The housing market has been on a roll this past year. Prices are rising; vacancy rates are falling; and homeowners are spending small fortunes on upgrading properties. In this context, a White House initiative, the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, launched in 2009 to reduce mortgage payments for millions of owners at risk of foreclosure, appears downright irrelevant. But Obama Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced this morning that his boss will extend the program for two years beyond its scheduled December 31, 2013 expiration date for new applicants.
A watchdog for the government's bailout program, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), has hit the US Treasury Department with a hard combo of critique regarding some of the Administration's actions since pumping billions of taxpayer dollars into bailed-out companies like General Motors and Ally Financial (formerly known as GMAC). SIGTARP issued a report lambasting Treasury for allowing excessive pay for executives at GM, Ally Financial and AIG and followed that with statements that scrutinized Treasury's continued refusal to exit its stake in Ally Financial, which is currently 74% owned by the government.
When is a government watchdog not really a watchdog?
When he rolls over and lays at the feet of his master rather than sink his teeth into a program that he’s been tasked to guard.
Such appears to be the (unsurprising) case with Herbert Allison, Jr. (pictured), a former Wall Street executive (Merrill Lynch and TIAA-CREF) until he was appointed president and CEO of Fannie Mae in 2008, after it was put into conservatorship. Subsequently President Obama named (and the Senate confirmed) him as overseer of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the $700 billion asset acquisition fund that bailed out Wall Street financial institutions. He served in that role for about 15 months, until September 2010.
The electorate’s repudiation of Barack Obama and his Congressional allies was not only a rejection of Big Government, but also of business elites who were buffeted from the downturn by political dealing at the expense of ordinary people.
Unless Corporate America heeds the election results, it too will risk the wrath of an informed and energized public. Here are CEOs who must pay attention to what happened yesterday:
Pfizer CEO Jeffrey Kindler- Not only did Kindler (above) lead the charge of Big Pharma CEOs for ObamaCare, he actually got a multi-million dollar bonus from Pfizer for doing so. This is not going to look very good once ObamaCare spikes insurance premiums, prompts hospital closures, and explodes the number of uninsured. Of course, Kindler wasn’t naïve or confused, he had reason to help destroy the health system. Big Pharma made a deal that guarantees it customers and insulation from competition. (I assume Kindler plans to retire before the government forces Pfizer to sell its products for less than it costs to produce them.)
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….
On the evening of Scott Brown’s election, I wrote that among the reasons for his victory was resentment of “a host of actions to prop up Wall Street firms at the expense of taxpayers.”
Who would have thought that less than six months later Brown would cast the decisive vote in favor of legislation that institutionalizes Wall Street bailouts, and whose sponsors — Christopher Dodd and Barney Frank — played key roles in bringing on the meltdown, not to mention representing everything that is sleazy and corrupt about Washington. If Brown wasn’t running against Barney Frank when he railed against the “machine,” then what was he talking about?
For example, ShoreBank has two sub-entities based in the Pacific Northwest: the FDIC-backed ShoreBank Pacific, and the nonprofit ShoreBank Enterprise Cascadia. Both are institutions whose lending criteria are based upon progressively defined notions of “sustainability,” with the bank a partnership between ShoreBank Corp. and the environmental group Ecotrust. The bank’s mission is to “profitably assist businesses, and through them their communities, to be sustainable in economic, social, and environmental practices.” Here’s how they explain their lending criteria:
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.