Lunchtime Links 8-18

August 18, 2009

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Cost of credit card debt soaring (Sun-Times)  Terry Savage on the way credit card terms are changing as recently passed legislation goes into effect.  Lots of good detail in here, and I like how she concludes the piece:  Unhappy with high interest rates?  Then pay off your balance.

Manhattan office sales ground to halt in first half (Bloomberg)  “Buyers and sellers are far apart on bids while low interest rates on existing loans mean many sellers can afford to wait, CB Richard Ellis said.”

Tax bills put pressure on struggling homeowners (NYT)  First reported on my predecessor blog OptionARMageddon, investors can make a killing buying tax liens from local governments.  They’re just buying a receivable and managing collections.  Municipalities can’t (or don’t want to) collect delinquent taxes so they sell the liens for cash to investors.  They get cash up front and investors can charge steep interest rates while jumping ahead of other creditors with claims on assets in foreclosure, like the bank that owns the mortgage.   Yeah, there’s money to be made here, but most investors probably couldn’t stomach it…

A CFPA research brief (Baseline Scenario)  Rortybomb guest-posting on BS this week, links to a helpful research brief that discusses why we need a Consumer Financial Protection Agency.  On a related note, Tim Duy comments on the cover story in today’s WSJ about tough regulation in Vermont’s mortgage market.  More evidence that “financial innovation” is something we can easily do without.

Options backdating was likely more widespread than previously thought (WSJ)  As far as I’m concerned, backdating is just another example of company executives looting shareholder wealth.  Options are supposed to be incentive compensation, which is why the strike price is typically set on the date of the options grant.  If in-the-money options were granted in lieu of salaries, then I wouldn’t have as much of a problem.  But that’s not what backdating is.  These guys already pay themselves millions in salary and bonus and backdated options were just another way to skim off the top.  The story doesn’t mention it, but backdating is also a way to commit tax fraud.

Hartford Courant fires columnist, refuses to publish column critical of one of its advertisers (CT Watchdog)  Here’s the column that would have run.

Supreme Court orders new look at death row case (NYT)  I’m no lawyer, but this quote from Justice Scalia seems like a major WTF:  “This court has never held,” Justice Scalia wrote, “that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent.” ObsidianWings has a helpful explanation.

Punks assault native Alaskan, post recording on YouTube, get arrested (Anchorage Daily News)

Student can’t figure out automatic door, takes matters into own hands (YouTube)  Hilarious.

What are the odds?

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