Bank regulators got a sense Thursday of how their lives will be slightly different now that Elizabeth Warren sits on a Senate committee overseeing their agencies.
At her first Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing, Warren questioned top regulators from the alphabet soup that is the nation’s financial regulatory structure: the FDIC, SEC, OCC, CFPB, CFTC, Fed and Treasury.
The Democratic senator from Massachusetts had a straightforward question for them: When was the last time you took a Wall Street bank to trial? It was a harder question than it seemed.
“We do not have to bring people to trial,” Thomas Curry, head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, assured Warren, declaring that his agency had secured a large number of “consent orders,” or settlements.
“I appreciate that you say you don’t have to bring them to trial. My question is, when did you bring them to trial?” she responded.
“We have not had to do it as a practical matter to achieve our supervisory goals,” Curry offered.
Warren turned to Elisse Walter, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who said that the agency weighs how much it can extract from a bank without taking it to court against the cost of going to trial.
“I appreciate that. That’s what everybody does,” said Warren, a former Harvard law professor. “Can you identify the last time when you took the Wall Street banks to trial?”
“I will have to get back to you with specific information,” Walter said as the audience tittered.
“There are district attorneys and United States attorneys out there every day squeezing ordinary citizens on sometimes very thin grounds and taking them to trial in order to make an example, as they put it. I’m really concerned that ‘too big to fail’ has become ‘too big for trial,'” Warren said.
So the so-called conservatives are having their so-called freedom event with so-called commentators and news anchors from so-called news stations. It’s all a side show to the real problems of the country. It’s easy to misplace anger in an environment where misinformants rule the airwaves.
So, let me show you where the real theft is happening, in case you may have missed it.
First, the FDIC released yet another move towards creating a financial banking cartel. Another one bites the dust.
Corus Bank, National Association, Chicago, Illinois, was closed today by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver. To protect the depositors, the FDIC entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with MB Financial Bank, National Association, Chicago, Illinois, to assume all of the deposits of Corus Bank, N.A.
But you know there’s really nothing to see here at the NY Times: A Year After a Cataclysm, Little Change on Wall St. Much more important to focus on creeping socialism and taking our government back from imagined enemies.
One year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the surprise is not how much has changed in the financial industry, but how little.
Backstopped by huge federal guarantees, the biggest banks have restructured only around the edges. Employment in the industry has fallen just 8 percent since last September. Only a handful of big hedge funds have closed. Pay is already returning to precrash levels, topped by the 30,000 employees of Goldman Sachs, who are on track to earn an average of $700,000 this year. Nor are major pay cuts likely, according to a report last week from J.P. Morgan Securities. Executives at most big banks have kept their jobs. Financial stocks have soared since their winter lows.
No nothing to see here. Wait, a minute. Maybe we should listen to people with some expertise instead of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh who couldn’t even get one college degree or a freshman’s worth of credits between them . Maybe we shouldn’t focus on sycophants like Chris Matthews or Keith Olbermann who just want to hear themselves talk and hump each others legs until they tingle.
In fact, though, regulators and lawmakers have spent most of the last year trying to save the financial industry, rather than transform it. In the short run, their efforts have succeeded. Citigroup and other wounded banks have avoided bankruptcy, and the economy has sidestepped a depression. But the same investors and economists who predicted, and in some cases profited from, the collapse last fall say the rescue has come at an extraordinary cost. They warn that if the industry’s systemic risks are not addressed, they could cause an even bigger crisis — in years, not decades. Next time, they say, the credit of the United States government may be at risk.
Yup, what have we been talking about here for month after month after month, while we get named called every imaginable insult from one end of the political spectrum to another. I must defy definition if one day I can be called a racist republican ratfucker then be called a greenie and a leftie the next.
Oh, meanwhile …
Wow, it looks like Turbo Tax Timmy has gone rogue! We better send the press up to Alaska to chase down another Palin rumor. First, there’s that nastiness over the weekend with the Stephanapolous show on ABC where he explicitly said that the administration wasn’t ruling out new taxes on the middle class. (Something Larry-the-la-la Summers also inkled, but hey, he’s not a cabinet officer, he’s something akin to a Czar that has to be overthrown by something other than scandal and public displays of stupidity.) I believe that gave Robert Gibbs Excedrin headaches number 349-357 during yesterday’s presser.
Now, there’s rumors of a temper tantrum in the presence of all the nation’s topic economists and financial regulators outlined here in the WSJ. It seems he’s not getting the Obama way on this one. The ladies in the room have taken exception to his granting Ben Bernanke (possibly later, this year, La-la Summers) all the fun and power. I guess being an independent regulator with an agency all to yourself just isn’t what it used to be; especially when you have scary lady parts and a huge brain.
Mr. Geithner told the regulators Friday that “enough is enough,” said one person familiar with the meeting. Mr. Geithner said regulators had been given a chance to air their concerns, but that it was time to stop, this person said.
Among those gathered in the Treasury conference room were Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair.
Friday’s roughly hourlong meeting was described as unusual, not only because of Mr. Geithner’s repeated use of obscenities, but because of the aggressive posture he took with officials from federal agencies generally considered independent of the White House. Mr. Geithner reminded attendees that the administration and Congress set policy, not the regulatory agencies.
Mr. Geithner, without singling out officials, raised concerns about regulators who questioned the wisdom of giving the Federal Reserve more power to oversee the financial system. Ms. Schapiro and Ms. Bair, among others, have argued that more authority should be shared among a council of regulators.
This current turf battle is only the latest move by a group within government possibly thwarting the Treasury’s plans to continue uploading tax dollars to the bonus class in the guise of saving the financial sector. If there’s still disagreement about this point, can you imagine what other things are going on in complete disarray behind the scenes? Who is really in charge of solving this overt act of sibling rivalry? Well, if you have figured out where the buck stops in this administration, you’re doing better than me. (Hint: these folks are ALL presidential appointments).
I’ve been watching the three big regulators in the Financial Crisis (the Fed, the FDIC, and the SEC) start doing things unheard of only a year ago. What has been baffling is no one has changed any laws or charters while these things keep happening. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t have the time to go poking around a lot of the charters and laws surrounding these institutions, but you have to start wondering if some of their more unconventional moves are technically legal.
I’ve been watching the Fed Open borrowing at the Discount Window and accepting some really strange collateral. The Discount Window used to be exclusive to member banks. I’ve been looking over what they now accept as collateral and am surprised. Take a look at the list and see if you’d like to be left holding the bag on some of these things. I’m not sure I want these off budget quasi agencies turning their balance sheets into dumping grounds for some of the most heinous looking gambles available on the market.
The NY Times Reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin has been poking around the charter and law concerning the FDIC. The FDIC was chartered to provide deposit insurance to bank deposits. You would think that is a fairly straight-forward task. However, when the charter was written, the size of the task at hand today was unfathomable and it seems the FDIC is tiptoeing around some of its charter provisions. The FDIC is barred from incurring any obligation greater than $30 billion and its about to take part in guarantees that would commit $1 trillion in the PPIP bank bailout program. Sorkin reports on what he calls “mission creep” here.
Now, because of what could politely be called mission creep, it’s elbowing its way into the middle of the financial mess as an enabler of enormous leverage.
In the fine print of Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner’s plan to lend as much as $1 trillion to private investors to help them buy toxic assets from our nation’s banks, you’ll find some details of how the F.D.I.C is trying to stabilize the system by adding more risk, not less, to the system.
It’s going to be insuring 85 percent of the debt, provided by the Treasury, that private investors will use to subsidize their acquisitions of toxic assets. The program, extraordinary in its size and scope, is the equivalent of TARP 2.0. Only this time, Congress didn’t get a chance to vote.
These loans, while controversial, were given a warm welcome by the market when they were first announced. And why not? The terms are hard to beat. They are, for example, “nonrecourse,” which means that if an investor loses money, he owes taxpayers nothing. It’s the closest thing to risk-free investing — with leverage! — around.