Yes, COVID-19 kills people. But so does a collapsed economy. Finally, states are beginning to let more businesses open. But there’s a problem. A big one, that could keep crucial businesses closed.
Georgia allowed some businesses to open on Friday. Several other states will do that on May 1.
But some businesses might not open even when they can. Why? Because an employee or customer might get COVID-19 and sue them.
As long as someone might get sick, businesses might get sued. As long they’re sued, they could lose. They could face and lose dozens or hundreds of law suits. They could lose tens of millions of dollars. That would put the small and medium-sized business under. Why risk it? Why not wait?
Lawsuits have already been filed against businesses over COVID-19. Cruise lines were the first businesses to get hit with suits. They’ve already lost almost a billion dollars worth of business. They won’t be sailing for at least another three months. With all the suits they might lose a lot more. (Suits against them have been hard to win in the past, but who knows how the pandemic will change the courts?)
Other businesses look at them as a warning. Small businesses that can’t afford lawyers are going to be very worried.
Some industries require close human contact. They include hotels, hair salons, daycares, gyms and restaurants. How are they going to achieve social distancing? They can’t guarantee employees or customers will always be safe. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Walmart over the death of an employee.
Some of the businesses that were allowed to open in Georgia aren’t doing so. Others are opening with numerous restrictions.
Businesses Shouldn’t be Liable
What’s the answer, then?
Protect businesses from being sued. More people are proposing this. President Trump said on Tuesday that he wants to shield businesses from liability. For example, he is going to order meat processing facilities to stay open, and will sign an executive order shielding them from lawsuits.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several business groups are asking Congress to set a federal standard that limits liability for employers who follow CDC guidelines. White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow says reopened businesses shouldn’t be liable for coronavirus infections. Lawsuits may put them out of business. A writer at National Reviewurges state legislatures and Congress to pass laws shielding them. Both see that America needs businesses opening as fast as they can.
Some states are already working on this. The House and Senate in Utah passed a bill last Thursday to protect businesses. It would make business owners “immune from civil liability for damages or an injury” when someone has been exposed to COVID-19 while on the premises doing something associated with the business.
A law enacted in March in New York protects health care facilities and volunteer organizations from both civil and criminal liability due to COVID-19. While it shields businesses from negligence, they will still be liable for willful misconduct, recklessly or intentionally inflicting harm.
Businesses can already protect themselves in some ways. But they also remain vulnerable. Employees who contract COVID-19 at work can file a worker’s compensation claim, which removes their right to sue. And they will have to prove they contracted the illness at work, which will not be easy. However, a handful of states have shifted the burden to the employer when it comes to essential employees. The states’ laws presume that the employee caught COVID-19 at work. However, a judge in Illinois issued a temporary restraining order against the rule after business groups filed lawsuits opposing it.
Businesses can also protect themselves to some extent by following the CDC guidelines. Only healthcare facilities are required to follow the guidelines, but businesses would be wise to. A court will take that into consideration when deciding a lawsuit. That means using social distancing, providing hand sanitizer, separating sick employees and possibly providing face masks.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is allowing employers — for the time being — to take the temperatures of on-site employees, even though this constitutes a medical exam. Businesses should also follow workplace guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. One lawyer recommends that businesses have employees sign a waiver making them aware of potential COVID-19 exposure.
Of course, there is always a risk. Businesses with immunity might shirk their responsibility to take precautions against the virus. But so far it appears from media reports that the businesses reopening are taking great precautions. They should not be punished. The country needs them open. A sensible law should protect them.
Real Vision’s Managing Editor Ed Harrison sits down with Roger Hirst to discuss what’s going on in markets today. Harrison and Hirst touch on the economic numbers coming out of the U.S. and Europe, the possibility of China exporting deflation, and how the market will move forward in light of this information.
Las Vegas Transforms Casino Into Food Bank As Working Poor Line Up For Miles
In a post-corona world, Americans returned to some casinos along the Las Vegas Strip, but as we explain in this piece, they are not gambling.
A new, shocking reality has unfolded in a world of social distancing, stay-at-home public health orders, a crashed economy, and tens of millions of people out of work, the rise of America’s new breadlines, as we’ve documented over the last several months, has been reminiscent of the breadlines of the Great Depression.
The Daily Mail, citing local reports from Nevada Public Radio, indicates some casinos in “Sin City” have been transformed into food banks as tens of thousands of working poor have recently become unemployed in the past six weeks thanks to the lockdowns. Many of these folks were employed at casinos, hotels, restaurants, and other non-essential businesses that remain closed.
Now, with an influx of people who can’t survive on $1,200 checks from President Trump, and have drained savings, as their insurmountable debts cannot be serviced (likely deferred at the moment), casinos have joined the effort to feed America.
On Tuesday (April 28), we described in “”Money Is Running Out” – Vegas Struggles To Survive Shutdown” that an economic sh*tstorm has slammed into the city, decimating the labor force. One in three jobs in the state is tied to the tourism, leisure, hospitality, and the gambling industries, which has seen massive layoffs, resulting in a jump in the state’s unemployment rate to over 17%.
Three Square food bank COO Larry Scott, who oversaw food distribution at Boulder Station Hotel & Casino on Wednesday (April 29) said a traffic jam of cars stretched miles long.
“If you were to just drive past that line, you would absolutely see that the cars are representative of a lot of different economic classes,” Scott told Nevada Public Radio.
Scott said the virus has been “absolutely impactful” on the local economy. As we have previously noted, Vegas has imploded.
To make matters worse, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has extended the stay-at-home orders that will likely result in Vegas closed for another month.
It’s only a matter of time before people get angry and start to protest. Oops! It’s already happening, according to NBC Vegas…
That’s the mainstream narrative when it comes to the economic pain we’re feeling right now.
But in reality, A did not cause B. B was in the works long before A came along.
Of course, the mainstream never recognized the rot in the economy a few months ago. In fact, everything thing looked glowing on the surface. As economist Mark Thornton reminds us in an article published on the Mises Wire, on February 10, a mere 10 weeks ago, stock markets were at all-time highs. The unemployment rate was at an all-time low.
With interest rates near zero for an entire decade, the value of stocks, bonds, real estate, land, and virtually any asset was artificially inflated. As a result, total household net worth doubled, increasing from $60 trillion to $120 trillion!
People were saying that things were too good to be true. Everything from giggling about personal finances at the gym to people embarking on unlikely business projects, and business owners being shocked when told it would not last, and even record-breaking skyscrapers. Things were too good to be true.
According to the mainstream narrative, things were roaring right along until this pandemic hit. Governments shut down a strong economy to deal with COVID-19. Since the economic damage due to the COVID-19 shutdowns was self-inflicted, it’s not a real recession. It’s not a real economic collapse. And since governments shut things down, they can make a few pronouncements and fire things right back up.
That would be plausible if A caused B.
But as Thornton reiterates, A did not cause B.
The coronavirus did not cause B, the economic crisis; it merely triggered it, causing it to occur earlier than it would have. It may have also accelerated the collapse, and will likely deepen the trough of the crisis in business cycle terms. In other words, the economy was weak, not strong. The fundamentals were weak, not strong. Balance sheets were weak, not strong.
Peter Schiff has been saying the same thing in a different way. Coronavirus was merely the pin that popped the economic bubble. Getting rid of the pin doesn’t stop the air from coming out of the bubble. And yet everybody is still focused on the pin.
The signs of a bubble were there months ago if people knew where to look. President Trump signaled that there was a problem when he badgered Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell as the central bank raised interest rates a mere 2%. Thornton said this was a clear sign of weakness.
The stock market thrived when interest rates were negative when adjusted for price inflation. However, when Powell pushed the inflation-adjusted rate to near zero, stock markets stalled and all political hell broke loose.”
In response, the Fed abandoned balance sheet reduction and cut rates three times in 2019. That’s not a sign of a healthy economy. In fact, Schiff said the bubble was already leaking air before the coronavirus pin popped it completely.
It’s not like the Fed was able to keep shrinking the balance sheet and keep raising interest rates and it had to abort that process because of the coronavirus. They had to abort the process before anybody heard of the coronavirus. So, it was already imploding. The bubble was already deflating before this pin, this other pin came and put another hole in it. So, if we couldn’t unwind the four-and-a-half trillion-dollar balance sheet, if we couldn’t normalize the debt levels that existed before the coronavirus, think about how much more difficult, if not completely impossible that process is going to be after the coronavirus. So, nobody is asking: what is the implication of a balance sheet that is so enormous that it would be so disruptive to shrink, or because it’s so enormous and can’t be shrunk? What does that mean about future inflation and the value of the dollar?”
And therein lies the rub. Since A didn’t cause B, solving A doesn’t necessarily solve B.
Thornton points out that the artificially low interest rate environment created by the Fed allowed consumers and businesses to pile up excessive debt. It also disincentivized saving.
There was certainly an effort to increase savings after the housing bubble crisis. The personal savings rate, which had fallen to 2 percent before the previous crisis (the housing bubble), had now risen to 7 percent but was still well below the 10+ percent that was normal when we on the gold standard.
The main villains behind a depressed savings rate are inflation and taxation on interest income. One-third of American households have zero savings and 60 percent have less than $1000. In effect, the Fed and the Treasury have needlessly put millions of households at risk.
Consumer debt is now more than double the amount prior to the last crisis, student loans are now more than $1.6 trillion, and the combined consumer credit of households and nonprofits is over $4 trillion. And, of course, this debt is not evenly distributed across the population, as some people have enormous debts relative to their ability to pay and some have none.
And despite the low unemployment rate, the labor market also had cracks in it.
There were millions of jobs that were going unfilled and millions of college graduates who could not get jobs in their desired fields, but who were instead working as waiters and bartenders and living at home. One of the biggest villains here is student loans, which encourage too many teens into college and put them on unproductive career paths.
The other big factor distorting the labor market is the Fed and its monetary policy. The unpreceded decade-long zero interest rate policy has caused a massive business cycle. Here, by artificially causing malinvestments, the Fed changed what types of jobs are in high demand and distorted income distribution as well.
In general, the Fed’s interest policy has increased the demand for very highly skilled workers such as electrical engineers, biochemists, and patent attorneys with graduate degrees. The increased demand for these types of labor has increased wages and distorted the distribution of incomes.
These types of workers are necessary to produce such things as new iPhones, software platforms, computer chips, and pharmaceuticals, all of which require a significant amount of work by patent attorneys.
Another way to view the distortions in the labor market is to take note of the number of job openings. In December 2019 the number of openings was 7.3 million, the highest number since it began to be counted in 2000. One of the reasons I suspected an economic crisis was around the corner was that this number stopped climbing and began to fall noticeably, before it recently plummeted.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for recent college graduates had been 41 percent and about one-third of all college graduates are underemployed, meaning that their job does not require a college degree. Remember, total student loan debt has skyrocketed to $1.6 trillion. These are all signs of a badly distorted labor market.
Corporate debt was also at record levels before the pandemic. The issue wasn’t just the borrowing. As Thornton points out, the deeper problem was what these companies were doing with the borrowed money. They were levering up for stock buybacks instead of capital investment to increase productivity. There was also a wave of mergers and acquisitions.
Apparently, the Fed’s zero interest rate policy has driven the marginal return of capital so close to zero that corporations have resorted to these types of financial manipulations in an attempt to increase profits.
Consumer debt and corporate debt, not to mention government debt that was already growing at recession-like levels before coronavirus created massive distortions in the economy. It wasn’t “great.” It was a great big, fat, ugly bubble riddled with malinvestments just waiting for a pin.
Coronavirus was the pin.
Thornton sums things up nicely.
Despite stellar numbers in the stock market and an all-time low unemployment rate, the US economy was already headed for an economic crisis. Prior to this economic crisis, we could clearly see that many consumers could barely pay their bills and had virtually no savings to rely on. The labor market was also badly distorted, with highly skilled markets booming, a record number of job openings, and massive numbers of recent college students unemployed or underemployed. Finally, the corporate market was also distorted, with firms using atypical financial manipulations such as share buybacks and mergers to increase profits. The viral pandemic merely triggered or revealed what was ultimately going to happen.
Pelosi Demands $1 Trillion In Pandemic Relief For States And Local Governments
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced on Thursday that Democrats are trying to negotiate for nearly $1 trillion for states and local governments in the next installment of the taxpayer funded coronavirus relief package – which will be the single largest request by Democrats in the upcoming ‘CARES 2’ legislation.
The package is also expected to include hundreds of billions in relief for workers, businesses and families, according to The Hill.
“We’re not going to be able to cover all of it, but to the extent that we can keep the states and localities sustainable, that’s our goal,” Pelosi told reporters on Thursday from the basement of the Capitol.
It means the Democrats’ next emergency relief proposal is likely to approximate the massive size of the initial CARES Act, adopted March 27, which provided $2.2 trillion in emergency help largely for major industries and small businesses left devastated by the economic fallout of the global pandemic.
It also foreshadows a fierce fight with Republicans in the Senate, where GOP leaders had rejected any new funding for state and local governments in the last “interim” coronavirus bill, enacted last week, and are wary that any new help for states going forward would simply bail out governors for fiscal mismanagement preceding the health crisis. –The Hill
“That strikes me as a pretty outrageous number, just for state and local support,” Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn told reporters, adding “We’ve already provided 150 billion dollars” in CARES 1.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says he’d rather see states go bankrupt than tap into federal funds, warning that Senate Republicans won’t support “revenue replacement for state governments,” or “solving their pension problems,” according to the report.
Pelosi slammed McConnell’s position on Thursday, saying that Democrats will fight to the bitter end to ensure that medical workers and first responders are not laid offby cash-strapped state and local government agencies which have seen tax revenues plummet amid the pandemic.
“They’re risking their lives to save lives, and now they’re going to lose their jobs? It’s just stunning, and we have to address it,” said Pelosi, adding “This isn’t about any other budget issues for states; it’s about the coronavirus outlays [and] revenue lost.”
According to Pelosi, assistance could be sprinkled over states in three tranches, “not just for one year,” but “over time.”
Aside from the state funding, Democrats in CARES 2 are also eyeing vast new spending for direct cash payments to individuals, medical equipment and unemployment insurance, which has taken on new gravity as roughly 30 million people have filed for jobless benefits over the last six weeks alone.
Democrats are also fighting to include tens of billions of dollars to expand broadband services around the country, particularly in rural and other underserved regions, where students and medical providers have had a tougher time accessing the internet during the crisis.
“The only way you can have online learning is with broadband,” said Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House majority whip and leading champion of the broadband provisions.
The timing of CARES 2 remains unclear. While the House was initially scheduled to be in session next week, Democratic leaders scrapped that plan on Tuesday, citing the advice of the Capitol physician. And Pelosi on Thursday set a tentative return date for the week of May 11, although committees are expected to be back earlier to work on CARES 2. –The Hill
“We’re not coming back this week. Our plan is to come back the following week,” said Pelosi – who ruled out an interim bill like last week’s $484 billion package which largely went towards replenishing the Paycheck Protection Program aimed at helping small businesses.
“We’re all for that, and we just did do an intervention. But we must do a CARES bill now. We cannot put that off,” she said, adding “Our next plan will be CARES 2.”
In the first week of February I published an article titled ‘The Lies We Are Being Told About The Coronavirus’. I focused primarily on the disinformation coming out of China, and for those with short memories there was a flood of it being spread on various web forums by what I believe was a army of paid disinformation agents.
The lies seemed to revolve around keeping the rest of the world passive to the potential threat by promoting a set of assumptions:
1) The disinfo suppressed the information on human-to-human spread and the level of infections, suggesting that the virus was not very transmissible or that it “only infects Asians” (anyone who actually believed this nonsense at the time was truly gullible).
2) The disinfo suppressed the actual number of deaths in China to minimize the response time of people in other countries. The assumption was “it’s nothing, why worry”. Well, as we now know, there is no way China has only suffered 4600 deaths. All the evidence leaked by health officials on the ground in China suggested a much higher number of deaths, but the disinfo was enough to keep many people from taking the threat seriously.
3) The disinfo hid the source of the virus, claiming it came from an animal/food market in Wuhan even though many of the initial patients infected by the coronavirus never had any contact with the market. This was openly admitted by scientists within China as far back as January. Remember the “bat soup” rumors? All lies. And perhaps not coincidentally, the only Level 4 Biohazard lab in Asia, which studies specifically in SARS-like viruses, is right down the road from that same market.
4) The disinformation was not only coming from China. The World Health Organization consistently tried to downplay the spread of the virus, refusing to call it a pandemic for months even though it fit all their criteria. They also lavished China with praise, taking all data the Chinese government reported as if it were verified fact and defended China against any and all detractors.
5) The level of disinformation coming from US government sources, the White House and social media companies was almost enough to match China’s lies. The US government and the WHO have been working closely with social media corporations to disrupt any analysis that runs contrary to the Chinese narrative as well as the WHO narrative.
While Donald Trump and the DoD are suddenly interested in the possibility that Covid-19 is a bioweapon (something that those of us in the alternative media tried to report months ago), at the end of January Trump was also offering China praise, saying that their data was accurate and everything was “under control”.
“This is not a major threat to the people of the United States and this is not something that the citizens of the United States should be worried about right now…”
Fauci would later go on to change his tune completely, calling for strict government controls of social behavior in order to stop the spread of the virus.
The CDC and the mainstream media actively attempted to obstruct any information that might suggest the coronavirus was made in a lab, even though in 2017 experts in bio-safety warned that the lab in Wuhan might eventually cause a dangerous virus to “escape” due to lax standards. Slapped together studies based on a long list of assumptions (such as the false assumption that any bioweapon would be engineered to kill a maximum number of people) were designed to “debunk” the theory, but only served to raise more questions as people began to wonder why certain “experts” and journalists were so intent on dismissing the bioweapon issue so out of hand based.
6) In the meantime, the most egregious disinformation in the US centered on the economy. Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow claimed on February 4th that the damage to the US economy from the virus would be ‘minimal’. With over 26 million people now added to the unemployment rolls, millions of small business owners desperate for bailout money, GDP in freefall, manufacturing in freefall and supply chains strained to the breaking point, I think it’s safe to say Larry Kudlow is either a complete moron or he was dutifully reading from a propaganda script that was given to him.
“The US economy is interdependent with multiple nations, and is tightly connected to China. The greatest danger of globalism in terms of economics is that it forces national economies into losing the redundancies that protect them from systemic collapse. When one major economy goes down, it brings down all other economies with it.
Not only that, but the US financial structure is precariously unstable anyway, with record levels of national debt, consumer debt and corporate debt, not to mention steep declines in manufacturing and demand. The US sits atop one of the most massive economic bubbles of all time – The Everything Bubble, created by the Federal Reserve over ten years of stimulus measures, barely keeping the system alive in a state of zombification.
The bubble was always going to collapse. In fact, recent events in Fed repo markets suggest it was already collapsing. The coronavirus outbreak is a perfect cover event for this implosion…”
The downplaying of the economic danger in particular, the lies all over the web about N95 masks not working, the claims that buying food and supplies is “panic behavior” akin to hoarding, a few months ago everything seemed designed to convince the public to NOT prepare for this event. And it was not just China and the WHO behind it; it was also our own government, the White House and the mainstream media.
Now, there is still ample debate about how deadly Covid-19 really is. Is it really “no worse than the flu”? I have seen data which suggests that there are many more infected people than initially believed which would diminish the death rate. I have also seen data which suggests that deaths from the virus are being under-reported, just like they were in China.
I say it is foolish to rush to conclusions until the virus actually runs the same course and infects hundreds of millions of people as the flu does annually. I will also say that I have never heard of hospitals and morgues being overwhelmed by the flu in modern times like they have been overwhelmed by the coronavirus, but this debate is a distraction from the real issue – It DOES NOT MATTER how deadly the virus is, what matters is that the current government response is unacceptable regardless.
The false dichotomy being constructed right now is that you either believe the virus is a horrible killer plague and that martial law is necessary to stop it, or, you believe the entire pandemic is somehow “staged” and that the whole thing is a hoax, making martial law unnecessary.
The truth is more likely somewhere in-between.
The virus is a moderate threat, it is most likely a chimera with SARS-like qualities, it is indeed killing many people but it is certainly not the Black Plague (a friend of mine just lost someone in their mid-40’s with no previous conditions; it is still smart to take precautions), and even if it was it would not matter because government tyranny and economic lockdown do not solve the problem, they only make the situation much worse.
Now that the Chinese propaganda campaign is falling apart as the data continues to contradict what they initially reported, I have to point out, as mentioned above, that China did not do all this alone. It had the help of the UN, the mainstream media and yes, even the CDC and the White House. Without all these entities working together to suppress information on the threat and its source, the public would have had far more time to prepare. And most of all, if governments including our own had restricted travel from China a month sooner when it was clear that human-to-human transmission of the virus was a reality, then the pandemic may have never happened in the first place.
Yet, they did not. Why?
Why was the threat downplayed and ignored? Why was travel from China kept open for weeks after the pandemic began killing thousands? Why did everyone including Trump defend China initially, only to now accuse them of at the very least negligence, and at worst biowarfare?
The narrative has shifted into blaming China for everything, and they are certainly guilty of many crimes, but they are only partly responsible for the disaster. China as a whole is not the prime beneficiary of the crisis. In fact, they are suffering economic collapse like most others nations. But, the globalists within China, the globalists within the WHO, the globalists within the US including those in Trump’s cabinet, they all benefit greatly. And this is where many people simply can’t wrap their heads around the scenario.
They can accept the idea of a Chinese conspiracy, or a UN conspiracy, or even a Trump conspiracy, but the idea that there are elites within all these countries and the White House working together? Well that’s just “crazy”, right?
I’m sorry to say that this is the reality.
The US and Canada poured millions of dollars into the experiments at the Wuhan lab and the funding was greenlit by none other than Dr. Anthony Fauci in 2015. Trump’s cabinet is stacked with global elites and people like Dr. Fauci that are intimately associated with the WHO. Fauci continues to defend the WHO. Trump initially praised the Chinese response in January. The WHO has been aggressively defending the Chinese handling of the outbreak and has thoroughly praised their response, which has included using tracking apps and QR codes to watch their citizens 24/7 and implement medical totalitarianism. This same medical totalitarianism was suggested during Event 201, the “simulation” of a coronavirus pandemic funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Economic Forum which was held only TWO MONTHS before the real thing happened. This is the same medical totalitarianism that Bill Gates and others like MIT are promoting as a solution today.
The globalists have consistently called for a shift into a cashless society and a technocratic surveillance culture. Is it not convenient that these are the solutions being consistently offered in the face of the pandemic?
If you examine the chain of events, the amount of give and take between China, the WHO, and other governments including the US government and the fact that the globalists are about to get everything they want from this catastrophe, I do not think it is outlandish to suggest that perhaps this virus was unleashed deliberately and that globalists in multiple nations are working together to achieve a specific outcome.
With the US blaming China and the Chinese blaming the US, the truth is being lost in the fog of propaganda. The truth being that BOTH sides and the WHO made this pandemic possible, and that the elites on ALL sides have something to gain. The end game they desire is global governance, a one world digital currency system and a rationale for full spectrum surveillance of the citizenry. The pandemic allows them to have all of this, unless the people take action to fight back and disrupt their plans.
Some people will call this “wild speculation” or “conspiracy theory”, but these people are either ignorant of the facts. The evidence is substantial. I have outlined it over and over again the past few months. Luckily, I do see a growing to counter the globalist script. Hopefully, we have the time and tenacity to stop them from getting what they want.
Understand, however, that this crisis will not stop until the globalists are unseated. The current “wave” of the virus is only the first. Expect wave after wave of infections, and wave after wave of lockdowns by complicit government officials. And when COVID-19 doesn’t scare people anymore, all the elites have to do is release ANOTHER virus with varied effects. To stop the lockdowns and to stop the pandemic we have to stop the globalists. We have to go to the root of the threat.
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DOJ Finding ‘Early Signs Of Fraud’ Among COVID Stimulus Applications
A preliminary inquiry into loans granted under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has revealed early signs of fraud among businesses seeking coronavirus relief funds, according to Bloomberg.
The head of the DOJ’s criminal division, Assistant AG Brian Benczkowski, said prosecutors have contacted up to 20 of the largest loan processors as well as the Small Business Administration, which oversees the program, in order to police how the funds have been distributed.
The review has already turned up several red flags in the data prosecutors have examined over the past week, Benczkowski said Thursday in a telephone interview.
“Whenever there’s a trillion dollars out on the street that quickly, the fraudsters are going to come out of the woodwork in an attempt to get access to that money,” Benczkowski said.
“There are unfortunately businesses that are sending in loan applications for large amounts of money that are overstating their payroll costs, overstating the number of employees they’ve had, overstating the nature of their business.” –Bloomberg (via WaPo)
The DOJ has modeled their policing efforts after that used by the healthcare fraud strike force, which has used data analytics for over a decade to detect criminal activities within federal programs, including Medicare.
That said, examples of outright fraud or companies bending the rules have yet to publicly emerge, while loosely-drafted guidelines allowed banks wide discretion when issuing the loans. If borrowers didn’t outright lie on applications, it may be difficult to accuse companies of abuse.
The DOJ inquiries have asked for borrower information and whether banks observed anything suspicious with loan applications or the loan process. According to the report, clients – not banks, have been the focus of the probe.
There will be several federal watchdogs looking after the program, including the Government Accountability Office, a yet-to-be-formed congressional panel, and an inspector general awaiting Senate confirmation. The DOJ, meanwhile, can conduct their own investigations into the program in conjunction with other overseers.
Mayday On May-Day: “Unprecedented Strikes” Planned At Amazon, Walmart On Friday As Working-Poor Snub Rent Payments
The economic crash unfolding in 2020 is a much different breed of a monster than the turmoil a little more than a decade ago. There’s a major social component to the 2020 crash versus the financial crisis of 2007–08. Hence, why the Trump administration has quickly told the US Treasury to print hundreds of billions of dollars in universal basic income checks for the working poor, so they don’t erupt in anger and protest. But it appears not even socialism checks will stop the unrest that could be nearing, with more than 26.5 million folks out of jobs in 5 weeks. And let’s not forget, wealth inequality was already at extremes before the pandemic, as it seems a perfect storm of chaos is about to unfold.
On Friday, the working poor are combining forces on several fronts, and at several companies, to conduct unprecedented strikes and stand up against mega-corporations who neglect to give them safe working conditions and hazard pay during the pandemic. Simultaneously, another strike across major cities is unfolding, that is a rent strike, folks are planning not to pay their rents in a collective manner that could produce economic problems for landlords. Combine this all together, and the working poor are about to strike back with vengeance.
Mayday, Mayday, Mayday – that is the distress call coming from a nation imploding from within – as economic depression has severely damaged the economy, eliminated millions of jobs, plunged households into financial turmoil, and disrupted food supply chains, which could be a recipe for social instabilities.
A report from The Intercept notes that workers from Amazon, Walmart, and FedEx are set to strike as they seek better health and safety standards as well as hazard pay. Demonstrations are expected this Friday. Workers from Instacart, Target, and Whole Foods are expected to protest as well.
“We are acting in conjunction with workers at Amazon, Target, Instacart, and other companies for International Worker’s Day [May 1] to show solidarity with other essential workers,” said Daniel Steinbrook, a Whole Foods employee and strike organizer.
Vanessa Bain, an Instacart worker and co-founder of the Gig Workers Collective, which has more than 17,000 members, told The Intercept that “workers are coming together and building power.”
“May Day is not just a one-time symbolic action, but also about building real, vast, and broad sweeping networks of power.”
May 01 could be the day when the social contract among the working poor breaks. Turmoil is ahead.
The project of a united Europe has never been objectionable to me, despite its status as an object of reflexive loathing on the American right. We’ve forgotten just what a bloody and dangerous font of violence Europe used to be—costing hundreds of thousands of American lives in the process—and so we forget that a deadening bureaucracy suffocating the Continent is a much preferable alternative to the historical precedent.
The European Union then is preferable to the bloc politics and subjugation that characterized most of European history. Churchill understood it, and the French strategists who saw the value in a superstructure tying Germany to themselves understood it.
Nevertheless the EU is dead. Consider:
The European Union was unable to prevent or persuade against the secession of one of its largest constituent nations.
The European Union was unable to play any meaningful role in a pandemic that ravaged several of its member states.
The European Union was unable to prevent or preclude a Russian military mission entering one of its major member states.
The European Union was unable to prevent, or bring consequences for, one of its member states from sliding from democratic liberality to authoritarian dictatorship.
The European Union was unable to muster the political will to withstand pressure from the Communist Party of China.
The European Union was unable to provide credible security guarantees to its member states as NATO went into precipitous decline.
The European Union is dead. Something will arise in its place. But this is Europe: we should be prepared for the possibility it will be something worse.
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CMBS Implosion: Unprecedented Surge In New Delinquencies Heralds Commercial Real Estate Disaster
Yesterday’s news that Saks Fifth Avenue parent Hudson’s Bay had missed its April payment on at least two commercial-mortgage backed securities prompted us to take a look at the current state of the CMBS market and, boy, was it ugly.
According to the latest remittance data compiled by Morgan Stanley, a record 66 loans totaling $1.0bn became newly delinquent in April, which is the greatest month-over-month change. In total, 324 loans with a total balance of $4.8bn are currently delinquent, which is also an all time high.
The resulting delinquency rate increased by 19bp month over month, to 1.31%, and the 1-year CAGR increased to 45.3%.
The 2015, 2014 and 2017 vintages increased the most by 48bp, 47bp and 37bp, respectively. The 2016 vintage was the only vintage that declined at -21bp MoM. At 3.39%, the 2014 vintage continues to have a meaningfully higher delinquency rate than the other vintages, with the 2015 vintage standing second-highest at 2.02%, followed by the 2013vintage at 1.52%. The 2016, 2012and 2010 vintages also stand above 1%,at 1.22%, 1.33% and 1.01%, respectively.
But what is far more troubling than the plain vanilla surge in delinquencies is the coming deluge of defaults. Recall that a CMBS loan becomes delinquent after it misses two consecutive payments. Loans that have missed just one month of interest are classified as “late but within grace period” or “late beyond grace period”. It is this measure that spiked 600bp MoM to ~8.5%, led by hotel, which rose 19% points to 21.6%, followed by retail, which increased 774bp,and multifamily, which was 308bp higher. Across vintages, ‘grace’ loans increased, ranging from a maximum 852bp for the 2012 vintage to a minimum of 416bp for the 2020 vintage.
Looking further up the delinquent pipeline, 134 loans totaling $2.4bn were newly transferred to special servicing in April. In total, 521 loans with a balance of $8.9bn are specially serviced. The resulting specially serviced rate increased by 62bp month over month, to 2.40%,and the 1-year CAGR increased to 63.1%. Every vintage experienced an increase in the special servicing rate, led by the 2016 vintage, which rose by 117bp. The 2010 vintage has the highest special servicing rate,at 10.5% (driven by negative selection as loans pay off).
Meanwhile, 922 loans totaling $14.1bn were added to the watchlist in April. In total,a record 3,316 loans with a record balance of $51.4bn are currently on the watchlist. The resulting watchlist rate increased by 261bp, to 13.89%,and the 1-year CAGR also increased to 31.6%. Every vintage experienced MoM increases in the watchlist rate, ranging from a minimum of 0.81% to a maximum of 5.62%. The 2010 vintage has the highest watchlist rate,at 31.03%, followed by the 2011 vintage at 21.13%
Conclusion: while the retail sector is a disaster with a barrage of , hotels are just as bad, while multifamily CMBS (i.e., rentals) are close behind.
… the real story is that the default tidal wave has now spread to most other commercial real estate sectors with a record 6% in loans about to be delinquent in May once they fail to make an interest payment for two months in a row. Said otherwise, the CRE bubble that the nervous Fed had been warning about for so long, has now burst and the full extent of the collapse will become evident over the next 30 days.