piketty Archive

Billionaire tech investors back ballot initiative to purge homeless people from San Francisco

Sequoia Capital Chairman Michael Moritz and angel investor Ron Conway have donated to San Francisco’s Proposition Q: if passed, “the city would give residents of tent encampments 24 hours’ notice to relocate to a shelter or accept a bus ticket out of town.” Other San Francisco ballot initiatives propose to build houses for homeless people, which is literally the only proven way to …

Wells Fargo whistleblower describes bank's culture of blackballing threats and coerced corruption

On the latest Planet Money podcast (MP3), a former San Francisco Wells Fargo banker describes the bullying and coercion she faced from senior management while working at the bank’s head office, and how the bank forced her out when she blew the whistle on fraud and then blacklisted her with other banks, forcing her out of the sector altogether. “Ashley” was 30 when …

How many Wells Fargo employees were fired for NOT committing fraud?

When Wells Fargo fired 5,300 employees for opening 2,000,000 accounts in its customers name (stealing their cash and trashing their credit scores in the process), it wanted us all to know that it had cleaned house, because this was just 5,300 people who, without any help from senior management, all happened to coincidentally engage in the same fraud. Today, we know …

Weapons of Math Destruction: invisible, ubiquitous algorithms are ruining millions of lives

I’ve been writing about the work of Cathy “Mathbabe” O’Neil for years: she’s a radical data-scientist with a Harvard PhD in mathematics, who coined the term “Weapons of Math Destruction” to describe the ways that sloppy statistical modeling is punishing millions of people every day, and in more and more cases, destroying lives. Today, O’Neil brings her argument to print, with a fantastic, plainspoken, call …

John Oliver on subprime auto-lending and its killswitches

We’ve been following the trade in remote kill-switches for cars sold to subprime borrowers since 2009, and watched in dismay as they got worse and worse: though John Oliver’s report on the billions inflating the subprime auto-lending bubble touches on these, he focuses on the economic factors — sleaze, corruption, moral hazard — driving the tech. It’s a kind of re-run of the …

Scalpers drive Harry Potter play prices from £140 to £8,327

What do you get when you combine fantastic wealth-inequality with winner-take-all entertainment economics and high-speed trading algorithms? The Viagogo marketplace, where botmasters who’ve harvested every available ticket for the new Harry Potter play, Harry Potter & the Cursed Child are auctioning them off to the war-criminals and financiers who’ve colonized London since the Blair years — with Viagogo trousering a healthy £1,772.53 transaction fee …

Monopoly power and the decline of small business: big business vs democracy, growth & equality

In the 15 years between 1997 and 2012: 72,000 small US manufacturers shut down; as did 108,000 local retailers and 13,000 community banks (fully half of America’s complement of small banks!). The number of US startups has dropped by 50% since 1970. These statistics are not the result of the changing times: they’re due to massive, monopolistic corporations stacking the deck against small competitors …

Foreign influence: how a Chinese businessman funneled $1.3M to Jeb Bush's campaign

Gordon Tang and Huaidan Chen — Chinese nationals who live in Singapore — own a global property speculation and development empire whose US branch is called American Pacific International Capital Inc. They followed a recipe set out in a memo by Charlie Spies, a top Republican lawyer, in order to funnel $1.3M to Jeb Bush’s PAC, then Tang offered a reporter for …