Tag Archives: Federal Reserve

‘The Public Has a Right to Know’: Fed Refuses to Release Documents on Fossil Fuel Industry’s Covid-19 Bailouts

“As the climate crisis demands an abrupt shift away from fossil fuels, the federal government should not be creating programs to bail out these polluters.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-9-2020

“The Federal Reserve was tasked with creating a massive program to protect workers’ livelihoods during an intense economic and public health crisis. We should, at the very least, expect transparency about how the program is structured,” said Food & Water Action attorney Adam Carlesco. (Photo: Tony Webster/Flickr/cc)

The Federal Reserve has missed a deadline to release documents requested by environmental group Food & Water Action in May to reveal the extent to which the central bank has used one of its major Covid-19 lending programs to rescue the faltering oil and gas industry.

“The public has a right to know if the Fed created an oil and gas bailout at the behest of an industry that has wreaked havoc on our air, water, climate, and potentially the global financial system,” Food & Water Action attorney Adam Carlesco said in a statement. “As the climate crisis demands an abrupt shift away from fossil fuels, the federal government should not be creating programs to bail out these polluters.” Continue reading

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‘Conflicts of Interest Abound’: Progressives Sound Alarm as BlackRock Prepares to Lead the Fed’s Covid-19 Corporate Bailout Program

“We cannot afford to allow the interests of private corporations to supersede the needs of the American people and the long-term stability of our economy.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-11-2020

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink. Screenshot: CNBC

BlackRock, the largest asset management firm on the planet, has for years faced criticism and protests from progressives over its massive investments in fossil fuelsprivate prisons, and the arms industry—and now the financial behemoth is set to take on a leading role in the Federal Reserve’s sprawling coronavirus bailout program.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that BlackRock—which manages over $7 trillion in assets—will in the coming days help the central bank funnel “money into both new and already-issued corporate bonds, assisting the Fed in its recently adopted role as lender of last resort for businesses.” Continue reading

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‘Lining Up at the Trough’: Federal Reserve to Offer Corporations $500 Billion No-Strings-Attached Bailout Loophole

“Big corporations have shown time and again that they will put their shareholders and executives ahead of their workers if given the choice.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-28-2020

Through the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility, the Fed will provide $500 billion to companies by buying bonds, but the companies will not be required to retain employees or limit executive pay. (Photo: Public Domain)

A Federal Reserve program approved by Congress and aimed at providing emergency relief to large companies contains a “catch” which will permit the corporations to lay off employees and spend the money on executive pay, according to a Washington Post report.

Through the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility, the Fed will provide $500 billion to companies by buying bonds. The corporations will be required to pay the Fed back with interest. Continue reading

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Fed Economists Warn US Unemployment Rate Could Soon Reach 32%—During Great Depression It Peaked at 25%

“These are very large numbers by historical standards, but this is a rather unique shock that is unlike any other experienced by the U.S. economy in the last 100 years.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-31-2020

 

Hundreds of cars waiting to receive food from the Greater Community Food Bank in Duquesne, Pennsylvania on March 30, 2020. Photo: The Mind Unleashed

Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis are warning that if the current rate of U.S. job losses continues, the country’s unemployment rate could reach a staggering 32.1% by the end of June as the coronavirus pandemic-induced downturn sparks mass layoffs across the nation.

Miguel Faria-e-Castro, an economist with the St. Louis Fed, wrote in an analysis last week that 47 million more workers could lose their jobs by the end of the second quarter of 2020, bringing the total number of unemployed people in the U.S. to 52.8 million. As CNBC noted, that number would be “more than three times worse than the peak of the Great Recession.” Continue reading

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Washington’s recession-fighting toolbox is nearly empty as US economy braces for possible coronavirus outbreak

A wrench may not be enough. mipan/Shutterstock.com

Bill Ferguson, Grinnell College

Investors, policymakers, businesses and the general public are increasingly concerned the coronavirus’ rapid spread will lead to a recession. While this outcome is hard for economists like me to predict, we do know one thing: The U.S. is not prepared to fight a deep recession.

Policymakers basically have two methods for reversing a downturn: monetary stimulus, primarily through reduced borrowing costs; and fiscal stimulus, when the government spends more or cuts taxes.

Unfortunately, the U.S. currently has dim prospects for success with either option. Continue reading

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Markets Plunge as Critics Say Trump’s “Keep the Stock Market Calm” Approach Has Backfired

“Trump staking his presidency on a good stock market was once just an annoying tic,” said The Nation‘s Jeet Heer. “But now there’s a situation that makes it actively harmful.”

By for Common Dreams. Published 3-5-2020

New York Stock Exchange. Photo: Public domain

The stock market plunged 970 points Thursday, or 3.58%, as fears of the economic impact of the global coronavirus outbreak—and President Donald Trump’s mishandling of the crisis—continued to roil the world’s financial markets after last week’s panic sent markets into freefall.

“It’s kind of like an earthquake—there’s the earthquake, which is last week, and then there’s the aftershocks, which is this week,” MUFG Union Bank chief financial economist Chris Rupkey told the New York Post. Continue reading

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You’ll Never Guess How Big Banks Want the Fed to Handle the Coronavirus: More Wall Street Deregulation

“Surely, the big banks aren’t craven enough to use COVID-19 as an excuse to lobby for long-sought regulatory rollbacks, right? Wrong!”

By for Common Dreams. Published 3-3-2020

The Bank Policy Institute, a lobbying group for big banks, drew criticism for a policy memo suggesting financial deregulation as a response to the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo: Phillipp/Flickr/cc)

A lobbying group for big banks in the United States came under fire Tuesday from financial industry experts for pressuring federal officials to push through long-sought regulatory rollbacks in response to the worldwide economic concerns sparked by the global coronavirus outbreak.

On Sunday, Bank Policy Institute (BPI) chief executive Greg Baer, head of research Francisco Covas, and chief economist Bill Nelson published a post on the group’s website entitled “Actions the Fed Could Take in Response to COVID-19.” The BPI is a lobbying group whose members include Bank of America, Citigroup JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo. Continue reading

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‘What Is the Fed Not Telling Us?’: Fears of Economic Instability After Central Bank Intervention Spikes

“A financial system that requires over $100B of liquidity injections every day, temporary, permanent or otherwise, has major issues.”

By Eoin Higgins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-27-2019

Is the Fed reacting to market volatility or preparing for recession? (Public domain)

A number of financial experts and investors are sounding the alarm over the Federal Reserve’s recent infusion of cash into the market and warning that the actions by the central bank could be the precursor to economic crisis.

On October 22, the Fed pumped $99.9 billion in temporary liquidity into the market to ease stresses brought on by a tightening credit market. Two days later, on October 24, the bank upped that to $134 billion. Continue reading

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‘Like Nominating Dr. Phil to Run CDC’: Alarm Bells as Trump Nominates Right-Wing Sycophant Stephen Moore to Federal Reserve

Concerned economic and political commentators decried Moore as “a famous idiot” who “has proved deeply impervious to facts.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-22-2019

President Donald Trump said Friday he will nominate right-wing commentator Stephen Moore to the Federal Reserve board. (Photo: CBN)

Economists and progressive experts responded with exasperation and unease on Friday after President Donald Trump said he will nominate right-wing commentator Stephen Moore to the Federal Reserve, the gatekeeper of the nation’s economy.

“I will be nominating Mr. Moore for the Fed. You know who I’m talking about,” Trump told reporters while arriving in Florida for the weekend. “He’s going to be great on the Fed.” Continue reading

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Why we need to save the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

This article was originally published in TheConversation.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has faced battles with Republicans since the CFPB was created. Image via YouTube screen shot.

Republicans in Congress and the White House have been very blunt about their desire to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – and the threats to it are mounting.

The agency was launched in 2011 in the aftermath of the financial crisis as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The goal was to protect consumers from deceptive or misleading practices in the financial industry.

At the moment, Republicans seem focused on blocking CFPB rules they don’t like, such as one that would have prevented the use of arbitration clauses in financial contracts, making it easier for people to band together to sue banks for wrongdoing. Separately, the Trump administration has been heavily critical of the CFPB, and its director is said to be considering leaving before his term expires next July, which would allow the president to pick his replacement.

So what would you miss if the agency suddenly disappeared or got gutted?

In short, a lot. We base this conclusion on the work the three of us have done in recent decades. One of us (Sovern) has been writing about consumer law for more than 30 years, while the other two of us direct a legal clinic that represents elderly consumers. We’ve seen the worst of what financial companies can do, and we’ve also witnessed how the CFPB has begun to reverse the tide.

John Stumpf, far left, lost his job as CEO of Wells Fargo as a result of the scandal over fraudulent accounts. Reuters/Gary Cameron

Life before CFPB

If you are one of the more than 29 million consumers who have collectively received nearly US$12 billion back from misbehaving financial institutions because of the CFPB’s efforts, you already know its value. But even if you are not, you have probably benefited from the bureau’s existence.

Before Congress created the bureau, there was no federal agency that made consumer financial protection its sole mission. Rather, consumer protection was rolled into the missions of a bunch of different agencies. And, as we saw during the financial crisis, regulators often gave it a back seat.

Congress, for example, gave the Federal Reserve the power to bar unfair and deceptive mortgage lending in 1994. Yet the central bank considered consumer protection a backwater and didn’t use that power until 2008 – too late to prevent the Great Recession. Congress took it away two years later when it passed Dodd-Frank.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency regulates banks but was so preoccupied with ensuring lenders were safe that it failed to protect consumers from their predatory subprime mortgages – so much so that it prevented states from doing so too. And now President Trump has put a former bank lawyer in charge of it. The Federal Trade Commission, which is tasked with fighting deceptive business practices, lacked the power to prevent such dangerous lending.

This meant consumer protection on financial matters fell through the cracks.

Wells Fargo’s recent fraud scandal is a case in point. In the early 2000s, Wells Fargo employees began opening fake accounts in clients’ names without permission, leading in some cases to lower credit scores and a variety of fees. The bank ultimately opened millions of fraudulent bank and credit card accounts before the scheme came to an end last year.

But as early as 2010, before the CFPB was set up, regulators at the OCC were increasingly aware of what was happening at Wells Fargo thanks to hundreds of whistleblower complaints. The OCC even confronted the bank, yet failed to take any action despite many red flags, according to an internal audit.

It wasn’t until the Los Angeles city attorney and the CFPB became involved years later that Wells Fargo took forceful action to stop the fraud. The regulators fined Wells Fargo a total of $185 million and forced it to refund fees it had charged customers and hire an independent consultant to review its procedures.

More importantly, they sent a clear message to other financial institutions: Cheat consumers and you will face the consequences.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray testifies on Capitol Hill in 2013. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Protecting consumers

Since its inception, the bureau has acted repeatedly to stop financial institutions from harming consumers.

It blocked debt collector attorneys from suing consumers based on false information. It discovered systemic problems with consumer credit reports and forced companies to correct errors. It compelled credit card companies to refund illegal fees. It protected borrowers from unlawful student loan servicing practices. It made lenders repay consumers they discriminated against. It recovered money for veterans who complained of abusive financial practices.

When the bureau began publishing consumer complaints on its website, companies that might previously have ignored negative feedback paid attention. Financial institutions have responded to complaints to the CFPB more than 700,000 times, often by providing a remedy to the consumers.

Besides protecting consumers, however, Congress had a second motive in creating the bureau: to help prevent the kind of mortgage lending that helped cause the Great Recession.

To that end, the bureau has adopted rules that help consumers to understand their mortgages – something that often wasn’t possible under the previously misleading mortgage disclosures. It also issued regulations to prevent consumers from taking out mortgages that they couldn’t repay. And after borrowers take out a mortgage, CFPB servicing rules establish the procedures servicers must follow when communicating with borrowers, correcting errors, providing information and dealing with loan modification requests.

Two of us have personal experience with one of the bureau’s new mortgage rules, which powerfully illustrates the value of the CFPB.

In 2014, Alice, a client of our law school clinic, was struggling to pay the mortgage on her home – which she had refinanced a few years earlier – after a stroke forced her into retirement. Our clinic helped her apply for a modification of her loan.

But within weeks, instead of acknowledging Alice’s application, the loan servicer summoned her to court to begin foreclosure proceedings in violation of CFPB servicing rules. Fortunately, our clinic was able to rely on those rules in getting the foreclosure action dismissed. Alice got her loan modified and remains in her home.

Demonstrators tried to draw attention to the subprime mortgage crisis back in early 2008. AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Protecting the vulnerable

This reveals how the bureau is particularly important to protect vulnerable consumers, like the elderly, who are frequently targeted by fraudsters and predatory lenders because of their cognitive and other impairments and because they often have accumulated substantial assets. The CFPB is the only federal agency with an office specifically dedicated to protecting the financial well-being of older adults.

The bureau has brought cases against companies that attempted to take advantage of seniors by, for example, misrepresenting the interest rates on pension advance loans or deceptive advertising. In 2015 alone, consumer complaints to the CFPB brought relief to more than 600 older Americans just through debt collection problems.

The bureau has also worked to prevent financial abuse of the elderly, estimated to cost seniors as much as $36 billion annually. The CFPB has educated financial institutionsnursing facilities and others about recognizing and stopping elder financial abuse and exploitation.

Consumer protection in peril

Given Alice’s ill health, the consequences for her might have been disastrous if she had been thrown out of her home. But now she – and all of us – face the loss of the CFPB’s aid.

The CFPB is under attack from Republican members of Congress who believe more in lifting bank regulations than in protecting consumers. Some members have proposed eliminating the agency altogether.

The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would cripple the CFPB by, for example, taking away the power it used to fine Wells Fargo for opening illegal accounts and concealing its complaint database from public view. In other words, it would force the bureau to sit idly by as financial institutions lie to consumers. Even if the bureau survives, it may be less protective of consumers when its current director, Richard Cordray, leaves. His term expires next summer, and he may step down even sooner. Then we might see a former banker or bank lawyer put in charge, just as has happened at the Treasury Department and comptroller’s office.

Nearly every American has or will have a loan or bank account, a prepaid card, credit card, a credit report or some combination of those, and so has dealings with a financial institution policed by the CFPB. But few of us read the fine print governing these things or can understand it when we do. That gives the companies that write these agreements the ability to draft them to suit their own interests at the expense of consumers.

Similarly, we do not always know when a financial institution takes advantage of us, just as Wells Fargo customers did not always know that it had opened unauthorized accounts that lowered their credit scores.

Consumers need protection from misbehaving companies. If the bureau is eliminated, significantly weakened or starts protecting banks rather than consumers, all consumers will suffer.

This is an updated version of an article originally published on July 10, 2017.

About the Authors:

Disclosure statement

Along with three co-authors, Jeff Sovern received a $29,510 grant from the American Association for Justice Robert L. Habush Endowment and by a grant from the St. John’s University School of Law Hugh L. Carey Center for Dispute Resolution in 2014 to study arbitration. It resulted in an article. Along with Professor Kate Walton, he received a grant from the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges Endowment for Education to study debt collection, resulting in another article. He is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

Ann L. Goldweber is affiliated with NACA as a member.

Gina M. Calabrese is affiliated with the National Association of Consumer Advocates, New Yorkers for Responsible Lending, and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (former chair, Committee on the Civil Court).

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