Huffington Post | May 2005 |A One-Way Deal with MBNA

by Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Make your payments on time and what happens? Maybe you do OK and maybe you end up with a huge rate hike.

Remember how former FBI Director Louis Freeh testified before the Senate last week that his new boss, credit card giant MBNA, never jerked up interest rates just because a customer was in default on another loan? At that same hearing, testimony was offered about MBNA practices that suggested Mr. Freeh was not telling the truth. Since then, people have been emailing their stories about MBNA practices that flatly contradict Mr. Freeh.

But more MBNA practices keep emerging, practices that seem to converge on the same bottom line: the customer signed a contract that binds the customer, but MBNA can change the terms whenever it wants. Look at this one from Joe Soseville:

I had an experience with MBNA where the artificial intelligence (AI) that computes my credit score drove the interest rate on several of my MBNA accounts up more that 12% and 15%, respectively. On each account I had a stellar history and had established outstanding creditworthiness. Ironically, through industry acquisitions and mergers, MBNA had acquired these accounts and this resulted in my credit score’s AI showing that I had now become an “at risk customer” and MBNA automatically raised my interest rates.
So Joe pays on time, MBNA changes its computer programs, and Joe’s interest rate goes up by 12-15 percentage points. And Louis Freeh tells Congress what a great company he works for, a company that never does this sort of thing.

MBNA seems to think that a contract a one-way street—the customer must meet the terms but MBNA can change them whenever it wants. Great deal for MBNA—just not for the rest of us.

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Washington Post | March 2007 | ‘Maxed Out’: Serious Matters Of Life and Debt

by Ann Homaday

“Maxed Out,” a film about the consumer debt crisis, might as well be ripped from the headlines, in light of last week’s stock market plunge (blamed in part on too many mortgages sold to high-risk home buyers). But here’s the man-bites-dog part: This factoid-filled, talking-heads documentary — by a business school graduate — turns out to be amusing. And enlightening. And positively riveting.

As unlikely as it sounds that someone has made a taut and entertaining film about credit, that’s precisely what James D. Scurlock has done with “Maxed Out,” in which he delivers a punchy, well-reasoned account of America’s huge problem with debt, how we got there and what the stakes are. (P.S., Scurlock is not the guy who took on the fast-food industry in “Super Size Me.” That was Morgan Spurlock.)

“Maxed Out,” often uses grim humor to deliver the bad news: that banks routinely seek out the young, poor and chronically late-paying; that they’re in cahoots with other powerful forces in government and business (such as the burgeoning field of debt collection); and that no one — especially lawmakers whose biggest contributors come from the financial services industry — seems to care. Particularly galling in this respect is Julie Williams, the acting U.S. comptroller of the currency and chief bank regulator, who delivers Orwellian apologies for the industry she’s supposed to be overseeing, and Louis Freeh, former chief of the FBI and now a honcho at credit card giant MBNA (presumably, he makes sure there are state-of-the-art computers there, a luxury he didn’t bother to acquire for the bureau under his pre-9/11 watch).

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Huffington Post | May 2005 | Is Louis Freeh Telling the Truth?

by Sen Elizabeth Warren

Did a former FBI director lie to Congress about his new boss’s questionable business schemes?

Say you took out a credit card with a fixed 6.9% interest rate, charged up some items and faithfully made your payments on time. One month you discover that the bill has jumped to 29.9%. You call the company to complain, only to discover that they have imposed a “universal default clause,” which means that because you were a day late on your water bill, your credit card interest rate has now quadrupled. Legal? Yes. Fair? No.

In a 2004 survey published in Card News, an industry newsletter, MBNA was first on the list of 20 major banks with universal default clauses. The info on MBNA comes through Phillips Business Information, Inc., which Lexis describes as more than 70 newsletter providing “the news and analysis that is critical to professionals in these industries.”

In addition, the Consumer Affairs website carries a story about all the consumer complaints against MBNA in connection with its universal default clauses.

So why did Louis Freeh, now Senior Vice-Chairman for MBNA, tell Senators at a Congressional Hearing on Tuesday that “MBNA does not practice universal default”?

Did the industry news get it wrong? Are MBNA’s customers making up rate hike stories? Has MBNA done a sudden, unannaounced about-face? Does Freeh not know how his business works? Or is Freeh unwilling to tell the truth about MBNA’s high-profit scam?

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Ukraine World | March 2018 | Lost Treasures: How Ukraine Fights for the Return of Yanukovych Assets

by Vitalii Rybak

[Note: See information about Freeh’s defense of the Kliuyev brothers here and here]

Serhiy Klyuyev, a Ukrainian MP from the close entourage of Viktor Yanukovych (also known as “family”), fled the country in 2014 after the Euromaidan protests. He did not leave empty-handed. According to the data of the Anti-corruption Action Centre he, together with his brother Andriy, stole over 15 billion hryvnias (5 billion euros) by taking loans from Ukrainian banks which were never returned and receiving financial support from the state. Based on the request by Ukraine’s, the EU Council has imposed sanctions against Klyuyev brothers, as well as 17 other officials from Yanukovych’s “family” on 5 March 2014.

Since then, the Prosecutor-General’s Office of Ukraine has been obliged to provide the EU court with sufficient evidence regarding this case. However, the judges questioned“the adequacy of the proof” provided by the Ukrainian side. Therefore, on 21 February 2018, the EU General Court cancelled sanctions imposed by the EU against Serhiy Klyuyev. Daria Kaleniuk, the head of Anti-Corruption Action Centre, is sure that the Ukrainian Prosecutor-General’s Office did nothing to save the case. “They have not even launched a special investigation regarding Serhiy Klyuyev,” she writes.

Additionally, this case sets a dangerous precedent. For the first time, ongoing sanctions against one of former officials from Yanukovych’s “family” have been dropped. All the others, who’s guilt Ukraine has not proven yet, could count on the very same. Therefore, the question arises: is Ukraine doing enough to recover the assets stolen by Viktor Yanukovych and his cronies?

The first major problem is that it is almost impossible to calculate the exact amount of money stolen from Ukraine during the four years of Yanukovych’s regime. The government has not figured this out in the four years from his escape. According to former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Oleh Mahnitskyi, back in 2014 Yanukovych  embezzled in excess of 100 billion dollars over the years of his presidency. However, in 2017 the Prosecutor-General’s Office of Ukraine (GPU) has given a “smaller” figure—40 billion dollars (which, nonetheless, is equal to the annual state  budget of Ukraine).

Unfortunately, civil society has little access to the data available to investigators. “When we ask the prosecutors how much money has been frozen, they either say that all the accounts of the Yanukovych “family” have been frozen, or say nothing due to the secrecy of the investigation,” Tetiana Shevchuk, a lawyer at the Anti-Corruption Action Centre, says in a commentary for UkraineWorld.

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Webster University | Jan 2015 | Investigating Alleged Misdeeds: Good Corporate Practice

The Honorable Eugene R. Sullivan, the former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals gave a Centennial Lecture, “Investigating Alleged Misdeeds: Good Corporate Practice” at the Webster Vienna Campus on Thursday, January 29. His remarks were based on case studies that he encountered at his current position as partner in the global judicial/law enforcement consulting firm, Freeh Group International Solutions (FGIS), founded by Louis J. Freeh, former director of the FBI. The firm conducts independent investigations in a variety of companies, and Sullivan enthralled the audience with case studies of alleged embezzlement and bribery by multi-billion dollar firms.

Judge Sullivan has a mantra that he believes that companies should follow when facing accusations of misdeeds, “1. Evaluate the Risk, 2. Find the Truth, and 3.Take Action”. Sullivan noted that external organizations should be engaged in order to investigate; internal investigations have neither credibility, nor are effective at finding the truth. Once the truth is found—should the accusations prove true—the firm must act immediately by taking responsibility and holding those involved accountable.

Sometimes the accusations prove to be unfounded, as Sullivan found in the case of the company Slav AG, which operates partly out of Vienna. Slav AG was accused in the media (see Der Standard, for example) of money laundering and of possible human rights violations due to ties with former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, who was involved in the violent suppression of protestors in the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution. Sullivan, together with the investigation team found that these allegations were not true, but that the corporation did the right thing by requesting an external investigation.
[Note: After this was published, Serhiy Kliuyev, one of the co-owners of Slav AG, joined his brother Andriy as a fugitive in Russia, Andriy is on the US, UK, and EU sanctions lists, while Serhiy has been on various sanctions lists at various times since 2014. Both brothers were subject to EU & UK sanctions when Sullivan was defending their company.]

Sullivan also shared some stories from his illustrious past. He is a retired Federal Judge in Washington D.C. with over 16 years of appellate experience. Nominated by President Reagan and confirmed by the Senate, Judge Sullivan was installed as a Federal Judge in 1986. In 1990, President Bush named him the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals (AF). From 1982 until 1986, Judge Sullivan was the General Counsel of the National Reconnaissance Office (“NRO”, a then super-secret US satellite intelligence agency). Judge Sullivan also served in the White House on the legal defense team of President Nixon during the Watergate investigation in 1974. From 1974 to 1982, he was a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. From 1982, until he became a Federal Judge in 1986, Judge Sullivan served in the Pentagon as the General Counsel and the Chief Ethics Officer of the U.S. Air Force after serving initially as the Deputy General Counsel.

At a reception following the Centennial Lecture, Judge Sullivan answered students’ questions over a glass of Austrian wine and hors d’oevres. Two of Sullivan’s colleagues from the investigation, Michael McCall—Associate Managing Director with Freeh Group and former FBI Special Agent— and Eugene R. Sullivan II—Judge Sullivan’s son and Lead Counsel during the investigation— were also there to meet with students. The reception was generously donated by SLAV AG.

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Newsweek|March 2001|WASHINGTON’S QUIET CLUB

by Evan Thomas

“We are here to keep Catholics from living double lives,” says Father C. John McCloskey, an Opus Dei priest. In the case of Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent accused of spying for the Russians, Opus Dei apparently failed spectacularly.

During the 15 years he was allegedly working for the Kremlin, Hanssen was a devout member of Opus Dei, a superorthodox and deeply anti-Communist order. It may be years, if ever, before Hanssen’s soul and psyche reveal the true nature of his perfidy. In the meantime, his case has put a spotlight on Opus Dei and the role played by conservative Catholics in Washington.

Unlike Pat Robertsen, Jerry Falwell and the evangelical religious right, Washington’s conservative Catholics are reticent and low-key. “Our faith is personal, not political,” says McCloskey. But Catholic conservatives (and reputed Opus Dei members) like FBI Director Louis Freeh and Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are nonetheless an intriguing and sometimes misunderstood spiritual force in the deeply secular capital.

It’s not surprising that the FBI’s Hanssen, who had a longtime fascination with wiretapping and avidly read Orwell’s “1984” and Huxley’s “Brave New World,” would have been drawn to an organization that permits superiors to open the mail of new “numeraries.” Hanssen’s haughty attitude, expressed in his letters to his KGB handlers, was characteristic of Opus Dei’s sense of superiority, say the Opus Dei bashers, who note that the order is the only one in the Catholic Church that reports directly to the Pope.

At the Opus Dei-run Catholic Information Center two blocks from the White House, McCloskey dismisses these conspiracy theories. “Opus Dei is the most open order in the Catholic Church,” he says. Of Hannsen’s connection, he says, “Only a very twisted mind would join Opus Dei seeing it as a cover or a mysterious secret organization, because it isn’t.” He dismisses the rumors that Freeh and Scalia are secret Opus Dei members as “completely false.” Indeed, he says, “I can’t think of any Opus Dei members in government.”

Nonetheless, he says, “we are interested in people who can have an influence.” He numbers as his personal friends the widely read conservative columnist Robert Novak, who converted to Catholicism three years ago, and supply-side economic guru Lawrence Kudlow. Describing McCloskey as a “very engaging man,” Kudlow recently detailed how the priest helped him discover Christ. Smooth and handsome, ascetic but worldly, McCloskey (who declined to have his photo taken) says he plays squash at the University Club with Washington Post reporters and regularly appears on MSNBC. McCloskey is familiar with wealth and power: an Ivy Leaguer (Columbia), he worked for Merrill Lynch and Citibank before becoming a priest.

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Washington Post|March 2001|FBI Spy Case Arrest Blows Parish’s Cover

By Bill Broadway and David Cho

For 20 years, St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church has attracted some of the area’s most influential people to a secluded sanctuary in a grove of evergreen trees on Springvale Road in Great Falls.

Doctors, lawyers, bureaucrats, technology executives, politicians, artists and intelligence operatives have found solace and unity in traditional Masses and in the deep-seated piety of the church’s 4,000 members. They also have enjoyed the anonymity of worshiping in a quiet parish 20 miles from downtown Washington.

St. Catherine’s, one of 66 parishes in the Diocese of Arlington, is an intensely private congregation, said its pastor, the Rev. Franklyn McAfee. “Everybody supports [the work of the church], but nobody stands out.”

Or so it was until last week, when parishioner and FBI Special Agent Robert P. Hanssen was arrested on espionage charges. Suddenly, the church came under public scrutiny, and the names of its most famous members became widely known.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his wife attend regularly, as do Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and FBI Director Louis J. Freeh and their families. So does Kate O’Beirne, the National Review’s Washington editor.

Scalia, Freeh and Santorum declined, through spokesmen, to be interviewed about St. Catherine’s or the worship experience that brings them and their families back. But other members spoke freely of their appreciation of the church’s colorful services and orthodox Catholic teachings.

They said they like to hear Bach and Mozart played by a classically trained organist and sung by an 18-member choir dressed in bright red robes. They like the 10:30 Latin Mass every Sunday, which the priests celebrate the old-fashioned way — with their backs to the congregation, facing the cross. They like the monthly services where everyone sings Gregorian chants.

Several Catholic lay organizations meet at St. Catherine’s, including the Knights of Columbus, Opus Dei and the Third Order of Dominicans. McAfee is confessor to two D.C. convents run by the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s order, and the parish is the regional base for the order and its lay missionaries.

McAfee noted the irony of the missile site’s proximity in an interview this week, but otherwise he had little to say about the Hanssen case, explaining that he does not know Hanssen well. Hanssen, the third FBI agent ever charged with espionage, has been accused of selling secrets to the Soviets and Russians since 1985.

The revelation has been an embarrassment for some of St. Catherine’s parishioners. But foremost, it’s a sad moment for the church, they say.

Heron, the parishioner who found a spiritual home on his first visit to the church, began crying when asked what effect Hanssen’s arrest has had on the parish. He said that he didn’t know Hanssen but that hearing about the charges against him was an emotional blow, almost like the death of a family member.

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