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June 01, 2008 10:59 PM UTC

McCain's "Foreclosure Phil" Sold Death Bonds

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  • by: Go Blue

Newsweek is reporting that McCain’s top economic advisor Phil Gramm, who has already been critized for helping to screw up the global financial system, is now coming under even more scrutiny for his part in pushing “death bonds.”

NEWSWEEK has learned that UBS is also currently the focus of congressional and Justice Department investigations into schemes that allegedly enabled wealthy Americans to evade income taxes by stashing their money in overseas havens, according to several law-enforcement and banking officials in both the United States and Europe, who all asked for anonymity when discussing ongoing investigations. In April, UBS withdrew Gramm’s lobbying registration, but one of his former congressional aides, John Savercool, is still registered to lobby legislators for UBS on numerous issues, including a bill cosponsored by Sen. Barack Obama that would crack down on foreign tax havens. “UBS is treating these investigations with the utmost seriousness and has committed substantial resources to cooperate,” a UBS spokesman told NEWSWEEK, adding that Gramm was deregistered as a lobbyist because he spends less than 20 percent of his time on such activity. Hazelbaker said the McCain campaign “will not comment on the details … of ongoing investigations and legal charges not yet proved in court.”

McCain’s campaign is already distancing itself from some of Gramm’s other work for UBS: his involvement in attempts to sell financial products known as “death bonds,” which BusinessWeek described last summer as one of “the most macabre investment scheme[s] ever devised by Wall Street.” Not long after joining UBS, the Houston Chronicle reported, Gramm helped lobby Texas officials, including Gov. Rick Perry, to sign on to a UBS proposal in which revenue would be generated for a state teachers’ retirement fund by selling bonds, whose proceeds would in turn be used to buy annuities and life-insurance policies on retired teachers. UBS would advance money to the retirement fund, then repay itself, compensate bondholders and pocket profits when insurance companies paid off on retirees who died. According to a banking-industry source, who asked for anonymity when discussing a sensitive matter, Gramm was involved in efforts to pitch similar UBS products to other financial institutions.

For a Presidential candidate who has already admitted to not knowing much about economics, to bring on Phil Gramm as his top economic advisor only further verifies McCain’s incompetence to serve in the highest office.  

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