STUDY- U.S. Corporate Executives Received a Pay Raise of 27-40% Last Year

 

 

Chief executive pay has roared back after two years of stagnation and decline. America’s top bosses enjoyed pay hikes of between 27 and 40% last year, according to the largest survey of US CEO pay. The dramatic bounceback comes as the latest government figures show wages for the majority of Americans are failing to keep up with inflation.

America’s highest paid executive took home more than $145.2m, and as stock prices recovered across the board, the median value of bosses’ profits on stock options rose 70% in 2010, from $950,400 to $1.3m. The news comes against the backdrop of an Occupy Wall Street movement that has focused Washington’s attention on the pay packages of America’s highest paid.

The Guardian’s exclusive first look at the CEO pay survey from corporate governance group GMI Ratings will further fuel debate about America’s widening income gap. The survey, the most extensive in the US, covered 2,647 companies, and offers a comprehensive assessment of all the data now available relating to 2010 pay.

Last year’s survey, covering 2009, found pay rates were broadly flat following a decline in wages the year before. Base salaries in 2009 showed a median increase of around 2%, and annual cash compensation increased just over 1.5%. The troubled stock markets took their toll, and added together CEO pay declined for the third year, though the decrease was marginal, less than three-tenths of a percent. The decline in the wider economy in 2007, 2008 and 2009 far outstripped the decline in CEO pay.

This year’s survey shows CEO pay packages have boomed: the top 10 earners took home more than $770m between them in 2010. As stock prices began to recover last year, the increase in CEO pay outstripped the rise in share value. The Russell 3000 measure of US stock prices was up by 16.93% in 2010, but CEO pay went up by 27.19% overall. For S&P 500 CEOs, the largest companies in the sample, total realised compensation – including perks and pensions and stock awards – increased by a median of 36.47%. Total pay at midcap companies, which are slightly smaller than the top firms, rose 40.2%.

 

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SCRET-JFIIT Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Systems Handbook

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The purpose of the JFIIT Tactical Leaders Handbook (version 5) is to provide ground maneuver commanders, battle staffs, and soldiers with information regarding Joint Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) and attack systems and how to leverage these combat multipliers during planning, preparation, and execution of military operations. JFIIT publishes a classified version of this document on the SIPRNET. The For Official Use Only (FOUO) Web version can be located at the NIPRNET address listed below.

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TOP-SECRET from the FBI-Sheets, Sails, and Dormer Lights: The Case of the Pearl Harbor Spy


Pearl Harbor image with Bernard Kuehn inset

On February 21, 1942, just 76 days after the tragic attack on Pearl Harbor, Bernard Julius Otto Kuehn (pictured) was found guilty of spying and sentenced to be shot “by musketry” in Honolulu. What was a German national doing in Hawaii in the days leading up to the attack? What exactly did Kuehn do to warrant such a sentence? Here’s the story…

Bed sheets on clothes lines. Lights in dormer windows. Car headlights. A boat with a star on its sail.

Otto Kuehn had a complex system of signals all worked out. A light shining in the dormer window of his Oahu house from 9 to 10 p.m., for example, meant that U.S. aircraft carriers had sailed. A linen sheet hanging on a clothes line at his home on Lanikai beach between 10 and 11 a.m. meant the battle force had left the harbor. There were eight codes in all, used in varying combinations with the different signals.

In November 1941, Kuehn had offered to sell intelligence on U.S. warships in Hawaiian waters to the Japanese consulate in Hawaii. On December 2, he provided specific—and highly accurate—details on the fleet in writing. That same day, he gave the consulate the set of signals that could be picked up by nearby Japanese subs.

Kuehn—a member of the Nazi party—had arrived in Hawaii in 1935. By 1939, the Bureau was suspicious of him. He had questionable contacts with the Germans and Japanese. He’d lavishly entertained U.S. military officials and expressed interest in their work. He had two houses in Hawaii, lots of dough, but no real job. Investigations by the Bureau and the Army, though, never turned up definite proof of his spying.

Not until the fateful attack of December 7, 1941. Honolulu Special Agent in Charge Robert Shivers immediately began coordinating homeland security in Hawaii and tasked local police with guarding the Japanese consulate. They found its officials trying to burn reams of paper. These documents—once decoded—included a set of signals for U.S. fleet movements.

All fingers pointed at Kuehn. He had the dormer window, the sailboat, and big bank accounts. Kuehn was arrested the next day and confessed, though he denied ever sending coded signals. His sentence was commuted—50 years of hard labor instead of death “by musketry”—and he was later deported.

Today, his story reminds us how much damage espionage can do to our country. And why the FBI continues to rank counterintelligence as a top investigative priority.

TOP-SECRET – IMF Report on Switzerland Fiscal Transparency

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I. INTRODUCTION

1. This report provides an assessment of the fiscal transparency practices of Switzerland against the requirements of the IMF Code of Good Practices on Fiscal Transparency (2007). The first part is a description of practices, prepared by IMF staff on the basis of discussions with the authorities and their responses to the fiscal transparency questionnaire, and drawing on other available information. The second part is an IMF staff commentary on fiscal transparency in Switzerland. The two appendices summarize the staff’s assessments, comment on the observance of good practices, and document the public availability of information.

2. This assessment focuses primarily on fiscal transparency at the central
government (confederation) level. Given the unique character of political economy and
fiscal federalism in Switzerland, and that less than a third of general government expenditure
or revenue is accounted for by the confederation, this does not give a complete picture.
Cantons are responsible for important areas of economic and social policy, and have a strong
influence on the composition and impact of public spending, and the overall stance of fiscal
policy. Further work would be needed to prepare a comprehensive assessment of fiscal
transparency and fiscal risk covering the whole of general government.

II. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PRACTICE

A. Clarity of Roles and Responsibilities

Definition of government activities

3. General government is defined consistently with Government Finance Statistics
(GFS) principles and is well covered in the budget process. 1.1.1
General government is defined in accordance with the principles of the Government Finance
Statistics Manual (GFSM 2001) and comprises four main sectors (Box 1): The federal
government comprises seven departments and related offices, the federal chancellery, and
four special funds. The special funds cover (i) railway projects; (ii) infrastructure;
(iii) technical universities; and (iv) the alcohol board. There are 26 cantonal governments.
The cantons are sovereign states with considerable autonomy. There are 2715 communes,
which likewise have considerable autonomy. The four social security institutions cover
(i) old age and survivors protection schemes; (ii) the disability protection scheme;
(iii) income compensation allowances in case of mandatory service and maternity; and
(iv) unemployment insurance. These schemes operate essentially on a pay-as-you-go basis.

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Box 2. The SNB’s Support for UBS as a Quasi-Fiscal Activity

The SNB has justified its recent support of UBS in relation to its role as lender-of-the-last resort. This explanation rests on three considerations, namely: that UBS is a systemically important institution; could provide sufficient collateral; and was solvent. On the last point, the SNB obtained advice from the Federal Banking Commission that UBS was solvent, enabling it to provide emergency support. It did so by funding 90 percent of the purchase price of distressed assets to the value of US$60 billion.1 These assets were valued by external assessors, and transferred to a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) under the SNB’s control. To reduce the risks of not fully recovering the funds of the SPV, the SNB has set up several safeguards against potential losses. UBS’ equity contribution to the stabilization fund, amounting to 10 percent of the assets purchased, serves as the primary loss protection. In the case of a loss on the SNB loan, the SNB’s warrant for 100 million UBS shares serves as secondary loss protection. This transaction should be classified as a QFA given the risk that the SNB may fail to recover all of its investment. In this case, the profits of the SNB distributed to the federal government would be lower, with a negative impact on the budget.
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1/ On February 10, 2009, it was announced that the stabilization fund would acquire UBS assets for a lower
maximum amount than originally planned (approximately US$ 40 billion).

68. There are some areas, however, where the authorities could consider taking
further measures, in consultation with parliament where appropriate, to enhance fiscal
transparency and the presentation and management of fiscal risks. These are summarized
below.

Disclosure of additional fiscal information by the federal government

69. Support provided by the federal government and the SNB to UBS and other
financial institutions affected by the global crisis is reported in, respectively, the
confederation’s and the SNB’s financial statements, supplemented by quarterly updates
by the SNB. However, in order to provide a comprehensive assessment, the federal
government should consider publishing in its financial statements information on the SNB’s
support operations alongside the report of its own activities.

70. The government should publish its findings on tax expenditures and regularly
update them. Tax expenditures do not need to be appropriated each year, thereby escaping
scrutiny and the need to compete with other fiscal priorities in the budget process. Over time,
tax expenditures can result in insidious erosion of the tax base. The volume of tax
expenditures is significant, as a recent study by the FTA indicates. The government is aware
of the importance of keeping tax expenditures in check. It could consider publishing an
annual tax expenditure statement with the annual budget.36

71. The government should make an effort to disclose information on specific fiscal
risks, including contingent liabilities and QFAs, with the budget, in line with the IMF’s
Guidelines for Fiscal Risk Disclosure and Management, and eventually publish a single
statement of fiscal risks.37 In particular, the universal services provided by Swiss Post, Swiss
Rail, and others are partly financed through cross-subsidies, which represent a form of
interpersonal redistribution, and taxes and transfer payments from the budget are considered
more desirable to support such activities from a transparency perspective. QFAs are
disclosed only to a very limited extent.

72. The Social Security Funds should be clearly distinguished. Apart from the
unemployment insurance scheme, the other three funds are jointly operated. The old age and
disability pension funds are cross-financing each other, with the first fund running persistent
surpluses that are used to finance the deficits of the second. Clearly, separating the three
funds would make the financial health of each of them more transparent and facilitate the
necessary policy discussion about the sustainability of current policies. Parliament has
already passed a bill to separate the old-age and disability pension funds into two separate
funds. A referendum on the issue will be held in September 2009. In addition, an overview of
the finances of the social security sector and its relationship with the budget in the short to
medium term, in the context of an assessment of long-term fiscal sustainability, should be
included in the budget documents. More forward-looking information on the finances of the special funds would also be useful. Together, these measures would provide a better basis for
assessing the sustainability of current fiscal policy.

73. More information should be published on the sensitivity of the budget to changes
in macroeconomic variables and an alternative macroeconomic and fiscal scenario,
building on the useful analysis already published by the government. This would provide
a better basis for assessing the uncertainties surrounding the budget.38 In addition, the federal
government could consider extending and formalizing the process of external review of
macroeconomic forecasts and assessments of economic developments.

74. An overview of the finances of public corporations could also be provided in the
budget. Some corporations receive significant funding from the budget, and others conduct
QFAs, making it important to consider their financial position and profitability in the context
of fiscal policy.

75. Additional information should be reported on public debt management, namely,
the debt management strategy and performance against it, and the impact of parameter
changes on debt-servicing costs.

76. A summary statement of all new policy measures that are reflected in the budget
proposals, with an estimate of their fiscal impact, should be published, to supplement the
summary data on expenditure by tasks already provided in Volume 3 of the budget
documents.

77. Each federal government department should be encouraged to publish an
annual report that summarizes relevant information concerning their goals and objectives,
strategic priorities, operational risks, financial results, and nonfinancial performance. This
would be in line with practice in many OECD countries.

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CONFIDENTIAL – Banks Profited from Trillions in Secret Fed Bailout Programs

JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon speaks to a lunchtime gathering of the Portland Business Alliance, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011 at the Portland Hilton in Portland, Ore. As CEO of JP Morgan Chase, he told shareholders that his bank used the Fed’s Term Auction Facility “at the request of the Federal Reserve to help motivate others to use the system.” He neglected to mention that the bank’s total TAF borrowings were almost twice its cash holdings. (AP Photo/The Oregonian, Randy L. Rasmussen)

Secret Fed Loans Helped Banks Net $13B (Bloomberg):

The Federal Reserve and the big banks fought for more than two years to keep details of the largest bailout in U.S. history a secret. Now, the rest of the world can see what it was missing.

The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue.

Saved by the bailout, bankers lobbied against government regulations, a job made easier by the Fed, which never disclosed the details of the rescue to lawmakers even as Congress doled out more money and debated new rules aimed at preventing the next collapse.

A fresh narrative of the financial crisis of 2007 to 2009 emerges from 29,000 pages of Fed documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and central bank records of more than 21,000 transactions. While Fed officials say that almost all of the loans were repaid and there have been no losses, details suggest taxpayers paid a price beyond dollars as the secret funding helped preserve a broken status quo and enabled the biggest banks to grow even bigger.

The amount of money the central bank parceled out was surprising even to Gary H. Stern, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis from 1985 to 2009, who says he “wasn’t aware of the magnitude.” It dwarfed the Treasury Department’s better-known $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Add up guarantees and lending limits, and the Fed had committed $7.77 trillion as of March 2009 to rescuing the financial system, more than half the value of everything produced in the U.S. that year.

“TARP at least had some strings attached,” says Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, referring to the program’s executive-pay ceiling. “With the Fed programs, there was nothing.”

Bankers didn’t disclose the extent of their borrowing. On Nov. 26, 2008, then-Bank of America (BAC) Corp. Chief Executive Officer Kenneth D. Lewis wrote to shareholders that he headed “one of the strongest and most stable major banks in the world.” He didn’t say that his Charlotte, North Carolina-based firm owed the central bank $86 billion that day.

“When you see the dollars the banks got, it’s hard to make the case these were successful institutions,” says Sherrod Brown, a Democratic Senator from Ohio who in 2010 introduced an unsuccessful bill to limit bank size. “This is an issue that can unite the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. There are lawmakers in both parties who would change their votes now.”

The size of the bailout came to light after Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, won a court case against the Fed and a group of the biggest U.S. banks called Clearing House Association LLC to force lending details into the open.

The Treasury Department relied on the recommendations of the Fed to decide which banks were healthy enough to get TARP money and how much, the former officials say. The six biggest U.S. banks, which received $160 billion of TARP funds, borrowed as much as $460 billion from the Fed, measured by peak daily debt calculated by Bloomberg using data obtained from the central bank. Paulson didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The six — JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup Inc. (C), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and Morgan Stanley — accounted for 63 percent of the average daily debt to the Fed by all publicly traded U.S. banks, money managers and investment-services firms, the data show. By comparison, they had about half of the industry’s assets before the bailout, which lasted from August 2007 through April 2010. The daily debt figure excludes cash that banks passed along to money-market funds.

TARP and the Fed lending programs went “hand in hand,” says Sherrill Shaffer, a banking professor at the University of Wyoming in Laramie and a former chief economist at the New York Fed. While the TARP money helped insulate the central bank from losses, the Fed’s willingness to supply seemingly unlimited financing to the banks assured they wouldn’t collapse, protecting the Treasury’s TARP investments, he says.

“Even though the Treasury was in the headlines, the Fed was really behind the scenes engineering it,” Shaffer says.

Congress, at the urging of Bernanke and Paulson, created TARP in October 2008 after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. made it difficult for financial institutions to get loans. Bank of America and New York-based Citigroup each received $45 billion from TARP. At the time, both were tapping the Fed. Citigroup hit its peak borrowing of $99.5 billion in January 2009, while Bank of America topped out in February 2009 at $91.4 billion.

Lawmakers knew none of this.

They had no clue that one bank, New York-based Morgan Stanley (MS), took $107 billion in Fed loans in September 2008, enough to pay off one-tenth of the country’s delinquent mortgages. The firm’s peak borrowing occurred the same day Congress rejected the proposed TARP bill, triggering the biggest point drop ever in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.  The bill later passed, and Morgan Stanley got $10 billion of TARP funds, though Paulson said only “healthy institutions” were eligible.

Mark Lake, a spokesman for Morgan Stanley, declined to comment, as did spokesmen for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.

Had lawmakers known, it “could have changed the whole approach to reform legislation,” says Ted Kaufman, a former Democratic Senator from Delaware who, with Brown, introduced the bill to limit bank size.

TOP-SECRET – U.K. Embassies Preparing for Collapse of Euro

As the Italian government struggled to borrow and Spain considered seeking an international bail-out, British ministers privately warned that the break-up of the euro, once almost unthinkable, is now increasingly plausible.

Diplomats are preparing to help Britons abroad through a banking collapse and even riots arising from the debt crisis.

The Treasury confirmed earlier this month that contingency planning for a collapse is now under way.

A senior minister has now revealed the extent of the Government’s concern, saying that Britain is now planning on the basis that a euro collapse is now just a matter of time.

“It’s in our interests that they keep playing for time because that gives us more time to prepare,” the minister told.

Recent Foreign and Commonwealth Office instructions to embassies and consulates request contingency planning for extreme scenarios including rioting and social unrest.

Greece has seen several outbreaks of civil disorder as its government struggles with its huge debts. British officials think similar scenes cannot be ruled out in other nations if the euro collapses.

Diplomats have also been told to prepare to help tens of thousands of British citizens in eurozone countries with the consequences of a financial collapse that would leave them unable to access bank accounts or even withdraw cash.

Fuelling the fears of financial markets for the euro, reports in Madrid yesterday suggested that the new Popular Party government could seek a bail-out from either the European Union rescue fund or the International Monetary Fund.

Large-Scale Cash Smuggling Drives Billions of Dollars Out of Syria

Demonstrators protesting against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad wave old Syrian flags as they march through the streets on the first day of the Muslim festival of Eid-al-Adha in Alsnmin near Daraa November 6, 2011.

Syrian capital flight intensifies (Financial Times):

Money has been streaming out of Syria as fears for the unstable economy lead Syrians to seek a safer place for their assets, according to members of the country’s business community.

Cash is being smuggled over the border to Lebanon “every day, every hour,” said one Syrian businessman, while another claimed Syrian money is being stashed in the grey economy that has long existed between the two countries.

In what many see as an example of the cross-border transfer, Syrian state news reported last month that officials had intercepted over $100,000 worth of Syrian pounds being smuggled across the Lebanese border under the seat of a car.

Samir Seifan, a Dubai-based Syrian economist, estimated Syria’s middle and upper classes had moved between three and five billion dollars out of the country since unrest broke out in March, alarmed by pressures on the currency and the dearth of investment opportunities.

The squeeze on Assad – June 30, 2011 (The Economist):

Public finances are in deep trouble. The president has raised government salaries and various subsidies to appease the populace. He cannot afford to do this. The government will probably print the money to meet its promises, so runaway inflation is likely, further fuelling popular anger as cash deposits become worthless.

Capital flight is rampant. Drivers on the roads into Lebanon talk of clients going from their bank in Damascus straight to one in Beirut, carrying large bags. According to one estimate, $20 billion has left the country since March, putting pressure on the Syrian pound. To slow capital flight, the government has raised interest rates. A phone company controlled by the Assad family sent out messages urging people to put money back into their accounts.

But a run on the banks cannot be ruled out. Over the past few years, about 60% of lending in Syria has been for people to buy their own cars. Many can no longer keep up with payments. A leading financier says, “If one of the smaller banks defaults, we all go down.” Some branches are even displaying millions of dollars—in bundles of notes piled head high—to reassure worried customers. Some keep enough cash in the vaults to repay almost half their depositors on the spot.

TOP-SECRET-NEW-IMF, EU, European Central Bank “Troika” Greece Debt Sustainability Analysis October 21, 2011

Since the fourth review, the situation in Greece has taken a turn for the worse, with the economy increasingly adjusting through recession and related wage-price channels, rather than through structural reform driven increases in productivity. The authorities have also struggled to meet their policy commitments against these headwinds. For the purpose of the debt sustainability assessment, a revised baseline has been specified, which takes into account the implications of these developments for future growth and for likely policy outcomes. It has been extended through 2030 to fully capture long term growth dynamics, and possible financing implications.

The assessment shows that debt will remain high for the entire forecast horizon. While it would decline at a slow rate given heavy official support at low interest rates (through the EFSF as agreed at the July 21 Summit), this trajectory is not robust to a range of shocks. Making debt sustainable will require an ambitious combination of official support and private sector involvement (PSI). Even with much stronger PSI, large official sector support would be needed for an extended period. In this sense, ultimately sustainability depends on the strength of the official sector commitment to Greece.

3. Under these assumptions, Greece’s debt peaks at very high levels and would decline at a very slow rate pointing to the need for further debt relief to ensure sustainability. Debt (net of collateral required for PSI) would peak at 186 percent of GDP in 2013 and decline only to 152 percent of GDP by end-2020 and to 130 percent of GDP by end-2030. The financing package agreed on July 21(especially lower rates on EFSF loans) does help the debt trajectory, but its impact is more than offset by the revised macro and policy framework. Greece would not return to the market until 2021 under the market access assumptions used, and cumulatively official additional financing needs (beyond what remains in the present program, and including the eventual rollover of existing official loans) could amount to some €252 billion from the present through to 2020.

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U.S. Attorney Announces Pension Disability Fraud Charges – $1 Billion

PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, MARTIN J. DICKMAN, Inspector General of the Railroad Retirement Board, Office of the Inspector General (“RRB-OIG”), JANICE K. FEDARCYK, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and BARRY L. KLUGER, Inspector General of the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Office of the Inspector General (“MTA-OIG”), announced today charges against 11 defendants for participating in a massive fraud scheme from 1998 to the present in which Long Island Railroad (“LIRR”) workers claimed to be disabled upon early retirement so that they could receive extra pension benefits to which they were not entitled. Charged today are (i) two doctors and an office manager for one of the doctors who were involved in falsely diagnosing retiring LIRR workers as disabled; (ii) two “facilitators” who served as liaisons between retiring workers and the participating doctors; and (iii) seven LIRR retirees (including one of the charged facilitators) who claimed RRB disability benefits to which they were not entitled. The fraudulent scheme could ultimately cause the RRB to pay in excess of $1 billion in unwarranted occupational disability benefits if disbursed in full.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney PREET BHARARA said: “Benefit programs like the RRB’s disability pension program were designed to be a safety net for the truly disabled, not a feeding trough for the truly dishonest. And in these tough economic times—with stretched budgets, rising costs, frozen wages, and unemployed people—it is especially disheartening to think that railroad employees would tell a train of lies to pad their early retirements, and that a handful of doctors would traffic on the credibility of their profession to promote a culture of fraud. If the charges are proved, it will be yet another disheartening example of the kind of corruption we have seen all too much of lately.”

RRB-OIG Inspector General MARTIN J. DICKMAN said: “Lying in disability applications is a serious crime that honest taxpayers cannot abide, and that the RRB-OIG will aggressively continue to root out. Through our ongoing investigation, we will continue to hold accountable those who would abuse a system that is meant for legitimately disabled workers who have served on our nation’s railroads. I would like to thank the dedicated agents from my Office for their outstanding work on this investigation, as well as our law enforcement partners at the United States Attorney’s Office and the FBI.”

FBI Assistant Director in Charge JANICE K. FEDARCYK said: “The Complaint lays out a pervasive scheme by doctors, facilitators, and retirees to defraud the Rail Road Retirement Board disability pension program. This massive fraud, an additional burden on cash-strapped commuters, could cost more than one billion dollars. Until today, this was a game where every retiree was a winner. But today’s arrests signal the end of the line for the money train.”

MTA-OIG Inspector General BARRY L. KLUGER said: “Public pension fraud takes a toll not only on our pocketbook, but on the credibility of our government, our pension systems and our sense of fair play. We have been working for quite some time on this matter, first, with the Attorney General of the State of New York under now-Governor Andrew Cuomo, and currently with the Manhattan U.S. Attorney, the FBI, and the Railroad Retirement Board Inspector General to take the investigation of railroad disability pension fraud to the next level. I thank U.S. Attorney Bharara, his staff, and our partners for their dedication to combating pension fraud. We are pleased to have played a part in this investigation.”

Overview of LIRR & RRB Pension System

The RRB is an independent U.S. agency that administers benefit programs, including disability benefits, for the nation’s railroad workers and their families. A unique LIRR contract allows employees to retire at the relatively young age of 50, provided they have been employed for at least 20 years. It is the only commuter railroad in the United States that offers a retirement pension at the age of 50. At that time, employees are entitled to receive an LIRR pension, which is a portion of the full retirement payment they are eligible for at 65, when they also receive an RRB pension. Therefore, if an LIRR worker retires at 50, he or she will receive less than their prior salary and substantially lower pension payments than what they would be entitled to at 65.

However, an LIRR employee who retires and claims disability may receive a disability payment from RRB on top of their LIRR pension, regardless of age. A retiree’s LIRR pension, in combination with RRB disability payments, can equal roughly the base salary earned during his or her career.

The Premeditated Disability Fraud Scheme

As alleged in the Complaint, hundreds of LIRR employees have exploited the overlap between the LIRR pension and the RRB disability program by pre-planning the date on which they would falsely declare themselves disabled so that it would coincide with their projected retirement date. These false statements, made under oath in disability applications, allowed these LIRR employees to retire as early as age 50 with an LIRR pension, supplemented by the fraudulently-obtained RRB disability annuity. Between 2004 and 2008, 61 percent of LIRR employees who claimed an RRB benefit were between the ages of 50 and 55. Each of these employees received a disability award. In contrast, only 7 percent of employees at Metro-North who stopped working and received disability benefits during this time period were between the ages of 50 and 55. It is estimated that the fraudulently obtained RRB payments to LIRR retirees could exceed $1 billion.

The Disability Doctors

As alleged in the Complaint, three New York-area doctors accounted for 86 percent of the LIRR disability applications filed prior to 2008: PETER J. AJEMIAN, PETER LESNIEWSKI and a third unnamed doctor (“Disability Doctor-3”), who is recently deceased. AJEMIAN is a Board-certified orthopedist and recommended at least 839 LIRR employees for disability between 1998 through 2008. LESNIEWSKI is also a Board-certified orthopedist and recommended at least 222 LIRR workers for disability benefits between 1998 and 2008.

AJEMIAN, with the assistance of his office manager, MARIA RUSIN, and LESNIEWSKI used their respective medical practices as “disability mills,” preparing fraudulent medical narratives for LIRR retirees well before the employees’ planned retirement dates so that the narratives could be submitted to the RRB upon retirement. These medical narratives were fabricated or grossly exaggerated to recommend a set of restrictions that, if bona fide, would have rendered it impossible for the LIRR employees to continue in their occupations. Many of the purportedly “objective” findings from the tests they conducted showed nothing more than normal degenerative changes one would expect to see in patients within the relevant age bracket.

For example, in a conversation between AJEMIAN and a colleague, (“Medical Worker-1”) that was consensually recorded, AJEMIAN stated in 2008 that he knew patients came to his office with the “expectation…[that] they’re gonna end up with a narrative suggesting disability,” and that he thought he had recommended disability “one hundred percent” of the time. In a statement written and signed by LESNIEWSKI after an October 2008 interview conducted by law enforcement agents, LESNIEWSKI admitted to preparing false disability narratives.

AJEMIAN and LESNIEWSKI received approximately $800 to $1,200, often in cash, for these fraudulent assessments and narratives, as well as millions of dollars in health insurance payments for unnecessary medical treatments and fees for preparing fraudulent medical support for the claimed disabilities. Of approximately 453 LIRR annuitants studied, AJEMIAN received approximately $2.5 million in related payments from patients and insurance companies. In turn, those patients have already received over $90 million in RRB disability benefit payments and are slated to receive more than $210 million in total. From a sampling of 134 LIRR annuitants, LESNIEWSKI received approximately $750,000 in related payments from patients and insurance companies. In turn, those patients have already received over $31 million in RRB disability benefit payments and are slated to receive more than $64 million in total.

The Facilitators

To further increase one’s chances of receiving disability from the RRB, LIRR employees utilized the services of “facilitators.” Facilitators referred LIRR workers to the disability doctors, filled out the applications on behalf of their LIRR clients, and assisted and coached their clients to fill out their disability applications in such a way as to maximize the likelihood that they would receive disability benefits.

Two facilitators charged today are MARIE BARAN and JOSEPH RUTIGLIANO. Before working as a facilitator, BARAN served as an RRB district office manager in Westbury, New York, until her retirement in December 2006. BARAN’s husband, an LIRR retiree, receives RRB disability benefits based on a medical assessment done by LESNIEWSKI.

In a September 2008 interview with BARAN that was conducted by a law enforcement agent, she said, “you are never going to figure it [this scheme] out honey.” She also said it was not her fault the disability system was “broken,” and she would simply tell her patients to, “go ahead, give it a shot at the O/D [occupational disability].”

RUTIGLIANO is a former LIRR conductor and union president who applied for and received an RRB occupational disability after his retirement in 1999. In the year prior to retiring, he worked well over 500 hours overtime, took no sick leave whatsoever, and then applied for a disability with a narrative prepared by LESNIEWSKI. The narrative stated that RUTIGLIANO fractured his spine in 1988 and that his back pain was getting worse over the years, but LESNIEWSKI offered no explanation for why this 10-year-old injury did not interfere with RUTIGLIANO’s overtime collection or failure to require any sick days. Moreover, golf course records and law enforcement surveillance performed in July 2008 indicate that RUTIGLIANO played golf at one particular course about two times per month in 2008.

The LIRR Retirees

Hundreds of the disability doctors’ patients, including JOSEPH RUTIGLIANO, GREGORY NOONE, REGINA WALSH, SHARON FALLOON, GARY SATIN, STEVEN GAGLIANO and RICHARD EHRLINGER, lied to the RRB about their ability to work in order to get disability payments.

NOONE annually receives at least $105,000 in combined pension and disability payments, based on a disability he planned months in advance of its claimed onset. In his disability application, NOONE claimed that he suffered severe pain when gripping and using simple hand tools and pain in his knees, shoulder, and back from bending or crouching. In AJEMIAN’s medical assessment, he claimed that NOONE’s condition warranted restrictions on bending, stooping, and reaching overhead. Nevertheless, NOONE regularly plays tennis several times per week, and in a nine-month period in 2008, NOONE signed in to play golf at a particular course on 140 days.

WALSH, who worked as director of employee services at the LIRR, annually receives at least $108,000 in combined pension and disability payments, based on a disability she planned months in advance of its claimed onset. In her disability application, WALSH claimed that sitting at a desk and using a computer caused her considerable neck, shoulder, and hand pain, and that she experienced leg pains when standing more than five minutes or when sitting more than 15 minutes. Nevertheless, WALSH has been surveilled shoveling heavy snow for over an hour and walking with a baby stroller for approximately 40 minutes.

FALLOON, an LIRR human resources manager, annually receives at least $90,349 in combined pension and disability payments, based on her claims that activities such as walking and standing cause her “disabling pain” and stairs are “very difficult” for her. Nevertheless, in January 2011, FALLOON was surveilled vigorously exercising at a gym, including approximately 45 minutes in a step aerobics class. Law enforcement recorded her continuously exercising at the gym for more than two hours, at which point the video concluded because the tape ran out, although FALLOON continued her workout.

SATIN annually receives at least $69,559 in combined pension and disability payments, based on a disability he planned at least one year before its claimed onset. In his disability application, SATIN claimed that his condition rendered indoor and outdoor chores “difficult,” and AJEMIAN claimed that SATIN “cannot continue working.” Nevertheless, SATIN admitted to law enforcement agents that he was still capable of performing his railroad work. In addition, SATIN has performed landscaping, contracting, and electrical work for pay since retiring from the LIRR due to a purported disability.

EHRLINGER annually receives at least $56,959 in combined pension and disability benefits, based on a disability he planned at least one year before its claimed onset. In his disability application, EHRLINGER claimed that his condition included knee pain that caused him problems walking and getting on and off trains. Nevertheless, EHRLINGER runs a party rental business and has been surveilled personally loading and unloading stacks of chairs and tables.

GAGLIANO annually receives at least $76,810 in combined pension and disability payments, for a purported disability that he claimed rendered him unable to “do any of the physical labor required in his job as a signalman” because of “severe and disabling pain in back, shoulder & legs,” and that LESNIEWSKI claimed rendered GAGLIANO occupationally disabled. Nevertheless, in 2009, GAGLIANO participated in a 400-mile bike tour in northern New York.

* * *

AJEMIAN, RUSIN, BARAN, RUTIGLIANO, NOONE, WALSH, FALLOON, GAGLIANO and EHRLINGER were taken into custody this morning and are expected to be presented in Manhattan federal court later this afternoon. SATIN was taken into custody in North Carolina and will be presented in federal court in Charlotte later today. LESNIEWSKI is expected to voluntarily surrender to authorities in the Southern District of New York tomorrow. All 11 defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and mail fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Attached is a chart reflecting the age and place of residence for each of the charged defendants.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney BHARARA praised the RRB-OIG, the FBI, and the MTA-OIG for their outstanding work in the investigation, which he noted is ongoing. He also acknowledged the previous investigation conducted by the New York State Attorney General’s Office into these pension fraud issues.

The Office’s Complex Frauds Unit is handling the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys JUSTIN S. WEDDLE, E. DANYA PERRY and WILLIAM J. HARRINGTON are in charge of the prosecution.

The charge contained in the Complaint is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

FBI: Former Agape World, Inc. Owner and President Sentenced to 25 Years’ Imprisonment for Multi-Million-Dollar Ponzi Scheme

Long Island-Based Defendant Caused Thousands of Investors to Lose $195 Million

U.S. Attorney’s Office October 14, 2011
  • Eastern District of New York (718) 254-7000

Nicholas Cosmo, the former owner and president of Hauppauge-based companies Agape World, Inc. (Agape) and Agape Merchant Advance (AMA), was sentenced today to 25 years of imprisonment by United States District Court Judge Denis R. Hurley in federal court in Central Islip. On October 29, 2010, Cosmo pled guilty to committing mail and wire fraud in connection with his operation of a massive Ponzi scheme involving the theft of more than $195 million of investor money that was supposed to be used to fund short-term commercial loans. Cosmo was ordered to pay $179 million in restitution to more than 4,000 victims and agreed to an asset forfeiture judgment in the amount of $409,305,000 as part of his sentence.

The sentence was announced today by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Cosmo, and others working at his direction, fraudulently obtained in excess of $400 million from investors over a five-year period by representing that the funds would be used by Agape either to fund short-term secured bridge loans to commercial borrowers, or used by AMA to make short-term loans to small businesses. Investors were told that the loans generated high interest rates which would result in payment of high rates of return on their investments. Cosmo often failed to make the short-term loans, admittedly using approximately $80 million of investor money to trade futures and commodities unbeknownst to investors, and paid false profits to early investors in the scheme using new investors’ money.

At the sentencing proceeding several victims, many of whom stated that they lost their family’s life savings, described the devastating effect of their losses as a result of Cosmo’s criminal actions.

“As recounted today in court by several of his victims, the defendant’s actions crushed the hopes and dreams of everyday citizens. We stand committed to ensuring that our markets operate fairly and honestly, and we will aggressively investigate and prosecute those who fraudulently enrich themselves at the expense of investors,”stated United States Attorney Lynch. “Those who lie and steal from the investing public are on notice that they face severe penalties,” Ms. Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the United States Postal Inspection Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation, the agencies responsible for leading the government’s investigation.

The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Demetri M. Jones, Grace M. Cucchissi and Vincent Lipari.

The Defendant:

NICHOLAS COSMO
Age: 40