Wells Fargo ‘fined’ … again

If only I had $24 million to get people out of my business. Wells Fargo, not long after getting a $200 million slap on the wrist for that funky check-clearing setup, will now pay $24 million to eight states for failing to disclose the serious downside to “pick-a-payment” mortgages. The AP story says: “The loans were made by the Wachovia Corporation and a California company it acquired, World Savings Bank. Wells bought Wachovia at the end of 2008. Wachovia had already stopped making those loans before that acquisition. As part of the agreement, Wells has agreed to offer loan assistance worth more than $770 million to more than 8,700 borrowers through June 2013, though that amount will depend on how the economy fares. The $24 million will be used to help states reach out to such customers. The agreement includes no admission of wrongdoing by Wells Fargo.” Of course not. The $24 million was a … gratuity.

The Mayo Clinic is now an “in-network” affiliate of for-profit UnitedHealth. Chris Newmarker of the Business Journal writes: “The move, which Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth and Mayo announced Thursday, means 25 million UnitedHealthcare commercial plan members will be able to travel to one of Mayo’s facilities for treatment and pay the same out-of-pocket costs as if they were going to the local in-network hospital.” The Strib’s Chen May Yee adds: “The promise of more commercial business is attractive to Mayo because it loses millions each year on Medicare patients. Medicare patients make up more than half of patients at its Arizona and Florida branches.”

You did catch Newt Gingrich’s line while in town campaigning for Tom Emmer, right? The AP reports: “Gingrich is advising Republican candidates on November’s ballots to frame the choice for voters between Democrats as ‘the party of food stamps’ while selling the GOP as ‘the party of paychecks.’ ” The ex-speaker went on to say, “ ‘Most Americans would like to get a paycheck,’ Gingrich said. ‘Most Americans would not like to be forced to have food stamps handed out by liberal Democrats.’ “

It’s a sad story. But  sad stories don’t get you a pass from prison. Randy Furst’s Strib story about the Minneapolis cop-turned-bank robber explains: “A Hennepin County District Judge on Wednesday sentenced a former Minneapolis police officer who committed a string of robberies to 10 years in prison, to be served concurrently with an eight-year federal prison term.” The cop, Timothy Carson, “wept as he told Duffy before the sentencing that he was ‘deeply sorry’ for his actions. Reading from a prepared statement, he said he had ‘disgraced’ the Minneapolis Police Department, ‘terrorized innocent people’ and created lasting psychological scars for his victims. He said he had ‘no excuse for what I’ve done.’ ” Post-traumatic stress and depression were mentioned as explanations for his spree. There’s a movie in this one.        

Michele Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, is not pleased about Tarryl Clark’s latest ad. In fact, he’s morally outraged. Andy Birkey, at the Minnesota Independent, reports Mr. Bachmann saying — in an appeal for funding — “ ‘I’m disgusted with the crude attacks the left launches every day against my wife and I’m writing to you with an urgent appeal to stop them,’ said Marcus. ‘I had hoped Michele’s opponent, Tarryl Clark, would be above this type of behavior. But I am sad to report that she has just released a 30-second attack ad that uses a false, profanity-laced attack against my wife. This attack ad literally uses symbols to indicate profanity against Michele — something I have never seen before in a campaign advertisement. ‘ ”  But really … “literally uses symbols to indicate profanity”? Now that boy is one delicate flower.

Birkey also reports on Ms. Bachmann’s latest, uh, imaginative assertion. He writes: “Rep. Michele Bachmann ‘sincerely’ wants to know: Is President Obama trying to buy votes in minority communities using funds from a class-action settlement against the U.S. Department of Agriculture over discrimination against African American farmers? Bachmann posed the question in an appearance on the radio show of Andrew Breitbart, a tea party activist who forced the resignation of Shirley Sherrod from her job at the USDA by distributing a video of Sherrod that was selectively edited to make her look like a racist. Sherrod was a recipient of some of the class-action funds after state and federal government declined agriculture grants to a community farm she and her husband ran. The case, Pigford v. Glickman, resulted in almost $1 billion in payments due to discrimination.” The good congresswoman continues, asserting, “[O]ur president, Barack Obama, filed a piece legislation to fund this Pigford case when he was running for president. And at that time we saw the black community in the southern part of the United States turn to Barack Obama rather than Hillary Clinton. There’s a lot of implications here.” And you know, “implications” are almost as good as facts. Oh, and nothing from the mainstream press — in print or blogs — on this one?

In a word, “false.” That’s the bottom line on the latest Mn Forward ad asserting that Mark Dayton “will raise job killing taxes by $5 billion … That’s more than $2,300 in new taxes per Minnesota family.” MPR’s Catharine Richert writes: “Dayton has changed his tax proposal because his first wouldn’t have raised enough money. Now, Dayton wants to increase the income tax rate on the state’s wealthiest to 10.95 percent, which will bring in about $1.9 billion over two years. All told, Dayton plans to raise about $3.7 billion by raising taxes, closing corporate tax loopholes and building a state-owned casino at the Mall of America, and save about $1.2 billion by trimming government spending. So, MN Forward is using old data to root its claim. But even if it was true, would it mean “more than $2,300 in new taxes per Minnesota family?” No. [Ex-Pawlenty staffer Brian] McClung said MN Forward came up with that figure by dividing $5 billion by the more than 2.1 million households in the state. The math works out, but it’s grossly misleading because it implies that every family would pay $2,300 in new taxes, which is false; Dayton’s plan — past and present — only targets a sliver of the state’s population.” In other words, it’s sort of an … “implication.”

Denny! Our favorite auto dealer/entrepreneur wants to re-hire his former attorney. The one he dropped because he didn’t have any money left. Naturally, the court wants to know where a guy who owes something like $400 million now has cash to hire a pricey lawyer. Dee DePass of the Strib reminds Hecker-philes that “[Judge Susan] Nelson told Hecker that he would be expected to repay the government all legal fees should he ever choose to secure his own counsel. At the time, Hecker said he understood that. But last week, Hecker and Mauzy filed a motion to change attorneys, with the stipulation that the donor’s money only be paid directly to Mauzy.”

MaryJo Webster’s PiPress story includes a couple of classic details about Denny and his girlfriend, Christi Rowan. She writes: “Matt Burton, an attorney for [bankruptcy trustee Randall] Seaver, told the judge they are doubtful the couple will comply, describing Hecker as an ‘extremely dishonest debtor’ who has a ‘pathological sense of entitlement.’ ‘It seems they would believe there’s little more punishment they could get,’ Burton said. ‘So they’re making a money grab.’ ” Then … there’s the bit about the Mercedes: “Seaver also filed a motion Friday asking to subpoena local Mercedes-Benz dealership to investigate whether Hecker is helping Rowan purchase a Mercedes-Benz. Rowan said she is borrowing a Mercedes-Benz from “a dear friend” and that Seaver could find that out simply by looking up the registration.” How many of your “dear friends” have a spare Mercedes to lend you?

City Pages’ music critic Andrew Flanagan reports on a couple of previously unreleased Prince albums discovered by a website. “A blog named The Unheard Music put a post up a few days ago titled “Prince Week, Day Four: Unreleased Albums” and had this to share: It’s common knowledge that Prince has unreleased albums and recordings out the ying. Most of the complete albums don’t circulate but, every once in a while, we get lucky. Then again, sometimes we get enough information that the finished product can be accurately approximated. Either way, while a lot of people may look at such things as mere re-orderings of existing tracks, these albums are of great importance to fans in the Prince community. Sometimes, regardless of the availability of the recordings, a different track ordering is enough to make a world of difference. The first of the unreleased albums I’m featuring today is Dream Factory, the last album completed with The Revolution. By looking at the track list alone you would probably assume this is an early version of Sign ‘O’ The Times, which is kind of accurate, but with Prince it’s never that simple.”

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by L.A. Krahn on 10/07/2010 - 10:27 am.

    Too bad Chen May Yee doesn’t give due diligence to this casual yet controversial statement from the Mayo PR team: “[Mayo] loses millions each year on Medicare patients.”

    I challenge the journalist who dares pull back the curtain on that statement, because no matter how many times hospitals state it, it’s not that simple, nor is it essentially true. Pricing health care services is a complex marketplace with lots of dark shadows.

    Yes, Medicare is a payer that happens to have the most clout/market-power and can leverage its rates accordingly. But many quality hospitals and medical centers have excellent levels of care & quality, and create value and efficiency primarily from “low” “loss-leader” Medicare/Medicaid payments. Is not Mayo one of them, self-cited in the sacred Dartmouth Atlas?

    They can’t have it both ways.

  2. Submitted by Paul Scott on 10/07/2010 - 10:43 am.

    Way to go Brian McClung for setting such a great example for our children about bad math. Let’s give it up for Target as well.

  3. Submitted by Sheila Ehrich on 10/07/2010 - 11:45 am.

    Wouldn’t it be something if Marcus Bachmann was morally outraged at his wife’s outright lies and false inuendo? There’s morally outraged and then there’s accepting everything the little wifey says at face value.

  4. Submitted by David Hanners on 10/07/2010 - 12:20 pm.

    The Pioneer Press had a fine story on the Timothy Carson sentencing. More detail than the Star Tribune:

  5. Submitted by William Levin on 10/07/2010 - 02:12 pm.

    Wells Fargo cannot admit wrongdoing, because Wells Fargo didn’t do anything wrong. Wachovia and World Savings may have taken advantage of people, but that was before Wells Fargo bought them. In an acquisition, the acquirer may have to pay up for the sins of the acquired company without having to atone for those sins.

  6. Submitted by B Maginnis on 10/07/2010 - 02:56 pm.

    As someone else recently averred:

    “Stay classy , Tarryl”!

  7. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/07/2010 - 03:36 pm.

    Regarding Marcus Bachmann… he must be getting really worried that he’s going to lose his “Stepford wife” congress woman if he’s actually coming out of hiding to make a comment.

    I’ve always suspected that the reason why Mickey can so handily pop out the inflammatory one or two liners, but is rarely able to explain them any more deeply, is that those ideas are not hers in the first place. She’s never been anything more than her reclusive husband’s mouthpiece. In her public appearances, she’s just robotically parroting what Marcus tells her.

    If he starts speaking in public, however, it will become obvious, very soon, where Mickey’s wingnuttery really comes from, so we can look for him to quietly disappear back into his undisclosed location by tomorrow afternoon.

  8. Submitted by James Hamilton on 10/07/2010 - 06:40 pm.

    I’m sick to death of hearing medical providers, including the Mayo, complain about losing money on Medicare and Medicaid patients. True, they aren’t paid as much by these programs as they are by private pay patients and private medical plans. But are they really losing money, i.e., providing care at less than their cost? That’s highly unlikely.

    What we rarely hear mentioned is the concept of the marginal cost of providing care. What is marginal cost? “The marginal cost of an additional unit of output is the cost of the additional inputs needed to produce that output.” If I have an intern on duty for a 12 hour shift, the intern’s pay is fixed. So, too, are the costs of the facility, x-ray machine, MRI, etc. What, then is the marginal cost to treat an additional patient?

    Some years ago, a family member was in need of a kidney. The donor was willing to include half of a pancreas, to essentially cure the diabetes that had caused the need for the kidney. There was a question about insurance coverage for the additional transplant. “How much would it cost if insurance doesn’t cover it?”, they asked. The University of Minnesota Hospital and its surgeons were speechless. They had no idea. Fortunately, insurance paid for it. To this day, I wonder what the bill would have been.

    More recently, I’ve had the opportunity to examine a consultant, whose job it is to assist medical providers in establishing their charges. One would expect that it would be an arcane subject, with great attention paid to actual costs, return on investment, and a million other details. But, no: it was simply “what the market would bear”, the top of the market being the workers’ compensation schedule, the bottom being Medicare and Medicaid. The trick, it seems was to find the sweet spot in between that medical insurers were willing to pay. (Private pay, of course, paid the ridiculous “sticker price” that neither those of us with coverage nor our insurers ever pay.)

    The next time someone tells you they lose money treating Medicare and Medicaid patients, ask them to show you their books.

  9. Submitted by James Hamilton on 10/07/2010 - 06:44 pm.

    Barrack Obama bought the southern black vote? And here I thought it was about color.

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