Accurate, Focused Research on Law, Technology and Knowledge Discovery Since 2002

Subcommittee Finds “Basket Options” Misused To Dodge Billions In Taxes And Bypass Federal Leverage Limits

“Two global banks and more than a dozen hedge funds misused a complex financial structure to claim billions of dollars in unjustified tax savings and to avoid leverage limits that protect the financial system from risky debt, a Senate Subcommittee investigation has found. The improper use of this structured financial product, known as basket options, is the subject of a 93-page report released by the Chairman and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Senator Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., and will be the focus of a Tuesday hearing at which bank and hedge fund officials and tax experts will testify.

“Over the years, this Subcommittee has focused significant time and attention on two important issues: tax avoidance by profitable companies and wealthy individuals, and reckless behavior that threatens the stability of the financial system,” said Levin. “This investigation brings those two themes together. These banks and hedge funds used dubious structured financial products in a giant game of ‘let’s pretend,’ costing the Treasury billions and bypassing safeguards that protect the economy from excessive bank lending for stock speculation.” “Americans are tired of large financial institutions playing by a different set of rules when it comes to paying taxes,” said McCain. “The banks and hedge funds involved in this case used the basket options structure to change the tax treatment of their short-term stock trades, something the average American investor cannot do. Hedge funds cannot be allowed to have an unfair tax advantage over ordinary citizens.”

The report outlines how Deutsche Bank AG and Barclays Bank PLC, over the course of more than a decade, sold financial products known as basket options to more than a dozen hedge funds. From 1998 to 2013, the banks sold 199 basket options to hedge funds which used them to conduct more than $100 billion in trades. The subcommittee focused on options involving two of the largest basket option users, Renaissance Technology Corp. LLC (“RenTec”) and George Weiss Associates.”

Impact of Fed Tapering Announcements on Emerging Markets

“This paper analyzes market reactions to the 2013–14 Fed announcements relating to tapering of asset purchases and their relationship to macroeconomic fundamentals and country economic and financial structures. The study uses daily data on exchange rates, government bond yields, and stock prices for 21 emerging markets. It finds evidence of markets differentiating across countries aroundContinue Reading

Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation Survey of Iraq and Afghanistan Active Duty Soldiers and Veterans

“This Visualizing Health Policy provides highlights from a survey that asked Iraq and Afghanistan active duty soldiers and veterans about whether their physical and emotional health is worse compared with before the wars, whether they personally know someone who has attempted or died by suicide, whether they experienced difficulty in transitioning back to civilian life,Continue Reading

Central Bank Macroeconomic Forecasting during the Global Financial Crisis

The European Central Bank and Federal Reserve Bank of New York Experiences, July 2014 Number 680. Luci Alessi, Eric Ghysels, Luca Onorante, Richard Peach, and Simon Potter: “This paper documents macroeconomic forecasting during the global financial crisis by two key central banks: the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The paper is the result of a collaborative effort between theContinue Reading

Comparing Bank and Federal Reserve Stress Test Results

Beverly Hirtle, Anna Kovner, and Eric McKay, New York Fed: “Stress tests have become an important method of assessing whether financial institutions have enough capital to operate in bad economic conditions. Under the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, both the Federal Reserve and large U.S. bank holding companies (BHCs) are required to do annual stress tests and toContinue Reading

Stop Sneaky Online Tracking with EFF’s Privacy Badger

“The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has released a beta version of Privacy Badger, a browser extension for Firefox and Chrome that detects and blocks online advertising and other embedded content that tracks you without your permission. Privacy Badger was launched in an alpha version less than three months ago, and already more than 150,000 users haveContinue Reading

Report: Dodd-Frank Act Does Not End Too Big to Fail But Perpetuates It as Official Policy

“House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) today released a committee staff report [prepared by the Republican Staff of the Committee on Financial Services] that concludes the Dodd-Frank Act did not end “too big to fail” as the law’s supporters claim, but actually had theContinue Reading

Growing Deficits Over the Long Term Would Cause Federal Debt to Exceed 100 Percent of GDP by 2039

“Last week CBO released its latest report on the long-term budget outlook. (For a quick overview of the report, take a look at The 2014 Long-Term Budget Outlook in 26 Slides.) Previous blog posts have highlighted the projected imbalance in federal spending and revenues over the next 25 years. Today’s post explains how projected shortfalls would accumulateContinue Reading

New GAO Reports – African Growth Opportunity, Consumer Finance, State Department

AFRICAN GROWTH AND OPPORTUNITY ACT: Observations on Competitiveness and Diversification of U.S. Imports from Beneficiary Countries, GAO-14-722R:  Published: Jul 21, 2014. Publicly Released: Jul 21, 2014. CONSUMER FINANCE: Credit Cards Designed for Medical Services Not Covered by Insurance, GAO-14-570: Published: Jun 19, 2014. Publicly Released: Jul 21, 2014. STATE DEPARTMENT: Implementation of Grants Policies Needs Better Oversight, GAO-14-635: Published: Jul 21, 2014. PubliclyContinue Reading

New kind of tracking tool, canvas fingerprinting, is being used to follow visitors to thousands of top websites

ProPublica and Mashable – “A new, extremely persistent type of online tracking is shadowing visitors to thousands of top websites, from WhiteHouse.gov to YouPorn.com. First documented in a forthcoming paper by researchers at Princeton University and KU Leuven University in Belgium, this type of tracking, called canvas fingerprinting, works by instructing the visitor’s Web browser to draw a hidden image. Because eachContinue Reading

U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians – CRS

U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians. Jim Zanotti - Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs. July 3, 2014. “Since the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s, the U.S. government has committed more than $5 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, who are among theContinue Reading

Obama opens East Coast to oil search, sonic cannons – AP

AP: “The Obama administration is reopening the Eastern Seaboard to offshore oil and gas exploration, announcing final approval Friday of sonic cannons that can pinpoint energy deposits deep beneath the ocean floor. The decision promises to create plenty of jobs and thrills the oil industry, but dismays environmentalists worried about the immediate impact as well asContinue Reading