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Banks Slowly Offer Alternatives to Overdraft Fees, a Bane of Struggling Spenders

“The most egregious practices are largely the same as they have been for nearly 20 years,” said Rebecca Borné, a senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending, an advocacy group. “Charging a fee averaging $35 apiece for things that cost the bank very little, charging overdraft fees on small debit transactions, charging up to $140 in fees in a single day and calling that a limit.”It’s not clear whether the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or other regulators will pursue any changes. “Overdrafts have the potential to be very costly for consumers,” a bureau spokeswoman said, “and we are continuing …

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ProPublica Report Has Congress Rethinking How to Tax Superrich

WASHINGTON — A jaw-dropping report by ProPublica detailing how America’s richest men avoided paying taxes has intensified interest in Congress, even among some Republicans, in changing the tax code to ensure that people like Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett pay their fair share.For Republicans, the idea that the tax code should give preferential treatment to investment has been sacrosanct, ostensibly to promote economic growth and innovation that could benefit everyone. But the news this week showed how the treatment of stocks, bonds, real estate and huge loans taken off those assets has sent the tax bills of the richest …

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C.E.O. Pay Remains Stratospheric, Even at Companies Battered by Pandemic

And, according to security filings, a select few are rapidly accumulating new fortunes. Chad Richison, founder and chief executive of an Oklahoma software company, Paycom, is worth more than $3 billion and was awarded $211 million last year, when his company made $144 million in profit. John Legere, the former chief executive of T-Mobile, was awarded $137.2 million last year, a reward for taking over the rival Sprint.“We’ve created this class of centimillionaires and billionaires who have not been good for this country,” said Nell Minow, vice chair of ValueEdge Advisors, an investment consulting firm. “They may build a wing on a …

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Private Equity Firms Are Piling On Debt to Pay Dividends

Part of her legislative agenda remains holding the private equity industry “accountable for what happens with their target companies,” she said in a statement late last month when asked about the Apria deal.The dividend recap carried out by Apria was by no means the largest of 2020. Epicor Software, a company that was backed by the KKR investment group, completed a $1.9 billion deal, and Radiate Holdco, a TPG Capital-owned company, did a $2.6 billion deal, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.And not all borrowing necessarily went to dividends. The loans can also be used to restructure debt, and portfolio …

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In Building Economic Team, Biden Faces Tug From Left and Center

WASHINGTON — If he wins the presidency, Joseph R. Biden Jr. will inherit an economy struggling to recover from its steepest plunge in decades. His economic team will need to help workers and businesses survive a pandemic winter, while developing policies to address the racial and income inequalities the crisis has exacerbated in the labor market.

Assembling that team would force Mr. Biden to balance competing impulses. He wants to surround himself with aides who have experience battling past downturns — a talent pool that is overwhelmingly white, male and centrist. But he also wants to stock his administration with advisers who represent the racial, gender and ideological diversity of the nation and his party better than previous administrations.

Allies inside and outside Mr. Biden’s sprawling network of informal economic advisers say there are signs that, even as Mr. Biden looks to familiar names from his White House years with President Barack Obama, his potential administration is on track to include far more economists of color, women and progressive economic thinkers than Mr. Obama’s initial team, which was stocked with establishment white male economists.

“You’d like a team that has kind of been to war,” said Stephanie Kelton, an economics professor at Stony Brook University who served on a task force when Mr. Biden became the nominee but is not currently an adviser to the campaign.

But Ms. Kelton, an increasingly important voice on the progressive side of the party, said it’s important to find people who realize that mistakes were made after the 2008 recession, because “it took seven years to claw back the jobs that were lost. We can’t afford that again.”

Robert E. Rubin, a former Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, who remains a leading voice among centrist Democrats, said Mr. Biden would be facing “the most daunting set of challenges that any president has faced since F.D.R. He needs people who are experienced, who are well equipped to deal with that.”

The nation is mired in a so-called K-shaped recovery in which some people and businesses have thrived as companies shifted to remote work and consumer demand skewed toward goods over services. Other workers have fallen into prolonged unemployment and a wave of small businesses have shuttered or are close to doing so. Mr. Biden’s allies have stressed that he will need to address that damage should he win the presidency.

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“What I think is important is to recognize that this is not your grandfather’s type of recession,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the finance committee. “There are two economies — Main Street getting hammered, Wall Street sky high.”

Perhaps the most important economic role to fill will be that of Treasury secretary, since that person will serve as a conduit between the White House, the Federal Reserve and Congress, along with playing a key role in diplomacy and financial regulation. During the financial crisis, the Treasury secretary played an outsize role in steering the response, first under Henry M. Paulson during the George W. Bush administration and then under Timothy F. Geithner during the Obama years.

Mr. Biden appears likely to tap a woman for the job — which would be a first in the Treasury Department’s 231-year history. Lael Brainard, a Federal Reserve governor and former Treasury official, tops many Biden advisers’ lists of possible future secretaries. Ms. Brainard, who served as the Treasury’s under secretary for international affairs during the Obama administration, has extensive recent experience in financial regulation and a proven track record of working well with the Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell.

Credit…Cliff Owen/Associated Press

Still, her background in trade could prove to be a liability with more progressive members of the party. While at the Treasury, Ms. Brainard was reluctant to take a hard line on currency manipulation, for instance when it came to the weak Chinese yuan in the early 2010s. That was an unpopular stance among some left-leaning senators worried about the competitive threat cheap imports from abroad posed to domestic manufacturers.

Other women also make the unofficial lists circulating, including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who enjoys a lot of support among progressives. Sarah Bloom Raskin, formerly at the Treasury and Fed, is frequently discussed, as is Janet L. Yellen, the former Obama-era Fed chair.

Another name floating around the Biden camp is Roger W. Ferguson Jr., a former Fed vice chairman who is now president of the financial manager TIAA. Mr. Ferguson, the only Black person to ever serve in that high-ranking Fed position, has experience confronting crises — he played the central role in the Fed’s response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks because its chair, Alan Greenspan, was out of the country at the time.

Both have advised the Biden campaign from the outside, as part of a small group of economists Mr. Biden turns to for daily briefings and policy recommendations. That group includes Ben Harris, an economist at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management who succeeded Mr. Bernstein as Mr. Biden’s chief economist, and who now plays a sort of clearinghouse role in economic policymaking for the Biden campaign. He could land a White House job as well.

Several other veterans of the Obama years also appear to be in the running for top economic jobs. Most of them are white men, including Austan Goolsbee, a former chairman of Mr. Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers; Gene Sperling, who led the National Economic Council for Mr. Obama and Mr. Clinton; and Jeffrey Zients, who succeeded Mr. Sperling and who is a co-chairman of Mr. Biden’s transition team.


Credit…John Lamparski/Getty Images

People in the Biden orbit are also eyeing veterans of the White House or the Fed who are not white men, including Lisa D. Cook, who served as chief economist for the Council of Economic Advisers under Mr. Obama; Raphael Bostic, who heads the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, making him the first Black person to ever hold a regional Fed presidency; and Mary C. Daly, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

Mr. Biden may also have an opportunity to add staff to the Fed, which will continue to play a key role in supporting the labor market and economic recovery, potentially in close collaboration with the Treasury. While President Trump has nominated Judy Shelton and Christopher Waller for the two open slots, it is unclear whether they will win confirmation before the congressional term ends in January. Another Fed governor slot could open if Ms. Brainard is moved to the Treasury.

Mr. Biden would also need to make decisions about the Fed’s top spot, though not immediately. Mr. Powell’s tenure as head of the central bank does not end until early 2022. The Fed’s vice chair for supervision, a powerful position that influences banking regulation, will be up for replacement in October 2021.

Across the various roles, labor groups and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party are pushing Mr. Biden to elevate economic thinkers who are more liberal, and more focused on racial inequality, than previous Democratic administrations — citing the outsize damage the pandemic recession has dealt to women and to Black and Hispanic workers. They also want advisers who are not afraid to spend money on programs to help bring about economic equality — even if it means adding to the budget deficit.

“He’s going to have to have some people who are very good and credible at handling all of the extreme forms of inequality we’ve seen pop in from this, and can get the labor market back up and can especially undo the harm that’s been disproportionate on women and minorities,” said William E. Spriggs, the chief economist at the A.F.L.-C.I.O., who was part of a group of several hundred economic policy experts who prepared policy recommendations for Mr. Biden’s campaign this year.

“I think they get it,” Mr. Spriggs said. “But you know, personnel are chosen sometimes on the basis of other things.”

Ana Swanson contributed reporting.

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