“The Financial Firm That Cornered the Market on Jails”
Arun Gupta | The Nation
Numi Financial describes itself as a “leader in stored value card solutions for the criminal justice and corrections industry.” Its parent company, Stored Value Cards, based in Carlsbad, California, provides debit-card services to jails in 44 states through Numi Financial and Futura Card Services, issued by banks. The terms for the card used in Multnomah County lists 11 possible fees—the $5.95 monthly fee, a $2.95 fee for ATM withdrawals, $0.95 for a declined transaction, $1 to check the balance, and $9.95 to have the balance refunded by check. Some cards have as many as 19 fees, a maintenance fee as high as $15 a month, and higher fees for international transactions. As for the banks that issue prepaid cards like these, they spent, on average, only 10.3 cents per transaction in 2013, including processing and third-party fees, according to the Federal Reserve Bank.
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“This Is Your Life, Brought to You by Private Equity”
Jennifer Daniel, Josh Williams, Ben Protess, and Danielle Ivory | The New York Times
Since the financial crisis, the private equity industry has become
hugely influential. Here’s how it plays out in your daily life.
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“Did You Know the World Bank Has a Pretty Cool Bookstore? Well, It’s Closing.”
John Kelly | The Washington Post
How lovely, in this age of disappearing downtown bookstores — bye-bye Borders, so long Chapters, adios Olsson’s — that we have this brainy oasis for lovers of the printed word.
But not for much longer.
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“Can a Game Show Lose?”
Stacey Vanek Smith and Keith Romer | Planet Money
Imagine you're a contestant on the hit game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? You're on the final question for one million dollars. You think you might know the answer, but you're not certain. The spotlights are beating down on you, the dramatic music is playing, your hands are shaking with adrenaline. In this situation, you are not the only one freaking out. The show's producers are backstage sweating bullets over what you're going to do. It's their job to set up the rules just right, so that there's drama, tension, and the promise of a massive payout... without actually giving out that massive prize all that often. If contestants won a million dollars all the time, the show would go broke.
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“Why Corporate America Is Leaving the Suburbs for the City”
Nelson D. Schwartz | The New York Times
Even as they establish new urban beachheads, business giants like G.E. are also changing the nature of their headquarters, staffing them with a few top white-collar employees and a smattering of digital talent, rather than recreating the endless Dilbert-like pods they once built in the ’burbs.
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“How Should We Read Investor Letters?”
John Lanchester | The New Yorker
The letters in “Dear Chairman” are in one sense structurally identical: they are written by investors in public companies, sometimes addressed to the management of those companies and sometimes to other investors, telling them what to do. Within that over-all similarity, there is a broad story about the evolution of modern capitalism. Ben Graham’s innovation was followed by the “proxyteer” wars, in which activist shareholders gathered together collections of proxy votes to overturn complacent managements. After that came the “corporate raiders,” outsiders who sent “bear hug letters” offering to buy companies, and threatening a hostile takeover if the offer was refused. (A takeover is hostile when the management doesn’t want it; if shareholders approve the takeover, the managers are usually fired.) Gramm gives the example of Carl Icahn’s battle against Phillips Petroleum, in 1985, which is interesting, since Icahn is still, more than three decades later, America’s best-known activist investor, and is still regularly writing to the bosses of his chosen companies. “Dear Chairman” then takes the story all the way up to the present, with the activist hedge-fund investor Daniel Loeb firing off a series of letters to public-company chairmen.
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