Seeing the Round Corners

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October 4, 2022

As we approach the end of another year – just three months left – we must ask, where did the year go? Probably no one would disagree that there has been no president like the one now sitting in America’s beloved White House. 

The infamous Hunter Biden laptop which chronicled Hunter Biden’s numerous business dealings with China, and the “big man’s cut” of the millions as a result of those business dealings, have been food for thought for the media since the beginning of President Biden’s administration and the sheer delight of Republicans throughout the country. But, let’s take a closer look, one not from a humorous standpoint. 

Delaware has a total size of 2,488 square miles which breaks down between 1981 land area and 507 in water. The 2020 population was 990,837, and is known as the second smallest state of all the 50 states in America. 

Delaware is also known for “taking pride in having one of America’s most effective farmland protection programs according to Governor John Carney. Carney stated, “Delaware’s Agland Preservation Program has been critical to keeping our farms in production. We can all agree that through the pandemic, we learned how important family farmers are to ensuring food including fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meat are readily available.” Carney also pointed out how important it was to pass a farm down  to the next generation in the many-generational farm situations.

Delaware’s Forestland Preservation Program as described by the State’s Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse stated, “3,695 acres have been permanently preserved, including 45 farms through the AgLands Preservation Program. 

Delaware’s State Conservationist, Natural Resources Conservation Services Kasey Taylor, explained further about farmland protection program this way, “Each easement that is placed on productive agricultural land protects the long-term viability of our food supply by preventing conversion to non-agricultural uses.”  The added plus “coupled with conservation activities, land preservation is vital to improving soil and water quality, and enhancing NRCS is honored to contribute to this tremendous effort.” 

“As examples of the state’s farmland protection program, since the beginning of the program in 1996, landowners have donated on average, 59 percent of their developmental rights value – that is, they received 41 cents on the dollar of their farm’s developmental rights value to preserve their farm. The average discount (donation) for Round 25 (beginning in 1996) is 53.37 percent. 

Perhaps Colorado land easement officials should have ask for counsel from Delaware officials before allowing Colorado land easement to go flailing off the track to the embarrassment of the state. Most readers will recall several years back the scandal that erupted when the inflated appraisals, tax advisers and various other improprieties hit the media and newspaper. But that’s another story.

Is it likely the area between Denver Metro north to the Colorado state line would be the developed monster it is now if Colorado had such a farmland protection program Delaware has in place which began in 1996.

Now, for the “column from the archives” of this website (December 10, 2012) describing Just the Cost of Doing Business.” 


JUST THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS       December 10, 2012                         

In early April of 2010, a mine known as the Upper Big Branch (UBB) run by Massey Energy exploded killing 29 miners.    

As investigators descended on the site and the investigation got under way, the operating history of Massey Energy at the UBB mine surfaced with violations in the thousands. Many of those citations were for failing to install ventilation equipment to remove methane gas from the mine – methane gas was blamed from the get-go for causing the explosion.    

Massey Energy’s Chief Executive Office, Don Blankenship, “advertised” his lack of regard for human life when he made this admission in a radio interview only days after the UBB explosion: “Violations, you know, unfortunately, are a normal part of the mining process. There are violations at every coal mine in America, and UBB was a mine that had violations.” Mountaintop removal was also believed to be connected to the explosion – a process that wreaks massive environmental damage, but provides fast, easy access to seams of coal.

Point-of-information:  This callous statement was made by a man whose estimated annual salary is $19.7 million (reportedly the highest in the coal industry). 

Massey/Blankenship’s focus on the importance of extracting coal over human life was further emphasized in documents produced in litigation:  “If any of you have been asked by your group presidents, your supervisors, engineers or anyone else to do anything other than run coal (that is, build overcasts, do construction jobs, or whatever) you need to ignore them and run coal. This memo is necessary only because we seem not to understand that the coal pays the bills.”    

U. S. and foreign corporations demonstrate over and over what mega bucks they are willing to pay as the “cost of doing business.” While banks do not put lives at risk at the level Massey Energy regularly does, fines for improper and downright illegal/criminal activities are, as a rule, a drop in the bucket compared to the mega profits earned. Fines for such activities have come to be looked on as just part of the “cost of doing business.” 

Examples of such fines: 

  • Morgan Stanley:  Fined $4.8 million on the $21.6 million profit earned by rigging wholesale electricity prices through complicated derivative swaps in the state of New York.


Banks fined for mortgage servicing activities and infamous robot-signing of unread foreclosure documents: 

  • Bank of America:  Fined $175.5 million; 

  • Citibank:  Fined $22 million;

  • JP Morgan Chase:  Fined $275 million;

  • Wells Fargo:  Fined $87 million; and

  • Ally Bank:  Fined $207 million. 


Foreign banks doing business in the U. S. are equally blatant in violations. In August of this year, London’s Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) agreed to pay a fine of $340 million to the New York State Department of Financial Services. The crime:  money laundering activity in connection with the Government of Iran, hiding from regulators “roughly 60,000 secret transactions involving at least $250 billion, and reaping SCB hundreds of millions of dollars in fees. SCB’s actions left the U. S. financial system vulnerable to terrorists, weapons dealers, drug kingpins and corrupt regimes, and deprived law enforcement investigators of crucial information used to track all manner of criminal activity.”    

What’s a few hundred million in fines when there’s $250 billion “under the table” at stake? There are two significant points demonstrative of the magnitude of the case against SCB. First, SCB agreed to pay the fine only 8 days after the charges were filed which beat the deadline when criminal activity was to be discussed by the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) with the bank. Noteworthy is what this meant – it enabled SCB to sweep the ugly details and magnitude of its actions under the rug and avoid the bad publicity a public trial would have brought. Just another cost of doing business, and as yet to be confirmed, no doubt a deduction on the good old corporate tax return if indeed the bank even pays U. S. taxes.    

Second, the additional aspect of the settlement agreement:  SCB was required to “install a monitor for a term of at least two years who will report directly to DFS and who will evaluate the money-laundering risk controls in the New York Branch and implementation of appropriate corrective measures. In addition, DFS examiners shall be placed on site at the Bank.” “The Bank shall permanently install personnel within its New York branch to oversee and audit any offshore money-laundering due diligence and monitoring undertaken by the Bank.”    

As lack of corporate responsibility and ethics by U. S. and foreign corporations escalate, it seems regulators would wake up to the obvious:  slap-on-the-wrist fines are looked on as simply the cost of doing business, and do not serve as deterrents to outright criminal conduct. Has anyone ever considered raising the ante, say whatever the amount gained from illegal/criminal acts becomes the amount of the fine AUTOMATICALLY?    

Of course, to impose such penalties, banking regulations would be subject to real reform which can’t seem to get past (or passed) by that Washington crowd, also known as Congress.


The reader's comments or questions are always welcome. E-mail me The mission of Seeing the Round Corners is to evoke a thought process and interest in becoming better informed and to be skeptical of the headline-grabbing purveyors of information. The writer is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.