Think Tank CPR’s FCRA Suspended, Gets I-T Notice On Tax Exemptions

Centre for Policy Research (CPR), one of the leading public policy think tanks, said last week that it has been “intimated” by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs that its registration under the FCRA had been “suspended for a period of 180 days.”

Weeks before it was informed that its registration under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) had been suspended, the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) received a show cause notice from the Income Tax Department, asking why the registration granting it tax exemptions should not be cancelled.

The CPR had been granted tax exemption status until 2027 under Section 12A of the Income Tax Act. That status has now been questioned by the I-T officials, who collected huge amounts of documents and data during a survey on September 7, 2022 and followed it up by dispatching over a dozen summons to its staff — from its senior researchers to the office peon.

The I-T Department challenged the tax exemptions with a 33-page show cause notice, sent on December 22, 2022 alleging that the CPR was in violation of being involved in activities which were “not in accordance with the objects and the conditions subject to which it was registered”.

The I-T Department included in the show cause notice several observations and allegations not directly related to its operations as an entity.

For instance, there is a list of 19 persons, described as “non-filers” – mostly members of its staff who have either not filed or filed their I-T returns irregularly. The office peon has been included in the list of “non-filers” and the CPR asked to explain how the Rs 2.49 crore given to these individuals collectively (mostly remunerations paid between 2017 and 2021) were payments related to the objectives of the CPR.

The I-T has described the “non-filers” as “persons whose “genuineness is questionable” or not as per the mandate of the CPR.  After scrutinizing accounts, the I-T Department has also questioned activities of the think tank such as bearing the cost of publishing books of its employees.

The show cause notice contains a list of seven authors and observed that while CPR has subsidized the publication of their books, it does not draw any financial benefit from it.

The CPR has been asked to explain how publication of books could be categorized as a “charitable” activity, and told to submit all expenses incurred during the book launches.  The CPR has been challenging the allegations contained in the post-survey summons and notices received.

On the issues raised by the I-T in its show cause notice, Yamini Aiyar, President and Chief Executive of CPR, told The Indian Express, “There is no question of our having undertaken any activity that is beyond our objects of association and compliance mandated by law.”

“Our work and institutional purpose is to advance our Constitutional goals and protect Constitutional guarantees. We are absolutely confident that the matter will be resolved speedily, in fairness and in the spirit of our Constitutional values.”

Some of the ineligible “activities” listed by the I-T Department include:

* Funds to the tune of Rs 10.19 crore (since 2016) from the Namati-Environmental Justice Program. These funds, according to the I-T Department, “are used to file litigation and complaints instead of carrying out any research or educational activity”. The CPR has been asked to provide details of how funds received under the Namati project were used and how they relate to the objectives of the CPR.

* The I-T has show caused CPR for being “involved” in the Hasdeo movement (launched by activists against coal mining in the Hasdeo forests of Chhattisgarh) through the Jan Abhivyakti Samajik Vikas Sanstha (JASVS). The I-T has shown calculations that in the past four years, the JASVS received between 87%-98% of its donations from the CPR and, according to them, this too, “was not in pursuance of its approved objectives”.

* There are a whole bunch of allegations which have been conveyed to the CPR in the show cause notice on how they were in violation of provisions of the FCRA.

The show cause lists alleged “sub-grants” by the CPR and states that financials provided by the CPR show that its FCRA funds have got “mixed up” with its core funds. The observation, “CPR appears to be crediting the commercial receipts and foreign contribution in FCRA designated accounts and thus, there is an intermingling of funds, which is in violation of provisions of FCRA”.

Calculations have been provided to the CPR on how there was wide discrepancy between its annual receipts of funds as per their Income Tax filings and the funds received as per their account books. The “discrepancy” has been, for instance, calculated at Rs 1.43 crore for the year 2017-2018 to Rs 81.45 lakh for the year 2021-2022.

Yamini Aiyar told The Indian Express that replies to specific allegations could not be made by CPR since it would be outside the remit of the process and would undermine its objectivity and confidentiality.

“As an academic institution, whose primary objective is to produce high quality education and training related work, we enjoy tax exemption status accorded to us under Section 12 (A) of the Income Tax Act. Our work, including books written by our faculty, and research related partnerships are in pursuit of these objectives. We are in complete compliance with the law and are routinely scrutinised and audited by government authorities including the Comptroller Auditor General of India and the Ministry of Home Affairs, FCRA division. We have annual statutory audits and all our annual audited balance sheets are in the public domain,” she said. (The Indian Express)

Ajay Banga Wins Positive Reviews At G20 Finance Meeting

(Reuters) – The U.S. nominee to lead the World Bank, ex-MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, gained traction with leading members on Friday, a sign that he will likely have a smooth ride to confirmation by the bank’s executive board.

The finance ministers of France and Germany gave positive reviews to Banga, nominated on Thursday by U.S. President Joe Biden as a surprise choice to lead the institution’s transformation to fight climate change and other global challenges.

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said on the sidelines of a G20 finance leaders in India that Banga‘s nomination was a “very remarkable” proposal because his private sector experience would be potentially helpful in mobilizing private investment in the fight against climate change and for development projects.

Lindner said that Germany would follow the nomination with “great attention” and expressed “sympathy” for the proposal.

The comments mark a turnabout from Tuesday, when German international development minister Svenja Schulze said the next World Bank chief should be a woman.

“I think he is a good candidate. I need to meet him to know a little bit more about him,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Reuters.

Asked whether Europe would try to nominate its own choice, Le Maire said: “You know, we have this (U.S.) candidate, so I think it’s wise to meet him, get to know more about him.”

The G20 ministers meeting is being held on the outskirts of the Indian tech hub city of Bengaluru.

India’s finance ministry has not commented on the nomination of Banga, an Indian-born U.S. citizen, which played prominently in Indian media on Friday.

But the government was expected to support Banga, India’s new executive director at the International Monetary Fund, told Reuters in Washington.

Krishnamurthy Subramanian, the former top economic adviser to the Indian government, called the nomination “an elegant solution”.


The United States, the lender’s dominant shareholder, has chosen every World Bank president since the instititution’s founding at the end of World War Two.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she did not know whether there would be other nominees for the job, but said Washington moved quickly with a well qualified candidate to ensure that tradition would continue.

“… we’ve tried to find a nominee who was really well qualified and brings a unique set of skills to the job that we think will be attractive,” she said.

Other countries have until March 29 to nominate an alternative candidate and the World Bank board intends to announce a choice by early May.

But with the United States and European countries supporting Banga, along with some key emerging markets, a challenger would have almost no chance of succeeding and would be a largely symbolic effort to protest what is seen by many countries and stakeholders as a non-transparent selection process stacked for too long in Washington’s favour.

Yellen told reporters that Banga has “the right leadership and management skills, experience in emerging markets, and financial expertise” to lead the bank and reform it to boost lending on climate change, while maintaining its core anti-poverty mission.

Adani Group Stocks Rout Continues; Adani Enterprises Crashes Over 10%

The rout in stocks of Adani group companies continued on Wednesday, as shares of all its firms fell tracking domestic equities. Adani Enterprises crashed 10.43 per cent, to close at Rs 1,404.85 on the BSE. ACC, meanwhile, tumbled 3.97 per cent, to Rs 1,755.20 on the Mumbai-based exchange.

Ambuja Cement fell 4.92 per cent, while Adani Power, Adani Transmission, and Adani Total Gas, were locked in 5 per cent lower circuit.

Investors continued to exit Adani firms as domestic markets fell sharply today. BSE Sensex crashed 928 points, or 1.53 per cent to 59,744.98. Nifty50 tumbled 272.40 points, to Science17,554.30.

The combined equity market value of Adani group’s 10 companies has slipped below $100 billion as firms have lost around Rs 11 lakh crore since the release of a report by US-based short seller Hindenburg Research on January 25. The report stated that the ports-to-power conglomerate was involved in “brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud scheme.”

Adani Crisis May Spark Wider Financial Turmoil In India

Both the Houses of India’s parliament were adjourned on Friday last week amid chaotic scenes as some lawmakers demanded an inquiry following the meltdown of shares in billionaire Gautam Adani’s group companies, which some fear could spark wider financial turmoil. Opposition parties continue to highlight that Life Insurance Corporations (LIC) of India’s and State Bank of India’s (SBI) high exposure to stocks in the Adani Group can have wider economic repercussions.

Picture : Bloomberg

Shares in Adani companies recovered after sharp falls, but the seven listed firms have still lost about half their market value – or more than $100 billion combined – since U.S. short-seller Hindenburg Research last week accused the group of stock manipulation and unsustainable debt, Reuters reported.

The Reserve Bank of India on Friday said India’s banking sector is “resilient and stable” and the central bank maintains constant vigil on the lenders, in a statement issued in the light of the Adani crisis, triggered by a US-based short seller’s allegations of stock manipulation, fraud and use of tax havens by the Adani Group.

The stock rout led to Adani Group losing around $108 billion since Hindenburg Research published its report on January 24. But signs of recovery were visible on Friday.

But the government differs

Talking about the risks to the Indian banking system and lenders emanating from the ongoing crisis, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said that the country’s banking system is in a sound position. “They (LIC and SBI) have very clearly said that their exposure (to Adani Group stocks) is very well within the permitted limits and with valuation falling as well, they are still over profit. That is the word from the horse’s mouth,” Sitharaman said in an interview with CNBC-TV18.

The stock market turmoil created by the rout in Adani group shares is a “storm in a teacup” from a macroeconomic point of view, finance secretary TV Somanathan said on Friday, emphasising that India’s public financial system is robust. The senior-most bureaucrat in the finance ministry also said that movements in the stock market per se is not the government’s concern and there are independent regulators to take necessary action. Read more here.

Mukesh Ambani Regains The Crown As World’s Richest Indian

As the rout in Adani group’s stocks triggered by short seller Hindenburg Research’s allegations touched $92 billion on Wednesday, as per news agency Bloomberg, business tycoon Gautam Adani lost his status as the world’s richest Indian to fellow Gujarati businessman and Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani.

The richest

Sixty-year-old Adani has now been pushed to the No. 15 spot on the list of world’s richest billionaires, compiled by Forbes, with his wealth now estimated at $75.1 billion. Sixty-five-year-old Ambani is at 9th position with a net worth of $83.7 billion. Over the last three years, Ambani and Adani have swapped positions as world’s richest Indian on several occasions.

With that, Ambani also became the world’s richest man from Asia, sharing the top-ten space in the Forbes list of billionaires with Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Larry Page among others.

Brotherhood of billionaires

Adani groups, on Tuesday, secured a $2.5 billion share sale amid the short-seller storm, triggered by allegations of stock manipulation, accounting fraud and use of tax havens against the conglomerate.

While the heavy lifting was done by a $400 million investment from a conglomerate based in Abu Dhabi, a few other uber-rich surprisingly came to the last-minute defense of their compatriot.

People who’re neither financial institutions nor small investors bid for 3.3 times the stock reserved for them as a class. A Delhi-based industrialist, three Gujarati pharmaceuticals billionaires and a steel magnate from Mumbai were among the share sale’s white knights, according to the Economic Times. Read more here.

But, FPO cancelled

However, Adani Enterprises sprung up a surprise on Wednesday evening, announcing that it has “decided not to go ahead with the fully-subscribed Follow-on Public Offer” and assured that all proceeds will be refunded to investors. In a statement, it cited “unprecedented” market fluctuations and “extraordinary circumstances” to conclude that going ahead would not be “morally correct”.

Markets Surge As Fears Of The Economy Fade. Why The Optimists Could Be Wrong

Stocks have surged since the start of the year. The Nasdaq is up nearly 15% this year after posting its best January since 2001. And it’s not just stocks: bonds have risen and even bitcoin has made a roaring comeback, though all markets fell a tad on Friday.

This is all after a miserable 2022, when markets were hit hard by fears about surging inflation and about how the Federal Reserve was fighting it, with the biggest increases in the country’s interest rates since the early 1980s.

Today, hope has replaced that fear. Inflation has eased substantially and investors now believe the Fed will soon stop raising interest rates – and even cut them later this year to prop up a sagging economy.

And many on Wall Street no longer dread the worst about the economy, turning from their predictions of a big recession to hope that any downturn will be mild, or even that a recession may not happen at all.

But should there be this much optimism? Here’s why Wall Street is getting so excited about the economy – and why others believe it may end in tears.

The case for hope

The recent Wall Street gains could perhaps be explained in a single word: inflation. There are plenty of signs that inflation is starting to ease substantially after reaching its highest levels in around 40 years last year.

Consumer prices rose at an annual rate of 6.5% in December, down from a peak of 9.1% in June. The Fed’s preferred inflation yardstick is also down substantially from its recent peak.

And economists are hopeful inflation will continue to ease. Supply chains, for example, have improved. And wage gains have softened in recent months, allaying economists’ worries that rising wages could push up prices.

Prices are still high, of course, in fact, too high for the Fed’s comfort. But even Fed Chair Jerome Powell is expressing some hope about inflation while warning, repeatedly, that the fight against inflation is far from done.

Recession? What recession?

Then, there are the shifting views on the economy. In 2022, markets were bracing for the worst as they looked to history.

In the past, the Fed’s aggressive interest rate hikes to tame inflation have sparked recessions.

Higher interest rates can have all kinds of negative effects on the economy: mortgages get more expensive, which hurt the housing market; companies pull back on spending; and so forth.

But now, many on Wall Street believe any recession could be mild, like the short one during the pandemic in 2020 that barely made a blip in the markets (the S&P500 surged 16% that year, while the Nasdaq soared 44%).

Some economists even believe the economy may not suffer a recession at all, slowing down into a “soft landing,” or avoiding a contraction and a spike in unemployment.

That optimism is not completely unjustified.

For one, the labor market is very strong. Data on Friday showed U.S. employers added a whopping 517,000 jobs, much stronger than most forecasts, while the unemployment rate dropped to a 53-year low.

“The labor market continues to be very resilient with no clear signs of stopping yet,” investment bank Morgan Stanley said in a note to clients on Friday.

Investors are also taking comfort in earnings, which have largely proven resilient, though there are exceptions, notably, in the technology sector.

GM, for example, reported this week a surge in profits in the most recent quarter. Then again… There is one big downer in the market, however: the Fed. Some optimists believe the Fed will make an abrupt U-Turn and pivot to cutting interest rates as early as this year, after raising them one last time, likely at its March meeting.

That would mean the Fed would go from fighting inflation by slowing down the economy to doing exactly the opposite — revving up that very same economy with cheaper, easier borrowing.

The big issue with that premise? That’s not what the Fed is saying it plans to do at all. Powell, in his news conference on Wednesday may have sounded hopeful about the economy, but he also said it’s way too premature to declare victory against inflation, and he reiterated the Fed has no intention of cutting interest rates any time soon.

The message does not appear to be swaying the optimists on Wall Street so far, however. Some investors still believe the Fed is being too cautious about inflation. After all, the central bank for months played down inflation by calling it “transitory” until it suddenly reversed course and aggressively raised interest rates.

“The Fed is still firmly in the driver’s seat, but the market continues to fight the Fed, believing that they will pause and/or cut rates much sooner than they’ve guided,” said Amanda Agati, the Chief Investment Officer of PNC Financial Services.

But there are big dangers in fighting the Fed, as the famous market adage goes.

The Fed is the most powerful economic player in the world, with the ability to move markets from New York to Hong Kong with a single word.

And so far, the Fed has said, clearly, that the fight against inflation will go on. And is the economy really that strong, anyway?

Then, beyond the Fed, there’s the risk that plenty can still go wrong for the economy. For one, inflation could prove much more entrenched than the Wall Street bulls expect.

A strong labor market is great for workers, but it remains a major worry for the Fed given that it can keep inflation elevated, forcing companies keep wages high and fueling more consumer spending by those who are employed.

What tracking one Walmart store’s prices for years taught us about the economy

Furthermore, there’s plenty of other data that raises the prospect that the economy could end up hitting a recession after all.

The housing market, for example, has taken a major hit since the Fed started raising rates. And retail sales are showing signs of declining, a big concern in an economy so reliant on consumer spending. Market bulls are fond of noting that “as goes January, so goes the year,” an expression that refers to a historic trend in which strong January gains tend to portend a good year for Wall Street.

But that’s not always the case. In 2001, the Nasdaq similarly rallied in January, ending the month up 12%. It did not end well. The economy skidded into a recession, and the Nasdaq slumped a whopping 30% over the next 11 months, with losses magnified by the Sept. 11 attacks. As it turns out, all that optimism in January 2001, proved to have been misplaced.

Gautam Adani Lost Half His Wealth In A Flash

CNN — Less than two weeks ago, Gautam Adani was the fourth-richest person in the world. With a personal fortune estimated at $120 billion, the self-made Indian industrialist was wealthier than either Bill Gates or Warren Buffet.

Then Hindenburg Research, an American short seller with bets against Adani’s companies, accused him of pulling off “the largest con in corporate history.”

Adani’s firms have lost $110 billion in value since then, and his own wealth has been halved to little more than $61 billion as investors pull their support.

While the Adani Group has condemned the report as “baseless” and “malicious,” investor questions about its claims linger, and the fallout is growing. Adani’s business partners and lenders are clarifying their ties to the conglomerate, while India’s federal government is reportedly launching an investigation of his business after an outcry by opposition lawmakers.

Here’s what you need to know.

Who is Gautam Adani?

Gautam Adani is a 60-year-old tycoon who founded the Adani Group more than 30 years ago.

college drop-out, he built a sprawling business empire that spans infrastructure, logistics, energy production and mining. That success has earned him comparisons to John D. Rockefeller and Cornelius Vanderbilt, who created vast monopolies during America’s Gilded Age in the 1800s.

He was Asia’s richest man, and last September briefly surpassed Jeff Bezos to become the second-wealthiest person in the world. He’s also seen as a close ally of India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi.

What are the accusations against him?

Hindenburg Research stunned investors in late January when it published a report accusing Adani and his companies of widespread fraud and “brazen stock manipulation” that it alleged took place over decades. The firm said it had taken a short position in Adani Group companies, meaning it would benefit from a drop in their value.

Hindenburg pitched 88 questions to Adani that cast doubt on his conglomerate’s financial health. Those ranged from requests for details on the group’s offshore entities to why it has “such a convoluted, interlinked corporate structure.”

The Adani Group has said it’s considering legal action in response to the claims. It charged Hindenburg with launching “a calculated attack on India” and said the investment firm is only interested in its own financial gain. But analysts say Adani Group hasn’t convincingly answered the questions raised by the report.

What do investors think?

Investors, spooked by the claims, are bailing, not wanting to get caught on the wrong side of a trade. Shares of Adani Enterprises, Adani’s flagship firm, have plummeted almost 55% since Hindenburg’s report was published on January 24.

The company is now struggling to raise new funding as a result. On Wednesday, Adani Enterprises abruptly abandoned a $2.5 billion deal to sell shares, just 24 hours after it was sealed.

Stocks of most Adani Group companies slumped again on Friday. India’s stock exchanges halted trading in five listed Adani firms after their shares crashed by the daily limits, set at 5% and 10%.

Meanwhile, TotalEnergies, a major business partner, said Adani had agreed to let one of the “big four” accounting firms carry out a “general audit.” There was no confirmation from Adani.

The French energy giant described its $3.1 billion exposure to Adani, via joint investments in India, as “limited”. It also said these partnerships were “undertaken in full compliance with applicable — namely Indian — laws.”

What happens next?

The wave of selling is raising questions about how Adani’s businesses will continue to cover their costs.

The large debt load of Adani firms — one of the concerns raised by Hindenburg — is under the microscope. Ratings agency Moody’s said Friday that the turmoil was likely to reduce the group’s ability to raise capital.

In a statement Wednesday night, Adani stressed that his business remains on solid footing, and that executives would review its capital market strategy “once the market stabilizes.”

“Our balance sheet is very healthy with strong cashflows and secure assets, and we have an impeccable track record of servicing our debt,” he said.

The consequences of the sell-off may not be contained to Adani. Indian banks that hold Adani Group assets could also be affected if the value of those holdings continues to drop.

The Reserve Bank of India said Friday that the banking sector “remains resilient and stable” based on its latest assessment and pledged to continue to monitor the situation.

In its first statement on the recent market turmoil, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) said Saturday that it had observed “unusual price movement in the stocks of a business conglomerate.” It said that if any information comes to SEBI’s notice,” it would be examined and “appropriate action” would be taken.

The market regulator added that it “is committed to ensuring market integrity.”

India Inc. on the defensive

At the same time, the ordeal is the source of growing political turmoil in New Delhi. Opposition lawmakers in India have demanded a probe into the Hindenburg report. They staged a protest in the country’s parliament on Wednesday while the country’s finance minister presented the annual budget.

Their demands that normal business be suspended Friday to allow an emergency debate on the Adani crisis led to an uproar, resulting in the adjournment of both houses of parliament until Monday.

“Action is being taken against Adani all over the world, but PM Modi is quiet,” the main opposition Congress party tweeted. “When will our govt take action?”

Questions about the health of Adani’s empire are clouding the outlook for India Inc., which just weeks ago was out in force at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland touting opportunities for foreign investors.

The country’s emissaries leaned into its relatively robust economic outlook. The World Bank projected last month that India would log the strongest economic growth of any major economy this year.

“The Adani saga has opened a big can of worms,” said Manish Chowdhury, head of research at brokerage Stoxbox. “The India story is looking weak” to foreign investors now, he added.(CNN.COM)

Shah Rukh Khan, Only Indian On World’s Richest Actor List

Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan with his more than three decades of work in the film industry has garnered millions of fans all over the world and an estimated net worth of ₹627 million ($770 million), making him the richest actor in Asia and fourth richest actor all over the world.

Beating famous actors like Tom Cruise, Jackie Chan, and George Clooney, Shah Rukh Khan took the fourth position in the list of eight richest actors of the world released by World of Statistics.

Shah Rukh Khan who is ready to make his comeback with his action thriller Pathan in Janaury 2023 had been away from movies for a period of almost four years sans his cameos in R. Madhavan’s Rocketry: The Nambi Effect and Ayan Mukerji’s Brahmastra Part 1: Shiva. The richest actor according to this list was Jerry Seinfeld with a net worth of ₹82 billion ($1 billion). The American actor tied with Diary of a Black Woman fame Tyler Perry at $ 1 billion. They were followed by Dwayne Johnson at ₹64 billion ($800 million).

Richest actors in the world: Jerry Seinfeld: $1 Billion Tyler Perry: $1 Billion Dwayne Johnson: $800 million Shah Rukh Khan: $770 million Tom Cruise: $620 million Jackie Chan: $520 million George Clooney: $500 million Robert De Niro: $500 million

Dr. Aarti Pandya Defends the Decision to Settle the Case Without any Admission of Liability or Wrongdoing

“Rather than continue to expend significant time and resources defending herself against these unfounded allegations, which were initially filed in 2013, Dr. Pandya made a business decision to resolve the case without any admission of liability or wrongdoing so she can go back to serving her patients,” Dr. Aarti Pandya’s attorney said in a statement.

Dr. Pandya, an Indian American doctor had recently agreed to pay $1,850,000 for allegedly billing Medicare for eye surgeries and diagnostic tests that were allegedly not medically required.

However, Dr. Pandya denies doing anything wrong. Dr. Pandya has served as an ophthalmologist in the Conyers, Rockdale County area for decades.  Dr. Pandya has steadfastly maintained that she did not engage in improper billing or otherwise fail to properly treat her patients and bill for their care.

As per the statement issued by the Attorney, “Dr. Pandya has been defending herself in a lawsuit initiated by her former office manager, Laura Menchion Dildine, that accused Dr. Pandya of improper billing in violation of the False Claims Act.”

The attorney’s statement questioned the credibility of Ms. Dildine, describing her as “a convicted felon who was solely responsible for billing and coding while employed by Dr. Pandya at her office in Conyers, Georgia.” The statement went on point out how “After Dr. Pandya refused to write an opioid prescription for Ms. Dildine, Ms. Dildine began using Dr. Pandya’s name to commit prescription fraud while employed as office manager.”

Responding to the report, Dr. Pandya said she has been defending herself in a lawsuit initiated by her former office manager, Laura Menchion Dildine, that accused her of improper billing in violation of the False Claims Act.  The statement said Dildine is a convicted felon who was solely responsible for billing and coding while employed by Dr. Pandya at her office in Conyers, Georgia.

“After Dr. Pandya refused to write an opioid prescription for Dildine, she (Dildine) began using Dr. Pandya’s name to commit prescription fraud while employed as office manager,” the statement alleges.

As per Dr. Pandya’s attorney, Ms. Dildine was arrested at the office of Dr. Philip Newman, another ophthalmologist in Conyers, Georgia, and was jailed by the Newton County Sheriff under felony charges. Ms. Dildine was employed by Dr. Newman as a biller at the time of her arrest, and resumed her employment with Dr. Newman after being released on bail.  On June 16, 2014, Ms. Dildine was arrested again and charged with felony fraud/forgery and jailed at the Rockdale County Jail.

According to Piedmont, Dr. Pandya has been highly appreciated by her patients with a score of 4.5 out of 5 ratings with reviews by 289 ratings by her patients. (

Dr. Arati Pandya, MD is an Ophthalmology Specialist in Conyers, GA and has over 28 years of experience in the medical field. She is affiliated with Piedmont Rockdale Hospital. Dr. Pandya, who had graduated with a Medical Degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, completed her Graduate Medical Education in Ophthalmology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington , Kentucky.

She is Board Certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology. Dr. Pandya, says, she looks forward to continuing to serve her patients and the community now that this case is behind her.

As per reports, to protect federal healthcare programs and beneficiaries going forward, Pandya and the Pandya Practice Group have entered into a detailed, multi-year Integrity Agreement and Conditional Exclusion Release (IA) with the Office of Inspector General.

“We must assure patients and taxpayers that healthcare is dictated by clinical needs, not fiscal greed,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “This settlement should serve as a reminder that the FBI will not tolerate healthcare providers who engage in schemes that defraud the industry and put innocent patients at risk.”

Dr. Pandya however, said she looks forward to continuing to serve her patients and the community now that this case is behind her.  She said she remains committed to providing quality patient care for years to come.

US Treasury Secretary Warns Of Default On Debt, With Catastrophic Consequences

The United States Treasury Department has stated the US could default on its debt as soon as June, setting up one of the first major battles on Capitol Hill after Republicans took control of the House.

The US will reach the debt limit on January 19 and then “extraordinary measures” will need to be taken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote in a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. She said that the Treasury Department will pursue those measures, but they will only last a limited amount of time.

It is unlikely that the government will exhaust its cash and the “extraordinary measures” before early June, though she said there is “considerable uncertainty” around that forecast, Yellen wrote. She urged lawmakers to “act in a timely matter” to increase or suspend the debt limit.

The Treasury Department said Friday the US could default on its debt as soon as June, setting up one of the first major battles on Capitol Hill after Republicans took control of the House.

The US will reach the debt limit on January 19 and then “extraordinary measures” will need to be taken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote in a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. She said that the Treasury Department will pursue those measures, but they will only last a limited amount of time.

Picture : YouTube

It is unlikely that the government will exhaust its cash and the “extraordinary measures” before early June, though she said there is “considerable uncertainty” around that forecast, Yellen wrote. She urged lawmakers to “act in a timely matter” to increase or suspend the debt limit.

“Failure to meet the government’s obligations would cause irreparable harm to the US economy, the livelihoods of all Americans, and global financial stability,” she wrote.

The debt limit is the maximum that the federal government is allowed to borrow, after Congress set a level more than a century ago to curtail government borrowing. Congress has in the past raised the debt limit to avoid a default on US debt that economists have warned would be “financial Armageddon.” That’s what lawmakers did in late 2021 following the last standoff over the debt ceiling.

The immediate measures include some accounting maneuvers involving the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund, the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund and the Federal Employees Retirement System Thrift Savings Plan.

However, these moves will not affect retirees’ ability to access their savings, experts said. The funds will be made whole once the impasse is settled, Yellen wrote.

‘Not the time for panic’

Yellen’s letter reinforced that the debt ceiling limit is an issue that Congress will have to deal with soon. But it’s not an immediate problem, experts said.  “This is not the time for panic. We are many months away from the US being unable to meet all of its obligations,” said Shai Akabas, director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “But it is certainly a time for policymakers to begin negotiations in earnest.”

Just how long the Treasury Department can continue the “extraordinary measures” will depend in part on how much 2022 tax revenue the government collects this spring. Also, inflation and interest rates have risen faster than some experts estimated last year, and new policies, including the student loan forgiveness program, were introduced, potentially shortening the window.

House Republicans are preparing contingency plans, but dealing with the debt ceiling limit will not be an easy task for Congress, especially now that the GOP has taken control of the House. It is expected to unleash a battle between conservatives GOP members, who want to tie any lifting of the limit to spending cuts, and Democrats, who fiercely oppose any reductions.

The Washington Post first reported the emergency plans. McCarthy, in part of his negotiations to become speaker, promised to pass a proposal by the end of March telling the Treasury Department which payments should be prioritized if the debt ceiling is breached, GOP Rep. Chip Roy confirmed to CNN.

Roy, one of the key players in the standoff over McCarthy’s speakership, cautioned that the contours of the proposal are still being worked out, noting there are several different versions of a payment prioritization plan circulating inside the House GOP.

McCarthy is stuck in the middle, with his party holding only a razor-thin majority in the chamber. Also, any member can call for a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair, one of several concessions McCarthy made to gain the top post after 15 rounds of voting last week.

At a news conference, McCarthy took a hard line over the debt limit.  Asked if he could guarantee that Republicans would provide the votes necessary to raise the debt ceiling, McCarthy said: “We don’t want to put any fiscal problems to our economy and we won’t, but fiscal problems would be continuing to do business as usual.”

McCarthy also said he “had a very good conversation with the president when he called me, and I told him I’d like to sit down with him early and work through these challenges.”

Republicans, he said, would not allow “spending money wastefully.”  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told CNN he thinks Republicans will ultimately “come to reality” and raise the limit. “If you’re worried about inflation, default would be huge,” Schumer said.

Further complicating the situation is the fact that the debt ceiling negotiations will likely be tied to the fiscal year 2024 federal spending package, which Congress must pass before October 1 or risk a government shutdown.

The debt ceiling was last raised in December 2021 to $31.4 trillion.

The deadline comes sooner than some experts had expected. They were predicting the debt ceiling limit would not be breached until later this year, when the Treasury Department would have to start taking extraordinary measures to avoid defaulting on the government’s obligations.

A default could cause chaos

Goldman Sachs warned last month that a close call could set off turmoil on Wall Street that causes losses in the retirement accounts and investment portfolios of everyday Americans.

“It seems likely that uncertainty over the debt limit in 2023 could lead to substantial volatility in financial markets,” Goldman Sachs economists wrote, noting that the 2011 standoff helped cause a deep selloff in the US stock market.

Beyond markets, Goldman Sachs said a failure to raise the debt limit in time “would pose greater risk to government spending and ultimately to economic growth than it would to Treasury securities themselves.”

That’s because in order to avoid a default on US debt, the federal government would shift money around to keep paying interest on Treasuries. That would create a massive hole that would need to be filled by delaying a host of other payments — including ones that millions of Americans count on such as paychecks to federal employees, benefits to veterans and Social Security payments.  “A failure to make timely payments would likely hit consumer confidence hard,” Goldman Sachs wrote.

White House says no concessions or negotiations.

The White House said Friday it will not offer any concessions or negotiate on raising the debt ceiling.  “We will not be doing any negotiation over the debt ceiling, but broadly speaking, at the start of this new Congress, we’re reaching out to all the members … making sure that we have those connections with those new members,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

She said in the past “there’s been a bipartisan cooperation when it comes to lifting the debt ceiling, and that’s how it should be.”

“It should not be a political football,” she added. “This is not political gamesmanship, and this should be done without conditions.”

Asked why Yellen was notifying Congress just six days before the debt limit is reached, Jean-Pierre referred those questions to Treasury, but said the “sooner Congress acts the better.”

“Even the prospect of not raising the debt ceiling will damage the full faith and the credit of our nation,” she said. “There’s going to be no negotiation over it, this is something that must get done.”

7 Changes Considered By Congress For Retirement Beneficiaries

There soon may be new retirement rules in place that could make it easier for Americans to accumulate retirement savings — and make it less costly to withdraw them — if lawmakers pass a major spending package this week.

The retirement savings provisions – known as Secure 2.0 – were drawn from a House-passed bill and bills that were passed by two Senate committees.

“[SECURE 2.0] will help increase savings, ensure greater access to workplace retirement plans, and provide more workers with an opportunity to receive a secure stream of income in retirement,” said Thasunda Brown Duckett, president and CEO of TIAA, one of the largest US retirement service providers.

Here’s a look at seven of the provisions in the package, known on Capitol Hill as an omnibus, based on a breakdown from the Senate Finance Committee.

1. Require auto enrollment in 401(k) plans

Most employers starting new workplace retirement savings plans could be required to automatically enroll employees in the plan. (It is currently optional for employers to do so.) It would then be up to the employee to actively opt out if they don’t wish to participate.

The Secure 2.0 provision would require employers set a default contribution rate of at least 3% but not more than 10% for the employee plus an automatic contribution escalation of 1% per year up to a maximum contribution rate of at least 10% but not more than 15%.

The provision would go into effect after December 31, 2024.

2. Allow employer contributions for student loan payments

When you have to pay down student loan debt, it makes it harder to save for retirement. Secure 2.0 would let employers make a matching contribution to an employee’s retirement plan based on their qualified student loan payments. That way, it would ensure that the employee is building retirement savings no matter what.

The provision would take effect after December 31, 2023.

3. Increase the age for required minimum distributions

It used to be that when you turned 70-1/2 you had to start withdrawing a required minimum amount from your 401(k) or IRA every year. Then, the age moved up to 72. Under the Secure 2.0 package, it would move up to 73 starting in 2023 and then to 75 a decade later.

4. Help employees build and access emergency savings

Normally if you tap your 401(k) before age 59-1/2, you must not only pay taxes on that money, but also pay a 10% early-withdrawal penalty.

For employees who are dissuaded from saving money in a tax-deferred retirement plan because they are concerned it would be too complicated and costly to access it for emergencies, Secure 2.0 may assuage that fear: It would let employees make a penalty-free withdrawal of up to $1,000 a year for emergencies. While employees would still owe income tax on that withdrawal in the year it’s made, they could get that tax refunded if they repay the withdrawal within three years.

If they don’t repay the withdrawal, they would have to wait until the three-year repayment period ends before being allowed to make another emergency withdrawal. Enter your email to subscribe to the CNN Business Newsletter.

The provision would go into effect after December 31, 2023.

5. Raise catch-up contribution limits for older workers

Currently, if you’re 50 or older you may contribute an additional $6,500 to your 401(k) on top of the $20,500 annual federal limit in effect this year.

Under the retirement package, instead of $6,500, those aged 60, 61, 62 and 63 would be allowed to contribute $10,000, or 50% more than the regular catch-up amount in 2025, whichever is greater.

The provision would take effect after December 31, 2024.

To help pay for the cost of the retirement package, however, another provision which would go into effect a year earlier would require anyone with compensation over $145,000 to “Rothify” their catch-up contributions. So, instead of making before-tax contributions up to the catch-up limit, you could still contribute the same amount but you would be taxed on it in the same year. Your contribution would then grow tax free and may be withdrawn tax free in retirement. But the federal government would get the tax revenue from the original catch-up contribution up front.

6. Enhance and simplify the Saver’s Credit

An underutilized federal match exists for lower-income earners’ retirement contributions of up to $2,000 a year. The new package would enhance and simplify the so-called Saver’s Credit so more people could use it. Eligible filers (e.g., married couples making $71,000 or less) could get a matching contribution from the federal government worth up to 50% of their savings, but the match cannot exceed $1,000.

The provision would go into effect after Dec 31, 2026.

7. Make it easier for part-time workers to save

Part-time workers currently must be allowed to participate in a workplace retirement plan if they have three years of service and work at least 500 hours a year. The new package would reduce that service time to two years. The provision would go into effect after Dec. 31, 2024. (courtesy: CNN Business)

India Received Over US$100 Billion In Remittances In 2022

People of Indian origin settled around the world are on track to send home a record amount of money this year, boosting the finances of Asia’s third-largest economy, which is poised to retain its spot as the world’s top recipient of remittances.

Remittance flows to India will rise 12 per cent to reach US$100 billion (S$136 billion) this year, according to a World Bank report published on Wednesday. That puts its inflows far ahead of countries including Mexico, China and the Philippines.

A World Bank report released on Nov.30, 2022 predicted that remittances to India will increase by 12 percent to US$100 billion making it the only country to see such a massive gain in 2022.

Highly skilled Indian migrants living in wealthy nations such as the United States, Britain and Singapore are sending more money home, according to the report. Over the years, Indians have moved away from doing lower-paid work in places like the Gulf. Wage hikes, record-high employment and a weakening rupee also supported growth.

Inflows from the world’s largest diaspora are a key source of cash for India, which lost almost US$100 billion of foreign exchange reserves in the past year amid tightening global conditions that weakened currencies including the rupee against the US dollar. Remittances, accounting for nearly 3 per cent of India’s gross domestic product, are also important for filling fiscal gaps. 

Cash transfers to India from high-income countries climbed to more than 36 per cent in 2020-21, up from 26 per cent in 2016-17. The share from five Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, declined to 28 per cent from 54 per cent in the same period, the World Bank said, citing Reserve Bank of India data. 

The trend is not uniform across South Asia. Remittances earned by migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are expected to drop this year, the World Bank noted, as domestic and external shocks hit those countries especially hard.

Senators Sound Alarm On Need To Stop Medicare Physician Pay Cuts

Forty-six US senators have signed a letter to Senate leaders Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Mitch McConnell, R- Ky., expressing serious concerns regarding the stability of Medicare payments for physicians and support for bipartisan, long-term payment reform. The “dear colleague” letter, led by Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso, also urges Congress to address the budget-neutrality cuts scheduled to take effect in next year’s Medicare physician payment schedule.

The letter comes on the heels of the release earlier this week of the 2023 Medicare physician payment schedule, which has put “Congress on notice that a nearly 4.5% across-the-board reduction in payment rates is an ominous reality unless lawmakers act before Jan. 1,” according to American Medical association (AMA) President Jack Resneck Jr., MD.

In a statement posted on the AMA website, it stated, although the senators’ letter does not address all of the immediate concerns that doctors nationwide have regarding Medicare physician payment, the AMA welcomed the letter as a sign that pressure is building in the Senate to take the actions needed to protect older adults’ access to physician care.

What the AMA is seeking:

Before the end of 2022, Congress should:

  • Provide relief from the scheduled 4.42% budget-neutrality cut in Medicare physician fee schedule payments.
  • End the statutory annual freeze and provide a Medicare Economic Index update for the coming year.
  • Extend the 5% Advanced Alternative Payment Model participation incentive and halt the impossible-to-meet revenue threshold increase for five years to encourage more physicians to transition from fee-for-service into alternative payment models.
  • Waive the 4% pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) sequester triggered by passage of the American Rescue Plan Act.

The AMA offered detailed comments on the proposed 2023 payment schedule.

Picture : TheUNN

“It was immediately apparent that the 2023 Medicare physician payment rates not only failed to account for inflation in practice costs and COVID-related challenges to practice sustainability but also included the damaging across-the-board reduction,” Dr. Resneck noted. “Unless Congress acts by the end of the year, physician Medicare payments are planned to be cut by nearly 8.5% in 2023—partly from the 4% PAYGO sequester—which would severely impede patient access to care due to the forced closure of physician practices and put further strain on those that remained open during the pandemic.”

In their letter, 46 senators agreed that “Congress must address these vital payment challenges before the end of 2022 to ensure seniors continue to have access to care through a wide network” of physicians and other health professionals.

Senate leaders should work with members of Congress “on a bipartisan basis to address” the physician payment cuts that are imminent. “Going forward,” the letter says, “we support bipartisan, long-term payment reforms to Medicare in a fiscally responsible manner.”

Keep doctors’ doors open

Doctors and other health professionals “across the country are facing significant financial hardship due to higher practice costs and the impacts of COVID-19,” the senators’ letter to Schumer and McConnell notes. “Financial uncertainty due to pending payment cuts will only compound these challenges.”

Action should be taken “in the coming weeks” to ensure that doctors and other health professionals “have the resources they need to keep their doors open for seniors and families,” the letter says.

The AMA strongly supports H.R. 8800, the “Supporting Medicare Providers Act of 2022.” The bipartisan legislation aims to stop the scheduled 4.42% cuts to the Medicare physician pay rate and was introduced by Reps. Ami Bera, MD, a Democrat from California, and Larry Bucshon, MD, an Indiana Republican.

“Failure to act in the coming weeks could result in reduced staffing levels and office closures, jeopardizing patient access to care,” the senators noted. “We are especially concerned about this impact in rural and underserved communities. Failure to act on longer-term reforms will undermine Medicare’s ability to deliver on its promises to future seniors and generations.”

The AMA—in collaboration with 120 other physician and health care organizations—has outlined the essential principles (PDF) that can put the nation’s health care system on sustainable financial ground.

Biden Administration Seeks Supreme Court Nod For Student Debt Plan

The Biden administration on Friday urged the Supreme Court to clear one of the legal obstacles blocking its student debt relief program, as part of the administration’s broader legal effort to have the policy reinstated.

The administration is currently fending off two separate rulings issued over the last two weeks that have effectively halted President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, which would give federal borrowers making less than $125,000 a year up to $10,000 debt relief.

In its Friday filing, the Department of Justice (DOJ), on behalf of the administration, urged the justices to lift a ruling issued Monday by the St. Louis-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit that halted the loan relief program, saying its current legal status has left “vulnerable borrowers in untenable limbo.”

“The [8th Circuit’s] injunction thus frustrates the government’s ability to respond to the harmful economic consequences of a devastating pandemic with the policies it has determined are necessary,” U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the justices.

Biden’s policy, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will cost about $400 billion over 30 years, has drawn numerous legal challenges. Its aim is to forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for those making under $125,000 annually and up to $20,000 for recipients of Pell Grants, which assist students from lower-income families.

The administration’s move on Friday comes after a unanimous three-judge panel on the 8th Circuit halted Biden’s massive debt relief plan, which had already been blocked nationwide by a separate court ruling.

The panel, which comprised two Trump-appointed judges and one appointee of former President George W. Bush, said its order would remain in effect until further notice by the 8th Circuit or the Supreme Court.

The ruling was a win for six conservative-led states — Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina — that challenged the program on the grounds that they were harmed by a freeze on the collection of student loan payments and interest. The court’s six-page ruling singled out the impact on a large, Missouri-based holder of student loans called the Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri.

“The equities strongly favor an injunction considering the irreversible impact the Secretary’s debt forgiveness action would have as compared to the lack of harm an injunction would presently impose,” the panel wrote. “Among the considerations is the fact that collection of student loan payments as well as accrual of interest on student loans have both been suspended.”

The White House, for its part, maintains that its policy is authorized by a 2003 federal law known as the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act, which both the Trump and Biden administrations have drawn upon to alleviate student borrowers’ financial strain during the global pandemic.

In a related legal development last week, a Trump-appointed federal judge in Texas invalidated the program, saying the presidential action unlawfully encroached on Congress’s power. The Biden administration has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to halt that ruling while it mounts a formal appeal.

Several other similar challenges to Biden’s plan have so far proved unsuccessful. Among them were two cases that eventually sought emergency relief in the Supreme Court but were unilaterally rejected by Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

The Supreme Court may be more inclined to intervene now that the U.S. government is the party seeking relief and as courts across the country reach different conclusions about the program’s lawfulness.

The DOJ, in its Friday filing, told the justices they could choose to construe the government’s request as a formal petition for appeal and place it on a procedural fast-track.

The DOJ filing comes as student loan borrowers are anxiously awaiting for payments to restart at the beginning of 2023.

Advocates have been pressuring the Biden administration to extend the pause on payments, which began at the beginning of the pandemic, while the debt relief program is going through the courts.

Before the legal challenges, millions of borrowers applied for the debt relief through an application on the Department of Education’s website. Borrowers were told to apply before Tuesday in order to have a chance at their debt being forgiven before the payments began.

Since then, the applications have been taken down, and borrowers could have to wait months to get a final decision on the legality of the program from the courts.

The Washington Post previously reported talks were happening in the White House to extend the payment pause again due to the court challenges, despite Biden telling borrowers there would be no more extensions.

However, there has been no official word from the White House on the issue with only a month and a half left before payments resume. (Courtesy: The Hill)

FCC Recommendations To Stop Phone Scammers Who Have Tricked Americans Of $40 Billion In 2022

Despite the rise of sophisticated crypto frauds and ransomware plots, phone scams continue to trick Americans out of tens of billions of dollars each year. Phone scams are on the rise. Truecaller, which makes an app that blocks spam calls, estimates that nearly 70 million Americans have lost money to phone scams in 2022, and that those scammers made off with nearly $40 billion in total. Phone scams include frauds that begin with calls and text messages.

“It’s very cheap to set up an automatic dialer and to plug a bunch of phone numbers into it, whether they’re random or they are very intentional by geography or by demographic, and place millions of phone calls in a very short period of time,” said Clayton LiaBraaten, senior executive advisor at Truecaller. “It’s a numbers game.”

The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has stated that “Unwanted calls – including illegal and spoofed robocalls – are the FCC’s top consumer complaint and our top consumer protection priority. These include complaints from consumers whose numbers are being spoofed or whose calls are being mistakenly blocked or labeled as a possible scam call by a robocall blocking app or service.

“The FCC is committed to doing what we can to protect you from these unwelcome situations and is cracking down on illegal calls in a variety of ways:

  • Issuing hundreds of millions of dollars in enforcement actions against illegal robocallers.
  • Empowering phone companies to block by default illegal or unwanted calls based on reasonable call analytics before the calls reach consumers.
  • Allowing consumer options on tools to block calls from any number that doesn’t appear on a customer’s contact list or other “white list.”
  • Requiring phone companies to implement caller ID authentication to help reduce illegal spoofing.
  • Making consumer complaint data available to enable better call blocking and labeling solutions.

Check out the consumer guide on Call Blocking Tools and Resources, which includes information on many of the call blocking and labeling tools currently available to consumers.

Picture: YouTube

Learn more about FCC Initiatives to Combat Robocalls and Spoofing and download the FCC Report on Robocalls.

File a complaint with the FCC if you believe you have received an illegal call or text, or if you think you’re the victim of a spoofing scam.

Consumer Tips to Stop Unwanted Robocalls and Avoid Phone Scams

  • Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
  • You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed. Be aware: Caller ID showing a “local” number does not necessarily mean it is a local caller.
  • If you answer the phone and the caller – or a recording – asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, you should just hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.
  • Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with “Yes.”
  • Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
  • If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company’s or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request. You will usually get a written statement in the mail before you get a phone call from a legitimate source, particularly if the caller is asking for a payment.
  • Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
  • If you have a voice mail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voice mail if you do not set a password.
  • Talk to your phone company about call blocking tools they may have and check into apps that you can download to your mobile device to block unwanted calls.
  • If you use robocall-blocking technology already, it often helps to let that company know which numbers are producing unwanted calls so they can help block those calls for you and others.
  • To block telemarketing calls, register your number on the Do Not Call List. Legitimate telemarketers consult the list to avoid calling both landline and wireless phone numbers on the list.

Mortgage Rates Rise Above 6% Since 2008

Mortgage rates jumped again, surpassing the 6% mark and reaching the highest level since the fall of 2008.  The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.02% in the week ending September 15, up from 5.89% the week before, according to Freddie Mac. That is significantly higher than this time last year, when it was 2.86%.

Stubbornly high inflation is pushing rates up, said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

“Mortgage rates continued to rise alongside hotter-than-expected inflation numbers this week, exceeding 6% for the first time since late 2008,” he said.

After starting the year at 3.22%, mortgage rates rose sharply during the first half of the year, climbing to nearly 6% in mid-June. But since then, concerns about the economy and the Federal Reserve’s mission to combat inflation have made them more volatile.

Rates had fallen in July and early August as recession fears took hold. But comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and recent economic data have pulled investors’ attention back to the central bank’s fight against inflation, pushing rates higher.

The 10-year Treasury yield moved higher last week as markets prepared for further monetary tightening by the Fed, said George Ratiu, manager of economic research at

The Federal Reserve does not set the interest rates borrowers pay on mortgages directly, but its actions influence them. Mortgage rates tend to track yields on 10-year US Treasury bonds. As investors see or anticipate rate hikes, they often sell government bonds, which sends yields higher and with it, mortgage rates.

Investors reacted to August’s inflation numbers, which showed that consumer prices continued to rise at 1980s levels, said Ratiu.

“Core inflation remains stubbornly elevated, putting pressure on the Federal Reserve to maintain an aggressive stance on monetary tightening,” he said. “Markets are keeping a close eye on the central bank’s meeting next week, expecting another 75-basis-point increase in the policy rate, if not a 100-basis-point jump.”

Sales are slowing, but affordability is still a challenge

As mortgage rates rise and home prices remain high, home sales are slowing.  With rates essentially double where they were a year ago, applications for home loans have dropped and applications to refinance into a lower payment have fallen off a cliff, down 83% from a year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

“Higher mortgage rates … have contributed to more homebuyers staying on the sidelines,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting.

A year ago, a buyer who put 20% down on a $390,000 home and financed the rest with a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage at an average interest rate of 2.86% had a monthly mortgage payment of $1,292, according to calculations from Freddie Mac.

Today, a homeowner buying the same-priced house with an average rate of 6.02% would pay $1,875 a month in principal and interest. That’s $583 more each month.

“With real median household incomes remaining relatively unchanged, many first-time homebuyers are finding the door to homeownership is closed for this season,” said Ratiu.

He said that with borrowing costs expected to continue rising in the next few months, it is becoming increasingly clear that home prices need to decline to bring balance back to housing markets.

“Many sellers are recognizing the shift in market conditions and are responding by cutting their asking prices,” he said. “These changes are coinciding with the time of the year when buyers have historically found the best market conditions to find a bargain.”

Bezos Loses Title of World’s Second Richest Man to Indian Billionaire

Gautam Adani, the Indian tycoon who has climbed the wealth rankings at breakneck speed this year, surpassed Jeff Bezos to become the world’s second-richest person. Jeff Bezos has lost the title of second richest man in the world behind Elon Musk, electric-vehicle leader Tesla’s  (TSLA)  chief executive.

The founder and executive chairman of tech and online-retail giant Amazon  (AMZN)   dropped to No. 3, on Sept. 16 at around 10:38 a.m in New York, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

At that time, Bezos had a fortune estimated at $145.8 billion compared with $146.9 billion for the Indian tycoon Gautam Adani who ended the day with a fortune of $147 billion, thus consolidating his second place won in the morning. Bezos has risen a bit and is also worth roughly $147 billion. The day started with Adani at No. 3 and Bezos at No. 2.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, just $1 billion had separated Bezos from Gautam Adani, the Indian billionaire and chairman of Adani Group, an industrial conglomerate.

Bezos’ fortune was then valued at $150 billion in this ranking, while Adani’s was estimated at $149 billion.

Since the immense fortune of the two men rests mainly in the shares each holds in his respective company, the safe bet was that Adani would overtake Bezos by the end of the day.

The current volatility in the markets — due to fears about the health of the economy in the face of an aggressive rate hike by the Federal Reserve to fight inflation — is particularly weighing on technology groups like Amazon.

Amazon stock is down around 26% since January. This translates into a drop in Bezos’s fortune, which has shrunk by $45.5 billion this year.

Adani’s Meteoric Rise

Conversely, Adani is experiencing a meteoric rise. His fortune has increased by $70.3 billion since January.

His countryman, Mukesh Ambani, ranked tenth richest person in the world with an estimated fortune of $88.7 billion, was the other top 10 billionaire to have seen his fortune increase (+$1.02 billion) this year until Sept.15. But the following day, Ambani, who is chairman and managing director of the Reliance Industries conglomerate, lost of his gains. He’s now down by $1.3 billion.

At the beginning of the year, Adani became the richest person in Asia, ahead of Ambani. Adani first overtook India’s Mukesh Ambani as the richest Asian person in February, became a centibillionaire in April and surpassed Bill Gates and France’s Bernard Arnault in the past two months. It’s the first time someone from Asia has featured this highly in the top echelons of the wealth index, which has been dominated by US tech entrepreneurs.

Adani, 60, dropped out of college to try his luck in Mumbai’s diamond industry in the early 1980s before turning to coal and ports. His conglomerate has since expanded into everything from airports to data centers, cement, media and green energy, focusing on areas that Prime Minister Narendra Modi deems crucial to meeting India’s long-term economic goals. The nation’s largest private-sector port and airport operators, city-gas distributor and coal miner are all part of Adani’s empire, which also aims to become the world’s largest renewable-energy producer. Last year, it pledged to invest $70 billion in green power, a pivot that has been criticized by some as greenwashing given that so much of the group’s revenue still comes from fossil fuels.

The push into renewables and infrastructure has earned Adani investments from firms including Warburg Pincus and TotalEnergies SE, helping boost his companies’ shares and his personal fortune. This year, he added about $70 billion to his wealth — more than anyone else — while many have seen losses.

World Could Face Recession Next Year: World Bank Report

The world could face a recession next year amid simultaneous tightening of monetary policy by central banks around the world, the World Bank has said in a new report that called for boosting production and removing supply bottlenecks to ease inflation. Several indicators of global recessions are already “flashing signs”, the report said. The global economy is now in its steepest slowdown following a post-recession recovery since 1970, it added.

Global interest rate hikes by central banks could reach 4%, double that in 2021, just to keep core inflation — which strips out volatile items such as food and fuel — at 5% levels, the bank said.

From the US to Europe and India, countries are aggressively raising lending rates, which aim to curb the supply of cheap money and thereby help bring down inflation. But such monetary tightening has costs. It dampens investment, costs jobs, and suppresses growth, a trade-off faced by most nations, including India.

“Global growth is slowing sharply, with further slowing likely as more countries fall into recession. My deep concern is that these trends will persist, with long-lasting consequences that are devastating for people in emerging market and developing economies,” World Bank president David Malpass said in a statement after the report was released on Thursday.

The world is facing record inflation due to factors including the Ukraine war that has dwindled food supplies, knock-on effects of the pandemic on supply chains, poor demand in China due to its persistent Covid lockdowns, and extreme weather that has upended forecasts of agricultural output.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced a third repo rate hike to 5.40% in August, up 50 basis points. A basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point. The RBI maintained its inflation estimate at 6.7% for 2022-23 while forecasting real (inflation-adjusted) GDP growth at 7.2%.

The Biden-Harris Administration’s Student Debt Relief Plan Explained

What the program means for you, and what comes next

President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the U.S. Department of Education have announced a three-part plan to help working and middle-class federal student loan borrowers transition back to regular payment as pandemic-related support expires. This plan includes loan forgiveness of up to $20,000. Many borrowers and families may be asking themselves “what do I have to do to claim this relief?” This page is a resource to answer those questions and more. There will be more details announced in the coming weeks. To be notified when the process has officially opened, sign up at the Department of Education subscription page.

The Biden Administration’s Student Loan Debt Relief Plan

Part 1. Final extension of the student loan repayment pause

Due to the economic challenges created by the pandemic, the Biden-Harris Administration has extended the student loan repayment pause a number of times. Because of this, no one with a federally held loan has had to pay a single dollar in loan payments since President Biden took office.

To ensure a smooth transition to repayment and prevent unnecessary defaults, the Biden-Harris Administration will extend the pause a final time through December 31, 2022, with payments resuming in January 2023.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do I need to do anything to extend my student loan pause through the end of the year?

No. The extended pause will occur automatically.

Part 2. Providing targeted debt relief to low- and middle-income families

To smooth the transition back to repayment and help borrowers at highest risk of delinquencies or default once payments resume, the U.S. Department of Education will provide up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation to non-Pell Grant recipients. Borrowers are eligible for this relief if their individual income is less than $125,000 or $250,000 for households.

In addition, borrowers who are employed by non-profits, the military, or federal, state, Tribal, or local government may be eligible to have all of their student loans forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. This is because of time-limited changes that waive certain eligibility criteria in the PSLF program. These temporary changes expire on October 31, 2022. For more information on eligibility and requirements, go to

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do I know if I am eligible for debt cancellation?

To be eligible, your annual income must have fallen below $125,000 (for individuals) or $250,000 (for married couples or heads of households)

If you received a Pell Grant in college and meet the income threshold, you will be eligible for up to $20,000 in debt cancellation.

If you did not receive a Pell Grant in college and meet the income threshold, you will be eligible for up to $10,000 in debt cancellation.

What does the “up to” in “up to $20,000” or “up to $10,000” mean?

Your relief is capped at the amount of your outstanding debt.

For example: If you are eligible for $20,000 in debt relief, but have a balance of $15,000 remaining, you will only receive $15,000 in relief.

What do I need to do in order to receive loan forgiveness?

Nearly 8 million borrowers may be eligible to receive relief automatically because relevant income data is already available to the U.S. Department of Education.

If the U.S. Department of Education doesn’t have your income data – or if you don’t know if the U.S. Department of Education has your income data, the Administration will launch a simple application in the coming weeks.

The application will be available before the pause on federal student loan repayments ends on December 31st.

If you would like to be notified by the U.S. Department of Education when the application is open, please sign up at the Department of Education subscription page.

What is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program?

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program forgives the remaining balance on your federal student loans after 120 payments working full-time for federal, state, Tribal, or local government; military; or a qualifying non-profit.

Temporary changes, ending on Oct. 31, 2022, provide flexibility that makes it easier than ever to receive forgiveness by allowing borrowers to receive credit for past periods of repayment that would otherwise not qualify for PSLF.

Enrollments on or after Nov. 1, 2022 will not be eligible for this treatment. We encourage borrowers to sign up today. Visit to learn more and apply.

Part 3. Make the student loan system more manageable for current and future borrowers

Income-based repayment plans have long existed within the U.S. Department of Education. However, the Biden-Harris Administration is proposing a rule to create a new income-driven repayment plan that will substantially reduce future monthly payments for lower- and middle-income borrowers.

The rule would:

Require borrowers to pay no more than 5% of their discretionary income monthly on undergraduate loans. This is down from the 10% available under the most recent income-driven repayment plan.

Raise the amount of income that is considered non-discretionary income and therefore is protected from repayment, guaranteeing that no borrower earning under 225% of the federal poverty level—about the annual equivalent of a $15 minimum wage for a single borrower—will have to make a monthly payment.

Forgive loan balances after 10 years of payments, instead of 20 years, for borrowers with loan balances of $12,000 or less.

Cover the borrower’s unpaid monthly interest, so that unlike other existing income-driven repayment plans, no borrower’s loan balance will grow as long as they make their monthly payments—even when that monthly payment is $0 because their income is low.

The Biden-Harris Administration is working to quickly implement improvements to student loans. Check back to this page for updates on progress. If you’d like to be the first to know, sign up for email updates from the U.S. Department of Education.

Singapore Unveils Long-Term Work Visas To End Talent Crunch

Singapore is overhauling visa rules to attract foreign workers and ease a tight labor market that’s contributing to wage and price pressures. The new rules will allow foreigners earning a minimum S$30,000 ($21,431) per month to secure a five-year work pass, with a provision to allow their dependents to seek employment, according to the Ministry of Manpower.

The new rules will allow foreigners earning a minimum S$30,000 ($21,431) per month to secure a five-year work pass, with a provision to allow their dependents to seek employment, according to the Ministry of Manpower. Exceptional candidates in sports, arts, science and academia who don’t meet the salary criteria are also eligible for the long-term visa under the so-called Overseas Networks and Expertise (ONE) pass that will take effect Jan. 1.

“Both businesses and talent are searching for safe and stable places to invest, live and work in. Singapore is such a place,” Manpower Minister Tan See Leng told reporters on Monday. “It is therefore timely to leverage on this opportunity to cement Singapore’s position as a global hub for talent.”

The announcement is the latest in a string of decisions this year that are meant to address a still-tight labor market, as well as attract international business to drive the city-state’s ambitions as a global financial hub, after a pandemic-era slump in white-collar workers from abroad. Many parts of the economy have seen pay increases this year to lure talent, stoking fears wage-cost escalation will add to headline inflation that’s touched a 14-year-high and force the central bank to tighten monetary policy further.

Effective Sept. 1 next year, Singapore plans to exempt jobs, comparable to those held by top 10% of Employment Pass holders, from the need to be advertised locally before hiring foreigners under a system called Fair Consideration Framework. The duration of FCF advertisements, where applicable, will be halved to 14 days, the ministry said, adding that processing time for all EP applications will be cut to 10 business days from the current maximum three weeks.

The rule change will help the city-state better compete with rival business hubs like Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates and catch up to Australia and the UK, which have similar global talent visas. More than 700 finance professionals moved to Singapore from Hong Kong last year, according to recruitment firm Robert Walters.

The UAE this year made it easier for expatriates to work without being sponsored by an employer, as well as switched to a Saturday-Sunday weekend to align the country with global markets as it seeks to win more businesses, with Dubai positioning itself as a crypto hub.

Singapore has had to grapple with especially challenging labor-market dilemmas as the nation lives with Covid and the need to recharge sectors like hospitality and food and beverage that suffered disproportionately amid social mobility restrictions that are finally all but canceled.

A key gauge that measures the imbalance between demand and supply of workers rose earlier this year to the highest level since 1998. That trend is a risk to productivity in the economy, which officials expect will grow by 3%-4% this year, narrower than the 3%-5% seen before — a pace that will be among the slowest in Southeast Asia.

The country is witnessing an easing of labor market tightness, Minister Tan said, adding that labor supply in manufacturing and construction, among others, have gone back almost to pre Covid levels.

The problems are at the high end of the income ladder — where Singapore wants to attract top global talent particularly in next-generation, technology-heavy industries — as well as the lower end. The government fielded criticism during the pandemic that treatment and broader policies for migrant workers primarily employed in the construction industry needed a reboot.

“This is an age where talent makes all the difference to a nation’s success,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his Aug. 21 National Day Rally speech. “We need to focus on attracting and retaining top talent, in the same way we focus on attracting and retaining investments.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci To Step Down In December After More Than 50 Years Of Public Service

Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the president and longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said he will be leaving those positions to “pursue the next chapter in my career.” Fauci, 81, has led the NIAID for 38 years, and has advised every president since Ronald Reagan.

“While I am moving on from my current positions, I am not retiring,” Fauci said in a statement Monday. “After more than 50 years of government service, I plan to pursue the next phase of my career while I still have so much energy and passion for my field.”

Fauci has become a household fixture during the Covid-19 pandemic, battling back misinformation — sometimes from the highest levels of government. His steadfast commitment to science, challenging former President Donald Trump on everything from the use of hydroxychloroquine to mask mandates, made him a quasi-celebrity in the process.

The 81-year-old has advised seven U.S. presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan through the HIV/AIDS epidemic, West Nile virus, the 2001 anthrax attacks, pandemic influenza, various bird influenza threats, Ebola, Zika and, most recently, Covid and monkeypox.

In a statement, President Biden praised Fauci as a dedicated public servant with a “steadying hand” who helped guide the country through some of “the most dangerous and challenging” public health crises.


Fauci has been at the forefront of every new and re-emerging infectious disease threat the country has faced over the past four decades, including HIV/AIDS, West Nile virus, the 2001 anthrax attacks, pandemic influenza, Ebola and Zika, and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Because of Dr. Fauci’s many contributions to public health, lives here in the United States and around the world have been saved. As he leaves his position in the U.S. Government, I know the American people and the entire world will continue to benefit from Dr. Fauci’s expertise in whatever he does next,” Biden said.

Biden worked closely with Fauci during the Zika and Ebola outbreaks when he was vice president, and has leaned heavily on Fauci’s expertise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Biden noted one of his first calls as president-elect was to ask Fauci to become his chief medical advisor.

Fauci previously said he does not plan to stay beyond the end of President Biden’s first term in 2025, but had yet to give a formal announcement.

“I want to use what I have learned as NIAID Director to continue to advance science and public health and to inspire and mentor the next generation of scientific leaders as they help prepare the world to face future infectious disease threats,” Fauci said.

Fauci said he would use his remaining time in government to “continue to put my full effort, passion and commitment into my current responsibilities” and to help prepare his institute for a leadership transition.

Fauci has been one of the leading infectious diseases researchers for decades, but he became a household name at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic during the Trump administration as part of the White House pandemic response team.

It was in this role that Fauci became a political lightning rod. He fell out of favor with Trump after numerous public disagreements over unproven COVID-19 treatments as well as the level of danger posed by the virus.

Fauci’s embrace of mitigation measures like masks and temporary business closures early in the pandemic made him a villain to conservatives, who view him as a symbol of government overreach and “lockdown culture.”

Threats from the public led to Fauci needing a security detail. Fauci has clashed repeatedly with Republicans in Congress, who are are eagerly floating investigations into the Biden administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic if they win back control of the House or Senate in November’s midterm elections.

Fauci’s fiercest clashes have come against Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a libertarian ophthalmologist who has repeatedly antagonized Fauci over the benefits of masks, vaccinations and the origins of COVID-19.

“Fauci’s resignation will not prevent a full-throated investigation into the origins of the pandemic. He will be asked to testify under oath regarding any discussions he participated in concerning the lab leak,” Paul tweeted Monday.

Following Fauci’s announcement Monday, House Republicans also indicated Fauci’s decision to leave government won’t shield him from any potential investigations.

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement Monday Fauci needs to answer questions about what he knows about the origins of the coronavirus, including whether the National Institutes of Health helped fund controversial research that led to the virus’s creation in a lab in Wuhan, China.

“Retirement can’t shield Dr. Fauci from congressional oversight,” Comer said. “The American people deserve transparency and accountability about how government officials used their taxpayer dollars, and Oversight Committee Republicans will deliver.”

The U.S. intelligence community has ruled out the possibility that COVID-19 was a bioweapon developed by China, but beyond that the origins of the virus are unclear.

Some scientists have said the idea that it escaped from a lab needs further investigation but acknowledge that won’t happen without China’s help. Many others think that it spilled into the human population from animals sold in a Wuhan market. Still, there is little evidence to suggest it was created in a lab or with funding help from the National Institutes of Health or Fauci.

When Will The Indian Rupee Stop Falling?

The Indian Rupee breached the psychological 80-mark for the first time against the US dollar on Tuesday, July 18th, declining to 80.06 per Dollar. The Reserve Bank of India intervened in the currency market to help the Rupee steady after hitting seven straight intraday record lows. A recovery in domestic shares also favored the Indian currency.

According analysts, a wobbly global macroeconomic environment marked by a spell of monetary tightening unleashed, firstly, by the Federal Reserve and being mimicked in earnest by the major central bank governors across the globe has led to an exodus of hot money from developing economies to the “safe haven” of the Dollar. The scenario is compounded further by record-breaking crude oil prices, which balloon India’s imports, diminish the cumulative value of India’s exports and widen our trade deficit.

It is a regular demand-supply market. Currently, there is a greater demand for Dollars than there is for the Rupee. Two factors have pushed demand — India’s current account deficit has sharply widened particularly after Russia invaded Ukraine, and investment in the Indian economy has fallen due to heavy flight of funds in recent months.

Depreciation of the Rupee makes imported items — including petrol and mobile phones — and gives India’s export a competitive edge. But India is a net importer. For those eyeing a trip abroad, earlier budgets on food, boarding, and transportation will now fall short – leaving one with the option to either expand their budgets or opt for countries where the rupee commands a stronger position compared to their domestic currencies.

The dollar has been appreciating against all currencies including the Euro. Market watchers, in fact, say that the Rupee has fared better compared to other currencies including the Euro.

In FY’22, as per the provisional figures released by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), India’s current account deficit widened to $38.7 billion from a surplus of $23.9 billion in the previous FY.

A widening current account deficit indicates that Indians have been converting more of their rupees into dollars to complete trade and investment transactions consequently spiking up the demand for dollars. It doesn’t help that foreign institutional investors (FIIs) have been dumping Indian equities after a strong bullish spell, and making a beeline for US treasury notes and bonds.

The RBI has intervened by selling Dollars to check the Rupee’s slide. Else, the free market would have seen a further weaker Rupee. The current exchange market scenarios suggest that the rupee’s fall may continue for a few more months, breaching even the 82-mark. Congress leader Shashi Tharoor took a dig at the Rupee’s slide saying a “strong government” is “giving us a weaker Rupee”.