Daily Archives: September 9, 2013

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Obama may tap top female Treasury official for Fed

Obama may tap top female Treasury official for Fed

LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) — President Obama is considering picking Lael Brainard, the Treasury’s undersecretary for international affairs, to join the Federal Reserve boardof governors, the Washington Post said Sunday, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the process. The report said the nomination of Brainard, who is a woman, would help answer criticism that women are underrepresented among the administration’s most senior officials

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Inside the End of the U.S. Bid to Punish Lehman Executives

Inside the End of the U.S. Bid to Punish Lehman Executives

At a closed-door meeting in early 2011, Wall Street regulators were close to throwing in the towel on their biggest case.

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s eight-member Lehman Brothers team, having hit one dead end after another over the previous two years, concluded that suing the bank’s executives would be legally unjustified. The group, noting that prosecutors and F.B.I. agents had already walked away from a parallel criminal case, reached unanimous agreement to close its most prominent investigation stemming from the financial crisis, according to officials who attended the meeting, which has not been reported previously.

But Mary L. Schapiro, the S.E.C. chairwoman, disagreed. She pushed George S. Canellos, who supervised the Lehman investigation as head of the S.E.C.’s New York office, to explain how executives who presided over the biggest bankruptcy in United States history could escape without a single civil charge.

“I don’t get it,” she said during a tense exchange with Mr. Canellos in her private conference room in Washington, according to the officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly. “Why is there no case?” she continued, staring at Mr. Canellos, instructing him to continue investigating whether Lehman misled investors. “The world won’t understand.”

She was right. Five years after Lehman’s collapse hastened a worldwide economic panic, the government faces lingering questions about the decision to spare executives like Richard S. Fuld Jr., who ran Lehman for 14 years until its demise. Not a single senior executive from any Wall Street bank faced criminal charges from the crisis, either. And the government’s deadline for filing most charges will expire this month, the anniversary of Lehman’s collapse, providing a reminder of the case and its unpopular outcome.

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Barofsky, watchdog to government bank bailout program, joins law firm represents clients bringing suits against large financial institutions

Barofsky, watchdog to government bank bailout program, joins law firm represents clients bringing suits against large financial institutions

Neil Barofsky, the former prosecutor who brought transparency and accountability to the federal government’s 2008 bank bailout program as its first special inspector general, has joined Jenner & Block, a law firm based in Chicago, as a partner.

Mr. Barofsky, who was appointed by President Obama to oversee the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program in late 2008, was a Washington outsider whose periodic reports on the program questioned Treasury officials’ claims of its effectiveness. He and his office drew criticism at times from those officials, as a result.

Mr. Barofsky left his post in 2011 to teach at New York University’s law school. He also wrote “Bailout,” a scathing account of his time in Washington that highlighted the problem of regulators who he said were for the most part captured by the institutions they were supposed to police.

In an interview, Mr. Barofsky said that joining Jenner & Block was a natural next step because the firm specialized in helping government agencies and major corporations with in-depth investigations of problematic practices. Such investigations, he said, are similar to the work he did at TARP. In addition, unlike many other large law firms, Jenner & Block represents clients bringing suits against large financial institutions.

“I can bring my experience investigating large financial institutions and complex financial transactions to a place that doesn’t just do defense work in this area,” Mr. Barofsky said. “This is an opportunity in private practice to help improve governance and have a truth-seeking role.”

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JPMorgan Reaction to Probes: Cut Things

JPMorgan Reaction to Probes: Cut Things

The regulatory probes into JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) continue, and the bank’s reaction is now to start cutting some of its assets, reports Fox News Business. What exactly is the nation’s largest bank planning to get rid of?

Part of the reason for selling off assets is an investigation being carried out by the FBI and prosecutors from the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office. The aim of the investigation is to determine if bank employees provided regulators with the information needed to investigate power market deals done by the bank.

This newer investigation comes on the heels of $430 million that JPMorgan paid as a penalty in a manipulation case before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

 

Fox News Business reports that bank insiders say Jamie Dimon, CEO of the bank, has given approval for the sale of non-core assets as well as businesses that are not big moneymakers.

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Left with nothing: Elderly homeowner’s home foreclosed due to $134 property tax bill

Left with nothing: Elderly homeowner’s home foreclosed due to $134 property tax bill

On the day Bennie Coleman lost his house, the day armed U.S. marshals came to his door and ordered him off the property, he slumped in a folding chair across the street and watched the vestiges of his 76 years hauled to the curb.

Movers carted out his easy chair, his clothes, his television. Next came the things that were closest to his heart: his Marine Corps medals and photographs of his dead wife, Martha. The duplex in Northeast Washington that Coleman bought with cash two decades earlier was emptied and shuttered. By sundown, he had nowhere to go.

All because he didn’t pay a $134 property tax bill.

The retired Marine sergeant lost his house on that summer day two years ago through a tax lien sale — an obscure program run by D.C. government that enlists private investors to help the city recover unpaid taxes.

For decades, the District placed liens on properties when homeowners failed to pay their bills, then sold those liens at public auctions to mom-and-pop investors who drew a profit by charging owners interest on top of the tax debt until the money was repaid.

But under the watch of local leaders, the program has morphed into a predatory system of debt collection for well-financed, out-of-town companies that turned $500 delinquencies into $5,000 debts — then foreclosed on homes when families couldn’t pay, a Washington Post investigation found.

As the housing market soared, the investors scooped up liens in every corner of the city, then started charging homeowners thousands in legal fees and other costs that far exceeded their original tax bills, with rates for attorneys reaching $450 an hour.

Families have been forced to borrow or strike payment plans to save their homes.