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The Biz Roundup February 8

Just give us one more day.

With Congress wrangling over the details of the $800 billion-plus stimulus package, the Treasury Department said on Sunday that it would cede the political stage to those negotiations and delay until Tuesday the rollout of the Obama administration’s multibillion dollar plan to assist the nation’s troubled banking system.

(“Bailout Announcement Pushed Back to Tuesday,” New York Times, February 8) Take your time. BTW, the $40 billion in aid taken out of the stimulus package that was earmarked to help out the states — take it from Republican states, no? It was Republicans what took it out, no?

Your new word for the week is “cramdown.”

Wherever you come down on the griddle-hot issue of home mortgage “cramdowns,” the reality is this: Congress is poised to pass legislation empowering Bankruptcy Court judges to reduce the loan balances of potentially large numbers of financially distressed owners to affordable levels and to lower their interest rates and monthly payments. President Obama has promised to sign the bill.

Cramdown may be an unpleasant-sounding word, but for decades it’s been part of the bankruptcy lexicon for most types of debt. If you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy — a court-supervised, multiyear workout plan designed to provide at least partial repayments to your creditors — judges can reduce what you owe on credit cards, auto, boat and student loans and even second-home mortgages. But under current law they cannot cut the debt on your principal residence.

<"Mortgage 'cramdowns' could be on the way," Los Angeles Times, February 8) You know we're in dark times when bankruptcy jargon threatens to become everyday language. Just wait until "cramdown" becomes an analogy ("I just had a cramdown on my paycheck." "I've decided to cramdown my yarn-buying habit." "The doctor put me on a cramdown.")

Here’s one way to make money in a recession: scam the unemployed.

The Federal Trade Commission, the consumer-protection agency, received nearly 6,000 complaints against employment agencies and job-counseling services in 2007. The numbers of complaints are almost certain to rise along with the unemployment figures.

Some business-opportunity rip-offs require an upfront fee of $40 to $200 or more to receive information. Often, instead of receiving specific instructions, customers receive vague advice on how to place Internet ads to sell products.

Some scams are variants of mail-based frauds originating overseas that have circulated for years, and part victims not only from their cash, but also from sensitive personal information that could be used for identity theft.

Others are “phishing” scams that use email or fake Web sites from phony employers to gather confidential data from victims for identity theft or money laundering.

(“Job Scams: The Recession Turns Ugly.” Wall Street Journal, February 8) “Vita bestial mi piacque e non umana, / sì come a mul ch’i’ fui.” And just in case you want to do more than just trash one of these scammer emails, Ebola Monkey Man has more than a few ideas he’s used on “Nigerian email” scammers.

J.P. Morgan’s gave themselves MUCH bigger bonuses out of taxpayer bailout money than it seems at first glance. (“J.P. Morgan’s Abusive Excutives Bonuses,” Truth In Options, February 7)

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