Archive for the ‘Financial Regulation’ Category

[original post 5/20/2010]

By now, you’ve probably seen the mob-scene that developed on the front lawn of the private residence of Greg Baer, deputy general counsel for corporate law at Bank of America.  This was planned for some time by the SEIU as part of a larger national event, their Showdown on K Street, which was shared with National People’s Action and thousands of other activists from and other left-wing groups.

Prior to the main event on K Street in Washington DC, SEIU and company made a little pit stop.  According to Fortune magazine Washington editor Nina Easton, 14 busloads of riled up protesters unloaded on Baer’s private property and stormed up to his doorstep, while his teenage son was home alone.  Easton is a neighbor of Baer’s and had called to check on her neighbor’s son when she heard and saw all the commotion outside. Easton writes,

“Waving signs denouncing bank “greed,” hordes of invaders poured out of 14 school buses, up Baer’s steps, and onto his front porch. As bullhorns rattled with stories of debtor calls and foreclosed homes, Baer’s teenage son Jack — alone in the house — locked himself in the bathroom. “When are they going to leave?” Jack pleaded when I called to check on him.

Baer, on his way home from a Little League game, parked his car around the corner, called the police, and made a quick calculation to leave his younger son behind while he tried to rescue his increasingly distressed teen. He made his way through a din of barked demands and insults from the activists who proudly “outed” him, and slipped through his front door.

“Excuse me,” Baer told his accusers, “I need to get into the house. I have a child who is alone in there and frightened.”

Imagine what you would have done if your child were inside that house and that mob was on your front lawn as you tried to reach him.



[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.


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.


[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).


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).


[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).


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.