America’s Women to Dodd — Size Matters

America’s Women to Dodd — Size Matters

Submitted by Mary Bottari on March 19, 2010 – 06:20

To: U.S. Senator Chris Dodd
Chairman Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs

Dear Senator Dodd,

As women and as taxpayers, we are writing to you today to tell you that size matters.

Usually we love big. Big boxes of chocolate, big boxes of wine, big — well you know. But when it comes to big banks and big bank bailouts, it’s a whole different story.

As you get ready to take up bank reform in your committee next week, we need to talk.

When Congress voted to repeal depression-era Glass-Steagall protections, it put the big banks on Viagra. Since then they have had a big problem and it has lasted a lot longer than four hours.

The top five banks hold 50% of all bank assets. That hurts. They are simply too big for their britches. They have been ramping up those big bank fees, paying out big bank bonuses and spending big bucks on bank lobbyists to defeat reform.

We know what those big banks are telling you — “size doesn’t matter.” JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon may be cute, but he is just a player. Big bank bravado only leads to big bank bailouts. After spending $4 trillion on the latest one, we simply can’t afford to get knocked up for another.

It’s better to be safe than sorry. Now is the time to take the prophylactic approach. Your bill needs a hard cap the size of the biggest banks. That right, cap ‘em, shrink ‘em, slice ‘em, dice ‘em. Economist Simon Johnson tells us that no bank’s liabilities should be greater than 2% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Did you know Bank of America’s liabilities are 14% of GDP? Your teeny, tiny $50 billion bailout fund could leave taxpayers on the hook for trillions if that big boy went belly up.

So be a big man and do the right thing. You can prevent the next crisis and by doing so you will give yourself (and us) a great deal of satisfaction.

Put a real size cap in the bill — the one you have now does absolutely nothing — and put stronger Glass-Steagall protections in place so we are no longer taking chances that are too big and will fail.

Source: BanksterUsa.org

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Could Bloomberg Lawsuit Mean Death to Zombie Banks?

Center for Media and Democracy and http://www.BanksterUSA.org

Posted: March 28, 2010 09:43 AM
My recollection is a bit hazy. How does one kill a zombie exactly? Do you stake it? Cut off its head? Nationalize it? Perhaps it’s time to ask the experts at Bloomberg News.

Lost in the haze of the hoopla surrounding the insurance reform bill was some big news on the financial reform front. On March 19, Bloomberg won its lawsuit against the Federal Reserve for information that could expose which “too big to fail” banks in the United States are walking zombies and which banks were merely rotting.

Bloomberg, which has done some of the best reporting on the financial crisis, is also leading the charge on the fight for transparency at the Federal Reserve and in the financial sector. While many policymakers and reporters were focusing their attention on the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout bill passed by Congress, Bloomberg was one of the first to notice that the TARP program was small change compared to the estimated $2-3 trillion flowing out the back door of the Federal Reserve to prop up the financial system in the early months of the crisis.

Way back in November 2008, Bloomberg filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking the Fed what institutions were receiving the money, how much, and what collateral was being posted for these loans. Their basic argument: when trillions in taxpayer money is being loaned out to shaky institutions, don’t the taxpayers deserve to know their chances of being paid back?

Not according to the Fed. The Fed declined to respond, forcing Bloomberg to sue in Federal Court. In August of 2009, Bloomberg won the suit. With the backing of the big banks, the Fed appealed , and this month, Bloomberg won again. A three judge appellate panel dismissed the Fed’s arguments that the information was protect “confidential business information” and told the Fed that the public deserved answers.

The Fed is the only institution in the United States that can print money. It can drag this case out as long as it wants, but isn’t it a bid odd that taxpayer dollars are being used to keep information from the taxpayers?

After an unexpectedly rocky confirmation battle, Ben Bernanke kicked off his new term as Fed Chair in February with pledges of openness and transparency. “It is essential that the public have the information it needs to understand and be assured of the integrity of all our operations, including all aspects of our balance sheet and our financial controls,” said Bernanke. President Obama also pledged a new era of transparency when he entered office. What is going on here?

One theory is that Fed is hiding the secret assistance it provided to the financial sector, because it would expose how many Wall Street institutions are truly walking zombies, kept alive by accounting tricks like deferred-tax assets, “a fancy term for pent-up losses that the bank hopes to use later to cut its tax bills,” according to Bloomberg’s Jonathan Wiel. If this is the case, it raises doubts about the wisdom of Congress’ only plan to take care of the “too big to fail” problem by trusting regulators to “resolve” failing banks. If there is no will to resolve them now, why should we think regulators will resolve them in the future?

Another theory is that the Fed is hiding the fact that it broke the law by accepting a boatload of toxic assets as collateral. The law says the Fed is only supposed to take “investment grade” assets as collateral.

In either case, the public deserves answers. “This money does not belong to the Federal Reserve,” Senator Bernie Sanders. “It belongs to the American people, and the American people have a right to know where more than $2 trillion of their money has gone.”

The President and the Fed Chairman must live up to their pledges of transparency. They can start by abandoning this lawsuit and opening the doors on the Secrets of the Temple.

Bank of America, Wells Fargo probably won’t pay income tax for 2009: THANKS TO TRAP…I MEAN TARP!

Bank of America, Wells Fargo probably won’t pay income tax for 2009

Annual reports suggest BofA and Wells Fargo won’t have to pay federal income taxes for 2009.
By Christina Rexrode
crexrode@charlotteobserver.com
Posted: Friday, Mar. 26, 2010

This tax season will be kind to Bank of America and Wells Fargo: It appears that neither bank will have to pay federal income taxes for 2009.

Bank of America probably won’t pay federal taxes because it lost money in the U.S. for the year. Wells Fargo was profitable, but can write down its tax bill because of losses at Wachovia, which it rescued from a near collapse.

The idea of the country’s No. 1 and No. 4 banks not paying federal income taxes may be anathema to millions of Americans who are grumbling as they fill out their own tax forms this month. But tax experts say the banks’ situation is hardly unique.

“Oh, yeah, this happens all the time,” said Robert Willens, an expert on tax accounting who runs a New York firm with the same name. “Especially now, with companies suffering such severe losses.”

Bob McIntyre, at Citizens for Tax Justice, said he opposes the government giving corporations such a break.

“If you go out and try to make money and you don’t do it, why should the government pay you for your losses?” McIntyre said. “It’s as simple as that.”

For 2009, Bank of America netted a $2.3 billion benefit related to income taxes, according to its annual report: It had a benefit of $3.6 billion from the federal government, and an expense of $1.3 billion that it paid to different state and foreign governments.

It’s not unusual for a company’s debt to the federal government to vary widely from its debt to state governments, as appears to be the case with Bank of America, said Douglas Shackelford, a tax professor at UNC Chapel Hill.

The federal government often offers more tax deductions than the states; for example, Bank of America wrote down its federal taxable income with credits from low-income housing and losses on foreign subsidiary stock.

Company tax returns aren’t public, so it’s difficult to say for certain how much a company pays to, or receives from, tax coffers in any year .

The bank’s $3.6 billion current federal tax benefit for 2009 came in a year when it lost $1 billion in the U.S., according to its latest annual report. For the previous year, when the bank had profits of $3.3 billion in the U.S., it listed a current federal tax expense of $5.1 billion.

Wells Fargo was profitable in 2009, with $8 billion in earnings applicable to common shareholders. But its tax payments were reduced because of Wachovia’s losses.

Wells netted an overall tax benefit of $4.1 billion in 2009. It got a benefit worth nearly $4 billion from the federal government, and another worth $334 million from state governments. It had an expense of $164 million in foreign taxes. Wells did record an overall income tax expense of $5.3 billion, but that was offset by the tax benefits of the Wachovia losses.

Tax breaks and stimulus

The topic of corporate tax breaks has gained buzz recently because of a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill, which allows companies to “carry back” their losses for 2008 and 2009 to the previous five years, instead of just the previous two years. Homebuilders and other industries that suffered big losses in 2008 and 2009, but made a lot of money in the years before that, stand to gain billions in refunds. However, the stimulus bill provision does not apply for Bank of America and Wells Fargo, because companies that received TARP loans are ineligible.

UNC’s Shackelford said the argument for carrybacks stems from the belief that it’s “arbitrary” that taxes are collected on an annual basis.

“There’s no reason we couldn’t collect them on a monthly basis or a two-year basis. Then your losses and gains would be offset over the period,” he said. “The carryback enables you to not be penalized because your losses got bunched in a different year from your gains.”

The stimulus bill provision, he said, was helped by business lobbying. “There’s an awful lot of companies that paid a lot of taxes in the 2004 period, then they lost a lot of money, and they went to their legislators and said, ‘Please help us,'” Shackelford said.

McIntyre, at Citizens for Tax Justice, co-authored a report in 2004 related to carrybacks, after the Bush administration expanded many corporate tax breaks. The report examined 275 of the country’s largest companies and found that nearly one-third paid no federal income taxes in at least one year from 2001 to 2003. The companies overall were profitable in those years, but took advantage of tax breaks.

“If you or I lose money in the stock market, we don’t get to carry back our losses to any significant degree,” said McIntyre. His group works on closing tax breaks for corporations.

“Getting a refund from the past, that’s just weird,” he added.

Read more: www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/03/26/1337021/billions-in-tax-benefits-for-banks.html#ixzz0jUTUfF0A

Neil Garfield- Steps to Securitization

Mr. Garfield is a GENIUS
CameronBaxterFilms09
March 26, 2010
A casual conversation about the mechanics of securitization with Neil Garfield MBA JD, Wall Street insider and former trial attorney. Neil is the editor of http://www.LivingLies.Wordpress.com, the leading internet resource on foreclosure defense. He explains how the major banks and Wall Street used securitization to bypass traditional regulatory guidelines, and why it is so difficult for judges, lawyers and borrowers to understand what happened. Neil has just released a 2-disk, 4-hour foreclosure defense DVD set – The Garfield Continuum: Seminar for Laymen. A version for attorneys follows shortly. The DVD and the accompanying Workbook can be purchased at http://www.LivingLies-store.com
Wells Fargo’s Attorney– “We are the HOLDER of THE NOTE!
Later the attorney stated “Excuse me, I MISSTATED…We are ONLY the SERVICER”
Mr. Garfield “At which point I gave the lawyer an elbow, and I said “That means WE DON’T HAVE A HOLDER OF THE NOTE in this court room.” 

Too BIG to Fail, Too BIG for Jail? Bid-Rigging Conspiracy

March 26 (Bloomberg) — JPMorgan Chase & Co., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and UBS AG were among more than a dozen Wall Street firms involved in a conspiracy to pay below-market interest rates to U.S. state and local governments on investments, according to documents filed in a U.S. Justice Department criminal antitrust case.

A government list of previously unidentified “co- conspirators” contains more than two dozen bankers at firms also including Bank of America Corp., Bear Stearns Cos., Societe Generale, two of General Electric Co.’s financial businesses and Salomon Smith Barney, the former unit of Citigroup Inc., according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on March 24.

The papers were filed by attorneys for a former employee of CDR Financial Products Inc., an advisory firm indicted in October. The attorneys, as part of their legal filing, identified the roster as being provided by the government. The document is labeled “list of co-conspirators.”

None of the firms or individuals named on the list has been charged with wrongdoing. The court records mark the first time these companies have been identified as co-conspirators. They provide the broadest look yet at alleged collusion in the $2.8 trillion municipal securities market that the government says delivered profits to Wall Street at taxpayers’ expense.

‘Sufficient Evidence’

“If the government is saying they are co-conspirators, the government believes they have sufficient evidence that they can show they were part of the conspiracy,” said Richard Donovan, a partner at New York-based law firm Kelley Drye & Warren LLP and co-chair of its antitrust practice. Donovan isn’t involved in the case.

The government’s case centers on investments known as guaranteed investment contracts that cities, states and school districts buy with the money they receive through municipal bond sales. Some $400 billion of municipal bonds are issued each year, and localities use the contracts to earn a return on some of the money until they need it for construction or other projects.

The Internal Revenue Service sometimes collects earnings on those investments and requires that they be awarded by competitive bidding to ensure that governments receive a fair return. The government charges that CDR ran sham auctions that allowed the banks to pay below-market interest rates to local governments.

CDR Fights Case

CDR, a Los Angeles-based local-government adviser, was indicted in October along with David Rubin, Zevi Wolmark and Evan Zarefsky, three current or former executives. The company and the three men have denied wrongdoing. Since last month, three former CDR employees who weren’t charged in the initial indictment have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department.

More than a dozen financial firms are also facing civil suits filed by municipalities over the alleged conspiracy. Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan refused to toss out a lawsuit brought by Mississippi and other bond issuers.

Brian Marchiony, a spokesman for JPMorgan in New York; Doug Morris, a spokesman for UBS in New York; and Danielle Romero- Apsilos, a spokeswoman for Citigroup in New York, all declined to comment. A Societe Generale spokesman, Jim Galvin; Lehman spokeswoman Kimberly MacLeod, and GE Capital spokesman Ned Reynolds in Stamford, Connecticut, also declined to comment. Bank of America spokeswoman Shirley Norton in San Francisco declined to comment. Bear Stearns was bought by JPMorgan in 2008, the same year Lehman Brothers collapsed.

‘Absolute Disaster’

Laura Sweeney, a Justice Department spokeswoman in Washington, declined to comment.

Banks may choose to cooperate with prosecutors because in light of the government bailout funds they’ve received “a guilty plea would just be an absolute disaster for some of these companies,” said Nathan Muyskens, a partner at Shook, Hardy & Bacon in Washington and former trial attorney with the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition.

“There have been antitrust investigations where there have been companies involved that were just never indicted,” he said in a phone interview.

At the same time, the government will probably focus on seeking to convict individual bankers, he said.

“When someone goes to jail for five years, that resonates,” he said. “When a company pays $200 million, it’s simply a balance sheet issue. Jail time is what captures corporate America’s attention.”

Lawyers’ Filing

In a court filing yesterday, defense lawyers said they “inadvertently” included the names of individual and company co-conspirators in a motion asking the court to compel the government to provide more specific evidence of the alleged misconduct. They asked the court to strike the entire exhibit in which the list appears. Judge Marrero granted the request.

The government’s probe became public in 2006 when federal investigators raided CDR and two competitors and issued subpoenas to more than a dozen firms. The “co-conspirators” on the list released in court this week also included Wachovia Corp., which was purchased by San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. in 2008. Elise Wilkinson, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman in Charlotte, North Carolina, didn’t return a call today seeking comment.

October Indictments

The indictments released in October didn’t identify any of the sellers of the investment contracts involved in the alleged conspiracy. They were identified only as Provider A and Provider B. They paid kickbacks to CDR after winning investment deals brokered by the firm, according to the indictments.

The firms did this by paying sham fees tied to financial transactions entered into with other companies, prosecutors said. Kickbacks were paid from 2001 to 2005, ranging from $4,500 to $475,000 each, according to the Justice Department.

According to the list contained in the court filing this week, the investment contracts involved were created by units of GE and divisions of Financial Security Assurance Holdings Ltd., a bond insurer formerly part of Brussels-based lender Dexia SA.

The kickbacks were paid out of fees generated by transactions entered into with two financial institutions that weren’t identified in the October court filing. The March 24 list filed by the defense named the two firms as UBS and Royal Bank of Canada.

Dexia Sale

Dexia completed the sale of FSA’s bond-insurance business in July to Assured Guaranty Ltd. of Hamilton, Bermuda, while retaining its outstanding investment contracts.

Thierry Martiny, a spokesman for Dexia in Brussels, declined to comment. FSA, based in New York, was the biggest insurer of U.S. municipal bonds in 2007 and 2008.

“We have no comment,” said Betsy Castenir, a spokeswoman for Assured Guaranty in New York, in an e-mail response. “Dexia has responsibility for the liabilities of the Financial Products business.”

Royal Bank of Canada “has been fully cooperating with the government,” Kevin Foster, a spokesman for the bank in New York, said in an e-mailed statement. “We have no knowledge or evidence of wrongdoing by any of our employees.”

The case is U.S. v. Rubin/Chambers, Dunhill Insurance Services Inc., 09-CR-01058, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporters on this story: William Selway in San Francisco at wselway@bloomberg.net; Martin Z. Braun in New York at mbraun6@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: March 26, 2010 13:09 EDT