Archive for April, 2009

Credit Card Companies, Processors, Other Financial Intermediaries and Their Clients May Be Targeted for Tax Fraud and Failure to Have Robust Anti-Money Laundering Processes

April 16, 2009

It was reported in the New York Times today that the federal government is widening its investigation of offshore tax evasion to include services sold by the First Data Corporation (“FDC”), a large processor of credit card transactions.

 

The IRS has asked FDC to turn over account information on “scores of merchants that sell or provide offshore services, like financial transactions processing and to identify American clients who through credit cards, debit cards and other financial processing

arrangements may have diverted unreported income offshore or received unreported income from undisclosed offshore sources…”

 

While not mentioned in the article, I would assume Treasury, FinCEN and the IRS as well as the Department of Justice and the FBI and State Attorney General Offices will widen the scope of the investigation to banks, credit card companies and other financial processors and intermediaries who may be facilitating both tax fraud and money laundering by both American and non-American clients in many offshore tax havens.

 

I would expect a likely result of this investigation will be front page civil and criminal enforcement of both tax fraud and money laundering under the tax laws and the Bank Secrecy Act as well as new  regulations which will impose robust reporting standards on these companies (e.g., SARs, CTRs, Tax reporting documentation, etc), as well as to require senior officers at these companies to certify that they have anti-money laundering and tax reporting processes in place together with other internal controls necessary to prevent tax evasion, money laundering and fraud by their clients.  

 

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Isn’t it time For Joint Custody in New York?

April 15, 2009

Under New York law, for both parents to have joint custody over their children they both must consent before a Court will agree to joint custody for their children.  Absent such agreement, the non-custodial parent is typically left with limited visitation rights and the heavy financial burden to pay child support.  Critical rights as to a children’s’ choice of doctors and medical care, education, religion school and all other major decisions all devolve to the custodial parent who may or may not be the best decision maker for the children.

 

Isn’t it time for New York to permit joint custody and shared child-rearing responsibilities for the children of a divorced couple?  Wouldn’t this be in the best interests of the children?            

Gun Control—Isn’t it time New York City Imposed Tough Gun Laws?

April 15, 2009

Isn’t it time to impose tough gun laws in New York City?  Among other proposals I have heard about are to require periodic registration (and re-registration) of the purchase of new guns akin to automobile registration, limiting the number of guns that can be purchased in a 3 month period, requiring gun dealers to periodically inventory their firearms and impose tough penalties for the criminal possession of firearms.    

Why not Normalize Relations With Cuba?

April 14, 2009

It was reported today that the administration is abandoning its long-time restrictions on the ability of Cuban-Americans to visit and send money to family members on the island.  According to the article in the New York Times, the White House was not willing to normalize relations with Cuba.  I would like to know why the U.S. doesn’t want lift travel restriction for all Americans, as well as start to build diplomatic ties with it and why the Cuban exile community opposes any softening of American policy?  

Travel to Thailand–Is it Safe?

April 14, 2009

   The New York Times today reported that there is now strive in the streets in Bangkok and 2 people have been killed and 113 people hurt in the chaos.  Is it safe for Americans to travel to Thailand?

Isn’t it Time To Kick Start Mayor Bloomberg’s Plan to Charge a Fee to Drive into New York City?

April 14, 2009

Isn’t it time to kick start Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to charge Manhattan motorists an extra fee to drive in the city.

Under the original proposal the plan would have charged most drivers $8 to drive below 60th Street between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Truckers would have paid $21.  I would also extend the ban to the weekends as well.  

In this time of economic crisis wouldn’t such a plan if implemented not only raise money for the City, but would go a long way towards alleviating heavy congestion, pollution and cleaning up the environment in New York City as well as providing a model for other cities to follow. 

Should Merchant Vessels Be Armed By Use of Private Security Services?

April 13, 2009

 

 

The recent rescue by the U.S. Navy of Captain Phillips raises the issue whether it would be wise for the merchant fleet to have private armed security services on-board their vessels as a deterrent.  Since the pirates know that the merchant fleet is currently unarmed, they have taken advantage of this fact and are likely gearing up for more piracy attacks on merchant vessels.   The Somali pirates have already threatened retribution on the merchant fleet for the attack by U.S. Navy.  

 

The argument that if crew should carry firearms that this may create more harm then good if the pirates get their hands on these weapons is negated somewhat if a private armed security force is on-board these vessels since they have presumably been trained to address these issues.  

 

I encourage your comments.

 

 

 

Can America Afford to Tell The World’s Best and Brightest to Work Someplace Else?

April 13, 2009

 

In yesterday’s New York Times there was an article on the front page entitled, “A Google Whiz Searches for His Place on Earth.”  The article quotes Craig R. Barrett, the Chairman of Intel who concludes, “We are watching the decline and fall of the United States as an economic power – not hypothetically, but as we speak.”  He blames a slouching education system that cannot be easily fixed, but says a stopgap measure would be to let companies hire more foreign workers.

 

I worked for Lehman 20 years and am looking for work now as a lawyer.  While I am concerned about my future, I am just as concerned about having the U.S. continue outdated and outmoded immigration policies that have a chilling effect on the best and brightest students who first come to our colleges and universities to study and then desire to add value at American companies by staying to work in the U.S. 

 

I expect that permitting these students to work in the U.S. will only strengthen U.S. companies, allow them to prosper in a tough economy and have a economic and cultural multiplier effect for us all.  In addition, any one of  these exceedingly bright young people can be the entrepreneurs for the next Google.  Simply put, can we truly afford to tell the best and brightest from other countries to look for work elsewhere?  

 

I encourage your comments on this important topic          

 

 

Female Soldiers in Irag report an epidemic of sexual assault and harrassment. Is the military taking them seriously?

April 12, 2009

Helen Benedict recently wrote an article entitled, “Betrayal in the Field”

in the Spring 2009 edition of The Magazine of Columbia University which enlightened me on the danger not only from the enemy but also the risks they faced from their fellow male soldiers.  The article points out that the Defense Department created the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) which offered soldiers the choice to report assaults anonymously and by hiring sexual assault counselors and in January after several congressional hearings and pressure

from representatives Jane Harman (D-CA) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the Army announced its own efforts to improve conditions for woman.

 

It would helpful to hear if the situation improves with this new approach by the Army.

 

Mutual Funds: Should the Government Put Sunlight on their practices and rid their operations of conflicts?

April 12, 2009

 

 

John C Bogle, the founder of the Vanguard Group may be onto something.  He has suggested that investment advisors and money managers for mutual and other funds haven’t done a good job at the kind of diligence that will protect their investors from

huge losses by stating, “How could so many highly skilled, highly paid securities analysts and researchers have failed to question the toxic-filled, leveraged balance sheets of Citigroup and other leading banks and investment banks.”

 

Mr. Bogle has also suggested that the government must apply a federal standard of a fiduciary duty to institutional money managers and that there is a deep conflict of interest because money management firms and their employees who now serve two masters, their shareholders (e.g. Lehman Brothers) and their fund clients and that such conflicts can be resolved only by separating the money management units from the larger publicly traded banks and investment firms.  For example, under such a plan, the Deutsche Bank Group would spin off DWS Investments, its mutual fund unit or Sun Life of Canada would divest itself of MFS Investment Management.

 

As Treasury and the SEC get more into the weeds with the systemic regulation of these funds, Mr. Bogle’s ideas desire serious consideration by both Congress and the regulators, as well as consideration of the number of independent directors on the boards of these publicly-traded funds.

 

I question if these captive boards as they now exist for the public-traded funds provide any check against the excesses in the recent past.

 

I encourage your comments.