Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Tag Archives: Bankruptcy

California’s Pension Plans Report Dismal Results, Increasing Shortfalls

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, July 20, 2016:  

Ted Eliopoulos, the chief investment officer of the country’s largest pension plan, the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), did the best he could with the bad news: “Positive performance in a year of turbulent financial markets is an accomplishment that we are proud of.” That “positive performance” was a measly 0.61-percent return from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016, on his $300 billion pension plan. That means that the fund is now about $100 billion short of meeting its future obligations.

But that $100 billion number greatly understates the real liability because it’s based on a pixie-dust assumption that the plan can earn an average

Keep Reading…

Day of Reckoning for Chicago Taxpayers

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, July 11, 2016:  

Chicago landsat image

Chicago landsat image

Chicago just experienced a great irony. Its bill for past extravagances run up by its corrupt politicians arrived over the July 4th weekend. It was of course then that Americans were celebrating Independence from British politicians seeking to impose taxes without representation.

With representation, Chicago taxpayers have allowed themselves to be saddled with taxes far exceeding those that triggered the American Revolution. The trouble is that the realization just hit home over that weekend.

The second half of 2016 property taxes was due on July 1st, and on Tuesday unhappy taxpayers were lined up outside the tax assessor’s door to complain. It was a little late. About two decades late.

Keep Reading…

Rio 2016 Olympic Games Likely to Hasten Brazil’s Bankruptcy

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, June 20, 2016:  

Rio de Janeiro 2016 Summer Olympics bid logo.

A postmortem on Rio 2016 is likely to show a loss. History might record a cataclysmic disaster. Seven years ago when the IOC awarded the 2016 summer Olympics to Brazil, the main concern was crime in the city of Rio de Janeiro. At the time IOC spokesman Mark Adams told the AP: “We have confidence in [Brazil’s] capacity to deliver a safe Games in seven years. Security is of course a very important aspect of any Olympic Games….”

At the time Rio was one of the top ten most crime-ridden cities in the world. But everything else seemed to bode well:

Keep Reading…

Illinois Governor Vetoes Plan to Reduce Chicago’s Pension Contributions

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, May 30, 2016: 

Chicago’s pension contributions to its four dreadfully underfunded pension plans were supposed to double this year to $1.1 billion, up from $478 billion in 2015. But state legislators passed a bill (which had been bottled up for nearly a year) to cut that back to under $900 million. On Friday Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (above) vetoed the bill, expressing in no uncertain terms that he was tired of politicians kicking the can down the road:

By deferring responsible funding decisions until 2021 and then extending the timeline for reaching responsible funding levels from 2040 to 2055, Chicago is borrowing against its taxpayers to the tune of $18.6 billion.

 

This practice has got to stop. If we continue, we’ve learned nothing from our past mistakes.

Those past “mistakes” have got Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a pickle.

Keep Reading…

Meet Michael Madigan, AKA “the Real Governor of Illinois”

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, May 30, 2016:  

Little happens legislatively in Illinois without the approval or acquiescence of House Speaker Michael Madigan (shaking hands with another corruptocrat, above). A Chicago pol, he has been speaker for 31 out of the last 33 years. When a bill arrives, it is shunted immediately to his Rules Committee, run by his second-in-command, Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, also from Chicago, also a Democrat who was appointed Majority Leader of the House by Madigan.

If a bill ever sees the light of day (most don’t) it then is assigned to one of 50 committees, each of them chaired by a Madigan selectee.

A present example is SB 777, which

Keep Reading…

Puerto Rico Bailout Deceptively Called “Restructuring”

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, May 20, 2016:  

Corcho Beach in Vieques island, Puerto Rico.

Corcho Beach in Vieques island, Puerto Rico.

Hidden behind the tentative agreement announced by House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday that would allow Puerto Rico some breathing room over its massive $73-billion national debt are the bailouts that are already in place.

The agreement is based on the bill by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) that creates another government bureaucracy to oversee the orderly “restructuring” (read: massive haircut for PR’s bondholders). When he presented his bill, Bishop said it would “give Puerto Rico access to a court-enforced debt restructuring in exchange for the imposition of a federal fiscal oversight board.”

Ryan said the agreement would allow the island territory to

Keep Reading…

Puerto Rico to Default on $422M Payment Today; Likely Another $2B in July

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, May 2, 2016:  

Puerto Rico continued its “death spiral,” with its failure to make a $422 million interest payment on Monday on some of the island’s gigantic $73 billion debt. This comes on the heels of missed payments over the last year, and will be followed up by a $2 billion payment due on July 1, which it is also widely anticipated to miss. The payment is due from the island’s Government Development Bank (GDB), the main bond issuer and the island’s fiscal agent.

So far Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla (above) has, as noted previously in The New American, been able to keep the lights on and the water running by moving money around on the island’s balance sheet, paying only those with the highest and most enforceable claims and dealing as best he can with those holding lower credits. It was Padilla who said his island was in a “death spiral” as far back as last July, because his 3.5 million inhabitants, half of whom live in poverty, didn’t have the money.

But for decades Padilla and his predecessors acted as if they did have it,

Keep Reading…

Nothing is Likely to Change in Brazil

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, April 20, 2016: 

One of Warren Buffett’s favorite expressions is “when the tide goes out, everyone will see who’s been swimming naked.”  In Brazil the tide went out at the start of the Great Recession and now the whole world can see who was swimming naked.

When President Lula was elected in 2002 the commodity boom was underway, and Brazil was enjoying the ride. Its major exports are soybeans, sugar, and iron ore, and under Lula Brazil’s GDP was running 10 percent a year. Lula implemented major expansions of the welfare state, including putting in place such generous pension plans that state workers could retire at age 54 for men and at age 52 for women at 90 percent of their final pay. The average Brazilian’s household income rose, and statists worldwide pointed to Brazil’s success story, naming it as one of the BRIC countries that would soon overtake the developed nations of the world, and doing it while expanding government spending.

But when Dilma Rousseff took over in 2011 the Great Recession was revealing the true nature of spending far beyond the ability of the economy to sustain it. In 2014 the government’s finances were in such dreadful shape that

Keep Reading…

Are Federal Bailouts of States’ Pension Plans Inevitable?

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, April 13, 2016:

English: Devin Nunes, U.S. Representative from California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

California Representative Devin Nunes, a middle-of-the-road Republican from the state’s 22ndDistrict with a middling voting record (a Freedom Index rating of just 53), got something right: he sees the coming implosion of underfunded pension and health care plans across the country, and offered a bill to do something about it: force the states and the pension managers to tell the truth about the numbers:

Keep Reading…

Revolving Credit Lines to Oil Industry Pose New Hazards to Banks

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, April 12, 2016:  

One Wells Fargo Center – Charlotte, North Caro...

One Wells Fargo Center – Charlotte, North Carolina

As earnings season on Wall Street starts, investors in the big banks are just now learning about unfunded revolving lines of credit (revolvers) that those banks extended to oil and energy related companies when times were better.

Ten of the largest U.S. banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo, just disclosed that they have $147 billion in unfunded revolvers, which are likely to expand their exposure to the energy industry just when they would rather reduce it.

Those banks have been setting aside loan loss reserves amounting to billions in anticipation of the inevitable:

Keep Reading…

States’ Pension, Health Plans Increasingly Vastly Underfunded

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, April 11, 2016:  

The numbers being reported by pension fund managers are so out of touch with reality that Representative Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has proposed legislation to correct them. Said Nunes: “It has been clear for years that many cities and states are critically underfunding their pension programs and hiding the fiscal holes with accounting tricks. When these pension funds go insolvent, they will create problems so disastrous that the fund officials assume the federal government will have to bail them out.”

According to Joshua Rauh, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, the amount of underfunding is

Keep Reading…

Brazil’s Economy Entering Depression

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, March 28, 2016: 

English: Aerial view of Rio de Janeiro city ce...

English: Aerial view of Rio de Janeiro city center, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The latest numbers coming out of Brazil confirm what Goldman Sachs said last December: “What started as a recession … is now mutating into an outright economic depression, given the deep contraction of domestic demand.”

Translation: President Dilma Rousseff’s attempt to stimulate the slowing economy via massive insertions of new debt has in fact had the opposite result.

Consumers have cut back by more than eight percent across the board, while investment spending has declined more than 10 percent last year, with cumulative capital spending

Keep Reading…

Another Keynesian Failure: Brazil

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, March 28, 2016:  

John Maynard Keynes Русский: Джон Мейнард Кейн...

John Maynard Keynes

Boiled down to its most crude elements, Keynesianism, according to Antony Mueller at the Mises Institute, is “the economic policy doctrine of growth by spending.” Since 2003, when the current political party in Brazil, first headed up by Lula and now by Dilma Rousseff, came to power, it installed it in spades. For a while it seemed to work: demand for Brazil’s raw materials: oil, iron ore, and agricultural products grew as China (also pursuing the “growth by spending” mantra) also grew.

But the boom, which at one point included Brazil as one of the BRIC (Russia, India, and China) nations that would soon overtake the developed world, went bust.

Keep Reading…

It’s a Short-Covering Rally in Oil and Oil Stocks

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, March 9, 2016:  

With crude oil up more than 30 percent over the last week, and companies like SeaDrill and Chesapeake Energy up 125 percent and 250 percent, respectively, over the last five days, short covering has persuaded some that the bottom is in. Investors, especially short sellers, in the oil patch need lots of risk capital, a high risk tolerance, and a short memory.

Goldman Sachs called it a

Keep Reading…

Oil Industry Facing Massive Challenges

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, February 29, 2016:  

Sunoco

Energy producers are facing challenges that are threatening the existence of not only marginal, highly-leveraged producers, but large companies as well.

Canadian-based Suncor is just one example. Known for its Sunoco brand (now Petro-Canada), Canada’s largest crude-oil producer reported three weeks ago that it suffered a fourth-quarter loss of $1.45 billion and that it was slashing its capex (capital expenditures) for 2016 by 10 percent, forcing its expected 2016 production to fall by the same amount. It is also selling assets in order to keep paying its dividends to nervous investors. But Steve Williams, the company’s CEO, told equally nervous participants that “We will be one of the last guys standing.”

Lamar McKay, BP’s deputy chief executive, did the same: “Times are tough. You’d almost call them brutal right now. But we will adapt. We will make it.” This from the world’s sixth-largest oil and gas company which lost $6.5 billion in 2015 and was forced to lay off more than 3,000 employees.

John Hess, CEO of the Hess Corporation, also pumped his company’s resilience in the face of low crude prices. A much smaller company than BP, Hess Corporation suffered a loss of $3 billion last year, its first in more than a decade. Said Hess: “Our company has some of the best acreage [in North Dakota]. We can be more resilient as prices recover.”

Taken together, the oil industry worldwide has cut more than 300,000 jobs since the summer of 2014 (the peak of oil prices), while capex of nearly $1.5 trillion will be cancelled between 2015 and 2019, according to the conference sponsor. So far nearly 50 U.S. oil producers have filed for bankruptcy protection this year, with many more sure to follow this spring as banks readjust their reserve valuations used to back up their loans. This could imperil more than $17 billion in debt held by banks.

The most important revelation at the conference came from Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, Ali Al-Naimi, when he said that his country — despite rumors to the contrary that had driven crude oil prices temporarily higher — had absolutely no plans whatsoever to cut production in order to support higher prices. On that news alone, NYMEX crude oil fell $2 a barrel on Friday.

One of the problems facing these executives is the fact that frackers continue to produce in the face of falling rig counts and smaller workforces. Peak oil production touched 9.6 million barrels a day last year and remains at 9.1 million bpd. Daniel Yergin, the founder of Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), now a subsidiary of IHS Inc., expects things to get worse — perhaps much worse — before they begin to get better:

This year is going to be very rough on the industry, very turbulent. We think that the decline in U.S. production is going to get more serious — another 600,000 to 800,000 barrels a day in this kind of price environment.

Globally the energy industry cut capex spending in 2015 by nearly 30 percent compared to 2014, while those in the United States have cut even further: an estimated 40 percent. For 2016, IHS CERA expects several large U.S. producers to cut spending by 50 percent compared to last year.

In the meantime, there’s another problem: where to store the surplus crude oil, estimated to be piling up at the rate of 1.5 to two million barrels every day. Empty tankers are being leased to store the surplus, called “floating storage,” waiting for demand to pick up (or supplies to dwindle). Now there is “rolling storage,” with 20,000 empty railroad tank cars sitting in sidings and storage yards across the country. Salt caverns and tankers are almost at capacity, and companies such as the Musket Corporation are taking advantage. Musket is a privately-held shipping company in Houston that built its business shipping crude oil by rail. But now it is in the storage business, finding and leasing empty tank cars to store the surplus until that “turnaround” day arrives, when demand exceeds production, and the surplus can be sopped up.

Since there is little evidence on the horizon to support higher crude oil prices, oil industry executives are running out of options and optimism. It will take more than a stiff upper lip to jawbone higher oil prices. In the meantime, for many it’s a matter of survival until that happy day arrives.

Pollyanna in Houston: False Optimism Pervades Oil Conference

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, February 29, 2016:

Cover of "Pollyanna"

Cover of Pollyanna

Author Eleanor Porter would be proud. Not only did her 1913 children’s book Pollyanna establish the “Pollyanna Principle” (someone with an excessively optimistic outlook despite facing all manner of difficulties), it set in motion eleven sequels by Elizabeth Borton or Harriet Lammis Smith. There were movies starting Mary Pickford and Hayley Mills.

All three authors were present in Houston last week, at least in spirit. First,

Keep Reading…

Straight-line Thinking in a Curvilinear World: Natural Gas and Aubrey McClendon

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, February 10, 2016:  

Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic

It’s now apparent that Aubrey McClendon didn’t see the bumper sticker that appeared on cars following the last energy crash: “Please, God, give me one more boom and I promise not to screw it up.”

McClendon, along with a partner, $50,000, and 10 employees, started Chesapeake Energy in 1989. The company grew exponentially as the fracking revolution took off and up until recently the company employed 5,500 people and had annual revenues of $11 billion. Its stock (CHK) soared,

Keep Reading…

Chesapeake Energy Claims It’s NOT Declaring Bankruptcy

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, February 9, 2016:  

On Monday, at 11:18 a.m., the second-largest natural gas company in the country issued this terse statement:

Kirkland & Ellis LLP has served as one of Chesapeake’s counsel since 2010 and continues to advise the company as it seeks to further strengthen its balance sheet following its recent debt exchange. Chesapeake currently has no plans to pursue bankruptcy and is aggressively seeking to maximize value for all shareholders.

Ominously, when Timothy Puko of the Wall Street Journal asked for clarification, he wrote “A Chesapeake spokesman declined to elaborate further.”

The company has been in survival mode since

Keep Reading…

Venezuela Could See Hyperinflation, Economic Collapse

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, February 4, 2016:  

In December 2014 citizens of Venezuela paid 2,632 bolivars for a pound of meat. A year later they paid 14,138 bolivars, a 537-percent increase. They paid 3,066 bolivars for a supply of fruits and vegetables a year ago; last month they paid 12,118 bolivars, a 395-percent increase. For milk and cheese, prices increased 371 percent, from 2,084 bolivars to 7,735.

For fish they paid 1,408 bolivars a year ago; a year later the price of fish jumped to 5,940, an increase of 422 percent. Fats and oils: 335 bolivars to 1,340, an increase of 400 percent. Non-alcoholic beverages were 409 bolivars a year ago; today, 1,123 bolivars, a 275-percent increase.

A year from now, Venezuelans will look back fondly

Keep Reading…

As Oil Price Drops, Iraq Faces Existential Threat

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, February 1, 2016:  

In Iraq the culture of dependency is so great that the drop in the price of oil threatens the country’s very existence. With every Iraqi dependent upon the government for essentials like sugar, tea, rice and cooking oil, and the government dependent upon oil for more than 90 percent of its budget, the existential threat is real.

In January 2015 the government, headed up by President Fuad Masum and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, passed a budget that

Keep Reading…

Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.