Finance Brief: Appeals Court Vacates Ruling That Declared Fed’s Bailout of AIG Unlawful

Washington Brief

  • Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) objected to a unanimous consent request to proceed to a confirmation vote for U.S. trade representative nominee Robert Lighthizer. McCain cited “unanswered questions” about Lighthizer, who has lobbied on behalf of foreign governments. (Inside U.S. Trade)
  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the administration’s goal of 3 percent growth this year is “certainly not achievable.” He cited the slow pace of action on Capitol Hill. (Reuters)
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and seven other Senate Democrats want federal regulators to investigate whether Carl Icahn, an adviser to President Donald Trump, violated insider trading laws. (MarketWatch)

Business Brief

  • A federal appeals court vacated a 2015 ruling that the U.S. government’s 2008 bailout of American International Group Inc. was unlawful. Former Chief Executive Hank Greenberg had sued the government in 2011 arguing that the Federal Reserve overstepped its authority, and his legal team now plans to appeal to the Supreme Court. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren warned that GOP plans to overhaul government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could wrench the multi-family commercial real estate market. (Bloomberg News)
  • Former Securities and Exchange Commission accountant David Humphrey, who worked at the agency for 16 years, settled criminal and civil charges alleging that he filed false ethics forms to conceal illegal options trading while employed at the SEC. (Reuters)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Wednesday
SEC event on IPO market 8:30 a.m.
SEC Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies meeting 9:30 a.m.
Senate Banking Committee hearing on secondary sanctions against Chinese institutions 10 a.m.
CFPB small business lending field hearing in Los Angeles 11 a.m.
SEC administrative hearing 12 p.m.
Brookings Institution event on trade backlash 2 p.m.
Bloomberg Government tax reform event 2 p.m.
Thursday
Senate Banking Committee hearing on housing finance 10 a.m.
Center for Strategic and International Studies trade event 11 a.m.
National Economists Club event with Mercatus Center’s Robert Graboyes 12 p.m.
American Bar Association Section of Taxation meeting 1 p.m.
Friday
FDIC community banking event in Kansas City, Mo. 8:30 a.m.
Drexel University urban economic policy conference 12 p.m.
American Bar Association Section of Taxation meeting 12 p.m.

 

General

McCain, citing ‘unanswered questions,’ objecting to unanimous consent request on Lighthizer
Inside U.S. Trade

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is objecting to a unanimous consent request to proceed to the nomination of U.S. Trade Representative nominee Robert Lighthizer, McCain told Inside U.S. Trade . “I have questions that are outstanding and I’d like to have answers to those questions. That’s the way the senate works,” McCain said on May 9.

U.S. Commerce’s Ross says 3 percent GDP growth not achievable this year
David Lawder and Jennifer Ablan, Reuters 

The U.S. economy won’t achieve the Trump administration’s 3 percent growth goal this year and not until all of its tax, regulatory, trade and energy policies are fully in place, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Tuesday. Ross also said trade enforcement actions would be a major tool to cut U.S. trade deficits, adding that he has problems with World Trade Organization rules which allow widely divergent tariffs and are slow to punish violators.

Trump’s Newest Wall Street Watchdog Sidesteps Ethics Scrutiny
Jesse Hamilton and Robert Schmidt, Bloomberg News

The Trump administration used a highly unusual personnel move to skirt Senate confirmation and standard ethics requirements when it installed a financial services lawyer atop a powerful banking regulator. Keith Noreika’s transition from representing banks to overseeing them came courtesy of a quick two-step.

Small business access to credit examined by federal regulator
Kevin McCoy, USA Today 

Are you a small business owner with concerns or problems with access to credit needed to fund and grow your business? A federal regulator hopes to help.

Nafta Revamp is Slowed by Senate Maneuvering
Natalie Andrews and Jacob M. Schlesinger, The Wall Street Journal 

The U.S. won’t be able to start renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement until late summer at the earliest, as congressional delays bog down one of President Donald Trump’s top-priority agenda items. The latest snag emerged this week when Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain —a staunch free-trade backer who has raised doubts about Mr. Trump’s “America First” trade policy—said he wanted to slow down the Senate’s approval of Mr. Trump’s trade representative, a step required before the talks can begin.

Despite Setbacks, Trump’s Trade Warrior Peter Navarro is Fighting On
Bob Davis and William Mauldin, The Wall Street Journal 

The White House’s most hawkish trade adviser, Peter Navarro, says the administration is still pushing to win concessions from trading partners even though the president has notably softened his positions on China and Mexico. President Donald Trump no longer talks of imposing steep tariffs on Chinese imports, as he did during the campaign, and he dropped his pledge to name Beijing a currency manipulator.

Stocks Edge Lower as Dollar Stalls; Oil Advances: Markets Wrap
Robert Brand, Bloomberg News

U.S. stock index futures slipped and the dollar’s rally faltered after Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Oil climbed following an industry report that showed American stockpiles declining for a fifth week.

Banking

U.S. Softens Basel Stance in Push for Deal on Capital Rules
Boris Groendahl et al., Bloomberg News

The U.S. has softened its position in talks on global bank-capital rules, easing a months-long deadlock with the European Union and boosting the chances of a deal. The Federal Reserve, which leads the U.S. delegation in the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, is ready to compromise on the level of a disputed output floor, according to two people with knowledge of the talks.

Financial Products and Investments

Appeals Court Vacates Ruling That Declared AIG Bailout Unlawful
Leslie Scism, The Wall Street Journal 

A federal appeals court on Tuesday vacated a lower court’s ruling that the 2008 federal bailout of American International Group Inc. was unlawful, taking a moral victory away from former Chief Executive Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg. Mr. Greenberg, who had built AIG into a financial-services powerhouse, had initially sued the government in 2011.

Elizabeth Warren, 7 more Democratic senators call for probe into possible insider trading by Icahn
Robert Schroeder, MarketWatch 

Elizabeth Warren and 7 other Democratic senators are calling on U.S. regulators to open an investigation into Carl Icahn’s activities in the market for renewable fuel credits, citing “troubling” evidence concerning the billionaire investor and adviser to President Donald Trump.

Ex-SEC accountant settles charges over illegal options trades
Sarah N. Lynch, Reuters 

A former accountant at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday settled parallel criminal and civil charges, after he was caught illegally trading options and lying about it while employed at the agency. David R. Humphrey, 60, who worked in the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance for 16 years, pleaded guilty to filing false ethics forms in order to conceal his trading, the Justice Department said.

Former SAC Manager Martoma Makes Another Case for His Release
Nicole Hong, The Wall Street Journal 

More than three years after a jury found him guilty of insider trading, Mathew Martoma is still fighting for his freedom. On Tuesday, lawyers for Mr. Martoma argued for a second time before a federal appeals court in Manhattan that the former SAC Capital Advisors LP portfolio manager should have his 2014 conviction overturned or receive a new trial.

Time Running Out on Bid to Repeal Prepaid-card Rule
Gregory Roberts, Bloomberg BNA 

The window of opportunity for congressional Republicans to repeal a new federal rule aimed at protecting consumers who use prepaid cards looks to be closing, if it’s not quite shut already. The reason is that the effort to repeal the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule needs to beat a deadline set by the 1996 Congressional Review Act (CRA), the vehicle for overturning regulations recently issued by federal agencies.

Housing and GSEs

Fed’s Rosengren Warns GSE Reform Could Threaten Property Market
Christopher Condon, Bloomberg News

Plans by Republican lawmakers and the Trump administration to reform government-backed mortgage companies could lead to a “significant shock” to the market for multi-family commercial real estate, said Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren.

SEC Probes Rental Home Values in Private-Equity Bond Deals
Matt Scully, Bloomberg News

U.S. securities regulators are investigating whether bonds backed by single-family rental homes and sold by Wall Street’s biggest residential landlords used overvalued property assessments. Radian Group Inc.’s Green River Capital unit is among companies that received a request for information from the Securities and Exchange Commission in March about broker price opinions, or BPOs, Radian said in a regulatory filing late Friday.

Taxes

Employee or Contractor? Double-Tax Case Could Help Businesses Challenge IRS
Richard Rubin, The Wall Street Journal 

A tiny Native American tribe in New Mexico defeated the Internal Revenue Service in a dispute over a system that sometimes lets the government collect the same taxes twice. The case, decided in April by the U.S. Tax Court, gives employers a new way to challenge the IRS when the agency audits companies and labels their workers as employees for whom paycheck-withholding is required instead of independent contractors responsible for their own taxes.

Trump’s Proposed Tax Cut Could Open a Path to Widespread Avoidance
Kate Kelly and Alan Rappeport, The New York Times 

President Trump’s proposal to cut taxes is short on details. But some people can already see opportunities for widespread tax avoidance.

The $2 Trillion Question in Trump’s New Tax Plan
Richard Rubin, The Wall Street Journal 

The Trump administration says a middle-class tax cut is at the center of its tax plan. But doing the arithmetic to figure out what middle-class families would pay is close to impossible.

Financial Technology

Fed’s Kashkari Says Blockchain ‘Has More Potential’ Than Bitcoin
Stan Higgins, CoinDesk 

The president of the Federal Reserve of Minneapolis took aim at bitcoin today, criticizing the ease at which new cryptocurrencies can be created. Neel Kashkari, a former Bush administration official who became president of the Minneapolis Fed in early 2016, gave a speech during the MN High Tech Association 2017 Spring Conference, held this afternoon.

Bitcoin Blows Past $1,700 Mark, Up 80% This Year
Paul Vigna, The Wall Street Journal 

The price of the digital currency bitcoin surged past $1,700 on Tuesday after a 6% rise driven by new speculative buying in a new kind of capital raising and virtual-currency creation dubbed the “initial coin offering.” Bitcoin traded hit an intraday record high of $1,747 on the index maintained by the research site CoinDesk.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

A Dodd-Frank Rewrite That Would Increase the Chance of Bailouts
Stephen J. Lubben, The New York Times

Let us assume that the six or eight largest American financial institutions will not be broken into smaller parts, like some modern-day AT&T. Under this assumption, the solution to the “too big to fail” problem must then come from the “failure” side of things, because American financial institutions are still quite big.

House Financial Choice Act is boon for SEC targets
Alison Frankel, Reuters 

If you are facing the prospect of an enforcement action by the Securities and Exchange Commission – or if you represent someone in that predicament – you ought to be hoping the full House of Representatives and the Senate hurry up and pass the Financial Choice Act of 2017, which zipped through the House Financial Services Committee last week, less than a month after it was re-introduced by committee chair Jeb Hensarling.

Trump is right. Canada’s lumber trade practices are unfair.
Jimmy Carter, The Washington Post 

I agree with the recent decision of the White House and the Commerce Department to impose anti-subsidy duties against Canada’s unfairly traded softwood lumber imports. This belated enforcement of U.S. trade laws will help millions of private timberland owners, American forestry workers and members of their local communities by leveling the playing field in the timber industry.

Trump can rein in financial bureau without help from Congress
J.W. Verret, The Hill 

The Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) hosted its first meeting under the Trump administration this week. This super council of federal financial regulators represents but one of the enormous powers granted to the executive branch by the Dodd-Frank Act.

Applying a BAT to reinsurance would be a big swing and a miss by Congress
Easton Randall, R Street Institute 

The president, congressional leaders and Washington’s many think tanks all have their versions of what comprehensive tax reform should look like, and frankly, everyone is all over the field. One of the biggest issues under debate is a plank from the House Republicans’ plan called the border-adjustment tax, or “BAT.” If Washington isn’t careful, this plan could turn into one giant swing and a miss, particularly when it comes to the reinsurance market.

Research Reports

Views of NAFTA less positive – and more partisan – in U.S. than in Canada and Mexico
Bruce Stokes, Pew Research Center 

The Trump administration and governments in Ottawa and Mexico City have indicated they will renegotiate the trilateral, quarter-century-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). While the existing accord enjoys the support of roughly three-quarters of the Canadian public and six-in-ten Mexicans, it is viewed less favorably in the United States, with Republicans far less supportive than Democrats, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of all three countries.

Data Security, Integrity and Accessibility in the Cloud
Financial Services Roundtable 

This document presents principles intended to advance the mission of the Financial Services Roundtable’s Technology Collaborators working group on Data Security, Integrity, and Accessibility in the Cloud. Financial institutions’ (FIs) interest in transitioning from legacy computing platforms to the cloud continues to grow.

Briefings

Finance Brief: Pence’s Tax Lobbying on Hill Rankles Republican Study Committee Members

Vice President Mike Pence urged House Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (N.C.) to poll the group’s members on whether they’d support the White House tax outline over the House GOP blueprint, a move that spurred criticism from members. Some RSC members oppose the idea of breaking from the House leadership’s tax plan, which differs in key ways from President Donald Trump’s proposal.

Finance Brief: Intra-Party Debate Over Swipe Fees Intensifies

An intra-party dispute over a proposed repeal of debit card swipe-fee limits may delay a House vote on the the Dodd-Frank replacement bill sponsored by Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who urged colleagues to support the measure during a conference meeting Tuesday. GOP Reps. David Young (Iowa) and Dennis Ross (Fla.) want the repeal language removed from the bill.

Finance Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers that the Trump administration does not support reinstating the firewall between investment and commercial banking required under the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, clarifying previous remarks from White House officials that indicated a preference for reinstating the law that was repealed in 1999.

Finance Brief: Wells Fargo Sued by Philadelphia Over Alleged Predatory Lending

The City of Philadelphia sued Wells Fargo & Co., alleging that the country’s largest mortgage lender engaged in predatory lending. The lawsuit, which comes after a recent Supreme Court decision allowing cities to sue banks for alleged discrimination that leads to widespread defaults and lower property tax revenue, compounds Wells Fargo’s legal woes in the wake of its consumer fraud scandal.

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