And Now Some Words From Bankers And Wall Street
Hi folks. We just want you to know we don’t need financial reform. Oh sure, we screwed up most everyone’s life in the world recently but that was just a small error. We can’t promise it won’t happen again though. We really like money! But we’re not very concerned because we know you will be frightened enough to bail us out again. You will, won’t you? Of course you will. That’s what good capitalists do because we are wealthy and powerful. We have friends. Senator Durbin said, “the banks own the place”. He’s right! We’re so proud. Anyway, you respect us because we’re obviously smart and you support us because you think some day you could be just like us. That’s imposs…, well, never mind. Just do what we want and let us make money any way we can without concern for you and your finances. Just trust us. It will be okay. We have good plans for your money.
We know the words “socialism” and “nationalizing” upset you. We accomplished that. We bribed, er, paid a lot of money so we would get our way. And it’s really working. Even the Supreme Court helped. We love the power of uncontrolled capitalism so don't try to alter it or we will....
So, let’s not waste any more time here, okay? Just stop all efforts to restrict us. Understand? No rules, regulations or restrictions of any kind. We always know better. Remember our slogan; privatize profit, socialize losses. That’s the kind of socialism we like.
And keep that witch, Elizabeth Warren, in check. Better yet, our republican/democrat friends are going to do that for us. We will stop at nothing and they won’t either. We appreciate our good political friends because they always do what they're told. We have lots of friends and we all work together. For us and nobody else. Greed is good. You agree, don't you?
Now stop here and don’t read the articles below. We’ll know if you do. We know everything.
The Assault On Wall Street Reform
Last weekend, a spokesman for the American Bankers Association -- the banking industry's largest trade group -- explained that the financial services industry is eagerly anticipating conservative control of the House of Representatives. "We had been disappointed with a number of legislative outcomes with the past Congress, and so we look forward to better outcomes with this Congress," he said, adding that "banks expect a corrections bill to peel back some of the financial regulations passed into law this year." Indeed, Wall Street has made no secret of its desire to water down and roll back provisions in the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform law, which President Obama signed in July. Dodd-Frank is the most thorough upgrade of the nation's regulatory structure since the Great Depression, and while complete repeal is unlikely due to the President's veto power, the banks are counting on their House Republican allies to weaken the bill in other ways, such as withholding funds or scheduling hearings designed to slow the regulators' rule-making process. Already, the two leading candidates to chair the House Financial Services Committee next year -- Reps. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) and Ed Royce (R-CA) -- have made known their desire to weaken certain provisions, while incoming presumptive House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told CNBC that Republicans intend to deny regulators the funds to implement Dodd-Frank. "The House has the power of the appropriations process and the leverage that comes with that essentially puts us in a position to deny the administration funding for promulgating the regulations," Cantor said.
DEFUNDING THE CONSUMER BUREAU : House Republicans have reserved their most intense ire for the newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is being headed by consumer advocate and Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren and is the only regulatory agency explicitly tasked with consumer protection. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (TX), one of the top Republicans on the Financial Services Committee, promised to defund the Bureau, which he believes "assaults the liberties of the consumer." But defunding is only an effective strategy for holding back the agency until July 2011, when the Bureau will begin to receive an independent funding stream from the Federal Reserve, so Bachus has proposed changing Dodd-Frank to make the Bureau subject to the annual congressional appropriations process. Giving the Bureau an independent stream of funding is important, as it isolates the Bureau from the whims of Congress and prevents appropriators from pushing a political agenda by threatening funding cuts; the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission have independent budgets for the same reason. Royce, meanwhile, has said that he would revive an amendment of his that was defeated during the regulatory reform debate that would allow banking regulators to veto the agency's rulemaking. "The safety and soundness regulator needs to have a say, needs to have final say in this," Royce said.
DEFANGING THE REGULATORS : Dodd-Frank delegates much of its authority to regulators, who have the responsibility to craft rules meant to rein in the financial industry's excess, while taking into consideration the necessary role of the industry. Consequently, House Republicans have been targeting these regulators in an attempt to politicize and delay their rule-making activities. Bachus, for instance, sent a letter to the newly created Financial Stability Oversight Council scaremongering about the effects of the Volcker rule, which is meant to prevent banks from engaging in risky proprietary trading with federally insured dollars. Bachus claimed that the rule will "impose substantial costs on the American economy and market participants" with "doubtful" benefits.” But as Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz noted, "Through the rise of proprietary trading at our nation's banks and the largest non-bank financial firms, firms doubled down on the accumulation of risk, much of it with little benefit to the real economy." Bachus has also said that he wants to weaken the derivatives reform portion of the bill, calling it "overly expansive." The derivatives title of Dodd-Frank sets up exchanges so that derivatives must be traded publicly (like stocks) and employs clearinghouses to ensure that both parties in a derivatives trade have adequate collateral backing it up. What House Republicans will likely aim to do is entice regulators to grant wide exemptions to the exchange and clearing requirements, letting all sorts of activity that is purely speculative continue to be unregulated. Senate Democrats, however, are standing tall against changes in the law. "I don't think that major changes will take place on Dodd-Frank," said Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), who will likely chair the Senate Banking Committee next year. "There is not only resistance from the Senate, but the veto is possible, too. So we should focus on realistic solutions to our problems."
BIG BUSINESS JOINS IN : House Republicans and Wall Street banks are not alone in their fight to weaken Dodd-Frank. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- which helped coordinate Wall Street's campaign against financial reform -- announced yesterday that "it is setting up a new unit to scrutinize regulatory efforts of the Obama administration, taking special aim at the health care reform law and financial overhaul legislation." "Regulation is the vehicle by which some seek to control our economy, our businesses and our lives -- and left unchecked, it will fundamentally weaken our nation's capacity to create jobs and opportunity," said Chamber President Tom Donohue. The Chamber has already sued the SEC "over its proposed rule to give shareholders greater rights to nominate candidates to a public company’s board through proxy access balloting"; the rule was initiated as a result of Dodd-Frank. Of course, Wall Street is also very capable of lobbying for its cause itself. As the Los Angeles Times reported, "Lobbyists for banks, hedge funds and other firms have logged hundreds of meetings with federal regulators since the reform bill was signed into law." "In all, regulators have had at least 510 meetings with lobbyists representing 325 organizations since July," the Times found, and "more than 90% of the groups that appear in the meeting logs are banks, hedge funds and other big companies that rely on the financial industry."
The Progress Report
Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Elizabeth - How We Love Elizabeth.
"And keep that witch, Elizabeth Warren, in check."
Elizabeth Warren Helped Shoot Down Bill That Would Have Sped Foreclosures, Calendar Shows
Elizabeth Warren was the first senior Obama administration official to recognize the potentially incendiary impact of a bill that would have made it significantly easier for mortgage companies to foreclose on homes, and her subsequent warnings played a crucial role in persuading the President to veto the measure, according to freshly released documents and people familiar with the deliberations.
The disclosure that Warren was instrumental in halting a bill that would have streamlined the foreclosure process comes as she confronts fierce criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill for the way she was appointed to construct a new consumer financial protection bureau, and characterizations that she is inclined to take an overly punitive tack with Wall Street.
A long-time advocate for greater regulation of the financial system and a prominent critic of predatory lending, Warren now finds herself at the center of an intensifying debate over the relationship between the Obama administration and the business world.
For consumer advocates, who have long decried what they portray as Wall Street's outsized influence in Washington, Warren represents their greatest hope that big banks will be more tightly supervised following the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. For a vocal group of business leaders and their Republican allies, Warren has become Exhibit A in their case that the Obama administration is anti-business.
The decisive way in which she labored behind the scenes to stymie a bill that would have eased requirements for documentation in the foreclosure process underscores how her arrival has altered the administration's relationship with major banks.
The bill, which passed both houses of Congress and awaited President Obama's signature to become law, essentially would have compelled notaries to accept out-of-state notarizations, regardless of the rules in those states.
State officials across the country--who have been pursuing probes looking into wrongdoing within the foreclosure process-- feared that those jurisdictions with lax standards could have become hotbeds for foreclosure documentation fraud. Lenders and mortgage companies could have used those states as central clearing houses to produce bogus foreclosure paperwork, and then export those documents to other states with more stringent regulations--an expedient bypass around the strictures.
Obama ultimately declined to sign the law, and the House of Representatives failed to override the veto.
Officials said Warren was among the first federal officials to recognize the significance of the notary bill, titled the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act of 2010. She met with authorities from several states and then relayed their concerns to influential administration officials.
During the morning of Oct. 6, Warren's team at the Treasury Department wrote the first memos on the bill, raising questions about the possible consequences if it became law, these people said.
That evening, Warren met for 30 minutes with Peter Rouse, Obama's interim chief of staff, her calendar shows. She later spent an hour on the phone with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who once sued Countrywide Financial and exacted an $8.4 billion multi-state settlement.
The next day, Warren participated in an afternoon meeting on the bill, her calendar shows. During that meeting one of Obama's top spokesmen, Dan Pfeiffer, posted an entry on the White House Blog explaining why Obama would not sign the bill.
On Oct. 8, Obama declined to sign the bill into law, citing the need for "further deliberations about the possible unintended impact" of the bill on "consumer protections, including those for mortgages."
Documents released Wednesday show that Warren met or spoke with at least eight state officials leading a 50-state investigation into possibly-fraudulent mortgage documentation practices.
The state attorneys general, secretaries of state and bank supervisors are probing the way in which major mortgage companies have pushed through thousands of foreclosure cases at a time, as if on a factory assembly line, by short-cutting the required documentation process.
Recent weeks have featured a host of unsavory disclosures about how mortgage companies employed so-called robo-signers-- people whose sole job was to sign foreclosure documents without reading them or confirming basic facts, as required by law. The volume of cases and shoddy handling of paperwork is reflective of the messy and indiscriminate lending practices that characterized the nation's housing boom, as Wall Street eagerly handed mortgages to seemingly anyone willing to sign off.
The states' investigation and a parallel multi-agency federal probe are now roiling the mortgage industry, heightening the possibility that major lenders could face potentially huge fresh losses as bad loans continue to emerge. With legal and regulatory uncertainty now enshrouding the industry and public outrage trained on foreclosures, the banks could have trouble limiting those losses by selling off the homes pledged against bad mortgages.
The nation's biggest lender, Bank of America, has seen its share price drop 18 percent through yesterday's market close since the day before the states announced their joint inquiry.
Warren serves as an assistant to Obama and a special adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as she leads the effort to create the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, a watchdog designed to protect borrowers from abusive lenders. Her calendar from Sept. 20 to Nov. 2 was released per a Freedom of Information Act request.
The longtime Harvard Law School professor and consumer advocate met or spoke with the state attorneys general from Iowa, Illinois, Texas, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Ohio, her calendar shows. She also met with Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, and spoke with New York's top banking regulator, Richard H. Neiman. They are among the leaders of the combined state probe.
Warren has long chided federal regulators for their lax oversight of the financial industry and slipshod protection of consumers. She's championed state regulators, however, who have often been ahead of their federal counterparts when it comes to consumer finance issues.
Warren's calendar also shows numerous meetings with bankers and their representatives. Financial executives and lobbyists have noted that Warren was reaching out to them more than they initially expected. The calendar confirms her outreach.
On Sept. 20, the same day she took a photo for her Treasury Department badge, Warren spent an hour and a half meeting with bankers from Oklahoma, her calendar shows. She spent an hour having lunch with Geithner that day as well.
Since then she's met with the chief executives of the nation's largest banks, including Vikram Pandit of Citigroup; Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase; John Stumpf of Wells Fargo; James Gorman of Morgan Stanley; Richard Davis of U.S. Bancorp; W. Edmund Clark of TD Bank Financial Group; David Nelms of Discover Financial Services; Niall Booker of HSBC North America Holdings; and Kenneth Chenault of American Express.
The calendar entry for Chenault's one-hour meeting on Oct. 13 notes that "He's flying here for us."
Warren also met with officials from Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest lender and one of the world's biggest financial institutions.
Notably absent from Warren's calendar are officials from Bank of America, the biggest bank in the U.S. by assets and branches, including its chief executive, Brian Moynihan.
Warren's calendar includes meetings with investors and trade groups, like the Consumer Bankers Association, the Independent Community Bankers of America, the Financial Services Roundtable and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.
Though Warren is known for her vigorous advocacy on behalf of consumers, she's spent more time with bankers and their lobbyists than with consumer groups and advocates during her roughly two months on the job.
Warren's 2007 journal article calling for the creation of a dedicated consumer agency inspired policymakers to enact it into law. Big banks opposed it.
Warren has also met with nearly two dozen members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, including the likely incoming chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Spencer Bachus, and the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, Richard Shelby. The Alabama Republicans have been particularly critical of Warren and her new agency.
Warren's calendar features numerous White House meetings, like a two-hour dinner on Sept. 23 with top Obama adviser David Axelrod and breakfasts and lunches with another top Obama counselor, Valerie Jarrett. She's also met with the heads of all the major federal financial regulatory agencies, including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Among Warren's early initiatives are efforts to make credit card disclosure forms shorter and easier to read, and simplifying mortgage documents. Her first major speech since joining the administration was a Sept. 29 address to the Financial Services Roundtable, a Washington trade group representing firms like JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock and State Farm. She asked the assembled executives to work with her to create a new system of consumer regulation focused on core principles rather than a mountain of specific rules.
This woman is HOT!