Monthly Archives: November 2014

Bafin says forex probe shows possible criminal acts – magazine

German market watchdog Bafin has found isolated cases of possible criminal activity during its investigation into banks’ practices in foreign exchange trading, the head of banking supervision was quoted as saying.

Authorities around the world are examining whether traders from different banks worked together to influence currency prices, and also whether they traded ahead of their own customers or failed to accurately represent to customers how they were determining the prices.

“So far we have only found isolated cases but they are anything but reassuring. These are possibly criminal acts that could happen because checks failed,” Raimund Roeseler told the Wirtschaftswoche weekly in an advance copy ahead of publication.

He said the investigation would still take some time, adding it was an enormous market.

Read on.

Tax-foreclosure crisis looming as lawmakers set to act

State lawmakers are rushing to ease a tax-foreclosure crisis in Wayne County that could mirror the housing meltdown of half a decade ago — and could give Detroit another spate of bad headlines.

As state legislators reconvene next week for what’s likely to be a frenetic lame-duck session focused on road repairs, Michigan’s top officials are watching for action on a pair of bills to help tens of thousands of homeowners in metro Detroit avoid evictions.

The two bills languished for years in Lansing, but this fall, they have broad bipartisan support as leaders scramble to avoid a tax foreclosure crisis that could mirror the housing meltdown of half a decade ago — and spring Detroit back into the headlines as a city of financial pathos, just as it tries to burnish a brighter post-bankruptcy image.

This year, the Wayne County treasurer began foreclosure proceedings on a stunning 76,000 properties, including 62,000 in Detroit, capping three years of increased efforts to collect back taxes from people like Marcella Crockett, 39, of Detroit.

Read on.

A picture tells a thousand words…

A Tale of Two Bailouts: AIG, Fannie and Freddie and Beyond

It has been some time since my last Forbes column on Fannie and Freddie. After eight weeks in Court, it appears as though the AIG trial, in which former AIG CEO Maurice (“Hank”) Greenberg is mounting a challenge to recover some $40 billion for shareholders from the United States, by attacking all the steps in the multi-billion U.S. bailout, initiated in September 2008, which started at $85 billion, but may have run to as much as $180 billion by May 2009. While separate arguments, there are some instructive elements to contrast the developments in the ongoing AIG dispute with those in connection with the multiple lawsuits brought by the private shareholders (both junior preferreds and common) of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac against both the Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA) and the United States Treasury.

That comparison in turn sets the stage for discussion of two other issues: the recent motion by the Rafter litigation plaintiffs (including Pershing Square Capital Management), as friends of the court and holders of Fannie and Freddie common stock, in opposition of the government’s motion to stay discovery in Fairholme’s takings claim before Judge Margaret Sweeney in the Court of Federal Claims (CFC) and a recent statementby Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), the outgoing chairman of the Senate Banking Committee that:

“Everyone agrees that conservatorship cannot continue forever, so I hope my colleagues will keep working towards a more certain future for the housing market.  However, if Congress cannot agree on a smooth, more certain path forward, I urge you, Director Watt, to engage the Treasury Department in talks to end the conservatorship.”

All these points are interrelated. As ever, I write about these issues as an advisor to several institutional investors with an interest in Fannie and Freddie. I have no similar involvement with AIG.

Read on.

Two greedy RBS bankers who used their jobs to run £3million property fraud escape jail because judge says THEY ‘have suffered’

  • Andrew Ratnage, 50, and his boss Raymond Pask, 54, guilty of scam
  • Pair set up fake companies and used relatives’ names to get mortgages 
  • Bankers borrowed £3m and bought five homes in London, Kent and Essex 
  • All the cash came from their own bank NatWest, which is owned by RBS 
  • Judge spared them jail because they ‘suffered’ and were ’embarrassed’ 

Two ‘greedy’ Royal Bank of Scotland bankers who masterminded a £3million property fraud were spared jail after a judge decided they had already ‘suffered’ enough.

Andrew Ratnage, 50, and his boss Raymond Pask, 54, were both earning more than £100,000-a- year but wanted to make more money using a mortgage scam.

Together they set up a series of fake companies in the name of Pask’s family and then made applications for loans to ‘tart’ up homes and sell them at a profit.

The bankers, who were based at NatWest’s office in Romford, Essex, a bank owned by RBS, then fraudulently borrowed just under £3million over five years

Read more:

Wilbur Ross Steps Down From Ocwen’s Board, other public companies

Item 5.02 Departure of Directors or Certain Officers; Election of Directors; Appointment of Certain Officers; Compensatory Arrangements of Certain Officers.

On November 20, 2014, Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. notified the Board of Directors (the “Board”) of Ocwen Financial Corporation (the “Company”) of his decision to resign as a director on the Board effective immediately as a result of his election as Vice Chairman of Bank of Cyprus and the requirements of certain European regulations which limit directorships of bank officers. Mr. Ross is simultaneously resigning from the board of directors of several other public companies. Mr. Ross’ decision to resign as a director was not due to any disagreements with the Company on any matter relating to the Company’s operations, policies or practices.

HSBC Accused of Helping Argentines Avoid Tax — Update

BUENOS AIRES–Argentina accused three HSBC units of helping more than 4,000 Argentine citizens avoid paying taxes on money they allegedly hid in secret Swiss bank accounts.

Argentina’s tax agency, AFIP, said on Thursday it had filed a criminal complaint against HSBC Bank Argentina SA, HSBC Private Bank Suisse and HSBC Bank USA for their roles in the alleged scheme. An AFIP official later said the government estimates that Argentines used HSBC accounts in Switzerland to avoid paying taxes on assets totaling roughly $3 billion.

In the complaint, Argentina said the HSBC units and managers had “set up an illegal platform for the sole purpose of helping Argentine taxpayers evade their taxes.” As of 2013, only 125 Argentines had declared having accounts at HSBC’s Swiss unit, AFIP said.

Read on.

Lawsuit accuses Wells Fargo of biased lending in Chicago area

(Reuters) – Wells Fargo & Co was sued on Friday by Cook County, Illinois, which accused the largest U.S. mortgage lender of targeting black, Hispanic and female borrowers with predatory and discriminatory lending in the Chicago area.

The lawsuit is the latest accusing major banks of biased mortgage lending that harmed major American cities, such as Los Angeles, Miami and Baltimore, and prolonged the nation’s housing crisis. These lawsuits have had mixed success.

According to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, which is part of Cook County and the third-most populous U.S. city, Wells Fargo has for more than a decade discriminated against minority and female borrowers in the region, with a goal of maximizing profit.

The 152-page complaint said the bank targeted borrowers from the time loans were made through foreclosure through “equity stripping,” which includes the imposition of inflated or unnecessary rates and fees, as well as penalties to refinance.

Read on.

Goldman Sachs Hit With More Metal-Rigging Claims

Law360, Los Angeles (November 25, 2014, 10:57 PM ET) — A putative class on Tuesday added to allegations that Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and others unfairly pulled strings in metals markets with a suit that says the bank fixed prices in platinum and palladium, in what plaintiffs firm Labaton Sucharow LLP called the first nationwide suit over those metals.

Goldman, a BASF SE unit, HSBC Bank USA and Standard Bank PLC used their influence as the only parties in a teleconference twice per day that set the rates for platinum and palladium to unfairly benefit their own…

Source: Law360

How Bank of America and JPMorgan locked down a captive market

Bank of America’s original, no-bid deal with the Treasury Department was to manage federal inmates’ accounts and prison store inventory. It was worth $14.4 million. In 14 years, the contract has expanded to include electronic money transfers, phone technology and e-messaging and grown to at least $76.3 million.

JPMorgan’s first contract to issue government debit cards was awarded in 1998. Treasury says the initial agreement is no longer available. A 2008 contract provided by Treasury was also awarded without competitive bidding.

This timeline tracks how the two deals broadened and became more lucrative as together they were amended at least 40 times. Dollar figures reflect the total value of the contract as of that contract amendment.

Read on.