Tag Archive: Jack Lew

May 24 2013

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Since the 2008 financial crisis, the five Too Big Too Fail banks are 30% larger. Dodd-Frank has yet to be implemented and already banking lobbyists are working with congress to derail it. In March, Attorney General Eric Holder testified that some banks are just too large which makes them too hard to prosecute. Part of Holder’s justification that bringing criminal charges against large financial institutions would harm the economy, doesn’t quire hold water:

The U.S. Department of Justice appears to have neither conducted nor received any analyses that would show whether criminal charges against large financial institutions would harm the economy, potentially undermining a key DOJ argument for why the world’s biggest banks have escaped indictment.

Testimony by a top Justice official and fresh documents made public on Wednesday during a House financial services committee hearing revealed that financial regulators and the Treasury Department did not provide warnings to prosecutors weighing the economic consequences or fallout in the financial system of criminal indictments against large financial groups. DOJ also could find no records that would substantiate its previous claims that it weighed potentially negative economic or financial impacts when considering criminal charges, said Mythili Raman, acting assistant attorney general for the criminal division.

Wednesday’s revelations are likely to increase criticism of the Obama administration, which has been accused of a lackluster enforcement record against big banks in the financial crisis and other matters.

This week Treasury Secretary Jack Lew appeared at a Senate banking committee hearing where Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) questioned him on whether it’s time to cap the size of the banks deemed “too big to fail”:

Can we have more Liz Warrens? Like 60 of her?

Mar 06 2013

Yes, the Sequester is President Obama’s Fault. These are facts.

This won’t be FP material everywhere, but it’s the truth. That is, unless one just hasn’t paid attention to the events and Congressional deals facilitated by this administration in response to said events that led up to the sequester. If one did pay attention, this conclusion is undeniable. The sequester was basically an invention of Gene Sperling and Jack Lew.

In case we all need a refresher, Gene Sperling was and still is the Director of the National Economic Council under President Barack Obama. In case the denial is too thick with regard to Jack Lew, Jack Lew was head of Obama’s Office of Management and Budget when the first grand betrayal was written only to be fall apart by John Boehner’s doing in 2011. For that, and his time on Wall St helping Citigroup as OCC crash our economy while denying that deregulation was a problem, he is insultingly being rewarded with a post as our next Treasury Secretary.

These are the people that were hired by and work in the Obama administration that wrote the damn Sequester! It’s pretty hard to deny, but some will try.

This was during the debt ceiling debacle many of us warned about but were ignored in favor of 11th dimensional chess. In reality, this is a vile violent rigged chess game that makes seniors starve to death through lack of meals on wheels. This form of deficit terrorism also threatens many of my friends and their relatives through layoffs and furloughs while slowing all essential government operations down.

Jan 16 2013

Treasury’s #2 Worse Than Lew

After Pres. Barack Obama’s pick for Treasury Secretary confessed to a lack of financial expertise, you would have thought that the president’s choice for the number two spot would have been someone to fill that gap. Silly you. President Obama’s choice for Deputy Treasury Secretary is rumored to be Ruth Porat, who lobbied for Wall St. against regulation. This is her profile from Business Week:

Ms. Ruth Porat has been Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Morgan Stanley since January 2010. Ms. Porat served as the Global Head of the Financial Institutions Group at Morgan Stanley from September 2006 to December 2009 and also served as its Vice Chairman of Investment Banking from September 2003 to December 2009 and Chairman of the Financial Sponsors Group from July 2004 to September 2006. Throughout the recent financial crisis, she has been responsible for the Financial Sponsors Group ‘s coverage of financial institutions and governments globally, and she led the team advising the U.S. Treasury with respect to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Ms. Porat began her career with Morgan Stanley in 1987 in the Mergers and Acquisition Department.

According to Forbes, Ms Porat is the most influential woman on Wall St.

The Sunlight Foundation reports that Ms Porat lobbied on behalf of Wall St., meeting with regulators about Dodd-Frank rules nine times:

* 2012-03-27: Met with the Federal Reserve to express concerns on bank capital rules

* 2012-04-30: Met with the Federal Reserve to claim surcharges for Too Big To Fail banks were not necessary. Later also said regulating derivatives would hurt liquidity.

* 2011-12-14: Met with the Federal Reserve to ask for more lenient disclosure requirements for Morgan Stanley

* 2010-10-28: Met with the Federal Reserve to push back on Volker Rule and for more flexibility on Proprietary Trading

* 2010-11-02: Met with Treasury on the CFPB (no disclosures on meeting’s purpose)

*  2011-02-01: Met with Treasury on Capital and Liquidity (no disclosures on meeting’s purpose)

* 2011-05-03: Met with Treasury on the Volker Rule (no disclosures on meeting’s purpose)

* 2011-07-07: Met with Treasury on Derivatives (no disclosures on meeting’s purpose)

* 2011-01-05: Met with FDIC on Volker Rule (no disclosures on meeting’s purpose)

h/t DSWright at FDL News Desk

Ms Porat is not what Obama’s critics meant when they complained about a lack of woman in influential positions in the cabinet. Really, Mr. President, a Wall St. lobbyist? Jamie Dimon must be so pleased.

Jan 15 2013

Jack Lew: An Epic Failure

Sen. Bernie Sanders has already decided that he will not vote to approve President Barack Obama’s replacement for Timothy Geithner, Jack  Lew, AS Treasury Secretary, with good reason. It seems that Mr. Lew, who currently is the president Chief of Staff, does think that deregulation had a role in the housing crash. This is Sen. Sanders’ statement:

Jack Lew is clearly an extremely intelligent person and I applaud his many years of public service to our country. I believe that he will be confirmed by the Senate. Unfortunately, he will be confirmed without my vote. At a time when the middle class is collapsing and millions of workers are unemployed, I do not believe he is the right person at the right time to serve in this important position.

As a supporter of the president, I remain extremely concerned that virtually all of his key economic advisers have come from Wall Street. In my view, we need a treasury secretary who is prepared to stand up to corporate America and their powerful lobbyists and fight for policies that protect the working families in our country. I do not believe Mr. Lew is that person.

We don’t need a treasury secretary who thinks that Wall Street deregulation was not responsible for the financial crisis. We need a treasury secretary who will work hard to break up too-big-to-fail financial institutions so that Wall Street cannot cause another massive financial crisis.

We don’t need another treasury secretary who believes in ‘deficit neutral’ corporate tax reform. We need a treasury secretary willing to fight to make sure that large, profitable corporations pay their fair share in taxes to reduce the deficit and create jobs.

We don’t need a treasury secretary who will advise the president that he should negotiate with the Republicans to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits. We need someone who is going to strengthen these programs.

We don’t need another treasury secretary who believes that NAFTA and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China have been good for the American economy. We need someone in the White House who works to fundamentally re-write our trade policy to make sure that we are exporting American goods, not American jobs.

Matt Taibbi, contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine, and William Black, associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, a white-collar criminologist and former senior financial regulator, joined Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez at Democracy Now! to discuss why Jack Lew is a “failure of epic proportions



Transcript can be read here

At Huffington Post, Prof. Black also described Mr. Lew’s role as OMB Chief during the Clinton administration, that set the stage for our current economic and financial problems, his path to Wall St. and back through the “revolving door” to the Obama administration. He calls Mr. Lew “another brick in the Wall Street on the Potomac,”

From CBS News:

   Obama is clearly comfortable bringing another ex-Wall Streeter into an administration that, beyond a recent ratcheting up of populist rhetoric, has done relatively little to rein in the financial industry.

   That, in turn, reflects the ease with which Washington hands like Lew shuttle between the Street and the Hill. Case in point: Lew’s predecessor as budget chief, Peter Orszag, left the agency and joined Citi as vice chairman of global banking. A job in politics is no longer a back-door to a lucrative job in banking — it’s a red carpet. The revolving door keeps spinning.

   The Citi alternative investments] division ultimately lost billions. As for Lew, he naturally made big bucks during his three-year stint at Citi, including a [roughly $950,000 bonus in 2009 — after the company’s federal bailout.

Lew helped establish finance policy under President Clinton. [..]

Lew’s predecessor as chief of staff was William Daley. Daley is a lawyer. Daley was on the executive board of J.P. Morgan-Chase during the crisis and before that he was on Fannie Mae’s board of directors. Daley is a member of “Third Way’s” controlling board. Third Way is a Pete Peterson ally that lobbies in favor of austerity and cuts to the safety net. It pushes Wall Street’s, and Pete Peterson’s, greatest dream — privatizing Social Security. Privatization would allow Wall Street to increase its profits by hundreds of billions of dollars in fees for managing our retirement savings. [..]

The obvious aspects of this pattern include: (1) Obama prefers to have Wall Street guys run finance (despite coming to power because Wall Street blew up the world), (2) the revolving door under Obama that connects Wall Street and the White House has been super-charged, and (3) even very short stints in Wall Street have made Obama’s finance advisers wealthy. The obvious is vitally important, and it is largely ignored by the most prominent media. The obvious aspects help explain why Obama’s economic policies have been incoherent, ineptly explained, inequitable, and often slavishly pro-Wall Street at the expense of our integrity and citizens. [..]

Prof. Black gives examples of the less obvious aspects of the pattern that compound problem of Pres. Obama appointing people who have failed, not just professionally, but ethically and morally. It is an eye opening, scathing critique of an administration that is trying to force a destructive policy of austerity and why Jack Lew is a terrible choice for Treasury Secretary.  

Jan 14 2013

Krugman: The Keys to Economic Recovery

Paul Krugman Explains the Keys to Our Recovery



Transcript can be read here

Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman argues that saving money is not the path to economic recovery. Instead, he tells Bill, we should put aside our excessive focus on the deficit, try to overcome political recalcitrance, and spend money to put America back to work. Krugman offers specific solutions to not only end what he calls a “vast, unnecessary catastrophe,” but to do it more quickly than some imagine possible. His latest book, End This Depression Now!, is both a warning of the fiscal perils ahead and a prescription to safely avoid them.

On Pres. Obama’s choice of Jack Lew for Treasury Secretary

(W)hat the president needs right now is he needs a hardnosed negotiator. And rumor has it that’s what he’s got, so.

The president can’t pass major new legislation. He can’t formulate major new programs right now. What he has to do now is bargain down or ride over these crazy people in the Republican Party. And we what we need now is not deep thinking from the treasury secretary. If the president wants deep thinkers, he can call Joe Stiglitz, he can call other people. What he needs from the Treasury secretary is somebody who’s going to be very effective at dealing with these wild men and making sure that nothing terrible happens.

Damning praise, indeed.

Jan 11 2012

Congressional Game of Chicken: Recess Appointment A Dilemma

President Obama’s recent exercise of his constitutional authority to make recess appointments to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and filling vacancies the National Labor Relations Board has created some dilemmas for himself and congressional Republicans. Republicans, of course, will continue to block confirmation of any Presidential appointee but are split as to how to address President Obama’s dismissal of the sham “pro forma” sessions and his four recess appointments.

With the appointment of Jack Lew as Chief of Staff, there is now a vacancy to head the Office of Budget and Management but the bigger issue may be the vacancy for a new director to the Federal Housing Finance Administration. That institution has been without a confirmed director for over two years, since David Lockhart left. The president is being pressured by the House Congressional Delegation from California to replace the Republican acting director of the FHFA, Ed DeMarco, who they say has been obstructing efforts to stem the housing market collapse and help keep owners in their homes. David Dayen at FDL News Desk reports that he is of two minds on DeMarco:

(DeMarco) has interpreted his mandate very narrowly. It’s a bad thing when he refuses to engage in principal reductions for troubled borrowers, even though that would make more money for Fannie and Freddie in the long run, because he doesn’t want to take the short-term financing hit. But it’s a good thing when he sues 17 banks over misrepresentations of the mortgages in the securities they sold to Fannie and Freddie, with the hope of forcing repurchases of those mortgage pools.

There have been signs that DeMarco is warming to a more activist stance. He agreed to the changes to HARP, which is more of a stimulus program than a program that will save homes, but which will allow expanded refinancing come March of this year on GSE-owned properties. Freddie Mac just initiated a program for a 12-month forbearance (where the borrower can skip payments) for unemployed borrowers, although Democrats maintain that not everyone eligible will receive that forbearance.

Most promisingly, DeMarco is considering a principal pay-down program put forward by a California Democrat, Zoe Lofgren, that would allow underwater homeowners with GSE loans to have their mortgage payments go entirely to equity for five years, waiving the interest payments. DeMarco said he would look into the idea back in October, and there have been leaks since then suggesting that principal pay-down would happen. However, there has been no final word, and officially FHFA “continues to evaluate” the Lofgren proposal, even though in a meeting with House Dems they promised an assessment within two weeks.

Meanwhile those poor Republican obstructionists have a headache, as Brian Buetler at TPMDC reports:

Scores of House Republicans have signed on to a non-binding resolution disapproving of Obama’s four winter recess appointments – Cordray, and three members of the National Labor Relations Board – all fodder for conservatives, who are furious about the existence of these agencies, let alone the recess appointments themselves.

“It’s astounding to me that the president is claiming these are recess appointments and within his authority, when Congress was not in fact in recess,” said Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) who authored the resolution. “These appointments are an affront to the Constitution. No matter how you look at this, it doesn’t pass the smell test. I hope the House considers my resolution as soon as we return to Washington so we can send a message to President Obama.”

This creates an election-year dilemma for GOP leaders who may not want to make a big show of their opposition to the one person in Washington tasked with protecting consumers from predatory financial actors.

But with so many key vacancies, President Obama has his own dilemma headache, not just to make more recess appointments but how to do it:

[T]he breaks between the last week in January and the first week in August will be very brief ones. Which means that if Obama declines to use his recess appointment power in the next several days, he’ll have three options, none ideal: He can fight it out with Congress and push for regular confirmations; he can wait until August, when Congress goes home for over a month; or he can broaden the parameters of his own precedent, and use the recess appointment during brief one-week vacations between now and then.

Republicans will likely keep holding pro forma sessions during those breaks, challenging Obama to take things further than he already has. [..]

As far as the Constitution and the Senate rules are concerned, there wouldn’t be much difference between a recess appointment in, say, April, and the recess appointments he announced last week. But their public rationale for the January appointments wouldn’t really stand in April. And after attacking President Obama’s supposed power grab, Republicans would slip the precedent in their back pocket, to be deployed when they control the White House.

We shall see if the president has finally abandoned all hope of getting any bipartisan cooperation from the Republicans.