Patt Morrison

<em>Patt Morrison</em> is known for its innovative discussions of local politics and culture, as well as its presentation of the effects of national and world news on Southern California. Hosted by

Patt Morrison for

Patt Morrison for February 15, 2011

Segments From This Episode

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Whistle while you work on Wall Street

Last year President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act into law, a provision of which allows the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to pay out as much as 30 percent of the recovered money to people – employees, ex-wives, etc. - who provide evidence of fraudulent activity. The purpose of the Whistleblower Bounty Program is to reduce the risk of future Bernie Madoffs and prevent the likes of employees at the now defunct mortgage company, Ameriquest, who doctored mortgage applications. Largely unregulated, the business of subprime-mortgage-backed securities helped to inflate the housing bubble of the last decade, and excessive risk-taking by the Wall Street banks also contributed to the need for a taxpayer-funded bailout of $700 billion in September of 2008. The debate about how to regulate the financial services industry continues as we advance our economy past the Great Recession. Enforcement officers at the S.E.C. still have creases to iron out in the proposed whistleblower program, while securities-fraud lawyers, like Stuart Meissner, have already filed several pending law suits under the Dodd-Frank law. One side of the Whistleblower debate wants to make it easier for people to come forward with information, and reward those people with cash-in-hand for doing so. The other side wants to make sure that companies can maintain their “corporate integrity programs,” such as internal compliance measures. Today, we discuss the new meaning of “whistle while you work” on Wall Street.

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Ecuador to Chevron: pay up. Chevron to Ecuador: maaaaybe later

In what appears to be the largest judgment in an environmental case, an Ecuadorian judge has ordered Chevron Corp. to pay $8.6 billion to clean-up oil pollution and cover health care costs for residents of the area. The judge also threatened to double the fine if the company doesn’t publicly apologize within fifteen days. Chevron’s answer? No to all of the above. The American oil giant inherited the case, which has been bitterly fought for nearly two decades, when it purchased Texaco Inc. in 2001, and vows to appeal the ruling, refusing to pay the fine or apologize as the judge demanded. Chevron denies responsibility for any ecological harm stemming from Texaco’s operation in the oil-rich Amazon rainforest that spanned from 1965 to 1992. Plaintiffs in the case, mostly comprised of residents of the area, first sued Texaco in New York in 1993, but Texaco, and later Chevron, successfully argued that the case should be heard in Ecuador, which was then run by a government seen as pro-American business and trade. But in 2007, Rafael Correa, who publicly supported the plaintiffs during his campaign, was elected president in Ecuador. Chevron claims his government has interfered in the case, and has also accused the plaintiffs of foul play. The plaintiffs deny the fraud allegations and insist environmental evidence supports their claim. In this game of he said, she said, who will finally prevail? And if Chevron never has to pay, how damaging will the case be to their reputation, especially in light of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster? For now, the company’s shares seem unfettered by the ruling and rose 1.3% the same day the ruling was issued.

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It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Nope – it’s a high-speed rail plan, and a lot of Republicans don’t like it

Vice President Biden announced last week the Obama Administration’s plan to put $53 billion toward upgrading and building a national, high-speed rail network. The administration has already allocated $10.5 billion to passenger rail programs, with the majority of funding going to projects in the planning stage in California and Florida. In fact, California will benefit again with the largest chunk of the new rail budget going toward the Golden State’s $43 billion bullet train project plan. But that’s all assuming Congress loosens the purse strings enough to let the plan survive. Immediately after the announcement, House Republicans publicly decried the plan, questioning its merits. House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica of Florida said previous administrations’ high-speed rail projects were failures, and Railroads Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania called the plan “insanity,” but did express support for a high-speed rail network in the Northeast where the population is dense. So will the new plan make it through the Republican controlled House of Representatives that is already hell-bent on cutting spending at every corner? And even if it does, how successful will a high-speed rail network be in a day and age during which technology advances leaps and bounds seemingly every day? If for no other reason, people might like the thought of saving the money that would normally have been spent on expensive gasoline.

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