Team Obama Tells Citibank You’re Making Me Look Bad

 Obama called Citigroup because this is public news now and the public is pissed… Considering Obama is trying to get the $800+ billion stimulus package passed and is planning on pushing through more spending in the near future for bailouts of banks and knows that in order to push that through this needs to be squashed…

I will be impressed when Obama does something like this before it becomes public knowledge… This is nothing more than part of the show to cover Obama’s ass…

Change You Can Believe In!

The high-flying execs at Citigroup caved under pressure from President Obama and decided today to abandon plans for a luxurious new $50 million corporate jet from France.

The bank used TARP funds to purchase a new corporate jet for executives.

The decision came 24 hours after the banking giant, which was rescued by a $45 billion taxpayer lifeline, defended buying the state-of-the-art Dassault Falcon 7X — one of nine to be flying in U.S. skies — as a smart business deal.

The jet, the epitome of corporate prestige and privilege, can carry 12 passengers in elegant comfort.

ABC News has learned that on Monday officials of the Obama administration called Citigroup about the company’s new $50 million corporate jet and told execs to “fix it.”

via ABC News: High-Flying Citigroup Grounds Plans for $50M Jet.

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Obama’s Fear Mongering Tactics – Economy

Hope over fear. Nope, Fear Mongering of the economy.

This is nothing more than trying to scare the American public to throw away more money for government spending and nationalization of our country. 

Please America wake up, our economy has not reached an uprecedented crisis as Obama claims, there are precedents of worse financial situations in our past. This “plan” needs to be carefully examined and reduced to what is needed. Ideas that have been rejected without pause by Obama need to be discussed.

This cannot be rushed through like the TARP bailouts… Urgency must be balanced responsible decision making. Wants vs Needs must be carefully examined and the wants need to be taken out.

This plan must consist of Needs and those needs must be of an advantage to our financial future. 

President Barack Obama, who arguably won a large chunk of political capital in the 2008 election, is now looking to cash in as he urges Congress to pass a massive economic stimulus package.

President Obama is urging Congress to pass a massive economic recovery package by February 16.

But questions about how to spend the money and concerns about the last stimulus package under former President Bush, may create a roadblock.

It’s something the newly minted president is hoping to avoid. But like most things in Washington, cooperation doesn’t come easy.

And that may be why Obama painted an extremely grim portrait of the nation’s economy on Saturday — just hours before he met with his economic team, and days before he meets with Republicans leaders on Capitol Hill.

“We begin this year and this administration in the midst of an unprecedented crisis that calls for unprecedented action,” he said in his weekly radio and Internet address. “Just this week, we saw more people file for unemployment than at any time in the last 26 years, and experts agree that if nothing is done, the unemployment rate could reach double digits.”

Obama pleaded for quick action, warning, “a bad situation could become dramatically worse.”

via Will Obama’s economic plan stimulate bipartisan support? – CNN.com.

Bailing Out A Failed Auto Industry Will Only Delay The Invitable

The leaders of a failed automotive industry head to Washington to convince Congress that it deserves $50 Billion to save the same industry they drove into the ground

First of all, the approved bailout by Congress does not extend to the auto industry and no money from that should be used for them.

Second, if any money is approved through another act of Congress, there needs to be serious protections put into place, not like the first bailout which is leaving everyone wondering where the first $300 billion went.

Third, if any money is approved, there needs to be hard line goals that must be met within specific time frames. These goals if not met will have to have dire consequences. Along with that the whole sum should not be give at once, it should be given as needed and based on progression of those goals.

Fourth, an entity needs to be put into place to specifically monitor the progress being made.

Lastly, if money is to be given to them there must be a stronger recourse for the people. As others suggested for the banking industry, a voting option for the government based on the stock purchased as part of any bailout.

Personally I do not think we should bail them out. Yes jobs will be lost, but ultimately, someone will buy them out. This is not the same as the Banks where their collapse will collapse every other industry. This is a homegrown failure that stems from lower quality vehicles and not keeping up with technology. This is their own fault and they saw it coming, unless of course they are complete idiots. They saw the bailout of the banks and said let’s capitalize on this. If this were truly sole fault of the economic crisis, then how come the Japanese and European automakers are not in the same boat? Yes the economy has some to do with it, but not the major factor. What will $50 billion really do. Delay the inevitable is all.

The chiefs of the “Big Three” US automakers travel to Congress Tuesday to plead with lawmakers to save their talismanic American industry, despite fading hopes for a quick congressional bailout.The chairmen and CEOs of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler will testify to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee as Democrats mount a long-odds bid to pass a 25-billion-dollar rescue package.

Their testimony, to be followed by an appearance before a House of Representatives panel Wednesday, comes with millions of jobs threatened as the industry’s crippling losses are exacerbated by the deepening economic crisis .

 

Ford CEO Alan Mulally, Chrysler boss Robert Nardelli and Richard Wagoner of General Motors will testify to the committee, under the chairmanship of Democrat Chris Dodd who has already cast doubt a bailout can pass this week.

On Monday, Democratic Senate leaders in Congress opened a “lame duck” session vowing to fight for a new loan program for the auto industry.

Senior party members condemned the reluctance of the White House and Republican leaders to siphon off the money from a 700-billion-dollar finance industry bailout which has already been approved.

 

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid hit out at Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson for refusing to adapt the huge bailout to aid the auto industry, saying: “All it would take is one stroke of a pen and that problem would be solved.

“We are seeing a potential meltdown in the auto industry, with consequences that could directly impact millions of American workers and cause further devastation to our economy.”

On Monday, Senators Reid and Robert Byrd unveiled their 100-billion-dollar economic recovery package that includes the 25 billion dollars for the auto industry, sourced from the 700-billion-dollar bailout.

The Reid/Byrd Economic Recovery Act of 2008 “requires a long-term financial plan from the companies and has robust provisions for oversight, taxpayer protection, and executive compensation,” a Democratic Party statement said.

 

But the White House got in a preemptive strike before lawmakers reported for work, saying the special rescue funds for banks were not the answer, calling on Congress to adapt an existing 25-billion-dollar auto industry loan program.

“The administration does not want US automakers to fail, and in fact we support assistance to automakers,” Bush’s press secretary Dana Perino said.

But “we believe this assistance should come from the program created by Congress that was specifically designed to assist the automakers — from the 25-billion-dollar Department of Energy loan program,” she added.

“This is the appropriate funding to use for automakers rather than seeking an additional 25 billion dollars from the TARP program” — the Troubled Asset Relief Program, as the bailout is known.

 

Democratic leaders would need at least 10 Republican votes to pass the bailout in the Senate and overcome the minority’s obstruction tactics with a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority.

Perino pointed out that any attempt to reopen the TARP program would not make it through the Senate, and said the White House was working with Senate Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell on the issue.

Underscoring Detroit’s desperation, Ford announced Tuesday it would sell a 20-percent stake in its Japanese partner Mazda Motor Corp to raise 540 million dollars in much-needed cash.

“This agreement allows Ford to raise capital that will help fund our product-led transformation, and at the same time, allows Ford and Mazda to continue our successful strategic relationship in the best interest of both companies,” Ford’s Mulally said.

 

Automakers have warned that millions of jobs depend on quick federal aid to the manufacturers of iconic brands including Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and Jeep, and have taken out web and newspaper ads warning of the dire consequences of the industry’s demise.

Wagoner has warned GM needs an infusion of cash in the coming weeks to prevent a devastating bankruptcy at the nation’s largest automaker and cannot wait until president-elect Barack Obama — who has promised to bail out the sector — is sworn in on January 20.

Alan Mulally of Ford:

 Ford Motor Company chief executive Alan Mulally defended his company Tuesday against charges that Ford caused its own problems and said bailing out Detroit was essential to the U.S. economic recovery.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally says Tuesday the auto industry "is just absolutely essential" to the economy. 

Ford CEO Alan Mulally says Tuesday the auto industry “is just absolutely essential” to the economy.

Hours before Mulally and other heads of the Big Three automakers were scheduled to testify before the Senate Committee on Housing, Banking and Urban Affairs, Mulally appeared on CNN’s “American Morning” to discuss his expected testimony.

Mulally told CNN’s John Roberts that Ford took time to develop an electric hybrid car because its top priority was making the internal combustion engine more efficient. He also defended the company’s advertising blitz for the F-150 pickup truck and said the company had been working on improving its fuel efficiency long before there was talk of bailing out Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.

John Roberts: Why should taxpayers give you any of their hard-earned money?

Alan Mulally: Well, I think the compelling argument is that the automobile industry is just absolutely essential to the United States’ economy. We are in an economic situation now, with the credit crisis and the financial and the banking issues, that we really, more than ever, the automobile industry needs to be part of the solution. And the only thing that we’re asking for is to set up a bridge loan mechanism so that if the economy continues to deteriorate in the near term, that we could access that so we could continue to invest in the products that people really do want and value and help be part of this economic recovery. Video Watch Mulally defend Ford’s call for a bailout »

Roberts: But you know what the critics are saying. Critics are saying that you fought efforts as an industry to increase fuel economy standards, you promoted SUVs and pickups as demand for foreign oil increased, and we’re beginning to run out of oil. They’re saying basically you failed to lead, and now you have your hand out saying, “Help us.”

Mulally: And for that we also recognized the cost it would take to do that, so the Congress built into that legislation a mechanism that we could borrow at the Treasury rate so we could fund the acceleration of these vehicles and bring them to the marketplace. That is going very well. We are applying for that today. I think the most important thing is that we continue as a country to work this as a partnership and clearly fuel efficiency, quality, safety are going to continue to be at the top of the customer’s decision list when they purchase a car. Video Watch what it could cost to let the Big Three crumble »

Roberts: At the same time, Mr. Mulally, the people who will be asking you questions this afternoon are looking for some guarantees. Chris Dodd is the chairman of the committee that you’ll be sitting before. Here’s what he said in terms of wanting some guarantees from the industry: “Clearly, we shouldn’t be writing checks without some clear conditionality of what’s going to happen with that industry, if they’re going to change and get back on their feet again.” Can you guarantee to the American people that if you get that money, if the American taxpayers throw you a lifeline, you will change, you’ll become more efficient, you’ll produce cars that people want to buy, you’ll increase fuel efficiency, you will, indeed, move into the future? Video Watch why Congress wants to hear from Mulally »

Mulally: Absolutely. I don’t think it’s a promise. I think it’s a promise that we are already delivering on today. When you look at the Ford lineup going forward, we have now cars, small, medium, and large cars, utilities, and trucks that are absolutely world class in their quality, in their fuel mileage, in their safety — on par and competing and in many cases much better than Toyota and Honda. We have a business plan.

Roberts: One of the cars you’ll be introducing in 2009 is the Ford Fusion hybrid, and you are very excited about that, but it’s being introduced 12 years after Toyota introduced the Prius. Why did it take so long?

Mulally: Well, that’s really one model of the vehicles. The very first hybrid was introduced by Ford with the Escape.

Roberts: It was an SUV.

Mulally: Absolutely, but we have been there on the fuel efficiency from day one, and it’s been part of Bill Ford’s original vision of sustainability and energy efficiency and being better environmentally concerned.

Roberts: Here’s a question I have this morning. I think a lot of people are asking this same question as well. You are betting that because the price of gasoline is now down to an average of about $2.06 a gallon nationwide that that will rekindle interest in your Ford F-150 pickup truck line, and I know that you are trying to improve the fuel efficiency — I think the latest model is 15 [mpg] city, 21 miles to the gallon on the highway. Some people are thinking, “Oh my God, the price of gas is going down, and now you just want to repeat the mistakes of the past all over again.” iReport.com: Your thoughts on the Big Three bailout

Mulally: That’s absolutely incorrect because our plan is to have a full portfolio of small, medium, and larger vehicles that our consumers really want, and clearly the 150 that you have described has been the industry leader in the United States for 34 years, and the consumers love and need that vehicle. They absolutely love the 150. We are complementing that now, just like you mentioned, with small- and medium-size cars and utilities, all of which will be best in class on fuel efficiency. So we want to be there with a full portfolio that the consumers really do want.

Roberts: General Motors has got an electric car coming out. It’s not going to come out until 2010, 2011. Does Ford have a fully plug-in hybrid vehicle coming? Video Watch how despite woes at home GM hopes to expand abroad »

Mulally: We are working on that also, but let me just share with you the Ford plan about that. Our No. 1 priority is to improve the internal combustion engine, and that’s why the turbocharging, the direct fuel injection, we get a 20 percent improvement in fuel mileage and a 15 percent reduction in CO2, but we get that across all of the engines, across all the vehicles. Then we move to more electrification with the hybrids as you mentioned, and we are very excited that the next step after that will be full electrification. Now we’re tied into the grids, and we really have moved to an energy independence solution.

Congress stalls out:

Detroit’s Big Three automakers pleaded with Congress on Tuesday for a $25 billion lifeline to save their once-proud companies from collapse, warning of broader peril for the national economy as well.

“Our industry … needs a bridge to span the financial chasm that has opened up before us,” General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner told the Senate Banking Committee in prepared testimony. He blamed the industry’s predicament not on failures by management but on the deepening global financial crisis.

But the new rescue plan appeared stalled on Capitol Hill, opposed by Republicans and the Bush administration who don’t want to dip into the Treasury Department’s $700 billion financial bailout program to come up with the $25 billion.

Sympathy for the industry was sparse.

Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., told Wagoner and leaders of Ford and Chrysler that the industry was “seeking treatment for wounds that were largely self-inflicted.”

Still, he said, “Hundreds of thousands would lose their jobs” if the companies were allowed to collapse.

Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., complained that the larger financial crisis “is not the only reason why the domestic auto industry is in trouble.”

He cited “inefficient production” and “costly labor agreements” that put the U.S. automakers at a disadvantage with foreign companies.

Wagoner said that despite some public perceptions that General Motors was not keeping pace with the times and technological changes, “We’ve moved aggressively in recent years to position GM for long-term success. And we were well on the road to turning our North American business around.”

“What exposes us to failure now is the global financial crisis, which has severely restricted credit availability and reduced industry sales to the lowest per-capita level since World War II.”

Failure of the auto industry “would be catastrophic,” he said, resulting in three million jobs lost within the first year and “economic devastation (that) would far exceed the government support that our industry needs to weather the current crisis.”

Congressional leaders worked behind the scenes in an effort to hammer out a compromise that could speed some aid to the automakers before year’s end. But the outlook seemed poor.

“My sense is that nothing’s going to happen this week,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said at the opening of the hearing.

Earlier, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Congress might have to return in December — rather than adjourning for the year this week, as expected — to push through an auto bailout.

“Dealing with the automobile crisis is a pressing need. We are talking about a lot of people … and a great consequence to our economy,” said Hoyer, D-Md.

The financial situation for the automakers grows more precarious by the day. Cash-strapped GM said it will delay reimbursing its dealers for rebates and other sales incentives and could run out of cash by year’s end without government aid.

In the Senate, Democrats discussed but rejected the option favored by the White House and GOP lawmakers to let the auto industry use a $25 billion loan program created by Congress in September — designed to help the companies develop more fuel-efficient vehicles — to tide them over financially until President-elect Barack Obama takes office.

“There was no indication that there was any traction” for the White House plan, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska said after a Democratic caucus luncheon.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other senior Democrats, who count environmental groups among their strongest supporters, have vehemently opposed that approach because it would divert federal money that was supposed to go toward the development of vehicles that use less gasoline.

Instead, they want to draw the $25 billion directly from the $700 billion Wall Street bailout — bringing the government’s total aid to the car companies to $50 billion.

A Senate vote on that plan, which would also extend jobless benefits, could come as early as Thursday, but aides in both parties and lobbyists tracking the effort privately acknowledge it doesn’t have the support to advance. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson renewed the administration’s opposition on Tuesday.

Even the car companies’ strongest supporters conceded Tuesday that changing the terms of the fuel-efficiency loan program might be the only way to secure funding for them with Congress set to depart for the year and the firms in tough financial shape.

“While I believe we have to have retooling going into next year, if in the short run the only way we have to be able to get some immediate help is to take a portion of that, I would very reluctantly do that — but only because I believe President-elect Obama is going to be focused on retooling and on a manufacturing strategy next year,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

The White House said the government shouldn’t send any more money to the struggling auto industry on top of the already-approved loans.

“We don’t think that taxpayers should be asked to throw money at a company that can’t prove that it has a long-term path for success,” said White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader, said that redirecting the existing loans was “a sound way to go forward,” and that he was working with Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to set a vote on such a plan.

“The auto industry obviously is very important, very important to my state, but there is a way to do this,” said McConnell, who has two Ford plants and a GM plant in his state.

Paulson, testifying on the House side, defended the administration’s handling of the massive $700 billion bailout for the financial industry and said it should remain off-limits for Detroit, no matter how badly the automakers need help.

“There are other ways” to help them, he said.

At the same time, he testified, “I think it would be not a good thing, it would be something to be avoided, having one of the auto companies fail, particularly during this period of time.”

The industry mounted a feverish lobbying effort to secure funds they said were vital to their survival — and the health of the broader economy. In an e-mail marked “urgent” and sent to owners of GM vehicles, Troy A. Clarke, president of GM North America, pleaded with them to e-mail their representatives in the House and Senate in support of a “bridge loan” for the industry — and ask their friends and family to do the same.

“Despite what you may be hearing, we are not asking Congress for a bailout but rather a loan that will be repaid,” Clarke said in the message.

That argument could be vital as bailout fatigue threatens to sap support for the carmaker aid.

Liberal Left Tries To Blame Bush For Financial Warnings Being Dismissed

Got to love the spin, They were thwarted by the “Bush Administration”, however John Hawke Jr, Comptroller of Currency, was a leftover of Clinton. I would not classify his as part of the Bush Administration.

The Comptroller of Currency serves 5 year terms. Hawke was appointed in 1998, so Bush was stuck with him. Now remember this whole crisis dates back to the Clinton Administration and it would only be logical to believe Clinton’s Comptroller would think nothing was wrong as that was the liberal line, nothing to see here, keep moving.

Bush administration, financial industry thwarted efforts to curb greed

More than five years ago, in April 2003, the attorneys general of two small states traveled to Washington with a stern warning for the nation’s top bank regulator. Sitting in the spacious Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, with its panoramic view of the capital, the AGs from North Carolina and Iowa said lenders were pushing increasingly risky mortgages. Their host, John D. Hawke Jr., expressed skepticism.

Roy Cooper of North Carolina and Tom Miller of Iowa headed a committee of state officials concerned about new forms of “predatory” lending. They urged Hawke to give states more latitude to limit exorbitant interest rates and fine-print fees. “People out there are struggling with oppressive loans,” Cooper recalls saying.

Hawke, a veteran banking industry lawyer appointed to head the OCC by President Bill Clinton in 1998, wouldn’t budge. He said he would reinforce federal policies that hindered states from reining in lenders. The AGs left the tense hour-long meeting realizing that Washington had become a foe in the nascent fight against reckless real estate finance. The OCC “took 50 sheriffs off the job during the time the mortgage lending industry was becoming the Wild West,” Cooper says.

This was but one of many instances of state posses sounding early alarms about the irresponsible lending at the heart of the current financial crisis. Federal officials brushed aside their concerns. The OCC and its sister agency, the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS), instead sided with lenders. The beneficiaries ranged from now-defunct subprime factories, such as First Franklin Financial, to a savings and loan owned by Lehman Brothers, the collapsed investment bank.

Some states, including North Carolina and Georgia, passed laws aimed at deterring rash loans only to have federal authorities undercut them. In Iowa and other states, mortgage mills arranged to be acquired by nationally regulated banks and in the process fended off more-assertive state supervision. In Ohio the story took a different twist: State lawmakers acting at the behest of lenders squelched an attempt by the Cleveland City Council to slow the subprime frenzy.

A number of factors contributed to the mortgage disaster and credit crunch. Interest rate cuts and unprecedented foreign capital infusions fueled thoughtless lending on Main Street and arrogant gambling on Wall Street. The trading of esoteric derivatives amplified risks it was supposed to mute.

One cause, though, has been largely overlooked: the stifling of prescient state enforcers and legislators who tried to contain the greed and foolishness. They were thwarted in many cases by Washington officials hostile to regulation and a financial industry adept at exploiting this ideology.

The Bush Administration and many banks clung to what is known as “preemption.” It is a legal doctrine that can be invoked in court and at the rulemaking table to assert that, when federal and state authority over business conflict, the feds prevail — even if it means little or no regulation.

‘Fundamental disagreement’
“There is no question that preemption was a significant contributor to the subprime meltdown,” says Kathleen E. Keest, a former assistant attorney general in Iowa who now works for the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit in Durham, N.C. “It pushed aside state laws and state law enforcement that would have sent the message that there were still standards in place, and it was a big part of the message to the industry that it could regulate itself without rules.”

“That’s bull—-,” says Hawke, the former comptroller. He returned to private law practice in late 2004 with the prominent Washington firm Arnold & Porter. Once again representing lenders as clients, he confirms the substance and tone of the April 2003 meeting with the state AGs, saying they “simply had a fundamental disagreement.” But he denies that federal preemption played a role in the subprime debacle.

Hawke blames much of the mess on mortgage brokers and originators who, he says, were the responsibility of states. “I can understand why state AGs would try to offload some responsibility here,” he adds. “It’s important to remember when people are trying to assign blame here that the courts uniformly upheld our position.”

His arguments have some merit. The federal judiciary has bolstered preemption in the name of uniform national rules, not just for banks but also for manufacturers of drugs and consumer products. And state oversight alone is no panacea, as the chaotic state-regulated insurance market illustrates. Inadequate supervision of mortgage companies in some states contributed to the subprime explosion. But the hands-off signals sent from Washington only invited complacency. When some state officials fired warning flares, the Administration doused them.

Consider a clash in 2004 between the OCC and regulators in Michigan. In January of that year attorneys working for Hawke filed a brief in federal court in Grand Rapids on behalf of Wachovia, the national bank with $800 billion in assets based in Charlotte, N.C. Michigan wanted to continue to examine a Wachovia-controlled mortgage unit in the state, which the bank had converted to a wholly owned subsidiary. The parent bank sued, claiming Michigan could no longer look at the mortgage lender’s books. Citing the threat of unspecified “hostile state interests,” the OCC argued in its brief that “states are not at liberty to obstruct, impair, or condition the exercise of national bank powers, including those powers exercised through an operating subsidiary.”

Michigan countered that Wachovia Mortgage was not itself a national bank. The Constitution preserves state authority to protect its residents when federal statutes don’t explicitly bar such regulation, Michigan contended. Ken Ross, the state’s top financial regulator, says his department fought Wachovia all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in part because it feared a growing subprime mortgage problem: “We knew there needed to be [state] regulation in place or there could be gaps.” The OCC, he adds, “did not have robust regulatory provisions over these operating subsidiaries.”

The nation’s highest court sided with the Bush Administration, ruling in April 2007 that the OCC had exclusive authority over Wachovia Mortgage. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for a five-member majority, pointed to the potential burdens on mortgage lending if there were “duplicative state examination, supervision, and regulation.” In a dissenting opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens said that it is “especially troubling that the court so blithely preempts Michigan laws designed to protect consumers.”

By the time of the Supreme Court decision last year, Wachovia and its mortgage operations in Michigan and elsewhere were feeling the ill effects of unwise lending. As real estate prices continued to fall this year, pushing many borrowers into default, Wachovia teetered on the edge of failure. In late September the federal government stepped in to arrange a fire sale. On Friday, federal antitrust regulators cleared Wells Fargo’s $11.7 billion acquisition of Wachovia, a day after Citigroup Inc. walked away from its own efforts to buy the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank.

Confrontations such as Michigan’s battle with Wachovia became far more common after George W. Bush took over the White House in 2001 and instituted a broad deregulatory agenda. The OCC, an arm of the Treasury Dept., has adhered closely to it. The agency oversees more than 1,700 federally chartered banks, controlling two-thirds of all U.S. commercial bank assets. Historically, its examiners have monitored bank capital levels and lending to corporations more attentively than they have the treatment of individual borrowers. “Consumer protection has always been an orphan [among federal bank regulators],” says Adam J. Levitin, a commercial law scholar at Georgetown University Law Center.

The OCC brought 495 enforcement actions against national banks from 2000 through 2006. Thirteen of those actions were consumer-related. Only one involved subprime mortgage lending. OCC spokesman Robert Garsson says the figures could be misinterpreted because the agency addresses many problems informally during bank examinations. He declined to provide any examples.

Beyond the influence of free-market theory, turf concerns have reinforced the Administration’s determination to exercise responsibility for as many lenders as possible — and prevent state incursions, notes Arthur E. Wilmarth Jr., a professor at George Washington University Law School. Almost all of the funding for the OCC and OTS comes from fees paid by nationally chartered institutions.

The fight in Georgia
Hawke says the OCC seeks only to exercise powers that it has long held under federal law. It is far more efficient for national banks to deal with one set of federal rules than a hodgepodge of state directives, he argues, echoing the Supreme Court’s majority view. By the late 1990s, he adds, more state legislatures and AGs were trying to bully national banks by, for example, restricting ATM fees charged to nondepositors. State officials “found it politically advantageous to assert these kinds of initiatives,” he says. The OCC’s heightened preemption campaign “was occasioned by the fact the states were becoming more aggressive.”

The current head of the OCC, John C. Dugan, concurs. “To claim that it is our fault from preemption is just a total smokescreen to shield the fact that the state mortgage brokers and mortgage companies were just not regulated,” Dugan says.

Efforts in Georgia to rein in unwise lending provoked a particularly fierce federal reaction. In 2002 the state passed a law that imposed “assignee liability” on the mortgage-finance process. Understanding the significance of this requires a little background.

One of the forces that accelerated the proliferation of dangerous home loans was the Wall Street business of buying up millions of mortgages, bundling them into bonds, and selling the securities to pension funds and other investors. Securitization, which grew to a $7 trillion industry, meant the lenders could pass along the risk of default to a huge universe of investors. Many of those investors, in turn, relied uncritically on reassurances from fee-collecting investment banks and ratings agencies that mortgage-backed securities were high-quality. When many of the reassurances proved hollow, the securitization market collapsed this year.

Assignee liability would radically reshape that market by making everyone involved potentially responsible when things go bad. Investment banks that created mortgage-backed securities and investors who bought them would be liable for financial damage if mortgages turned out to be fraudulent. The financial industry opposed assignee liability, maintaining that it would cripple the market for asset-backed securities. Major ratings agencies later agreed that allowing unlimited damages would be disruptive. The agencies threatened to stop evaluating many bonds tied to mortgages covered by the Georgia law.

But some banking experts speculate that if Georgia’s example had spurred more states to adopt broad assignee liability, greater caution would have prevailed in the mortgage-securities market, possibly preventing the blowups of Lehman, Bear Stearns, and other once-mighty institutions. “If the Georgia law had held, it is possible that other states would have followed and there might have been change earlier,” says Ellen Seidman, who headed the OTS from 1997 through 2001.

‘Outgunned’ advocates
Roy Barnes, Georgia’s governor in 2002, understood the potential significance of assignee liability when he signed the state’s new Fair Lending Act that year. He recalls a breakfast meeting with banking lobbyists during which he admonished the industry to clean up reckless lending. He jokingly threatened to hire “the longest-haired, sandal-wearing bank commissioner you ever saw.” But the bankers fought back, seeking to undermine the new law.

The OCC’s Hawke assisted the industry by issuing a ruling in July 2003 saying the Georgia law did not apply to national banks or their subsidiaries. A fact sheet prepared at the time — and still available on the OCC’s Web site — says: “There is no evidence of predatory lending by national banks or their operating subsidiaries, in Georgia or elsewhere.”

The OCC ruling had been requested by Cleveland-based National City Bank on behalf of several of its units, including First Franklin Financial, a subprime lender that operated in Georgia and other states. First Franklin, which was acquired by Merrill Lynch in 2006, has been hit with dozens of suits alleging unfair lending practices. Merrill shut down First Franklin’s troubled lending business in March. Itself hobbled by mortgage-securities losses, Merrill agreed last month to be acquired by Bank of America. The bank and Merrill declined to comment.

In August 2004, Hawke went a step further in a letter to the Georgia Banking Dept. He said even state-chartered mortgage brokers and lenders were exempt from the Georgia law — if the loans they handled were funded at closing by a national bank or its subsidiary.

By then support for the Georgia law was already eroding. Barnes, a Democrat, lost his reelection campaign in November 2002, and his Republican successor moved to dilute the lending act. Still, supporters mobilized to defend the legislation. One was William J. Brennan Jr., an Atlanta legal aid attorney who specializes in housing and had testified before the U.S. Congress in 2000 about what he saw as the looming mortgage mess. He told the House Financial Services Committee: “The entry of many prominent national banks into the subprime mortgage-lending business has resulted not in reform, but in the expansion of the abusive practices.” Federal regulators, he testified, “have done little to stop” the trend. In early 2003, Brennan and a legal aid colleague, Karen E. Brown, consulted with Georgia legislators trying to block amendments softening the lending law. At a hearing in February, Brennan requested a police escort because he feared that angry mortgage brokers would block his way. “The words that come to mind are ‘outgunned’ and ‘overwhelmed,’ ” says Brown.

The Georgia legislature sharply curtailed the assignee liability provision in March 2003 and eliminated other elements of the law as well. Subprime lenders such as Ameriquest Mortgage that had halted lending in Georgia in protest of the law resumed marketing high-interest, high-fee mortgages. But by late 2007, Ameriquest had gone out of business after agreeing to a $325 million settlement to resolve suits alleging that it had made fraudulent loans.

Escaping state enforcement
Georgia now has the sixth-highest rate of foreclosure in the country. Consumer advocates and state attorneys general contend the weakening of the state’s law was a severe blow to efforts to curb careless lending. “Had the Georgia Fair Lending Act not been watered down, we would be in a very different place right now,” says Brown.

In some states, dubious local mortgage firms sold themselves to national banks, gaining protection against state enforcement. The Iowa Division of Banking in 2006 sought to examine a subprime broker called Okoboji Mortgage in the town of Arnolds Park. A borrower had accused the firm (named for an area lake) of duplicitous lending practices. Cheryl Riley, a 52-year-old janitor, told state officials she had not received the 30-yearfixed-rate mortgage she thought she had arranged with Okoboji in 2005. Instead of one monthly statement, Riley got two: one for a 9.25 percent adjustable-rate loan and another for a 15-year fixed loan at 12 percent. Both rates were far higher than what Riley and her husband thought they had negotiated. “We were horrified,” she says.

A preliminary state investigation found that Okoboji’s manager had headed a mortgage firm in Nebraska that lost its license for falsifying loan documents. But Okoboji refused Iowa’s demand for an examination, forcing the agency to file suit in August 2006. Okoboji responded by announcing that it had been acquired by Wells Fargo, a nationally chartered bank regulated by the OCC. Okoboji handed in its state license, saying it no longer had to comply with Iowa rules. “We’d had red flags but were now blocked from investigating,” says Shauna Shields, an Iowa assistant AG.

Okoboji’s former manager, Lyda Neuhaus, calls Nebraska’s earlier actions “a witch hunt” based on “12 miserable complaints.” Her father, Juan Alonso, who owned Okoboji, says he sold his company because he wanted to retire, not to escape state regulation. Both deny any wrongdoing. A Wells Fargo spokesman declined to comment on Iowa’s concern about Okoboji and defended the acquisition as benefiting customers and shareholders.

A playing field with no rules
The experience with Okoboji was the sort of thing that Iowa AG Miller had warned about when he joined his counterpart from North Carolina on their visit to OCC chief Hawke in 2003. “Now, we could not do anything with federally chartered banks or subsidiaries,” Miller says. In 2006 and 2007 the Iowa legislature shot down proposals by Miller for more-restrictive lending laws. Lax regulatory standards at the federal level helped undermine his efforts, he explains. State-chartered banks insisted that tougher rules in Iowa would put them at a competitive disadvantage with federally chartered banks overseen by the OCC. “We had to acknowledge the [political]environment we were in,” Miller says.

The banking industry repeated the argument for regulatory “parity” in many states that tried and failed to tighten supervision of subprime lenders, says Keest of the Center for Responsible Lending: “State institutions then wanted a level playing field, which was a playing field with no rules.”

Hawke says that it would have been inappropriate for the states to impose more-stringent standards on federally chartered institutions: “Had they tried to apply those rules to national banks, they clearly would have been preempted.”

In Cleveland in 2002, Frank G. Jackson, then a member of the City Council, could see that many lower-income residents were being persuaded by lenders to pile on high-interest debt. “It was pure greed, based on exploitation,” he says. “[Some subprime lending] is just the same as organized crime.” He started negotiating with mortgage lenders for more-favorable terms. To his surprise, the lenders bypassed him and persuaded the state legislature to enact a less stringent version of an anti-predatory lending act he was drafting. “I figured the good faith had ended, so I passed my law [at the city level],” Jackson says. That law required lenders to register with the city and provided counseling to prospective borrowers.

His accomplishment was short-lived. That same year, the American Financial Services Assn. (AFSA), a national trade group, sued to block Ohio municipalities from passing lending laws that conflicted with state statutes. The Ohio Supreme Court later sided with the industry. AFSA’s goal was to ward off conflicts between federal, state, and local rules, says spokesman Bill Himpler. “Different municipalities moving different anti-predatory lending legislation … would have brought the credit markets to a screeching halt.”

Fulfilling Jackson’s fears, the Cleveland area has become one of the places worst hit by the mortgage catastrophe. More than 80,000 homes have gone into foreclosure since 2000, the highest per capita rate in the country.

In January, Jackson, elected the city’s mayor in 2005, tried a new tactic. He filed suit in state court against Lehman, Wells Fargo, and 19 other lenders, alleging that they sold “toxic subprime mortgages … under circumstances that made the resulting spike in foreclosures a foreseeable and inevitable result.” The city’s attorneys based the suit on an Ohio law banning “public nuisances,” which is usually used against defendants such as manufacturers whose factories emit pollution. The idea was to steer clear of conventional banking law and head off any claim of federal preemption. The suit is pending; the banks all deny wrongdoing.

Walls Street Crash Politics And Crimes

The FBI needs to investigate, the President needs to investigate, Congress needs to investigate Wall Street and the past weeks drops in the Market.

Wall Street has given $35 million to liberals in this past election cycle. The media has touted how Barack’s numbers have gone up as the economy gets worse because Americans do not feel McCain can handle the economy.

To me this sounds like a political move to get Obama elected.

Finally Someone Calls Franks Out

Nothing More To Say

Senate Offers Bailout Proposal 1.1 – Update

The Senate has stepped up to the plate and put some sidedishes on the proposal to hopefully entice more House Republicans to vote in favor of the bailout… Details will be released today however the article hints at the main goals for the new proposal…

Senate leaders scheduled a Wednesday vote on a $700 billion financial bailout package after accepting tax breaks and a higher limit for insured bank deposits in a bid to win House approval and send legislation to President Bush by the end of the week.

Top lawmakers said the Senate proposal, worked out after a day of behind the scenes maneuvering, would include tax breaks for businesses and alternative energy and higher government insurance for bank deposits.

“It has been determined, in our judgment, this is the best thing to move forward,” said Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and the majority leader, in announcing the surprise move.

The senators issued no details of their proposal and said none would be available until Wednesday. The lawmakers were gambling that the tax package would appeal to lawmakers who helped sink the measure in the House on Monday, without driving off Democrats who have opposed extending the tax incentives without offsetting spending cuts elsewhere.

House Democratic leaders reacted cautiously to the new approach, with Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader and a chief advocate of paying for the tax breaks, saying, “I am talking with my House colleagues about the Senate action and how to best proceed.”

But House Republican leaders, who said they had been advised about the Senate plan, said the new elements would appeal to their rank-and-file, which voted strongly against the legislation Monday. A spokesman for Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican leader, said that “Mr. Boehner was consulted and gave the green light.”

Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and chairman of the Senate banking committee, said the Senate decided to move quickly, citing signs of regret from some House members after the markets plunged in response to their initial vote.

“I think their will is coming back having heard from their constituents,” Mr. Dodd said.

Lawmakers said the stock market response to the rejection was a sobering experience that could enhance prospects for a revised plan. Some anxiety lifted on Tuesday, as the Dow Jones industrial average rose 485 points, regaining more than half of the 778 points it lost on Monday.

Still, deep concern remained about credit markets, as the rate that banks charge one another shot higher — to a record high by one widely used measure — making borrowing more difficult.

President Bush joined the two major presidential candidates, Senators John McCain andBarack Obama, in calling for quick action to stabilize the markets and avoid what Mr. Bush characterized as the threat of “painful and lasting” damage to the economy.

Both presidential candidates and the Bush administration also endorsed the increase in bank deposit insurance.

On the morning after the sell-off on Wall Street, Congressional offices reported a shift in angry calls from constituents, with some now demanding that lawmakers take some corrective action — a distinct change from the outpouring of public opposition that contributed to the defeat of the plan.

“I started hearing from a lot of people who lost money on their investments thanks to the big drop on Wall Street yesterday,” said Representative Steven C. LaTourette, Republican of Ohio, who voted against the plan.

As they explored ways to tinker with the proposal in consultation with the Bush administration, all sides agreed any revisions would not change the underlying concept of granting the Treasury Department access to up to $700 billion to purchase — and eventually resell — troubled securities that were clogging the financial system.

It was a delicate balancing act for the architects of the proposal who had to be careful that in adding elements to entice new support they did not lose the support they already had.

“Obviously you don’t want to do something to lose votes,” said Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, who was among Senate Democrats who huddled Tuesday to discuss possible alterations in the proposal.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi was noncommital about the new Senate plan Tuesday night, but other Democrats said it might be difficult to reject given the crisis and the array of tax breaks. “The Senate will vote tomorrow night, and the Congress will work its will,” Ms. Pelosi said. .

House officials spent much of Tuesday considering their own changes, including an extension of unemployment pay and a $1,000 tax credit for less affluent homeowners.

But those plans are not likely to advance given the Senate decision. While the Senate left the door open slightly to other additions to the bill, such revisions would need the agreement of the full Senate, and the House proposals were likely to be blocked by Senate Republicans.

“Opening this up all over again to other things may doom it,” Mr. Dodd cautioned.

The Senate proposal would cost more than $100 billion and extend and expand many individual and business tax breaks, including tax credits for the production and use of renewable energy sources, like solar energy and wind power.

The bill would also extend the business tax credit for research and development, expand the child tax credit, protect millions of families from the alternative minimum tax and provide tax relief to victims of recent floods, tornadoes and severe storms.

Members of the House and the Senate said the bill would create tens of thousands of jobs and reduce the nations’ dependence on foreign oil. But the two chambers have been at odds over whether and how to offset the cost of extending the many tax breaks covered by the legislation. The major obstacle has been Representative Hoyer of Maryland and other centrist Democrats.

Senate and House leaders had been debating whether the Senate, where support for the proposal runs deep, should vote first to provide some momentum for a second vote across the Capital Rotunda. Some senators were leery of going on the record if the legislation could not prevail in the House, but others backed the idea of the Senate taking the lead.

“I would support the Senate going first, which we would be willing to do as early as tomorrow if that would make this process successful,” Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, said in a conference call on Tuesday.

With no new vote in the House even possible before lawmakers reconvene Thursday at noon, strategists for both parties spent Tuesday poring over tally sheets from Monday afternoon’s 228-to-205 outcome, trying to identify lawmakers who could be persuaded to switch their votes.

But winning over some determined opponents was not going to be easy.

“It was one of the best votes of my career,” said Representative Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon, leader of a group of liberal Democratic opponents of the Treasury plan who on Tuesday proposed a series of regulatory and legislative alternatives to the bailout.

But those Democratic opponents did say that they would be willing to back an increase to $250,000 from $100,000 in the amount of a bank deposit that would be insured by the federal government — an idea that on Tuesday gained fast currency as a consensus change in the initial plan.

Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain embraced the deposit insurance proposal early Tuesday, setting off a bit of a political tiff over who deserved credit for initiating it. House Republicans claimed to have offered the insurance increase in weekend negotiations over the plan only to have it rejected.

Democrats said they had no recollection of that provision being brought up in the chaotic talks, but top Democratic Congressional aides said the leadership was willing to add it to the bill and knew of no opposition. The chief uncertainty was whether it would significantly enhance the outlook for the legislation.

“Everybody is on board,” said one top House aide who spoke on condition of not being identified when talking about internal deliberations. “The question is, how many votes does it bring?”

With the House in recess for the observance of Jewish religious holidays, lawmakers consulted via conference call on their ideas for improving the legislation.

“Some will feel very virtuous about having voted against Wall Street and then turn around and find their constituents, generally, paid a huge price for that vote,” said Senator Robert Bennett, Republican of Utah, in exhorting his colleagues to “rise to the occasion” and pass the bill.

“I have faith that the members of the House and the members of the Senate will ultimately recognize their responsibility and do the right thing.”

Trying to calm the markets, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid, the majority leader, released a letter to Mr. Bush, saying, “Working together, we are confident we will pass a responsible bill in the very near future.”

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, was even more emphatic. “This financial crisis is going to be dealt with by Congress, and it’s going to be dealt with by Congress this week,” Mr. McConnell told reporters.

The bill can be downloaded in PDF format here: