Archive for the ‘Consumer Financial Protection Agency’ Category

[original post 5/13/2010]

The financial reform bill is finally in its home stretch in the Senate, but Americans have yet to fully engage on the issue.  In fact, in recent weeks as I’ve worked with various grassroots leaders across the country to discuss the bill, its impacts on our economy and on us as American citizens, I must admit, it’s probably the first time I’ve ever found myself frustrated at the progress of activism.

It’s a complex issue, and let’s face it, not exactly an exciting one either.  But that’s precisely what the left is counting on.  So, whenever I find myself feeling frustrated that others might not share my same level of fervor on the issue, I remind myself of its complexity and lackluster appeal.  And then, I proceed directly to the source – the bill itself.

I hone in on a few key points in three categories that resonate with most activists I know:  Big Labor, Big Government, and Big Brother.  Put those together in the context of Big Banks, and they spell out big disaster.

As the left goes on demonizing Wall Street and big bankers on one hand, Democratic lawmakers on the other hand are busy making sweetheart backroom deals with them up on Capitol Hill, promoting their legislation to the public as “consumer protection.”  But really, such measures are nothing more than payback to the likes of three-way mortgage entitlement partnership stronghold of the Bank of America, Center for Responsible Lending and Fannie Mae.

Meanwhile Democrats and Obama allies like Organizing for America are also using the issue as a shameless fund-raising opportunity.

ObamaAd

The banks actually SUPPORT this bill – so don’t let that “Main Street Not Wall Street” message fool you, no matter which side of this issue you’re on.

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[original post 4/22/2010]

As you know, we’ve been writing for some time about The Center for Community Self-Help and its financing affiliates Self-Help Credit Union, Self-Help Federal Credit Union, and Self-Help Ventures Fund.  As of late, the organization has been under increased scrutiny for its questionable lobbying activities, its former leader and soon to be CFPA Czar Eric Stein, and  its $15 million donation from disgraced hedge fund billionaire John Paulson.

According to the Self Help website, the organizations “provide financing, technical support, consumer financial services, and advocacy for those left out of the economic mainstream.”  Within that complex web of entities under the Self-Help umbrella exists about forty or so real estate development projects.  I thought it might be a productive exercise to start looking into some of Self-Help’s individual properties.

So, I started with Barr Building, LLC, a Self-Help investment registered under its affiliate Self Help Ventures Fund.  The property is located at 910 17th Street NW, Washington, DC.

And wouldn’t you know, it happens to be home to one of our most frequent subjects:

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

SH-seiu-office

This seemed especially curious, because it was only recently I’d discovered that SEIU, together with the AARP, is also the proud funder and agitator for one of the Center for Responsible Lending’s other advocacy projects – its state-specific lobbying websites targeted at regulating short-term loans in an effort to insulate its own predatory practices from any private industry competition.  For example, take a look at this site, from Arizonans for Responsible Lending.  It’s chock filled with all of the usual SEIU corporate campaign elements:  the menacing title and domain name, the array of photos depicting abused consumers who simply could not have known any better, the manufactured headlines, and of course – the staple of their strategy – the studies and the research (all funded and conducted by their own organization allies).

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[original post 4/20/2010]

Last week, in CFPA Czar or Fox in the Hen House? You Decide, I brought you more details about the people and structure of the ACORN-esque Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) and the Center for Community Self Help (CCSH) as part of a series of pieces we’ve been writing about the financial crisis and the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA).

paulson

The importance of the pieces in this series cannot be understated.  As Congress faces down a massive power-grabbing partisan financial reform bill this week, it seems to have lost sight of many of the causes of the financial crisis in the first place.  While we hear about the exemptions in the bill of institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the stories we’ve been covering on CRL and CCSH further illustrate the dangers of unchecked entities and a government with too much intervention and far too much power.

At the peak of the subprime mortgage boom and the subsequent financial crisis, primary donors to CRL and CCSH basked in billions of dollars in pure profit, thanks in large part to that very intervention and power.

Next, we’re going to introduce you to the questionable lobbying activities of this complex organization.  But before we do, let’s review a few pertinent details from our previous posts about this organization:

  • John Paulson is the largest single donor to the Center for Responsible Lending.  Paulson owns one of the world’s largest hedge funds, and most recently, the SEC has alleged “that Paulson & Co. paid Goldman Sachs to structure a transaction in which Paulson & Co. could take short positions against mortgage securities chosen by Paulson & Co. based on a belief that the securities would experience credit events.”
  • Herb and Marion Sandler are the second largest donors to CRL, and together with Paulson appear to comprise the majority of the organization’s funding.  The couple owned GoldenWest Financial/World Savings bank, before selling it for over $2 billion to Wachovia, which tanked shortly thereafter
  • Eric Stein, who once worked for Fannie Mae (an institution currently exempt from regulation in the financial reform bill), was also the longtime leader of CRL and Sr. Vice President of CCSH.  Today, Stein sits in Obama’s Treasury Department in charge of crafting the current financial reform legislation and the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA).

Now, onto the lobbying.

A complaint that was filed with the House, Senate, and the IRS alleges that CRL, CCSH, and its vast network of non-profit and for-profit companies may have committed serious violations of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) and the Honest Leadership in Open Government Act (HLOGA).  The complaint was filed in the Fall of 2009 by the Consumers Rights League.

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[original post 4/16/2010]

The activity surrounding the controversial Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) in the financial reform legislation is really picking up these days.  But many Americans would never know it.  It seems Democrats may have learned something from the experience of the health care bill after all.  In their efforts to avert a repeat disaster of losing control of the message, they appear to be taking every step necessary to ensure that the public engages as little as possible in this debate.eric-stein2But I assure you, this is a debate that the American public should engage in, pronto.

Because behind the scenes, certain lobbyists are quietly but aggressively scurrying about, pushing hard for the passage of the CFPA in a power grab by the Executive Branch that would dwarf the Health Care Reform bill and the Patriot Act.  And with the passage of the proposed CFPA, one man in particular with a history tied to some of the deepest tentacles in the financial crisis – and to the Community Reinvestment Act changes of 1995 – would gain the power to selectively manipulate the entire landscape of the financial, small business and housing markets.

Last week, we reintroduced you to an early trigger in the financial crisis, with good reason. In “Death by Senator: As Financial Reform Looms, We Revisit IndyMac,” we revisited the role that Senator Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) very public letter played in the fall of one financial institution.  As I ended that piece, I teased that there was more to the story that would soon follow.

So, let’s pick up from June 30, 2008.

Merely days after the now infamous Schumer letter triggered a run on the bank that would total over $1.3 billion, this lengthy and scathing report was released to the public:

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[original post 4/8/2010]

I don’t know about you, but my benefits are shrinking and my wages have been reduced for 2010. And I certainly won’t be seeing any major increase in my salary this year.  My employer is struggling in this economy.  I know it, I see the sales and operating numbers.  Amazingly, no one in our company has complained once about the state of their salaries and benefits.  And after a recent round of layoffs, we’re all working two and three people’s jobs, too.  But we get it, we’re all a team, and together we have to do what we can to pitch in and help cut costs during a rough patch in time.  That’s just how business works.

Every single friend, family member, and neighbor I know is in the exact same position.

That’s why so many of us are appalled at the behavior of some of the union bosses these days.  Even some of the most ardent union defenders I know (the few people who typically argue with me over union policy) have had enough with all the headlines like this:

As National Bargaining for 100,000 Union Members at Kaiser Permanente Begins… SEIU-UHW Members Tell Kaiser: Keep Your Hands Off Our Healthcare Benefits

And they have also had enough of behavior like this:

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[original post 4/5/2010]

schumer-indymac

Now that the health care bill has been passed into law, many Americans are asking, what’s next? Will it be Immigration Reform?  Will it be Cap and Trade in the Senate?

Take a cue from the White House’s recent announcement to use TARP funds to expand the housing aid program, which will also enable some homeowners to refinance their current private-lender mortgages through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) instead.  And if you’ve followed some of my SEIU posts in recent months, you know very well that Financial Reform has been number two on their list.

Just days ago, the Senate Banking Committee approved Senator Chris Dodd’s (D-CT)  financial reform proposal, the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010.  Behind the scenes, Dodd is said to have been working with House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) to negotiate a final version of the bill that the House will approve.  Just two weeks before it passed the Health Care bill last December, the House passed H.R.4173, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009.  While Dodd’s bill is viewed as less stringent than the House bill, both include a controversial stand-alone Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA).  If these next several weeks of closed-door negotiations are successful, word on The Hill is that we could see financial reform enacted by Memorial Day.

The proposed legislation, most specifically the CFPA, extends far beyond Wall Street; it will expand government even further and give it unprecedented powers like never before.  And with more government power comes the potential for abuse.

Let’s be reminded, for example, of what Senator Chuck Schumer did to one financial institution in 2008.

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