Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Top Ten Wealthiest Members of Congress - even though 2009 saw one of the worst economic downturns in America -

Top Ten Wealthiest Members of Congress - even though 2009 saw one of the worst economic downturns in America - 

The richest members of Congress actually got even wealthier last year, even though 2009 saw one of the worst economic downturns in America since the Great Depression, according the The Hill, which released its annual ranking of lawmakers' estimated wealth.
Members of Congress are required to file financial disclosure forms each year, and often report finances in broad ranges. The Hill took the bottom number of each range reported, and incorporated the sums of their liabilities and assets to come up with each number.
The 50 wealthiest lawmakers were worth an estimated $1.4 billion in 2009 - about $85.1 million more than in 2008. The growth is due, in part, to the fact that the stock market actually rebounded last year, helping lawmakers who had large investments.
Three Republicans and seven Democrats made up the top 10 slots, which are nearly the same as the previous year. Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., topped the list for the second year in a row with a whopping estimated worth of $188.6 million. Congressman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, however, joined the list for the first time, replacing representative Harry Teague, D-N.M.
Here are the top ten, along with their estimated worth.
1. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.): $188.6 million
2. Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.): $160.1 million
3. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.): $152.3 million
4. Sen. Jay Rockefeller ( D-W.Va.): $83.7 million
5. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas): $73.8 million
6. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.); $70.2 million
7. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.): $56.5 million
8. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.): $53.5 million
9. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.): $49.7 million
10. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.): $46.1 million

Read more: http://politics.blogs.foxnews.com/2010/08/31/top-ten-wealthiest-members-congress#ixzz0yEErPqtm

Picture of the day - NASA - Three Storms - Hurricane Danielle, Hurricane Earl, and a developing tropical depression -

Picture of the day - NASA - Three Storms - Hurricane Danielle, Hurricane Earl,  and a developing tropical depression -

Hurricane Danielle, Hurricane Earl and a developing tropical depression

Read more - http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_1749.html

Ron Paul questions whether there's gold at Fort Knox, NY Fed - wants to force an audit of U.S. holdings of gold -

Ron Paul questions whether there's gold at Fort Knox, NY Fed - wants to force an audit of U.S. holdings of gold - 

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said he plans to introduce legislation next year to force an audit of U.S. holdings of gold.
Paul, a longtime critic of the Federal Reserve and U.S. monetary policy, said he believes it's "a possibility" that there might not actually be any gold in the vaults of Fort Knox or the New York Federal Reserve bank.

libertarian lawmaker told Kitco News, a website tracking news about precious metals, that an audit was necessary to determine how much the U.S. maintains in gold reserves in case the government were to use gold to back the dollar.

“If there was no question about the gold being there, you think they would be anxious to prove gold is there,” he said.  
“Our Federal Reserve admits to nothing, and they should prove all the gold is there. There is a reason to be suspicious and even if you are not suspicious why wouldn’t you have an audit?

“I think it is a possibility," Paul said when asked if there was truth to rumors that there was actually no gold at Ft. Knox or the New York Fed.

Paul had been one of the Republicans to spearhead a broader audit of the Fed as part of the Wall Street reform bill passed through Congress this year. The provision, which was weakened somewhat in the final version, found Paul joining with a number of Democrats to require the Fed to open its books and outline its assets and liabilities.

The gold reserves, which Paul's new bill would audit, are generally seen as a guarantee on a nation's currency, but the U.S. moved the dollar away from being tied to the price of gold in 1972.

Paul stopped short of calling for the reinstitution of the gold standard and instead called for the government to allow the use of hard currency — gold and silver tender — alongside the use of the dollar.

"If people get tired of using the paper standard they can deal in gold or silver,” he said. 

Wall Street insiders this year have sold more than five times the number of corporate shares as they have purchases -

Wall Street insiders this year have sold more than five times the number of corporate shares as they have purchases - 

In a move that may reflect a growing unwillingness to tie their personal fortunes to those of their companies, Wall Street insiders this year have undertaken more than five times the number of stock sales of their corporate shares as they have purchases.
Officers and directors of Goldman SachsJ.P. MorganCitigroup, and Wells Fargo have sold about $100 million worth of stock so far this year, amid relatively small buying activity, according to public stock filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that have been analyzed by the research firm InsiderScore.
Year to date, Goldman [GS  136.93    0.27  (+0.2%)   ] insiders—a list including CEO Lloyd Blankfein, President Gary Cohn, and Chief Financial Officer David Viniar—have sold a combined $64 million worth of shares.
J.P. Morgan [JPM  36.36    0.51  (+1.42%)   ] insiders, including treasury and securities services head  Michael Cavanagh and vice chairman Steven Black, have sold about $16 million.
Citi [C  3.709    0.039  (+1.06%)   ] executives, including institutional client group head John Havens and Asia Pacific region head Stephen Bird, have sold about $5 million. At Wells Fargo[WFC  23.55    0.30  (+1.29%)   ], CEO John Stumpf recently sold nearly $6 million worth of shares, following wealth-management head David Carroll, who sold roughly $5 million in stock this past March.
Ben Silverman, research director at InsiderScore, said the recent swath of insider sales at banks signifies that “business is back to normal.” After wild swings in valuation at the major Wall Street firms, “we’ve got a degree ofstabilization at the banks,” he said, and insiders may be looking for attractive prices at which to sell.
Source: InsiderScore

Another factor: the increasing degree to which annual bonuses are made up of stock or options rather than cash. Last year, about 70 percent of companies used stock options for compensation, up from 63 percent for the prior year, according to the management consulting firm the Hay Group. Banks say that a larger proportion of pay is now doled out in options as well—making recipients want to cash out at an earlier date than in past years.
For many on Wall Street, the pre-crisis buy-and-hold mentality may be changing, say bank employees and compensation trackers. Holding company stock was once a chance for great wealth creation, as well as a source of pride for bank employees. But after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothersrendered its shares worthless and the fire sale of Bear Stearns dropped its stock to rock-bottom levels, more and more bank workers are reluctant to keep the company shares longer than they have to.

“There’s an understanding of the risk that these companies entail now,” said Silverman.
Bank spokespeople noted that much of the activity was governed by strict timing parameters placed on insiders as well as personal financial decisions, rather than a lack of confidence in the company’s stocks.
The largest stock sales at Goldman were undertaken by Blankfein, Cohn, and Viniar, who sold about $14 million, $11 million, and $10 million worth of stock respectively. Under an agreement struck two years ago, none of those executives may sell more than 10 percent of their common-stock holdings until October 2011.
But senior executives in the firm’s compliance area, including general counsel Esta Stecher, who sold about $9 million in stock, head of compliance Alan Cohen, who sold $1.5 million in stock, and chief accountant Sarah Smith, who sold a little more than $500,000 in stock, were also active sellers. Those officials are not bound by the October 2011 lockup.
The activity was nothing unusual, said a firm spokesman. Insiders at Goldman “are restricted by very narrow windows in which they can sell,” he said, and it “shouldn’t be surprising” if they take advantage of them. Much of the activity, he added, “was exercising ten-year options” that expired late last year.
Source: InsiderScore

At JP Morgan, by far the largest seller was Black, who sold about $7 million in company stock in March, not long after he was named vice chairman. (Black had previously been co-head of the investment bank.) Cavanagh sold $1.5 million of stock and chief administrative officer Frank Bisignano sold a little more than $1 million of stock the following month.
A JP Morgan spokeswoman said that the stock sales by Black, Cavanaugh, and others this past spring marked what officials saw as “a first good window” in which to sell, and noted that there had been no further sales after April 15.
At Citi this past April, Havens sold about $3 million worth of stock; about a month ago, Bird sold a little more than $1 million. CFO John Gerspach also sold about $300,000 worth of stock recently. All told, Citi insiders have offloaded about 1.2 million shares in the last fourth months—and bought none.
A company spokesman said that the rash of sales was motivated largely by pent-up selling activity that resulted from restrictions placed on the bank by the U.S. government as part of the TARP aid program, in which the bank was a major participant. Citi repaid its TARP loans late last year, but the government continues to hold a significant stake in the company.
At Wells Fargo, Stumpf unloaded his $6 million in stock in late July and mid August. Those sales followed a $5 million sale in March by Carroll.
A Wells spokeswoman noted that Stumpf made his sales "for presonal reasons related to a real estate transaction" and that he remains a "large Wells Fargo shareholder" whose "net worth remains primarily invested in the company."