Our investigation of the bubble barons concluded earlier this month — below is the piece I wrote for AlterNet, summarizing our findings. A big thanks to all the analysts who participated! On to social security.
Following the deadly mine explosion in West Virginia last week, the CEO of the company that owned the mine quickly emerged as a sort of Dickensian villain in media reports. Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship’s cavalier, profit-obsessed approach to mining had led him to dismiss pressing safety concerns at his mines. He had called safety regulators “as silly as global warming” and ordered managers to spend more time “running coal” and less time building ventilation structures. One miner told ABC News that working for Blankenship was “like living under a hammer. It’s all about the bottom line, we all know that.”
Blankenship was the hammer, but whose bottom line was he looking out for, exactly? The answer is somewhat surprising.
Continue reading How Bubble Barons Protected Their Influence While the Economy Tanked
The LittleSis.org/AlterNet citizens’ investigation of the Bubble Barons concluded last night, after a month of digging deep on the super-wealthy individuals who benefit most from our bubble economy. Thanks to all who participated! I am currently working on a final piece on the investigation and our findings.
In the meantime, to give you an idea of how much information the bubble baron research crew dug up, take a look at the following two network graphs. The first one shows a snapshot of LittleSis.org data on the bubble barons prior to the investigation. The second one shows this network graph after the investigation. The nodes represent bubble barons and the organizations and individuals they are connected with, and the lines represent relationships between them.
A network graph of the bubble barons, before the investigation (click through for the full-size image):
Continue reading The Bubble Baron Network
Stephen Schwarzman and David Rubenstein are co-founders of two of the largest private equity firms in the world, the Blackstone Group and the Carlyle Group. Both are under investigation by the bubble baron research group, with seanhartnett and Dan doing a tremendous job researching their networks and following their money.
As it turns out, Schwarzman and Rubenstein are closely connected to one another through a number of shared institutional affiliations. So far, Dan and seanhartnett have connected both of them to JP Morgan, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Asia Society, the Business Council, and the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. Rubenstein rises to the top of Schwarzman’s interlocks tab, and vice versa.
Two days ago, Dan noticed that Rubenstein was succeeding Schwarzman as chair of the Kennedy Center, and wrote a note:
Continue reading Digging Deep on a Private Equity Duo
One of the major objectives of the bubble barons investigation is to figure out where, exactly, all that money is going. Where are these billionaires investing their money? Which politicians do they support? Which charities benefit from their largess?
Today, I’m going to go over strategies for researching charitable contributions, and I’ll use my bubble baron, hedge fund manager Julian Robertson, as a case study. Several LittleSis analysts have gotten a head start researching these questions – this will offer a bit more direction on how to research these questions. While googling julian-robertson donation will certainly get you somewhere, there are ways to get much more systematic, detailed information about charitable activities.
Continue reading How to Research the Bubble Barons’ Charitable Contributions
The Bubble Barons investigation launched last week by AlterNet and LittleSis.org has gotten off to a fast start, with over 250 citizen journalists signed up to track down information on the 67 bubble barons we’ve identified. In less than a week, the research group has made over 500 edits to the LittleSis database, building out data on everything from the family ties of Dennis Washington to the investments and donations of Stephen Schwarzman. More than 30 analysts have participated in LittleSis.org research trainings.
You can follow the group’s progress at the Bubble Baron research page, which shows recent edits to bubble barons’ profiles, basic information and updates for the group, and notes from Bubble Baron analysts.
For those of you who haven’t signed up, it’s still not too late to get involved: click here to sign up for the Bubble Barons investigation.
What does it take for someone to be deemed a bubble baron? I used three main criteria when creating the list, drawing on Forbes’ lists of the 400 wealthiest Americans: Continue reading What Makes Someone a Bubble Baron?
Today, in partnership with AlterNet, we are launching a new investigation of the class of American super-rich we’ve deemed the Bubble Barons, “a select group of American multi-billionaires who saw astronomic gains in wealth during the housing bubble, and who so far have evaded all accountability in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.” Read the full AlterNet article introducing the project.
We’ve identified 67 bubble barons to target with our investigation. Drawing from Forbes’ lists of the wealthiest Americans for the past ten years, we selected individuals who were worth $2 billion or more (multi-billionaires); whose business activities are mainly in the real estate and finance sectors; and who saw significant gains in net worth over the past ten years (50% or more). Who are they? How have they made their money? Where have they invested it? How have they spent it? Who are their spouses, their friends, their closest business partners?
Join the Bubble Barons research group to help find out!
Continue reading New Investigation: Exposing the Bubble Barons