Archive for the ‘Activism’ Category

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Want to start your week out with some fun?

How about watching a short movie with “The Walking Dead” star, and zombie hunter, Andrew Lincoln, taking on “The City,” London’s version of Wall Street:

Directed by David Yates of Harry Potter movie series fame, the YouTube film packs quite a punch in its short three-plus minutes by satirically highlighting the many positive benefits that could be realized by European nations should a Financial Transactions Tax be finalized. Lincoln is joined by several famous European actors who play bankers in the future looking back on the passage of the Financial Transaction Tax as a triumph.

Though this short film is designed to pressure Britain to join its EU neighbors in signing on to the European version of the tax on financial transactions, we need this important reform just as much stateside.

While Wall Street’s profits continue to rise, the American people deal with the reality of cuts to key programs due to ongoing government budget downgrades. A small tax on financial transactions would both raise revenue for our nation and have the worthwhile benefit of curbing the type of dangerous speculation by investment firms that led to the 2008 financial crisis.

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Last night, Public Citizen, along with our allies at Free Speech for People, hosted an online conversation featuring Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and superstar activist for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates to secret corporate money in elections). The court is likely to hand down another decision soon that could further increase corruption of our democratic election system.

During yesterday’s webinar, Ben Cohen, Public Citizen’s Robert Weissman and Jonah Minkoff-Zern, and Free Speech For People’s John Bonifaz discussed how a bad ruling in the case McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission could fundamentally reshape how candidates and political parties raise money.

These leaders of the movement for a constitutional amendment to prevent corporations and the 1% from dominating our elections also called on activists to join our campaign to fight back on the day the court hands down what’s likely to be a harmful decision in the McCutcheon case. We hope you and your friends and neighbors can get involved in the events planned across the country!

Did you miss the webinar? If so, you can watch a replay here:

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After months of delay, financial regulators presented a final version of the Volcker rule last week. The rule is a key provision in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act that is supposed to prohibit banks from engaging in the kind of risky trading that brought down financial markets in 2008.

The final rule is a huge victory for Public Citizen’s activists.

“Public Citizen’s members and supporters have sent more than 15,000 of the approximately 18,000 total comments that regulators have received. They should be pleased that the final rule is considerably stronger than what regulators initially proposed,” said Micah Hauptman, financial policy counsel for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

Public Citizen’s activists broke the record for the number of comments submitted for rule-makings related to Dodd-Frank, helping to keep regulators’ feet to the fire during the rulemaking process.

Many activists weighed in by bringing financial industry expertise to bear, while many others urged regulators to stand strong against an onslaught of banking industry lobbyists working to weaken the rule.

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"Bart Naylor" "Financial policy reform"Business efforts to stifle a simple, congressionally mandated rule requiring public companies to disclose the ratio of CEO pay to the median-paid employee provides an insightful lens on the perversion of cost-benefit analysis.

Approved as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, Section 953b counts as the simplest of the 400 statutes that regulatory agencies must translate into rules with which business must comply. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed a rule in October, setting December 2 as the deadline for submitting comments. Public Citizen filed a formal comment with the SEC. In addition, more than 40,000 Public Citizen members and activists filed comments in support of this rule. To date, more than 105,000 commenters have filed letters in support of this rule.

This support reflects investor anger that CEO and senior management pay has escalated beyond economic justification. Pay for top-level execs now drains 10 percent of corporate profits where in 1990 senior management pay took only 5 percent. When finalized, the new rule will allow investors to “unit-price” CEOs. An investor weighing, say, a purchase of Oracle stock versus Hewlett Packard can now look to one more variable: Is the CEO relatively inexpensive, or costly? In this case, the Oracle multiple for CEO Larry Ellison would be more than 1,200 (expensive!) while Hewlett Packard’s Margaret Whitman is about 350 (certainly cheaper).

But K Street attorney Eugene Scalia (son of the Supreme Court justice) pioneered a roadblock for all such rules: cost-benefit analysis. In the case of “Business Roundtable v. the Securities and Exchange Commission,” he convinced the court that the SEC’s cost-benefit analysis of another mandated rule regarding nominations for corporate boards didn’t fully appreciate all the costs. In that specific case, the Business Roundtable argued that unions would cause pension fund managers to violate their fiduciary duty, which let them use the nomination of candidates to corporate boards as a bargaining tactic. It wasn’t that the SEC failed to respond to this absurdity; the court agreed with Scalia that the SEC didn’t respond enough.

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Last week, activists from across the nation tuned in to Public Citizen’s online presentation about writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Writing a letter to the editor is a very important way to have your voice heard on issues since that section is one of the most widely read parts of a newspaper.

You can get valuable tips on writing a letter to the editor by watching a recording of the webinar here:

To make sure you’re invited to the next live online discussion, sign up today.

Rick Claypool is the online director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. Follow him on Twitter at @RickClaypool.

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