"It's time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts and no cop-outs. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody." Thus President Obama laid down the gauntlet in his recent State of the Union address. Yet he remains committed to subsidizing industries. And mortgage lending is high on his priority list. In his speech, he announced a plan that "gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low rates...A small fee on the largest institutions will ensure that it won't add to the deficit, and will give banks that were rescued by taxpayers a chance to repay a deficit of trust."
Charlie Gasparino of Fox Business Network reported yesterday that the Obama Administration, Federal Reserve and Wall Street firms (like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, etc.) are exploring a “face-saving” measure by splitting the presidentially beloved ShoreBank Corporation in two, with the community/green jobs lender surviving with the “good” assets while the FDIC and private investors absorb the toxic assets. Another reporter following the story told me that ShoreBank's Friday deadline from the investors has been extended but he didn't know how long. A spokeswoman from Goldman Sachs refused to comment on the issue.
Here's the split-the-baby scenario explained by Gasparino:
ShoreBank’s capital deficiency worsened in the second quarter, according to newly submitted financial results to regulators, and the Chicago-based lender now needs to raise at least $190 million just to meet targets set out in March by state and U.S. banking regulators….
The deadline for ShoreBank to come up with sufficient outside capital has been extended again, with the Federal Reserve saying more than $150 million from the likes of Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and $75 million in TARP money aren’t enough to save the politically-connected community lender. Crain’s Chicago Business reports it’s the third extension the Wall Street firms have granted to enable ShoreBank to get its act together, with the new deadline August 6.
Supporters call it "financial services reform." Yet one has to wonder what the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 is reforming or stabilizing. The House on Wednesday by a 237-192 margin passed the 2,300-plus-page conference bill designed to protect American households from predatory practices by banks, subprime lenders, brokerage houses and other intermediaries. But evidence suggests that if it becomes law, the bill instead will lay the groundwork for another major federal bailout. During House-Senate conference sessions, affirmative action zealots inserted a host of mandates to promote credit allocation by race.
Last week the Chicago Tribunereported that Illinois Finance Authority chairman Bill Brandt threatened “a firestorm” in the Windy City if the Federal Reserve did not follow through with a bailout of South Side-based ShoreBank. This followed some reported pressure applied by the Obama Administration on companies like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, GE Capital, Bank of America, and Chase, who were asked to kick in $20 million each to make politically-backed community lender appear eligible to receive TARP funds.
Turns out the preference for Chicago-type coercion goes right to the top (and the origins) of the troubled bank itself.
Illinois Republican Rep. Judy Biggert on Wednesday inserted into the financial regulatory reform bill an amendment calling for an investigation of efforts to rescue ShoreBank. Meanwhile the White House issued denials that it pushed for a bailout of the politically-favored community lender. The Chicago Sun-Timesreported yesterday:
As Chicago's ShoreBank struggles to survive, the Obama White House issued a strong statement Wednesday denying that it is interfering in any way with federal regulators or influencing financial institutions willing to pump money into the bank.
The bailout of Chicago-based ShoreBank has hit a serious snag as the Federal Reserve and Treasury drag their feet on whether to provide funding to the ailing South Side lender, sources close to the situation say….
The Treasury is deferring to the Federal Reserve. One source said some at the Fed want ShoreBank to raise more private dollars before it gets government money.
Despite mortgage interest rates falling to near all-time lows, America's homeowners are in a state of unease not seen since the Great Depression. In 2009, nearly 4 million foreclosure notices went out to homeowners unable to keep up with their payments, an increase of more than 20 percent from 2008. Many explanations lie behind this collapse, but arguably the most crucial, and underappreciated, has been excessive federal intervention in the housing market. Recent reports and articles from American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Senior Fellow Peter Wallison and AEI Visiting Fellow Charles Calomiris strongly suggest the pileup of bad mortgage paper has the words "Made in Washington" written all over it. In other words, rogue capitalism is partly to blame, but rogue government has played a central enabling role.
The word "reform" in the age of Obama has taken on a clear meaning: aggressive expansion of government control over economic decision-making by businesses and consumers. The recently-passed health care bill, rammed through Congress via highly unorthodox parliamentary procedures, is evidence enough of that. Yet even supporters of new financial services reform legislation now before the full Senate may be hard-pressed to explain how the mammoth 1,336-page measure is supposed to improve efficiency and integrity in credit markets.