Entries Tagged as 'Finance'

Double the losses — triple the bad service

I’m talking about the United States Postal Service — and I’m being kind on “triple the bad service”.

The Postal Service has reported net losses totaling $8.5 billion in the fiscal year ending 30 Sep 2010 — compared to a $3.8 billion loss the previous year.

The Postal Service blames the recession and the continuing growth of e-mail.

I would say the losses are more likely caused by an archaic “business” that if it weren’t for cellular carriers would have the absolute worst customer service known to mankind.

Maybe, just maybe if they increased the rate they charged for distributing all that junk mail that no one wanted; actually levied fines against companies that violated anti-pandering orders; and restructured to provide better service using fewer hands they could balance their budget.

After all, when the Postal Service looses money we don’t pass a bill like TARP to help them — we just write them a check.

Originally posted 2010-11-27 02:00:53.

CEO Pay Cut

I don’t think any of them need to worry about landing in the poor house, but here’s a list of the twenty largest pay cuts this year.  I guess the economy must be down — perhaps we can take up a collection to help them all out.

  1. Lloyd C. Blankfein, -$40.1 million
    Company: Goldman Sachs Group (GS)
    2009 salary: $600,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $262,657 (down $40.1 million from 2008)
    Lloyd C. Blankfein
  2. Vikram S. Pandit, -$38.1 million
    Company: Citigroup (C)
    2009 salary: $125,001 (down $833,332 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $3,750 (down $37.3 million from 2008)
    Vikram S. Pandit
  3. James Dimon, -$34.5 million
    Company: JPMorgan Chase (JPM)
    2009 salary: $1,000,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $265,708 (down $34.5 million from 2008)
    James Dimon
  4. Robert A. Iger, -$29.5 million
    Company: Walt Disney (DIS)
    2009 salary: $2,038,462* (up $38,462 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $19.5 million (down $29.5 million from 2008)
    Robert A. Iger
  5. David M. Cote, -$15.9 million
    Company: Honeywell International (HON)
    2009 salary: $1,800,000 (down $25,962 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $11 million (down $15.9 million from 2008)
    David M. Cote
  6. Richard H. Anderson, -$15.7 million
    Company: Delta Airlines (DAL)
    2009 salary: $600,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $1.2 million (down $15.7 million from 2008)
    Richard H. Anderson
  7. Louis C. Camilleri, -$12.4 million
    Company: Philip Morris International (PM)
    2009 salary: $1,500,000 (down $67,308 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $23 million (down $12.3 million from 2008)
    Louis C. Camilleri
  8. Rupert Murdoch, -$12.1 million
    Company: News Corp. (NWSA)
    2009 salary: $8,100,000* (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $9.8 million (down $12.1 million from 2008)
    Rupert Murdoch
  9. Kenneth I. Chenault, -$11.3 million
    Company: American Express (AXP)
    2009 salary: $1,201,923 (down $48,077 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $15.4 million (down $11.2 million from 2008)
    Kenneth I. Chenault
  10. Mark V. Hurd, -$9.8 million
    Company: Hewlett-Packard (HPQ)
    2009 salary: $1,268,750* (down $181,250 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $22.9 million (down $9.6 million from 2008)
    Mark V. Hurd
  11. Kenneth D. Lewis, -9.0 million
    Company: Bank of America (BAC)
    2009 salary: 0* (down $1.5 million from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $32,171 (down $9.0 million from 2008)
    Kenneth D. Lewis
  12. Stephen A. Roell, -$8.4 million
    Company: Johnson Controls (JCI)
    2009 salary: $1,371,500* (up $46,500 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $5.1 million (down $8.5 million from 2008)
    Stephen A. Roell
  13. James W. Owens, -$7.9 million
    Company: Caterpillar (CAT)
    2009 salary: $1,550,004* (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $5.2 million (down $7.9 million from 2008)
    James W. Owens
  14. John B. Hess, -$7.8 million
    Company: Hess (HES)
    2009 salary: $1,500,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $12.1 million (down $7.8 million from 2008)
    John B. Hess
  15. John T. Chambers, -$6.0 million
    Company: Cisco Systems (CSCO)
    2009 salary: $375,000* (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $12.4 million (down $6.0 million from 2008)
    John T. Chambers
  16. Miles D. White, -$3.2 million
    Company: Abbott Laboratories (ABT)
    2009 salary: $1,852,319 (up $56,848 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $20.1 million (down $3.2 million from 2008)
    Miles D. White
  17. Daniel R. Hesse, -$3.1 million
    Company: Sprint Nextel (S)
    2009 salary: $1,200,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $11.1 million (down $3.1 million from 2008)
    Daniel R. Hesse
  18. Thomas M. Ryan, -$3.0 million
    Company: CVS Caremark (CVS)
    2009 salary: $1,400,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $14.8 million (down $3.0 million from 2008)
    Thomas M. Ryan
  19. Ivan G. Seidenberg, -$2.9 million
    Company: Verizon Communications (VZ)
    2009 salary: $2,100,000 (same as 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $14.9 million (down $2.9 million from 2008)
    Ivan G. Seidenberg
  20. Frederick W. Smith, -$2.7 million
    Company: FedEx (FDX)
    2009 salary: $1,355,028* (down $75,438 from 2008)
    2009 bonus, options and other comp: $6.4 million (down $2.6 million from 2008)
    Frederick W. Smith

Source: Equilar Inc.

Originally posted 2010-08-22 02:00:27.

It’s not our fault we went bankrupt…

I wasn’t sure it it was a new daytime sitcom or a hearing when former Lehman CEO Dick Fuld delivered his 1680 work prepared testimony.

Lehman was a strong company that had corrected it’s problems:

In retrospect, there is no question we made some poorly timed business decisions and investments, but we addressed those mistakes and got ourselves back to a strong equity position … There is nothing about this profile that would indicate a bankrupt company.

The market and the public were wrong to lose confidence in Lehman:

Lehman’s demise was caused by uncontrollable market forces and the incorrect perception and accompanying rumors that Lehman did not have sufficient capital to support its investments.

The government was at fault for not banning naked short selling or allowing Lehman to convert to a bank holding company or let it take deposits:

Each of those requests was denied at the time. Tellingly, though, each measure was later implemented in some form for other investment banks during the days and weeks following Lehman’s bankruptcy filing.

Lehman was the victim:

This loss of confidence, although unjustified and irrational, became a self-fulfilling prophecy and culminated in a classic run on the bank starting on September 10, 2008, that then led Lehman to file for bankruptcy four days later, in the early morning hours of September 15.

For more comedy (without my satire — and please don’t think I’m serious about anything I’ve written in this post) see the links below; and don’t laugh too hard.

Dick Fuld
Repo 105
Lehman bankruptcy attorney
New York Fed general counsel

Originally posted 2010-09-02 02:00:11.

Sold: Amityville Horror House

by Sarah Mcbride

Trying to sell a house in today’s lackluster real-estate market?

Maybe you just need a good story behind the property. That may have helped homeowner Brian Wilson, who just sold his place at 108 Ocean Ave. in Amityville, NY. The house inspired the bestselling book and movie “The Amityville Horror” after the 1974 murders that took place there.

The five bedroom Dutch-colonial style dwelling was listed in May for $1.15 million. It sold for an undisclosed price, the New York Daily News reported.

After the murders of the DeFeo family, the property sold to George and Kathleen Lutz, who said the house was haunted and moved out shortly after buying it. Their experiences provided the basis for a bestselling book and movie.

A bank foreclosed on the house, and it was sold in 1977 to James Cromarty, who lived there ten years and told Newsday in May that “nothing weird ever happened there.” He sold it to another couple that also lived there ten years. It last sold in 1997 for $310,000.

The murderer, family member Robert DeFeo Jr., is still incarcerated.

Amityville Horror House

The house in 1974
Richard Drew/AP

Original Story on NPR.org

Originally posted 2010-08-20 02:00:19.

Senators Oppose DoD Reduction Plan

Defense Secretary Roberts Gates announced plans for reigning in the better than half trillion dollar budget of the Department of Defense, and immediately Senators from Virgina publicly opposed part of the plan.

Sen. Jim Webb released a statement saying getting rid of the Joint Forces Command “would be a step backward and could be harmful” to the military

Sen. Mark Warner said: “I can see no rational basis for dismantling” the Joint Forces Command.

You see, Gates plan included cutting nearly 3000 jobs in Virginia; so the Senators naturally wanted to protect their turf without any though of the impact to the nation… if everyone thinks like these senators, we’ll make no progress in reducing the huge deficit that defense spending is contributing to (and has been for a very long time).

Once again the solution is — vote out the incumbents — they’re clearly not part of the solution, they’re the problem.

In addition to the cut of the Joint Forces Command (which could save as much as $240 million), the plan also includes:

  • Eliminating some of the 65 military boards and commissions to cut the budget for them by 25 percent in fiscal year 2011;
  • A review of all Defense Department intelligence to eliminate needless duplication;
  • Eliminating the Defense Department’s Business Transformation Agency, which has day-to-day oversight of acquisition programs that would be handled by others in the department;
  • Reducing funding for service support contractors by 10 percent a year for each of the next three years;
  • Freezing the number of jobs in the Officer of the Secretary of Defense, the Defense Agencies and Combatant Commands at current levels;
  • Seeking to stop “brass creep,” a term former Sen. John Glenn used for situations when higher-ranking officers were doing jobs that lower ranking officers could handle. To address that problem, Gates is ordering a freeze on the number of generals, admirals and senior civilian officials at current levels.

Gates was adamant that the Pentagon must change it’s way of thinking about money, and stated:

The culture of endless money that has taken hold must be replaced by a culture of savings and restraint. Toward this end, I am directing that any new proposal or initiatives, large or small, be it policy, program or ceremony, come with a cost estimate. That price tag will help us determine whether what we are gaining or hope to gain is really worth the cost.

Whether the plan by Gates is the best way to reduce military spending or not is hard to say; but certainly I don’t think any senator could study and evaluate the plan as quickly as the the ones from Virginia did and make an informed recommendation.

Gates proposes cutting Joint Forces command from defense budget on CNN.com


Originally posted 2010-08-23 02:00:21.


No, not Rowe vs Wade (but I’m sure I’ll have a rant on that if the current court hears a case that could reverse that land mark decision)… but Result Only Work Environment; essentially a version of “Flex Time” that is focused on increasing productivity by avoiding “presenteeism” (where someone is physically in the office, but mentally somewhere else).

You can read about an article on NPR about the Human Services and Public Health Department of Hennepin County (Minneapolis, MN).

The End Of 9-To-5: When Work Time Is Anytime

Originally posted 2010-03-29 02:00:45.

High Speed Rail might be de-railed

It’s very likely that one of the casualties of the mid-term elections will be the high-speed-rail grants.

Representative John Mica (R-FL) who is in line to be chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has indicated he wants to re-examine all $10 billion worth of high-speed-rail grants that have already been awarded around the country.

High speed rail service would be an extremely cost effective competitor to increasing air transportation; it would be far more eco-friendly; use less energy; potentially use renewable energy; and unlike airports, high speed rail stations could be in the middle of busy metropolitan areas.

No question the US has to tighten it’s belt and bring it’s spending in line with it’s bank accounts — but investments in long term infrastructure improvements are likely what will allow the economy to rebound and gain a solid footing.

I’d say we need to look at all the spending and make sure we make cuts where it’s waste first — and then weigh the costs and benefits before making other cuts.

As I’ve posted before — we could cut down the salaries, retirement pensions, and health insurance costs for elected official… that’s a good start to savings — and elected officials should get the same “benefits” they approve for the American people.

Originally posted 2010-11-23 02:00:13.

There’s no place like home…

According to a survey by Mercer (a London based investment services company owned by Marsh and McLennan Cos) that’s true is you live in Vienna.

Their survey considered political stability, crime, economy, personal freedom, health services, sewage, air pollution, schools, public utilities, transportation, housing, and climate.  It aslo took into account the cities’ restaurants, theaters, sports, availability of consumer goods, and record of natural disasters.

The United States didn’t have a single city appear in the top ten.

The ten most liveable cities included Vancouver Canada; Auckland New Zealand; Dusseldorf, Munich, and Frankfurt Germany; Bern Switzerland; and Sydney Australia.

Of US cities, Honolulu ranked 31, San Francisco ranked 33, and Boston ranked 37.

The company also prepared a list that emphasized eco-friendly cities; focusing on water availability, cleanliness, waste removal, sewage, air pollution, and traffic congestion.

Honolulu placed second, bested only by Calgary Canada.  Minneapolis was sixth, Pittsburgh was thirteenth, and Washington was twenty-third.  Cities in Canada, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan dominated the list.

Originally posted 2010-05-31 02:00:15.

Credit Card Game

So you’re looking to add another credit card to your wallet… here’s a few options and things to consider ad you play the credit card game and get the financial institutions to pay you.

Discover — promo offer, spend $500 and get $50 cash back; but you’ll only get 0.25% cash back in the first tier (but they do have on going special categories, and the cash back percentage goes up as you spend more; but certainly their are better options).

Walmart Discover — promo offer will give you $20 cash back if you spend $100 on it the day you apply at a Walmart store (you get a check with your first statement).  Keep in mind that the Walmart Discover isn’t actually issued by Discover Financial Service, but rather by GE Money Bank (so it has to be managed through the Walmart portal, not Discover; and it doesn’t have many of the features of a regular Discover card).

NOTE: Discover branded card allow you to get cash back at a Walmart or Sam’s Club (which is charged as a purchase, not cash advance).

Citi Diamond Preferred MC (or AMEX) — promo “5% bonus” on gas, drugstores, and supermarkets for the first year; if you spend $300 in the first three months you get a $50 gift card; 1% normally — virtual credit card numbers

Citi Dividend MC — “bonus” categories change; 1% minimum ($300 max rebate per year) — virtual credit card numbers.

Chase Freedom VISA — promo 5% on gas and travel right now, the “bonus” categories change; 1% minimum.

CapitalOne Platinum VISA — 2% on gas and groceries, 1% minimum — low rent bank; but pay your bills and you will be fine.

Costco AMEX — 3% gas and dining; 2% travel, 1% minimum (requires paid Costco membership; $3000 purchase limit on 3% gas, 1% afterwards).

Most all the cash back cards now don’t offer good cash back rates for long (you have to play the promo game)… one way to avoid that is get a “branded” card at a place you do lots of business (like if you bought Shell gas most of the time get the Shell VISA — but it only works if there’s a card from place you do a lot of business and it pays say 5% there and 1% elsewhere; Chase has lots of those types of cards).

My feeling is the right number of credit cards is THREE

  • VISA
  • Master Card
  • Discover

You can argue four if you like AMEX — and that would probably be either the Costco or Citi AMEX for the best deal.

I would say acquire a credit card no more often than every three months until you’re at the level you want… if you find a card you like better than one you have — acquire it and just don’t use the other card (you can close it as well, but that really doesn’t buy you anything). DO NOT apply for more than a single credit card per month; and be careful about opening a bank account AND applying for a credit card in the same thirty day window (do the credit card first).

NOTE: Use credit cards responsibly.  If you can’t afford to pay the balance off every month — don’t make the purchase.  While many people keep revolving balances on credit cards, the interest rate (even a good interest rate for a credit card) makes the cost of what you’re purchasing ridiculous.  If you feel you won’t use a credit card responsibly — look for a financial institution that offers rewards on their debit card.

If I were applying for a new card right now it would probably be the Citi Diamond Preferred; and I’m considering applying for a Citi Diamond once the Chase 5% gas deal is over.

NOTE: I have a Discover, Walmart Discover, Citi Dividend, and Chase Freedom (along with others that I have not included on the this list).  I do not have (nor do I want) any AMEX card; nor do I personally want to do business with CapitolOne.

Originally posted 2010-07-23 02:00:19.

Citibank World Dividends Master Card

I got home Friday evening and had an alert from Citibank that a statement was ready on my Citibank World Dividends Master Card account… this is an account they’d converted from their Dividends reward card that had a really nice cash back program to a card that really didn’t have a very good program at all, so I really didn’t use the card much; but I’d done a small charge on it a couple months ago, and then paid it off when the bill was issued.

So, the alert was notifying me that I had a statement ready that would have a zero balance, and would only be showing a posted payment.

The problem was… there wasn’t a PDF of the statement available.  And the same thing had happened to me about eight months previously; so I actually knew exactly what it was.

The bottom line was some programmer at Citi decided (or was instructed to) not produce PDF statements for account with zero balances period… ignoring the fact that federal law requires a credit card company to issue out a statement with a zero balance should there be any transactions in the period the statement covers.

Certainly the supervisor I was transferred understood the requirement that a statement be issued when there was transactions during that period…

But, once again, I was sent over to a on-line technical support agent; who insisted the problem was my browser… Firefox 8; so we tried it in Internet Explorer 9… same thing, no PDF statement… then we tried it in Internet Explorer 8, Internet Explorer 7, and Firefox 5… guess what, still no PDF statement (she of course wouldn’t have it that I’d gone through all of this before — she had to make sure she wasted the maximum amount of my time that she could); then the technical support representative decide that maybe she should actually ask someone about this issue… and –SURPRISE– she was told that there was an issue in the system and in fact PDF statements were not issued out on account that had a zero balance, that they had to be requested to be generated.

While normally I believe in the three strikes you’re out paradigm, for a financial institution as well run as Citibank I made an exception… I decided because they managed to waste 50 minutes of my life today; and another about 90 minutes of my life several months ago on the exact same issue, that they were OUT!

I requested a return to a supervisor and canceled my account.

As always, I wished her the best of luck finding another job when the financial institution she worked for went out of business, and assured her that I would do everything in my power to encourage everyone I knew to dump Citibank.

The only unfortunate thing about cancelling the account was losing the $13.56 in Dividend reward points, but I certainly wasn’t going to keep the card until I had accumulated the $50.00 in reward points necessary to request a check.

I still have a two other Citibank credit cards (one VISA and one Master Card)… and while I may keep those cards for the moment (since Citibank and Bank of America are the only two financial institutions in this country that provide virtual credit card numbers)… but I will guarantee you I’ll make sure as little money as possible is charged through Citibank, and should one of my credit unions add virtual credit cards Citibank will be history for me.


On Sunday I received an email from Citibank telling me that there was a PDF of my statement available for download.  Guess what — no statement.  I called up the clueless people at Citibank (again) to waste (more) of my time…

I guess maybe they’ll just have to change the spelling of their company to Shittybank.

Originally posted 2011-11-20 02:00:27.