Corporations can now block class actions

A Perspective in the end it’s all about disclosure & transparency

BLOG SITE www.authenticallywired.com

… With the US Supreme Court in their pocket$ … corporation$ can at this juncture do any damn thing they plea$e knowing full well they are essentially immune from any interference from you or me …

We should be so fortunate … !

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Corporations can now block class actions


Written by Stephen Lendman    Date: April 29, 2011 …  Subject: Fascism/Corporatismhttp://www.freedomsphoenix.com/Article/088781-2011-04-28-supreme-court-lets-corporations-ban-class-actions.htm?From=News

An earlier article discussed hurdles ordinary people face before America’s High Court, accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2008/07/supreme-court-inc-supremely-pro.html

Saying pro-business rulings aren’t new, it suggested the most damaging one occurred in 1886. In Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railway, the High Court granted corporations legal personhood. Ever since, they’ve had the same rights as people without the responsibilities. Their limited liability status exempts them.

As a result, they’ve profited hugely and continue winning favorable rulings. Today more than ever from the Roberts Court, one observer calling its first full (2006-07) term a "blockbuster" with the Court’s conservative wing prevailing most often.

Through today, it’s been much the same, notably in its January 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, ruling government can’t limit corporate political election spending as doing it violates their First Amendment freedoms. Writing for the 5 – 4 majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy called it legal "political speech," effectively putting a price tag on democracy.

The decision overruled Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990), restricting corporate political spending because their resources unfairly influence electoral politics, and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003), upholding part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (the McCain-Feingold Act), restricting corporate and union campaign spending.

Citizen’s United set a precedent, but does it matter given the power of big money and past failures to curb it, Professor John Kozy saying at the time:

"Expecting the Congress, most if not all of whose members reside deep in corporate pockets, to eliminate that influence can be likened to expecting the rhinovirus to eliminate the common cold. Corporate money (in large or smaller amounts) is the diseased life-blood of American politics; it carries its cancerous spores to all extremities."

Kozy also cited Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ Lochner dissent, saying "the Court has taken its task to be the constitutionalization of a totally immoral, rapacious, economic system instead of the promotion of justice, domestic tranquility, the general welfare, and the blessings of liberty."

Of course, the same judgment applies throughout Court history with past civil libertarians far outnumbered by established order supporters and big money interests that run it. As a result, for every William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall there have been dozens of John Jays (the first chief justice), Roger Taneys, William Howard Tafts, Scalias, Burgers, Rehnquists, and Roberts.

It’s why Michael Parenti calls the Supreme Court America’s "autocratic branch" of government, affirmed shamelessly in its April 27 AT&T v. Conception decision, accessed through the following link:

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-893.pdf

America’s Supremes Deny Class Action Redress

After the ruling, Dow Jones Newswires Brent Kendall headlined, "US Supreme Court Blocks Class Action Against AT&T Unit," saying:

The Court blocked "a class action lawsuit alleging AT&T Inc. (T) wireless subsidiary acted fraudulently by charging sales tax on cellphones that it advertised as free. The case was considered a test of the enforceability of arbitration agreements that bar individuals from pooling their claims together in a class action."

Earlier, two California federal courts ruled that AT&T Mobility’s wireless contract arbitration agreement was not enforceable because it blocked class actions. On April 27, the Supreme Court overturned them. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said permitting group suits runs afoul of federal law promoting arbitration.

Dissenting, Justice Stephen Breyer said requiring consumers to arbitrate individually forces them to abandon small claims, too costly to litigate.

The case involved Vincent and Liza Concepcion’s complaint about the $30.22 sales tax on AT&T’s cellphone promoted as free. As a result, Breyer added:

"What rational lawyer would have signed on to represent (them) in litigation for the possibility of fees stemming from" an amount that small, effectively shutting them out entirely from judicial redress.

Still pending before the court is the largest class action in US history – Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. It involves sexual job discrimination, claiming the company violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by denying women equal promotion opportunities as men.

Wal-Mart lawyers now want the case dismissed on behalf of 1.5 million current and past female employees. Doing so, however, will be a crushing blow to aggrieved company employees and millions of others henceforth for redress it appears the ruling now denies.

Public citizen attorney Deepak Gupta represented the Concepcions before the High Court. After the decision he said:

"This morning, the US Supreme Court dealt a crushing blow to American consumers and employees, ruling that companies can ban class actions in the fine print of contracts."

So whenever you "sign a contract" for a cell phone, bank account, credit card, employment, or other purpose, "you may be giving up your right to hold companies accountable for fraud, discrimination or other illegal practices."

In its latest unprincipled decision, the Court ruled 5 – 4 that corporations may use arbitration clauses to prevent consumers and employees from using class actions to hold them accountable, requiring individual litigation instead.

In fact, class actions, like Brown v. Board of Education, are an essential litigation tool. Their fate shouldn’t be decided by corporate fine print "take-it-or-leave-it contracts" only lawyers understand.

The 1925 Federal Arbitration Act facilitated private arbitration settlements in state and federal courts, applicable to interstate commerce transactions under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. Henceforth, it will shield corporations from accountability, making it harder for people to litigate "civil rights, labor, consumer, and other (type) claims," resulting from corporate wrongdoing by "join(ing) together to obtain their rightful compensation."

As a result, says Gupta, it’s essential for Congress to enact legislation "ending forced arbitration in consumer and employment contracts," but expect no redress from a Republican controlled House and a pro-business president claiming populist credentials.

As a result, expect CEO’s from AT&T, Wal-Mart and other corporate predators to sleep comfortably henceforth, knowing America’s High Court backs their right rip off consumers and employees with

 

 

“self” policing is what has been driving our public policy for years

A Perspective in the end it’s all about disclosure & transparency

BLOG SITE www.authenticallywired.com

… What don’t you get … “self” policing is what has been driving our public policy for years … it didn’t happen overnight and stopping it requires herculean effort on our part … so what do we want to do…?

 

Stop USDA’s Plan for Monsanto and the Biotech Industry to Police Itself!

Genetically modified organisms, planted on 165 millions acres of US farmland, are damaging public health and the environment and undermining climate stability. GM crops have increased the use of toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, destroyed soil fertility and carbon-sequestering capacity, spawned super-weeds, contaminated organic & non-GMO crops, and are less nutritious and more likely to trigger allergies, in general making plants, animals and human beings weaker and disease-prone. Genetically engineered corn for ethanol has decreased grain supplies, raised food prices, and increased world hunger; meanwhile generating the same carbon footprint (greenhouse gas pollution) as conventional gasoline. Genetically engineered trees, fish, and farm animals pose similar hazards to human and environmental health.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has aided and abetted Monsanto and the biotech lobby by failing to accurately assess the environmental and climate impacts of GMOs, just as they have failed to properly assess the monumental damage of chemical agriculture. Now, APHIS, using the excuse of efficiency and cutting costs, wants to turn over the job of conducting environmental assessments to biotech companies like Monsanto that have a vested interested in getting their new GMOs deregulated.

This is a very dangerous game to play with the future of food, agriculture, and our common environment and climate. Tell APHIS to halt their pilot program and instead put their resources towards a more vigorous review of the potential harms of new GMO crops and animals

American press immediately $alivate

A Perspective in the end it’s all about disclosure & transparency

BLOG SITE www.authenticallywired.com

…Power generator$ play $anta and Congre$$ and the American press immediately $alivate like one of Pavlov’s experimental dogs…

Nuclear Danger Still Dwarfed by Coal

Christopher Wanjek, LiveScience’s Bad Medicine Columnist    Date: 26 April 2011 Time: 09:09 AM ET …  http://www.livescience.com/13876-nuclear-energy-dangers-coal.html

 

TOKYO — One must accept a risk of radiation exposure when flying in and out of Narita International Airport, the busiest airport in Japan, just east of Tokyo, but perhaps not for the reason you are thinking.

Fukushima Daiichi, the tsunami-damaged nuclear reactor site about 150 miles (241 kilometers) to the north, as the foolish crow flies, continues to leak trace amounts of radiation. Radioactive iodine-131 made it into the water supply here last month. But most, as physics would have it, has since decayed into stable xenon.

So, few in this Tokyo region have been exposed to radiation levels as high as someone just hopping off a plane. The international flyer receives a dose of about 0.10 millisievert, or the amount of ionizing radiation in two dental X-rays, from the sun’s radioactive cosmic rays. That means that folks who left Tokyo because of the threat at Fukushima likely received more radiation on the airplane flight than they would have if they had stayed at home. [

Such is the irony of nuclear energy, so potentially dangerous yet so much remarkably safer than most other energy sources, namely coal and other fossil fuels.

Dirty, dirty coal  …. As bad as Japan’s nuclear emergency could have gotten, it would never be as bad as burning coal. Coal is fantastically dangerous, responsible for far more than 1 million deaths per year, according to the World Health Organization.

Start with the coal miners, thousands of whom die from mine collapses and thousands more from various lung diseases. Next, add the hundreds of thousands of deaths in the public from breathing coal’s gaseous and particulate pollution, mostly from respiratory and heart disease.

Next, add the untold deaths and disabilities resulting from mercury in coal entering into the food chain. Then add the millions of acres of land, river and lake destroyed by mining waste.

Some of China’s citizens worried about a radioactive wind blowing over from Japan, but coal-burning power plants from China are causing far more health problems for both China and Japan.

Coal even releases more radioactive material than nuclear energy — 100 times more per the same amount of energy produced, according to Dana Christensen of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), as reported in Scientific American in 2007.

According to WHO statistics, there are at least 4,025 deaths from coal for every single death from nuclear power. Switch to "clean" natural gas? That’s still 100 times deadlier than nuclear energy. Oil is 900 times deadlier.

Not many are expected to die from the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

The U.S. DOE predicts a yearly dose of about 2,000 millirems for some people living northwest of the nuclear facility within 19 miles (31 kilometers), which could slightly increase their cancer risk if they haven’t left the area. But Japanese health authorities were quick to warn the public not to eat certain local foods with harmful levels of radioactivity, namely milk and spinach; people living within 12 miles (19 km) of the nuclear facility have been evacuated as a precaution; more are expected to be evacuated; and radiation levels continue to fall daily.

Reduce, reuse, recycle    Not that nuclear energy is safe. This is a comparative exercise. Part of the reason why nuclear energy is safer is that we store the radioactive waste in drums with the assumption that maybe in a hundred years or so we’ll figure out how to render it non-radioactive.

But here and now, nuclear energy’s problems are clear. The area around Fukushima Daiichi will be a ghost town for generations. Even if it is deemed safe, no one will eat the food from there, given other choices. No one will want to work or go to school there, given other choices. The livelihood of tens of thousands of Japanese people has been forever ruined.

In fact, all energy sources are harmful when factoring in a human population of about 7 billion. Wind turbines are noisy and chop up birds and bats, after all. The true environmental mantra always has been to consume less, to be more energy-efficient.

One would think that Japan has learned this lesson. But aside from the rolling blackouts in Tokyo — done for supply-and-demand reasons, not conservation — nothing seems to be cutting back on the vast energy consumption that enables the glow from thousands of pachinko parlors to obfuscate every star from the night sky above this fair city.

The survivors    The Japanese do have one perspective straight: While international news coverage remains focused on the day-to-day trials at Fukushima Daiichi, most of the local news here concerns the approximately 300,000 displaced survivors of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and the death toll that might exceed 25,000.

The site of rotting human bodies, as well as fish, cattle, dogs and cats amongst unspeakable destruction, is a profound reminder that natural catastrophes, in but a few minutes, can dwarf any catastrophe that foolish humans can produce. [In Photos: Rescued Pets in Japan]

(Note to reader: I couldn’t bring any potassium iodine to Japan even if I wanted, because the west coast of America has stockpiled the entire commercial supply, god love ‘em, ensuring that anyone who would need it wouldn’t get it.)

Christopher Wanjek is the author of the books "Bad Medicine" and "Food At Work." His column,Bad Medicine, appears regularly on LiveScience.

 

oil = currency

A Perspective in the end it’s all about disclosure & transparency

BLOG SITE www.authenticallywired.com

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… OK … Oil is not currency … and “big” oil and the bankster-gangsters are really just a misunderstood benevolent good-old-boys-club … so we’re there to protect the $$$ … whose $$$

OIL = CURRENCY … end of conversation … let’s move on …

Libya: It’s Not About Oil, It’s About Currency and Loans

According to the IMF, Libya’s Central Bank is 100% state owned. The IMF estimates that the bank has nearly 144 tons of gold in its vaults.

It is significant that in the months running up to the UN resolution that allowed the US and its allies to send troops into Libya, Muammar al-Qaddafi was openly advocating the creation of a new currency that would rival the dollar and the euro. In fact, he called upon African and Muslim nations to join an alliance that would make this new currency, the gold dinar, their primary form of money and foreign exchange.

They would sell oil and other resources to the US and the rest of the world only for gold dinars. The US, the other G-8 countries, the World Bank, IMF, BIS, and multinational corporations do not look kindly on leaders who threaten their dominance over world currency markets or who appear to be moving away from the international banking system that favors the corporatocracy.

Saddam Hussein had advocated policies similar to those expressed by Qaddafi shortly before the US sent troops into Iraq. In my talks, I often find it necessary to remind audiences of a point that seems obvious to me but is misunderstood by so many: that the World Bank is not really a world bank at all; it is, rather a U. S. bank.

Ditto, its closest sibling, the IMF. In fact, if one looks at the World Bank and IMF executive boards and the votes each member of the board has, one sees that the United States controls about 16 percent of the votes in the World Bank – (Compared with Japan at about 7%, the second largest member, China at 4.5%, Germany with 4.00%, and the United Kingdom and France with about 3.8% each), nearly 17% of the IMF votes (Compared with Japan and Germany at about 6% and UK and France at nearly 5%), and the US holds veto power over all major decisions.

Furthermore, the United States President appoints the World Bank President. So, we might ask ourselves: What happens when a “rogue” country threatens to bring the banking system that benefits the corporatocracy to its knees? What happens to an “empire” when it can no longer effectively be overtly imperialistic?

…It’s really simple …YES or NO …

A Perspective in the end it’s all about disclosure & transparency

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… Some questions for Dr. Mercola … Miracle Whey™™ … http://proteinpowder.mercola.com/pure-protein.html

upon reviewing the list of ingredient you note on the label for this product I note … a number of products whose country of origin ie India … China … make me suspect the term ORGANIC and possibly GMO might be construed differently in those cultures …

So flat out (a) are all the ingredients in your MIRACE WHEY … ‘organic’ as defined by strict organic advocates … (b) are all the ingredient in your MIRACE WHEY NOT in any manner GMO… ?

INGREDIENTS: Defense Nutrition Whey Protein Concentrate, Maltodextrin (from corn), Organic Nonfat Dry   … Milk, Organic Sweet Whey, Larch Fiber, Sunflower Seed Lecithin, Natural Chocolate Flavor, Medium Chain   …. Triglycerides, Guar Gum, Natural Caramel Flavor, Luo Han Guo Juice concentrate (for sweetness).

Take a Mouthful of This "Super Ingredient" to Help Make Your Muscles Stronger   clip_image001
This remarkable amino acid assists in regulating blood sugar, energy levels and producing human growth hormones. But you need to eat 16 eggs or 1 1/2 pounds of chicken to get your daily supply, so most people never get enough. Try a mouthful of this instead…

…It’s really simple …YES or NO …

one hand washes other

A Perspective in the end it’s all about disclosure & transparency

BLOG SITE www.authenticallywired.com

… Don’t act surprised … one hand of our corporate-owned government always ‘washes’ the hand of a compatriot and fellow-traveler …

… “We” … have been so screwed and still the vast majority doesn’t seem to get it …

IRS – – Likely to Expand Mortgage Industry Coverup by Whitewashing REMIC Violations

 

THURSDAY, APRIL 28, 2011… http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/04/irs-likely-to-expand-mortgage-industry-coverup-by-whitewashing-remic-violations.html

 

As established readers know, we’ve been writing since mid 2010 about the widespread, possibly pervasive, failure of mortgage securitization originators to convey the notes (the borrower IOU) to securitization trusts as stipulated in the deal documents, well before the robo signing scandal broke. This abuse matters because the transaction procedures were designed carefully to satisfy certain legal requirements, among them rules contained in the 1986 Tax Reform Act regarding REMICs, or real estate mortgage investment conduits, which required that the securitization trust receive all its assets by 90 days after closing and that all assets conveyed to the trust have to be “performing”, as in not in default. Failure to comply with the rules is a prohibited act and subject to taxation at a rate of 100%, and additional penalties may apply.

Now, with the Federal government under enormous budget pressure, shouldn’t the authorities be keen to go after tax cheats? The headline of a Reuters article, “IRS weighs tax penalties on mortgage securities,” would suggest so. But don’t get your hopes up. The lesson is don’t jump to conclusions when big finance is involved.

An overview from the article:

Should the IRS find reason to take tough action, the financial impact could be enormous. REMIC investments are held by pension funds, in individual retirement plans such as 401(k)s and by state and local government entities.

As of the end of 2010, investments in REMICs totaled more than $3 trillion, according todata supplied by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.

In a brief statement in response to questions from Reuters, the agency said: “The IRS is aware of questions in the market regarding REMICs and proper ownership of the underlying mortgages as set out in federal tax law, and is actively reviewing certain aspects of this issue.”

This matter was raised early last year by an attorney I know with IRS, to a senior officer, not in enforcement but familiar with REMIC rules. She immediately understood the importance and nature of the violations being alleged and was keen to proceed. Having had no follow up, the attorney rang again, and the IRS officer took the call, this time reluctantly. She indicated she was not supposed to be taking to him. She said the issue had gone to the White House, where word came back that the IRS was not going to be used as a tool of policy.

So demanding that tax law violators pay what they owe is somehow seen as an misuse of government authority? That appears to be the message.

Knowing of this background, in the blogger meeting with Treasury last August, when someone we will euphemistically call as senior official argued that the Treasury had little power over servicers, I objected, and said it depended on whether they construed of their power narrowly or broadly. I pointed out that a Pacer scrape on foreclosure filings would find thousands of violations of REMIC rules that were subject to punitive charges, and that that was an important leverage point to bring the industry to heel. (Yes, this is an example of using tax as a tool of policy, as opposed to merely enforcing the rules……that was by design). He sidestepped the reference to REMIC both in my initial question and follow up.

Steve Waldman, who was also at the session, was as skeptical of the exchange as I was. From a message last August:

Re REMICs: The reaction to your probing was very suspicious.

It’d have been one thing if he’d said they hadn’t looked into the issue. But that wasn’t how he responded. He started talking about how he’d had his staff “look for leverage”, against servicers I think, but found there was nothing there. In other words, he didn’t want to leave the issue open. He wanted to neutralize it.

One possibility is that the truth is face value, but I doubt it. After all, we’d just had staffers describe using the government’s leverage in creative ways to protect taxpayers or serve other public purposes as “extra legal”. Yet here was [the senior official] apparently on a fishing expedition for leverage, no doubt desperate to persuade servicers to facililitate mods to help homeowners. Yeah. Right.

If I’m not misunderstanding you, your core point is that the paperwork on many boomtown mortgages is invalid, and therefore various sorts of transactions, from foreclosures to bundling into REMICs, cannot be legally done, at least not without a lot of expensive research and recertification. In other words, your line of thinking would put a question mark beneath the value of a whole lot of bank assets. That would obviously not be in the national interest according to Treasury. So of course they’ve already looked onto the story and there’s nothing to it.

As Waldman indicates, there is a blindingly obvious reason why the IRS inquiry is a coverup. If the IRS were to find any of the questionable practices to be violations, they’d lead to widespread and large assessments against mortgage investors. That in turn would spawn the mother of all litigations by investors against the originators and trustees. That would blow up the mortgage industrial complex and put us back in a financial crisis. That is the last thing the officialdom wants to happen.

Now in fact there are ways the IRS can make this problem go away. The article quotes Jim Peaslee, who is one of the top experts on REMICS and was i one of the major influences on the original REMIC regulation. Note how he avoids discussing whether there might be violations; his point is the IRS will take a “see no evil” stance:

James Peaslee, a partner at law firm Cleary Gottlieb who is an expert on taxation of securitized investments, said that even if the IRS finds wrongdoing, it might be loath to act because of the wide financial damage the penalties would cause. He notes that the REMIC investors, who he called “innocent parties,” would have to pay rather than the banks that were responsible for any wrongdoing in transferring mortgage ownership.

I had a few above-my-pay grade e-mail discussions with one of Peaslee’s colleagues, another REMIC expert, last year, and the issues are vastly more complex than mere mortals would appreciate. For instance (and this is one of the simple examples), arguably, if the securitization vehicle wasn’t really created with the assets it claimed, so arguably, at least technically speaking, it was disqualified from the outset. However, legal structures and issues don’t map cleanly on to tax issues. We’ve argued that if the notes were not properly conveyed to the trusts (assuming they are New York trusts, which is the governing law in the vast majority of cases) then the trusts will have a big problem with foreclosing, since New York trusts don’t have any discretion and there is no mechanism for getting the notes into the trust other than shortly after it was formed.

But that particular concern isn’t germane from a tax perspective. State law doesn’t determine characterization of an entity for federal tax purposes. So, for example, even if a taxpayer said he a partnership and planned to set up a state law LLC as the partnership vehicle but failed to take all the legal steps, but did have a contract with a partner, and both has acted according to the partnership tax rules and reported income them on their tax returns accordingly, it would most likely still be treated as a partnership in spite of the lack of a state law legal vehicle.

The net result, as the expert indicated, is “that the rules about REMIC (or other securitization) qualification become very bendable” which in turn gives the IRS a great deal of latitude in what it can deem to be acceptable. He felt that was a bad posture to take, since that would give the servicers considerable leeway to manipulate tax liabilities directly.

The Reuters article points out the more obvious concern: foregone revenues by letting tax violations go unpunished:

Adam Levitin, a Georgetown University Law School professor and expert on taxation, said that if the IRS fails to act, “it would be a backdoor bailout of the financial system.”

If the IRS did impose penalties, the REMICs could turn around and sue the banks for causing the problems and not living up to the terms of the agreements establishing each REMIC, thus transferring the costs to the banks. If the IRS finds wrongdoing but fails to act, the IRS would forego “potentially enormous tax revenue that would be passed on to the federal government,” Levitin said. “Given the federal budget deficit that’s not something to sniff at,” he added.

So why is the IRS looking into this issue at all? Wouldn’t one expect them to let sleeping dogs lie? I can think of reasons. First, the issue has gotten enough profile that the IRS (really Treasury) may feel it’s better to go into “put the matter behind us” mode. Second is that it isn’t just the Federal government who would be able to charge taxes against RMBS if they found they had violated the rules, but also states. It’s not hard to imagine that some states have realized that going after the RMBS could be a significant source of badly-needed income. The IRS may thus feel it needs to get in front of this potential source of that investor bugaboo “uncertainty” as well as discourage state action. Mind you, state rules necessarily track the Federal REMIC rules precisely, nor are they required to interpret them the same way, but an IRS “nothing to see here” finding would deter action by all but the most bloodyminded state treasuries).

So we have yet again another example of two tier justice in America. Do you think the IRS would cut you any slack if you had engaged in as many violations of the tax rules as mortgage originators and trusts have? But the point of having a kleptocracy is to avoid inconveniencing the people with money at all costs.

 

also enjoying the same ill-gotten large$$ ..?

A Perspective in the end it’s all about disclosure & transparency

BLOG SITE www.authenticallywired.com

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… Question … Help me understand how and why it took forever for the Fiesta Bowl committee … ostensibly comprised of stalwart Arizona citizens … to doubt the efficacy and truthfulness of their attorney$ and accountant$..?

 

Might it just be the attorney$ and accountant$ were also enjoying the same ill-gotten large$$ ..?

 

And it certainly helps when your attorney$ are virtually an Arizona fixture … and your accountant enjoy$ appreciable name recognition … 

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