Chairman Jeb Hensarling

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Posted by Staff on July 11, 2014

Hardworking American taxpayers, who are paying more for gas (“Gasoline prices at six-year high – AAA”) and “more for almost everything this year” (CNBC), might be wondering why President Obama refuses to approve the Keystone Pipeline but is using their tax dollars to finance foreign corporate welfare -- like the nearly $5 billion in direct loans to help build a venture developed by Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company.

This is the same Saudi Aramco, by the way, that one report this week said is “pulling the rug out from under the U.S. gas industry” and has announced plans to spend its money to build 11 45,000-seat capacity stadiums by order of King Abdullah.

Here are the deal details:

In 2012, the Ex-Im Bank provided a record-breaking $4.975 billion in direct loans to help build Sadara Chemical Company, developed by the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco). Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company of Saudi Arabia, is the world’s biggest oil company, with total assets reportedly in the trillions. – (Sources:  Export-Import Bank press release, 4/4/13:  “Sadara Chemical Company Transaction is Awarded Ex-Im Bank Deal of the Year”; Saudi Aramco; Forbes; University of Texas)

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Posted by Staff on July 11, 2014
Committee Seeks Accountability and Transparency at the Federal Reserve

On Thursday, the Financial Services Committee held a hearing to examine H.R. 5018, the Federal Reserve Accountability and Transparency Act. The proposal is the first piece of legislation to arise from the Committee’s Federal Reserve Centennial Oversight Project.

"We do not suggest for a moment that Congress, much less the White House or Treasury, should conduct monetary policy operations. We continue to respect the Federal Reserve’s independence in monetary policy. But that independence and discretion must be paired with appropriate transparency and accountability. What we require today in this legislation is that the Fed use a clear map of its own choosing to set the course for monetary policy and share that map with the rest of us," Chairman Hensarling (R-TX) said.

Other members of the committee also stressed that the Fed’s independence needs to be paired with transparency and accountability, for "an independent Fed shouldn't equal an opaque Fed," said Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL).

Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI), the sponsor of H.R. 5018, said the bill “lifts this veil of secrecy by increasing accountability and transparency by limiting Fed officials ‘blackout periods’ to discuss policy with Congress, opening the rulemaking process, and requiring the Fed to provide a cost-benefit analysis for every regulation it issues. Additionally, this legislation urges the Fed to adopt a ‘rules-based’ approach to monetary policy instead of the continued improvisation strategy currently being employed. Should the Fed fail to adopt a ‘rules-based’ approach, it would trigger an audit of the Fed’s books.”

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) said, “Despite setting regulatory policies that impact millions of Americans, the Federal Reserve – by and large – operates in secret. Congress is all that stands between the central bank’s exercise of power over the financial system and the American people. So it is vital to ensure that the Fed is accountable to the people’s representatives.”

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Rep. Sean Duffy | FDIC boss visits Wausau to discuss banking regulations 

"We may have competing interests," said Duffy, a member of the House Financial Services Committee. "We want to make sure we have sound, stable lending. The chairman comes from a little different perspective after going through the crisis and all the stress that has been put on him and the FDIC team. Maybe they're a little more cautious than we'd like them to be right now."

Weekend Must Reads


Daily Signal | Ending Ex-Im Bank is All About Governing

Ex-Im is rife with corruption, doesn’t promote competition, costs taxpayers billions of dollars and threatens American jobs. It’s all about politically connected big businesses getting bigger with help from Uncle Sam. It’s not fair, not necessary, and shouldn’t be a hard decision for Congress.

The Wall Street Journal 
| Free People, Free Markets

The answer to our current slow growth and self-doubt isn't a set of magical "new ideas" or some unknown orator from the provinces. The answer is to rediscover the eternal truths that have helped America escape malaise and turmoil in the past.

Economics One | New Legislation Requires Fed to Adopt Policy Rule

A lot of research and experience shows that more predictable rules-based monetary policy leads to better economic performance. So the Federal Reserve Accountability and Transparency Act is good news.
    On the Horizon 

July 15, 2014 10:00 a.m.
Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Hearing

"The Department of Justice’s ‘Operation Choke Point"

July 15, 2014 2:00 p.m.
Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee Hearing

"Examining Regulatory Relief Proposals for Community Financial Institutions, Part II"

July 16, 2014 10:00 a.m.
Full Committee Hearing

"Monetary Policy and the State of the Economy"

July 17, 2014 9:45 a.m.
Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee Hearing

"A Legislative Proposal Entitled the ‘Bank Account Seizure of Terrorist Assets (BASTA) Act"

  In the News

Wall Street Journal | House Republicans Want Fed to Adopt Policy-Making Rules

Financial Times | Lew challenged over Volcker rule impact

Reuters| Lawmaker questions NY Fed role in U.S. regulatory risk panel

Holland Sentinel | Reps. Huizenga, Garrett release major fed reform legislation

New York Times: | House Republicans Resume Efforts to Reduce Fed’s Power

Politico Pro: | GOP to Fed: More to come

Bloomberg: | Lew Confronted Over Volcker Rule Effect on Bond Liquidity

Posted by Staff on July 07, 2014
The House is in session Tuesday through Friday this week.

On Thursday at 10:00 a.m. the full committee will hold a hearing on legislation to reform the Federal Reserve on its 100-year anniversary.

Be sure to check back here on the Bottom Line Blog -- and sign up for our email updates -- for additional information throughout the week.
Posted by Staff on July 01, 2014

1.    The Ex-Im Bank doesn’t create jobs.

  • Government export finance assistance programs like Ex-Im “largely shift production among sectors within the economy rather than raise the overall level of employment in the economy.” - Government Accountability Office, “Export-Import Bank: Key Factors in Considering Ex-Im Bank Reauthorization” 
  • “[A]t best the Ex-Im Bank creates jobs in export industries by destroying jobs in non-export industries.” – Donald Bodreaux, Ph.D, Professor of Economics at George Mason University
  • “By some estimates, the Bank’s loan guarantees have resulted in up to 7,500 lost U.S. carrier jobs, and up to $684 million of lost income for U.S. airline employees annually. – Delta Airlines

2.    The Ex-Im Bank doesn’t return money to the taxpayers.

  • The Ex-Im Bank’s profits aren’t real.  They are an accounting illusion.  The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports that if the Bank followed more accurate accounting rules, its ledger would show a cost to taxpayers of $200 million/year, or $2 billion over 10 years.  -- CBO Fair-Value Estimate

3.    The Ex-Im Bank fails to help small businesses, even though it is required by law to do so.

  • Congress requires that 20% of Ex-Im’s authorizations go to small businesses, but Ex-Im consistently fails to meet this statutory requirement.  Ex-Im even admits this in its annual report (Page 45):

  • Ex-Im’s subsidies go overwhelmingly to very large corporations like Boeing, GE and Caterpillar.

4.    The Ex-Im Bank uses American taxpayers’ money to help foreign corporations, including businesses that are owned by the governments of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

  • Of the 50 largest loans or guarantees approved by the Ex-Im Bank since FY2007, 46% of the loans have gone to state-owned companies or to a joint-venture that includes a state-owned company.  

5.    The Ex-Im Bank financed only 1.6% of total U.S. exports in 2013.

  • That’s less than 0.18 percent of the total U.S. economy.
Posted by Staff on June 27, 2014

WASHINGTON -- The House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday held an in-depth, day-long hearing focused on the Export-Import Bank.

The Washington Post - Fred Hochberg, chairman of the “embattled” Export-Import Bank, “refused to answer repeated questions” about whether he was aware of a criminal investigation being conducted into bank officials who are accused of corruption and taking kickbacks. The allegations “turned a harsher light on the agency – and fueled the arguments of the bank’s long-standing critics.”

The Daily Caller - There is “a history of reforms being ignored” at the Bank. “Strong questions about Ex-Im’s accountability were also raised” at the hearing. While Ex-Im claims it supports jobs and returns money to the taxpayers, “none of these arguments withstand scrutiny,” a witness countered.

The Guardian - The last time Congress reauthorized Ex-Im in 2012, “Congress insisted on reforms that, critics argue, were not fully implemented.” The CEO of Delta Air Lines pointed out that “state-run airlines owned by rich foreign governments” are being subsidized by U.S. taxpayers through Ex-Im.

Salon - Liberals like President Obama used to condemn Ex-Im “as a slush fund that allows the government to fund a series of nasty activities."  Now “Democrats have rushed to Ex-Im’s aid,” ignoring their earlier criticisms, for example, of “how Enron…benefitted from $675 million in Ex-Im loans.”

Washington Examiner - Victims of Ex-Im include “domestic competitors of the very few U.S. businesses to get subsidy exports,” including U.S. semiconductor makers who compete against foreign semiconductor makers “who get Ex-Im subsidies.”
 
NPR - Committee members noted Ex-Im “sends taxpayer dollars to economic competitors of the U.S., that its loan guarantees amount to crony capitalism and that its biggest beneficiaries are some of the biggest multinational companies” in the world.

Reuters - Ex-Im’s future was cast into doubt after it was held up as “an example of corporate cronyism that benefits multi-nationals at the expense of taxpayers and many small companies.” Also discussed at the hearing was a report that four Ex-Im officials “had been suspended or removed” after investigators began looking “into charges of improper gifts and kickbacks.”
 
AP - Wednesday’s hearing began with criticism that Ex-Im gives foreign airlines “a competitive advantage,” unfarily using the “full faith and credit of the United States” to “the detriment of U.S. companies and their employees.”

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Posted by Staff on June 27, 2014
In the News | The Committee on Financial Services Committee Seeks Openness and Transparency at FSOC

On Tuesday, the full committee held an oversight hearing with Treasury Secretary Lew on the activities of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC).

Under questioning from Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Secretary Lew admitted that he could not say the Dodd-Frank Act ended "Too Big to Fail" as Democrats promised.

"Can you tell this committee today with an honest, straight face that we have ended 'Too Big to Fail'?" Chairman Hensarling asked.

"I'm not sure we'll know the answer to that question until we have the next financial crisis," Secretary Lew responded.

At the hearing, Chairman Hensarling and other members of the committee also called for greater openness and transparency at FSOC.

"The reason transparency and accountability are so important is because FSOC can designate practically any large financial firm in our nation as a Systemically Important Financial Institution, a SIFI, and thus render effective control over it. Thus, it has the ability to render great damage to our economy and set back the dreams of tens of millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans who are counting on their capital markets to work for them," Chairman Hensarling said.

Earlier this month, the committee passed bills to make FSOC more accountable and transparent and to place a one-year "timeout" on its designations of non-bank institutions as "systemically important."

Export-Import Bank: Corporate Necessity or Corporate Welfare?

On Wednesday, the committee held a hearing to examine the role of the Export-Import Bank.

"If you’re a politically-connected bank or company that benefits from Ex-Im, no doubt you would like it to continue. After all, it’s a sweetheart deal for you. Taxpayers shoulder the risk and you get the reward. But if you work at a small business or other American company competing in the global marketplace, it’s unfair. Ex-Im effectively taxes you while subsidizing your foreign competitors," said Chairman Hensarling.

Captain Lee Moak, President of the Air Line Pilots Association, noted throughout his testimony "we have lost jobs" because of "our own government policy" at Ex-Im. "It's one thing competing in the free marketplace. It's another when our government subsidizes our competitor," Captain Moak said.

In his questioning of Ex-Im Chairman Fred Hochberg, Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) said Eastern Kentucky has lost 7,000 coal jobs as a "direct result of the regulatory assault" of the Obama Administration. "My question to you is why on earth - if you're about creating jobs - why are you aligning yourself with a job-killing agenda?"

Subcommittee Examines the SEC's Division of Trading and Markets 

On Thursday, the Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee held a hearing to examine the SEC's Division of Trading and Markets.

"Let me provide perhaps just two specific areas that I would like to see more attention from the commission," Subcommittee Chairman Scott Garrett (R-NJ) said. "First, the world is vastly different, we all agree, from 1975, when Congress amended the Exchange Act in response to one dominant equities exchange at the time. We live in a world of demutualized exchanges, where all market centers are for-profit, providing similar functions, yet they're competing under very different regulatory umbrellas. The SEC should take the time, therefore, to thoroughly analyze the situation and eventually make changes that put their varying market participants on, as they always say, a more level playing field. Secondly, Reg NMS, as the order protection rule is a very heavy-handed rule dictating explicitly how venues and orders are supposed to interact with each other in the marketplace. Now, this has been highlighted by a number of the commentators, including some of our previous panelists here, as one of the significant factors underlying market practices and also behavior."

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Rep. Mick Mulvaney | "In 32 Seconds, Mick Mulvaney Boils Down the Debate Over Ex-Im Bank" 

Who do you trust—a government agency justifying its existence or a private business trying to compete? That’s the question Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) posed at Wednesday's Financial Services Committee hearing on the Export-Import Bank. In just 32 seconds, Mulvaney explains why he’s siding with the free market.

Weekend Must Reads


Washington Examiner | Examiner Editorial: Why some Democrats would like to limit congressional oversight

Democrats fear that Congress is moving in the direction of correcting the monumental mistake it made when it created CFPB in 2010 and exempted it from congressional oversight of its budget.

The Wall Street Journal | The Fed Needs to Return to Monetary Rules

As the Federal Reserve's large-scale bond purchases wind down, financial markets and policy makers now are focused on when the Fed will move to increase interest rates. There is a more fundamental question that needs to be answered: Will the central bank continue its highly interventionist and discretionary monetary policies, or will it move to a more rules-based approach?

    In the News

The Washington Post | U.S. Export-Import Bank chief faces heat from Republicans in House hearing

Salon | Why Export-Import Bank politics are so perverse

Washington Examiner | Delta Air Lines' Export-Import Bank proposal: Stop giving subsidies to our foreign competitors

NPR | Conservative Critics Lobby For An Early End To Export-Import Bank

Reuters | Conservative attacks mount on U.S. export lender, put future at risk

Hot Air | Consumer Financial Protection Bureau already sinking into scandal

Posted by Staff on June 26, 2014
  

June 26, 2014
By Charles Lane

Of all the purposes for which you might put U.S. taxpayer dollars at risk, helping wealthy petro-states borrow millions to buy Boeing jets would not rank among the most urgent.

Yet that is what the Export-Import Bank does: In fiscal 2013, Ex-Im backed$8.3 billion in aircraft and related sales, including a $117.5 million loan guarantee to support Boeing 737 purchases by Dubai — a typical transaction for an agency that has, over the years, earned the sobriquet “Bank of Boeing,” though it does also support Caterpillar and General Electric, among others.

Now Ex-Im suddenly faces extinction: Its charter expires Sept. 30, and the agency’s best friend in the House Republican leadership, former majority leader Eric Cantor (Va.), who shepherded a bipartisan reauthorization bill in 2012, lost his GOP primary this month. Ex-Im must contend instead with free-market Republicans such as Jeb Hensarling (Tex.), chairman of the committee that oversees Ex-Im, and a new majority leader, Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who has abandoned his past support for Ex-Im in deference to the tea party.

Say what you want about the tea party, its critique of Ex-Im Bank as “crony capitalism” has a lot going for it; President Obama himself singled out Ex-Im as an example of “corporate welfare” when he was running for president in 2008 — although his administration, and most congressional Democrats, support it now.

Ex-Im defenders from the International Association of Machinists union to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are bombarding Congress and the media with the message that Ex-Im is a realistic instrument of national policy, without which Boeing and other U.S. firms could not compete against heavily subsidized European companies, such as Airbus.

Hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs depend on these exports, the argument goes, and Ex-Im made $1 billion last year from fees for loan guarantees and the like, so the U.S. economy gets all those benefits and it doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime.

Has Ex-Im finally discovered the elusive free lunch? Suppose it’s true, as the bank reports, that 205,000 U.S. workers owed their employment to Ex-Im-supported exports in fiscal 2013. This is not evidence of job creation; it’s evidence of governmentally-assisted job allocation. Resources that Ex-Im helped steer to Boeing, et al., might have created the same number of jobs, or more, at other firms.

Indeed, the first crack in a formerly united front of business support for Ex-Im appeared when Delta Airlines complained — plausibly — that Ex-Im-backed sales of Boeing jets to state-owned competitors abroad put Delta and its workers at a competitive disadvantage.

To fight the “bank of Boeing” stigma, Congress has required Ex-Im to allocate more of its portfolio (up to $140 billion under current law) to small business and “green” exports. No doubt these quotas spread Ex-Im largesse among more businesses — and congressional districts — thus broadening its political base.

Economically, though, nothing changes. Government is still picking winners and losers; it’s just picking more of them, in more markets, with more opportunities for bureaucratic decision-making, lobbying and, now and then, corruption — like the alleged bribery of an Ex-Im official by a construction-equipment exporter that the Ex-Im inspector general is investigating.

The no-cost-to-the-taxpayer argument is overblown, too. If Ex-Im backs loans that the private sector would not otherwise make, then, by definition, its portfolio is risky. Yet under existing law the federal budget accounts for Ex-Im’s loans as if they were as safe as Treasury debt. According to the Congressional Budget Office, a more accurate measure known as “fair value accounting,” which factors in foreseeable business cycle downturns, would show that Ex-Im adds $2 billion to the deficit over the next decade, rather than reducing it by $14 billion, as currently claimed.

The strongest argument for Ex-Im is that the United States can’t unilaterally disarm in a world where both buyers and sellers expect government intervention — not only from Europe, but also China and Japan — in the market for big-ticket items such as planes, nuclear reactors and locomotives.

It is an undeniably realistic contention, if not a principled one — all the more reason it might yet prevail. The Senate leans pro-Ex-Im. Forty-one House Republicans have signed a letter promising to back a bill if GOP leaders bring it to the floor, and most House Democrats are already on board.

Even if abolition is impossible, Ex-Im’s critics might have leverage to win real reforms, starting with fair-value risk accounting in the budget and an end to quotas for small business and green energy.

Ultimately, the best hope may be to negotiate tougher international rules against export subsidies, so every country’s companies can compete on their merits — and no country’s taxpayers are on the hook.

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Posted by Staff on June 24, 2014
 
By Damian Paletta
 
The U.S. Export-Import Bank has suspended or removed four officials in recent months amid investigations into allegations of gifts and kickbacks, as well as attempts to steer federal contracts to favored companies, several people familiar with the matter said.

One employee, Johnny Gutierrez, an official in the short-term trade finance division, allegedly accepted cash payments in exchange for trying to help a Florida company obtain U.S. government financing to export construction equipment to Latin America, according to a person familiar with the inquiry. Mr. Gutierrez was escorted from the Ex-Im Bank building in April, said two people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Gutierrez's lawyer, Douglas McNabb, confirmed his client had been placed on leave after an investigation by the agency's inspector general, but he wouldn't comment on details of the investigation. Mr. Gutierrez couldn't be reached for comment.

Of the four employees, Mr. Gutierrez's responsibilities were most central to the agency's core mission of financing exports. Two of the others are being investigated over allegations of improperly awarding contracts to help run the agency; the third is being investigated over allegations of accepting gifts on behalf of a company seeking financing, according to people familiar with the matter. The identities of the three couldn't be fully corroborated.

The Ex-Im Bank hasn't disclosed information about the investigations, and declined to comment on Mr. Gutierrez's status, citing privacy laws. Matt Bevens, a spokesman for the agency, said that "the Export-Import Bank takes extremely seriously its commitment to taxpayers and its mission to support U.S. jobs."

Michael McCarthy, the agency's deputy inspector general, said his office couldn't comment on the existence of any investigations.

The internal investigations come at a pivotal time for the agency. Congress is considering whether to reauthorize the 80-year-old federal trade-finance agency, and two of the top three House Republican leaders now say they won't agree to authorize the agency's charter after it expires in September. The allegations of misconduct could complicate an already difficult political environment for those who support the agency's reauthorization.

The agency's chairman, Fred Hochberg, and its inspector general are scheduled to testify before a congressional panel Wednesday about the agency's mandate and operations.

The agency and its 400 employees help finance export deals for a number of large and small U.S. companies, including Boeing Co., General Electric Co. and Caterpillar Inc. Boeing is one of the largest beneficiaries of the federal agency's financing, but hundreds of smaller companies also win approval.

Mr. Hochberg has recently been traveling around the country talking up his agency's benefits to the U.S. economy. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and several large companies are lobbying lawmakers aggressively to allow the agency to continue backing loans.

The Chamber and NAM released a letter Monday signed by 865 U.S. companies and industry groups supporting the agency's reauthorization.

The IG is investigating whether Mr. Gutierrez accepted improper gifts from Gerardo "Jerry" Diaz, who runs a Florida company called Impex Associates, a person familiar with the matter said.

Multiple efforts to reach Mr. Diaz and Impex were unsuccessful. A lawyer who represented Mr. Diaz in a federal court case in 2006 said he no longer worked for Mr. Diaz and hadn't represented him in years.

Impex ramped up its operations a decade ago, selling U.S. construction equipment and supplies to developers, mainly in Latin America, according to Ex-Im Bank records and the 2006 lawsuit filed against Mr. Diaz by a former business associate, Rama Vyasulu.

The agency has guaranteed numerous Impex deals, stretching back to at least 2002, according to agency records. For example, at one meeting in June 2007, the agency's credit committee agreed to guarantee financing for an Impex project worth between $1 million and $5 million in Mexico, and a similarly sized equipment sale to the Dominican Republic.

The agency has guaranteed numerous Impex deals, stretching back to at least 2002, according to agency records. For example, at one meeting in June 2007, the agency's credit committee agreed to guarantee financing for an Impex project worth between $1 million and $5 million in Mexico, and a similarly sized equipment sale to the Dominican Republic.

The agency has also backed Impex deals in Jamaica and the Turks and Caicos, but not all projects were in Latin America. The agency in 2005 talked up its decision to guarantee a $30 million Impex construction project to build a housing community for oil and gas workers in Doha, Qatar.

The Export-Import Bank changed how it disclosed financing deals in 2010 and no longer discloses all the small business loans it originates. An agency spokesman wouldn't comment on the agency's recent involvement with Impex, though it has backed Impex deals through at least 2011.

The agency operates on borrowed money from the Treasury Department, which it pays interest on. It uses that money for direct loans or loan guarantees. In fiscal 2013, the agency authorized $27 billion to support an estimated $37.4 billion in U.S. export sales. It also sent $1.06 billion to the U.S. Treasury, money it earned from interest and fees.

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Posted by Staff on June 23, 2014
The Financial Services Committee will hold the following hearings this week:

Tuesday, June 24 at 10 a.m. – The Committee will hear from Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on the Annual Report of the Financial Stability Oversight Council.

Wednesday, June 25 at 10 a.m. – The Committee will hold a hearing entitled:  “Examining Reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank:  Corporate Necessity or Corporate Welfare?”

Thursday, June 26 at 9:15 a.m. – The Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises will hold a hearing entitled:  “Oversight of the SEC’s Division of Trading and Markets.”

All hearings will take place in Room 2128 of the Rayburn House Office Building.  Further information about the hearings can be found at www.financialservices.house.gov/.

Posted by Staff on June 20, 2014
Committee Seeks Accountability at the CFPB

On Tuesday, the full committee held a hearing with Director Richard Cordray to receive the fifth Semi-Annual Report of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 

"Since Director Cordray last appeared before our committee in January, we have learned much. First, we have learned in the first quarter of this year we actually had negative economic growth of one percent. And when you speak to practically any small businessperson, any community banker they will tell you the sheer weight, volume, complexity of the regulatory red tape burden is one of the primary reasons that they cannot expand and hire more people," said Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX).

Chairman Hensarling and Members of the committee addressed further troubling issues at the Bureau and highlighted the need for accountability at the CFPB.

"These disturbing developments once again demonstrate, I believe conclusively, why there must be substantial structural reform at the CFPB.  Consumers deserve accountability – not only from Wall Street but they deserve it from Washington, too.  Yet, by design the CFPB remains arguably the least accountable Washington bureaucracy in the history of America and it shows.  This must change," Chairman Hensarling said.

Subcommittee Hears Testimony from Subpoenaed CFPB Witnesses

The House Financial Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee heard testimony this week from two more whistleblowers as part of its ongoing investigation into discrimination and retaliation at the CFPB.

“CFPB’s funding and structure afford Congress an extremely limited ability to influence the Bureau’s operations and policies, and yet these allegations of discrimination and retaliation at the CFPB underscores the significant need for greater Congressional oversight of the CFPB,” said Subcommittee Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-NC).

The whistleblowers -- CFPB Examiner Ali Naraghi and former Bureau employee Kevin Williams – asked to be subpoenaed in order to guard against further retaliation by the Bureau.

Naraghi and Williams described a hostile work environment at the CFPB.

“After being subjected to disparate treatment, I asked my management in May 2012 about the reason for being treated like this,” said Naraghi. “Management responded that they did not like me asking questions about the reason behind orders and what my rights may be, and how I raised questions about certain aspects of CFPB management practices.”

“They proceeded to make my professional and personal life a living hell by repeated retaliation and creating a hostile work environment,” Naraghi added.

Williams told the Subcommittee of similar discrimination and retaliation.  “Sadly, instead of the positive, modern government agency I had expected, my experience at the CFPB was reminiscent of past eras of injustice, cronyism, discrimination, and retaliation,” he said.

Committee Passes TRIA Reform and FSOC Accountability and Transparency Bills

The House Financial Services Committee on Friday passed 3 bills, to bring much needed reforms to the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) and much needed transparency and accountability to the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC).

"I remind all that TRIA, when originally envisioned, was meant to be a transitional program.  Let me quote from the statute: “The purpose of this title is to establish a temporary Federal program that provides for a transparent system of shared public and private compensation… and allow for a transitional period for the private markets to stabilize ….” Yet here we are discussing the third reauthorization. If passed, TRIA, a temporary program, would be in existence for nearly 20 years," said Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX).

The Chairman called for accountability and transparency at FSOC, "an agency that has no discernible standard by which to designate these non-bank firms. They operate in a complete secretive and opaque fashion. They themselves can create systemic risk in our economy," he said.

"The two bills we will consider today, one will bring more transparency and an open process; the other will simply call a one-year “timeout” so that Congress has a chance to assess this work.  Again, there has been great concern by Members on both sides of the aisle. I think these are reasonable bills to begin to address an incredibly important issue before our committee. I urge Members on both sides of the aisle to support
all the legislation before us," Hensarling added.


MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Rep. Ed Royce | Rep. Royce Presses Cordray at Financial Services Committee Hearing 

Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) said at Tuesday's full committee hearing that the CFPB "appears to be making policy without obtaining public input. This trend is a cause for concern, as the lack of public input during policy formulation often leads to unintended consequences including regulatory confusion and less consumer choice."

Weekend Must Reads


Washington Times | Examiner Editorial: Federal agency can't hide exploding cost of refurbishing its HQ

The truth is, as the Examiner's Richard Pollock has exhaustively reported using the bureau's own numbers and those of the General Services Administration, the cost of the CFPB's headquarters renovation has exploded. Many of the reasons behind the skyrocketing renovation costs ought to be, as Johanns accurately put it, “embarrassing” for Cordray. The projected cost total of $55 million came from the Office of Thrift Supervision, the previous occupant of the CFPB's headquarters. Members of the House Financial Services Committee have also demanded but not received answers for several years on why that total has more than doubled to $139 million.

Wall Street Journal The Asset-Rich, Income-Poor Economy

The Fed's extraordinary tools are far more potent in goosing balance-sheet wealth than spurring real income growth. The most recent employment report reveals the troubling story for Main Street. While 217,000 jobs were created in May, incomes for most Americans remain under stress, with only modest improvements in hours worked and average hourly earnings.