Posts Tagged ‘Senate Banking Committee’

Congressional Oversight Panel Takes on the Foreclosure Mess

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Congressional Oversight Panel Takes on the Foreclosure MessSloppy foreclosure paperwork could upset the nation’s housing market and destabilize the economy in general,  according to a report released by the Congressional Oversight Panel.  This group oversees the government bailout and its statement marks the first time a federal watchdog has issued an opinion on the foreclosure issue.  Consumer advocates and financial analysts had previously raised the issue, noting that although the consequences of the foreclosure mess are unclear.  The situation has the potential to impact mortgages that are not in trouble but were securitized and sold to investors.

“Everyone’s very nervous about what’s going to happen,” said an anonymous industry source.  “We have all hands on deck.”  Some lawmakers want to revisit legislation that would allow bankruptcy judges to order lenders to reduce the principal the homeowner owes.  Others favor allowing big banks to spin off their mortgage-servicing operations to avoid conflicts of interest.  “The risk is small that a bill gets through, but we are taking it very seriously,” said another unidentified financial lobbyist.  The dilemma became apparent in recent months as Ally Financial, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase halted foreclosures as it became clear that many were based on flawed documentation.

The oversight panel also voiced concerns that investors who bought the securitized mortgages could file lawsuits that ultimately might cost banks billions of dollars.  At the same time, the panel said the Treasury Department’s claims that the mortgage situation poses slight systemic risk to the financial system are premature.  “Clear and uncontested property rights are the foundation of the housing market.  If those rights fall into question, that foundation could collapse,” according to the report, which also recommended that the Treasury and Federal Reserve conduct new stress tests on Wall Street banks to gauge their ability to cope with any new upheavals.

House GOP Taking a Second Look at Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Law

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Congressional Republicans may water down the financial reform law.  The newly empowered Republicans in the House of Representatives will attempt to rein in regulators who are in the process of implementing the comprehensive reform of financial rules and advocate for a smaller government role in the mortgage market.  By taking control of the House in the recent mid-term elections, the GOP will have more influence over the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and greater sway over any technical fixes that Congress makes to rules that govern derivatives trading.

“We don’t want them to regulate capriciously, arbitrarily, without engaging in a cost-benefit analysis,” said Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), a member of the House Financial Services Committee.  President Barack Obama brought attention to the Republicans’ intent in a recent radio and Internet address, noting that House and Senate members “are now beating the drum to repeal all of these reforms and consumer protections.  I think it would be a terrible mistake,” he said.

With Democrats still in control of the Senate and in the White House, it’s highly unlikely that the Republicans will be able to carry out a fundamental revision or even repeal of the Dodd-Frank law.  There’s also the possibility of a presidential veto if repeal legislation makes it through both houses on Congress.  Because the Republicans now have a majority in the House, the diminished number of Senate Democrats will have to reach across party lines on financial issues for the simple reason that any changes will require support from both parties.  Bipartisan compromise will be used to arrive at consensus in the next Congress, said Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), who is replacing the retiring Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), who headed the Senate Banking Committee.  According to Johnson, “We sometimes differ on how we achieve our goals, but we have to agree more often than not.”

Fed Governor: U.S. Faces “Significant Economic Challenges”

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

With unemployment “stubbornly” high and government deficits rising, Fed warns of upcoming dangers.  The United States still faces “significant economic challenges”, with unemployment at “stubbornly” high levels and businesses that are reluctant to spend as government deficits rise.  This is the opinion of Federal Reserve Governor Kevin Warsh, who said “Taking account of the broad range of economic and financial conditions, there is no wonder that the electorate in the United States and abroad is unnerved.”  Nevertheless, Warsh feels “much better about the state of the real economy” than he did at this time last year.

Speaking at a symposium hosted by the Shadow Open Market Committee, Warsh, a former Morgan Stanley banker, noted that “Unemployment remains high and stubbornly so.”  Fed policymakers “still have tough times ahead” as they work to prove that their long-term goals are not being compromised.  The Senate Banking committee, under the leadership of its Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-CT), has proposed a financial rules overhaul that would result in the most significant restructuring of Wall Street oversight since the 1930s.  The Senate bill would limit the Fed to supervising bank holding companies with assets in excess of $50 billion.  Smaller and mid-sized banks would be regulated by other agencies.

According to Warsh, the Fed must act with “consistency” to protect its credibility.  “The Federal Reserve must do its utmost to stay foursquare within its role as liquidity provider,” Warsh said.  “The Fed, as first responder, must strongly resist the temptation to be the ultimate rescuer.”  Warsh believes that even though securitization has become a dirty word, the financial vehicle ultimately will return to the market.

One Year After Financial Meltdown, Obama Counsels Caution

Monday, September 21st, 2009

On the first anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the onset of the global financial crisis,  President Barack Obama used a Wall Street speech to call for stringent new regulation of United States markets.  After Lehman’s collapse, the American government infused billions of dollars into the financial system and took major stakes in Wall Street’s most famous names.  Although this action stabilized the system, it could not forestall a shrinking economy or the highest unemployment rate in 26 years.lehmanbros

“We can be confident that the storms of the past two years are beginning to break,” he said.  As the economy begins a “return to normalcy,” Obama said, “normalcy cannot lead to complacency.”

Lobbyists, lawmakers and even regulators so far have opposed proposals to more closely monitor the financial system. The five biggest banks – Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Bank of America – posted second-quarter 2009 profits totaling $13 billion.  That is more than twice their profits in the second quarter of 2008 and nearly two-thirds as much as the $20.7 billion they earned in the same timeframe two years ago – a time when the economy was considered strong.

Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, is the point man for formulating new rules.  President Obama wants stricter capital requirements for banks to prevent them from purchasing exotic financial products without keeping adequate cash on hand.  It was precisely this type of behavior that caused last year’s financial crisis.