December Newsline: Climate change costs, U.S. export performance and more

December 2009 Vol. 64 No. 12

Key to the trial was the testimony of Montgomery investment banker William Blount and lobbyist Al LaPierre. Both pleaded guilty in the case and testified that Langford received bribes from them that amounted to $236,000 in money, clothes and jewelry. In return, jurors heard, Langford ensured that Blount’s investment bank, Blount Parrish & Co., was included in Jefferson County bond deals and interest-rate swaps that reaped the firm $7.1 million. The work was part of Jefferson County’s sewer/water rehabilitation program as mandated by a consent decree from the EPA.

In 2007, Langford was investigated by the SEC on corruption charges. In 2008, a lawsuit was filed against him for illegally accepting $156,000 in cash and benefits.

On Dec. 1, 2008, Langford, along with Blount and LaPierre, was arrested by the FBI on a 101-count indictment alleging conspiracy, bribery, fraud, money laundering and filing false tax returns in connection with a long-running bribery scheme. His public corruption trial ended on Oct. 28, 2009 with convictions on 60 counts, and resulted in his automatic removal from office. He plans to appeal the verdict as he remains free awaiting sentencing and faces up to 805 years in prison.

Langford’s conviction triggers a change in the leadership of Birmingham. Under the Mayor-Council Act, City Council President Carole Smitherman immediately became interim mayor once the guilty verdict was read.

The county’s debt, including sewer, school and other bonds, rose by about $1 billion under Langford, and has now risen to about $5 billion. The county is facing bankruptcy because of bonds and swaps sold to investors that raised money for repairing and expanding an outdated sewer system.

U.S. construction machinery exports down in 2009
U.S. construction machinery exports dropped 36 percent during the first half of 2009, with $6.4 billion shipped to global markets compared to $10.1 billion at mid-year 2008, according to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM).

The AEM off-road equipment manufacturing trade group consolidates U.S. Commerce Dept. data with other sources into global trend reports for members.

All world regions recorded double-digit declines in construction equipment exports for the first half of 2009, led by Europe and Canada.