Posted by Staff on August 28, 2014
Dozens of CFPB workers say “the bureau’s lack of accountability is enabling managers to create their own minifiefdoms, stock the ranks with inexperienced and unqualified friends and retaliate against anybody who disagrees”
America's newest federal agency, charged with regulating financial institutions to prevent another hostile economic downturn, is having troubles regulating hostilities and discrimination among its own employees.
Evidence gathered by congressional investigators, internal agency documents and Washington Times interviews with workers discloses scores of cases of U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau employees seeking protection from racially offensive, sexist or discriminatory behavior, including that:
• A naturalized U.S. citizen, with more than a decade of service with the U.S. government, was called an "f'ing foreigner" by management.
• A department was internally dubbed "the Plantation" because of the number of blacks working in it — all supervised by white managers — without any obvious promotional track or way to get transferred.
• White employees were twice as likely to get the most favorable personnel ratings in employee reviews, as were minorities.
• Managers intimidated and retaliated against employees for voicing complaints or offering an alternative point of view — from denying vacation requests to hiring unqualified friends to supervise jobs and then asking subordinates to train them.
Evidence of discriminatory pay practices in the agency's own statistics have even resulted in promises by management of emergency pay raises for minority workers to create more parity, the documents show.
It's not the storyline that America's newest federal agency wanted at its inception.
CFPB, the brainchild of Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, was created by then-Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and then-Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts.
The latter two Democrats pushed through legislation in Congress named after them that created the agency to protect consumers from predatory banks and lending institutions blamed for the 2007-2009 financial crisis. And Ms. Warren, now considered by some as a potential presidential candidate in 2016, became its first leader.
Since then, the agency has been a political football, roundly opposed by Republicans as an excessive regulatory power play and embraced by liberals who saw it as a necessary fix to a financial system gone awry.
Away from the political fray on Capitol Hill, dozens of workers at the CFPB say the bureau's lack of accountability is enabling managers to create their own minifiefdoms, stock the ranks with inexperienced and unqualified friends and retaliate against anybody who disagrees with their agenda.
The House Committee on Financial Services began airing some of the problems at hearings earlier this spring, bringing to light a situation that has simmered for months out of public view.
CFPB acknowledges its employees' complaints about a hostile working environment and says it is working with the National Treasury Employees Union — which represents CFPB employees — to settle worker protests and iron out new performance reviews, which are at the heart of many of the protests.
The agency's director, Richard Cordray, testified last month it has been challenging to create an agency from the ground up over the last three years, and working conditions for some have been "especially difficult."
"I am committed to ensuring that all Bureau employees are treated fairly and that they receive the respect and dignity they deserve," Mr. Cordray told the House Financial Services' Oversight and Investigations subcommittee on July 30.
Still, current CFBP employees say more work needs to be done and that some thought Mr. Cordray's testimony to be both impenitent and out of touch with what's actually happening at the bureau.
"Anybody who asks questions or doesn't just take orders gets discriminated against," Ali Naraghi, a bank examiner in the CFPB's southeast region, told The Washington Times in an interview. "What CFPB does internally to its staff is contrary to all of their objectives and the mission of the agency."
The Naraghi case
Mr. Naraghi, a naturalized citizen of Persian descent, alleges he was called a "f'ing foreigner" by his superiors because he vocalized discrepancies in the way the CFPB was conducting its bank examinations compared with the way it was done at the Federal Reserve, where Mr. Naraghi served for 14 years.
As a bank examiner, Mr. Naraghi holds a top government position, drawing in a salary of more than $100,000. He and other examiners essentially audit private banks for compliance with federal law.
At the Federal Reserve, Mr. Naraghi earned top performance marks and promotions — winning an excellence award for mortgage servicing. At the CFPB he's been graded at the lowest level in his performance reviews and has remained stagnant in his position since he started at the agency in 2011.
Newly in his position, Mr. Naraghi raised concerns to management that the CFPB wasn't using a risk model — a uniform institutionalized measuring stick — to evaluate banks' performance against one another. Because of this, he felt many examinations were skewed either in favor of what the institution dictated or to the examiner's own preconceived notions.
What the examinations weren't — he pointed out both to his manager and later to Congress in testimony — were objective.
"The only thing consistent within the CFPB is that it's inconsistent," said Mr. Naraghi, who still holds his position as he works out his complaint with the agency. "They want us to be like a private that salutes the major and does whatever they say — but everybody has something to add."
He said he wasn't trying to criticize the way CFPB was conducting its investigations, only voicing ways to make them better. His manager didn't view it that way.
After being subpoenaed by the congressional committee to testify in June, the agency tried to silence Mr. Naraghi by demanding lawmakers strike or bar his opening statement. The effort failed.
In his opening testimony, Mr. Naraghi said the very employee relations office that is supposed to help aggrieved employees was "broken and is more harmful than helpful to employees who suffer discrimination or retaliation."
Satisfaction survey higher
In response, CFPB spokeswoman Jen Howard said, on average, CFPB employees are more satisfied with their management compared with other government agencies.
According to a survey taken by CFPB and released to The Times, 72 percent of CFPB employees say they have a "high level of respect for my organization's senior leaders," compared to 54 percent governmentwide.
Seventy-five percent of CFPB employees either agree or strongly agree that "My supervisor/team leader is committed to a workforce representative of all segments of society," compared with 64 percent governmentwide, the agency said.
Despite his discrimination complaint, Mr. Naraghi doesn't question CFPB's mission — he very much stands up for the agency and the work it is doing. He sought employment at the CFPB after listening to Ms. Warren, the agency's first head and now a U.S. senator, describe the agency's goals of protecting consumers when she was pushing for it as a university professor.
"My in-laws in Mississippi had been taken advantage of by a fly-by-night mortgage company," said Mr. Naraghi. "I believe in our mission. That's why I came. We can do a lot of good, but breaking the law to enforce the law isn't cool in my opinion."
Part of the concern is CFPB's treatment of minorities, women and workers over the age of 40, Mr. Naraghi and other unnamed employees said. Also, the divide between management and the bargaining unit is vast, leaving those outside the higher ranks feeling helpless and without recourse.
Last year, within the CFPB, white employees were twice as likely to receive the highest rating at the bureau as compared to black or Hispanic employees, according to the CFPB's own performance management reviews, which were requested and made public by the union NTEU.
The odds were similarly stacked against workers over the age of 40, said Ben Konop, executive vice president at the NTEU in his May testimony to the committee.
"And ratings continued to be badly skewed in favor of management when compared with the ratings of the bargaining unit, who do the bulk of the work at the bureau," Mr. Konop said.
In 2013 CFPB employees filed 115 official grievances through the union — a particularly high amount for an agency with only 1,300 employees.
Complaints range from managers denying vacation requests in retaliation for comments they don't like to dismissing internal requests for promotions and hiring unqualified friends instead who then needed training and supervision from those in lesser positions, according to current employees.
Some of these complaints were addressed by management at CFPB's "All Hands" spring meeting — an agencywide conference that is used for training and team building.
In a presentation obtained from the conference by The Times, internal management laid bare the discrepancies in pay and performance between minorities and their white counterparts and committed to compensate employees for the difference.
"In the absence of a definitive root cause, we have decided to compensate employees to remediate statistical disparities caused by our prior performance management system and to bargain with NTEU to change it going forward," the presentation said.
The NTEU, for its part, will continue its effort to uncover and eliminate any unfair treatment at the bureau, NTEU National President Colleen M. Kelley said in a statement to The Times.
"Since NTEU began representing CFPB employees, we raised and pressed management on addressing employee concerns about disparate treatment and other workplace issues through collective bargaining and the grievance process," Ms. Kelley said.
Last month, improvements were made in the agency's telework policy, employee relocation policy and career ladder positions, Ms. Kelley said. The agency has also agreed to move away from its current performance system and form a task force that will focus on redesigning it, she said.
Agency employees say the pay increases are just restitution, but because almost everyone got bonuses and promotions, it just raised the playing field instead of equalizing it.
In addition, high-level employees — such as examiners with pay grades above a certain threshold — were exempt from the pay increases. In terms of the redesigned performance reviews, the true test will be in the coming months and years, employees said.
What angers them the most, however, is the fact that many managers who have a history of employee complaints and discrimination are still holding their jobs and, in some cases, intimidating others not to come forward, according to multiple employees, some of whom only spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
Angela Martin, a senior CFPB enforcement attorney, accused a supervisor of retaliating against her after she filed a workers complaint with human resources.
Mrs. Martin alleges her supervisor threatened to bring counterclaims against her if she went forward with her complaint, then isolated her, diminished her job duties and held her accountable for work while preventing her from being involved in the preparation of that work.
Mrs. Martin — who solidly believes in the agency's mission — was a former private practice attorney and Army veteran who specialized in representing military families in consumer fraud cases.
"Employees have told me of alarming stories of maltreatment that resulted when they opposed the mismanagement and when they asserted their individual rights," Mrs. Martin, a mother of five, told Congress in April. "Certain managers have adopted an authoritarian, untouchable, unaccountable and unanswerable management style."
An external audit done at the request of the bureau agreed with Mrs. Martin's claims, and the CFPB settled with her this summer. She currently holds a new position at the agency and no longer interacts with her former supervisor.
However, CFPB launched a new investigation into Mrs. Martin's claims — hiring yet another independent third-party examiner last month — to re-examine her case. The new probe has had a chilling effect on those thinking about coming forward with their own grievances, employees said.
It was Mrs. Martin who first made the claims of the department's so-called "Plantation" where black employees were sent with no clear course of promotions or career track. Formally, the department is called the Office of Consumer Response Intake Section.
"There is an entire section in Consumer Response Intake that is 100 percent African-American, even the contractors, and it is called 'The Plantation,'" Mrs. Martin testified. "And people tell me it's very hard to leave The Plantation. You must be extremely savvy, or you must [have] somebody else [help you] to get out. And I will note, you cannot say education is a factor, because there are licensed attorneys and [people with] advanced master's degrees working there."
Jen Howard, a spokeswoman at CFPB, says Mrs. Martin's claims contained inaccurate information.
"There have been over 50 promotions within the Intake Section, and over 90 percent of the employees in the section who have received at least one promotion are minorities," said Ms. Howard in a written response.
"Three employees in the section have been promoted to supervisory roles outside of the section but within Consumer Response, all of whom are African-American. Four employees in the section have been promoted from 'Intake Specialist' to 'Intake Team Lead,' all of whom are African-American," she said.
Nonetheless, the accusations are so serious and widespread that the Government Accountability Office announced this month that it will begin an investigation into CFPB's organizational culture and management practices.
The investigation was requested by Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, North Carolina Republican and chairman of the House Financial Services Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee, which held the hearings; by Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, Texas Republican; and Consumer Subcommittee Chairwoman Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia Republican.
Since hearings began in April, Mr. McHenry said his office has heard from more than 32 employees complaining about maltreatment at the agency.
"The treatment of women and minorities at the CFPB is deplorable," Mr. McHenry said in a statement to The Times. "Unfortunately, due to the unique structure of the bureau — leaving it free from both congressional and executive branch oversight — there is little that can be done to stop these rogue agency leaders.
"While my subcommittee will continue its oversight efforts, ultimately it is Director Cordray's responsibility to realize the depth of these issues and finally address the suffering of so many CFPB employees," he said.
For now, Mr. Naraghi, and the many more like him who came forward anonymously, are both negotiating their cases with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and trying to navigate the tricky management system to steer clear of retaliation.
Some employees interviewed by The Times have since left the agency, giving up hope of any major institutional change in the near future.
CFPB management "tried to sully my record — they wanted me to sign a settlement with them and clear them of any wrongdoing. I'm not going to do that," said Mr. Naraghi, who is waiting on a hearing date for his grievance case. "What's right is right. I don't want to bring down the CFPB, but I do have a serious problem with its management."
Posted by Staff on August 08, 2014
e•gre•gious -- outstandingly bad; shocking.
Before President Obama leaves tomorrow for his Martha’s Vineyard vacation, we have a suggested day-trip he could make when he gets bored after his umpteenth round of golf and the inevitable campaign fundraiser: he could visit the millions of taxpayer dollars “invested” by the Export-Import Bank into Evergreen Solar between 2009-2010.
Note to White House advance staff: Please don’t confuse Evergreen Solar with Solyndra, another failed “green energy” company that received Ex-Im’s corporate welfare. That’s in one of the other 57 states.
Posted by Staff on August 01, 2014
Committee Passes Federal Reserve Accountability and Bipartisan Regulatory Relief Bills
On Wednesday the Full Committee passed 6 bills to provide transparency and accountability at the Federal Reserve, regulatory relief for the economy, and re-authorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act.
The Federal Reserve Accountability and Transparency Act (H.R. 5018) is legislation developed as part of the Committee’s Federal Reserve Centennial Oversight Project launched at the end of last year. Under the bill, the Fed would adopt a more predictable rules-based policy -- of the Fed’s own choosing -- that leads to a healthier and stronger economy. The bill also requires the Fed to share with the public whatever rules-based approach it chooses to adopt. Additionally, H.R. 5018 requires the Fed to conduct a cost-benefit analysis in order to ensure that the benefits of proposed regulations outweigh the costs to the economy.
“The overwhelming weight of evidence is that monetary policy is at its best in maintaining stable prices and maximum employment when it follows a clear, predictable monetary policy rule,” said Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). “This legislation is about accountability and about transparency. It’s not about theory because history shows that when the Fed lets job creators, entrepreneurs, small business people and everyone else know how monetary policy will be conducted, the economy performs better and more people get to go to work.”
Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee Chairman Scott Garrett (R-NJ), a co-author of the bill, said H.R. 5018 takes “important steps toward establishing a more appropriate level of transparency at the Fed. As things stand now, the Fed’s regulatory activities take place behind a fraternity-like veil of secrecy, obstructing openness, and preventing proper accountability. And when it comes to monetary policy, like the Wizard of Oz, it’s time we bring the Fed out from behind the curtain.”
Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI), also a co-author of the bill, said H.R. 5018 will lift “the veil of secrecy surrounding the Fed by making it more open and transparent.”
In addition to H.R. 5018, the Committee also marked up four more pro-jobs bills that are designed to provide the economy with relief from Washington red tape.
"So far the committee has passed 38 different regulatory relief bills that will hopefully lead to smarter regulation and greater economic growth. Twenty of them have passed the House, many with bipartisan support. We hope to add at least five more to that list today. We look forward to the Senate actually doing anything, but we would particularly look forward to the Senate taking up some of this legislation," said Chairman Hensarling.
"Again, job number one will continue to be the creation of jobs and economic growth in this committee. These bills are designed to ensure just that," added Chairman Hensarling.
Subcommittee Investigates Discrimination and Retaliation at the CFPB
The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee on Wednesday held a hearing to question CFPB Director Richard Cordray about allegations of discrimination and retaliation at the CFPB. Over the past several months, the Subcommittee has heard shocking testimony from whistleblowers, Bureau officials and an independent investigator on what has been described as a "hostile working environment" and "culture of intimidation and retaliation" at the CFPB.
"People are suffering and feel unprotected at their place of work and we've heard from them. [CFPB] managers have been given unequivocal free reign resulting in a toxic management culture that lacks accountability and trust. Employees fear speaking out and fear asserting their rights lest they suffer reprisals and retaliations. This must change," said Subcommittee Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-NC).
"The problems are much larger than some modifications to a performance management system. The problem is a CFPB management culture that condones intimidation, discrimination, and retaliation. And if the director has failed to reprimand and remove bad managers, then the problem is also his leadership or lack thereof," said Chairman McHenry.
Chairman McHenry also announced at the hearing that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has agreed to probe the CFPB’s management practices and organizational culture. The GAO review was requested by Chairman Hensarling, Chairman McHenry and Chairman Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) of the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee.
Rep. Bill Huizenga | Santelli Exchange: Fed reform
Rep. Huizenga and CNBC's Rick Santelli discuss the Federal Reserve Accountability and Transparency Act.
Weekend Must Reads
Washington Examiner | The Export-Import Bank socializes risk for private benefit
You might wonder why lawmakers would refuse to acknowledge this reality. For one, politicians are pressured by an army of lobbyists representing powerful companies who are committed to protect their perks even if it hurts everyone else. But politicians are not exactly shrinking violets, here. They like being able to point to the small businesses and American jobs that they “support” through the Ex-Im Bank. What is much harder is to point to the millions of victims of the Ex-Im Bank. Taxpayers, for instance, bear a massive $140 billion exposure so that giant corporations like Boeing and General Electric can make a little more profit each year. Should the bank’s portfolio go south, normal people like you and I will be on the hook.
The Hill | Dodd-Frank doesn’t end ‘too big to fail’
Dodd-Frank's Orderly Resolution plans do not end "too big to fail." The recent House Financial Services Committee Republican report discusses the flaws in these plans. Orderly Resolution plans have been compared to pre-packaged bankruptcies, or blueprints for speedy reorganizations using bankruptcy that will keep financial institutions open and operating and thereby remove the risk of financial instability. On close examination, this analogy breaks down because these plans lack creditor participation. The key to a successful prepackaged bankruptcy is creditor acceptance of a debt restructuring plan before entering bankruptcy. But creditors do not approve Orderly Resolution plans. The plans are kept secret from creditors, and the institutions filing the plans are not even obligated to follow them in bankruptcy.
Wall Street Journal | Liberals Love the 'One Percent'
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has said the central bank's goal is "to help Main Street not Wall Street," and many liberal commentators seem convinced that she is advancing that goal. But talk to anyone on Wall Street. If they are being frank, they'll admit that the Fed's loose monetary policy has been one of the biggest contributors to their returns over the past five years. Unwittingly, it seems, liberals who support the Fed are defending policies that boost the wealth of the wealthy but do nothing to reduce inequality.
Wall Street Journal | The Danger of Too Loose, Too Long
The Fed has been running a hyper-accommodative monetary policy to lift the economy out of the doldrums and counteract a possible deflationary spiral. Much of what we have paid out to purchase Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities has been put back to the Fed in the form of excess reserves deposited at the Federal Reserve banks. As of July 9, $2.517 trillion of excess reserves were parked on the 12 Fed banks' balance sheets, while depository institutions wait to find eager and worthy borrowers to lend to.
In the News
Washington Examiner | CFPB opens new investigation in bid to exonerate bureau managers on discrimination
Times Record News | Neugebauer wants to get government out of terror insurance
Wall Street Journal | House Panel Passes Bill to Ease Capital Requirements on MSRs
Real Clear Markets | Dodd-Frank's Birthday Marred By Its Many Inadequacies
Posted by Staff on August 01, 2014
e·gre·gious -- outstandingly bad; shocking.
Not long ago, Ex-Im’s taxpayer-backed loans for Abengoa were featured as an Egregious Ex-Im Deal of the Day. Today, the company (and Ex-Im’s ties to it) are back in the news…and not in a good way.
We’ll let the Washington Free Beacon take it from here in its report: “Former Employees Allege Widespread Illegality at Taxpayer-Backed Solar Company”.
Posted by Staff on July 30, 2014
The Export-Import Bank’s approval of $3 billion in financing for a liquefied natural gas project in Papua New Guinea reportedly led to the deaths of 27 villagers who were killed on January 24, 2012 in a massive landslide.
Posted by Staff on July 28, 2014
With a House committee preparing to examine allegations of corruption at the Export-Import Bank, it’s an appropriate time to remember a couple of other instances involving corruption from Ex-Im’s history.
Posted by Staff on July 25, 2014
Committee Reviews the Dodd-Frank Act on its 4-year Anniversary
On Wednesday, the full committee held a hearing to assess the impact of the Dodd-Frank Act on America’s Main Street economy and hard-working American taxpayers on its 4th anniversary of being signed into law.
"It wasn’t deregulation; it was bad regulation that helped lead us into this crisis. So if you get the wrong diagnosis you get the wrong remedy. Dodd-Frank has been the wrong remedy, adding incomprehensible complexity to incomprehensible complexity," said Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). "So at the time Dodd-Frank was passed, we were told it would would 'lift the economy,' 'end too big to fail,' 'end bailouts,' 'increase financial stability' and 'increase investment and entrepreneurship.' And instead, what have we learned? We have learned that it is now official that we are in the slowest, weakest recovery in the history of the nation. Tens of millions of our countrymen now unemployed or underemployed. Negative economic growth in the last quarter. Business startups at a 20-year low. One out of seven dependent upon food stamps."
"The House Financial Services Committee has moved numerous regulatory relief bills, a number of which have actually passed with bipartisan support; none of which I recall being taken up by the Democratic Senate," added Chairman Hensarling.
Mr. Dale Wilson, a community banker from San Diego, Texas provided a first-hand account to the committee of how Dodd-Frank's "excessive regulation and government micro-management" has forced banks to consolidate due to the inability to "maintain profitability in an environment where the regulatory compliance costs are increasing between 50 and 200 percent."
"The real costs of the increased regulatory burden are being felt by small town borrowers and businesses that no longer have access to credit. When a small town loses its only bank, it loses its lifeblood. It's more difficult to improve schools, health care facilities, and other infrastructure projects. I know it was not the intent of Congress when it passed Dodd-Frank to harm community banks, but that is the awful reality," said Mr. Wilson.
Paul Kupiec, a former FDIC official and current Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, also testified at the hearing and debunked the myth asserted by Dodd-Franks supporters that Dodd-Frank ended “Too Big to Fail.”
“Ironically, Dodd-Frank’s heightened expectations of a government’s commitment to remove the possibility of a future financial crisis may increase the probability that such a crisis will occur and require government support for the largest financial institutions that have been identified as too-big-to-fail,” said Kupiec.
Subcommittee Examines the SEC's Division of Corporation Finance
On Thursday, the Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee held a hearing to examine the SEC's Division of Corporation Finance. This was the second in a series of SEC oversight hearings.
"It is unfortunate indeed that the SEC still does not embrace its mission to promote capital formation with as much zeal and enthusiasm as it does with Dodd-Frank. Our markets and economy are worse for it," said Subcommittee Chairman Scott Garrett (R-NJ).
"At a time when small businesses continue to struggle to raise capital and investors are having difficulty earning a return on their investment, the SEC should not harm small business job-creators or the investing public by reducing the amount of participants in this field eligible for private placement," added Chairman Garrett.
"The JOBS Act and numerous bipartisan bills that have passed out of this committee highlight the fact that the SEC needs to do more to promote capital formation through common sense updates to its regulations," said Rep. Robert Hurt (R-VA).
Rep. Patrick McHenry | Four years after Dodd-Frank fix, system still broken
Among the great indignities of the financial crisis: American families were footing the bill for the massive taxpayer-funded bailouts of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other large financial institutions while struggling to scrape by in the broken economy. In 2009, Bloomberg estimated that the U.S. government and other federal agencies had committed nearly $13 trillion to support these failing institutions. The nearly $13 trillion represented 90% of the U.S. gross domestic product for 2008. In signing the law, Obama claimed that never again would the American people foot the bill for these large firms. Yet amazingly Dodd-Frank does not just fail to end these bailouts, it cements them into law and greatly increases the likelihood the American people will be stuck with the federal government's bailout tab again in the future.
Weekend Must Reads
Fox News | Derailing the American Dream since 2010: Thanks a lot, Dodd-Frank
Dodd-Frank and the rest of Washington over-regulation help explain why the U.S. economy today is $1.6 trillion smaller than what an average economic recovery over the last 50 years looks like. This lackluster performance explains why a family of four today is missing more than $1,100 in after-tax income and why there are nearly 6 million fewer jobs compared with the average recovery. The answer is less Dodd-Frank, less red tape and more free enterprise and economic freedom. Free enterprise has lifted more people out of poverty than all the government anti-poverty programs combined. It is the only economic system that frees ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results.
Citizens Against Government Waste | CAGW Names CFPB Director Richard Cordray July Porker of the Month
He singled out window replacement, plumbing and electrical upgrades, and a new roof as cost centers for the renovations, yet plans for the building also include such luxurious amenities as an indoor waterfall, a four-story glass staircase, a sunken garden, a custom “green” roof, and stools commissioned from world-renowned sculptor Maya Lin. The building, which is being rented, was accepted in “as is” condition by CFPB officials, and will not even house all of the CFPB’s staff. The renovation will cost approximately $590 per square foot, which is more than double the average cost for renovating some of Washington’s most high-end office buildings. According to the House Financial Services Committee, “…the CFPB is spending much more per square foot than it cost to build the Trump World Tower ($334/square foot), the Bellagio Hotel and Casino ($330/square foot) and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai ($450/square foot).” The latest estimated cost of $215.8 million is 37 percent greater than the value of the building, which was appraised at $157.3 million in 2011. House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) has demanded that Director Cordray produce “full, unredacted” records related to the escalating costs for the building renovation by July 31, 2014.
Washington Times | At 4, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is still unaccountable
The bureau's head, currently Richard Cordray, cannot be fired, no matter how poor his performance. He's armed with unlimited authority, enabling him to splurge on luxuries. He spent $216 million redecorating the bureau's headquarters with such amenities as a two-story waterfall and a glass staircase. The "consumer protection" bureau is now worth more per square foot than the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas or the opulent Burj Khalifa in Dubai, where a guest can sleep in a room designed by Giorgio Armani for $7,000 per night (if he can sleep at all after paying $7,000 for a place to sleep).
Investor's Business Daily | Four Years In, Dodd-Frank Hasn't Fixed Anything
"Ironically, Dodd-Frank's heightened expectations of a government commitment to remove the possibility of a future financial crisis may increase the probability that such a crisis will occur and require government support," former FDIC official Paul Kupiec, now with the American Enterprise Institute, testified this week. Meanwhile, nonbanks such as GE Capital, GMAC and other industrial finance companies came under the government's heavy regulatory hand for the first time ever. New agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which now controls all consumer lending, and the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a super-regulatory board with sweeping powers and no direct accountability to Congress, have become a dead hand.
On the Horizon
July 29, 2014 10:00 a.m.
In the News
Wall Street Journal | House Republicans Take Aim at Dodd-Frank
Wall Street Journal | Dodd-Frank Law Still Far From Finished
Wall Street Journal | Four Years of Dodd-Frank Damage
American Banker | DOJ Memo Leaves No Doubt About Choke Point’s Motives
American Banker | In Year Four of Dodd-Frank, Over-Regulation Is Getting Old
Washington Times | MORICI: Yellen’s denials of rising inflation
Posted by on July 24, 2014
The Export-Import Bank just can’t help themselves.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country described as having “a high standard of living because of oil wealth,” sovereign wealth over $1 trillion in assets and a per-capita GDP of over $58,000, decided it needed some new aircraft and turbines.
Who better to help than American taxpayers through the Export-Import Bank?
In FY2013, the Ex-Im Bank offered over $1 billion worth of loans and loan guarantees backed by hardworking Americans’ taxpayer dollars to the UAE to buy aircraft from Boeing and turbines from General Electric.
With this latest deal, U.S. taxpayers have a total exposure of more than $6.2 billion to the oil-rich UAE, all thanks to Ex-Im.
If a country clearly has the means to finance projects without relying on American taxpayers, why should it get money from Ex-Im?
Posted by Staff on July 23, 2014
Mexico-based satellite operator known as Satmex announced it doesn’t need a loan from the Export-Import Bank to finance the purchase of Boeing satellites.
But that’s no reason not to take the “free money” financed by hardworking U.S. taxpayers through Ex-Im, is it?
In a conference call with investors, Satmex’s CEO Juan Garcia “said the company is nonetheless still working” to receive “a low-interest loan” from Ex-Im for $255.4 million, according to a report in SpaceNews.
If a company can finance a project without Ex-Im, why should it get money from Ex-Im?
Posted by Staff on July 22, 2014
Why is Australia’s richest citizen – worth at least $18 billion – receiving loans backed by American taxpayers?
The Sydney Morning Herald calls it “the latest example of a flaw in the United States political economy: what some see as crony capitalism.”
Regrettably, “crony capitalism” is just what the Export-Import Bank does day-in, day-out: use hardworking taxpayers to finance crony deals for the powerful, the wealthy, and the well-connected.
Here are the deal details:
Australia’s richest citizen, billionaire mining heiress Gina Rinehart, secured a $694 million loan from American taxpayers thanks to Ex-Im’s support for the Roy Hill iron ore project.
Why are U.S. taxpayers involved? Because – as the newspaper reports – “Commercial banks and bond investors were reluctant to shoulder all the risk.”
If big banks and bond investors won’t take the risk, then why should American taxpayers be forced to?
Could this egregious deal get any worse? Why, yes.
Not only does Ex-Im risk taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars, Ex-Im’s financing of the deal also puts American jobs at risk. Four Democratic senators say the project will “substantially injure American iron ore and steel producers and their employees that are competing in the same global marketplace.”
Explains Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN): “My grandfather worked 1,500 feet underground as a miner, and countless other men and women in Northern Minnesota have worked hard providing iron ore to the world. It doesn’t make sense for our government to be funding our competition, especially when this project could have such a negative impact on local economies and the livelihoods of so many miners.”