- It’s not the IRS’s fault
- Public lands should stay in public hands
- Houston water privatization proposal evaporates
First, the Good News
1) National: The New York Times has posted a great 15-minute video by Johnny Harris and Binyamin Appelbaum completely demolishing America’s privatized system of tax preparation and showing how other countries are doing it better. “It’s the most miserable time of the year: tax season. Americans are about to spend millions of hours and billions of dollars filing their federal income taxes, and they are pretty sure they know who is responsible for their pain: The misanthropes at the Internal Revenue Service. But we’re here to convince you that the I.R.S. is not the problem. Yes, it should be easy to file taxes. And yes, it should be free. That’s how it works in the rest of the developed world, and it could very easily work that way here, too. It is absurd that America’s tax system is so antiquated and complicated that most people must pay someone else to help them pay the government. So what is standing in the way of progress? Watch.”
For more see Donald Cohen’s Slaying the Tax Prep Giants: How the Corporations Fought Against Direct File (Spoiler Alert: They Lost).
2) National: Regulation works. The NLRB’s August decision to strengthen access to card check union membership elections is already impacting organizing drives. “We’re taking the lead,” says Victor Vaughn, a logistics team member at Volkswagen Chattanooga. “A majority of workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant have signed cards to join the UAW, less than sixty days after the workers announced their campaign to form a union at the German automaker’s only US assembly plant. The milestone marks the first non-union auto plant to publicly announce majority support among the dozens of auto plants where workers have begun organizing in recent months. The grassroots effort sprang up in the wake of the record victories for Big Three autoworkers in the UAW’s historic Stand Up Strike win. (…) The Chattanooga plant employs over 4,000 autoworkers, a clear majority of whom have signed cards to join the UAW. Workers at Mercedes in Vance, Alabama, and at Hyundai in Montgomery, Alabama have also announced public campaigns to join the UAW, with dozens of other plants actively organizing. For more information on the campaigns, visit UAW.org/join.”
3) National: In the Public Interest’s Communications Director Jeff Hagan looks at proposals for two new rules governing public lands that signal and important shift toward conservation and the goal of keeping public lands in public hands.
“The Biden administration has reversed a great number of Trump era environmental policies, a process that began during President Biden’s first week in office,” Hagan writes. “It still has more to go. Two significant changes were made last spring in the form proposals governing some federal lands. Following an Earth Day 2022 Executive Order ‘to conserve and restore old and mature forests,’ the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a proposal to amend all 128 forest land management plans to conserve and steward old-growth forest conditions on national forests and grasslands nationwide. And a new rule proposed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ‘would advance the BLM’s mission to manage the public lands for multiple use and sustained yield by prioritizing the health and resilience of ecosystems across those lands.’ The proposal goes onto say the agency would “make wise management decisions based on science and data,” perhaps drawing another distinction from the predecessor administration’s approach. While it doesn’t erase the use of public lands for extractive purposes, the new rule, according to its official summary, ‘puts conservation on an equal footing with other uses.’”
4) National: The FCC has issued a declaratory ruling “that deems AI-generated voices in robocalls illegal, granting state attorneys general more authority to go after entities that target consumers with voice cloning technology in robocall scams,” Route Fifty reports. “Spam and robocalling operations have been traditionally carried out in environments with human managers overseeing calling schemes, but AI technologies have automated some of these tasks, allowing robocalling operations to leverage speech and voice-generating capabilities of consumer-facing AI tools available online or on the dark web.”
5) California: HR Dive reports that Republic Services, the private trash hauling contractor with public bodies, has been ordered to pay nearly $300,000 in settlement with California Teamsters. “Republic Services has nine months to comply with the settlement amount, according to a release from the union last week. The hauler declined to comment on the case. Teamsters in a separate but nearby chapter previously went on strike against Republic in 2021 over contract disputes. The action ended after about a week. The Teamsters last announced the conclusion of a separate multidriver back pay case in 2022. That case began five years prior, when Teamsters employed by Republic in Elyria, Ohio, alleged that the company had ‘unilaterally’ changed workers’ incentive rates for collection routes. The case resulted in Republic paying out about $220,000 to 41 employees, according to a union official. ‘Republic just decided to make up their own rules and it came back to bite them,’ Chuck Stiles, director of the Teamsters’ Solid Waste & Recycling Division, said in an interview last week. ‘It was the same thing, they just refused to go by the contract.’”
6) Montana: “The People Win a Big One,” says retired Montana Supreme Court justice James C. Nelson. The citizens initiative and referendum process has been upheld. “Thankfully, a diverse group of concerned Montanans filed suit to claw back our retained power from this legislative/executive power-grab. And, on February 5th, Helena District Judge Mike Menahan entered his order for partial summary judgment in favor of these citizen plaintiffs.”
7) Pennsylvania: Teacher preparation programs are popping up in western Pennsylvania amid hope this will ease the teacher shortage. “‘Every kid does deserve a highly qualified, great teacher and when we have shortages, some states, the gut reaction might be to lower the bar of what it is to be a teacher and I think that’s the worst thing we can do,’ Alexander Novickoff, the CWCTC’s assistant director of workforce education, said. ‘This is a great initiative. … It can really launch a lot of great careers.’”
8) Texas: In a major victory for a local coalition in Houston, the city has officially canceled its privatization proposal for its Southeast Water Purification Plant. Nisma Gabobe, a senior researcher with CorporateAccountability.org, reports that “This coalition was made up of folks from West Street Recovery, The Coalition for Environment, Equity, and Resilience (CEER), Bayou City Waterkeeper, AFSCME Local HOPE 123, and Corporate Accountability.” In an email to the Houston Chronicle, [public works spokesperson Erin Jones] wrote that during the process to find a third-party operator for the purification plant, city leaders discovered it was more cost-effective to keep operations under Public Works.
9) National: The charter school industry has been thrown into crisis as a result of the end of pandemic aid, Bloomberg reports. “The number of distressed charter schools rose to a record in the beginning of 2024 as the sector struggles with the end of pandemic assistance and rising costs. So far this year, five charter schools have become impaired, meaning a borrower has defaulted on their debt, broken a covenant or used some emergency means to make a payment. The impairments bring the total to 55 schools, according to a report by Municipal Market Analytics, a record that eclipsed the previous peak set during the early months of the pandemic in 2020. (…) ‘It’s hard to not be cautious and somewhat more concerned when you see an uptick in impairments like we’ve seen,’ said Lisa Washburn, chief credit officer at Municipal Market Analytics. ‘You have got to really look at the school and focus on how it’s performing academically.’” [Sub required].
10) Arizona: In a letter to the editor of the Arizona Daily Star, Barbara Mongan of West Side denounces state schools superintendent Tom Horne for tooting his horn on school privatization. “Tom Horne’s ads for the hard work he is doing for the Arizona public schools only mentions vouchers and supporting charter and private schools. He’s lying about his title. It should be ‘Superintendent of Charter and Private Schools’ not ‘Superintendent of Public Education.’ He has done nothing for public schools and ignores them publicly and financially. He is making videos from PragerU (NOT a university but a nonprofit) available to AZ schools offering unsubstantiated views which don’t belong in a public school classroom. One is an animated video about Christopher Columbus, stating, ‘Being taken as a slave is better than being killed, no? I don’t see the problem.’ The head of PragerU admits she has no support that Columbus said this, but feels these are his thoughts. Step down or change your title, Tom!”
11) Florida: Rocky Hanna, superintendent of schools in Leon County, warns that Florida’s plan to plunder the state school budget to pay for vouchers will crush the goal of raising teacher pay. “And the fact is crystal clear to everyone—teachers should earn more money! This has been an ongoing national and state issue. Sad to say, on a national scale, Florida ranks 48th in average teacher salaries across the U.S. To make matters worse, the state is now committing up to $4 billion to fund Family Empowerment Scholarships (school vouchers) for private and homeschool programs. This is the largest shift in public money to private schools in state history. Imagine what could be done to properly compensate teachers throughout the state if that $4 billion was reallocated to support teacher salary increases.” [Sub required]
12) Illinois: Talks to end strikes at two Chicago charter schools are at an impasse. “As of Friday, the strike has been going on for five days. Now, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is asking BMO Bank to get involved, as they say the bank is closely tied with Instituto del Progreso Latino. The CTU says 25% of Instituto’s budget is spent on rent and management fees for a building that CTU says Instituto owns and was paid for with public funding.”
“‘We want to have the administration respect not just us but also the students that are here,” said science teacher Louis Lucas. Teachers hit the picket lines in front of Instituto Health Science Career Academy and said they’ve been working without a contract for two years. ‘We’ve lost a lot of people and they have not been replaced that’s one of our basic issues, which is people leave,’ said Lucas. ‘They leave because our salaries aren’t competitive with the rest of the city.’ The union said it’s been bargaining with Instituto on several key issues, including competitive wages, staffing levels, educators’ rights, and sanctuary protections for immigrant students and employees.”
13) Maryland: The Maryland State Education Association reports that bills have been introduced to limit the privatization of school jobs and fight book bans. “All of MSEA’s key legislative priorities have been introduced before the bill filing deadline this session. Most recently, MSEA’s bill to prohibit public schools from hiring subcontractors for staff positions without strong oversight and employee protections has been introduced in Senate Bill 1043, sponsored by Sen. Dawn Gile (D-Anne Arundel), cross-filed as House Bill 1175, sponsored by Del. Jessica Feldmark (D-Howard). The legislation is needed to keep school jobs filled by educators who know their schools and communities best. Outsourcing to private contractors diminishes the connection between staff and students, and privatization lacks transparency while undermining labor contracts. The Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee will have a hearing on SB1043 at 1 p.m. on March 6. HB1175 is in the House Ways and Means and Appropriations committees. If passed, the law would take effect Oct. 1, 2024.”
On book bans: “One of MSEA’s priorities, the Freedom to Read Act, House Bill 785, sponsored by Del. Dana Jones (D-Anne Arundel), cross-filed as Senate Bill 738, sponsored by Sen. Nancy King (D-Montgomery), will have a hearing at 1 p.m. on February 21 in the House Ways and Means Committee. The legislation establishes standards for school and community libraries to assure fair criteria are applied and enforced in maintaining library collections and protects school media specialists and librarians who maintain the collections in accordance with the standards. The law would prohibit county boards of education and library governing bodies from retaliating against employees who act consistent with the standards.”
14) New Hampshire: The state school voucher program has been expanded but universal eligibility has been nixed. “Opponents of the bill noted the use of the money for private and religious schools and said the proposed changes would allow families making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to use the money for an elite private education they could well afford to pay themselves. They said the proposed expansion is contrary to the stated purpose of the program when it was originally enacted to help low-income families afford an alternative educational setting that better fits their student if he or she is not successful in public schools. ‘Instead of spending more money pulling students out of public schools,’ said Rep. Linda Tanner, D-Sunapee, ‘we should make funding more equitable and stop passing legislation that puts more pressure on teachers and educators.’”
15) Ohio: Who benefits from school vouchers in Ohio? Jessie Balmert a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, digs into the issue in the February 10 issue of the Zanesville Times Recorder [No link yet—ed.] “Opponents say the state shouldn’t be shelling out taxpayer money for private, oftentimes religious, education. William Phillis, executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding, said the concept seems even more ridiculous when you apply it to other public services. ‘If I want to join a country club instead of using the public parks, I shouldn’t be entitled to a voucher to cash in at a private country club,’ Phillis, a former teacher and state assistant superintendent of public instruction, said. ‘Or if I don’t want to swim in the public pool, I’m not entitled to a voucher to build a backyard pool at my residence.’ The debate is also the subject of a pending lawsuit in which 100 school districts sued the state to stop the private school voucher program.”
Meanwhile, a proposed Ohio bill would extend tuition for private, non-chartered schools. “‘We are doing a fiscally irresponsible thing already, in my humble opinion on the universal voucher program, but this would just make that even worse,’ said Rep. Jessica E. Miranda, D-Forest Park. ‘I mean, we’d be costing ourselves more money.’ Others proposed more scrutiny for the schools that take these state dollars. Rep. Don Jones, R-Freeport, asked Click if he would be open to rating all schools against each other. ‘Would you think that maybe everybody would be in favor if we do this, that we start having a report card for all schools, rather than just those public schools and that way we can see who is doing a better job amongst everyone?’ Jones said.”
16) Tennessee: In an op-ed in The Chattanoogan, public education activists say Support Public Education, Not Private School Vouchers, and invite the community to a meeting tonight. “As Tennesseans from Maryville to Memphis, we believe that all students deserve access to high quality public education and that we must fund our local schools accordingly. If you wish to get involved and work with us to make TN fully invested in our children, schools and communities, you can plug in by registering for the next Public School Strong Orientation Feb. 12, 7:15-8:30 p.m.”
- Eric Atkins, Co-Chair Unity Group of Chattanooga
- Kaitlin Blanchard, Chattanooga DSA Treasurer
- April Berends and Rev. Zachary Settle, Grace Episcopal Church
- Rick Bowers, Executive Director of Green|Spaces
- Donna Palmer, President of First Centenary United Women in Faith
- Michael Gilliland, Organizing Director of Chattanoogans in Action for Love, Equality and Benevolence
A new statewide poll conducted by Co/efficient and the Tennessee Education Association found that about 55% of likely Republican primary voters oppose Gov. Bill Lee’s universal school choice proposal.
17) Texas: Jef Rouner of Reform Austin reports that charter schools are struggling as Republicans push for vouchers. “Austin Achieve Public Schools announced on Tuesday that it would be cutting 24 employees amid budget shortfalls. Spokespeople from the district said they had explored every other avenue of cost-cutting, but ultimately had to let employees go. According to Austin Achieve, their funding had been stagnant since 2019. The loss of staff leads to greater burdens on those remaining, including a higher student-to-teacher ratio. They are not the first. Several Houston-area charter schools announced last year that they were facing tough cuts after the legislature failed to increase funding. The YES Prep Public Schools and KIPP Texas Public Schools charter programs are scheduled to be cut entirely.”
18) International/United Kingdom/National: Food service workers in school are vital for public health. “The UK government should tackle obesity by expanding the sugar tax, taxing salt, implementing a pre-watershed ban on junk food advertising and investing in school kitchens and chefs,” says The Times Health Commission, “which has set out a ten-point plan to save the National Health Service as part of an investigation into the crisis facing the health and social care system in England.” The commission also called for “more investment in school kitchens and chefs, with food and nutrition promoted in the classroom and Ofsted responsible for monitoring whether schools are meeting food standards. It said there should also be a legal requirement on all public sector bodies to serve healthy food to promote the long-term health of the nation.”
Why are school lunches so bad in the U.S.? “Each school only gets about $1.30 to feed each child — and that doesn’t only cover the cost of the food. It also covers the cost of labor, equipment, and electricity. So it comes as no surprise that they can only opt for low-quality foods, as opposed to fresh produce, quality proteins, and whole grains.”
19) National: What’s behind the push toward privatizing water systems? “When it comes to privatization, there’s always a debate between proponents who contend private companies will provide better services at less cost, and those who worry that contracting out essential services makes them less accountable and vulnerable to mismanagement and excessive profit-taking. Such concerns are especially sensitive when it comes to a necessity like water. Nearly 73 million Americans rely on private companies for drinking and wastewater needs, according to the National Association of Water Companies, which represents a substantial increase over the past five years. Last year, the President’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council recommended removing ‘barriers to privatization, concessions and other nontraditional models of funding community water systems.’ Environmental groups aren’t happy about the idea of pushing privatization, maintaining that this weakens public control, oversight and accountability. ‘Elite capture of our water commons is the final frontier in the commodification of all living things and should be resisted as though our lives depend upon the water we drink,’ said Nickie Sekera, a co-founder of Community Water Justice, a network of communities opposed to privatization.”
20) Arizona/National: Tony Bradley, President and CEO of the Arizona Trucking Association, says Congress should pass Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly’s truck parking bill. “Trucking is a diverse industry, but we share a common mission: a commitment to public safety. The nationwide lack of truck parking is fundamentally a safety issue that endangers all motorists. That’s why we applaud ADOT for prioritizing truck parking, and we are urging Congress to pass Senator Mark Kelly’s Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, which would help fund Arizona’s forward-thinking truck parking plan and enable more states to follow Arizona’s example. Imagine finishing a long shift and not knowing if you will have a safe place to sleep that night. Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common reality for truckers. An astonishing 98% of truck drivers regularly experience difficulties finding parking. Nationwide, there are more than 11 truck drivers for every one parking space.”
21) Florida: Is the Tampa Bay Rays’ new “public-private” stadium development project in the public interest? “After six meetings, including a five-hour finale, a committee decided that community benefits provided by redeveloping 65 acres of prime St. Petersburg real estate warranted the associated public subsidies. A nine-person Community Benefits Advisory Council debated the Historic Gas Plant District project’s benefits package—and several proposed revisions—until 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. The group, encompassing eight appointees and City Council Chair Deborah Figgs-Sanders, approved the proposal in a 7-2 vote. The $6.5 billion redevelopment, led by the Tampa Bay Rays and Hines, would transform the areasurrounding Tropicana Field into a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood. Opponents believe the potential public impacts do not justify selling the land at a deep discount.”
The St. Pete Catalyst reports that “the publicly owned stadium was not a part of the community benefits process. The advisory council’s revisions are nonbinding. However, Brian Caper, economic and workforce development director, said the mayoral administration takes the votes ‘very seriously.’”
22) Pennsylvania: Should the public be able to know what toxic chemicals are in our environment, or is that a “trade secret”? “In November 2023, Environmental Health News reporter Kristina Marusic talked with Living on Earth about the bid by the Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro to unmask the secret chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, though some details were lacking. Now the state has advanced rules that would require gas and oil drillers to disclose any toxic chemicals they plan to inject into the ground, rather than only requiring them to tell regulators after the fact. But some chemicals will remain shrouded in mystery, since those that are considered ‘trade secrets’ are exempted, and the new rule only applies to new fracking operations, not existing projects. Here’s what the new fracking rules mean for keeping drinking water safe.”
23) Tennessee: The Bond Buyer reports that debt-shy Tennessee is considering private activity bonds under its newly authorized ‘public private partnership’ program. Here come the “voluntary user fees” and the Lexus Lanes. “As gas tax purchasing power dwindles, several states are turning to alternatives like P3s and electric vehicle annual fees, which are a key part of Tennessee’s new transportation law. Combined with Tennessee’s new law, major P3 projects in Georgia and a recently re-launched bridge replacement in Louisiana have pushed the southeast region to the forefront of P3 activity in the toll road sector.” [Sub required]
24) Texas/National: Is Port Arthur’s 2017 issuance of Navigation District bonds tax exempt? Six years later, the issue remains unresolved. “Per the notice, ‘The Notice contains a proposed adverse determination that the Series 2017A Bonds are taxable hedge bonds due to alleged noncompliance with requirements of Section 149(g) of the Internal Revenue Code, which prescribes certain expectations for the timely expenditure of tax‐exempt bond proceeds.’ (…) Section 149(g) of the tax code remains a bedeviling requirement that was originally designed to discourage municipalities from taking advantage of low interest rates for ill-defined uses while excess debt remains shielded from taxes. Per the IRS, ‘Prior to 149(g), municipalities could issue bonds when interest rates were low, even though there was not an immediate need for financing. Congress viewed this practice as a drain on the federal treasury because the bonds were outstanding longer than necessary.’” [Sub required]
25) International/Australia: Transurban, the global road privatization and “public-private partnerships” behemoth, is again under fire for the “disastrous” performance of its WestConnex and Rozelle Interchange in Sydney. Inner West Council Mayor Darcy Byrne says an inquiry should investigate “who knew what and when about the design of this infrastructure disaster’ (…) Byrne believes the investigation should include the role of former government ministers in the approval of the interchange as well as the outsized power and influence of Transurban over traffic flows around WestConnex. ‘It’s time for everyone to admit that this interchange is one of the most costly and disruptive mistakes in the history of Sydney’s motorway network and those responsible must be held to account,’ Byrne added.”
26) International/Germany: When he was mayor of Hamburg, future German Chancellor Olaf Scholz praised Signa Holding’s good reputation with banks when the city picked the private developer to build the tower. Well, that public vetting of infrastructure investment didn’t work out too well. The Wall Street Journal has the long receipts in “The Spectacular Crash of a $30 Billion Property Empire.” [Sub required].
27) National: Thom Hartmann reports on the latest Republican plan to make billions for their corporate backers by privatizing Medicare. “Want to invest in a scam that lets you make billions with virtually no risk? If you’re morbidly rich, all you have to do is to open or buy an insurance company that’s offering Medicare Advantage plans. And now, Republicans are saying that if they retake the White House they will change the Medicare rules so that people newly turning 65 will enroll by default into Medicare Advantage rather than real, traditional Medicare, further enhancing the profits of these massive, billion-dollar insurance giants while rapidly killing off real, traditional Medicare. This is the culmination of a long-term plan.”
Salon reports that “the plan, highlighted Monday by Rolling Stone’s Andrew Perez, is outlined about halfway through Project 2025’s 920-page playbook for the first six months of a conservative presidency.
Republican administrations and right-wing groups have long advocated funneling people who are newly eligible for Medicare into Medicare Advantage plans, which are funded by the federal government and run by for-profit insurers. During his first White House term, former President Donald Trump took steps to actively encourage seniors to choose Medicare Advantage plans over traditional Medicare and expanded the benefits that the privately run plans are allowed to offer.”
28) National/Illinois: The Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund is pouring money into GEO Group, the private corporation that makes its money off detaining immigrants and prisoners. The company is expected by Wall Street to issue its profit report on Thursday.
29) California: Writing in Capital & Main, Mark Kreidler says “Pacific Gas and Electric Company, which dominates the supply of power to most of Northern and Central California, just hit its customers with a whopping $33 a month rate hike. The 13% increase to the average bill took effect on Jan. 1.
And PG&E, an investor-owned utility, is just getting warmed up. Only a few weeks after receiving approval from the California Public Utilities Commission for that roughly $400 annual rate hike late last year, PG&E went right back to the well. In a Dec. 1 filing, the utility asked the CPUC for permission to pass along another $2 billion in cost overruns as part of its ongoing process of updating wildfire mitigation and repairing storm damage.”
30) Rhode Island: Union workers fighting outsourcing say they are being bullied. “[Peter Alviti, Jr., Director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation] ‘makes it seem like we’re all hunky dory, but we’re not,’ said union President Denise Robinson. ‘Staff are struggling to do their job, because they’re overloaded.’ Pay is already low compared to neighboring states, which, together with difficult working conditions, makes it difficult for RIDOT to attract and retain talent, the union leaders said. On another subject, the union has fought what they see as the privatization of work for a long time, even before Alviti, but they take issue with what they see as the increasing reliance on contractors for tasks like inspections instead of having internal staff with institutional knowledge do them. The young engineer who discovered the structural deficiencies that led to the emergency closure of the bridge worked for VHB, a contractor.”
31) Washington: Dial-a-Ride drivers are outraged over a $3 million outsourcing scheme they say will make disabled less safe. “A third of the calls for Dial-a-Ride services for riders with disabilities and limited service in outlying Tri-Cities areas will be contracted out to a private firm rather than filling open Ben Franklin Transit driver positions. It’s part of two job-cutting initiatives planned for this year that could eliminate as many as 30 positions. But the recent vote by the public transit board drew immediate outrage from union employees, saying they fear the change puts the agency’s most medically fragile and youngest riders at risk. Teamsters Local 839 Secretary Russell Shjerven said the BFT manager Rachelle Glazier is trying to privatize the public service instead of filling open positions.”
32) International/Greece: Greek students are protesting against the privatization of universities. “Opponents of the proposed law warn that it would undermine state universities and limit tertiary education to the wealthy. Critics argue that the introduction of privately-run universities could place higher education out of reach for low-income families, making it a privilege of the rich rather than a right for all. There are also concerns about the potential decline in the quality of education provided by state universities if the law is passed.”
33) National: As commercial real estate wobbles, what implications does this have for public finance? Municipal tax revenue? Affordable housing? Transit demand? Bank health? It’s unclear what’s ahead, but the business media is clearly worried. See here, here (yes, it’s a real estate story too) and here. [Subs required]
34) International: There’s an interesting story in the Financial Times, predictably behind the paywall, taking us “Inside European finance’s most secretive society: ‘This is not like Davos, where anyone can buy their way in. This really is exclusive.’” The FT says “as Europe’s lenders come under pressure to improve their lackluster valuations—having fallen far behind their U.S. rivals on profitability in recent years—and with the continent bracing for a long-heralded wave of cross-border dealmaking, the IIEB is entering one of its most important periods since it was set up in the aftermath of the second world war.”