Category Archives: Finance

Governments’ Financial Reporting Not Open Enough, Survey Shows

Source: American City & County, February 21, 2008

State and local governments are “under-delivering” open and honest information about spending practices to the public, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Alexandria, Va.-based Association of Government Accountants (AGA). However, the survey found that respondents were most disappointed with the federal government’s financial reporting practices.

Verbatim Survey Results

Private Equity and Public Good

Source: Stephen F. Diamond, Dissent, Winter, 2008

The collapse of the credit markets over the last year has hit more than just the homebuilding and mortgage sectors of the economy. As interest rates increased, private equity, or “PE,” an important new form of financial capital, was also rocked on its heels. … Trade unions have an ambivalent attitude toward the rise of private equity. On the one hand, many American labor unions have representatives on the boards of the same pension funds that are largely responsible for the steady flow of capital into PE funds, and, of course, that means some union members have benefited handsomely from the funds’ above-average returns. On the other hand, over the last decade, organized labor has developed a relatively sophisticated program of investor activism through the Office of Investment at the AFL-CIO, the Capital Strategies Group of Change to Win, and similar groups at key affiliates. This effort relies on labor’s pension-fund investments in public companies to raise concerns about corporate social responsibility, excessive CEO pay, workers’ rights, and internal corporate governance. But labor does not seem to have made up its mind whether or not PE funds raise or lower corporate standards of behavior.
See also:
The Modern Corporation and Private Property
Adolph Berle and Gardiner Means

Private Equity’s Broken Pension Promises: Private Equity Companies’ Links
To Insolvent Pension Funds

GMB, a Central Executive Council Special Report, 2007

A Workers’ Guide to Private Equity
International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations

Maloney Bill Targets Credit Card Abuses – Legislation Reining in Unfair Interest Rate Hikes and Unjust Fees a Strong Step Forward

Source: Consumers Union, Press release, February 7, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. — New legislation introduced today by House Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) curbs some of the most abusive credit card lending practices, consumer groups said.

Among the key provisions of the “Credit Card Bill of Rights Act” are prohibitions on:
• Bait-and-switch interest rate and fee hikes for any or no reason at all during the life of the card;
• Assessing hidden and unfair interest rate charges by charging interest on balances already paid off;
• Unjustifiably maximizing interest charges by requiring consumers to pay off balances with lower interest rates before those with higher rates;
• Charging late fees when consumers mail their payments seven days in advance of the due date; and
• Applying certain unfair interest rate hikes retroactively to balances incurred under the old rate.

See also:
HR 5244 To amend the Truth in Lending Act
S. 1395: Stop Unfair Practices in Credit Cards Act of 2007

Helping Families Finance College: Improved Student Loan Disclosures and Counseling

Source: Michael Wroblewski, Consumers Union, July 2007

From the press release:
As Congress debates legislation to overhaul student loan programs, Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, released a report finding that many students and parents don’t have access to the information they need to determine the best way to pay for college. The report, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, offers policy recommendations to help families find the most affordable options for paying for college.

Does It Pay to Save?

Source: Laurence J. Kotlikoff and David S. Rapson, National Center for Policy Analysis, NCPA Study No. 298, June, 2007


Does it pay to save? The answer is often no. In fact, penalties for saving are astronomical for some households, particularly young, single-parent and lower-income families. But these are the very people who need the strongest incentives to save for retirement.

Determining the effective marginal tax on additional saving is difficult because of the complexity of the tax code and the interaction of different government tax and transfer programs (such as food stamps) that are limited to households below certain income and asset ceilings. Saving and wealth accumulation can put a family over an asset limit and cost thousands of dollars in lost benefits.

To calculate the effective marginal tax on saving, this study uses financial planning software that carefully determines tax and transfer payments at each stage of a person’s life, based in part on economic choices they make in prior periods. The model assumes people try to even out consumption over their lifetimes.
The results: For single parents with two children, effective marginal taxes on savings are regressive – lower-income households pay higher rates than high-income households.

+ Full Report

The New Yellow Book: What You Need to Know About the 2007 Revision of Government Auditing Standards

Source: Government Finance Review, April 2007

Earlier this year the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a revised edition of Government Auditing Standards, commonly known as the “Yellow Book,” to replace the 2003 edition currently in use. The new version will be mandatory for engagements beginning on or after January 1, 2008. The most recent changes in the 2007 revision of Government Auditing Standards reinforce the most fundamental of auditing ethics and principles, including transparency and accountability; update language to align with other standards; and give auditors an auditees additional guidance for a clearer understanding of what it takes to achieve high-quality government auditing to contribute to overall accountability in government.