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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mommy Cross-Contamination Threatens Babies, Commuters

[Note to readers:  Despite the title, this article has serious policy implications.]

A growing body of evidence suggests that self-indulgent harried, overworked and underpaid caregivers (not just the mommies out there) are the biggest cause of cross-contamination in our technology-obsessed, antisocial urban, post-industrial society.

Many mothers will whine  object that this characterization is too accurate unfairly punishes them for avoiding their maternal responsibilities trying to function without their first glass of Cabernet cup of coffee.

However, many warehouse managers "caregivers" too often wait for a stifling, paint-peeling stench (in which the neglected child ferments) to change the child's diaper.  The results are disastrous; the child suffers skin rash, the indignity of sitting in his own filth and the frustration of being incapable of expressing his disgust while being ignored and watching his purported caregiver gossip with her friends or smiling while talking into or tapping some small flat object with a flashing red light.  

Seepage is also a major problem.  Leakage is a major source of cross-contamination.  Handling soiled objects without properly decontaminating after each exposure can lead to multiple acts of cross-contamination during which repeated exposure to pathogens can occur and result in transmission of numerous, nasty disease-causing microorganisms.  The same goes for any contact with a soiled surface.  Soiling (and cross-contamination danger) can be present even if contamination is not visually apparent.  Hence, seats on buses, trains, airplanes and grocery carts can be efficient storage and transfer points for these pathogens.

Here's to hoping that the public health authorities take note of this very real public health hazard.  Caregivers need to be forced, under penalty of criminal prosecution taught to inspect their babies to see when they need attention before they become major biohazards start crying.  It beats the Bloomberg Administration's obsessions with sugared drinks, oversalted processed foods and cigarettes.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer, strategic analyst and political consultant.  Mr. Dixon has a manic obsession with cleanliness and aspires to become the first Commissioner of the yet-to-be-formed Department of Public Hygiene under future Mayor Stephanie Germanotta.   


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Measuring Barry Bonds: Justice Plays Small Ball

Looking for love in the wrong place can really have bad consequences if you are rich and famous. 

The long-dreaded awaited federal circus show trial perjury trial of baseball steroid home run king Barry Bonds has now brought official testimony from Bonds' attention-starved, vengeful and scorned ex-girlfriend about bedroom matters better left described in less reputable publications.

A professional investigation and prosecution would have ensured that Typhoid Mary Kimberly Bell (whom self-respecting men should avoid) never would have shared her "story" with numerous press outlets prior to becoming a valued government witness. In fact, from a legal perspective this is risky, as such public statements allow for the defense plenty of material (and preparation time) to destroy her credibility on cross-examination by highlighting all her lies inconsistencies on the stand.  Instead, the government allowed Bell to become a witness. 

There is an unwanted consequence.  By using Bell, the government has encouraged other prospective witnesses in countless other cases to sell their story to the highest bidder press, invent their story to avoid an accusation of perjury make it sound genuine and credible, and after cashing in on publicity, still use their story as a snitch rat fink government witness for promises of avoiding federal prison purposes which are rarely honorable.  (See my earlier article speculating on why Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein agreed to testify in the ongoing criminal trial of Raj Rajaratnam for insider trading.)

The Bonds case -- and many other cases in which salacious but irrelevant information is conveniently "leaked" to friendly dupes in the press reporters who want a job in government -- shows that the Justice Department is willing to use embarrassment and other tools of personal destruction to go after high-profile targets whose stature allows government employees the opportunity for career advancement and personal financial gain. 

Such tactics do not replace the lack of hard criminality, nor do they adequately explain the use of scarce prosecutorial resources at a time when mortgage fraud, bank fraud and other financial crimes have both skyrocketed and become easier to detect, and when many other hard crimes go unprosecuted.  

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who handles investigations, business due diligence and other legal matters of a sensitive nature.  Mr. Dixon also handles strategic analysis and political consulting for businesses, political candidates and other organizations.  Mr. Dixon can be reached for further comment or consultation at 917-696-2442 and
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Saturday, March 26, 2011

How To Run For President in 2012

How does someone actually run a serious campaign for President?

There are a few dozen men and women considering running for the Republican nomination for President in 2012.  There is also a handful of serious people contemplating running as independents against President Obama, who is unlikely to see any serious Democratic opposition next year.

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There are three main elements to a serious presidential campaign:  money, message and campaign mechanics. 

The money is the tallest hurdle but not necessarily the most difficult to overcome.  The message is the easiest, especially for a genuine candidate.  The campaign mechanics can be the trickiest.

Campaign mechanics, as I define them, include the mundane but essential details of a successful campaign.  They start out with ballot access -- the need to actually qualify the candidate for the ballot in each state.  Some states (e.g., New York) have arduous petition drives which can occur months in advance of the primary, requiring tremendous foresight, discipline and fortitude by campaign staffers, paid workers and volunteers.  A Johnny-come-lately who only decides to run a month before New Hampshire's primary may miss the deadlines in several states, be unable to get any delegates in those states and consequently have little real chance of winning at all.  

Campaign mechanics also include legal compliance such as campaign finance reporting.  Regular business management also falls into this category.   A campaign is no different from any other business.  

A well-disciplined campaign that "has its act together" well in advance of the campaign season will stand a good chance of overcoming opposition from poorly funded, poorly conceived and often totally-disorganized campaign competitors.  Proper management can make the difference between being able to "hang in" during tough times, and having to drop out of the race at the first sign of serious adversity.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who has served as an election lawyer on ballot access and campaign finance issues for two dozen candidates (including presidential candidates Steve Forbes and H. Ross Perot), committees and political organizations.  
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Friday, March 25, 2011

Mets Nearing Bankruptcy? Annual Losses Estimated At $50 Million

A report this morning that the New York Mets are suffering "substantial losses" of nearly $50 million per year supports the theory that the franchise is approaching a state of insolvency and could be nearing bankruptcy.

The Mets and their affiliated cable TV network, SNY, are both saddled by tremendous debt.  As with any business enterprise with a large debt-to-equity ratio, debt service (interest payments plus paydowns of principal) can turn an enterprise that is "profitable from operations" into an actual money-loser.

These claims, which are from confidential sources not identified in the report and if found to be true, would suggest that the Mets may have trouble generating enough net income during the upcoming 2011 season to remain solvent.  (Solvency has already been an issue, as indicated by this and prior reports that the Mets received a $25 million emergency loan from Major League Baseball in November 2010.)  Additional indications that the team is now a money-losing venture -- albeit one with the potential for significantly greater future performance, both financially and in terms of won-loss record -- will only depress the price any potential buyer would offer for part or all of the franchise.

The Wilpon family, owners of the Mets, have previously stated a willingness to sell a minority, non-management stake of up to 25 percent of the club.  However, it is this author's opinion that it is likely (due to the magnitude of the losses and the mammoth financial and possibly even criminal exposure the Wilpons face as a result of their involvement with the Bernard Madoff fraud) the Wilpons will have to sell their entire interest in the Mets and SNY.

An educated prediction -- based upon my background in corporate finance -- is that a prospective purchaser will condition a purchase on a pre-packaged bankruptcy filing that will renegotiate much of the existing debt to a level acceptable to both the purchaser and the federal bankruptcy court that will have to approve the entire transaction.  Current creditors of the Mets, already worried due to the fears of insolvency, may have already accounted for a likely "haircut" in what they will eventually receive from this struggling franchise. 

As for the on-field product, the financial difficulties suggest that, absent active intervention by the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball to prevent an all-out fire sale of high-salaried players (reminiscent of what happened to two unprofitable championship clubs, the Florida Marlins did in 1998 or the Oakland A's did under their legendary skinflint owner Charles O. Finley in the mid-1970s) and "preserve the integrity of the game," many of the Mets' most attractive ballplayers will be traded as soon as possible to reduce payroll and make the club more attractive to a prospective buyer.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer with a background in corporate finance, investigations and litigation stress counseling.  Mr. Dixon has been practicing in New York since graduating from Yale Law School in 1994.  Mr. Dixon has also represented over two dozen political candidates, committees and party organizations in ballot access matters. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Housing Going To Zero: We Said It First!

Didn't Crime, Politics and Policy say a while back that housing was going to zero?

Yesterday's late-to-the-party news report from the Wall Street Journal.

Compare with earlier Crime, Politics and Policy articles...

December 2010 report

And February 16, 2011's report

The perfect storm -- or toxic brew -- of rising interest rates, larger required down payments, shorter amortization periods (especially if the 30-year mortgage is phased out and not picked up by private banks), the mounting supply of both potential foreclosures and other homebuyers waiting for the right time to rush for the exits, and overall economic stagnation threatens to depress housing prices for the long term.

Eric Dixon is a New York investigative lawyer who also analyzes business trends and political events. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bad Lawyer Warning: Foreclosure Mill King Strategically Defaults

The notorious South Florida foreclosure law firm of David J. Stern will close at the end of March, throwing numerous foreclosure cases into absolute limbo and perhaps indicating that Stern is under federal criminal investigation.

Stern, whose eponymous law firm received the lion's share of the foreclosure work from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, may be facing sanctions from the Florida Bar if he does not properly seek to withdraw from the cases, according to Kimberly Miller's report in Friday's Palm Beach Post.  

As is often required under the civil procedure rules applicable in virtually all states, attorneys of record must get permission from the court to withdraw and cannot simply pull out of a case unilaterally.  The rationale for this is to protect clients  in litigation from suddenly being left without a lawyer's representation in court, and even worse, not having any notice of his or her lawyer's withdrawal. 

Stern's new "strategic default" is curious.  However, as an observer of various government investigations -- both criminal and civil -- such behavior could be taken as an indication of a serious event.  This is pure speculation, but the signs indicate at least the possibility that Stern is under federal criminal investigation.  If that is the case, Stern could be in major criminal jeopardy.  Prior civil suits have uncovered evidence pointing to prevalenFraudulent -- and criminal -- practices.  Could numerous Stern employees -- participants in nefarious activities -- be cooperating with the government in order to avoid prosecution or hope to get shorter sentences?  

Eric Dixon is a New York investigative lawyer.  His opinions here do not constitute legal advice.  Mr. Dixon is available for comment at

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Worst Campaign Award: North Bergen Candidate Not Even Registered to Vote

People who complain about the quality of elected officials should consider the poor calibre of some of the people who actually try to run for public office. 

The latest demonstration of staggering candidate incompetence comes from North Bergen, NJ, where the head of an insurgent slate of township commissioners was disqualified from the general election ballot because he registered to vote one half-hour after submitting petition signatures to run for the township commission.  This circumstance meant that the candidate circulated petitions to run for office, without being registered to vote when he collected the signatures.

Can't anybody here play this game?

Such incompetence in managing one's own eligibility to run for township office is a strong indication of the level of service that person would provide if he were to actually get elected.  Amateur hour is over.

Eric Dixon is a New York investigative lawyer.  Mr. Dixon has represented as an election lawyer over two dozen political candidates (including presidential campaigns), parties and committees in litigation defending qualifying petitions in New York State court. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How Organ Donation Can Kill You

In a tragic, foreseeable and hence entirely preventable circumstance, an organ recipient has contracted HIV from a living male kidney donor who apparently had "unsafe sex" after being tested for the virus that causes AIDS but before donating the spare organ.

The issue of the medical and ethical questions surrounding organ donations has been in the news recently after New York City began an experimental organ preservation unit to rescue organs from cardiac arrest patients who "don't make it" back in December 2010.

I would expect the recipient, now saddled with an incurable and possibly fatal disease (or which could render the recipient vulnerable to other opportunistic and possibly lethal diseases), to sue any medical provider involved in the transplant, procurement or storage of the kidney, and the anonymous kidney donor.

Eric Dixon is a New York investigative lawyer, strategic analyst, litigation stress counselor and political consultant.  Mr. Dixon has represented businesses, individuals and political candidates in various legal matters since graduating from Yale Law School in 1994.  Mr. Dixon is available for comment or consultation at

The Dumb Blonde Chronicles: Channel 7 Bimbo Near Plea

Disgraced bleached-blonde former Channel 7 weather bimbo Heidi Jones is negotiating a plea deal over her false rape allegations that might involve jail time, according to her lawyer.

Heidi Jones, you might recall, is the weather bimbo who felt that her "relationship troubles" were a permissible excuse for her making up a false claim of being sexually assaulted in Central Park by a middle-aged Hispanic male. 

One might say that the forecast for Heidi Jones' immediate future is: Cloudy with a chance of jail. 

Eric Dixon is a New York investigative lawyer with over 16 years of legal experience representing businesses, individuals and political candidates on various sensitive legal matters since graduating from Yale Law School in 1994.  Mr. Dixon is a short Hispanic man who fits the approximate profile of the imaginary attacker, and as a veteran marathon runner who trains regularly in Central Park. could easily have been stopped  -- or worse -- by New York Police Department officers investigating Ms. Jones' false allegations.   Accordingly, Mr. Dixon believes he -- and other Hispanic men -- are entitled to take this incident very personally.  

Never Trust Your Future to a Jury

Have you ever been called for jury duty?

If you have, do you remember how your fellow jury pool prospects couldn't wait to get out of there, couldn't wait to go home?

Would you want these disinterested people serving on a jury deciding your fate, in a potentially life-altering situation like a criminal trial in which defeat likely means you go to jail?

Eric Dixon LLC helps investigate cases, both in the pre-litigation and litigation stages, to help resolve sensitive legal matters before your fate is in the hands of bored, disinterested and potentially, tragically ignorant jurors. 

Eric Dixon LLC also helps prepare people for the mental and emotional trauma of being threatened with litigation or being sued, investigated or prosecuted.  Often the mere fear of threats, or the intimidating impact of threats, is enough to discourage people from standing up for themselves.

In my opinion, people who are strong enough to stand up to attacks, allegations and unfounded lawsuits, and who have facts to back up their case, stand a good chance of ultimately prevailing in the end, whether in litigation or negotiations. 

Eric Dixon is a New York investigative lawyer who also handles business due diligence, investigations and strategic analysis.  Mr. Dixon is a 1994 graduate of Yale Law School and has 16 years' legal experience representing businesses, individuals, candidates for public office including presidential candidates, and other non-profit corporations.   Mr. Dixon may be contacted at 917-696-2442 or by e-mail at

Central Park Shows Spring About to Hit New York

Springtime is about to strike.  The first buds have been spotted this morning in a cold, rainy Central Park, as evidenced below. 

Tulips began shooting up as early as the last week of February.  Soon the cherry blossoms around the Onassis Reservoir will bloom.  I estimate the cherry blossoms should be in bloom the first week of April.

Typically -- according to my subjective observation --  Central Park trees bloom two weeks earlier than comparable trees in other locations around the New York metropolitan area.

Eric Dixon is a New York investigative lawyer.  This article has absolutely no relevance to the issues of the law, crime in general, politics or public policy.  This article only illustrates that the author likes flowers in the spring.  No implication is made as to the author's orientation...not that there's anything wrong with that.  The author just likes to see when the trees bloom.  Sorry to disappoint that segment of the readership.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fatal Crash Bus Driver and The Right to Remain Silent

The driver of the casino bus that crashed last Saturday morning, killing 15 (with others critically injured), is expected to be interviewed by investigators probing the causes of the crash as soon as today.

This is not a smart move.  Another report states that a criminal investigation is underway and the driver, Ophadell Williams, must be presumed to be a possible suspect.  Given his potential -- or likely -- criminal jeopardy (which is heightened by his prior felony convictions including one for manslaughter), one wonders about the quality of legal advice Williams is getting if he is being advised by his own lawyers to talk to investigators.

My point is not to defend Williams or his actions (whatever they were).  The point is that someone under criminal investigation should very carefully consider the potential to have any and all statements used against him, and that the jeopardy in a criminal investigation can be very high.  The fact that Williams is a repeat felon and that multiple fatalities were sustained only heighten the risk for Williams.

Eric Dixon is a New York investigative lawyer. 


Monday, March 14, 2011

Investigate Your Employees

You must know who you are dealing with, whether it's your employee, babysitter or Friday night date.

This issue arises again with the news reports that the driver of the bus which overturned Saturday morning in The Bronx, killing 15 (at latest count), had an extensive criminal record including a manslaughter conviction.

This man, who has served two separate jail terms, might not have been hired by the bus company if it had known of his felonious history. The bus company should expect to be sued on some negligent hiring theory and could face the prospect of ruinous litigation that threatens its existence. 

(Side note: Eric Dixon provides litigation counseling to businesses, their owners and managers, and other individuals facing life-altering, career-threatening or business-threatening litigation, investigations or prosecution.) 

Do you know who you are dealing with?

Can you afford not to know who you're dealing with?

The families of a few dozen passengers on that casino bus sure wish they had known.

Eric Dixon is a New York investigative lawyer. He can be reached at and by phone at 917-696-2442.


Tea Parties Right on Questioning the Establishment

An insightful op-ed on the dark, anti-Establishment political mood of the nation from the Bergen Record's Alfred Doblin this morning, who speculates that the Tea Party movements may have gotten it right on this one.

It is useful to remember two things about the Tea Party movements: First, they are not monolithic and often have little in common beyond the ubiquitious concern about government fiscal irresponsibility.  Second, there are many Tea Parties, they are different and any one group does not represent any other group.  Third, the Tea Parties are not necessarily a "Republican" outgrowth.  Popular suspicion of the Establishment -- however you choose to define that -- cuts across traditional party identification. 

In other wonders if Charlie Sheen's latest meltdowns are nothing but contrived method acting.  In other words, one suspects that Sheen is merely acting crazy like a (Bud) Fox.

Anyone who gets the pun very much intended in the last line is welcome to e-mail me.

Eric Dixon is a New York investigative lawyer. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Blow Up World Financial System, Go Scot Free?

A new Wall Street Journal report indicates that the federal government may be unable to file criminal or even civil charges against the principal executives or other management members of Lehman Brothers.

Now, business failure in and of itself never should be cause for criminal prosecution.  (Consider the miscarriage of justice endured by David Stockman.)  This nation can do better than to allow the blood lust of the (Main) "street" to corrupt the criminal justice system into a means of either arbitrary and capricious wealth redistribution or a mechanism for schadenfreude -- taking pleasure at the misfortune of another.

However, it is both puzzling and disturbing that there seems to be a pattern of the federal government rushing to judgment in these investigations -- that is, a rush to close these investigations without taking further action (either civil or criminal).  There is a five year statute of limitations for securities fraud and most federal crimes (although this writer knows of an innovative theory to stretch that statute out by a few years, and not through tolling of the statute or waivers thereof).  It has been only two and one-half years since Lehman filed for bankruptcy.  What's the rush?

It suggests a desire from high up, either at the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission, or even at the highest levels of the Executive Branch, to cover up and "turn the page" on some events which, if fully revealed, might expose tremendous government incompetence, malfeasance or criminality.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer, strategic analyst and political consultant who investigates complex legal and policy matters on behalf of businesses, individuals and political and other organizations.  Mr. Dixon is available for consultation or further comment at 917-696-2442 and via e-mail at 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Christie "Fast and Loose" on Facts

Is the Republican "rock star," New Jersey Governor -- and presumed by me to be a Republican candidate for President in 2012 -- Chris Christie using smoke and mirrors to build his national reputation?

Christie is accused by the New York Times (in its Thursday editions) of failing to be a straight shooter on many issues.  The Times' fact-check reveals inaccuracies and embellishments by the Governor, who is a lawyer by trade and the former U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.

The New York Times is nowhere close to the first in scrutinizing Christie's record.  Readers are advised to check out the archives of columns and blog articles by Paul Mulshine of the Newark Star-Ledger.   

Carl Kruger Indicted on Federal Corruption Charges

Longtime Brooklyn Democratic State Senator Carl Kruger is expected to surrender to federal authorities Thursday morning to face federal criminal corruption charges.  An influential beverage industry lobbyist, Richard Lipsky, is similarly expected to surrender to the feds.

Who's Getting Nervous?  Just speculating and jumping way ahead, but one should be wondering which -- and how many -- state and local politicians (both elected and unelected party leaders) might be very nervous if in fact Kruger and Lipsky have incriminating evidence on them and, down the road, decide to cooperate with the government in the hope of getting a lenient sentencing recommendation from prosecutors.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer, strategic analyst and political consultant.

All or Nothing On Principal Mortgage Reductions

The need to treat responsible borrowers and homeowners fairly has been cited by bank leaders resisting Obama Administration pressure to modify or reduce the principal on residential mortgages in the hope of reducing foreclosures and creating price support for the housing market.

Read why Crime, Politics and Policy thinks the phase-out of the 30-year mortgage will crash the housing market here.

The banks are being purely selfish and are not being altruistic.  That is a good thing.  There is no altruism here.  However, the banks' primary responsibilities lie with depositors, counterparties with which the banks are contractually bound, borrowers, and shareholders.  The banks are looking out for themselves...and the people to whom the banks owe responsibilities.  In turn, that helps the banks maintain a flow of credit, helping the rest of us.

Read Eric Dixon's alternative proposal to let responsible, financially-stable homeowners get principal reductions while helping recapitalize the banks. 

If the banks are going to modify mortgages by reducing principal, it is grossly unfair to reduce the principal for some, but not all, borrowers.  It is unfair to reduce the outstanding debt for homeowners, but not for other borrowers on, say, car loans.  What about school debt?  What about credit card debt? 

Our society needs fairness as the foundation of the social contract. Unequal treatment risks a moral hazard that threatens to encourage socially irresponsible behavior and, even worse, to give moral authority to those who wish to engage in it.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer, strategic analyst and political consultant.  Mr. Dixon can be reached at 917-696-2442 and by e-mail at


Monday, March 7, 2011

Corruption, aka Small-Town Justice, New Jersey Style

The wonderful ethics of the Soprano State are on display again. 
A 30-year New Jersey county sheriff and current Middlesex County Democratic Party chairman turned himself in to face state criminal charges of bribery and official misconduct, including forcing young police recruits to pay bribes of up to $25,000 as a condition of joining the police force.

This is the latest in a string of cases -- both federal and state -- in which high-ranking New Jersey law enforcement members have been accused of serious criminal misconduct while in public service.  Former Essex County Prosecutor Clifford Minor was indicted by the U.S. Attorney's Office (Newark) in 2010 on witness tampering charges, while Hackensack, NJ police chief Ken Zisa was accused last year of participating in an insurance fraud. 

If politics don't endanger the liberty of ordinary, innocent, hard-working citizens, it just might be official corruption by the very people who wear the badges and carry weapons.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer, strategic analyst and political consultant.  Mr. Dixon can be reached for consultation or comment at 917-696-2442 and at

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Christie's Political Prosecutions?

Unannounced 2012 presidential candidate and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is accused by the Star-Ledger's Kevin Manahan of selective prosecution in targeting New Jersey public corruption. 

It is more accurate to say that Manahan is criticizing Christie, and his Administration, for their selectivity -- read: letting political ambition be the decisive factor -- in deciding what and whom to investigate, threaten and well as what and whom to ignore.  Implicit in this proposition is the point that the conclusion -- that someone is dirty and must go -- is reached first (due to political considerations) and the investigation is then pursued to find facts to support the established, accepted position while facts negating the position are ignored, distorted, concealed or destroyed.

In short, a plain English way of putting this is as follows:  In Christie's New Jersey (and, to be fair, in many other places as well), politics can determine whether a private -- and often, entirely innocent -- citizen faces fearsome power of the state and is threatened with reputational and financial ruin and, often, the loss of liberty. 

This modus operandi becomes more apparent when considering how New Jersey is handling its own state fiscal crisis, as opposed to other states across the country.

The ongoing developments and emerging patterns suggest that Christie's claims to credentials of being a "reformer" and "fiscal conservative" are dubious indeed, and growing shakier by the day. 

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer, strategic analyst and crisis management/political consultant.  Mr. Dixon has advised over two dozen candidates, politcal committees and party organizations over the last 20 years, including advising two presidential campaigns on ballot access and election law issues.  Mr. Dixon is available for further comment or consultation at 917-696-2442 and by e-mail at


Friday, March 4, 2011

Is Lloyd Blankfein a Crook?

Has Goldman Sachs chief executive officer Lloyd Blankfein been caught doing something criminal?

That would be one plausible explanation for his reported agreement to testify as a witness for the federal government in its upcoming criminal trial of Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam.

Rajaratnam faces several criminal counts for insider trading.

With the exception of bonafide victims (such as victims of violent crimes) whose testimony is often essential for conviction, most witnesses for the government testify because their testimony is part of a "deal" to either spare them from prosecution -- through a non-prosecution or immunity agreement -- or as part of either fact bargaining (admitting certain facts but being allowed to conceal other possible crimes) or plea bargaining in which a crime will be admitted but the witness seeks leniency when sentenced.   An immunity agreement almost always means the witness either admitted to something criminal or could be at risk of being charged criminally (but is not necessarily guilty).

Sometimes the people trying to wear the white hats turn out to also have been criminals.  Remember the story of wannabe Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins, who made plenty of money and fame by pretending to be the Enron do-gooder.  The bloom came off the rose when she had to testify against Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, and admitted on cross-examination that she had been granted immunity -- for insider trading.

In other words, Ms. Watkins committed illegal, criminal insider trading.  

Back to Blankfein: Why is he testifying?  Is he really some civic-minded do-gooder -- or another Wall Street crook, albeit one connected to a powerful firm and enjoying the prestige of a pedigree?  Should he testify, we should find out.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer.  This article is not legal advice and is only an opinion.   

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Here Comes the Housing Crash: 30-Year Mortgage In Jeopardy

Bipartisan support for winding down Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae threatens to end the 30-year-mortgage as the staple of residential housing financing, imperiling long-term residential real estate values.

The reason values are headed down -- long-term and probably for a long time -- is simple.  A shorter amortization period means that monthly payments on any mortgage will be higher.  Purchaser affordability is measured in terms of the ability to make a certain monthly payment; that payment will increase and hence diminish the affordability by this yardstick.  But there's another catch: if Freddie and Fannie are wound down and eventually cease to exist, there will be far less demand for the securitized bundles of mortgages, for which investor demand helped drive down mortgage interest rates during the last decade to all-time lows.  This means that interest rates on mortgages will rise from their current levels.  Even worse, this increase will occur independent of any other factors that could cause a spike in interest rates.

The long-term prognosis for the value of residential real estate (which is down anywhere between 30 and 60 percent from its all-time high in 2005-06, depending on location) simply cannot be positive under any circumstances, if the 30-year-mortgage should become a rarity.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer and strategic analyst.  Mr. Dixon formerly was a corporate transactional and mergers/acquisitions lawyer, and now concentrates his practice on advising businesses and individuals on strategic issues and legal issues relating to litigation, investigations, litigation stress counseling and assertiveness training.  Mr. Dixon formerly advised a real estate venture capital fund to discontinue its purchases in 2004 based upon the assessment that realizable rental income under a rent-stabilization regime in New Jersey would not support then-prevailing prices, which were at least 25 percent higher than current values.  Mr. Dixon is available for further comment or consultation at