Audit Notes: 1966 Wages, Fracking’s Chickens and Eggs, Whistleblowers

David Cay Johnston looks at the latest income-distribution data from Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, and notes that in this recovery, unlike one that FDR oversaw, almost all the income gains have gone to the ultra-rich.

Roosevelt brought in trustbusters, reformers and even an expert at Wall Street manipulations to implement policies benefiting the vast majority.

By contrast, while Obama called Wall Street executives “fat cats,” he surrounded himself with financial insiders with the exception of Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard bankruptcy expert now seeking election to the U.S. Senate. His administration has failed to prosecute the central figures in the frauds that created our economic distress.

Meantime, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of households was $29,840 in 2010, up just 1 percent 1966. In the same time, average income in the top 0.01 percent of households is up some 367 percent, to $23.8 million.

— Abrahm Lustgarten, who covers the fracking issue (among other things) for ProPublica, tweets criticism of a front-page Wall Street Journal article that reported that some experts say faulty well construction, not fracking, is to blame for water pollution.

faulty logic: not pressure on well that caused contam, was inability of well 2 sustain pressure

Tom Wilber, who’s also covered the fracking issue extensively, is critical too:

Fracking does not cause water pollution, according to a front-page article in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal. On this point there is consensus among regulators, academics and environmentalists.

This got my attention. Over the course of four years, I have interviewed many regulators, academics, and environmentalists while gathering information on my book, Under the Surface. I continue to interview them for this blog. Yet, I am yet to see much of anything that I would characterize as consensus on the risks and merits of fracking. How could I have missed this?

The answer is in the Journal’s definition of fracking.

American Banker’s Jeff Horwitz has part two of his series on the alleged wrongdoing in JPMorgan Chase’s debt-collection department. He looks at how Chase employee Linda Almonte blew the whistle, got fired, continued fighting to expose the practices, and finally got results—big time:

Many of Almonte’s accusations are backed by internal bank documents and current and former employees. What’s more, they’ve forced Chase to cease operations in a collections unit that had previously generated billions of dollars in annual revenues.

But while the fight dragged on, Almonte and her family were broke and living in a motel.

Almonte proved persistent, however. She contacted a number of regulators, including the Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Trade Commission, expanding on allegations from her wrongful termination suit. She also discussed her complaints with officials from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which oversees nationally chartered banks, including Chase. The OCC dispatched enforcement staffers to the bank’s San Antonio facility for two months late last year as part of a still ongoing investigation, as American Banker previously reported.

Lots of people presumably knew about what was happening, but it was one person who stood up and got it shut down—at great expense and without knowing the ultimate outcome.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,