Saturday, April 24, 2010

Roundup: Recent Financial Headlines

My only comment - former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, a major player in the 2008 financial collapse, has been affiliated with both Goldman Sachs and Citigroup in his private sector work. Unlike Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Washington Mutual - all of whom suffered heavily thanks largely to economic policies of Rubin set during his tenure in the Clinton Administration, particularly the repeal of portions of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 - the two financial giants survived the crisis. As of 2008, he received $50 million in compensation/stock options from Citi, who were receiving a $45 billion bailout from American taxpayers at the time. Interesting.

GMAC To Tap Citibank, Goldman Sachs For Advice On TARP Repayment

U.S. Take If It Sells Its Citi Stake To Settle Cost Of Bailout:  $8 billion

Citi 'Negative' On Subprime Mortgages As Early As 2006, Yet Firm Continued To Pump Out Subprime Mortgage Products

Goldman Sachs E-mails Show Bank Sought To Profit From Housing Downturn

Citi Distances Itself From Goldman’s Troubles

©2010 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bear and Grinning It

South Park Creators Warned Over Muhammad Depiction

Not an incitement to violence??? Then I must have misinterpreted the Theo Van Gogh reference. And is Muhammad a bear? Because I see a bear, which can only be a blasphemous representation if Muhammad were a bear. This is partly the reason I'm agnostic - organized religions fighting over nonsense that means nothing in the grand scheme of things. Would Muhammad really care? Would Jesus, or even the Buddha? There's been plenty of controversy over the portrayal of other religious figures on the show, particularly Jesus, but freedom of speech is freedom of speech. No one has the right - Constitutional or otherwise - to infringe upon another's right of expression, even if you disagree with what is said. That's part of our individuality, and every individual has their rights.

Again, though, I just see a bear...

©2010 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Citibank Top Ten List

Ten reasons why, in my highly biased opinion, Citibank sucks. I am sure there are many more, and you probably have your own favorites as well.

#10 Too busy assessing late fees and increasing interest rates without warrant, Citi never sleeps.

#9 Bank of America already holds the title for "blows."

#8 Easy way to “earn” taxpayer money - but for $45 billion, they'd better do more than just “sloppy yawns.”

#7 No reasoning with customer service, which has only one reason:  frontline idiocy

#6 Loyalty means nothing, especially to long-standing account holders.

#5 The U.S. government owns 36%.

#4 Foreign investment firms, mainly based in the Middle East, own 26%.

#3 Even Ticketmaster makes fun of them for their unscrupulous tactics.  

#2 With their name on the Mets' stadium, suckage is practically a guarantee.

#1 After suffering through several historic crises, they’re used to being on their knees.

©2010 Steve Sagarra

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Citibank: Making Gordon Gekko Proud

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I have been in a dispute with Citibank for the past few months. As an olive branch to them, reluctantly gracious in refunding a few hundred dollars of unwarranted interest as a result of an equally unwarranted APR increase, I was going to make a payment that would bring my account up-to-date. However, their continual attempts to contact me by telephone concerning my now past due account after I informed them in several letters - including a "cease & desist" - that I would not pay due to their violations of the Card Member Agreement, which I have previously expounded upon, and would retain legal counsel over the matter, they also now have violated my consumer rights as governed by the Fair Debt Collection Protections Act. As such, I filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission due to their failure to heed the “cease & desist,” and may seek legal action concerning the violation separate from any class action lawsuit pursued in relation to the aforementioned ones.

What is not surprising throughout this ordeal is the attitude of Citibank, oblivious and unmoved by their actions concerning this matter. Why should they care about the problems of the indebted American people, when they had far worse problems requiring $45 billion in taxpayer money to alleviate them? After all, this is the same Citibank that moved operations to South Dakota in 1981 solely to take advantage of that state's maximum interest rate on loans - which, at the time, was the highest in the country. All in order to circumvent usury laws that made consumer lending an unprofitable business. As well, Citibank has been, and still are today, accused of improper assessment of late fees, settling a $45 million lawsuit over the practice in July 2000; part of the settlement included a proviso that Citibank would not assess late fees as long as payments were made by midnight on the due date. Just two years ago, the company settled a $14 million lawsuit covering 53,000 customers whose accounts were cleared of over-payments and double payments in an "account sweeping program" between 1992-2003. Like the bailout money, they obviously misleadingly believed the money belonged to them and not the people. Little wonder that Portfolio ranked Vikram Pandit, who received a total of $10.8 million in salary and stock compensation in 2008 as his company sank and sought federal bailout funds, the 20th worst CEO in America.


If you are feeling squeezed by a similarly unscrupulous creditor, here are some information/resources for fighting back against the greed and corruption that is Wall Street:

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (HTML

©2010 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Citigroup: Self-Absorbed Apologists

Citigroup Executives Apologize For Not Averting Market Crisis

Citigroup Executives Admit Regret But No Blame For Role In Financial Crisis

Too little, too late. Apology not accepted. You didn't get your bonus, Mr. Rubin? Boo hoo. The people who lost their livelihoods and their retirement from your admitted failures do not care. Taxpayers who had no say but all the stake in the $45 billion federal bailout do not care. And account holders who have had their good credit affected by unwarranted increases to APRs and unscrupulous strong-arm tactics that have effectively closed their accounts because of those actions do not care. Further demonstrating that Wall Street doesn't care. Not about Main Street. Only about Easy Street.

©2010 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Citibank’s New Motto: Citi Never Takes Blame

In a previous post, I shared a letter sent to Citibank over an unwarranted increase to my annual percentage rate on my credit card. This is a growing occurrence for card members in recent months, even after legislation aimed at curbing the nefarious practices of financial institutions. In brief, I had opted out of any changes in terms to the card member agreement that would have astronomically increased my APRs in November 2009. This effectively closed my account. Then I opened my February statement, which reflected an increased APR at the default rate of 29.99%. Protesting the absurd, and unwarranted, increase, I refused to make a payment for the apparent violation of the card agreement on the part of Citibank. That pretty much catches you up on the story thus far.

After several recent inquiries, I finally received a reason for the increase. In one letter dated March 26, 2010, “S. Larson” (who seems a fictitious persona) states, “the increase was due to your default under the Card Agreement.” According to a supervisor I spoke with on April 3, the alleged occurrence for this default was the October 2009 billing cycle. My November statement does reflect that payment did not post until the day after the due date; nevertheless, when the payment post is not the problem of card members, especially when proper payment arrangements are made by the due date. In fact, in my case, two more payments were made on my part within two weeks of each other following the one in question.

However, a second letter, also dated March 26, 2010, and again signed by the peculiarly epitomized “S. Larson,” states the increase was due to my default for not making payment for the February 2010 billing cycle. This is true, as earlier stated, as I refused to make a payment due to the already increased APR. Nevertheless, as that billing cycle already reflected the increase, this would be impossible as the initial reason for it – which tells me Citibank is trying to cover for their failure to adhere to the card agreement. As such, I maintain, like many other card members also confronted with increased APRs, there was absolutely no justification for the increase, as I have never defaulted nor been late with a payment up to and including all billing cycles in question before it occurred.

A Rhode Island lawyer filed a lawsuit in November 2009 on behalf of a card member who faced the same problem with Citibank. According to the latest, he is trying to make it a class action lawsuit.

Lawsuit Filed Against Citibank For Raising Interest Rates

Citibank Raised Credit Card Rates Without Cause, Suit Says

No matter the case, all card members affected by the unscrupulous practices of credit card companies like Citibank should take up this gauntlet. The United States is known as a land of law; time for Main Street and the American people to take back this country by use of the law against Wall Street and their bailed-out, taxpayer-funded enterprises.

©2010 Steve Sagarra