Posted by Staff on June 27, 2014
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."
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
NPR | Conservative Critics Lobby For An Early End To Export-Import Bank
Posted by Staff on June 26, 2014
June 26, 2014
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.
Posted by Staff on June 24, 2014
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.
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 BillsThe 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.
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.
Posted by Staff on June 17, 2014
Note: The Financial Services Committee will hold two hearings about the CFPB on Wednesday, June 18. At 10 a.m., the full committee will hear from CFPB Director Richard Cordray. At 2 p.m., the Financial Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hear from CFPB whistleblowers during its third hearing on allegations of discrimination and retaliation within the CFPB. Both hearings will take place in room 2128 Rayburn House Office Building and will be webcast at http://financialservices.house.gov/.
POLITICO PRO: CFPB employee’s charges of retaliation to be aired at hearing
A Consumer Financial Protection Bureau employee will testify before Congress this week about a “culture of intimidation and retaliation” at the agency and raise allegations of mistreatment in the workplace — including that he was referred to as an “F-ing foreigner” by someone in management.
Ali Naraghi, an examiner with the division of supervision, fair lending and enforcement for the CFPB’s Southeast region, is one of two witnesses set to appear before the House Financial Services Oversight Subcommittee on Wednesday as a part of the panel’s ongoing investigation into allegations of discrimination and retaliation within the agency.
Naraghi — who is of Persian heritage — does not specify who in management allegedly called him an “F-ing foreigner” in his opening remarks, which were obtained by POLITICO.
“Like many others, I feel fortunate to have immigrated to the United States, and do not deserve to be referred to in derogatory terms by Bureau management,” Naraghi says in prepared testimony. Naraghi claims that several people at the agency made his life “a living hell” through repeated retaliation and hostile behavior.
Naraghi and Kevin Williams, a former CFPB employee who was a quality monitor at the bureau’s Office of Consumer Response, were issued subpoenas by the Oversight Subcommittee last week and are set to testify in a hearing Wednesday afternoon. The committee’s Republican staff said both individuals requested they be subpoenaed so that they could share their stories without risking further retaliation.
It is the second time this year that the committee exercised its subpoena powers to compel the testimonies of people connected to the CFPB, and Wednesday will mark the third hearing where witnesses discuss alleged mismanagement across the agency.
The CFPB has come under congressional scrutiny this year after it was first reported in March that white employees received higher ratings than minorities on a rating scale that the agency uses to determine employee benefits, including raises and bonuses. An internal review found disparities in the ways employees were evaluated in recent years based on factors like race ethnicity, age and pay, and the bureau announced last month that it would compensate workers who may have received unfair performance ratings as a part of the CFPB’s “corrective actions.”
The recent charges that have dogged the agency are also expected to be at the center of CFPB Director Richard Cordray’s testimony before the Financial Services Committee Wednesday morning.
Republicans opposed the creation of CFPB and have been critical of the agency since it opened for business in 2011, arguing it represents a government overreach and will make it harder for consumers to get credit. They have seized on the recent allegations of discrimination and retaliation at the agency. Democrats have expressed concerns about the charges as well but have urged panel Republicans to broaden the inquiry to all financial regulators rather than focus only on the bureau.
Naraghi, who formerly worked at the Federal Reserve, says in his opening remarks that his experience at the CFPB has demonstrated that “voicing a professional dissenting opinion that is any way at odds with Bureau management — even in the smallest of ways — will result in retaliation.”
“Unfortunately, the Southeast Region examination program is run by intimidation and, like a dictatorship, there are significant consequences for disagreeing and/or disobeying the King,” he says.
He directs criticism at several CFPB employees, including chief human capital officer Dennis Slagter. Naraghi alleges that when he offered feedback to Slagter about the large bank supervision program, the response he received was: “If you don’t like it, go back to the Federal Reserve Board.”
When he raised concerns to management about unfair treatment in 2012, Naraghi says he was told “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.” And after he filed a complaint with the office of Equal Employment Opportunity, Naraghi claims he quickly became “one of the targets” of Regional Director Jim Carley and Assistant Director of Supervision Examination Paul Sanford.
A bureau spokesperson declined to comment directly on Naraghi’s testimony. They pointed to a March report from CFPB’s inspector general that made recommendations on how the bureau can improve its supervisory activities. CFPB officials told the IG they have taken steps to address the audit’s findings, according to the report.
The opening statement also details what Naraghi says was his attempt to appeal to Liza Strong, a labor and employee relations official at CFPB, in July 2012. When he sent her an email detailing concerns about mistreatment and flagged what he considered to be “unprofessional” and “possibly illegal” conduct by field manager Jerome Uberu, Naraghi says Strong responded nearly three months later and did not investigate the complaint.
“Ms. Strong’s outright dismissal of my own legitimate concerns of mismanagement has caused Mr. Uberu to become more brazen in his intimidation and abuse of my fellow examiners,” he said.
Strong was one of the witnesses subpoenaed by the Financial Services Oversight Committee earlier this year. In a May hearing, Strong came under fire from House Republicans on whether the bureau acted promptly to address concerns raised in a September report about its hiring practices and employee diversity and whether the agency tried to sweep its findings under the rug during negotiations over a new employee evaluation system.
Strong’s lawyer, John Dowd, said Monday that the email Naraghi cites was directed to the head of the EEO and that Strong was cc’d on the note. Dowd said Strong offered “courteous advice” despite being “swamped with work and short of staff at the time,” and that Naraghi’s testimony “appears to be a deliberate, unfounded, and baseless leak of erroneous information about Ms. Strong’s responsibilities and obligations at the CFPB to cast her in a false light as earlier testimony before this Committee attempted to do.”
“Ms. Strong’s job is to investigate complaints, not become engaged in the EEO process,” Dowd added. “The EEO process is separate from her job. Indeed, it would be improper for her to become involved in the EEO process.”
The CFPB declined to make Slagter, Carley, Sanford and Uberu available for comment.
Posted by Staff on June 09, 2014
WSJ Editorial | June 9, 2014
Unless you are part of the Ex-Im brotherhood, you couldn't begin to guess when it was created—in 1934 by Franklin D. Roosevelt. It's now kept on life support by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and an in-crowd of current and retired Congressional Republicans and Democrats.
The FDR antique provides taxpayer-backed loans, loan guarantees, working capital guarantees and export credit insurance to clients of some of America's largest corporations, such as Boeing and General Electric, and to politically favored concerns such as Elon Musk's Space X. Two years ago a bipartisan coalition waved through Ex-Im's reauthorization and increased its lending cap by $40 billion, to $140 billion. This year Ex-Im wants another five-year reauthorization and a lending cap boost to $160 billion.
Republicans serious about cleaning up their act might want to parse the following Ex-Im arguments for its existence before giving the bank another taxpayer fill-up.
• Ex-Im does deals that private lenders shun. If a private bank won't do an export-financing deal, why should Congress put taxpayer money at risk to clinch the deal? In today's global financial markets, companies large and small can access trade financing, either in the capital markets or from lenders.
Private loans may be more expensive, but that's because competitive markets attempt to price accurately the trade-off between risk and reward. The Ex-Im subsidy also distorts economic decision-making in developing countries. Politicians love a national airline that's flying new Boeings, but maybe their citizens would be better served with better roads.
• Ex-Im operates at "no cost" to taxpayers and even generates profits. Ex-Im CEO Fred Hochberg told the House last year that Ex-Im "has generated $1.6 billion for U.S. taxpayers over the past five years." That's true, but Ex-Im hasn't always been profitable, and as the Mercatus Center's Veronique de Rugy has noted, Ex-Im's exposure to "loans, guarantees, and insurance" and other miscellaneous claims has exploded, rising to $113.8 billion in 2013 from $57.4 billion in 2007.
The bank's own stress test in December predicted that its capital reserves could be wiped out in a crisis. The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that if the bank used fair-value accounting that better measured market risk, Ex-Im would lose $2 billion over 10 years.
• Other countries subsidize exports, so the U.S. should too. The illogic here is that because China subsidizes exports for American consumers at the expense of the Chinese taxpayer, American taxpayers should return the favor for Chinese consumers.
There is also little evidence showing that Ex-Im is a main export driver, and in practice its guarantees favor some U.S. companies over others. One of the unfavored is Delta Airlines, which must compete with the foreign airlines that Ex-Im assists through its loans to Boeing and General Electric. As Delta put it in a letter to Mr. Hochberg, "Ex-Im is inflicting real and lasting harm on the U.S. airline industry and American jobs" by helping Delta's foreign competitors buy cheaper airplanes.
• Ex-Im finances small businesses and creates jobs. Let's put that differently: Congress requires Ex-Im to finance small business and purports to create jobs. Congress has layered mandates on the bank to support women- and minority-owned businesses, green companies, and firms in sub-Saharan Africa. But the bulk of its business is with very large corporations like Boeing, GE and Caterpillar.
The process by which the bank counts its jobs numbers is opaque. A May 2013 Government Accountability Office report said the bank can't distinguish between jobs "newly created" or jobs "maintained." The GAO found so many other problems that it asked the bank to "increase transparency by improving reporting on the assumptions and limitations in the methodology and data used to calculate the number of jobs Ex-Im supports."
The 80-year old bank doesn't much care for criticism. At Ex-Im's annual conference in April, a testy Mr. Hochberg said the bank's critics "can't stomach the thought that the government might have a role to play in empowering U.S. businesses to compete across the globe."
Not quite, Mr. Hochberg. What they can't abide is a government that continues to practice crony capitalism even after the failures of Fannie Mae, Fisker Automotive and Solyndra. Republican voters in particular want the cronyism to stop. House leaders need to show they get the message.
Posted by on June 06, 2014
Why Is Obama Stockpiling Your Personal Financial Records?
IBD Editorial | June 6, 2014
It will encompass a mortgage holder's entire credit history — including credit scores and account balances — and all credit lines, from credit cards to student and car loans.
"Why are we collecting this amount of data on this many individuals?" asked GOP Rep. Randy Neugebauer of the House banking panel.
The key data that the agencies plan to collect involve "household demographics" — namely, "race/ethnicity." The database will be used to compare the credit outcomes of minority vs. white borrowers. Any statistical disparities will be used to make "disparate impact" bias cases against private creditors in a vast redistribution scheme.
The agencies even allude to this in their proposed rule, recently posted in the Federal Register and opened to public comment for just 30 days, half the normal time.
The FHFA and CFPB explain that they're going to use all these intimate details on families and their financial lives to "conduct research, performance modeling and examination monitoring." They're also going to share it with Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as state attorneys general and trial lawyers, to aid in their "investigations" of, and "litigation" against, the financial industry, which they've already shaken down for an estimated $100 billion since the mortgage crisis. Apparently, they're just getting started.
Then there are the privacy concerns.
In their data dragnet, Obama's diversity police will snag your Social Security number and all account numbers. Don't worry about hacking, identity theft or cyberfraud, they assure us. They'll store your personal info in "locked file rooms, locked file cabinets" inside a building with "security cameras" and 24-hour security guards.
As for computerized records, they'll be "safeguarded through use of access codes." Only the proposed rule lists no fewer than 14 entities outside the agencies who will have access to those codes and files — including outside contractors, as well as "advisers," "volunteers" and "interns." No chance of mischief there.
Here's the full rundown of data they plan to gather on you and your family:
"Records in the system may include without limitation: (1) Borrower/co-borrower information (name, address, zip code, telephone numbers, date of birth, race/ethnicity, gender, language, religion, social security number, education records, military status/records, employment status/records); (2) Financial information (account number, financial events in the last few years, life events in the last few years, other assets/wealth); (3) Mortgage information (current balance, current monthly payment, delinquency grid, monthly payment, refinanced amount, bankruptcy information); (4) Credit card/other loan information (account type, credit amount, account balance amount, account past due amount, account minimum payment amount, account actual payment amount, account high balance amount, account charge off amount, second mortgage); (5) Household composition (single male, single female, etc., presence of children by various age categories, number of wage earners in household, household income, credit score(s) of borrower/co-borrower at origination (Vantage Score), deceased indicator, marital status); (6) Property attributes (property type ... census tract/block/latitude/longitude)" and on and on.
Those clamoring for impeachment might want to also focus on the Orwellian nature of this presidency.
Posted by Staff on May 23, 2014
Committee Examines the Dangers of FSOC’s Designation Process
On Tuesday, the full committee held a hearing to examine the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s (FSOC) designation process for deeming banks and non-bank firms as “systemically important” and the impact of such designations.
"FSOC was established—or so its supporters tell us—to make it easier for regulators to communicate and share information with each other. But the regulators didn’t need an act of Congress to do that, and information-sharing is not what FSOC is really about. Instead, FSOC is about one thing: increasing Washington’s control over the U.S. economy thus curtailing both economic freedom and economic prosperity. And FSOC does this through its power to designate “Systemically Important Financial Institutions”—or, in bureaucrat-speak, “SIFIs,” said Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX).
"Having failed to prevent the last financial crisis, notwithstanding having every regulatory power necessary to do so, regulators were rewarded with even more power by the Dodd-Frank Act. The Dodd-Frank Act represents a breathtaking outsourcing of legislative power to the executive branch. Federal agencies now have virtually unfettered discretion to expand their regulatory control through a designation process that is opaque, secretive, vague, open-ended, and highly subjective," he said.
Chairman Hensarling and Members of the committee called on FSOC "to cease and desist further SIFI designations until Congress can review the entire matter." Witnesses argued that FSOC's designations would harm the U.S. financial system and hurt the economy.
Subcommittee Discusses Legislative Proposals to Reform Domestic Insurance Policy
On Tuesday, the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee held a hearing to examine five legislative proposals addressing domestic insurance issues.
"We turn our attention to some insurance reform legislation that focuses on protecting policyholders, offering more consumer choice for insurance products and providing regulatory relief to reduce costs to domestic policyholders," said Subcommittee Chairman Randy Neugebauer (R-TX).
Subcommittee Hears Testimony from Subpoenaed CFPB Witnesses
On Wednesday, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee received testimony from CFPB officials who were recently subpoenaed as part of the subcommittee’s ongoing investigation into allegations of discrimination and retaliation at the CFPB.
“The fact is that discrimination on the basis of race, sex or other prohibited factors is destructive, morally repugnant, and against the law. All government agencies, including the CFPB, must continue to combat discrimination in employment and punish those responsible for discrimination,” said Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-NC).
Wednesday's hearing comes nearly a month after subcommittee members voted 20-0 to issue subpoenas to Stacey Bach, Assistant Director of the CFPB’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity; Liza Strong, Director of Employee Relations at the CFPB; and Ben Konop, Executive Vice President of the CFPB’s employee union, Chapter 335 of the National Treasury Employees Union.
Konop testified that the employees union repeatedly raised concerns with the CFPB about its employee performance review system.
“[W]e alleged that women and minority employees were being underpaid when compared to similarly situated white male colleagues. To date, the Bureau has denied each of these grievances at all stages, often using inconsistent reasoning, despite what I feel is convincing evidence of low pay for numerous women and minority workers,” Konop told the subcommittee.
During the hearing, the subcommittee discussed a report commissioned by the CFPB and conducted by Deloitte Consulting. The findings of Deloitte’s report corroborate whistleblower and CFPB employee Angela Martin’s testimony that there have been problems related to the CFPB’s hiring, staff promotions, performance reviews and employee pay since the Bureau’s inception.
Subcommittee Discusses Legislative Proposals to Improve Transparency and Accountability at the CFPB
On Wednesday, the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee held a hearing to examine legislative proposals to improve transparency and accountability at the CFPB.
Subcommittee Chairman Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) said the bills discussed at today’s hearing represent “a continuation of this committee’s efforts to make the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau a more transparent and accountable agency. I would like to thank the sponsors of the legislation before us for their hard work in crafting common sense reforms to the Bureau.”
Witnesses at today’s hearing described the CFPB as a uniquely unaccountable, secretive, and powerful agency whose actions make it harder for American businesses to create jobs and that is in need of greater transparency, accountability and oversight.
Committee Passes Job Growth and Regulatory Relief Bills
The House Financial Services Committee on Thursday passed 11 bills to enhance capital formation for small and emerging growth companies and provide regulatory relief for community financial institutions.
“When we, as a committee, have the opportunity to help put Americans back to work, to help create jobs, we have the responsibility to do so and hopefully to do so on a bipartisan basis. This is why our committee has already guided 22 regulatory relief bills to House passage. The vast majority of those bills, once again, have received strong -- not just token -- but strong bipartisan support,” said Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX).
“Now it is most regrettable that the Senate, where all good ideas go to languish and fail, has indeed failed to take up a single one of those bipartisan bills. I would strongly encourage my Democratic colleagues, who may spend more quality time with the Senate Majority Leader and the President than do I, to encourage them to take up these bills, to contact their friends and colleagues in the Senate and in the White House and urge them to pay attention to what our committee has put forth on a bipartisan basis. This would indeed be very, very constructive. But again, despite the Senate’s failure to act, we must act,” Hensarling added.
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Flashback Friday: Project Director’s Video Comments Air Privacy Concerns Surrounding Federal Mortgage DatabasePosted by Staff on May 16, 2014
“It is easy reverse engineer and identify the people in our database.”
“At present we are allowed to have any federal employee gain access” to the database.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling and Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo this week sent a letter to the CFPB and FHFA raising serious privacy concerns about the massive federal mortgage database the two agencies are creating.
A recent notice in the Federal Register outlined how expansive the agencies’ database will be. Specifically, the notice proposes to vastly expand the scope of their data collection to include highly personal information that is unrelated to the purchase of a home. For example, data fields would include one’s religion, Social Security number, education and military records, languages spoken, ages of children at home, and major life events.
At a January 28, 2014 hearing with CFPB Director Richard Cordray, the House Financial Services Committee highlighted comments from Bob Avery, the Project Director for the mortgage database. In a video shown at the hearing, Avery says the mortgage database is vulnerable to hackers.
“It is easy to reverse engineer and identify the people in our database,” Avery is seen saying on the video. “We have the date the mortgage was taken out, the size of the mortgage and we have the Census tract [of the mortgage holder]. Ninety-five percent of these are unique.”
Wall Street Journal: Republicans Call Federal Mortgage Database an ‘Unwarranted Intrusion’