Jim Zarroli

Jim Zarroli is a business reporter for NPR News, based at NPR's New York bureau.

He covers economics and business news including fiscal policy, the Federal Reserve, the job market and taxes

Over the years, he's reported on recessions and booms, crashes and rallies, and a long string of tax dodgers, insider traders and Ponzi schemers. He's been heavily involved in the coverage of the European debt crisis and the bank bailouts in the United States.

Prior to moving into his current role, Zarroli served as a New York-based general assignment reporter for NPR News. While in this position he covered the United Nations during the first Gulf War. Zarroli added to NPR's coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the London transit bombings and the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Before joining the NPR in 1996, Zarroli worked for the Pittsburgh Press and wrote for various print publications.

Zarroli graduated from Pennsylvania State University.

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The U.S. Justice Department plans to file a civil suit this week accusing the credit rating company Standard and Poor's of fraud. Standard and Poor's is the company that famously downgraded U.S. debt in 2011. This investigation focuses on S and P's actions before the financial crisis. The civil action accuses S and P of fraudulently inflating the ratings of mortgage investments, setting them up for the crash that lead to the great recession. The investigation is the focus of today's Business Bottom Line, and here's NPR's Jim Zarroli.

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It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep, with Renee Montagne. Good morning.

Let's try again, shall we, to explain what it means when we hear that the U.S. economy shrank in the fourth quarter of 2012. As we've discussed elsewhere in the program, the decline was slight - just one-tenth of a percentage point - but it is the first contraction of the economy since the Great Recession officially ended in 2009. NPR's Jim Zarroli is with us once again in New York. Jim, good morning.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Good morning.

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You heard the president acknowledge that in some parts of the country - and more specifically, some congressional districts - gun ownership is stronger than in other parts of the country. He would need allies in those places to overcome or persuade the gun industry and its lobbying groups. Industry officials are ready to fight.

As NPR's Jim Zarroli reports, some of the proposals, especially a ban on assault weapons, could take a bite out of gun-makers' revenue.

Banking regulators are telling JPMorgan Chase that it must take action to improve its risk analysis and money-laundering controls. The bank racked up a $6 billion trading loss last year. CEO Jamie Dimon cited managerial lapses and called the loss inexcusable.

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Five years ago today, Bank of America announced it was buying the troubled subprime mortgage lender Countrywide Financial for $40 billion. At the time, the financial crisis had not fully revealed itself, and many people thought Bank of America was getting a good deal. Instead, the acquisition has turned into a never-ending legal and financial nightmare. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

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Some other news: Some of the biggest banks in the country have agreed to pay more than $18 billion to settle allegations of wrongdoing in their mortgage lending. That's today's "Business Bottom Line."

Bank of America said yesterday it would pay more than $10 billion to the mortgage company Fannie Mae because of bad loans sold during the housing boom. And in a separate settlement, 10 banks agreed to pay more than $8 billion in total, to settle claims that they made errors in foreclosing on people's homes. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

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We got a snapshot of the economy at the end of 2012 today. And if you are hoping for a big change in this morning's jobs report, the picture is probably disappointing. In short, it's more of the same.

The U.S. economy grew at a steady though not very strong pace this year. But Europe slipped back into recession because of the ongoing debt crisis. European leaders took steps to stimulate growth, but it wasn't enough to reverse course.

The economic crisis that got under way five years ago was felt all over the world. But Mohammed El-Erian, CEO of the investment firm PIMCO, says different regions have healed at much different rates.

The year "2012 was another multispeed world globally, in the sense that different parts did different things," he says.

Six school employees died in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday. President Obama has hailed them as heroes. The six women included a veteran school psychologist, a dedicated special education teacher and a young substitute at the beginning of her career.

Dawn Hochsprung, the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School, was killed in the shootings in Connecticut Friday. In her two years at the school, Hochsprung had become a favorite of students and parents for her charismatic leadership and warm personality. She died trying to overpower the gunman.

Newtown, Conn., is a white-collar community an hour and a half northeast of New York City. It's the kind of place where crime is rare and the biggest thing that happens each year is the Labor Day parade.

Now the peace and quiet has been shattered, and residents are trying to make sense of what's happened.

Hours after the shootings that left so many people dead, St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church opened its doors for a prayer vigil. People filed through the streets and past houses decorated with Christmas lights.

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And I'm Audie Cornish. It is the biggest penalty ever paid by a bank to the U.S. government. HSBC, a British company, will hand over $1.9 billion to settle a money laundering case. The Justice Department says HSBC violated the bank secrecy act and the trading with the enemy act by doing business with the likes of Iran.

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The nation's unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent in November, that's the lowest it's been in four years. The Labor Department's latest jobs report released this morning showed employers added more jobs than expected.

But as NPR's Jim Zarroli reports, economists warn these new numbers aren't what they appear to be.

Tax increases are only a part of what lies ahead if Congress can't come to an agreement to avert the fiscal cliff by the new year. Massive spending cuts will also kick in — and those cuts will be felt throughout the economy.

The current stalemate got under way two years ago when Congress, locked in a bitter partisan battle over whether to extend the George W. Bush-era tax cuts, passed what was known as the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Ever since Hurricane Sandy ripped through the New Jersey coast, some of the hardest-hit towns have been closed altogether. Authorities say gas leaks and unstable buildings have made them too risky to visit.

This week, residents were allowed to enter Seaside Heights for a few hours each day to get a firsthand look at the damage. Many are struggling with whether to rebuild their homes.

Weighing The Cost

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House Republicans have released portions of a report on the collapse of MF Global, the commodities firm run by former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine. The report chastises Corzine for taking excessive risk.

NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

Hurricane Sandy left a long trail of destruction across the New Jersey shoreline. And it did a lot more than just flood houses.

In towns like Seaside Heights and Belmar, Sandy wiped out the boardwalks that line the beach. In places like these, boardwalks served as the commercial center knitting the towns together, and residents are wondering where to go from here.

Until two weeks ago, the boardwalk was the place to hang out in Belmar, N.J. Ann Summer was walking along the water with her husband this weekend.

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The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, also held a press conference yesterday, and gave a warning that Sandy could end up costing his state $33 billion in economic damage, which could worsen the state's already-perilous fiscal situation.

NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Cuomo said the initial estimates are that the storm will cost the region $50 billion in lost economic activity and infrastructure damage. And he said two-thirds of that will be borne by New York.

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And it was no ordinary Election Day either in Belmar, New Jersey, one of the beach towns that was badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Some of the regular polling places were flooded out and town officials had to come up with new ways to get voters to the polls. NPR's Jim Zarolli reports.

JIM ZAROLLI, BYLINE: These days the Belmar Town Hall has been turned into a kind of rescue center for displaced residents, a place where they can get food and clothing. And yesterday they could vote, too.

Much of the worst damage from Superstorm Sandy happened in New York's less touristy outer boroughs.

Some neighborhoods have been changed forever by the storm. Staten Island saw half of the city's fatalities. On Friday, residents sorted through waterlogged belongings and tried to figure out next steps.

Rosemarie Caruso lives a block from the water on the eastern shore of Staten Island. She says there have been hurricanes before and all they brought was a little flooding. She figured she could ride out Sandy.

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Hurricane Sandy made landfall in southern New Jersey and left a path of destruction all the way up the state. Just across the river from New York in Bergen County, water flowed over the top of a levee along the Hackensack River, and then it poured into the town of Moonachie.

NPR's Jim Zarroli went there today.

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And I'm Audie Cornish. Now, some business news. This past Friday and again today, the Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 200 points. The drop occurred after several big U.S. companies turned in disappointing results. NPR's Jim Zarroli explains.

Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit is stepping down. In a statement released Tuesday morning, he said the time was right for someone else to take the helm. Pandit, who is 55 years old, took the top spot at Citi in December of 2007, just as the financial crisis was beginning to unfold.

Two Americans, Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley, have won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics. Their research on market design has found many practical applications. It's at the heart of the system used to match medical school graduates with residency programs and is even used in the market that matches human organ donors and recipients.

Over the past decade, Chinese companies have become major players in the global telecommunications market. This week the House Intelligence Committee issued a report that could interrupt that growth. The committee warned American companies not to do business with two of China's main telecom manufacturers, saying they posed a security threat.

Huawei Technologies is the miracle story of the Chinese high-tech industry, says telecommunications consultant Roger Entner.

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NPR's business news starts with another bank sued.

Wells Fargo has become the second major American bank to be sued over its conduct during the housing boom. The U.S. Attorney's office in New York alleges that Wells Fargo approved hundreds of millions of dollars in bad housing loans during the 10-year period leading up to the financial crisis.

NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

And we begin this hour with a surprise on the jobs front. The Labor Department said today that the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in September. That's a much sharper drop than expected. It was good news for President Obama and his re-election hopes.

Nicole Kotovos was searching for a way to start a new life when the idea struck her: She would go to her ancestral homeland of Greece and open an American-style bakery cafe. She would bring the cupcake fad to Athens.

What she didn't figure on was the historic downturn in the Greek economy.

The former New York TV producer arrived in 2008, just as the country's debt-mired economy was falling into a deep recession it still hasn't emerged from.

When the economic crisis erupted in Greece and the bottom fell out of the domestic wine market, the Kir-Yianni vineyard outside picturesque Naoussa decided to adapt. Like other wineries in Greece, it has increasingly tapped the export market, successfully marketing and selling wine in Europe, the United States and even China.

"If you ask me, this crisis has been good for us," says Stellios Boutaris, the son of the company's founder. "It's going to make us stronger."

Greece is in the fifth year of a painful recession, and it doesn't look like it's going to end anytime soon. One big problem the country faces is a shortage of strong companies that know how to compete on the world market. And nowhere is this more painfully apparent than in the challenges faced by the country's olive oil business.

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