Daily Archives: August 4, 2014

Andrew Cuomo’s Office Denies Using Private Email Accounts. But it Does.

In a previously unreported response to a public records request, the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo claims staff do not use private email accounts for official business. Yet as we’ve reported, aides to the governor have done just that.

The Cuomo administration’s assertion came after the New York Times requestedemails related to official business from the personal email accounts of several top Cuomo aides.

In its response this past March, Cuomo’s office issued a blanket denial: Staffers “do not use their personal email accounts for government business.”

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We obtained the Times’ request, and the response of the governor’s office, through our own public records request.

Using personal email accounts can help officials hide communications that are supposed to be available to the public. It also violates New York state’s technology policy unless it is explicitly authorized.

As we detailed in May, I was the recipient of an email regarding state business from the personal account of Cuomo aide Howard Glaser. Several people who communicate with the governor’s office on media or policy matters told me at the time they, too, had gotten emails from personal accounts of Cuomo aides. Others told me the same thing after the publication of our story. None wanted to be named.

A spokesman for the governor’s office declined to comment on the administration’s insistence that staffers don’t use personal emails to conduct public business 2013 or on the evidence to the contrary.

The Times was seeking emails from personal accounts of Cuomo aides including Glaser and secretary to the governor Larry Schwartz.

Read on.

 

Ben-GONE-zi: House Committee finds NO administration wrongdoing

Finally,  Rep. Darrell Issa’s 2 year witch hunt probe on the Benghazi attacks has been exposed. It’s about time.

According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the House Intelligence Committee has finally concluded that there was no — repeat NO — deliberate wrongdoing by the Obama Administration at any time regarding the Benghazi attack.

The panel voted Thursday to declassify the report, the result of two years of investigation by the committee. U.S. intelligence agencies will have to approve making the report public.

(Rep. Mike Thompson – D, WA) said the report “confirms that no one was deliberately misled, no military assets were withheld and no stand-down order (to U.S. forces) was given.”

LloydsBank Group repo men default on the moral payments

Did you think traders at Lloyds and Bank of Scotland would be grateful that taxpayers stumped up £20bn to save their banks in 2009? Ho, ho. Their first instinct, of course, was to try to fiddle the terms of the banking bailout and rip off the Bank of England.

That the trading desks of the two banks were up to their necks in the wider Libor-rigging scandal was known already. The “highly reprehensible” element in revelations, as Bank governor Mark Carney put it, is the fact that some employees regarded the state bailout as another opportunity to lie, this time about “repo” rates.

Submissions were used to calculate the fees Lloyds, Bank of Scotland (as part of Hbos) and other institutions paid to access the Bank of England’s hastily-erected Special Liquidity Scheme (SLS). The ruse was to present the banks as stronger than they were, thereby reducing the cost of accessing state funds. The Bank, and thus taxpayers, were taken for fools.

The sums were tiny in the scheme of things. The now-unified Lloyds Banking Group will pay £7.76m to compensate the Bank of England, against a total bill of £1.3bn for accessing the SLS. But the fact of a fiddle against the Bank is astonishing and the motivation bewildering.

Libor-rigging was understandable in that it was all about personal greed; a few fractions of a percentage point could benefit a trading book and thus produce a bigger end-of-year bonus. By contrast, no personal gain was possible by manipulating SLS submissions because any benefit would accrue to their employer only. The traders appear to have been fuelled by resentment. It “just keeps going up and up doesn’t it?” grumbled one Bank of Scotland trader about the SLS bill, ignoring the fact that his bank would have gone bust without state support. A purer case of biting the hand that feeds is hard to imagine.

Read on.

Bubble-Era Loans Still Represent Two-Thirds of U.S.Foreclosure Inventory

Last year in this space I shared some findings from analysis of RealtyTrac foreclosure data showing that 75 percent of all loans in foreclosure at the time were originated between 2004 and 2008 — demonstrating the lingering effects of the bad loans that triggered the foreclosure crisis even as new foreclosure activity had dropped to a six-year low.

Now new foreclosure activity — foreclosure starts — have dropped to a more than eight-year low, according to RealtyTrac’s June 2014 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report. They are in effect back to normal levels they were at before the housing bubble burst in late 2006.

However, at the risk of sounding a bit boastful, as I predicted in the post last year the share of distressed sales is still well above normal even as foreclosure starts have returned to normal levels. In the first quarter of 2014, distressed sales — including short sales, sales of property at the foreclosure auction and sales of bank-owned properties — accounted for 14.3 percent of all residential sales in May, according to the latest RealtyTrac Residential & Foreclosure Sales Report. While that share of distressed sales was down from 15.6 percent in the previous month and down from 15.9 percent of all sales a year ago, it is still far above the pre-housing crisis level, consistently below 5 percent.

Read on.

Banks Making Fewer Mortgages Because of New CFPB Rules, Fed Says

Let’s not forget is that the big banks own much less loans on their portfolios while 60% of the loans in this country is government-owned.The CFPB guidelines are simply clamping down on their bad acts in the financial crisis and forces the banks to abide by their rules. No longer the banks can crawl to the other government regulators including OCC.

 

The senior officer loan survey, which is released by the Fed every three months, asked both large U.S. banks and foreign banks about the effect the new ability-to-pay and qualified mortgage rules were having on approval rates for various types of home purchase loans.
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Argentina accuses default hedge funds of ‘fraudulent manoeuvres’

Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich says Argentina will ask the SEC to probe funds who made “incredible profits” from the country’s recent default.

Argentina will ask the US markets watchdog to probe two hedge funds involved in its $1.5bn default, saying that they used “fraudulent manoeuvres” to make “incredible profits”.

Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich has said he will urge the Securities and Exchange Commission to act after the unnamed funds allegedly made money from “privileged information”.

Argentina officially defaulted on Friday after the International Swaps and Derivatives Association ruled that its failure to pay $539m to its creditors earlier this week constituted a “credit event”

Read on.

CONGRESS: Elected leaders vacation like us – mostly

DID YOU KNOW?

The August recess is a five-week break usually taken from the first week of August until the first week of September. It is mandated by a 1970 law requiring legislators to leave Washington to work in their states.

From Press Enterprise (sub. req.):

WASHINGTON – One hopes to take a trip with his son; another will trim his overgrown garden; a third will clean her garage.

In short, Southern California members of Congress are ready to bolt from this hot, muggy city and return to the balmy air of their districts and homes during the annual five-week break for Congress.

But what’s a little time off – the official term is “district work period” – for a political leader beyond the usual constituent connections?

The Register asked 26 members of the House of Representatives in Southern California what each will be focusing on during the annual August recess. Among the responses:

Ken Calvert, R-Corona

Green thumb: “To relax, I work in my garden and tend to my various fruit trees and vegetables. It will also be good to spend time with my cat, Cal. I am sure I will do some barbecuing, catch a preseason Chargers football game or two, and continue to root for the Dodgers.”

History buff: “I’m always reading, usually something nonfiction, often a book on some aspect of American history. I don’t watch much TV, mostly news programs and the History Channel.”

Nothing like a good taco: “There is nothing like California Mexican food. Of course, I always enjoy Miguel’s, Eduardo’s and other local establishments. You can never go wrong with a double-double from In-N-Out Burger.”

Water-conscious: “My yard and garden are a constant work in progress, but I promise not to over water – I don’t want to get fined by the water police!”

John Campbell, R-Irvine

Favorite hobby: Car collecting

Classy vacation: Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance

Good read: “The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food” by Dan Barber

Favorite meal at home: Certified Angus beefsteaks grilled on the barbecue.

Home-improvement project: “I have a huge list. I’ll get to them in January after I leave Congress.”