Thursday, July 29, 2010

Section 342. Office Of Minority And Women Inclusion

Much recent attention has focused on Section 342 of the Financial Reform Bill (Dodd-Frank Bill). The section calls for the creation of Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion at all Federal financial institution regulatory agencies. While most blog comments on the Section have been negative, there has been a lack of accurate information about just what this section calls for and why.

Let's start with why. As we noted in 2003 and 2006:

"Envy, hatred, and greed have flourished in certain capital market institutions, propelling ethical standards of behavior downward. Without meaningful reform, there is a small (but significant and growing) risk that our economic system will simply cease functioning." (2003);

and

"Individuals and market institutions with the power to safeguard the system, including investment analysts and rating agencies, have been compromised. Few efficient, effective and just safeguards are in place. Statistical models created by the firm show the probability of system-wide market failure has increased over the past eight years. Investors and the public are at risk." (2006).

On April 22, 2009, we noted that "Commercial and investment banks used their size and money to..evade any meaningful effort to impose common sense and transparent risk controls in the public interest, known as regulation. Markets are ruled by two emotions: fear and greed, and these institutions got greedy, very greedy. They created financial products that served no real purpose, other than to generate profit for the bank. To keep customers (their only regulator) from understanding the bank’s true intent, they made these products horribly complicated. These products were, in part, simple bets. These bets were layered on top of each other until only the product designers had any hope of realistically estimating what little value actually existed in the products.

Commercial and investment banks came to act as if they understood that giving these products a veneer of social utility would help them hide their true motivation, so they tied a small fraction of these bets, now known as 'derivatives,' to subprime lending and passed the bundle off as the invisible hand of the free market at work. Subprime lending products allowed white banks to engage in highly negative and discriminatory practices. Such practices 'intentionally assigned black customers subprime mortgages while giving whites better rates.' " On June 24, 2009 Wells Fargo was sued by the City of Baltimore for "discriminatory and predatory lending."

As we said on March 14, 2009, quoting an article by Michael Lewis, "There weren't enough Americans with (bad) credit taking out loans to satisfy investors’ appetite for the end product. (Investment banks) used (financial bets) to synthesize more of them..they weren’t satisfied getting lots of unqualified borrowers to borrow money to buy a house they couldn’t afford..they were creating them out of whole cloth. One hundred times over! That’s why the (financial crisis) losses are so much greater than the loans."

None of the blogs we read on Section 342 mentioned these facts.

Section 342 is actually called for by Adam Smith, who said, in The Wealth of Nations that, "To promote the little interest of one little order of men in one country, it hurts the interest of all other orders of men in that country, and of all men in all other countries." The section seeks to broaden "one little order of men in one country" to include minorities and women.

What the section actually says.

Section 342 does not declare "that race and gender employment ratios, if not quotas, must be observed by private financial institutions that do business with the government." It does not insert "race and gender quotas into America's financial industry." There is no language in the section that would make either of these statements reasonable.

Section 342 calls for the development of "standards for—
(A) equal employment opportunity and the racial, ethnic,and gender diversity of the workforce and senior management of the agency;
(B) increased participation of minority-owned and women-owned businesses in the programs and contracts of the agency, including standards for coordinating technical assistance to such businesses; and
(C) assessing the diversity policies and practices of entities regulated by the agency."

The term "standards" is key. Here is what the legislation says about them: "The standards and procedures developed and implemented under this subsection shall include a procedure for (making) a determination whether an agency contractor, and, as applicable, a subcontractor has failed to make a good faith effort to include minorities and women in their workforce."

This seems reasonable. While "Section 342's provisions are broad" there is no reason to assume that they "are certain to increase inefficiency in federal agencies," unless you assume all women and minorities inefficient, a biased and bigoted assumption, to say the least.

Likewise, to suggest that "the federal government is moving from outlawing discrimination to setting up a system of quotas" or that "the only way that financial firms doing business with the government would be able to comply with the law is by showing that a certain percentage of their workforce is female or minority" is wrong. This is the kind of fear mongering heard after Brown v. Board of Education. It was wrong then. It is wrong now. No quotas are called for, and a firm can certainly comply with the law even without having a single women or minority of staff, assuming it has made a good faith effort to include minorities and women in their workforce.

We recently calculated that the dollar Section 342 potential for minority and women owned firms totals $136 million. To order our full Section 342 report, see: http://www.creativeinvest.com/pubs.html

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Creative Investment Research, Inc. testifies at the Joint Public Hearing on CRA

Sponsored by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision (The Agencies), the Joint Public Hearing on the Community Reinvestment Act Regulation was held in Arlington Virginia on July 19, 2010. We provided testimony for the hearings.

Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) in 1977 “to encourage depository institutions to help meet the credit needs of the communities in which they operate, including low and moderate income neighborhoods, consistent with safe and sound operations.”

Our testimony follows a series of warnings we have issued since 1998:

- In an October 1998 brief filed with the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, we objected to the Citigroup/Travelers merger. We cited evidence that growing financial market malfeasance greatly exacerbated risks in financial markets, reducing the safety and soundness of large financial institutions. We went on to note that: “The nature of financial market activities is such that significant dislocations can and do occur quickly, with great force. These dislocations strike across institutional lines. That is, they affect both banks and securities firms. The financial institution regulatory structure is not in place to effectively evaluate these risks, however. Given this, the public is at risk.”

- On June 15, 2000, we testified before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE’s) of the US Congress. We suggested the GSE’s (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) be subject to a thorough “Social Audit.” Had they been subject to this audit, certain flaws in their operation, including ethical shortcomings, may have been revealed earlier and in a better market in which to make corrections.

- On December 22, 2003, we warned regulators that statistical models created by the firm using the Fully Adjusted Return ®Methodology signaled the probability of system-wide economic and market failure.

- On Monday, April 11, 2005, we testified before Judge William H. Pauley III in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of investors at a fairness hearing regarding the $1.4 billion dollar Global Research Analyst Settlement.

- On February 6, 2006, we warned regulators that statistical models using the Fully Adjusted Return® Methodology confirmed that system-wide economic and market failure was a growing possibility. See page 2: http://www.sec.gov/rules/proposed/s71005/wcunningham5867.pdf

- On June 18, 2010, we released a comment letter sent to Mr. Phil Angelides, Chairman, Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, outlining our Transaction Cost Theory of the Financial Crisis. See: http://www.prlog.org/10746429-firm-releases-transaction- ...

Our CRA testimony focuses on:

- The best approaches to evaluating the geographic scope of depository institution lending, investment and/or deposit-taking activities under CRA. We seek open and market based CRA performance evaluation standards.

- We suggest the Agencies conduct a “credit needs” based review, subject to financial institution lending and service capabilities. In other words, we suggest they look at total credit needs in areas served by large and small institutions, calculate the potential impact that the institution has in meeting those needs, calculate the actual impact (number and dollar amount of loans provided), and use this metric as part of the CRA review process.

- We suggest the agencies revise CRA regulations to require that bank examiners routinely consider activities by affiliates.

- We suggest that the Agencies focus on opportunities to encourage "green" community development loans, "green" investments and "green" services to support projects that have a significant impact on a neighborhood.

- We suggest that the agencies’ evaluations of evidence of discriminatory or other illegal credit practices as outlined in the CRA rules are inadequate.

- We suggest the creation of a single online access point for CRA ratings, HMDA and small business data, accessible online, covering all regulated financial institutions and all affiliates, across regulatory agencies (OCC, OTS, FDIC, FRB, SEC, CFTC, etc.). We believe this would streamline CRA disclosures and performance evaluation reports, simplify compliance, improve consistency and enhance clarity.

- Finally, we suggest the agencies consider using the social networking sites (Facebook, Linked-In, etc) to collect public comments on the CRA performance of banks.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Minority firm part of $1.85 billion FDIC asset sale

An article by Ling-Ling Wei in today's Wall Street Journal noted that: "A partnership between Tom Barrack's Colony Capital LLC and a minority-owned investment firm won the bidding for a $1.85 billion portfolio of distressed commercial real-estate loans auctioned off by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The deal, the second-largest bulk sale of commercial-property debt under a public-private partnership, is expected to be announced Wednesday by the FDIC.

This deal is the first public-private setup in which a minority-owned firm has taken a stake, albeit a small one, during this economic downturn. Cogsville, an African-American-owned firm, contributed $16 million to the $218 million investment, for a 7% stake in the portfolio.

Over the past year, there have been complaints on Capitol Hill and among smaller financial firms, especially those owned by minorities and women, about the lack of minority-firm participation in various public-private investment programs.

'A lot of minority-owned firms have been angry because they haven't been included in a lot of deals,' said William Michael Cunningham, an investment adviser who tracks minority-owned financial firms.

In response, the FDIC started its minority-and-women outreach program this year, conducting seminars to facilitate participation by firms in its asset sales, FDIC officials said. The move also comes as politicians are ratcheting up pressure on regulators and financial firms to boost minority firms' chances of participating in various asset-management and bank-rescue programs sponsored by the government. These programs are expected to generate millions of dollars in management fees and investment opportunities for private companies."

Socially responsible?

"The Colony-Cogsville group intends to work with borrowers when possible as opposed to foreclosing on them. If a borrower defaults, the group may modify the terms to make the loan current. It would make money as long as the borrower stays current on modified terms. In some cases, the group may sell the debt back to the borrowers for more than what it paid."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Another Black-owned bank closes

According to the FDIC, "On Friday, July 9, 2010, Ideal Federal Savings Bank, Baltimore, MD was closed by the Office of Thrift Supervision, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was named Receiver. No advance notice is given to the public when a financial institution is closed. As a convenience to local depositors, the FDIC has made arrangements for the insured funds in demand accounts, savings accounts, NOW accounts, insured CD's, and any other transactional accounts to be transferred to the Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company ("M&T") located at 715 N. Howard Street, Baltimore, Maryland. M&T Bank will also accept the failed bank's direct deposits from the federal government, such as Social Security and Veterans' payments through Saturday, September 4."

The institution was established as Ideal Federal Savings Bank on April 4, 1920. As one of the original Black owned financial institution in the United States, the bank had a storied history of providing mortgage loans to working and middle class blacks.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Minority and Women-owned Company Small Business Financing Guide and Workbook, 2010 Edition

MinorityFinance.com is pleased to announce the publication of the Minority and Women-owned Company Small Business Financing Guide and Workbook, 2010 Edition.

The Guide and Workbook are designed to provide actionable information minorities and women can use to obtain small business financing. The Guide and Workbook consists of two sections: The Guide provides detailed business financing information of specific relevance to Minority and Women-owned Businesses. The Workbook is an electronic document with blank loan applications, grant forms, business planning and financial reporting templates, IRS Forms and other documents.

The Guide and Workbook will be of specific interest to those seeking to finance a new firm and/or start-up. It has special sections on financing a Day Care Center, financing a Beauty/Hair Salon, financing a Music/Film business.

Specific sections of the Workbook provide detailed information on:

How to complete a Bank Loan Application (completed sample application included).

Why there are NO specialized grants for Minority and Women-owned Small Businesses. What programs exist and how you can benefit from them.

How to complete a Grant Application (completed sample application included).

Banks: Do they hate Women and Minority-owned Small Businesses or do they just hate small businesses in general?

Has your business credit lines been reduced or revoked? How to find both short-term capital financing and long-term business financing.

Why you should avoid Venture Capital and Private Equity firms. If you must deal with them, here’s how.

How to work with the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), and other Federal, State and local Agencies, if you must.

The Guide includes separate chapters on the following topics: • Financing a Franchise • Buying an Existing Business • Financing a Day Care Center, Beauty/Hair Salon, or Music/Film business • Funding Sources: Credit Unions, Community Development Financial Institutions, Community Development Entities, Microcredit Funds and Peer-to-Peer Lending.

To order see: http://www.minorityfinance.com/mfinform1.html