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How banks hid billions in trades from US regulators

Gary GenslerThis spring, traders and analysts working deep in the global swaps markets began picking up peculiar readings: Hundreds of billions of dollars of trades by U.S. banks had seemingly vanished.

“We saw strange things in the data,” said Chris Barnes, a former swaps trader now with ClarusFT, a London-based data firm.

The vanishing of the trades was little noted outside a circle of specialists. But the implications were big. The missing transactions reflected an effort by some of the largest U.S. banks — including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley — to get around new regulations on derivatives enacted in the wake of the financial crisis, say current and former financial regulators.

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Social Security Disability Fund Will Run Dry Next Year

SS funds to run outThe 11 million Americans who receive Social Security disability face steep benefit cuts next year, the government said Wednesday, handing lawmakers a fiscal and political crisis in the middle of a presidential campaign.

The trustees who oversee Social Security and Medicare said the disability trust fund will run out of money in late 2016. That would trigger an automatic 19 percent cut in benefits, unless Congress acts.

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12 percent jump in homelessness in LA County

LA homelessThe number of homeless people in Los Angeles County jumped 12 percent in the past two years to more than 44,000 amid a sluggish economic recovery that has left the poorest residents of the second-largest U.S. metropolitan area falling farther behind, a study released on Monday found.

Most of those counted weren't staying in homeless shelters. The study also found that the number of tents, makeshift encampments and vehicles with people living in them jumped by 85 percent to around 9,500.

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How Wall Street captured Washington’s effort to rein in banks

Wall StreetIn the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Keith Higgins was certain: Banks weren’t to blame.

Higgins, a top attorney at prominent law firm Ropes & Gray LLP, was chairman of an American Bar Association committee on securities regulation. As such, he lobbied strenuously against a rule U.S. regulators were drafting that would require banks to disclose a lot more about asset-backed securities like those that had just torpedoed the economy.

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S&P paying $1.38B to settle charges over crisis-era ratings

S&P pays upStandard & Poor's is paying about $1.38 billion to settle government allegations that it knowingly inflated its ratings of risky mortgage investments that helped trigger the financial crisis, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

The settlement with the U.S. government, 19 states and the District of Columbia covers ratings issued from 2004 through 2007 by the McGraw-Hill subsidiary. It resolves a court fight that began with a government lawsuit two years ago and involved dozens of depositions and hundreds of millions of documents

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U.S. economy grows at fastest pace in 11 years

US economy growsThe U.S. economy grew at its quickest pace in 11 years in the third quarter, the strongest sign yet that growth has decisively shifted into higher gear.

The Commerce Department on Tuesday revised up its estimate of gross domestic product growth to a 5.0 percent annual pace, citing stronger consumer and business spending than it had previously assumed.

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Inequality Between America's Rich and Poor Is at a 30-Year High

economic inequality at 30 yr. highThere are many ways to compare finances, but perhaps a more holistic measure of financial health looks at household wealth, a comparison of what a family’s assets (home, cars, investments and bank accounts) are worth, versus what they owe. And when it comes to wealth, or net worth, the gap between the richest Americans and everyone else is at an historic high.

For the most part, it’s not necessarily that the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. Instead, the data shows that while the rich are seeing their assets grow and increase in value, the middle and lower-classes are seeing financial stagnation, creating a growing economic gulf.

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