud at the expense of dying people and their families. According to Rhode Island law, Caramadre or one of his clients could buy an annuity on the life of someone who was not expected to live long and then pocket a profit when that person died. A little unsavory, perhaps, but was it also illegal? Insurance companies were losing on that claim in civil suits, but then came criminal charges.
Part II. The Financial System and Its Discontents
The “Subsidy”: How a Handful of Merrill Lynch Bankers Helped Blow Up Their Own Firm
When the protesters in the Occupy Wall Street movement gathered in New York’s Zucotti Park in the fall of 2011, they probably didn’t have in mind this particular story by ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative group. But they might well have. In the third installment of a series that won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, Jake Bernstein and Jesse Eisinger show the extent to which Wall Street pay incentives perverted the financial system toward destructive ends. With remarkable clarity, the story shows that in 2006, as the housing market cooled, executives at a unit of Merrill Lynch that made mortgage bonds resorted to paying off members of another unit to buy securities they realized would soon collapse. The sole purpose: to keep the money-machine going and earn bonuses, no what the eventual cost to the firm or to society.
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
Dick Cheney is the most powerful yet most unpopular vice president in U.S. history. He has thrived alongside a president who from day one had little interest in policy and limited experience in the ways of Washington.
Yet Cheney’s quiet, steady rise to prominence over a span of three decades occurred largely behind the scenes. Now veteran reporters Lou Dubose and Jake Bernstein reveal the disturbing truth about the man who has successfully co-opted executive control over the U.S. government, serving as the de facto “shadow president” of the most dominant White House in a generation. Cheney has always been an astute politician. He survived the collapse of the Nixon presidency, finding a position of power in the administration of Gerald Ford. He was then elected to the House of Representatives, and later he earned a spot in the cabinet of the first Bush presidency. But when he became George W. Bush’s running mate, Cheney reached a new level of influence. From the engineering of his own selection as vice president to his support of policies allowing torture as a permissible weapon in the “war on terror,” Cheney has steered America consistently rightward. In Vice, Dubose and Bernstein uncover startling revelations, including:
- the extraordinary intimidation of CIA officials by a vice president bent on obtaining intelligence to support a foregone conclusion: the invasion of Iraq
- details on Cheney’s secret energy task force, including his meeting with Enron chief Ken Lay months before Lay was indicted–and how Cheney went to court to erode the powers of Congress
- how Cheney helped to kill 2003 diplomatic overtures from Iran to discuss concessions on its nuclear program and policy toward Israel
- Cheney’s role in engineering multibillion-dollar military contracts in Iraq to benefit Halliburton, the company he once ran
- eyewitness reports from prominent Republican and conservative sources who go on record for the first time to tell the truth about how Dick Cheney has hijacked the American presidency
In the words of one of Cheney’s colleagues from the House: “Dick keeps his own counsel. He’s completely in control. He’s completely sure of himself in everything he does. It’s what got him to where he is today: the most powerful vice president to ever hold office. It’s also what’s bringing about his downfall.”
In Vice, we get an unprecedented exposé of how Cheney operates and what his vice presidency will mean to America–now and in the future. (Buy now from Amazon.com)