On May Day, a small group of labor advocates and workers weaved through midtown Manhattan, stopping at the shiny corporate headquarters of several firms with names like KKR, Sycamore Partners, Apollo Global Management, BC Partners and Roark Capital Group. Most people don’t recognize these names, or if they do, know very little about them. But these are some of the wealthiest and most influential firms on Wall Street, behemoths within the ultra-powerful but opaque financial sector known as private equity — the arm of Wall Street that oversees trillions in assets and specializes in buying out, restructuring and selling off privately owned businesses to turn a big profit.
One of my favorite NYC restaurants had become understaffed and dirty – a shadow of its former self. I learned an interesting fact: a couple of years ago, a private equity firm had bought the local chain. The same type of firm that had already ruined my beloved neighborhood grocer. The kind that was rapidly taking over vet clinics, dental offices, and gyms on every block – though you wouldn’t know it unless you did some sleuthing. Price hikes, deteriorating conditions, and poor service — along with a certain slickness of marketing — could be signs that ownership of a business you count on has transferred to one or more firms in a rapidly-expanding Wall Street industry.
Major investment funds available to UK consumers are marketing themselves as “sustainable” and “ethical” while financing fossil fuel companies, research has found. Numerous asset managers are using “green” terms in their branding despite investing in oil giants, with the worst performer being a fund managed by BlackRock, a report by the Ethical Consumer magazine shows. The news comes amid growing scrutiny of “greenwashing” in the investment world, with the Financial Conduct Authority currently consulting on new rules to tackle the issue and HSBC recently having a series of adverts banned for misleading customers about the bank’s environmental efforts. Edward Lander, the report’s lead author, said: “We are in an absurd situation in which asset managers can label funds as “sustainable” while still investing in the world’s largest fossil fuel companies."
Public pension funds benefiting nearly 26 million Americans have invested $1.3 trillion in high-risk, high-fee “alternative” investments like private equity, hedge funds, and private real estate that have been wracked with corruption scandals and financial misconduct. Those pension funds could soon face a reckoning, as the downturn in the stock market spreads to these alternative investments, resulting in costly reductions of their estimated value and in turn, increased contributions from state and local governments to meet those losses. But most public pension members and beneficiaries have no way of knowing the extent of distress facing their investments. That’s because public pension funds rely on valuations provided by the managers themselves.
Wednesday is Finance Day at COP27, the United Nations climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, and the advocacy group Rainforest Action Network published a report exposing how major U.S. banks are financing hundreds of billions of dollars worth of fossil fuel projects—even as they tout their purported commitment to a low-carbon future. "The world's climate and energy scientists have set forth a clear mandate: In order to maintain a livable planet and prevent the global average temperature from increasing more than 1.5°C, we must rapidly and dramatically decrease greenhouse gas emissions," the RAN report—entitled Wall Street's Dirtiest Secret: How Fossil Fuel Expansion Depends on Big Bank Finance—states.
Jackson, Mississippi - In August, clean water stopped flowing from residents’ taps in Jackson, Mississippi. The crisis lasted more than six weeks, leaving 150,000 people without a consistent source of safe water. The catastrophe can be traced back to a decision by a credit ratings agency four years ago that massively inflated the city’s borrowing costs for infrastructure improvements, most notably for its water and sewer system. In 2018, ratings analysts at Moody’s Investor Service — a credit rating agency with a legacy of misconduct — downgraded Jackson’s bond rating to a junk status, citing in part the “low wealth and income indicators of residents.” The decision happened even though Jackson has never defaulted on its debt.
Burned out employees are allegedly ‘quiet quitting’ their jobs by doing the bare minimum at work and Corporate America wants you to know that this is a bad thing. They don’t want you to notice that quiet quitting isn’t quitting at all. It’s still collecting the checks so that you can afford your rent, and your dinners out at that Indian food place, and your new shoes you like and – if there’s a little left over – an education for your children. Collect the check, show up on time, and just do enough that your dumb boss can’t justify firing you.
Ukrainian President and part-time celebrity endorsement-provider Volodymyr Zelensky rang the bell at the opening ceremony for the New York Stock Exchange on September 6. Zelensky’s virtual arrival to Wall Street was intended as an opportunity to pitch his government’s newly-launched #AdvantageUkraine campaign to investors. The appeal represents a collaboration between the Ukrainian government and WPP, the largest advertising firm in the world. The president’s Wall Street event coincided with an impending economic collapse in Western Europe, where the European Investment Bank has admitted the Ukraine proxy war could “push many into poverty.”
Demanding a new political discourse in which the poor are no longer blamed for their poverty in the wealthiest nation in history, hundreds of impoverished and low-income activists on Monday rallied in New York City and marched on Wall Street to take their demands directly to the center of U.S. wealth.
Powerful Wall Street lobbyists have succeeded in blocking Section 956 of the Dodd-Frank legislation, which prohibits large financial institutions from awarding pay packages that encourage “inappropriate risks.” Regulators were supposed to implement this new rule within nine months of the law’s passage but have dragged their feet — despite widespread recognition that these bonuses encouraged the high-risk behaviors that led to the 2008 financial crisis, costing millions of Americans their homes and livelihoods. In contrast to the Wall Street lobbyists, advocates for the working poor have seen their efforts to raise the federal minimum wage and secure other important worker benefits stalled in Congress. Due to Washington inaction, millions of essential workers continue to earn poverty wages, while the reckless bonus culture is alive and well on Wall Street.
A month before the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (known as COP26) kicked off in Scotland, a new asset class was launched by the New York Stock Exchange that will “open up a new feeding ground for predatory Wall Street banks and financial institutions that will allow them to dominate not just the human economy, but the entire natural world.” So writes Whitney Webb in an article titled “Wall Street’s Takeover of Nature Advances with Launch of New Asset Class”: Called a natural asset company, or NAC, the vehicle will allow for the formation of specialized corporations “that hold the rights to the ecosystem services produced on a given chunk of land, services like carbon sequestration or clean water.” These NACs will then maintain, manage and grow the natural assets they commodify, with the end goal of maximizing the aspects of that natural asset that are deemed by the company to be profitable.
About 14 striking Alabama mine workers have taken their case to Wall Street this morning. Chanting “no contract, no coal,” the miners today launched the latest step in a strike that began April 1 for a new contract with Warrior Met Coal. United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts and union members plan to protest in front of the Manhattan offices of several hedge funds the union says are the reason the contract negotiations are stalled. “These are the ones that can be responsible in seeing that we get a decent contract,” UMWA Legislative Director Phil Smith said by phone this morning. The miners, along with other supporters, plan to protest in front of BlackRock Fund Advisors, State Street Global Advisors, and Renaissance Technologies.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is in a deep and enduring fiscal crisis. After decades of budget cuts, Chicago’s public K–12 schools have been hollowed out, magnifying the hardships of stagnant wages, rising housing prices, and more faced by the city’s working class. Pundits have predictably blamed CPS’s fiscal crisis on either the greedy teachers’ union (Republicans’ and a few austerity-minded Democrats’ scapegoat) or on conservative suburban and rural “downstate” politicians in Illinois hostile to urban children’s plight (most Democrats’ scapegoat). But Chicago is a one-party city, controlled by the Democrats, in a solidly blue state, where Democrats usually control the state government.
For most Americans, what threatens health also threatens wealth. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered the worst economic crisis in nearly a century, with millions suddenly facing hunger, unemployment, or eviction. But Wall Street doesn’t represent most Americans. In the parallel universe of the financial industry, stock indices soared to historic peaks as Americans wished good riddance to the deadliest year in our history. Detached from the daily lives of most Americans, the stock market surge almost exclusively benefited the disproportionately wealthy, and the pandemic once again lived up to its distinction as “the great clarifier.” For years, Wall Street has been increasingly out of touch with the underlying economy of workers, jobs, and wages, and the fortunes reaped by hedge funds and billionaires have not helped the millions of Americans in dire need.
The U.S. ruling class deploys the military for three main reasons: (1) to forcibly open up countries to foreign investment, (2) to ensure the free flow of natural resources from the global south into the hands of multinational corporations, and (3) because war is profitable. The third of these reasons, the profitability of war, is often lacking detail in analyses of U.S. imperialism: The financial industry, including investment banks and private equity firms, is an insatiable force seeking profit via military activity. The war industry is composed of corporations that sell goods and services to the U.S. government and allied capitalist regimes around the world.