Daily Archives: June 28, 2016

Congressional watchdog expands probe of lax Wall Street oversight

A U.S. congressional watchdog said on Tuesday it has formally added three agencies to its investigation into whether government regulators are too soft on the banks they are meant to police.

In March, Reuters exclusively reported that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) was preparing a probe of the U.S. Federal Reserve and other to-be-determined regulators, in response to a request by Democratic U.S. Representatives Maxine Waters and Al Green for it to look into “regulatory capture.”

The review, requested last October, is the first by an outside agency into the perception that financial regulators are “captured” by and too deferential toward the bankers they supervise, so that Wall Street benefits at the public’s expense.

Lawrance Evans, director of the GAO’s financial markets and community investment division, said in an email on Tuesday that the probe would include the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). The GAO will also look back at work by the Office of Thrift Supervision, which merged with the OCC in 2011, and regulates savings and loan institutions.

Read on.

The best-paid bank CEO in America may not be who you think

Not one of these guys.

Marketwatch:

The list of top-paid executives in the U.S. banking industry offers few surprises, with one notable exception. The king of the compensation mountain doesn’t work for the most famous nor the biggest bank, but for an institution that’s little known on the national stage.

Kevin Cummings, chief executive of Investors Bancorp Inc. ISBC, +1.12% beat bigwigs at more dominant players in the industry to be the top-earning bank CEO in 2015, according to an analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Cummings took home roughly $20 million in salary and bonus last year to edge out John Stumpf at Wells Fargo & Co. WFC, +2.42% who received $19.3 million. Cummings saw his compensation package skyrocket 620% year-over-year after the regional institution in 2015 converted from a mutually held bank to a fully public company with a market capitalization of $3.4 billion, helping its stock surge 11% last year.

Panama Papers probe looks stalled until October

It looks like checks carried out by authorities into possible Cypriot connections to the Panama Papers will be dragging into the autumn.

The House ethics committee, which tabled the issue for discussion – the matter was tabled by Greens MP George Perdikis – heard on Tuesday that state agencies and regulatory authorities will be able to come back with a more detailed picture, but not until October.

MPs heard from the Tax Department that to date it has identified 100 of some 3,600 individuals mentioned in the Panama Papers as being linked in some way or another to Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm at the centre of the leaks.

The Tax Department said it was having difficulty identifying the remainder of the individuals as some of the names in the leaked list were identical, occurred several times, and lacked an identity card number or phone details.

The Unit for Combating Money Laundering (MOKAS) has been combing through its own records to determine whether there are any individuals or companies linked to the Panama Papers who have come to the unit’s attention in the past.

A memo that MOKAS submitted to the House committee shows that since September 2013, from convictions relating to money-laundering offences, courts have issued 39 confiscation orders for amounts worth some €36 million.

Read on.

House Republicans Spent Millions Of Dollars On Benghazi Committee To Exonerate Clinton

Huffington Post:

Like eight previous reports, the bitterly partisan panel finds failings, but no blame for the former secretary of state.

WASHINGTON — After spending more than two years and $7 million, the House Select Committee on Benghazi released a report Tuesday that found — like eightinvestigations before it — no evidence of wrongdoing by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or other members of the Obama administration.

The House voted to create the committee after Republicans were frustrated that even their own GOP-led committees failed to find wrongdoing in the events surrounding the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

But the new report also fails to find evidence of wrongdoing, revealing as all previous reports did that the administration’s response to the terror attacks was flawed, but not malicious or derelict.

The select committee report largely repeats the findings of other reports, with a handful of new details and a lot of fresh condemnation.

“We expect our government to make every effort to save the lives of Americans who serve in harm’s way. That did not happen in Benghazi,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), a committee member. “Politics were put ahead of the lives of Americans, and while the administration had made excuses and blamed the challenges posed by time and distance, the truth is that they did not try.”

………………………………………………………….

Here is the GOP report, and here is the Democratic version.

He Was a Hacker for the NSA and He Was Willing to Talk. I Was Willing to Listen.

HE MESSAGE ARRIVED AT NIGHT AND CONSISTED OF THREE WORDS: “GOOD EVENING SIR!”

The sender was a hacker who had written a series of provocative memos at the National Security Agency. His secret memos had explained — with an earthy use of slang and emojis that was unusual for an operative of the largest eavesdropping organization in the world — how the NSA breaks into the digital accounts of people who manage computer networks, and how it tries to unmask people who use Tor to browse the web anonymously. Outlining some of the NSA’s most sensitive activities, the memos were leaked by Edward Snowden, and I had written about a few of them for The Intercept.

There is no Miss Manners for exchanging pleasantries with a man the government has trained to be the digital equivalent of a Navy SEAL. Though I had initiated the contact, I was wary of how he might respond. The hacker had publicly expressed a visceral dislike for Snowden and had accused The Intercept of jeopardizing lives by publishing classified information. One of his memos outlined the ways the NSA reroutes (or “shapes”) the internet traffic of entire countries, and another memo was titled “I Hunt Sysadmins.” I felt sure he could hack anyone’s computer, including mine.

Good evening sir!

Read on.

NBA players schooled on real estate investing by former stars

For most NBA players, their playing careers are over just as the rest of us are settling into our chosen professions. The difference between them and us (in addition to, you know, athletic ability) is that, in some cases, they’ll retire in their mid-to-late-30’s with a lot of money and a lot of time on their hands.

So what will they do with their money and their time? For some former players, investing in real estate becomes their game of choice, but that game comes with a lot of risk.

Earlier this week, a group of NBA players met in New York for the National Basketball Players’ Association’s second annual real estate symposium.

On the agenda was a discussion led by two former stars, including former All-Star Danny Granger, on the potential pratfalls that current players need to be on the lookout for if they’re interested in investing in real estate.

Read on.

Supreme Court to consider Miami’s predatory lending suit against Bank of America, Wells Fargo

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it will hear arguments during its next term on whether the city of Miami can sue Bank of America and Wells Fargo for alleged predatory lending.

According to Reuters and ScotusBlog, the Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to the banks, meaning it will consider the city’s lawsuits against Bank of America and Wells Fargo during its next term, which begins in October and ends in June 2017.

The Supreme Court will not rule on the merits of the lawsuits, but rather whether the city of Miami is allowed to bring the lawsuits, which accuse the megabanks of engaging in long-term mortgage lending discrimination in the city.

Read on.

Merrill Lynch Whistleblowers Who Sold Clients Notes That Lost 95% And Then Moved To UBS Took Out Some Insurance First (Recorded Incriminating Calls With A Superior)

Deal Breaker:

Have you recently sold a product to clients that basically lost all of its value? Do you want to do something to help your investors but have received some pushback from management? Consider taking the following steps:

  • Get your boss on the phone and get him talking about how he knows the investment is a real dog but doesn’t want to make a big deal of it; have a recording device secretly running the whole time
  • Secure a gig at another bank
  • Once you’ve settled in at the new shop, file a whistleblower complaint against your former employer
  • Profit!

The Securities and Exchange Commission is preparing a civil enforcement case against Merrill Lynch over an investment that fell as much as 95% in value and was marketed in a way that one of the firm’s financial advisers called “borderline crooked,” people close to the probe said…With clients complaining after the value of the notes plunged, the brokers secretly taped calls with executives at Merrill, left the firm for rival UBS Group AG and then filed a whistleblower complaint over the notes with the SEC…so-called roll costs averaged about 12% of the principal per quarter in the first half of 2011, before falling to an average of less than 4% per quarter in the second half of the year, according to Merrill. In the calls, the brokers allege they were never told the costs could grow so large…The advisers were told on the calls not to suggest to their clients the product was flawed. “What you’d love to do is avoid customer complaint,” Mark Ryan, a manager at the firm, told Messrs. Ringwall and Manion. “We can’t just tell everyone, ‘Hey this is a defective product.’”

Ex-NFL star Irving Fryar serves only 8 months of 5-year prison term for mortgage fraud

Convicted of conspiring with 74-year-old mother to steal $1.2 million

Irving Fryar, who spent 16 years in the National Football League, starring for the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles during his career, is now a free man, after he recently walked out of New Jersey state prison after serving only eight months of a five-year sentence for mortgage fraud.

Last year, Fryar recieved a sentence of five years in prison after being convicted for his part in a scheme that involved taking out six home equity loans his mother’s home – at the same time.

In August of 2015, Fryar and his 74-year-old mother, Allene McGhee, were found guilty of conspiracy and theft of deception for a scheme that defrauded several financial institutions of $1.2 million.

According to court documents, five of the six loans taken out on McGhee’s home were taken out within a six-day period and four of the loans closed on a single day –Dec. 21, 2009.

Read on.

Guaranteed Rate offers 1% down mortgage program through homebuyer grant with Chicago

1% down payment mortgage? This is scary…

Guaranteed Rate announced a partnership with the City of Chicago and Chicago Infrastructure Trust to help bring more Chicago residents into homeownership through a new 1% down payment loan.

“Mayor Emanuel remains focused on his goal of building a stronger, more durable city economy that gives every hardworking Chicagoan a chance to participate,” said Leslie Darling, Executive Director of the Chicago Infrastructure Trust. “Through our partnership with Guaranteed Rate, this Program will strengthen our neighborhoods by providing working- and middle-class Chicago home buyers with the financial support they need for down payments and closing costs.”

Read on.