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Puerto Rico Oversight Board Holds First Meeting
2 hours 32 min ago
Communications

Puerto Rico Oversight Board Holds First Meeting

Independent Experts Monitor Puerto Rico Board and "PROMESA" Legislation

Washington DC - The newly created Puerto Rico economic oversight board holds its first meeting and will elect a chair on September 30 in New York City. Congress created the 7-member board as part of legislation to address the island's debt crisis. An independent group of academics, lawyers, finance experts and civic leaders formed a task force to monitor the oversight board and the progress of the Puerto Rico debt legislation.

"We need to make sure that the Puerto Rico legislation lives up to what we were promised," noted Eric LeCompte, Jubilee USA's executive director who is joining the independent expert group. LeCompte is a UN debt expert and testified before Congress on the Puerto Rico crisis. "If the legislation and oversight board are successful, we should see the debt become sustainable, austerity prevented, greater budget transparency and positive economic growth recommendations."

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New Report Finds Corporate Offshore Tax Avoidance ‎a Growing Problem
2 weeks 2 days ago
Communications

According to a new report, secretive offshore tax avoidance practices are on the rise among multinational businesses. The report, released from the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency Coalition (FACT), finds that these practices put investors at risk because they are caught off guard when governments act to collect the lost tax revenue. The report recommends that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) collect greater information from corporations on what taxes are being paid and which governments are receiving payments.

"This type of corporate tax avoidance is a theft from poor communities across the United States and around the world," noted Eric LeCompte, the executive director of the religious development coalition Jubilee USA and a member of FACT's executive committee. LeCompte served on a UN expert group that investigated this behavior. "This report demonstrates that hiding money offshore even harms the very people who invest in these companies."

The report references three prominent companies that may have used tax avoidance practices in recent years and now face action from tax authorities. The report urges the SEC to collect "country-by-country reporting" information which requires multinational corporations to annually disclose what payments they make to governments where they operate. Companies are already required to file these reports with the IRS but filing them with the SEC would give shareholders access to the information.

According to a 2016 report from the development organization Oxfam America, corporate tax avoidance drains approximately $111 billion a year from the United States, and an estimated $100 billion from some of the world's poorest countries.

"Financial transparency is essential to protect the most vulnerable," stated LeCompte. "The SEC should adopt country-by-country reporting as soon as possible."

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12 weeks 4 days ago
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Att : Journalists & Friends, Activist: Dr. Frank Romano,

Submitted by fromano33 on July 2, 2016 - 8:10am.
Love and Terror in the Middle East, 4th Ed., by Frank Romano/ Book Signing
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Love and Terror in the Middle East, 4th Ed. dramatically captures the author’s efforts to promote understanding and cooperation between Jews, Muslims and Christians. He has been harassed/arrested by the Palestinian police, harassed/arrested by Israeli soldiers and attacked by Israeli settlers.

This Fourth Edition includes a new chapter. It recounts a recent harrowing experience in the West Bank, trapped in the midst of rioting Palestinians following the killing of a Palestinian youth by Israeli soldiers.

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Senate Faces Puerto Rico Vote Before July 1 Deadline; Governor Calls for Passage of Debt Relief Bill
13 weeks 3 days ago
Communications

The United States Senate faces a likely vote on Puerto Rico debt crisis legislation this week. Puerto Rico's Governor, Alejandro García Padilla, called on the Senate to pass the bill by July 1, when the US territory owes a nearly $2 billion debt payment. The Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act passed the House on June 9.

"If legislation doesn't pass before July 1st, we are opening the door for vulture funds to exploit Puerto Rico," noted Eric LeCompte, a United Nations debt expert and the executive director of the religious development coalition Jubilee USA. "Up to now we've seen very little predatory behavior, but if Puerto Rico defaults without protections, the vultures will swoop in."

Several Senators are looking to amend the legislation before a potential default on July 1. If the Senate passes amendments, the House would have to approve the new bill after July 5th when it is back in session.

"The legislation provides critical breathing space," stated LeCompte. "Before Puerto Rico's next default, it needs the protection of this legislation. The bill in front of the Senate allows Puerto Rico to pay pensions and social services before it pays the debt."

Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 75 US organizations and 550 faith communities working with 50 Jubilee global partners. Jubilee USA builds an economy that serves, protects and promotes the participation of the most vulnerable. Jubilee USA has won critical global financial reforms and more than $130 billion in debt relief to benefit the world's poorest people. www.jubileeusa.org 

House Passes Puerto Rico Debt Crisis Legislation; Senate Poised to Pass Bill Before July 1
15 weeks 6 days ago
Communications

The House passed Puerto Rico debt crisis legislation 297-127. The Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act now heads to the US Senate for approval.

"The bill was a compromise and it's encouraging that Republicans and Democrats came together to pass this bill," said Eric LeCompte, who testified to Congress on the legislation and who is the executive director of the religious development coalition Jubilee USA. "We were grateful to see unanimous support to pass our amendment to address child poverty on the island."

An amendment sponsored by Representatives Jolly [R-FL] and Curbelo [R-FL] to recommend policies to end child poverty on the island passed unanimously by a voice vote. The child poverty amendment was supported by Jubilee USA, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ, the Union of Reform Judaism and the Church of the Brethren. The House also approved an amendment to allow a Puerto Rico commission to continue auditing the territory's debt.

"The House took a powerful action by protecting the continuing investigative work of the debt audit commission." shared LeCompte. "I'm glad that Representatives Serrano and Velázquez won approval for their amendment to support the Puerto Rico debt audit."


The Senate version of the bill is poised to pass with a similar level of bipartisan support.



"Speaker Ryan, Chair Bishop, Ranking Member Grijalva and Representatives Duffy, Velázquez, Serrano, Pierluisi and Young deserve credit for shaping and passing this bill," stated LeCompte. "Because a group of Republicans and Democrats put Puerto Rico's people first and special interests second, we have a meaningful bill."

Puerto Rico Archbishop Urges Congress, Governor and Creditors to Solve Debt Crisis; Island’s Major Religious Leader Urges Puerto Rico’s People to Address “Colonial” Status
16 weeks 21 hours ago
Communications

Ahead of a likely House vote this week, San Juan's Roman Catholic Archbishop, Roberto González Nieves OFM, announced his support for Puerto Rico debt crisis legislation in an op-ed to The Hill.‎


"I support the current legislation because it gives Puerto Rico breathing space – so the payment of pensions and social services are made first, before debt payments," the Archbishop wrote in his op-ed about the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act's debt restructuring provisions. "The legislation stops exploitative behavior of so-called vulture funds and has a process to bring our debt back to sustainable levels."

While supporting the legislation as "protecting the common good," González expressed concern about the economic oversight board that the Congressional action establishes. In The Hill, he noted the roots of the crisis are found in Puerto Rico's political status and the religious leader called on Puerto Rico's people to "see this visitation of a control board on our island as a wake-up call."

"Fundamentally, Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States," wrote González. "Before our island faces the next crisis, we must self-determine who we want to be and our relationship with the United States."

González‎ encouraged creditors and Puerto Rico's government to work together and resolve the debt crisis through direct negotiations. In his article, he related that he has met many of the creditors.

The island's senior Catholic leader also heralded and named Congressional leadership from both major parties for working together and "putting Puerto Rico's people first."‎

Consumer Protection Bureau Unveils New "Payday" Lending Rules
16 weeks 6 days ago
Communications

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau releases new rules governing "payday" lending - high interest loans that impact low-income communities. Payday loans often carry interest rates over 300% and give lenders direct access to a borrower's bank account. The new regulations would require lenders to assess a borrower's ability to repay loans and meet basic living expenses. The rules are open for public comment until September 14.

"Nobody should take out high-interest loans that can make a bad economic situation even worse. These new payday rules mark an important step forward for responsible lending and borrowing." stated Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious anti-poverty coalition Jubilee USA. "We also need strong state laws and we need Congress to support these rules."

Under the new regulations, payday lenders would be prevented from directly withdrawing funds from a borrower's bank account under certain circumstances. The Bureau estimates that one-sixth of borrowers who had funds directly removed from their bank account lose that account due to overdraft violations and shortage of funds.

"Some borrowers lose their bank accounts because of overdrafts when payday lenders directly extract funds," noted LeCompte.

According to the Bureau, about half of the 12 million Americans who borrow from payday lenders have to take out a second loan to pay off the initial loan. Members of Congress have introduced legislation to delay the new regulations. Consumer advocates and the payday lending industry continue to debate proposed laws at the state level, with 24 states passing significant restrictions.

"Some payday lending is actually predatory lending," remarked LeCompte. "Predatory practices must be discouraged and these rules are a good first step."

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28 weeks 4 hours ago
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Radio Spots Focus on Puerto Rico Crisis Ahead of Sunshine State Presidential Primary
28 weeks 5 days ago
Communications

A religious development organization is running radio spots focused on resolving Puerto Rico's debt crisis on 238 stations across Florida. The ads air in Spanish and English continuously ahead of the state's March 15th presidential primary. More than 1 million Puerto Ricans live in Florida and their turnout could sway important presidential contests.

"There are counties in Florida that decide presidential races," noted Eric LeCompte, head of Jubilee USA, the organization airing the radio placements in Florida. "The turnout of Puerto Ricans living in Florida could decide not only who wins the primaries but also who wins in November."

Both parties held debates in Miami this week - the Democratic debate was hosted by the Spanish language Univision network.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio won Puerto Rico's March 6 Republican primary. The election itself highlighted the island's economic troubles. Partly due to lack of funds, officials reduced the number of polling locations for the territory's GOP primary from 3,226 in 2012 to just 110 in 2016. Roughly 25,000 voters participated this year, compared to approximately 130,000 in 2012.

Puerto Rico owes $72 billion in debt and is cutting education, health, law enforcement and pension funding to pay its debt. Congress is debating solutions to the crisis ahead of a March 31 House deadline set by Speaker Paul Ryan.

"The people of Puerto Rico are American citizens and they should have the rights as citizens living on the mainland," stated LeCompte. "Puerto Ricans are voting in key swing states and will make their voices heard."

G20 Focuses on Paris Attacks and Economic Stability
45 weeks 2 days ago
Communications

In a meeting overshadowed by the Paris terrorist attacks, G20 Heads of State finished their annual meetings in Antalya, Turkey. ‎The leaders focused on a range of issues focused around "economic inclusion."

"G20 leaders endorsed important policies to address corporate tax avoidance‎," noted Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development group, Jubilee USA Network.

The package of tax reforms supported at the meeting is called the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) measure. Tax and transparency issues have been a focus of G20 meetings over the last four years.

In recent years, the G20 has also urged support for "quota" reforms to give developing countries greater voting shares at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These reforms are held-up because the US Congress has yet to enact the new rules. The G20 stated they were "deeply disappointed with the continued delay" in implementing reforms agreed on during the 2010 G20 summit.

"IMF quota reform is long overdue and Congress should pass it immediately," said LeCompte, who serves on expert working groups in the United Nations that focuses on global finance policy. "The G20 is united on the need for these reforms."

Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 75 US organizations and 400 faith communities working with 50 Jubilee global partners. Jubilee's mission is to build an economy that serves, protects and promotes the participation of the most vulnerable. Jubilee USA has won critical global financial reforms and more than $130 billion in debt relief to benefit the world's poorest people. www.jubileeusa.org

United Nations Votes for Global Bankruptcy Principles
1 year 9 weeks ago
Communications

A United Nations committee adopted nine principles to create a global bankruptcy process for countries. Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz addressed the final session of "The UN Ad Hoc Committee on Sovereign Debt Restructuring" that the UN General Assembly established last fall. Countries currently cannot access bankruptcy protection when they face economic crisis. The World Bank notes that 49 countries face worrying levels of debt distress and the International Monetary Fund notes debt is the root cause of inequality. In recent months, governments across the Caribbean, Greece and Argentina expressed an immediate need for a global bankruptcy process.

"With so many countries facing debt crises, we urgently need solutions to protect investors and poor people," noted Eric LeCompte, who is participating in the UN meetings. LeCompte is the executive director of the religious development organization Jubilee USA Network. "The UN's work is a step in the right direction, but we still have a lot of work to do if we want a legally binding process."