Daily Archives: August 6, 2012

Get A Citi Rewards Card, Buy Women

Consumerist tries to make some sense of Citi rewards’ incentives… and fails:

Is there no limit to what banking rewards programs will cover these days? Flights, hotel rooms, rental cars, electronics, women. Wait — what?


Consumerist reader F. is a member of Citi’s Extra Cash rewards program and saw they could earn 100 points just for taking this survey. But when F. got to this question about “What products or services are you considering purchasing using your Extra Cash?”, they noticed that apparently Extra Cash can be spent on adult human females.


We’re sending this to Citi, because we’re pretty sure this isn’t what the survey was meant to say.

Millionaire buys every foreclosed home in Michigan county for $4.8 million

MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. –  A Michigan millionaire decided to go into the real estate business with a bang last week by buying every tax foreclosed property offered at a recent county auction.

MyFoxDetroit.com reports Bill McMachen, a businessman and former yacht dealer, paid about $4.8 million for all 650 tax foreclosed properties at Macomb County’s July 31 sale.

Authorities had announced at the auction that the properties could be sold as a package deal for the price of the back taxes, which totaled about $4.8 million. McMachen jumped at the chance.

“I got a deal nobody else could have got,” he told MyFoxDetroit.com. “I paid all the back taxes that was due and that’s what the county wanted.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/08/06/millionaire-buys-every-foreclosed-home-in-michigan-county-for-48-million/#ixzz22mmceI00


According to reports on CNBC and elsewhere New York State has accused Standard Chartered of hiding $250 Billion in Iranian transactions, that the acts were willful, that they involved stripping identifying information from the transfers so as to prevent identifying the source of said transactions and that this was an intentional and pervasive practice.

The allegation involves some 60,000 transactions and state regulators have threatened to suspend or revoke the bank’s operating license in New York (and, presumably, is doing so in concert with the OCC and/or Treasury.)

This isn’t the first time that a bank with operations in the United States has been accused of stripping identifying information from transactions. That act, standing alone, is a federal offense under existing laws and up until now has been met only with “handslap” fines.

Details are somewhat sketchy on the latest allegations — but note that the firm claimed in 2007 that it cut all ties with Iran. It appears that the complaint deals with conduct prior to that time.

Oh, and as for the bank’s attitude? Read this from the complaint:

Lest there be any doubt, SCB’s obvious contempt for U.S. banking regulationswas succinctly and unambiguously communicated by SCB’s Group Executive Director in response. As quoted by an SCB New York branch officer, the Group Director caustically replied: “You f—ing Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we’re not going to deal with Iranians.”6

Read on.

Berkeley City Council explores solutions to home foreclosures, possibility of using eminent domain

The Berkeley City Council has expressed interest in assisting local homeowners facing foreclosure by using a historically unpopular tactic.

At last Tuesday’s meeting, the council approved sending a letter to Alameda County authorities requesting a meeting to discuss the possibility of using eminent domain — a practice used by government entities to seize private property for public use in return for compensation — in order to help people refinance their homes.

The letter, originally drafted by City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, suggests that the practice could be used by the county to take over a home loan if the bank holding it cannot prove ownership.

“We think the county can take the mortgage by eminent domain for free without paying the bank for them,” said Susan Harman, the national volunteer manager for the Public Banking Institute who is working with Worthington on the plan. “In at least half the cases, banks can’t prove they own them.”

Read on.

As Libor Fault-Finding Grows, It is Now Every Bank for Itself

Major banks, which often band together when facing government scrutiny, are now turning on one another as an international investigation into the manipulation of interest rates gains momentum.

With billions of dollars and their reputations on the line, financial institutions have been spreading the blame in recent meetings with authorities, according to government and bank officials with knowledge of the matter. While acknowledging their own wrongdoing, institutions are pointing out actions at other banks that they believe are worse — and in some cases, extend to top executives.

The Swiss bank UBS [UBS  10.77    0.51  (+4.97%)   ], which has a history of regulatory run-ins, has shared e-mails, instant messages and other information suggesting it had colluded with traders at Deutsche Bank [DB  31.20    2.85 (+10.05%)   ]HSBC [HBC  43.68    1.81  (+4.32%)   ] and the Royal Bank of Scotland [RBS  6.81    0.46  (+7.24%)   ] to manipulate key interest rates, according to court documents and bank employees. In talks with authorities,HSBC is providing its own account of the activities, according to a lawyer briefed on the matter. Citigroup has also detailed rate manipulation with other banks.

Read on.

Biloxi Buzz for Monday


Obama Reacts To Wisconsin Shooting

Sandra Day O’Connor Criticizes Citizens United Ruling

Jared Lee Loughner To Plead Guilty: Report

Romney Persona Non Grata in Italy for Bain’s Deal Skirting Taxes

Libor May Be Manipulated, But Silver Is Not, CFTC To Conclude

From the FT:

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission first announced that it was investigating “complaints of misconduct in the silver market” in September 2008, following a barrage of allegations of manipulation from a group of precious metals investors.


In 2010, Bart Chilton, a CFTC commissioner, said that he believed there had been “fraudulent efforts” to “deviously control” the silver price.


But after taking advice from two external consultancies, the first of which found irregularities on certain trading dates that it believed deserved more analysis, CFTC staff do not have sufficient evidence to bring a case, according to the people familiar with the situation.


The CFTC has analysed over 100,000 documents and interviewed dozens of witnesses since it began investigating the market in 2008, it said last year. The people familiar with the situation said the evidence included records from JPMorgan.


The conclusion of the investigation will come as a relief to JPMorgan. Although no company or individual was named in the CFTC investigation, the Wall Street bank has suffered a torrent of allegations from silver investors on the blogosphere.

The FT continues by referencing the inventor of CDS herself: Blythe Masters:

Blythe Masters, head of commodities at JPMorgan, in an April interview with CNBC conceded that there had been “a tremendous amount of speculation, particularly in the blogosphere, about this topic”, but maintained that the bank had no large bets on silver prices.


“We have no stake in whether prices rise or decline,” she said. JPMorgan declined to comment on the CFTC investigation.

Wall Street lenders want bankrupt city of Stockton to pay them before own retirees

Wall Street lenders say they’re getting a raw deal in Stockton’s bankruptcy, losing millions while the city continues to fund pricey employee pensions.

The city says too bad.

A blistering statement issued this week by Assured Guaranty, a bond insurance company based in Bermuda, suggests that Stockton is the new battleground in the fight over retirement promises made to government workers.

Assured Guaranty complained that Stockton, after filing for bankruptcy protection, is stiffing bondholders to give preferential treatment to employees and CalPERS. The company called that “a contortion of the bankruptcy process” and said today it will press its argument in court.

Assured’s broadside raises new questions about a topic once thought to be out of bounds: whether governments can tamper with retirement plans.

While some corporations have used bankruptcy to cut their obligations to retirees, public-sector pensions generally have been considered sacred: Once workers go on the payroll, their retirement can’t be touched.

Responding to Assured’s claim, CalPERS said pension obligations take precedence over lenders under California law.
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/08/03/4688241/bond-insurer-blasts-stockton-for.html#storylink=cpy

RBS says San Bernardino County eminent domain for mortgages proposal may not be worth controversy

A Royal Bank of Scotland analysis questions a controversial proposal for a San Bernardino County agency to use eminent domain to buy “underwater” mortgages.

The bank asserts that declining foreclosure rates mean a relatively low number of homeowners will benefit from the plan. With that conclusion in mind, analysts for the Royal Bank of Scotland question whether such bold action as eminent domain is necessary.

“Something is working, and the best approach for government officials might be to simply let the system continue to mend itself,” the bank’s study reads.

The assertion that “something is working,” however may be subject to as much debate as the eminent domain proposal itself.

Although the county’s foreclosure rates have trended downward, they remain high. Also, an estimated 150,000 households in the county are “underwater,” meaning they owe more on their mortgages than their house’s current market value.

The eminent domain proposal itself comes from San Francisco-based Mortgage Resolution Partners.

Company co-founder John Vlahoplus said Friday that banking interests oppose the plan because they want to cherrypick from future foreclosures and convert those homes into rental properties.

“They’ll turn stable middle-class neighborhoods into ones that have transient renters,” Vlahoplus said.

Mortgage Resolution Partners proposes to raise private capital to buy home loans that have been packaged into private-label mortgage-backed securities.

Read on.