Welcome to "The Watchdog," which will keep a close eye on regulatory agencies and how their actions impact the lives of everyday Americans. Though the rules and regulations they write -- from determining how much arsenic is allowable in your drinking water to whether your favorite TV show can drop the F-bomb in primetime -- affect all of us, their deliberations and the way that lobbyists influence their decisions receive very little coverage. To make sense of these debates, follow the implementation of health care and financial reform and decipher the minutia of the Federal Register, "The Watchdog" is on the case. If you have any tips, send them to email@example.com.
Massey Energy, the owner of the Upper Big Branch mine where 29 miners died in an explosion last April, is blaming pesky federal regulators for the fact that the company lost money last year, according to an amended 10-K filing unearthed by Footnoted.com.
Considering that Massey has been cited repeatedly for workplace safety and health violations, and emerging evidence suggests that it bears some responsibility for the poor conditions at the mine which caused the explosion (though investigations are still ongoing), the company's nonchalant attitude in the amended 10-K is striking.
This is from the filing's section on executive pay:
As a result of the tragedy at UBB, [federal mine-safety regulators] significantly increased regulatory enforcement in our mines. The increased regulatory enforcement had a significant negative impact our productivity and operating results for 2010. Although revenues increased 13% compared to 2009, due to the UBB tragedy and the significantly increased regulatory environment in which we operate, we had a net loss of 6.6 million for 2010.
Not that the company's executives suffered as a result -- Footnoted.com notes that a longtime chairman and CEO got a lucrative retirement package when he stepped down in December:
.4 million in all, including severance, 2010 bonus payments (yes, he got one), a secretary and office space for up to five years in retirement, two years of health-care benefits, a two-year consulting contract, a free house, reimbursement for 7,111 in taxes on the free house, and even an option on the land next to the free house. Plus, as far as we can tell, he still stands to collect a pension valued at million, and a deferred-compensation account balance of .1 million.
Also, the company makes a big deal out of the fact that it created a new Safety and Environmental Committee last year, though Footnoted.com notes that it's largely made up of the same people who sat on its previous Safety, Environmental and Public Policy Committee, which only met four times during the year before the Upper Big Branch disaster.
• Confused by all the talk about CDOs, CDSs, SIVs and other acronyms masking yet more financial alchemy? Check out the Wall Street Journal's glossary to Dodd-Frank financial reform.
• She might feel like the kid who gets picked last to play on a team, but Elizabeth Warren is still in the running to head up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an administration official assures Bloomberg News.
• Next Wednesday, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission hosts a meeting to discuss capital requirements for swap dealers and derivatives regulation, which are key provisions of Dodd-Frank's financial regulatory overhaul.
• According to a whistleblower, recent Chinese food scandals involving contaminated pig feed and banned additives in bean sprouts are due to the country's food safety watchdogs profiting from illegal business activities, reports China Daily (h/t Government Accountability Project).
• May 1-7 is North American Occupational Safety and Health Week, which is intended to raise awareness about occupational safety, health and the environment. Read more here.