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Larry Summers Had the Power to Punish Wall Street. Now He’s Slamming Obama’s Gentle Treatment.

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David Dayen reports in The Intercept:

AS HEAD OF BARACK OBAMA’S National Economic Council during 2009 and 2010 at the height of the foreclosure crisis, Larry Summers broke many promises to help homeowners while simultaneously dismissing Wall Street’s criminality. Now, after the Obama administration has left power and Summers has no ability to influence anything, he finds himself “disturbed” that settlements for mortgage misconduct are full of lies. Those of us who screamed exactly this for years, when Summers might have been able to do something about it, are less than amused.

In Wednesday’s Washington Post, Summers writes about a “large systematic overstatement” of the burden actually felt by banks in various mortgage settlements. Typically with these settlements, the Justice Department announces a headline dollar amount that the media uncritically prints in their headlines. But that number bears no relation to reality.

Indeed, large amounts of the settlements are directed for “consumer relief,” which banks have been from the beginning adept at gaming. Financial writer Yves Smith coined the phrase “bullshit to cash ratio” to describe the relationship between actual hard-dollar fines for banks and these noncash consumer relief measures.

Summers highlights an agreement last April, where Goldman Sachs needed to supply $1.8 billion in consumer relief to homeowners to settle claims that they swindled investors with mortgage-backed securities. But Goldman Sachs didn’t own any mortgages. So it bought distressed mortgages in bulk on the open market, for as low as 50 cents on the dollar. Then it modified the balance to, say, 60 cents on the dollar, satisfying the consumer relief while earning profit.

In other words, Obama’s Justice Department sentenced Goldman Sachs to make money. A more recent Deutsche Bank settlement allowed the bank to invest in hedge funds that do the same purchase-and-modify loan scheme, getting credit for $4.1 billion in consumer relief simply from the investment. Deutsche Bank is even looking to earn credit for consumer relief by indirectly funding new subprime loans, also a moneymaking activity. This is like sentencing a bank robber to open a lemonade stand.

“While there may have been some encouragement to principle (sic) reduction through these settlements,” Summers writes, “neither the cost to banks nor the incremental benefit to consumers is remotely comparable to the consumer relief figures advertised by both the DoJ and the banks.”

Larry Summers should be the last person expressing outrage about any of this. It was his indifference to the suffering of homeowners after the financial crash that led to this fake justice-by-settlement scheme.

The week before Obama took office in 2009, when the incoming White House wanted the second half of the TARP bailout money released, Summers wrote a letter to Congress promising that “the Obama administration will commit substantial resources of $50-100B to a sweeping effort to address the foreclosure crisis.” He added that “we will implement smart, aggressive policies to reduce the number of preventable foreclosures by helping to reduce mortgage payments for economically stressed but responsible homeowners, while also reforming our bankruptcy laws.”

None of this happened. The ballyhooed $100 billion investment in mortgage mitigation ended up spending only $21 billion, and worse, was manipulated into a predatory lending program by mortgage servicers who had financial incentives to foreclose. The reform to bankruptcy laws Summers touted in his letter, which would have allowed judges to modify home mortgages, was something he actively opposed after Obama’s inauguration. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., publicly alleged that Summers “was not supportive of this,” and that he expressed doubts in private meetings.

Summers tries to separate himself from the Justice Department’s lies by saying, . . .

Continue reading.

It seems that Larry Summers is quite an unlikable fellow.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 March 2017 at 7:50 pm

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