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BofA exec to pay $10M penalty, is barred from being an executive for 3 years

(Business Finance) Bank of America has seen the fallout from bad choices leading up to the economic crash, and one executive is facing the $10 million music.

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bank of america ken lewis

Bank of America exec’s interesting settlement

As part of a $25 million settlement that Bank of America and their former CEO, Ken Lewis reached with the State of New York, Lewis agreed to a three-year ban from serving as an officer or director of any public company, according to Reuters.

Lewis led the company into acquisitions that hurt the industry, namely buying Countrywide from the Angelo Mozilo crew without proper due diligence, which led to huge lawsuits for illegal foreclosures (that BofA had to foot the bill for), and millions in losses on bad loans from a failing company.

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Former Chief Financial Officer Joe Price has not yet reached a deal, but we anticipate a similar settlement will be reached in his case, as the NY Attorney General alleged that when Price and Lewis convinced shareholders that merging with a failing Merrill Lynch in 2008 was a good idea, BofA executives were fully aware that they would be acquiring a company facing over $9 billion in losses, which they never reported to the investors that approved the merger.

Price and Lewis also allegedly misled shareholders as to the negative impact that buying Merrill would have on the company’s future earnings.

Barely a quarter after the deal closed, BofA was sought out and was given billions of bailout dollars from the federal government, citing a “material adverse change” in Merrill’s financial condition over the previous three months.

The two executives and their team didn’t unveil Merrill’s massive losses until mid-January 2009, which sparked a $50 billion sell-off in BofA shares.

Finally, some accountability?

As part of the agreement, Lewis has agreed to pay a $10 million penalty to the state of New York and Bank of America will pay a $15 million penalty.

Policymakers and voters on both sides of the aisles have long been crying out for executives to be penalized, not just the corporations with deep pockets, and this marks a change in the tide. This settlement won’t hurt Lewis who is still extremely wealthy, and it won’t hurt Bank of America who is getting used to doling out billions in settlement funds, but it will send the message that executives may finally have their feet held to the fire and be kept out of board rooms. At least until this all blows over.

Tara Steele is the News Director at The American Genius, covering entrepreneur, real estate, technology news and everything in between. If you'd like to reach Tara with a question, comment, press release or hot news tip, simply click the link below.

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Business Finance

Under-representation of women in fintech: Let’s talk about it

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Representation of women in fintech remains scarce despite a prevalent population of interest. Why is this the case, and what can we do about it?

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Woman reading a document in front of her computer, one of the women in fintech.

Women are 50% of the population – so why are there only 9 of us on the 2020 Forbes Fintech 50?

I’m personally shocked by how underrepresented women are in such a lucrative industry. By 2022, it’s predicted that fintech, or financial tech, will be worth $26.5 trillion, and we cannot afford to miss out.

And I’m serious when I say fintech is truly taking over. This includes payment processing, online and mobile banking, person-to-person payments (think Venmo or Cash App), financial software, to name a few. For some perspective, half of consumers use digital banking services as the primary way to manage their money. That’s a big deal.

So why does it matter that women are drastically underrepresented in leading roles at these companies?

  • Women CEOs receive only 2.7% of all VC funding – that is astonishingly low, considering that the remaining 97.3% is secured by their male counterparts.
  • While a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review on leadership skills found that women scored higher than men in 17 out of 19 categories (I could’ve told you that), women founders make up only 17% of fintech companies. Some of the categories tested on were:
    • Bold leadership
    • Taking initiative
    • Resilience
    • High integrity & honesty
    • Collaboration and teamwork (this is a big one!)
    • Inspiring & motivating others

If you’re a woman interested in business, tech, or entrepreneurship looking to break into the big leagues, here’s some exclusive advice from lady CEOs, founders, and COOs:

  • Stay Passionate
    Suneera Madhani, Founder + CEO of Fattmerchant, says: “…remember why you started and hold that close to your heart when times get tough.”
  • Be Open to Learning
    “Never behave as the smartest person in the room because you may miss some of the best ideas.” Says Snejina, Co-founder + CEO of Insurify.
  • Trust Your Intuition
    As the Founder + CEO of Tala, Shivani Siroya urges us to: “Stay excited, focused on results and be incredibly optimist. It’s okay to really believe in your gut – just make sure that you see the results with it.”

2021 is a new year full of opportunity – even though the odds are (and always have been) stacked against us, let’s have this be the year where women techies and business owners capitalize on their leadership skills. We have lost time – and profit – to account for.

Author’s Note: Thank you to CreditRepair for the linked infographic!

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Business Finance

TikTok users are making bank by copying Congress peoples’ investments

(FINANCE) TikTok, the short-form video platform, has users trading stocks tips. The newest strategy: following Congress peoples’ stock moves.

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TikTok isn’t just for funny dances, crude jokes, and kids born after the year 2000 (but crazy to think, they aren’t kids anymore, they could be 21…time flies). The short-form video platform that soared to be the #1 most downloaded app during the pandemic is giving tips to youngsters and millennials for their finances. The newest strategy: following and copying Congress’ stock moves.

This is in part to the not-so-surprising news of insider trading among politicians and the ability to duplicate trades of another user on platforms such as Iris, whose website says…

“Invest together with your family, friends, and brilliant people all over the world. Get real-time notifications when others make trades and copy their moves.”

Nancy Pelosi and her husband, Paul, are the prime examples of government traders (or traitors, you decide) to watch. For example, Paul made $5.3 million through call options to buy 4,000 shares of Alphabet before the House Judiciary Committee voted on antitrust regulations. He also exercised $1.95 million worth of Microsoft stock just 2 weeks prior to the company’s awarded contract worth $22 billion for the use of their VR headsets in military training. Lastly, before President Joe Biden announced another incentive program for EV manufacturers, he also paid Tesla stock options for $1 million.

Nancy Pelosi at the podium.

Christopher Johns, the cofounder of Iris, said that every trade “inevitably turned out to be such a long-term winner.” Wonder how that’s possible (eye roll). He adds, “if they’re the ones passing the laws, it’s probably smart to keep up and see what they’re buying.”

And yes, their stock picks are considered public trading activity and this is perfectly legal. Trading is no longer a lone man in a dark room behind 3 large computer screens of graphs or Jim Cramer screaming in the background- it’s a full-on social activity, just like everything else nowadays.

There is a whole community behind these meme cryptos, penny stocks, and short squeezes. You’ll find them on r/wallstreetbets, Elon Musk’s Twitter, Facebook groups, and of course, trading TikTok, all contributing to the “Eat the Rich” scheme of Gamestop/AMC, the elaborate rise and fall of Dogecoin, and the now trending, 2nd dog-specific coin, Shiba Inu.

Laugh all you want, but these kids are working smarter, not harder, and even outsmarting the best in the league, by following the best in the league.

AMC, Gamestop, and Dogecoin.

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Business Finance

Mastercard partners with Bakkt to offer crypto services to its vast network

(FINANCE) The thousands of banks and millions of merchants on the Mastercard network could soon integrate cryptocurrency in their products and purchases

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Man holding Mastercard

Mastercard has announced a partnership set to change the financial industry forever.

The major payments network is teaming up with Bakkt, a crypto-focused firm spun off of Intercontinental Exchange, that would be the provider of custodial services for users that sign up. This means that the thousands of banks and millions of merchants on Mastercard’s network could soon integrate cryptocurrency in their products and purchases. Bitcoin wallets, cards that earn rewards in crypto, and loyalty programs like airline travel or hotel points that convert to bitcoin would be included. The benefit is that the rewards or points in the form of crypto will allow users to earn a yield. Bakkt CEO Gavin Michael said in an interview,

“It’s an easy way to get going because you’re not using cash, you’re putting something that’s an idle asset sitting on your balance sheet, and we’re allowing you to put it to work.”

cryptocurrency

With Mastercard being a dominant force in the global payments industry alongside Visa, and 2.8 billion Mastercards in use, the announcement could bring a noteworthy expansion to how Americans interact with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Sherri Haymond, the executive vice president of digital partnerships says,

“Our partners, be they banks, fintechs, or merchants, can offer their customer the ability to buy, sell, and hold cryptocurrency through an integration with the Bakkt platform.”

The development of crypto, and bitcoin in particular, has dramatically increased in just the last year. Bitcoin has reached the record price of $60k this month and U.S. regulators have now allowed bitcoin-linked ETFs.

In a U.S. Consumer Crypto survey by Bakkt consisting of 2,000 consumers, 48% said that they purchased some form of crypto in the first half of 2021. 32% that had not yet purchased crypto reported that they were heavily interested in purchasing by EOY.

According to the Mastercard New Payments Index, 77% of millennials stated their interest in learning more about crypto while 75% said that they would put it to use if they could understand it better.

“We want to offer all of our partners the ability to more easily add crypto services to whatever it is they’re doing.”

Cryptocurrency on top of US dollar.

And just announced, due to the popularity and interest in cryptocurrencies in the Asia Pacific, consumers and businesses there will have the ability to apply for crypto-linked Mastercard credit, debit, or prepaid cards allowing them to convert their crypto into traditional currency to use globally. Mastercard is partnering with Amber Group, Bitkub in Thailand, and CoinJar in Australia to offer this service. Be on the lookout for the rollout of these services in the States soon!

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