Posts Tagged ‘Lehman Bros’

Who REALLY Exploded Your Economy, Liberals Or Conservatives?

August 3, 2009

From Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny, pages 67-71:

From where does the Statist acquire his clairvoyance in determining what is good for the public?  From his ideology.  The Statist is constantly manipulating public sentiment in a steady effort to disestablish the free market, as he pushes the nation down tyranny’s road.  He has built an enormous maze of government agencies and programs, which grow inexorably from year to year, and which intervene in and interfere with the free market.  And when the Statist’s central planners create economic perversions that are seriously detrimental to the public, he blames the free market and insists on seizing additional authority to correct the failures created at his own direction.

Consider the four basic events that led to the housing bust of 2008, which spread to the financial markets and beyond:

EVENT 1: In 1977, Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) to address alleged discrimination by banks in making loans to poor people and minorities in the inner cities (redlining).  The act provided that banks have “an affirmative obligation” to meet the credit needs of the communities in which they are chartered.1 In 1989, Congress amended the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act requiring banks to collect racial data on mortgage applications.2 University of Texas economics professor Stan Liebowitz has written that “minority mortgage applications were rejected more frequently than other applications, but the overwhelming reason wasn’t racial discrimination, but simply that minorities tend to have weaker finances.”3 Liebowitz also condemns a 1992 study conducted by the Boston Federal Reserve Bank that alleged systemic discrimination.  “That study was tremendously flawed.  A colleague and I … showed that the data it had used contained thousands of egregious typos, such as loans with negative interest rates.  Our study found no evidence of discrimination.”4 However, the study became the standard on which government policy was based.

In 1995, the Clinton administration’s Treasury Department issued regulations tracking loans by neighborhoods, income groups, and races to rate the performance of banks.  The ratings were used by regulators to determine whether the government would approve bank mergers, acquisitions, and new branches.5 The regulations also encouraged Statist-aligned groups, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, to file petitions with regulators, or threaten to, to slow or even prevent banks from conducting their business by challenging the extent to which banks were issuing these loans.  With such powerful leverage over banks, some groups were able, in effect, to legally extort banks to make huge pools of money available to the groups, money they in turn used to make loans.  The banks and community groups issued loans to low-income individuals who often had bad credit or insufficient income.  And these loans, which became known as “subprime” loans, made available 100 percent financing, did not always require the use of credit scores, and were even made without documenting income.6 Therefore, the government insisted that banks, particularly those that wanted to expand, abandon traditional underwriting standards.  One estimate puts the figure of CRA-eligible loans at $4.5 trillion.7

EVENT 2: In 1992, the Department of Housing and Urban Development pressured two government-chartered corporations – known as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae – to purchase (or “securitize”) large bundles of these loans for the conflicting purposes of diversifying the risks and making even more money available to banks to make further risky loans.  Congress also passed the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act, eventually mandating that these companies buy 45% of all loans from people of low and moderate incomes.8 Consequently, a SECONDARY MARKET was created for these loans.  And in 1995, the Treasury Department established the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, which provided banks with tax dollars to encourage even more risky loans.

For the Statist, however, this was still not enough.  Top congressional Democrats, including Representative Barney Frank (Massachusetts), Senator Christopher Dodd (Connecticut), and Senator Charles Schumer (New York), among others, repeatedly ignored warnings of pending disaster, insisting that they were overstated, and opposed efforts to force Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to comply with usual business and oversight practices.9 And the top executives of these corporations, most of whom had worked in or with Democratic administrations, resisted reform while they were actively cooking the books in order to award themselves tens of millions of dollars in bonuses.10

EVENT 3: A by-product of this government intervention and social engineering was a financial instrument called the “derivative,” which turned the subprime mortgage market into a ticking time bomb that could magnify the housing bust by orders of magnitude.  A derivative is a contract where one party sells the risk associated with the mortgage to another party in exchange for payments to that company based on the value of the mortgage.  In some cases, investors who did not even make the loans would bet on whether the loans would be subject to default.  Although imprecise, perhaps derivatives in this context can best be understood as a form of insurance.  Derivatives allowed commercial and investment banks, individual companies, and private investors to further spread – and ultimately multiply – the risk associated with their mortgages.  Certain financial and insurance institutions invested heavily in derivatives, such as American International Group (AIG).11

EVENT 4:  The Federal Reserve Board’s role in the housing boom-and-bust cannot be overstated.  The Pacific Research Institute’s Robert P. Murphy explains that “[the Federal Reserve] slashed rates repeatedly starting in January 2001, from 6.5 percent until they reached a low in June 2003 of 1.0 percent.  (In nominal terms, this was the lowest the target rate had been in the entire data series maintained by the St. Louis Federal Reserve, going back to 1982)….  When the easy-money policy became too inflationary for comfort, the Fed (under [Alan] Greenspan and the then new Chairman Ben Bernanke at the end) began a steady process of raising interest rates back up, from 1.0 percent in June 2004 to 5.25 percent in June 2006….”12 Therefore, when the Federal Reserve abandoned its role as steward of the monetary system and used interest rates to artificially and inappropriately manipulate the housing market, it interfered with normal market conditions and contributed to destabilizing the economy.

————————————————————————————————

1 Howard Husock, “The Trillion-Dollar Shakedown that Bodes Ill for Cities,” City Journal, Winter 2000.

2 Stan Liebowitz, “The Real Scandal,” New York Post, Feb. 5, 2008.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Howard Husock, “The Financial Crisis and the CRA,” City Journal, Oct. 30, 2008.

6 Liebowitz, “The Real Scandal.”

7 Husock, “The Financial Crisis and the CRA.”

8 Ibid.

9 Editorial, “Fannie Mae’s Patron Saint,” Wall Street Journal, Sept. 10, 2008; Joseph Goldstein, “Pro-Deregulation Schumer Scores Bush For Lack of Regulation,” New York Sun, Sept. 22, 2008; Robert Novack, “Crony Image Dogs Paulson’s Rescue Effort,” Chicago-Sun Times, July 17, 2008.

10 Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, “Report of the Special Examination of Freddie Mac,” Dec. 2003; Office of Federal Housing Oversight, “Report of the Special Examination of Fannie Mae,” May 2006.

11 Lynnley Browning, “AIG’s House of Cards,” Portfolio.com, Sept. 28, 2008.

12 Robert P. Murphy, “The Fed’s Role in the Housing Bubble,” Pacific Research Institute blog.

The government links from footnote 10 have been purged (and I COUNT on left-leaning “news” sources to purge stories that reveal the left for what it is), but there is plenty of evidence that a) Fannie and Freddie were firmly in the hands of Democrats; b) that Democrats and Fannie/Freddie at least twice resisted reforms by President Bush and Republicans; and c) that Fannie and Freddie executives – who were deeply involved with Democrat activismactively cooked the books to obtain huge bonuses prior to the disastrous crash.  We can also demonstrate d) that Barack Obama and Chris Dodd were involved with corrupt Fannie and Freddie (and Obama and Dodd were also receiving large contributions from corrupt Lehman Bros. even as Obama was getting a sweetheart mortgage deal from corrupt Tony Rezko while Chris Dodd was getting sweetheart mortgage deasl from corrupt Countrywide) right up to the tops of their pointy little heads.

When one examines the actual factors that led to the housing mortgage meltdown (as Mark Levin documents), when one examines the Democrat’s patent refusal to even accept that there was even a problem with Fannie and Freddie – much less allow any regulation – prior to the ensuing disaster, and when one examines the record to see which politicians were receiving money from the parties most responsible for the disaster, there is clearly only one party to blame: the Democrat Party.

And they are right back to all their old tricks.  It was rampant and insane spending that got us into this financial black hole – and they want MORE on top of MORE spending.  Meanwhile, Democrats such as Barney Frank are hard at work trying to create the NEXT massively destructive housing bubble, ACORN is trying to seize houses from rightful owners in the name of the “poor,” liberals are making moral hazard that rewards recklessness and irresponsibility and punishes frugality and responsibility official government policy , even as the Obama administration is creating “solutions” to the foreclosure issue that have abjectly failed.

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Financial Crisis: Obama Democrats Have Red Ink All Over Them

September 22, 2008

Whether Franklin Raines is an Obama adviser or not is a rather entertaining question.  He sure seemed to be one until not very long ago:

Raines was an Obama adviser on July 16, when The Washington Post reported:

“In the four years since he stepped down as Fannie Mae’s chief executive under the shadow of a $6.3 billion accounting scandal, Franklin D. Raines has been quietly constructing a new life for himself. He has shaved eight points off his golf handicap, taken a corner office in Steve Case’s D.C. conglomeration of finance, entertainment and health-care companies and more recently, taken calls from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters.”

And Raines was still an Obama adviser on August 28, when The Washington Post said:

In the current crisis, their biggest backers have been Democrats such as Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (Mass.). Two members of Mr. Obama’s political circle, James A. Johnson and Franklin D. Raines, are former chief executives of Fannie Mae.

In fact, Raines was still an Obama adviser as of September 18, when a Baltimore Sun blogger cited a Wikipedia article as follows:

“Franklin Delano Raines (born January 14, 1949 in Seattle, Washington) is the former chairman and chief executive officer of Fannie Mae who served as White House budget director under President Bill Clinton. He is currently employed by Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign as an economic adviser.”

But that last sentence has been scrubbed from Wikipedia within the last two days, and all of a sudden Franklin Raines somehow isn’t an Obama adviser anymore.  It’s almost like when Barack Obama said of Jeremiah Wright, “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother — a woman who helped raise me…”, until, you know, he denounced him.

But when Barack Obama denounces something, all mention of it as being in any way associated with him somehow gets purged – even if that relationship lasted 23 years.  Now when it comes to the McCain denunciation of Franklin Raines as an Obama adviser, The Washington Post faults McCain for relying on…the Washington Post.

McCain spokesman Brian Rogers noted that Obama didn’t contradict the claim when it first appeared in the Post (MORE THAN TWO MONTHS AGO!!!).  But that doesn’t seem to matter.  What matters is that Franklin Raines is black, and therefore McCain is a racist for connecting Obama and Raines.  Apparently, the card deck of Barack Obama, “new politician” of “hope” and “change,” contains a whole bunch of race cards.

But, try as he might to distance himself from his erstwhile adviser, what Barack Obama CAN’T do is deny that Franklin Raines is a DEMOCRAT.  A Democrat who dredges up all sorts of bad mojo for Democrats as they try to frantically scrub their hands of all the red ink and all the corruption that took place during Franklin Raines’ tenure at Fannie Mae.

It reminds us of the October 7, 2004 Los Angeles Times story that appeared titled, “Ex-Fannie Mae Accountant Says CEO Knew of Concerns“:

The former Fannie Mae accountant who raised questions about the mortgage giant’s bookkeeping said Wednesday that he took his concerns directly to Chief Executive Franklin Raines in 2002 and asked him to investigate.

The disclosure by Roger Barnes, who left Fannie Mae in October 2003, came as Raines and Chief Financial Officer Timothy Howard defended the company’s accounting and told Congress that regulators’ allegations of earnings manipulation represented an interpretation of complex rules.

At a House subcommittee hearing, Raines and Howard testified under oath in their first public appearance since news surfaced Sept. 22 about the allegations and a Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry into government-sponsored Fannie Mae. Lawmakers questioned them closely about an instance in 1998 in which accounting rules were said to have been deliberately violated so that top executives could collect full bonuses.

This is a very serious allegation, and I deny that it occurred,” Raines testified.

The thing is, it DID occur, and much worse.  And it was discovered that Raines had manipulated accounting practices so that senior executives could make millions in bonuses:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Employees at mortgage giant Fannie Mae manipulated accounting so that executives could collect millions in bonuses as senior management deceived investors and stonewalled regulators at a company whose prestigious image was phony, a federal agency charged Tuesday.

The blistering report by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, the product of an extensive three-year investigation, was issued as the government-sponsored company struggles to emerge from an $11 billion accounting scandal.

Earlier, a person familiar with the situation said that Fannie Mae was being fined between $300 million and $500 million for the alleged manipulation of accounting to facilitate executives’ bonuses, in a settlement with the housing oversight agency.

“The image of Fannie Mae as one of the lowest-risk and ‘best in class’ institutions was a facade,” James B. Lockhart, the acting director of OFHEO, said in a statement as the report was released. “Our examination found an environment where the ends justified the means. Senior management manipulated accounting, reaped maximum, undeserved bonuses, and prevented the rest of the world from knowing.”

The report also faulted Fannie Mae’s board of directors for failing to exercise its oversight responsibilities and failing to discover “a wide variety of unsafe and unsound practices” at the largest buyer and guarantor of home mortgages in the country.

The OFHEO review, involving nearly 8 million pages of documents, details what the agency calls an arrogant and unethical corporate culture. From 1998 to mid-2004, the smooth growth in profits and precisely-hit earnings targets each quarter reported by Fannie Mae were “illusions” deliberately created by senior management using faulty accounting, the report says.

The accounting manipulation tied to executives’ bonuses occurred from 1998 to 2004, according to the report, a much longer period than was previously known.

Lest any not know it, Franklin Raines was a Clinton appointee.

A Wikipedia article (we’ll see how soon it takes to purge it!) talking about the Clinton years is extremely informative in the current ruinous aftermath:

The Clinton Administration’s regulatory revisions [1] with an effective starting date of January 31, 1995 were credited with substantially increasing the number and aggregate amount of loans to small businesses and to low- and moderate-income borrowers for home loans. Part of the increase in home loans was due to increased efficiency and the genesis of lenders, like Countrywide, that do not mitigate loan risk with savings deposits as do traditional banks using the new subprime authorization. This is known as the secondary market for mortgage loans. The revisions allowed the securitization of CRA loans containing subprime mortgages. The first public securitization of CRA loans started in 1997 by Bear Stearns. [2] The number of CRA mortgage loans increased by 39 percent between 1993 and 1998, while other loans increased by only 17 percent. [3] [4]

Bill Clinton walks off the stage as the conquering hero in the mythical narrative of the liberal media, but IT WAS THESE VERY LOANS BY THESE VERY LENDERS THAT RESULTED IN THE DISASTER WE ARE NOW SUFFERING.

President Bush tried to reform Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the entire housing finance industry before it was too late:

New Agency Proposed to Oversee Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae

By STEPHEN LABATON
Published: September 11, 2003

The Bush administration today recommended the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis a decade ago.

Under the plan, disclosed at a Congressional hearing today, a new agency would be created within the Treasury Department to assume supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that are the two largest players in the mortgage lending industry.

The new agency would have the authority, which now rests with Congress, to set one of the two capital-reserve requirements for the companies. It would exercise authority over any new lines of business. And it would determine whether the two are adequately managing the risks of their ballooning portfolios.

But his effort to reform the housing finance industry by reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was blockedBY DEMOCRATS.

The same New York Times article cited above, dated September 11, 2003 (yet another 9/11 that Democrats caused, and Republicans took the blame for ) ends with these words:

Significant details must still be worked out before Congress can approve a bill. Among the groups denouncing the proposal today were the National Association of Home Builders and Congressional Democrats who fear that tighter regulation of the companies could sharply reduce their commitment to financing low-income and affordable housing.

”These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis,” said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. ”The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.”

Representative Melvin L. Watt, Democrat of North Carolina, agreed.

”I don’t see much other than a shell game going on here, moving something from one agency to another and in the process weakening the bargaining power of poorer families and their ability to get affordable housing,” Mr. Watt said.

Barney Frank – the same liberal doofus who said that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were fine and not facing any kind of financial crisis – is still around, and still in charge of the Financial Services Committee.

Mel Watts, the race-card playing liberal who opposed reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on the grounds that it would prevent poor blacks from getting home loans, is also still around.

And though Barack Obama may be able to distance himself from Franklin Raines – however falsely – he can’t distance himself from another prominent “adviser” – Jim Johnson.  Johnson was briefly appointed to head Obama’s vice presidential selection committee until it was discovered that he had benefited from sweetheart Countrywide loans.  And Johnson was another Fannie Mae CEO who was Franklin Raines’ predecessor at Fannie Mae.  He joins a long list of Clinton Democrats who “served” at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and walked away with millions.  Jim Johnson also sits on the board at Goldman Sachs, a company that was also massively invested in subprime loans but managed to sell them short and preserve itself.

And Obama is personally up to his eyeballs in the housing finance collapse in other ways, as well.  Obama is second on the list of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac campaign money recipients only after fellow Democrat Chris Dodd; and he is second on the list of Lehman Bros’ campaign money recipients only after fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton.  Is it any wonder he would appoint Penny Pritzker – who was at the very epicenter of what would come to be the biggest financial scandal in American history, and who paid a $460 million fine to bribe her way out of jail – as his national campaign finance chair.  He also named Joe Biden as his Vice Presidential nominee, in spite of the fact that Biden championed the very bill that many experts and at least two studies attribute to creating the mess that caused hundreds of thousands of Americans to lose their homes and precipitated much of the ensuing financial market meltdown.

Now allow me to provide the contrast between Obama – who is tied by both party and by big money contributions to his political career – with John McCain.  The previously quoted Washington Post says:

This is not an easy one for the Illinois senator because of the companies’ close ties to his party. To be sure, both Republican and Democratic politicos have held well-paid positions in the two firms or have partaken of the tens of millions that they spend on lobbying. But a few Republicans, such as Mr. McCain and Sen. Richard C. Shelby (Ala.), who has been chairman and ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, have taken them on over the years, warning about their use of an implicit government guarantee to pursue private profits. Meanwhile, Democrats were not only politically but intellectually committed to the companies, seeing them as innovative public-private institutions that have been a boon to home ownership. In the current crisis, their biggest backers have been Democrats such as Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (Mass.). Two members of Mr. Obama’s political circle, James A. Johnson and Franklin D. Raines, are former chief executives of Fannie Mae.

John McCain fought hard to pass regulations that would control Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac back in May 25, 2006.  But again the measure was killed by Democratic opposition.  Hot Air takes up McCain’s efforts and who killed them:

In this speech, McCain managed to predict the entire collapse that has forced the government to eat Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with Bear Stearns and AIG.  He hammers the falsification of financial records to benefit executives, including Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson, both of whom have worked as advisers to Barack Obama this year.  McCain also noted the power of their lobbying efforts to forestall oversight over their business practices.  He finishes with the warning that proved all too prescient over the past few days and weeks.

John McCain fought in vain to prevent the collapse of the housing finance market, and would have succeeded had it not been for utterly determined Democratic opposition.  Barack Obama, for his part, led the lists of campaign contribution recipients from both Fannie and Freddie and from disgraced and belly-up Lehman Bros.

There are only 43 days left in this election.  That is not very long for the American people to realize that they are being lied to by the very people and the very party that caused the disaster that has so angered the electorate.