Washington, D.C., might as well be called Acronym City. It feels like there are a zillion different, discrete agencies, organizations, bureaus, boards, and commissions within the federal government, each with its own graceless three-, four-, or five-initial moniker, forming the tangled web of a bureaucracy that regulates… well, almost everything. So what are the key regulatory agencies, anyway? Who oversees what, and who do they report to, and how does it all work? [More]
For the third quarter in a row, the Treasury Dept. has released its report card detailing how the country’s largest mortgage servicers are doing with processing loan modifications. And for the third consecutive quarter, both Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase will not receive incentive payments from the Treasury because the banks are doing such a craptastic job at complying.
While many other global economies — including the European Union — have ditched their low-value paper banknotes in favor of coins, the U.S. continues to churn out dollar notes while $1 coins take a backseat. But a new report by the Government Accountability Office urges the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to give renewed thought to the idea of making dollar bills extinct.
For all its tough talk, the Treasury can’t do jack to reign in lenders who are wrongfully denying home owners loan modifications. After seeing reports that some banks were basically modifying no loans at all, Treasury staffers huddled up to talk about withholding payments and levying fines on the baddest of the bunch. Unfortunately, they were told by their own lawyers that they don’t have that power. ProPublica reports, “staffers were walked back by Treasury lawyers, who said the government was only party to a commercial contract with servicers and not acting as their regulator.”
We’ve been warning readers for years against “refund anticipation loans,” where tax preparers like H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt give you a pre-paid debit card now loaded with your expected return (minus fees and interest). And yet, these cards have continued to appeal to some lower-income taxpayers who don’t have bank accounts for direct-deposit of their returns. Now the federal government is providing these people with an alternative — a debit card that will accept the direct deposit.
Because of there being no data on where the money was going and a general attitude of pumping as much money into the banks as quickly as possible, billions of US bailout money wound up in the coffers of foreign financial firms, a watchdog panel chaired by Elizabeth Warren – Warren for CFPA head! – found. 43 of the 87 banks that benefited as a result of the of the AIG bailout were foreign.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will meet with federal regulators and top officials from the NYSE and other exchanges to dicuss whatever the hell happened last Thursday that caused the stock market to completely freak out.
Today the Treasury Department will reveal a redesigned $100 bill. The new design brings the bill in line with the smaller denominations that are already in circulation, and it adds a fancy new anti-counterfeiting measure called Motion that uses special threads to “create an optical illusion of images sliding in directions perpendicular to the light that catches them.”
Do you hate Bank of America? Well take today’s earnings report and wallow around in it like Ann-Margret in beans, becuse the bank has posted a loss of $1 billion before dividends to preferred shareholders—”When those dividend payments are included, the loss was $2.24 billion,” reports the New York Times.
It’s a common enough story. A family puts their house up for sale after one of the parents gets a great job offer in another city. Sure, they bought the house at the peak of the housing bubble, but they refuse to sell for less than they paid. The house stays on the market for months on end.
Shhh, everyone, gather near and listen to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner deliver the most beautiful, wonderful mandate we could give to a new federal agency: “The agency will have only one mission—to protect consumers.” And with that, the Treasury Department sent to Congress legislation that will create the brand new Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
A PR person just contacted us on behalf of the U.S. Treasury Department to point out that there are $16 billion in unredeemed bonds that are no longer earning interest. “Specifically, there are 40 million Series E savings bonds purchased between 1941 and 1978 that are over 30 years old and therefore have fully matured. They can be cashed out today for at least four times their face value.”
Here’s more proof that the people who probably should have known how they were making all that housing bubble money never did—even those who personally made tens of millions off of it. The Business blog at The Atlantic notes a quote Hank Paulson, former Goldman Sachs CEO and Treasury Secretary, gave Newsweek: “I didn’t understand the retail market; I just wasn’t close to it.”
The number of banks that will need more capital has grown. Now it looks more like 10 banks that underwent the government stress-tests are undercapitalized, possibly among them Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citigroup and some regional banks, reports WSJ. The good news seems to be that the problems the stress tests are revealing aren’t as bad as analysts had been saying. Clearing out some of that fear contributed to Monday market gains and the S&P 500 entered positive territory for the year for the first time in months.
With President Obama and Congress threatening to tag-spank credit card issuers, Slate is left wondering why the government doesn’t just issue its own credit card. Before you scream “SOCIALISM!,” consider the government’s heavy involvement in the banking sector, not just through the recent bailouts, but through long-standing institutions like Fannie and Sallie Mae, and Freddie Mac. Credit-worthy borrowers in Germany, France, and India all have access to low-interest, no-fee credit cards issued by their central banks. Would you ever be interested in an Obama-backed credit card?
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office is at it again. They’ve been investigating the circumstances that led to the merger of Bank of America and Merrill Lynch and the subsequent bonus payments to executives. In a letter to Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Cuomo quotes Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis as saying that former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson threatened him with removal from his position and mass firing of the board and senior management if he didn’t allow the merger to go through.