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David Cay Johnston, formerly with the New York Times and many other fine newspapers, returns to talk about his new book, The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use “Plain English” to Rob You Blind. Johnston is a master at exposing deception buried in small fonts, regulatory rulings and other places where big businesses implant schemes that allow them to collect billions in unearned profits and fees.
We open with his comments about the 2012 elections, then shift to the story of public utitlites that fleece ratepayers in many ways. Our prime example is Pacific Gas & Electric, my rogue utility. Johnston defines the term “stranded costs”, and explains how utilities work with compliant regulators to insert hidden costs that reap huge profits.
Then we talk about phone companies, and the ways our bills ding us with many small charges that add up to big money for the carriers. We use my phone bill to detail the routine charges that are unexplained but quite profitable.
We talk about Warren Buffet’s BNSF railroad, a monopoly that uses arcane regulations to soak its freight customers–with you and me picking up the tab. ANd Johnston explains how corporate water companies and other privatized operators raise rates and decrease service with little oversight.
And he explains how 401(k) plans take money from employees, bleed their accounts with fees, and leave them exposed in retirement.
Johnston has two appearances later this month in the Bay Area:
November 27 at 7:30 PM at First Congregational Church, Berkeley
1475 41st Avenue
Capitola, CA 95010 831.462.4415