by ilene - August 12th, 2010 1:02 pm
Courtesy of Jr. Deputy Accountant
The Congressional Oversight Panel has found (!) some disturbing new information surrounding 2008′s most not excellent bailout programs, among them, details on where exactly AIG’s cash infusions went. Here’s a hint: it wasn’t back into the system.
Members of the Congressional Oversight Panel, in a report due out Thursday, note that America’s broad financial rescues had more impact internationally than the narrower bailout programs of other countries had on U.S. firms.
They cite as a case study the bailout of insurance giant American International Group. While the Treasury committed up to $70 billion to AIG through its Troubled Assets Relief Program, the report states, much of that money ended up in the coffers of foreign trading partners in France, Germany and other countries. The cash that the United States poured into AIG alone equaled twice what France spent on its total capital injection program, and half what Germany spent.
"The point we make forcefully in this report is that there were no data about where this money was going, no information about where this money was going," said panel chair Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor. "Without that information, no one could make a deliberate policy choice" about whether to ask foreign governments to contribute to the financial rescues.
Isn’t that why Warren has a job? To figure that out?
And yet for all her pristine carrying on over who got what, it appears as though someone forgot to turn off the spigot. But now instead of the banks and the auto companies, the bailouts are being pumped out to homedebtors, college students, whoever the hell is stupid enough to have a stake in Fannie and Freddie and of course broke ass state and local governments who can’t pay their bills.
The outrage over the bailouts of late 2008 and most of 2009 is obvious but where is the oversight committee to say enough is e-f*&king-nough already and cut it off?!
by ilene - August 11th, 2010 4:15 am
Courtesy of JESSE’S CAFÉ AMÉRICAIN
“Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders."
Dr. Lawrence Britt
The AIG Bailout Scandal
August 6, 2010
The government’s $182 billion bailout of insurance giant AIG should be seen as the Rosetta Stone for understanding the financial crisis and its costly aftermath. The story of American International Group explains the larger catastrophe not because this was the biggest corporate bailout in history but because AIG’s collapse and subsequent rescue involved nearly all the critical elements, including delusion and deception. These financial dealings are monstrously complicated, but this account focuses on something mere mortals can understand—moral confusion in high places, and the failure of governing institutions to fulfill their obligations to the public.
Three governmental investigative bodies have now pored through the AIG wreckage and turned up disturbing facts—the House Committee on Oversight and Reform; the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which will make its report at year’s end; and the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP), which issued its report on AIG in June.
The five-member COP, chaired by Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, has produced the most devastating and comprehensive account so far. Unanimously adopted by its bipartisan members, it provides alarming insights that should be fodder for the larger debate many citizens long to hear—why Washington rushed to forgive the very interests that produced this mess, while innocent others were made to suffer the consequences. The Congressional panel’s critique helps explain why bankers and their Washington allies do not want Elizabeth Warren to chair the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The report concludes that the Federal Reserve Board’s intimate relations with the leading powers of Wall Street—the same banks that benefited most from the government’s massive bailout—influenced its strategic decisions on AIG. The panel accuses the Fed and the Treasury Department of brushing aside alternative approaches that would have saved tens of billions in public funds by making these same banks “share the pain.”
by ilene - July 22nd, 2010 3:03 pm
Courtesy of Jr. Deputy Accountant
Less than a week ago, reports were that Tim Geithner opposed Elizabeth Warren to head financial reform’s new consumer protection agency. Now word is out that he’s all for it:
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Wednesday that Elizabeth Warren has the credentials needed to head the new Bureau of Consumer Protection set up as part of a landmark financial reform overhaul.
In an interview on PBS’ "Charlie Rose Show," Geithner was asked whether Warren was Treasury’s top candidate for the consumer watchdog post but said it was President Barack Obama’s decision to make.
"Let me just say she is an incredibly capable, effective advocate for reform," Geithner said. Treasury has denied rumors of conflict between Geithner and Warren, a Harvard law professor who heads a congressional panel overseeing the 2008 bank bailout program and who has sharply criticized banks.
Then again that doesn’t sound like anything but a half-assed through-the-teeth endorsement to me. Either he is really that easily flip-flopped or completelyfull of sh*t. I think a nice little mix of both.
Change of Heart- Tom Petty
by ilene - July 19th, 2010 1:18 pm
by ilene - July 13th, 2010 12:05 am
Senate Dems are making the final push on financial reform this week, but will big banks really change the way they do business? Or will we still be pawns in a game rigged in their favor? I caught up with Elizabeth Warren to talk about the need to reform Wall Street culture, the pernicious influence of bank lobbies, and the debt-fueled threat to America’s middle class. **Warren will discuss these issues and more at this weekend’s Hamptons Institute symposium, sponsored by Guild Hall in collaboration with the Roosevelt Institute (details below).
LP: Has the financial crisis changed the culture of Wall Street?
EW: I would have expected the financial crisis to sweep through Wall Street like a hundred-year flood — wiping out old business practices and changing the ecology profoundly. So far, the financial services industry has seemed to treat the crisis like a little rainfall — inconvenient, but no significant changes needed. The real question moving forward is how the industry will respond to Wall Street reform and growing public anger. Will it react to all the new cops on the beat just by hiring more lobbyists? Will it continue to spend $1.4 million a day to beat back anything that could mean more accountability and oversight? Or will the financial services industry finally begin to rethink its business models, lobbying approach, and attitude toward the public?
LP: Have unregulated financial products slowed our economic recovery?
Let me put it differently: meaningful rules in the consumer credit market can accelerate economic recovery, I really believe that. Rules would increase consumer confidence and, more importantly, weed out all the tricks and traps that sap families of billions of dollars annually. Today, the big banks churn out page after page of incomprehensible fine print to obscure the cost and risks of checking accounts, credit cards, mortgages and other financial products. The result is that consumers can’t make direct product comparisons, markets aren’t competitive, and costs are higher. If the playing field is leveled and the broken market fixed, a lot more money will stay in the pockets of millions of hard-working families. That’s real stimulus — money to families, without increasing our national debt.
by ilene - July 3rd, 2010 3:25 pm
The following is an abridged version of an article that appears in the July 12, 2010, print and iPad editions of TIME.
Two weeks ago, along a marble corridor in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, I watched about 40 well-dressed men (and two women) delivering huge value for their employers. Except that we, the taxpayers, weren’t employing them. The nation’s banks, mortgage lenders, stockbrokers, private-equity funds and derivatives traders were.
They were lobbyists — the best bargain in Washington. Capitol Tax Partners, for example, is one of 1,900 firms that house more than 11,000 lobbyists registered to operate in Washington. Last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), firms like Capitol Tax were paid a total of $3.49 billion for unraveling the mysteries of the tax code for a variety of businesses. According to Capitol Tax co-founder Lindsay Hooper, his firm provided "input and technical advice on various tax matters" to such clients as Morgan Stanley, 3M, Goldman Sachs, Chanel, Ford and the Private Equity Council, which is a trade group trying to head off a plan to increase taxes on what’s called carried interest, a form of income enjoyed by the heavy hitters who run venture-capital and other types of private-equity funds. (Time Warner, the parent company of TIME magazine, is also a client of Capitol Tax Partners.)
Since 2009, the Private Equity Council has paid Capitol Tax, which has eight partners, a $30,000-a-month retainer to keep its members’ taxes low. Counting fees paid to four other firms and the cost of its in-house lobbying staff, the council reported spending $4.2 million on lobbying from the beginning of 2009 through March of this year. Now let’s assume it spent an additional $600,000 since the beginning of April, for a total of $4.8 million. With other groups lobbying on the same issue, the overall spending to protect the favorable carried-interest tax treatment was maybe $15 million. Which seems like a lot — except that this is a debate over how some $100 billion will be taxed, or not, over the next 10 years.
And what did the money managers get for their $15 million investment? While lawmakers did manage to boost the taxes of hedge-fund managers and other folks who collect carried interest as part of their work,…
by ilene - May 5th, 2010 5:00 pm
There are a lot of reasons to like the idea of a consumer financial protection agency. My colleagues Barbara Kiviat and Michael Grunwald have made the more substantive ones here, here and here. But I think I have stumbled across possibly the most telling data point yet on why the CFPA is likely a good idea: Jamie Dimon is scared of debating Elizabeth Warren on the topic. It’s not because Dimon is not passionate about the topic. Privately, Dimon and other JP Morgan exeuctives have been strongly making their case in Washington against starting a new agency, even one housed at the Fed, to monitor consumer protection in the banking business.
But when White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called a top J.P. Morgan executive to ask for the bank’s support in creating a new consumer-protection agency, the executive—former Commerce Secretary William Daley—said no, according to people familiar with the conversation. His boss believed that sufficient consumer safeguards were already on the books.
Nonetheless, I have put some phone calls in and Dimon is unwilling to take Warren on in person and debate the topic. Dimon is a smart guy. So the fact that he is scared to debate Warren on the topic means that he knows he can’t win. Here’s why:
First a recap. Elizabeth Warren is a Harvard law professor that also heads up the Congressional Oversight Panel, which has monitored the TARP program with hearings and studies. A few years ago, after studying a number of abusive lending practices regularly engaged in by the nation’s largest banks, she came up with the idea of launching a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. In Warren’s vision, it would be federally funded and separate from other regulators. It’s only job would be to assess whether the loans and other products sold by banks are fair and safe for consumers. Much like the FDA does for drugs. Obama loves the idea. And so it has been batted around as part of the reform effort, and is included, in a weaker form, in Dodd’s reform bill. Here’s what FDIC chief Sheila Bair had to say about Warren and her proposal in the TIME 100 this week:
by ilene - March 12th, 2010 3:24 pm
Courtesy of Eric at FALKENBLOG
A bunch of legendary comedians got together to make a sketch, where the punchline is: "establish a Consumer Financial Protection Agency". It’s kinda a funny, but mostly because of the Darrell Hammond’s imitation of Clinton making sexual innuendos, and Fred Armisen’s impersonation of Barack Obama. It seems director Ron Howard was trying to find something to ‘do good’, so he chatted with the earnest and overeducated Elizabeth Warren, and decided consumer financial regulation was the kind of smart idea that would obviously work. After all, who’s against consumer protection?
I am! This is the same government that goaded banks to lower standard to lend more to historically damaged communities, and then when those borrowers defaulted, blamed such lending on the banks. Avoiding the poor is redlining, targeting the poor is predatory, which means, whatever goes wrong can be blamed on the banks. Government always wants to have its cake and eat it too: low taxes & high spending, high growth and union-type work rules, banks lending more today and raising their capital.
The CFPA tries to do what most regulators try to do: improve efficiency, eliminate waste, consolidate regulations,simplify regulations, protect consumers, and protect jobs! It seems banks are greedy and basically uregulated, leading directly to the 2008 housing crisis. There are seven government bodies already regulating banks, highlighting how incredibly naive this proposal is. If there’s a magic bullet for improving efficiency, etc., share it with existing regulators…unless you think that all the regulators have been captured by some interest group, which if true just means we are bringing in one more interest group to advocate why they should get a better deal.
More importantly, if your concern is about the irrational poor people easily duped by huckster bankers, lower prices and penalties on the poor doesn’t help them, it enables them. Life has carrots and sticks, and one definition of a vice is that which generates bad outcomes in the long run. If you are constantly overdrafting your account, don’t have enough money to make a 20% down payment on a property, you need better financial discipline. Helping the poor from being trapped by debt should try to minimize they amount of debt they have, say by increasing rather than lowering prices on credit cards.…
by ilene - February 28th, 2010 1:12 am
Courtesy of Mish
Here are a couple of stories similar to thousands playing out across the country, and tens of thousands more to come. The second article gets to the heart of the upcoming commercial real estate bust.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune is reporting Brookdale Mall sold at auction for big markdown.
A sheriff’s foreclosure auction produced just one bid — from the mall’s mortgage-holders, who bid $12.5 million.
Photo By Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune
Brookdale Center went on the auction block at a sheriff’s foreclosure sale Friday, netting just one bid of $12.5 million from the shopping mall’s lenders.
The bid from Brookdale Mall HH LLC was well below the $51.8 million owed on a $54.2 million mortgage by the property’s owners, Brooks Mall Properties of Coral Gables, Fla.
Sears is its sole remaining anchor. In the last couple of years Macy’s, Barnes & Noble and Mervyn’s have all closed their stores. The mall also has lost other key tenants, such as Steve & Barry’s. Almost 60 percent of its space is vacant, according to recent figures from NorthMarq.
Commercial Real Estate Crisis Coming
The following story headline masquerades as a local (D.C.) problem but the real story buried in the article is a few select quotes from Elizabeth Warren.
A mortgage crisis like the one that has devastated homeowners is enveloping the nation’s office and retail buildings, and few places are likely to be hit as hard as Washington.
The foreclosure wave is likely to swamp many smaller community banks across the country, and many well-known properties, including Washington’s Mayflower Hotel and the Boulevard at the Capital Centre in Largo, are at risk, industry analysts say.
"There’s been an enormous bubble in commercial real estate, and it has to come down," said Elizabeth Warren, chairman of the Congressional Oversight Panel, the watchdog created by Congress to monitor the financial bailout. "There will be significant bankruptcies among developers and significant failures among community banks."
Nearly 3,000 community banks — 40 percent of the banking system — have a high proportion of commercial real estate loans relative to their capital, said Warren, whose committee issued a report on commercial real estate last week. "Every
by ilene - February 12th, 2010 2:36 am
Courtesy of Tim Iacono at The Mess That Greenspan
Elizabeth Warren, Chairwoman of the Congressional Oversight Panel, talks about the ongoing troubles that community banks are having with commercial real estate loans as detailed in the panel’s latest report on the subject released earlier today – the outlook isn’t good.
The discussion that begins at about the 3:10 mark is pretty interesting as Fox Business News host David Asman references big Wall Street banks "having their arms twisted" to take TARP money in late-2008, a view with which Warren disagrees vehemently (I’m pretty sure she disagreed vehemently there but, admittedly, it was hard to tell).