Posts Tagged ‘Add new tag’

Anonymous Banker’s Fantasy on how to lower credit card rates

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

I don’t watch much TV, but a friend of mine thought I’d enjoy the show Boston Legal which is now in re-runs.  He taped a few episodes to whet my whistle.  It is soapy and at times ridiculous but incredibly fun.  And, in each episode there is a message on some social or political issue that is so remarkably well thought out and well delivered as to give me pause.  I have to admit that I’m now addicted to the show and have purchased five years of episodes.

 

In 2005, there was an episode called Legal Deficits in which attorney, Alan Shore played by James Spader goes head to head with legal council of a bank credit card company.  Shore’s secretary found herself in debt to the tune of $50,000, a direct result of her bank raising her rate to 30%.  She simply could no longer remain current on her payments.  Alan agreed to negotiate a settlement with the credit card company and if unsuccessful, was prepared to bring suit. 

 

It was my intent to post a copy of this show’s transcript  here.  But I discovered upon re-reading it that it was James Spader’s delivery that brought the words to life.  I encourage you all to take advantage of your tax dollars at work and visit your local library that is sure to have all seasons available on DVD.  Or buy them.  They will give you hours of pleasure, some of it mindless but always with that touch of thought-provoking wisdom artfully mixed in.

 

This episode originally aired in 2005.  It speaks on the issues of zero percent teaser rates, bait and switch tactics,  30% interest rates, the lack of usury laws, universal default, the lack of OCC regulatory enforcement, the power of credit card lobbyists and Congresses bowing to their every whim, the credit card industry’s nickname for credit card customers who pay off their debt (they are called deadbeats because the credit card company doesn’t make any money off them), the targeting of people who they know won’t be able to pay,  the ‘too big to sue’ power of the banks and credit card companies, the deceptiveness of the credit card contract, and the analogy of credit card companies and heroin pushers.  It speaks to seven million families that filed for bankruptcy in five years and Congress changing the bankruptcy laws to make it almost impossible for people to discharge credit card debt.

 

This spot, of course, had a happy ending and the secretary’s debt was discharged.  Well, it is a TV show and Alan Spader never loses.  So I forgive the unreality.

 

But imagine this.  The show aired in 2005 and it was not until 2009 that Congress finally passed credit card reform.  And even then, it doesn’t go into effect until 2010.  And today the banks are taking mighty advantage of this time lapse and raising every interest rate they can to 25% to 30%.  Each day, more and more Americans find themselves unable to pay their credit card bills because of this systematic rise in rates.  So it should not be surprising that credit card default rates have risen above the 20% mark for the first time and are expected to go even higher as our economic crisis grips our country and unemployment rises.

 

Clearly, James Spader, in the role of Alan Shore, is not going to appear before Congress and argue in favor of a national usury law, win and get those rates down.  So what can be done?  What if we, as a people came together and refused to make ANY credit card payments until the banks either reduced all credit card rates to some reasonable level or Congress enacted a federal usury limit.   

 

Fantasy, you bet!  But what a fun thought, eh? 

 

 

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Anonymous Banker Weighs in on the failure of the SBA ARC program

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009
I thought I would be inundated with (America’s Recovery Capital) ARC loan requests over the last few months.  But alas, even the small business owners across America know that the program is nothing more than rhetoric.
 
I finally put through one request that I thought should be approved.  The funding would have given this particular client some breathing room to make it through this depression.  Yes, you heard me right….. I dare to use the word depression.  Not surprisingly, the client was declined.  Why?  Well according to Small Business Administration guidelines, the business had to either show evidence of profitability or positive cash flow in one of the past two years.  Unfortunately,  this company had a loss of about $2500 in 2008.  Never mind that it has been in business for ten years, and has been current on all payments.  Or that it has personal credit scores of 685 and 745.  Or that it has received a 20% increase in revenue for 2009 due to some new local-government contracts, and indeed that its cash flow projections show a return to strong profitability in 2009 and 2010.  Apparently, a loss is a loss is a loss.  It only took the bank ten days to come back with a rejection. 
 
I was so outraged that I went back to the SBA site to check on the progress of the ARC program and the list of participating banks and number of loans made by each bank.  There has been a total of 1193 ARC loans made to date.  Let’s assume that each loan was for the maximum amount of $35,000.  That equates to almost $42 Million dollars in SBA support provided through the ARC program to America’s entire small business community.   Did you perhaps notice that I did not use the word billions.
 
The names of the banks that participated in this program were, for the most part, unknown to me.  Most of them were not any of the big banks that have received so much help from the government…. or more correctly, the taxpayers and citizens of this country.  Bank of America and Citibank were not listed as lenders.  Regions, Sun Trust, and Wells Fargo did appear on the list, along with JPMorgan Chase who has made no more than 2 ARC loans in the State of New Jersey and no more than 8 ARC loans in the State of New York -two of their largest markets.
 
It’s impossible  to tell how many ARC loans were made by each bank.   In President Obama’s new age of transparency (yes I’m being sarcastic), the SBA website did not see fit to break out the totals for each bank.  Instead SBA duplicitously inserted the total number of loans made in each state next to the name of the first bank listed. This, of course, leaves the reader guessing to what extent the other banks participated.  COME ON, Ms. Mills!!!  Your report makes it clear that you don’t want anyone to be able to do a simple tally and know unequivically the lack of support the banks, that took so much from us, are providing to the small business community.
 
The Recovery Act allocated a mere $255 Million dollars for ARC loans to the entire United States Small Business community.  Now it is falling short of even my lowest expectations. 
 
I expected that those paltry funds would be gobbled up in the first 60 days of the program.  But not more than 16% of the funds have been dispersed through the banks.   Is this because  the small business owner is not really suffering through this economic crisis?   No one could possibly believe that!  Or perhaps the banks, which we have bailed out, have once again refused to meet their fundamental role as lenders?  If the banks cannot find their way clear to make loans to small business owners, loans, mind you, that are 100% guaranteed by the government, then clearly they are not doing their job.
 
And if the applicants are not qualifying for loans under this program, then what does that say about the state of this nation’s economic recovery?  Wake up  and take notice.  The ARC plan has failed.  And the government’s transparent abandonment of the small business community in their economic recovery plan is quite clear to all of us.  If this is the best it can do, then this country is in big, big trouble.

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Anonymous Banker weighs in on Financial Regulatory Agencies: Our Nation’s Ball-less Wonders!

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

The Fed failed us in the past.  What makes us think they will do a better job as the mega-regulator?

In light of Obama’s new Financial Regulatory Reform Plan, I feel the need to reiterate my comments on our financial industry’s regulators, which I refer to as our Nation’s Ball-less Wonders. In this article I explained how our laws are converted to regulations and the responsibility of our regulators to protect our country by actually enforcing these regulations.

The debate should not be over whether the Fed should become the mega-regulator, but rather whether the Fed has, in the past, performed its job to protect this country and our economy by actually enforcing the regulations that exist.

When we evaluate the benefits of a mega-regulator, I would say that any consolidation that reduces expenses and thereby saves taxpayer dollars, is a good plan. That being said, the Fed has failed us miserably in the past and I have no reason to believe that they will perform any better in the future.

My fear is that transferring this authority to one agency only dilutes the systems of checks and balances and reduces the possibility that some agency, any agency, will cry foul and take action when the financial companies fail to follow our laws.  Perhaps the plan might work, if, in addition to the consolidation, the people were also represented by an ombudsman to act as watchdog when the Fed fails to do its job, as it surely will.

Regulators:  Our Nation’s Ball-less Wonders!!

 

 

http://anonymousbanker.com/?p=234

Our regulators were armed with the laws to prevent this financial crisis.  They simply refused to act.    If they would have made an example of even one bank by exercising their power, it would have influenced the entire industry and perhaps prevented the crisis we are in today.Anonymous Banker weighs in on banks violation of law:  Regulation H

 

Recently there has been a lot of talk about the belief that there hasn’t been enough regulation to keep the banks in line.  I, personally, have been blaming Congress for not having enacted laws that would arm the banking regulators with the means to control and monitor the activities of the nation’s banks and the power to impose penalties or take punitive measures when the banks stray from their legally defined mission.  I assumed that the problems that led to our current economic crisis arose from issues that were not addressed – or inadequately addressed – in our laws and regulations.  

 

Bank regulators are our first line of defense:  Office of Comptroller of the Currency, Treasury, Board of Governers of the Federal Reserve System, FDIC, Office of Thrift Supervision. After Congress passes a law they leave it to the regulators to put the law into effect by writing  and adopting regulations.  Our regulators have one, and only one real purpose – to ensure that each and every bank operates in a safe and sound manner.  In order to accomplish this, they send out  teams of examiners – routinely, to every single bank in the country – to delve into the bank’s activities and check them against the requirements of regulations.  This whole procedure, the laws, the regulations and the agencies to examine compliance with the regulations – was put in place to protect the depositors’ money, the banks that hold that money and –  on a national scale, our country’s economic safety and soundness.  This process began 75 years ago, after the banking industry collapsed and led us into the Great Depression.       

 

Well, today I read Federal Reserve Regulation H —   Subpart E entitled “Real Estate Lending and Appraisal”, a regulation born from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act of 1991.  My eyes were opened!!!  My premise, that Congress failed to pass laws to protect us, was completely wrong!  This regulation, which has been in place for over ten years – sets forth all the appropriate guidelines and limitations that should have held the banks in check.

  

Now this question begs to be asked:  Who is making sure that our banks are complying with the regulations that already exist?  And when they are not in compliance, what actions are taken against them to bring them into line?

 

What I believe after reading this is that NO ONE is watching as the banks run amok in their quest for profits.  Really…. no one.  Did the controlling authorities  perhaps forget that this regulation existed since they authored it over ten years ago?   Or did they foolishly believe that the greedy bankers would, of their own accord,  grow a conscience and behave in a responsible manner? 

 

Federal Reserve Regulation H is a “uniform” regulation.  This means that each of the other three agencies also adopted an identical regulation at the same time.    They are found in 12 CFR 208.51;  12 CFR 34.62, 12 CFR 365 and 12 CFR 560.101.   Links to each of these are provided at the end of this article.  This is some of the content of Reg H and it is directed at all banks.

 

The Real Estate Lending Standards section requires banks to  “adopt and maintain written policies that establish appropriate limits and standards for extensions of credit that are secured by liens on or interest in real estate.  Policies should be consistent with safe and sound banking practices; appropriate to the size of the institution and the nature and scope of its operations; and reviewed and approved by the bank’s board of directors at least annually.”

 

It instructs banks to  monitor conditions in the real estate market in its lending area to ensure that its real estate lending policies continue to be appropriate for current market conditions.

 

And it requires that the adopted policies reflect consideration of the Interagency Guidelines for Real Estate Lending Policies established by the federal bank and thrift supervisory agencies.”

 

The Interagency Guidelines, which are part and parcel of the regulation,  are extensive and I’ve provided links below to the full text document.   But the following quotes will make my point.

 

“Each institution’s policies must be comprehensive, and consistent with safe and sound lending practices, and must ensure that the institution operates within limits and according to standards that are reviewed and approved at least annually by the board of directors. Real estate lending is an integral part of many institutions’ business plans and, when undertaken in a prudent manner, will not be subject to examiner criticism.”

 

“The institution should monitor conditions in the real estate markets in its lending area so that it can react quickly to changes in market conditions that are relevant to its lending decisions.”

 

“Prudently underwritten real estate loans should reflect all relevant credit factors, including—

  • the capacity of the borrower, or income from the underlying property, to adequately service the debt;
  • the value of the mortgaged property;
  • the overall creditworthiness of the borrower;
  • the level of equity invested in the property;
  • any secondary sources of repayment;
  • any additional collateral or credit enhancements (such as guarantees, mortgage insurance, or take-out commitments).”

 

Our regulators were armed with this law and these guidelines.  And yet, when they examined the banks and discovered that they were not applying a credit review process that was  consistent with safe and sound lending practices, in spirit or in fact, they failed to impose penalties that would have brought these horrific lending standards  to an abrupt end.   They had to have known that the  banks  were issuing no-asset and no-income-verification loans, delving into subprime lending markets, selling these toxic loans into the market  and subsequently repurchasing them to hold in their capital accounts.

 

Instead of taking decisive action,  they  merely issued another interagency comment to the banks (see links below for full text), urging them to cease and desist in their unrelenting participation in the subprime lending market. 

 

What should our regulators have done and what did they have the power to do?  Our regulators could have called for the firing of CEO’s of the banks and replaced the Board of Directors.  They also have the power to ban executives that are found to have violated banking regulations from ever working in the banking industry again.  Our regulators could have refused to continue their FDIC insurance for failure to comply.  They can also limit dividends paid to shareholders. If they would have made an example of even one bank by exercising their power, it would have influenced the entire industry and perhaps prevented the crisis we are in today.

 

It is interesting that one of the strongest banks in the nation, JP Morgan Chase,  states quite clearly in their 2007 Annual Report exactly how pervasive the problems were.  And we know already that the other banks behaved equally irresponsibly and equally in violation of the law and Reg H.  Some of these banks no longer exist and others will soon disappear.  After reading the following comments, can one imagine that the regulators were unaware of the banks’ violations these many past years?  Or do you have to conclude, as I have, that it was our regulators, and not Congress, that failed completely in safeguarding our county?  The law was there.  The regulators simply did not exercise their powers to enforce them.

 

JP Morgan Chase 2007 Annual Report  (released approximately one year ago)

… increasingly poor underwriting standards (e.g., loan-to-value ratios up to 100%, lax verification of income and inflated appraisals) added fuel to the speculation and froth in the markets. Many of these poor mortgage products were also repackaged and dispersed widely through various securities, thus distributing the problems more broadly.

 

…we still believe that subprime mortgages are a good product. We will continue to find a prudent way to be in this business. 

 

We should have acted sooner and more substantially to reduce the LTV rates at which we lent, given the increased risk of falling prices in a market of highly inflated housing values.  We also should have tightened all other standards (e.g., income verification) in response to growing speculation in the market and the increasing propensity of people to respond to aggressive lending standards by buying houses they could barely afford.

 

In the face of these comments and the banking industries apparent violation of Reg H, instead of being penalized,  banks were rewarded through the TARP program.   Our regulators  have done nothing to ensure that the banks meet their fundamental obligation to lend money.  They have merely asked them to do so.  And finally, our regulators are still not forcing the banks to apply income verification processes to all forms of credit including auto loans and credit cards. 

 

Somehow I don’t think the punishment has fit the crime.    And now that I have the understanding I so desperately sought, I really wish I didn’t look so hard.  I find myself even more saddened to know that while  our country  had the structure and laws in place to prevent this economic collapse, the regulators failed to protect us and the guilty continue to be rewarded for bringing this country to its knees.

 

Sources:   12 CFR 34.62         12 CFR 208.51      12 CFR 365  

Interagency Guidance on non-traditional mortgages

Interagency Guidace on Nontraditional Mortgage Product Risks

    
	     

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Anonymous Banker asks: TALF, Trepp LLC and JP Morgan Chase Connection… is there a conflict of interest?

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

I hate the TALF program.  It is going to come back to bite each and every one of us ….  the taxpayers.  First it was designed to get our securitization market flowing again, presumably to unfreeze the credit markets.  It was to be a mechanism for the Treasury Department to guarantee, with our tax dollars, toxic loans stripped from the Banks’ balance sheets.  It was duplicitous and it was designed to be that way.  Now, in addition to subprime credit cards, subprime auto loans (FRBNY’s words, not mine), student loans, and small business loans, they’ve tagged on Commerical Mortgages.

So I went to the FRBNY’s website to read up on the terms and conditions  and found that the FRBNY has hired a collateral monitor, a company by the name of Trepp LLC.   And I was simply curious to find out if I could find out who really owned Trepp and if it’s involvement is as “arms length” as one would expect it to be.

Here is an interesting interview by CNBC with Tom Fink, senior vice president of Trepp.  I noticed that CNBC never once asked him if there could be any perceived conflict of interest with Trepp accepting this position as “The Feds new Toxic Avenger”.

So, I pose this question to the blogging universe and to our leaders on the Hill and to President Obama: 

How many Commercial Mortgages will Chase Bank be allowed to unload through TALF, a government program that has hired as its collateral monitor  Trepp LLC  whose UK Parent company utilizes, as their stockbroker, a company that is owned 50% by JP Morgan Chase.

Does anyone else see this as a conflict of interest?

Here’s the back up data to this question.  Read it and decide for yourself.  If you think I’m wrong, I’d love to hear you tell me why you think I’m wrong.

About Trepp, LLC  
 

 

 

Trepp LLC, headquartered in New York City, is an established independent provider of CMBS and commercial real estate information, analytics and technology in the securities and investment management industry. Trepp serves the needs of both the primary and secondary markets by providing one of the largest commercially available trading quality CMBS deal libraries, as well as a suite of products for the CRE derivatives and whole loan markets. Trepp’s clients include broker dealers, commercial banks, asset managers, and investors.  

 

 
 

 

 

 About PPR

PPR, headquartered in Boston, is an established provider of independent global real estate research and portfolio strategy services to the institutional real estate community. PPR provides views on markets in North America, Europe and Asia and offers expertise in real estate markets, real estate portfolio analysis, mortgage risk, and the design of real estate investment strategies. Clients include commercial banks, insurance companies, Wall Street firms, rating agencies, government agencies, pension funds, investment advisors, real estate investment trusts, and private investors.

Trepp and PPR are each wholly owned by DMG Information, Inc., the business information division of Daily Mail and General Trust, plc (DMGT).

And here’s information on the parent company:  Daily Mail and General Trust , plc (DMGT)

 and their “stockbrokers”

 Stockbrokers
JPMorgan Cazenove Ltd
20 Moorgate
London
EC2 6DA
Great Britain
http://www.cazenove.com/

Cazenove Group is a private company, registered in Jersey, which holds the 50% interest in J.P. Morgan Cazenove, the joint venture with J.P. Morgan.J.P. Morgan Cazenove is one of the UK’s leading investment banks. Jointly owned by J.P. Morgan and Cazenove, it combines innovative and impartial advice with a broad range of capabilities and proven execution skills.

 

 
 

 

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Anonymous Banker says TALF is laundering bank bad debt with our taxdollars

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

I’ve written extensively on the TALF program.   And while I always suspected as much, I now have come to the certain conclusion that TALF is the goverment’s way of laundering new and existing subprime auto loans subprime credit cards loans, that are currently on the books of the banks or their investment bank subsidiaries, with our taxdollars.  The program is complete thievery.  And shame on everyone for not being up in arms about what is happening.  Journalists… I’m putting you all on the top of that list.  You are failing this country miserably.

I, for one, don’t want my tax dollars used to purchase sub-prime car loans and credit card loans.  I don’t even want to hear the word sub-prime again, in my lifetime.  I want the banks to be responsible lenders and verify income and debt when they issue a credit card or an auto loan.  And I don’t want my office computer spurting out a pre-approved offer of a credit card to any customers.  Yes, this is still happening and will continue to happen because our Regulators are allowing it to happen in direct violation of all the laws governing safety and soundness in bank lending.  And why are the banks still willing to grant credit in this irresponsible manner?  Because they know they can sell these toxic assets off through the TALF program and any losses on these bad loans will be paid for by our taxes and the taxes paid by our children and our grandchildren, and for generations that follow.

If a bank is allowed to sell its toxic assets through the TALF program, and if the TALF program is funded with TARP funds,  then any bank that sells its assets through TALF is still benefiting from TARP.  Therefore, any bank that is selling their bad assets off through TARP  should still be subject to executive compensation limits and restrictions on dividends, among other rules.  If  banks want to be truly independent of our government’s meddling, then let them live and die by their bad lending practices and eat all the sub-prime credit card and auto loans they granted and continue to grant. 

The government has set aside $200 Billion dollars to fund the TALF program.  On June 2nd, the banks laundered $3.3 Billion dollars in auto loans and $6.2 Billion dollars in Credit Card loans (out of a total of $11 Billion dollars in total loans laundered in just that day). 

In light of President Obama’s wonderful new plan for “transparency”, I think the TALF program should publish, along with the list provided above,  the dollar amount sold by each bank in each category.    Let’s see which of our banks are truly  independent and unconcerned and don’t need to be bailed out.  Does anyone believe that JP Morgan Chase, American ExpressCo., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., U.S. Bancorp, Captial One Financial Corpl, Bank of New York Mellon Corp., and State Street Corp are NOT participating in the TALF program?  Then prove it to me.  Tell me which banks are selling these assets through TALF!!!!! 

TALF program rules require that  the “ABS have a long-term credit rating in the highest investment-grade rating category”.  How does our government dare to defend this term in light of the fact that they are using TALF to strip SUB PRIME credit card and auto loans off the banks’  balance sheets.  I’m not guessing at this.  It is on the TALF website.

Please, join me in my outrage.  Reach out to your Congressional leaders, IN PERSON.  Challenge them on these decisions.  Bring them a copy of this blog and ask them to defend the actions I’m describing.  Make them accountable for the programs they are approving.  Write to your journalists.  Demand that they give these issues the media attention deserved and needed to inspire our people into action.  Each and every one of us must take responsibility and become part of the solution.  They are counting on us to quietly follow, like sheep.  Show them that the people of this country have back-bone and will stand up for what we believe in.   If you fail to do this, then, in my opinion, you have relinquished your right to bitch.

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Anonymous Banker weighs in on why the government should not allow the return of TARP funds, just yet!!!

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Let’s see if I understand this.  The banks and investment houses violate Federal Regulation H which governs safety and soundness in real estate lending.  Over a period of ten years, they issue trillions of dollars in sub-prime loans.  Then they sell these loans to Fannie  Mae and Freddie Mac, and in the process, make a huge profit and basically absolve themselves of all risk associated with these loans.  Then, because there is an implied guarantee by our government on these Mortgage Backed Securities, they buy them back from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to hold in their capital accounts.

 

When the entire thing starts to unravel, the government steps in and stands behind the implied guarantee bolstering the world’s confidence in our markets.  Had they not done this, every bank, even the best of them, would have been insolvent.

 

When more needs to be done, our government commits our tax dollars and those of our future generations to bolstering these financial companies by providing TARP money, in exchange for preferred shares in these companies.  These two moves, revitalize the financial markets and perhaps we should see some return on our investment in the future.

 

However, the government foolishly fails to put reasonable restrictions and implicit directions on how TARP funds can be used.  Some of the greedier companies fail to do their part by controlling reasonable costs such as executive compensation and dividend payments.  Our government steps in to protect our investment and changes the terms of the TARP contract, adding these restrictions.

 

The financial companies cry foul play.  Well surprise, you greedy bums.  Take a look at Federal Circuits, 4Cir. (November 02, 1992)  Docket number 91-2647, 91-2708 which can be found here:   http://vlex.com/vid/charter-thrift-supervision-own-37480633

 

Now pay special attention, my friends, to Section III – B.  If my interpretation is correct, a sovereign (that would be the US Government) can nullify a contract by change in legislation.  Basically that makes no government contract binding to any other parties.  The power lies in OUR hands.

 

Smacks similar to those wonderful contracts that banks put out to consumer and small business credit card holders in which, BANKS get to change the rules at any time.  I love old adages, like this one:  What goes around, comes around.

 

To our leaders, let’s let our bet ride for a little while longer and see if we can get a return on our investment.  Why let the financial industries have our money when they are failing and then take it back when their new-found profitability comes from our investment.

 

Can you ever imagine a scenario in which an investment banker makes a loan to a company in exchange for stock and  then simply allows that company to pay back the loan when the company starts to perform well, giving up all upside potential on their investment?  It’s laughable!!!!!

 

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Anonymous Banker weighs in on SBA and the Economic Recovery Act: Rhetoric or Redemption – Time will tell

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Is the new SBA lending program simply more bailout for banks or truly designed to help the stuggling small business owner? 

 

Well, really, who cares?  With all the billions being poured into the financial companies and auto industry, any plan that helps the small business owner is a good plan, in my book. 

 

I see three components in the Economic Recovery Act that should help revive lending to our nation’s small business community.  That is, IF the banks actually cooperate and finally start to meet their fundamental role of making loans.

 

The first program will make available $15 Billion dollars in SBA 7(a) loans and 504 loans backed by guarantees  to the banks of up to 90% .  Borrowers will not have to pay SBA lending fees which provides a meaningful cost savings in their quest to obtain working capital.  It is under this program that our Community Banks have an opportunity to shine and to show our Congressional leaders the vital role they play in supporting the business communities they serve.

 

The government originally rolled out the TALF program, designed to jump-start the securitization markets for Credit Card, Auto, Student….. and yes, tagged onto the end, Small Business Loans.  In an effort to increase credit availability and support economic activity, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York  agreed to lend money, on a non-recourse basis, to investors who purchase Asset Backed Securities from banks. Thusfar, regardless of the guarantees, the TALF program has not increased Small Business lending initiatives by the banks.  The reasons are obvious:  First, in this economic environment the investors don’t want even the small risk associated with SBA lending.  And secondly, because the confidence in these asset backed securities  has been completely eroded, no one really wants to buy them.  And finally, our leaders have not required the banks to start lending, but merely to file reports that will reflect how little they are doing.

 

So with TALF doomed to failure, at least as far as Small Business Lending is concerned, our leaders have gone back to the drawing board to sweeten the pot.

 

It’s TALF with a twist.  While this $15 Billion program provides the originating bank with a 90% guarantee, the government realized that they would not be able to budge the banks unless the banks had assurances that they could divest themselves of these loans after they made them.  With that in mind, our Treasury Department announced that it “will be a ready buyer of the loans in the secondary market.”  

 

And this is where the community banks and perhaps credit unions will play a vital role in getting these funds into the hands of the small business owner.  These banks will originate the SBA loans and sell them, ONE AT A TIME, to the broker/dealer.  The broker/dealer will gather these loans together, from the originating banks,  and sell them….. directly  to the government.

 

Since the announcement of this program, there’s been a big to-do about whether the broker-dealers will participate or whether the Federal Plan to Aid Small Businesses is Flawed.  It seems that since the $15 Billion dollars, used to fund this program, is coming from TARP funds, the broker-dealers that act as the intermediary between the originating banks and the Treasury may be subjecting themselves to TARP restrictions such as limits on Executive Compensation. 

 

Personally, I don’t believe that President Obama, our Congressional leaders or the folks in the Treasury Department intended this interpretation.  Perhaps the simplest way of looking at this is to see these broker-dealers as ‘contracted intermediaries’ by the Treasury Department.  The Treasury cannot be expected to purchase one loan at a time from the banks across our nation.  In order for the program to work, they must have a broker-dealer facilitate the purchasing, packaging and subsequent resale of these loans to the Treasury.  There you have it – and I am sure over the next few days, and with the encouragement of the SBA’s new Administrator, Karen Gordon Mills, this situation will be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.  Perhaps this is an opportunity for Treasury to create a working partnership with a broker-dealer that didn’t put up barriers to the success of this plan.   

 

This is a plan that will work.   It’s smaller than I would have liked, but it should bring a sense of renewed confidence to our Small Business Community.  New money, new loans, community bank lending, and an opportunity to revitalize our economy one business at a time, create and save jobs and send a clear message that the small business owner’s significant contribution to our economic recovery is recognized and supported.

 

ARC Stabilization Loan

The second program, which has not been rolled out by the SBA yet – but coming soon, is the ARC Stabilization Loan (America’s Recovery Capital).   These loans are to be originated by pre-approved bank lenders (yes many of those same banks that have refused to make business loans over the last several months but had no trouble taking billions in bailout funds from the government).   The loans will be backed 100% by the SBA and will have a maximum loan size of thirty-five thousand dollars. 

 

The $255 million dollars in ARC funding translates into a significantly higher loan volume because it represents the guarantee and the interest subsidy provided by the program.  Borrowers will not have to start repayment for twelve months and full repayment is expected within five years.  Since the SBA will  subsidize the interest on these loans,  the ARC program will provide relief to the business owners as our nation makes its way through the beginnings of our economic recovery. 

 

Once again, I’m counting on Ms. Mills to move this program along to where it needs to be.  I’ve had several conversations with local SBA District Offices and would have liked to see the terms of this program more clearly defined.  The big question is this:  Will ARC merely provide “six months worth of interest payments on existing loans” to the small business owner?  Because if that is the case, then the vast majority of these loans will be for extremely small amounts that banks will be uninterested in processing and ultimately will not make very much difference for the small business owner. 

 

These first two programs, to be truly meaningful, should allow the banks to refinance some of the smaller working capital credit lines that are, today, being systematically pulled by the banks?  I understand that Chase, for example, recently froze working capital credit lines for tens of thousands of their business clients, the vast majority of these lines being under $100,000.  And they are not alone in this process.  I’m told that it is Chase’s intention to give these customers an opportunity to present updated financial information and to reinstate the credit lines for those businesses found to be credit worthy under the bank’s new credit criteria.  Refinancing these credit lines under newly created SBA loans funded by the ARC program or what I lovingly call the ‘TALF with a twist” program, would be an excellent alternative to leaving the viable small business owner without any form of credit.  Additionally, and under the right circumstances, one effective use of these funds would be to refinance credit card debt accumulated by our small business owners, many of whom are now subject to the interest rate increases upwards of 20% recently implemented by the banks.  Most of these borrowers would significantly benefit from the relief provided by SBA lines and particularly those that provide interest rate relief.   

 

Make no mistake about it.  The ARC program, if used as I describe above, would most certainly be, yet another, bailout for the banking industry.   But let’s put that aside for the moment.  My concern today is for the Small Business Community who is, once again being slammed by our financial industry leaders when they most need our help.  Let us hope that these programs will allow the small business owner to refinance their existing debt, significantly reduce their monthly payments and gain the temporary relief to their cash flow needed to weather this economic storm.  We need to help them keep their workers employed, pay their rent and remain in business. 

 

Don’t be fooled.  This is not a bailout program for the business that is out-of-business but hasn’t come to terms with that finality.  The ARC program states that the business has to be ‘viable’ and what that means is yet to be determined.  Borrowers should expect to provide financial information regarding sales/revenue and income.  So for those small business owners that over-extended through the business liar-loans,  businesses that ‘stated income’ that they now cannot support with tax returns:  I don’t think you will qualify.  And if you are one of the small business owners that like to make money, but don’t want to pay taxes:   You won’t qualify either.  If you can’t make it on your own, then the banks will be writing off your debt and taking the loss.  Shame on the banks and shame on you.  

 

I’d like to add one final observation.  When a bank cancels a business credit line, they do this without warning.  The line is simply frozen and no additional draws are allowed.  A letter is sent to the business owner requesting updated financial information, AFTER the credit line is revoked.   In a frenzy, the business owner faxes in their financials to a nameless, faceless person who evaluates their condition.  In my experience, I have seen the following reasons provided in the bank’s refusal to reinstate the lines of credit:  (a)  Decrease in revenue and/or profit (b) weaknesses in cash flow  (c)  debt to income too high. 

 

Well, no s_ _ t, Sherlock!   We ARE in a recession, and I dare not use the “D” word here.  Our country, and the world, is in the grips of an economic tsunami that the banks caused. This situation is rooted in the financial industries endless quest for greater profits and the absence of any safe and sound lending practices, further compounded by our Regulators refusal to halt the industry’s despicable practices over the last ten years.

 

We are now caught between a rock and a hard place.  These loans are the hardest to underwrite.  The smaller businesses that will benefit from ARC funds and from refinancing debt under the ‘TALF with a twist’ funds,  simply don’t have anything for the banks to wrap their greedy little arms around.  And it will be difficult to determine which company truly has a chance of weathering the storm and which, despite any refinance of debt, will be forced to close its doors.  Furthermore, simply terming out working capital lines will not provide the relief needed.  We need to slash their interest rates, continue the lines as revolving credit so that it can be used and re-used over the next three years, and then, after a time, term it out.  SBA already has the product matching this description.  Now the SBA has to give the banks specific criteria so they are comfortable  with the conversion.  There can’t be any second guessing or Monday morning quarterbacking on this process.  If President Obama, our Congressional leaders and our Regulators are truly committed to helping the small business owners across this great nation, then DO IT.  Jump in with both feet.  Yes, there will be losses.  But there will also be jobs saved and tax revenues generated and an increase in confidence so critical to our recovery.    

 

The third program, which is already in effect, is the expansion of the existing Micro-loan program.  These loans are granted by special non-profit community-based lenders  throughout the country (microlenders), and not typically by banks.  It provides for fifty million in new loans.  But don’t count on any special rates.  SBA website reports that micro-loan interest rates range from 8% to 13% , which is still better than the usurious rates many banks have started to apply to business credit cards and small revolving lines of credit.  Most microloans are directed at the very small and struggling business and yet, these are the loans that come with application fees in the $500 range.  I am unmoved by this program and so far, disappointed in the channels that are supposed to get these funds into the hands of the small business owner. 

 

For those business owners still interested in applying for a micro-loan, finding a lender might prove difficult.  You can start by visiting this website: http://www.sba.gov/localresources/district/az/index.html and selecting your local SBA office from the dropdown box.

 

Congratulations to Arizona, Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Ana California,   Jacksonville Florida, Boston Mass, Nebraska, New Hampshire, NY-New York,  Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Houston-Texas, Utah, Virginia, Seattle-Washington and West Virginia.  If I left any out, I apologize.  But COME ON – SBA site developers.  The folks out here need help and only 17 of the 71 offices appear to provide any information on current SBA lenders and/or Microlenders in your area. 

 

And to our New York District Office, our thanks for your prompt reporting of loan volume in your area and the names of the banks that have continued to support our Small Business Community during these last five months.  Your site reports that for the SBA fiscal year which ended September 30, 2008 there was an AVERAGE of 290  7(a) loans made each month and over $33Million in 7 (a) loans made within your district each month.  However, from October 1, 2008 through February 28, 2009, in this same district, only an AVERAGE of 70  7(a) loans were made each month and only an average of about $14.5 Million in 7(a) loans were issued.  These figures support that over the last five months, SBA  7(a) loans decreased in number by 75% and in dollars of loans granted by 56%. 

 

SBA should require that every district office post up-to-date SBA lending results.  It’s important for the business owners in our country to understand which banks are supporting the needs of the small business community and the economic recovery of this nation, and which banks have snubbed their noses at our leaders’ endless pleas to apply the bailout funds to meaningful lending programs.   The New York District Report indicates that  JP Morgan Chase, who accepted $25 Billion in TARP funds,  dropped from the number one SBA lender to number  9, having made a total of 40 SBA loans totaling just over $2.8 Million.  Bank of America, who received $45 Billion in TARP funds, moved from the #2 spot to number 33.  BofA’s support of the small business owner was represented by 12 SBA loans totaling $410,000.  And Citbank, who previously held the number 5 ranking,  made a total of 3 SBA loans totaling  just over $1 million dollars.  This nation provided Citibank with $50 Billion dollars.  I leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions from these numbers.

 

To America’s small business owners and to each and every individual, I offer the following advice:  Stop complaining and DO something.  Go establish a banking relationship with one of your local community banks and reward them with your bank accounts.  If possible, pick one of the banks on the top of the SBA participation list. Check out their bank rating here:  http://www.bankrate.com/rates/safe-sound/bank-ratings-search.aspx?t=cb. Find the best bank in your area and encourage all your friends and business associates to move their accounts.  Yes, it will be inconvenient to make a move.  But if we, the people, act together in unison, we can send a clear message to the financial industry that we will not stand by and let them tear of life out of this country with their greed and avarice, and then reward them by banking with them.  We will not do business with them, when they have failed us, and continue to fail us,  so miserably. 

 

And to President Obama and our Congressional leaders:  We thank you for your efforts and we look forward to a prompt and effective resolution to the release and implementation of your new SBA Recovery Plan.  Please hurry!!!

 

 

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Anonymous Banker: Why are Working Capital Lines Disappearing?

Friday, March 13th, 2009

President Obama has put together the Financial Stability Plan, which states: “This effort will include measures to improve the disclosure of the exposures on bank balance sheets. In conducting these exercises, supervisors recognize the need not to adopt an overly conservative posture or take steps that could inappropriately constrain lending.”

 

President Obama, Congressional Leaders, Regulators: 

The business community of America needs your help.  You must change your focus and consider implementing lending policies and procedures that will allow businesses to remain open, allow them to continue paying their rent, paying their employees, and  paying their loans.

 

Put aside the liar loans that were granted over the last ten years to business owners that overstated their revenue and income. Those are NOT the loans I am speaking about here.  Our regulators allowed banks to violate every prudent test for safety and soundness in bank lending over the last decade.  And now that you let the proverbial horse run out of the barn, you are empowering the banks to slam the door on all the businesses that are, or may still be, credit worthy.  Your actions will directly contribute to the severity of the depression that is coming upon us so quickly. 

 

It has been stated to me, by senior credit officers in one of the largest US banks, that  40% of RENEWAL REQUESTS for business working capital lines of credit are being declined, termed out and/or called by the bank.   The loans I’m addressing in this article  are to the smaller to mid-market companies that have not missed any payments, have met all commitments as agreed and still have a chance of surviving.  These are the businesses that support the economic future of the communities across our nation.

 

These working capital lines are the lifeblood of any business.  They provide the companies with capital that they need to purchase inventory, finance production of goods, carry receivables, and during these cycles, to pay their employees and their rent or mortgages.  It is NOT term financing.  And this is a very important point.  So I will repeat it:  IT IS NOT TERM FINANCING.

 

Working capital lines are repaid by the conversion of one asset into cash in a short period of time.  It is revolving credit.  A company uses the funds to manufacture goods.  They then sell the goods and convert inventory into receivables.  Then they wait and they convert the receivables back into cash.   The difference between their cost and what they sell it for, is the profit.  From that profit, they pay salaries, rent, etc.    They do not repay working capital lines from PROFIT.  Businesses  repay working capital lines from CONVERSION of assets into cash.  Then they begin the cycle all over again.

 

A term loan, conversely, IS repaid from profits.  If a company buys a piece of equipment, they should not use their working capital to buy it outright.  They should finance it over a period of time that is typically determined by the useful life of the equipment they are buying.  A computer for example would be financed for two years, a die press machine for seven or ten years, and a building for twenty years.  These loans are paid for by profit over a specified period of time.

 

There are a number of things that go into the evaluation of a request for a working capital line to a small business owner.  We look for diversification of receivables and timely collection of receivables by our borrower.  We look at turnover of inventory as related to the type of inventory they carry. We evaluate repayment history and the company’s capital position.  Banks want  companies to retain capital and not distribute all their profits to the owners.  We look to see if they can pay the revolving line down during the course of a year.  We look at secondary sources of repayment through personal financial statements:  cash, investments and equity in the business owners’ homes.  (Thanks to the banking industries bad behavior, all business owners have less to offer the bank by way of secondary sources of repayment!)  We also look at the personal credit scores of the owners.  Gross sales and revenue trends also carry significant weight.

 

I’m not here to give our leaders a lesson on bank lending.  But perhaps it would be wise if you at least understood the principals that should be applied to lending.  You need to understand this in order to understand what is happening that is going to kill this country.

 

Regulators are now requiring the banks to evaluate existing and new working capital line requests in the following way:    First pass, we look at all the typical things we looked at before as defined above.  But now, Regulators are adding another pass by requiring banks to determine what would happen if the customer could not pay back their working capital line through normal asset conversion.  Regulators are requiring the banks to evaluate if these same customers can repay the debt, at the time the line is made or renewed, from profits over a three to five year period. 

 

This is determined through a ratio called ‘debt service coverage’.  A business that can and does repay working capital lines from the conversion of assets, oftentimes cannot pass the debt service coverage evaluation criteria.  A $250,000 working capital loan cannot always be repaid if it is converted to a five year term loan, particularly in a declining revenue and profit environment.  Using this as a standard for evaluation means that most companies no longer qualify for their working capital lines and our Regulators are giving the banks a perfect excuse to cancel the lines of credit and demand payment.

 

Each and every day, in my work as a business banker, I am addressing this issue.  These are not customers that are late on their payments, delinquent in any way, or not meeting their obligation.  These are customers who, without a credit line will be OUT OF BUSINESS.  Their workers will be unemployed and their commercial real estate left vacant.   

 

Is this your vision of Economic Recovery?    I don’t think it is.  I just think that you are so focused on the big picture that you are not seeing what is actually happening in the real world today. 

 

 

This must not be allowed to happen.  Right now there are only two categories of loans on the books of the banks. The good loans and the bad loans.  There are test standards that determine where each  loans fits.  Today, there must be a third category for loans that are being paid and that support those companies that have exhibited every ability to pay.  These companies still have a fighting chance.  Directly addressing the small business owners’ needs will bring a much needed level of confidence to the people of this country.

 

Give the bank lenders the ability to do our job.  Let us document a file and explain why, in spite of a company not passing the “debt service ratio” the banker still believes that the working capital request represents a viable deal.  And make our regulators live with that decision until we are proven wrong and the loan starts to actually show real signs of default in the form of slow or late payments.  The bank can always classify the loan at a later time and it will be in no worse position than it is now.  I recently challenged one such decision, and I was told by a Senior Lender in my bank that they perceived a deterioration in the credit based on the “debt service coverage” and it would be better to grab any money we can now while the getting is good!  This is the philosophy that the banks are using while they spew their deceitful claims that “they are still making loans”. 

 

In the rare cases where the lines are being renewed,  the banks are increasing  the interest rates across the board.  Banks are enjoying a historically low cost of funds.  They borrow  through the Fed at zero to ¼% and they pay their depositors between zero and 1%.  Yet businesses  that were previously being charged Prime + 1% or Prime + 2% are now having their rates increased to Prime + 6% to Prime + 11%.  The banks are clobbering the business owner with higher rates at the very time that these businesses need to be cut a break.  I propose that they are doing this to offset all their losses on the liar business loans they made over the last ten years that have no chance of being repaid.  And you, our leaders, are doing nothing to stop them.

 

I beg our leaders to see the truth in what I am saying.  I know that I am only one person, but perhaps Congress should call various bank lenders into a closed session and have them testify about what is REALLY happening in the industry.  And I don’t mean the CEO’s of the banks and the Senior Risk officers.  I mean the seasoned,  mid-level lenders.  We certainly could tell you a lot, if you would just give us an opportunity to communicate with you.  You will not believe how bad it is out here. 

 

I urge you all to focus on the details and on implementing effective lending policies and programs that will keep our businesses open and our citizens employed.  Irving Fisher, one of America’s reputed economists, outlined the factors that contributed to the length and severity of the Great Depression.  Fisher saw it as a chain of events that started with debt liquidation and distress selling, the contraction of the money supply as bank loans were paid off and a deterioration of confidence.  Will you allow the banks to create the scenario where history will repeat itself?   Or will you ensure that when history unfolds and our future generations look back at this period of time, that they can say that YOU had the strength of character to make the tough decisions that brought us quickly out of this crisis?  We are all depending on it.

 

Readers:  Please, take a moment to send YOUR story to President Obama, the Senate and House Banking Committees and your Congressional Leaders. 

 

http://change.gov/page/s/yourstory

http://banking.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.ContactForm

http://financialservices.house.gov/contact.html

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

 

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Anonymous Banker seeks advice on Foreclosure Litigation

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Anonymous Banker received the answer to the question posed below:  The answer is NO….. An individual may not use the bank’s violation of Regulation H as a Private Right of Action in its defense against foreclosure.  Too bad – the banks should be held responsible for violation of this Regulation, which I believe is at the root of our economic crisis.

 

This time, I’m looking for advice.  I have a theory that I’d like to have reviewed by attorneys that have some knowledge of foreclosure litigation.

Here are my thoughts.  Perhaps you could tell me if my plan has any merit.

There’s a law on our books called Reg H.  The law and the related Interagency Guidelines defined what procedures banks needed to follow with respect to lending secured by real estate.  Banks must, “adopt and maintain written policies that establish appropriate limits and standards for extensions of credit that are secured by liens on or interest in real estate.  Policies should be consistent with safe and sound banking practices; appropriate to the size of the institution and the nature and scope of its operations; and reviewed and approved by the bank’s board of directors at least annually.”

 

My thought is that banks that issued sub-prime mortgages, specifically no-income and no-asset verification loans, violated Reg H.   The Regulators must have identified these violations and cited them in the examination reports, but these reports are not available to the public. 

 

I believe that we must stop the foreclosures in order to begin the economic recovery process. While the banks say they are modifying mortgages in an effort to help the economic recovery of this nation, their efforts are nominal. In the scheme of the problem that they themselves created, they must be required to do more.  They continue to foreclose on properties and withdraw credit from the business marketplace.  They are merely making knee-jerk reactions, rather than effectively evaluating credit on a case by case basis.  In many cases, credit lines to businesses are being cancelled even though the business owner has not missed even one payment.

 

While I do not believe that any form of class action suit would be beneficial to our economic recovery, I do believe that individuals have been directly harmed by the banks violation of Regulation H.

 

What I want to determine is whether or not an individual can utilize, in their defense against a foreclosure action, the banks violation of Regulation H.   I believe this has to do with “private right of action” with respect to a Regulation such as Reg H.

 

My thought is this.  If banks begin foreclosure proceedings and it is found that they approved the application in Violation of Reg H and Safe and Sound Banking practices, perhaps the courts could rule in favor of the homeowner and prohibit the foreclosure.  What can’t happen is that the courts negate the debt.  Rather, they must find a way to force the banks into modifying the terms of the mortgage.

 

The theory is not a perfect one, I’m sure.  But I think it deserves further consideration by the legal industry and our judicial system.

 

  

Exerpt from one of my previous articles that might help support this position:

Bank regulators are our first line of defense:  Office of Comptroller of the Currency, Treasury, Board of Governers of the Federal Reserve System, FDIC, Office of Thrift Supervision. After Congress passes a law they leave it to the regulators to put the law into effect by writing  and adopting regulations.  Our regulators have one, and only one real purpose – to ensure that each and every bank operates in a safe and sound manner.  In order to accomplish this, they send out  teams of examiners – routinely, to every single bank in the country – to delve into the bank’s activities and check them against the requirements of regulations.  This whole procedure, the laws, the regulations and the agencies to examine compliance with the regulations – was put in place to protect the depositors’ money, the banks that hold that money and –  on a national scale, our country’s economic safety and soundness.  This process began 75 years ago, after the banking industry collapsed and led us into the Great Depression.

 

Federal Reserve Regulation H is a “uniform” regulation.  This means that each of the other three agencies also adopted an identical regulation at the same time.    They are found in 12 CFR 208.51;  12 CFR 34.62, 12 CFR 365 and 12 CFR 560.101.   Links to each of these are provided at the end of this article.  This is some of the content of Reg H and it is directed at all banks.

 

The Real Estate Lending Standards section requires banks to  “adopt and maintain written policies that establish appropriate limits and standards for extensions of credit that are secured by liens on or interest in real estate.  Policies should be consistent with safe and sound banking practices; appropriate to the size of the institution and the nature and scope of its operations; and reviewed and approved by the bank’s board of directors at least annually.”

 

It instructs banks to  monitor conditions in the real estate market in its lending area to ensure that its real estate lending policies continue to be appropriate for current market conditions.

 

And it requires that the adopted policies reflect consideration of the Interagency Guidelines for Real Estate Lending Policies established by the federal bank and thrift supervisory agencies.”

 

The Interagency Guidelines, which are part and parcel of the regulation,  are extensive and I’ve provided links below to the full text document.   But the following quotes will make my point.

 

“Each institution’s policies must be comprehensive, and consistent with safe and sound lending practices, and must ensure that the institution operates within limits and according to standards that are reviewed and approved at least annually by the board of directors. Real estate lending is an integral part of many institutions’ business plans and, when undertaken in a prudent manner, will not be subject to examiner criticism.”

 

“The institution should monitor conditions in the real estate markets in its lending area so that it can react quickly to changes in market conditions that are relevant to its lending decisions.”

 

“Prudently underwritten real estate loans should reflect all relevant credit factors, including-

  • the capacity of the borrower, or income from the underlying property, to adequately service the debt;
  • the value of the mortgaged property;
  • the overall creditworthiness of the borrower;
  • the level of equity invested in the property;
  • any secondary sources of repayment;
  • any additional collateral or credit enhancements (such as guarantees, mortgage insurance, or take-out commitments).”

 

Our regulators were armed with this law and these guidelines.  And yet, when they examined the banks and discovered that they were not applying a credit review process that was  consistent with safe and sound lending practices, in spirit or in fact, they failed to impose penalties that would have brought these horrific lending standards  to an abrupt end.   They knew that the  banks  were issuing no-asset and no-income-verification loans, delving into subprime lending markets, selling these toxic loans into the market  and subsequently repurchasing them to hold in their capital accounts.

 

From PNC’s 10K statement:

We are subject to examination by these regulators, which results in examination reports and ratings (which are not publicly available) that can impact the conduct and growth of our businesses. These examinations consider not only compliance with applicable laws and regulations, but also capital levels, asset quality and risk, management ability and performance, earnings, liquidity, and various other factors. An examination downgrade by any of our federal bank regulators potentially can result in the imposition of significant limitations on our activities and growth. These regulatory agencies generally have broad discretion to impose restrictions and limitations on the operations of a regulated entity where the agencies determine, among other things, that such operations are unsafe or unsound, fail to comply with applicable law or are otherwise inconsistent with laws and regulations or with the supervisory policies of these agencies. This supervisory framework could materially impact the conduct, growth and profitability of our operations. We are also subject to regulation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (”SEC”) by virtue of our status as a public company and due to the nature of some of our businesses.

As a regulated financial services firm, our relationships and good standing with regulators are of fundamental importance to the continuation and growth of our businesses. The Federal Reserve, OCC, SEC, and other domestic and foreign regulators have broad enforcement powers, and powers to approve, deny, or refuse to act upon our applications or notices to conduct new activities, acquire or divest businesses or assets, or reconfigure existing operations.

 

Sources:   12 CFR 34.62        

 

                 12 CFR 208.51      

 

                 12 CFR 365             

http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/05-24562.htm

http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2006/06-8480.htm

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TO FDIC: Issue Cease and Desist orders on dividends and bonuses

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

I read Joe Nocera’s column and recent blog on Wall Street bonuses and quite honestly, I was distressed by his headline titles, “It’s not the bonuses, it’s the principal” and “Bankers gone Bonkers”.   For me, it minimizes the severity of the crime.  There’s an awful lot of whining going on about this issue, but so far, except for verbal “spankings” not much is being done to change it.

 

There is something truly unseemly about seeing Wall Street executives taking down millions after driving the economy over the cliff. Which is why President Obama called them on their behavior this week in a remarkable scolding.

 

Bonuses and dividends should not be allowed.  The banks need to recapitalize.  They need to retain earnings.  When a bank makes a loan to a business,  they often write capital requirements into their loan documentation.  These covenants prohibit companies from distributing income, in the form of dividends or bonuses or salaries,  when that income is NEEDED to sustain the business’s operations and protect the bank’s loan.

 

Well, the people of this country have LENT our tax dollars to these banks and investment companies.  And we should restrict, as part of that loan agreement, the distribution of cash through bonuses and stock dividends, by these institutions.

 

(more…)

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Regulators – Our nation’s ball-less wonders!

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Our regulators were armed with the laws to prevent this financial crisis.  They simply refused to act.    If they would have made an example of even one bank by exercising their power, it would have influenced the entire industry and perhaps prevented the crisis we are in today.Anonymous Banker weighs in on banks violation of law:  Regulation H

 

Recently there has been a lot of talk about the belief that there hasn’t been enough regulation to keep the banks in line.  I, personally, have been blaming Congress for not having enacted laws that would arm the banking regulators with the means to control and monitor the activities of the nation’s banks and the power to impose penalties or take punitive measures when the banks stray from their legally defined mission.  I assumed that the problems that led to our current economic crisis arose from issues that were not addressed – or inadequately addressed – in our laws and regulations.  

 

Bank regulators are our first line of defense:  Office of Comptroller of the Currency, Treasury, Board of Governers of the Federal Reserve System, FDIC, Office of Thrift Supervision. After Congress passes a law they leave it to the regulators to put the law into effect by writing  and adopting regulations.  Our regulators have one, and only one real purpose – to ensure that each and every bank operates in a safe and sound manner.  In order to accomplish this, they send out  teams of examiners – routinely, to every single bank in the country – to delve into the bank’s activities and check them against the requirements of regulations.  This whole procedure, the laws, the regulations and the agencies to examine compliance with the regulations – was put in place to protect the depositors’ money, the banks that hold that money and –  on a national scale, our country’s economic safety and soundness.  This process began 75 years ago, after the banking industry collapsed and led us into the Great Depression.       

 

Well, today I read Federal Reserve Regulation H —   Subpart E entitled “Real Estate Lending and Appraisal”, a regulation born from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act of 1991.  My eyes were opened!!!  My premise, that Congress failed to pass laws to protect us, was completely wrong!  This regulation, which has been in place for over ten years – sets forth all the appropriate guidelines and limitations that should have held the banks in check.

 

 

 

Now this question begs to be asked:  Who is making sure that our banks are complying with the regulations that already exist?  And when they are not in compliance, what actions are taken against them to bring them into line?

 

What I believe after reading this is that NO ONE is watching as the banks run amok in their quest for profits.  Really…. no one.  Did the controlling authorities  perhaps forget that this regulation existed since they authored it over ten years ago?   Or did they foolishly believe that the greedy bankers would, of their own accord,  grow a conscience and behave in a responsible manner? 

 

Federal Reserve Regulation H is a “uniform” regulation.  This means that each of the other three agencies also adopted an identical regulation at the same time.    They are found in 12 CFR 208.51;  12 CFR 34.62, 12 CFR 365 and 12 CFR 560.101.   Links to each of these are provided at the end of this article.  This is some of the content of Reg H and it is directed at all banks.

 

The Real Estate Lending Standards section requires banks to  “adopt and maintain written policies that establish appropriate limits and standards for extensions of credit that are secured by liens on or interest in real estate.  Policies should be consistent with safe and sound banking practices; appropriate to the size of the institution and the nature and scope of its operations; and reviewed and approved by the bank’s board of directors at least annually.”

 

It instructs banks to  monitor conditions in the real estate market in its lending area to ensure that its real estate lending policies continue to be appropriate for current market conditions.

 

And it requires that the adopted policies reflect consideration of the Interagency Guidelines for Real Estate Lending Policies established by the federal bank and thrift supervisory agencies.”

 

The Interagency Guidelines, which are part and parcel of the regulation,  are extensive and I’ve provided links below to the full text document.   But the following quotes will make my point.

 

“Each institution’s policies must be comprehensive, and consistent with safe and sound lending practices, and must ensure that the institution operates within limits and according to standards that are reviewed and approved at least annually by the board of directors. Real estate lending is an integral part of many institutions’ business plans and, when undertaken in a prudent manner, will not be subject to examiner criticism.”

 

“The institution should monitor conditions in the real estate markets in its lending area so that it can react quickly to changes in market conditions that are relevant to its lending decisions.”

 

“Prudently underwritten real estate loans should reflect all relevant credit factors, including—

  • the capacity of the borrower, or income from the underlying property, to adequately service the debt;
  • the value of the mortgaged property;
  • the overall creditworthiness of the borrower;
  • the level of equity invested in the property;
  • any secondary sources of repayment;
  • any additional collateral or credit enhancements (such as guarantees, mortgage insurance, or take-out commitments).”

 

Our regulators were armed with this law and these guidelines.  And yet, when they examined the banks and discovered that they were not applying a credit review process that was  consistent with safe and sound lending practices, in spirit or in fact, they failed to impose penalties that would have brought these horrific lending standards  to an abrupt end.   They had to have known that the  banks  were issuing no-asset and no-income-verification loans, delving into subprime lending markets, selling these toxic loans into the market  and subsequently repurchasing them to hold in their capital accounts.

 

Instead of taking decisive action,  they  merely issued another interagency comment to the banks (see links below for full text), urging them to cease and desist in their unrelenting participation in the subprime lending market. 

 

What should our regulators have done and what did they have the power to do?  Our regulators could have called for the firing of CEO’s of the banks and replaced the Board of Directors.  They also have the power to ban executives that are found to have violated banking regulations from ever working in the banking industry again.  Our regulators could have refused to continue their FDIC insurance for failure to comply.  They can also limit dividends paid to shareholders. If they would have made an example of even one bank by exercising their power, it would have influenced the entire industry and perhaps prevented the crisis we are in today.

 

It is interesting that one of the strongest banks in the nation, JP Morgan Chase,  states quite clearly in their 2007 Annual Report exactly how pervasive the problems were.  And we know already that the other banks behaved equally irresponsibly and equally in violation of the law and Reg H.  Some of these banks no longer exist and others will soon disappear.  After reading the following comments, can one imagine that the regulators were unaware of the banks’ violations these many past years?  Or do you have to conclude, as I have, that it was our regulators, and not Congress, that failed completely in safeguarding our county?  The law was there.  The regulators simply did not exercise their powers to enforce them.

 

JP Morgan Chase 2007 Annual Report  (released approximately one year ago)

… increasingly poor underwriting standards (e.g., loan-to-value ratios up to 100%, lax verification of income and inflated appraisals) added fuel to the speculation and froth in the markets. Many of these poor mortgage products were also repackaged and dispersed widely through various securities, thus distributing the problems more broadly.

 

…we still believe that subprime mortgages are a good product. We will continue to find a prudent way to be in this business. 

 

We should have acted sooner and more substantially to reduce the LTV rates at which we lent, given the increased risk of falling prices in a market of highly inflated housing values.  We also should have tightened all other standards (e.g., income verification) in response to growing speculation in the market and the increasing propensity of people to respond to aggressive lending standards by buying houses they could barely afford.

 

In the face of these comments and the banking industries apparent violation of Reg H, instead of being penalized,  banks were rewarded through the TARP program.   Our regulators  have done nothing to ensure that the banks meet their fundamental obligation to lend money.  They have merely asked them to do so.  And finally, our regulators are still not forcing the banks to apply income verification processes to all forms of credit including auto loans and credit cards. 

 

Somehow I don’t think the punishment has fit the crime.    And now that I have the understanding I so desperately sought, I really wish I didn’t look so hard.  I find myself even more saddened to know that while  our country  had the structure and laws in place to prevent this economic collapse, the regulators failed to protect us and the guilty continue to be rewarded for bringing this country to its knees.

 

Sources:   12 CFR 34.62         12 CFR 208.51      12 CFR 365  

Interagency Guidance on non-traditional mortgages

Interagency Guidace on Nontraditional Mortgage Product Risks

    
	     

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The Birth of the Anonymous Banker

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Blame Joe Nocera!!!!!! He introduced me to the world of blogging and the power of sharing ideas and information over the internet. And like Joe, well, I have things I’d like to say about banking, the state of the economy, the regulations and the regulators, and the bailout. I have banking tips I’d like to share that perhaps will give you an edge when you deal with the banks and the bankers.

But more than that, I believe that people can actually make a difference. I’ve created this blog, so that consumers, business owners and bankers can come together and share information and ideas that might help us all through these difficult times.

And last, but not least, I’m hoping the Anonymous Banker will be able to bring together the power of the people in a call to our Congressional leaders for much needed change in the credit card industry.

perc-up header

Click on the picture above to read about our “Citizens’ Initiative” to promote change in Credit Card laws and other legislation that will contribute to our nation’s economic recovery. Together, we CAN make a difference!!!!!

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