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Peter Brooke: Private Equity Now

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The tradition of “risk capital” goes back to the merchant bankers of old Europe. But in the late 20th century, Americans made it sing, made it a system, with venture capital and private equity investment.

Peter Brooke was present at the creation of those most venturesome wings of American finance. A founder. He helped make great companies and great fortunes.

Now, American finance has spurred a crisis. Private equity buyouts have got a bad name. Regulation is on the table. There’s a lot at stake.

This hour, On Point: Peter Brooke, on American risk capital now.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Guests:

Peter Brooke joins us in our studio. He’s chairman of Advent International, a global private equity fund, and author of the new book, “A Vision for Venture Capital: Realizing the Promise of Global Venture Capital & Private Equity.”

From Boulder, Colo., we’re joined by Victor Fleischer, law professor at the University of Colorado. He specializes in tax and regulatory issues relating to venture capital and private equity. He generated a lot of attention two years ago when he proposed greater taxation on private equity firms.

And joining us from Singapore is Tan Keng Boon, managing partner of SEAVI Advent, an investment firm based in Singapore and focused on the Asia Pacific region. He and Peter Brooke have worked together for more than two decades.

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  • yar

    I am a farmer, when I sell a cow I pay 1 dollar per head as a surcharge to support the cattle market. It is called a check off payment. What would happen if every market trade had a small fee, say a tenth of one cent for each share traded? I think it would slow the velocity of trades and help return the market to its intended function of raising capital for business investment. What does your guest think a per trade surcharge would do to and for the stock market? Big cattle producers hate checkoff dollars.

  • http://www.iamdark.com Jeanette Michelle

    Why is there a check off payment?

  • Ellen Dibble

    Could there be an easier way for modest retirement funds to be invested where there is broad “vision” rather than the profit-oriented approach to retirement investment? It seems to me AARP (for instance) could be directing older people to head the world (with their money) toward peace and sustainability.

  • http://www.filipinoboston.blogspot.com akilez

    Wall Street and Equity funds are a joke!!!!!!

    The safest way to save our MONEY IS putting them UNDER YOUR BED.

    Wall Street made the world a more Bitter place to live.
    I will never invest in Wall Street. I have my 403b and that’s about it.

    Banks will never control my life and my money. Car loans and House loan. 6 years to pay for a car and work until I AM 75 just to pay a house. GOOD LORD
    American life is SO STRESSFULL.

    Wall Street is a gambling place for RICH PEOPLE but not majority of Americans who were victims of this system.

  • http://www.iamdark.com Jeanette Michelle

    The economy is the way it is because of greed – due to big businesses and private investors that want to shift the blame on the little man – such as poor farmers, and regular consumers.

  • Putney Swope

    The safest way to save our MONEY IS putting them UNDER YOUR BED.

    Unless your house burns down or you get robbed.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Akilez, say you’re 70 and you have Social Security but also some retirement funds. They will tell you you have your money in the Safe stocks, businesses that will never fail, like General Motors. Then when General Motors is pleading for its life, they will have the weight of people like you behind them, saying all the stock holders who depend on their stock for income will starve if they fail, and they will be right.
    But what if you invested not to prop up the Old Industry but for what you felt would bring the world together, further wind farms or what have you, at least you would be starving for a good cause if that did happen.

  • http://www.filipinoboston.blogspot.com akilez

    Americans work until they die is that LIFE? just like my coworker she is 75 years old and still working to pay for her house.

    I don’t listen to Wall Street anymore
    The Great Depression was Wall Street fault and then 21st Century The Great Recession.

    who did it again? Wall Street

  • Ellen Dibble

    Does private equity get money from big retirement funds, like TIAA-CREF? As one of their investments? I think banks get money from senior citizens, everyperson USA, as stockholders.
    What is private equity? Sorry.

  • Jimi

    A simple market-based solution for the issue of regulating private equity:

    Limit or eliminate the deduction for interest expenses in connection with the acquisition of a firm or business.

    The current tax code provides perverse incentives towards highly leveraged acquisitions.

  • http://www.iamdark.com Jeanette Michelle

    The worst thing about investing is when it’s time to pull out your money you’re penalized through by taxes. What is the point in saving/investing if the bulk of your money is taken away through by taxes?

  • http://www.filipinoboston.blogspot.com akilez

    The best way to have good money is to have your Business
    have a huge budget to avoid getting loans from corrupt banks,credit cards and etc etc.

    Pay cash for very transaction. Then a have good life.
    and die happy.

    That is the normal life to live.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Akilez, I’ll be working till I’m 75 too, and not because I have a house (and the tax deductions that go along with that). Just to stay in business, to actually try to move to another business.
    But when I was about 35 I bought a life insurance policy. I made about $120 a week, and I paid about $50 a month. I didn’t understand it. But that money was invested, and now it seems by the time I retire, that life insurance policy will be something to sort of depend on. It swells in a much more reliable way than other investments. Some of the money waits till I die, but not all of it.
    It demonstrates the value of letting Wall Street “have its way” with a portion of what you have.

  • OldHeathen

    We need to get back to a Progressive tax policy like we had in the 1950s ( The American High Point )

  • http://www.filipinoboston.blogspot.com akilez

    Ellen Dibble that’s a good idea I will invest my money to educated kids in the developing world and make their lives better. Just like the CNN hero of the year winner did.

    But putting my money to this people who actually made a the world a BITTER place to live. No Thank you

    But there is a True American company that really help the unfortunate and their are a lot of them out there or all over the world.

  • OldHeathen

    Globalization is taking the food from my table, then it took the table.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Akilez, I hear you. I’m agitating to try to get a grip on WHERE my money is going. Life insurance doesn’t even tell you where they invest. I worry that it’s giving me profits by means that are “bitter,” as you say, not “better.”
    People who invest AT ALL should be keenly concerned about these things. Right you are. But how to get that to happen? Do they WANT 200 million Americans barging into stockholder meetings? No. They don’t want even basic regulation from Washington. They SURE don’t want my inputs. Just my money.

  • OldHeathen

    Sure, that makes a lot of sense, take tax money, paid by poor, working poor and middle class and invest it in Asia etc! ( Because we know the rich don’t pay tax ) Then if the CEO runs the company into the ground again wal mart workers can bail them out!

  • OldHeathen

    Bull

  • Ellen Dibble

    I’m happy to have my money invested in Asia where it does so much good, and has vast potential for profit, as well as weaving the world together. If it were my Social Security money, I’d say no. That’s a whole other ball of wax. Who bails me out if my Asia investments go belly up? Nobody. But my fund manager hopefully will move that part of the fund’s risk elsewhere before it goes too far. That’s what I pay them for: to keep an eye on my investments.

  • MIchael

    What these guys do is purchase enough control in the company and than once in control use these companies to finance there debt and push the liability of such debt on the companies they purchase often time 20/80 20 for the purchaser and 80 to the company.

    Then proceeded to often times gut the company usually in a 3 to 5 yr time span. Including heavy lay offs and since we now use sweatshops labor from other country there is no need for these people to hiring back labor since they can go to china for a higher profit and cheaper labor.

    Notice his answer is to hope that the ones doing such action have a change of heart. And should be noted there only paying the capital gains tax of 15% instead of what the rest of us pays in taxes.

  • anne j.

    American Conservatives like to think that we fought the British in the Eighteenth Century for something as laudatory as our freedom. Actually, the Revolution was spear-headed by slave-trading planters who were no different than private equity fund managers!!! The planters were upset that they were going to be taxed on their shenanigans — the international slave trade (read “globalism” today). Hah! We just heard that the fund managers are only taxed at 15% compared to much higher, graduated percentages for the rest of us!

    The trading was where the money was to be made, rather than in the “industry” (tobacco, indigo, rice, much later cotton). The traders had no regard for how those industries were run. The industries made money because they used unpaid slave labor, until the cost of up-keeping the slaves cost more than the land could continue to bring in in sales. Many slaves were given their freedom just after the Revolution because the tobacco industry had fallen flat from over-concentrated tobacco farming. There were multiple laws and social customs against these Free Blacks. In some ways, they sometimes were more destitute for food and a place to live than the slaves still on plantations. Does that sound like today’s middle class Americans who can’t find the big, steady corporations they used to work for for their entire careers, who can’t get hired anywhere, have lost their homes, and are increasingly having to stand in food lines?! Today, American companies go around the world for the labor costs as close to slave-labor-zero-income-for-the-workers as they can get. First they left New England for North Carolina, then it was Mexico where they convinced local communities to abandon generations-old local businesses to work for the U.S. company, having decimated that older economy, they…..left to move to Southeast Asia and eventually China. And, what are our jobless numbers right now??? ONLY the financial sector is “improving” at the moment, which means the traders are making money, not the workers.

    It IS made complicated by the fact that unions have pension investments in these companies that are making money. Private citizens can, too, but without jobs that are as protected as union jobs, and therefore, I can say, without jobs, many
    private citizens have had to live off and/or cash in their investments. But, many middle class people got co-opted into an investment system that is not well-regulated enough. To hear the one guest say that today’s traders don’t want regulators who don’t know the trading industry well enough to regulate that industry is just a slogan to convince Conservatives, I think, to take the side of the traders again. I will try to remind everybody that the traders are like the planters were — involved in an unrighteous economy!

    When money-making pays more than producing things, and when too large a proportion of a country’s total income goes to the money-makers instead of to those who invent make, fix, and sell things, and instead of to those who tend, heal and serve those in need of education or health care, the overall economy will be in bad, bad shape. This is made even worse by debt: interest rates on loans to those whose companies are in trouble or who, as private citizens, need money for basics cause “asset stripping” (thank you for that phrase, On Point!). Then, there is certainly no money for desired debt for those business owners who want to go into research and development and who need a loan to get that kind of activity going!

    One trouble we have right now is that Conservatives, who DO properly point out that the government should not be too much in debt, do not understand the true economic history of this nation. They have an incorrect, romantic view that blinds them to being able to read the examples from the past that can warn us about our present times and the future. It was the planters who did not want regulation. They were they private equity fund managers of their day!!!!!

    The planters had enough money to bring in a doctor to “bleed” them with leeches when they were ill. There was, for the most part, no health care for the slaves — even tho they were property, they were expendable: another one could almost always be bought. Nowadays, it seems we workers are pretty expendable: there seems to almost always be another factory in China to do our work, while we, without work, also do not have health care while we are looking, or trying to “create” our own jobs. Who says a health care package is a bad idea; who says the public option is a bad idea??? It would be good to look at that, and reconsider: at least if you had health care while you were out of a job, things wouldn’t get worse, and they can — in our small, healthy family we have spinal cord injury, Alzheimer’s, severe rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, suicide, lung cancer (to a non-smoker), metastatic breast cancer, and stroke, not to mention a fall off a roof. Except for the Alzheimer’s, all those happened in the age group 20-58.

    “Freedom” was just another word for “more money and power, and fewer taxes, to the wealthiest sector” in pre-Revolutionary America — and, I fear it still means that. The more I read history, the more I see the parallels!

    By the way, there are SO many differences between being a slave of African descent and being a middle class American that are left out of my argument above, that I apologize. I am respectful for the differences and of the continuing consequences of those differences! The broad argument about the structure of the Revolutionary economy and today’s economy still hold, however. Thanks!

    Thanks!

  • Cory

    I know all the reasons for being in the market, yet I cannot escape the feeling it is fixed. Things go up for a while then some bubble breaks or a recession comes along and half your money is gone. Where those losses go is what makes me sceptical.

    I don’t think I’ll do the mattress plan, but I may stick to ultra safe investments (CD’s etc) and try to tone down my lifestyle and expenses to match the new, globalized American reality.

    By the way, when my investments go down I imagine someone who looks like the photo above of Peter Brooke is the type of fellow who pockets my losses!!

  • Cory

    Great comments, Anne J.

  • anne j.

    Thanks, Cory!

    I like how you explained those funny, inchoate intuitions about the whole enterprise of “investment”!

  • Ellen Dibble

    Michael (before Anne back there) says: “What these guys do is purchase enough control in the company and than once in control use these companies to finance there debt and push the liability of such debt on the companies they purchase often time 20/80 20 for the purchaser and 80 to the company.”

    I’ve read such figures, and it is disspiriting. I am thinking of the micro-loaners who are letting women start businesses, and they can show each other how to strike out, and pretty soon education and cooperation start to put poverty and helplessness way into the past.
    This is what a small financial boost can mean, and what visionary investment can mean. It is so far from the American system that looks for a swift “killing” not a careful enabling of an entire population, transformational investment. American bankers can indeed look to profits that would ruin a country (including their own country, as it turns out).
    What do we know about how families form sort of ad hoc coops, cooperatives, in order to take advantage of their own dreams and skills. It takes a village.
    Who will write that book? I’ll make up a headline” Eighty unemployed Americans learn to make motorized bicycles and soon have a business; they started on a shoestring” — whose shoestring?
    Sometimes so little would go so far. But that “far” is in human scale. And if that investment has to measure up to Michael’s post, with an 80/20 split, then every $100 those mechanics make, 80 would go to the bank, and 20 would go to the local co-op that I suggested.
    Why the 80/20? Because (a) huge profits are indeed possible in this world; and (b) one in five businesses fail or something like that, so they are amortizing risk.
    Hey, if you have to make five times as much money (20 times five equals 100), then there is a huge chance you’ll fail. The banks are fishing for the miracle fish.
    Most Americans are more hard-headed than that. They would like their well-planted feet on the ground, before their heads in the bubble clouds.
    The cooperative approach to launching small American enterprise would also work for health insurance. If you think you know a group that eats carefully, exercises, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t expect outrageous medical procedures, understands death happens, well, then start up a co-op, a self-insuring group of people with common objectives and means.
    But letting the very cream of America create the architecture of our well-being doesn’t work. Maybe “some people” are too far from where the action is — and I don’t mean Wall Street.

  • Michael

    Ellen Dibble,

    in response i see what your getting at.

    But ill take your example say those 80 Americans who get together pool there money and create a bike shop.

    After awhile they wish to expand and now require capital. I come along and see say that because these 80 people who all have health insurance, are paid well, and sell the to the customers at a reasonable price say even lower to help the community. I purchase control of the company but don’t want to have the full debt on my company so i purchase enough control and replace say the top few guys with my own, once that’s done i get a loan to cover my company buying theirs but not on my books but theirs, Now i pay higher fees to myself and my company from the bike company, now i want to lower my liability less in the short-run so i lay off 40 of those Americans now payrolls reduced, i’m collecting large fees, there books have majority of the debt to acquire it is on there books, i than say hey i could move the highly profitable side to china so out of those 40 american left i require 20 to train people from china or india since say the cost to do this is 20% of each American,I do this in a span of 3 to 5 yrs collect as much as i can get and move on. The remaining 20 people now have far more long-term debt, there work forced bare-bone and there more profitable side resides in china.

    So those 80 people that came together to create a company to benefit the community has had there business gutted within a few year.

    I could be wrong, and i bet they’re many companies that beat this problem but if someone wanted to make as much money as they could why wouldn’t they cut jobs, gut the company and send jobs to almost pennies on the dollar cost oversea,they have no connection to the area the company came from or community and the bike company was probably only picked by the calculation made on how much one could make off it ? They even have tax incentives to do so and since it a global market sweatshops,criminal labor, and child labor don’t matter if the U.S. tried it be protectionism and against the free market.

    I just see that people work so hard to create a company and come together to create and make something real than get leeched on and destroyed by these venture capital types who care not for what your cause good or bad but to make as much money on you as quick as possible no matter what the cost to the people who made it.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Michael, I used that example because something like that has happened and is happening. There was a bike shop near me (in Massachusetts) where the owner would custom-make motorized bicycles for people like me who maybe wanted a boost when going up hill in winter. There are several bicycle shops in the area doing similar things, and they were written up in the paper. So I called, and explained to the guy what I was interested in, and he asked me to send specific specifications, and within a week, he was relocating to Georgia, bought out, as you say, by someone with the money to kick his enterprise up a level. He no longer has the say. And he will have to make as much profit as the new financiers want him to make. And if that requires outsourcing to China the labor, as well as creating a much more expensive vehicle, so it goes. I could find the specific name; it was in Florence, MA.
    I am especially interested in Massachusetts since one of the Senate candidates running for Kennedy’s seat was in a call-in hour today, and it seems he has been in the business of jump-starting businesses, he was saying his group, of which he said he is NOT the CEO, is about the size of the Senate. He was not talking about 80/20; he was talking the vital importance of jumpstarting businesses and jobs. I don’t want to swing any votes; I flipflop daily. But the discussion on WFCR in western Mass. did reflect the WBUR hour.
    All I can deduce from what you say is that people have to get mad.
    If you have any positive suggestions — whether a Senator should be so rich he needs no outside funding, whether by “friends” (guy with a K) or success (guy with a P), or should be a man from the Real World living in a duplex (guy with a C and national legislative experience), or … — I’m certainly curious.

  • Michael

    I guess the thing that depends most if a guy with a K, or P or C would be for senator or public service is his willingness to serve the people he represents and do what he can for the common good of his community, state or country he represents. Ted K. was part of the first group but helped serve all of the mass and do good for his country.

    The problem i see is the guy from either of this groups often can’t stay independent enough not to be beholden to lobbyist and outside forces, i understand that one most work with such groups to get things done but rarly does one say no or realistic to there community on what can get done,or be real on what the downside would be.I believe it more abut the person than what group there in and if they have the courage to buck when needed is the one i want to represent me.

    I lived in a small town called Moberly Missouri for a few years and watched as our town counsel pushed for a 24hour wall-market in the out-shirt. They gave walmart tax incentives and pretty much free land to build on, it literally destroyed the downtown area shops and business, and many of the local business shut down, many turn to working at wall-mart for less wages and less benefits.

    I would site a example in mass “Mass solar” ( solar panel company is moving some jobs overseas after receiving $58 million in state aid and being touted by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick as a symbol of the state’s economic future.

    Evergreen Solar Inc. said Wednesday it is moving panel assembly jobs currently done at a plant in Devens to China next year. The announcement came as the company announced that it lost $167 million in the first nine months of this year.

    About half of the 577 full-time and 230 contract employees at the Devens factory are involved in putting the panels together, but the company did not say how many jobs the state would lose.)

    http://www.manufacturing.net/News-Mass-Solar-Company-Moving-Jobs-To-China-110509.aspx?menuid=36

    there many other examples in New Bedford as well.

    I guess my point would be that their nothing in terms of regulations stopping the gutting of companies or outsourcing the work to third world countries,who are able to use slave,child and sweatshop labor and leveling huge amount of debt onto these companies.This in turn is destroying American jobs who have to play fair, lowering U.S. wages since(rightfully so) require our companies to have safe environments,health-care,and such.

  • Gordon

    Oh good god do we really have to listen to another freemarketeer championing our continued reliance on the good judgement of the white knights of finance? Let’s get back to New Deal principles! There is no reason not to reinstate the financial regulations and progressive tax system that kept us safe from the 1930s right up to the Reagan administration. Progressive taxes keep excessive capital out of the markets and put it into pockets that spend it on real things.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Michael, If Peter Brooke is right that “there is plenty of capital,” yet the way capital moves in this country is such that in order to “create” that capital, Americans lose out, by attrition, losing a job at a time, or by asset stripping when an economic event strikes, then the financial engine of prosperity is not working.
    About the senators, the two who say that they are not dependent on outside financing (K and P) might be seen to be in the pockets of the institutions that guarantee their “independence.” I have a bias toward the K, maybe because of trackrecord that reminds me of Maria Shriver, maybe because of the letter K. The C says quite openly his pride in being supported by union interests, which is sort of equivalent to claiming the religious right or the military as “my voting bloc.” Then there is the one with star power, the woman AG, who seems most spoon-fed to us by the Massachusetts “machine.” AARP sent out a booklet with all candidates on about 7 issues; AARP sets out their position, then each of these candidates checks yes or no and explains. ALL candidates agreed with AARP on EVERYTHING. Smoke and mirrors, I tell you. I still like K. We have ONE WEEK after the holiday to get it straight; is this democracy? This rush, to tout to the world? I like his haircut?

  • ramon

    What is the music that plays in the first musical interlude? Its about 10 minutes in,

  • roger

    what a disappointing show. the old guy doesn’t want any “regulation” to cramp his style. well, since you can’t, won’t and don’t control the bad actors in your so-called “industry”, then somebody else needs to be a responsible party and keep them in line. there is no such thing as a “free-market” economy. you guys have such advantages with your low tax rates on the upside and you’ve even found ways to make money on the downside. same old story: privatize the profits … socialize the losses.

    trying to make money out of money is not a natural creational law or endeavor. it’s a man made artifice eventually doomed to failure. enjoy it while you can. what we need is more of the iron fist of china in this country to tamp down the greed.

  • John

    This was a good show. I only wish that the caller with the database of 2900 companies over 20 years had been given a little more time to flesh out his points.

    Mr. Brooke is no doubt himself a fine man, but it was interesting to note that his view seems reducible to little more than wishing that people behaved better than they do. Ummmm… I guess I wish that, too, but as far as fixing some of the things wrong with the U.S. financial system in general and private equity in particular, I don’t think that’s gonna get it done.

    Anyway, once more: good show.

  • anne j.

    Ellen Dibble

    Sorry. No time to respond properly, but I just had to say, I’ve only read your first two postings on this topic, but I think you have some TRULY HEALTHY, RADICAL IDEAS!! I will read more when I can, but in the meantime, can you cut & paste your ideas and send them off to the White House website??? Your ideas have a STRUCTURAL component that is SO RADICAL — i.e., what is non-profit and tying tax breaks to non-profit investments — that is RADICAL AND NEEDED!!!

    I’ll read more later & hope the post is still open to reply again!

    THANKS for your thoughtful, brilliant contribution!!!

  • joe

    Happy Thanksgiving

  • Ellen Dibble

    Anne J., for one thing, I think these discussions remain open for several days at least. I read with great interest your post about the Revolution as well.
    About the White House, Obama’s administration sometimes fishes shamelessly for inputs from people who have sent them comments before. By now I expect they are a bit jaded. I think the last thing I told them was to please get rid of Geithner and Summers, which seems a bit strong. In my opinion, stuff posted directly to the White House lacks something very important that a forum like this one here can really provide. This forum provides some context.
    If this forum seems useful to anyone in the administration, they can look and see, and they can see what sort of ideas get what sort of reception, what the Republicans seem to retort, and so on.
    Besides that, the producers at OnPoint can pick up on this or that, or all of WBUR and by extension NPR can pick up on this or that.
    I call this the publish-my-book approach. If I write (a children’s book) and hand it to my brother (or in the case of economic theory, to the White House), I get a thumbs up, which means nothing. If on the other hand, I get that idea out there on the shelf, there is a crucial layer of deniability. Someone can read it, can indeed buy it, and doesn’t have to tell me they read it or what they think of it. But next thing I know, I find that certain things have taken flight. It’s like children away from home. They carry your perspectives without supervision.
    Feel free to clip my post and send it to the White House with my name, but I’m not sure this time, for me, is the best moment. I mean, it’s designed to get reflection in this forum, firstly, and to teach myself bit by bit to dare. Thanks.

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