Local Investing and State Crowdfunding Securities Laws

After shopping locally and eating locally, the next step necessary to building a livable future is investing locally.

I make the case for it in this podcast – From Wall Street to Main Street: an interview with Marco Vangelisti on local investing and Slow Money.

Most understand by now the importance of local investing yet very few people have actually made any local investments.

Why is local investing so difficult?

The answer lies in part with our securities laws introduced at the beginning of the Great Depression to protect investors.

Making Human Survival Illegal – the Unintended Consequence of TPP

Imagine a world where global multinational corporations have the power to sue any government that passes laws or regulations that have negative impacts on their current or future profits. Imagine that they could bring the case to a private tribunal whose judges are private lawyers working for other large multinational corporations, who sometimes bring cases to the same tribunal on behalf of their corporate employer. Imagine that such private tribunals can override decisions made by the highest courts of the country being sued. Imagine that there is no limit to the amount of taxpayer money the tribunal can order the defending government to pay the corporation who brought the suit. Imagine that the proceedings of these tribunals are both secret and cannot be appealed.

Well, this is the world that twelve nations, including the US, will be living in if they ratify the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) — a deceptively named “trade agreement” that will have broad impacts on many aspects of social life in the countries that bind themselves to its dictates. If you think of the system of law in a particular country as its social operating system, then you could say that any nation which signs the TPP will effectively override its social operating system with one that elevates current and future corporate profits to the highest value of society.

My Impressions of Cuba (2015)

In January I finally visited Cuba with a tour organized by Human Agenda in Palo Alto. I have been meaning to visit the island for at least 25 years since I wanted to see Cuba before it turned into the 51st state of the US or before it got colonized by international corporate and financial capitalism and lost its unique character. The trip could not have been more timely. I had booked the trip in October of 2014 and just two months later, President Obama announced a major shift in the 50-year old US policy towards Cuba aimed at reestablishing diplomatic relationships and ease some of the economic and travel restrictions.

The economic system on trial

On Sunday October 5th, 2014 the Bay Area Rights of Nature Alliance convened the first Rights of Nature Tribunal in the US. I participated as witness expert on the economic system. The ruling of the Tribunal called for defining new economic models, social systems and governance structures to create a new path forward that recognize the interdependencies of humans and earth systems. Below is my testimony.

We are here today for Chevron’s trial conducted through the lens of the Rights of Nature and I have been asked to provide expert testimony as economist. We know our current system of laws is also on trial today and I feel the economic profession and the mainstream economic theory it relies upon should be on trial as well.

Local investing is about intergenerational justice

Originally published in Slow Money State of the Sector Report (2014)

I worked in finance for about 20 years, the last 6 managing investment portfolios for institutional investors. As fiduciaries we were tasked with preserving and growing the capital of our clients. Our fiduciary duties were discharged by delivering financial returns with moderate risk by investing in our area of expertise.

Many of our clients were foundations and no one seemed concerned that some of the investments we were making on their behalf caused or worsened the very social and environmental problems those foundations were created to address.  A case in point was one of our best performing stocks, a Malaysian palm oil company that had destroyed tens of thousands of acres of original rain forest and replaced it with a monoculture of palm oil plants. Such operation destroyed the Borneo habitat of the Orangutan, yet a few of our clients were environmental foundations trying to protect such habitat with their grants!