Say this for the Occupy Pittsburgh demonstrators currently living on Mellon Green: This is one group of dispossessed Americans that a big bank isn't rushing to evict.And:
That alone should tell you how powerful this grassroots movement has become -- all in the four weeks since demonstrators began occupying Wall Street's Zuccotti Park.
But the Occupiers' message isn't hard to understand: Just look at the cardboard signs lining Mellon Green. Where Tea Partiers oppose government intervention in the marketplace, Occupiers object to corporate meddling in our government. They object to a system in which CEOs ensure subsidies and bailouts for themselves, while shredding the safety net for everyone else.He ends saying it's democracy in its purest form.
That's why, in the end, the Mellon Green gathering itself is the statement. Occupy Pittsburgh has stood up to one of the country's largest banks, literally on its own turf. For once, the people have foreclosed on the bank's property. In clawing back a bit of real estate, they've reclaimed a sliver of the discourse. They can't afford to buy airtime, or politicians, yet they have claimed our attention -- just by showing up.
Meanwhile, Daley and Young (also of the CP) have the latest on this week's demonstration at Mellon.
Vidonic of the Trib covered it, too. The demonstrators demanded an investigation into Mellon's handling of public pension funds. The CP quoted a statement from BNY Mellon:
On behalf of our nearly 7,800 employees in Pittsburgh, we recognize the right to protest and express opinions. However, the concerns regarding our foreign exchange services are misguided. The suits against us are not supported by the facts or the law. The foreign exchange market is highly competitive and we are proud of the valuable services we provide our clients. We will defend ourselves vigorously on behalf of our shareholders and employees.While Vidonic writes:
Protesters have said that the Justice Department and the state and city of New York already have filed a lawsuit claiming BNY Mellon made billions of dollars by over charging foreign currency clients around the country.Meanwhile, Sabatini of the P-G was covering the lawsuit side of the story and threw an extra bit of info into the mix:
The bank says the lawsuit is "flat-out wrong."
Last week, a BNY Mellon currency trader in Pittsburgh was identified by the Wall Street Journal as having worked as a mole for the last two years for law enforcement officials investigating the matter. The man, who left BNY Mellon this year, provided information and documents, the Journal said, citing sources familiar with the matter.Ruh-Roh!
The WSJ explains the allegations:
The moves by prosecutors come amid an explosion in trading in the $4 trillion-a-day foreign-exchange market. They heighten a controversy that has swirled in recent months over whether "custody" banks like BNY Mellon, which handle securities and back-office tasks for institutional investors, routinely overcharge clients for trading. The suits allege the bank deceived clients by using a least-favorable high or low range of the day to price the currency trades.And:
The lawsuits allege BNY Mellon deceived clients by telling them the bank would provide competitive foreign-exchange rates. Instead, the lawsuits allege, the bank gave clients at or near the least-favorable end of the daily trading range. The New York attorney general alleged that the bank benefited by taking the other side of the conversion and pocketing the difference between the least-favorable client rate and the bank's better price.
The issue arises because Americans investing globally must convert U.S. dollars into the currencies of the countries where they invest—or vice versa. If a pension fund, for instance, buys stock in a European company, the fund's dollars must be converted to euros, and the opposite exchange made if the fund sells the stock. Custody banks facilitate such foreign exchange.And of course:
Some BNY Mellon clients have criticized the bank in recent months for high currency-conversion costs. The Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association, for example, stopped using BNY Mellon for certain transactions. The bank says its charges are fair and that clients can opt out if they don't like the prices.
The state and federal actions also underscore a growing tension between the U.S. government and financial industry at a critical time. Amid a weak economy, the banking industry has lobbied for less-stringent oversight to allow financial institutions to recover. [emphasis added.]Looks like the Occupy Pittsburgh demonstrators were abso-frickin'-lutely right.