Why I Did Not Go To Jail – Andreessen Horowitz

Jordan came back with an answer that I did not expect: “Ben, I’ve gone over the law six times and there’s no way that this practice is strictly within the bounds of the law. I’m not sure how PwC justified it, but I recommend against it.” I told Michelle that we were not going to implement the policy and that was that.

Well, that was that for a while. Then, almost two years later, the SEC announced that it was investigating Michelle’s previous company for stock option accounting irregularities. This started a massive investigation of all Silicon Valley companies and their stock option accounting practices. All told, more than 200 companies were found guilty of some sort of irregularity.

Source: Why I Did Not Go To Jail – Andreessen Horowitz

Why this single incident didn’t put PwC out of business is just literally beyond me. How one of the “big four” auditing firms can sign off on something that put 200 companies under indictment by the SEC ought to cause them to be forced out of business by the government, just on the face of it. At least the auditing arm of Arthur Anderson was split off after Enron, and went kaput. According to this writer — who expands on the backdating story — there were hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements, and all the auditing firms walked away unscathed.

This is another case like the housing crisis. The “big three” ratings agencies of Wall Street — which supposedly exist as a 3rd-party check on investments being offered for sale — were shown to be completely fraudulent. They allowed the crisis to happen by lying about the bonds in the first place, then stonewalled rating them accurately when the party started to crash, to give time to the big investment banks to shore up their positions.

I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here. Why would the government look the other way at any of this? It’s because you can’t neatly assign this government malfeasance to a political side. It transcends Right or Left. So the populace squabbles on social media about the social controversy of the day, while Congress argues about the size of a second government check in the course of a year, and both just ignore how the kings and emperors of our modern feudalistic system are taking over more and more of the system for themselves.

It was supposed to be a government OF the people, BY the people, FOR the people. Now it’s a government OF campaign donor recipients, BY campaign donors, FOR company executives. And you don’t have to look very far back to see how this is working out for us since Citizens United, just 10 years ago.

Big Tech to face its Ma Bell moment? US House Dems demand break-up of ‘monopolists’ Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google • The Register

Of course, there is still a long way to go before any of the report’s recommendations become a reality. Even within the committee, there is not unanimity, with some Republican members expressing concerns over breaking up companies in particular. Republicans will also be more ideologically opposed to adding regulations or removing companies’ ability to arbitrate disputes themselves, rather than through the courts.

And then of course there is the enormous collective power of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google – some of the world’s largest and richest corporations – who will be willing and able to do anything to protect their markets and profits.

Source: Big Tech to face its Ma Bell moment? US House Dems demand break-up of ‘monopolists’ Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google • The Register

I note, for the record, that AT&T was broken up long before Citizen’s United was decided, when our government still worked, because both sides actually  compromised on legislation. I also remind everyone the the Supreme Court is NOT, in fact, the final say in our laws. If Congress doesn’t like the way a decision went, they can write a new law in light of what was decided.

But do you really think that a bunch of Congress-people are going to forego campaign funding from Silicon Valley by voting to break up four of the biggest corporations in the world? Even if they weren’t getting money from those companies before, you can bet their primary challengers would, the next time around. You can’t fix our corporatocracy until you get rid of Citizen’s United, and we will never be free of it now. As if we didn’t have a big enough problem with it before, the decision guarantees regulatory capture forever. Campaign funding and the life-and-death polarization of our two-party system will never allow for reversing it.

There’s no public interest in these hearings. There is literally zero chance that anything will substantively change. Even if they do break Instagram out of Facebook, or YouTube out of Google, what will that really do? Nothing. If this is really about the advertising market, then all you’re going to do is split your existing spend, and if there are just 4 entities involved in the market instead of 2, they’ll collude on pricing, as a middle finger to the government. And, like AT&T before it, they will eventually just reassemble themselves into something even more monstrous than before.

This is about money. It’s always about money. Congress thinks that these companies should be giving more of their money to their campaigns, and this is how they go about getting that done. Watch campaign contributions rise in the wake of these hearings, note that nothing effectively changes, and then remember I was right. This isn’t rocket surgery. We’ve seen this before from the Microsoft trial.