Sunday, December 4, 2011


It didn’t take a genius to see that the Dodd-Frank exercise took a lot out of the heady and feisty former House Banking Committee Chairman--and now ranking Democrat--Rep. Barney Frank. While Barney still might be able to get on his warhorse and do battle with the best of them, recently he has just began to look tired.

He worked hard and long most recently on the financial reform legislation, which ultimately bore retiring Senator Chris Dodd and Barney’s names, and—in my opinion--produced not much, after the bank lobbyists and the GOP got finished diluting all of the bill’s heavy hitting provisions.

What remained—yet to be fully implemented--got further watered down during the regulatory process, where the banks and their political allies worked their will on the Obama Administration and the federal financial regulators.

Before 2010, Barney may have made up his mind to call it quits in 2012, since his race was so very close.

Dodd-Frank Wasn’t Tough Enough

But in the wake of the 2008 global financial disaster, the fact that Barney Frank failed in leading the Congress to deal directly with the principle companies and issues which produced the world wide debacle, had to sap whatever interest he had left. (Of course, it might have gone differently had any Republicans of note tried to should some of the political burden with him.)

Besides, he’s seventy years old and likely can chose to teach professionally, pursue his vast set of humane priorities, or even just explore his poker playing skills and interests.

While I believe Barney Frank could win re-election, why should he go through all of that anguish just to be a minority Democrat on Financial Services, as he aged into his mid-70's?

As someone with first hand experience (and the scars to show for it), I laugh ruefully at those people who claim Barney was a foil for Fannie Mae.

Bar none, he was the toughest, most difficult person I ever had to lobby.

He was tough to schedule, never gave you the time for full explanations and political rationales—because he felt he knew them all, even the ones you weren’t pushing--and acted as if his next meeting was with God and that you were impinging on the few minutes he was willing to give the deity.

He seldom communicated what he was going to do until after he did it or say if he merely was going to vote for or against you or work his colleagues behind the scenes, which most lobbyists wanted the savvy legislator to do.

To me, it was a shame that someone so brilliant, so capable, and with such a sharp satirical bent—often missing in other public officials--was so very off putting.

Those people who are catatonic about Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Cal)—with cause?--succeeding Barney and possibly becoming committee Chairperson, should relax because even if President Obama wins in 2012, he won’t have coattails long enough to sweep Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the House GOP out of power.

Ethanol Warms the Cockles of Your GOP Heart!!

The next time your friendly Republican Senator or Congressman discuss their legislative and political priorities, ask them where they stand on whether T. Boone Pickens or the infamous Koch brothers should be entitled to billions in federal ethanol subsidies.

The only problems as these stalwarts of the Right fight each other over federal dollars, which they nor their ethanol businesses need, is that one or both of Pickens or the Koch’s will win.

Of course, doing away with these wonderful ethanol tax benefits never will gain GOP support.

Read more—as Sebastian Blanco, writing in the smarmy situation as these rich guys square off against one another or more precisely,in my view, against the American public and our federal deficit.

FHFA’s IG, His Agency and Boss

Maybe healthy conflict is the natural role between an inspector general and the agency where the IG works.

The conflicts seems to exist at the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac federal regulator, where Inspector General (IG) Steve Linick has been chucking out report after report damning weaknesses or shortcomings in the FHFA oversight and regulatory process.

Recently, Linick scolded the agency for allowing Fannie and Freddie to spend some $640,000 to send a combined hundred employees to the national Mortgage Bankers Association annual conference in Chicago, earlier this year.

Long before the 2008 federal takeover, Fannie officials decided too many employees—who weren’t needed to interact with business partners—were attending this event. Management even then rigorously cut back on those attending.

So, there is a basis for Linick's conclusions.

However, today--as was the case when I worked at Fannie--MBA lenders are major F&F customers, which--despite the for GSE's federal leashes—continue to acquire or securitize billions of dollars in mortgage loans originated by the mortgage banks and their commercial bank parents. This fact establishes a legitimate business need for Fannie and Freddie to attend the conference in appropriate numbers.

But, here’s what I think may be occurring, especially when I see attention paid to piddling issues like employees attending a conference and the pennies that represents.

WH Saying Bye-Bye??

Linick, rightly or wrongly, has been issuing reports critical of the agency. Intended or not, those complaints are born by the agency’s Director, Ed DeMarco, a Republican appointee who has been “acting director" for some three years, after the Obama White House held him over.

In my evolving view, DeMarco has done a very good job at FHFA in very difficult circumstances. He is supposed to conserve the companies, as in “conservatorship,” but recognize that they still are the engine of the nation’s conventional mortgage market and, as such, need to run themselves in some semblance of commercial entities. And that’s before you consider all of the Hill crazies in both parties criticizing the mortgage finance giants.

DeMarco also has to insure that the two make enough money to pay back the federal government for Uncle Sam’s operational loans.

But, just recently the White House named two former Federal Reserve employees to senior posts at FHFA. Either one has the title status—stipulated in statute—to replace DeMarco either as “acting Director” or on a permanent basis, assuming either can get Senate approval.

In my opinion (no "inside" information), I think the White House is in the process of ushering Republican Ed DeMarco out of FHFA and the IG reports’ accumulated criticisms are meant to justify that action.

Sad, if it happens.

Maloni, 12-4-2011


Wayne Wyatt said...

Bill, Thanks for all you have done the housing market, Fannie Mae and the District of Columbia. Your wisdom and selfless acts of kindness are greatly appreciated.

Bill Maloni said...

Thank you, Wayne. I hope all is well with you and yours.

Which area church is fortunate enough to have you as a member?