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June 2, 2021
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Hsu Says OCC Won’t ‘Dilly Dally’ on Revamp of Community Reinvestment Act

It’s time to overhaul the revamp, says Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu, who isn’t letting that “acting” title slow down his plans to tackle the Community Reinvestment Act. “I think my role as acting comptroller is to address things that can’t wait, and I think this is one of them,” he told me in an interview yesterday. 

I also asked Hsu more about his comments last month about banks becoming too complacent, especially in light of the Archegos Capital Management meltdown. Read his thoughts on that and other details from our sit-down here.


Top Stories

  • Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler said the SEC will review the Trump administration’s proxy adviser rules that, among other measures, require proxy advisers to share their voting recommendations with the public as they share them with clients, or before. The SEC also said that it may write a replacement rule.  (Reuters
  • Leon Black, former chief executive of Apollo Global Management who stepped down after questions were raised about his relationship with the late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, faces a lawsuit alleging that he raped and harassed a woman, then tried to promise her money and professional advancement opportunities, including a job interview at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., that the lawsuit contends weren’t “meant to be legitimate.” A spokesperson for Black called the lawsuit “frivolous” and “riddled with lies,” and said that Black had a “wholly consensual relationship” with the woman for six years. (Financial Times
  • The SEC told Tesla Inc. in May 2020 that the company failed to oversee Chief Executive Elon Musk’s tweets, citing Musk’s “repeated violations” of  a court-ordered policy that mandated his tweets be reviewed by company lawyers, according to records viewed by a news outlet. In a letter to Tesla signed by Steven Buchholz, a senior SEC official in its San Francisco office, the SEC said that the company “abdicated the duties”  required by a court after the SEC and Tesla settled an enforcement action in 2018. (The Wall Street Journal
  • Ally Financial Inc. is expected to announce today that it will eliminate overdraft fees from its 3.6 million checking, savings and money-market accounts. The decision comes after receiving positive customer feedback on its pause in fees early in the pandemic, according to Diane Morais, the company’s president of consumer and commercial banking, who also cited the racial justice protests last year and studies that found such fees especially impact Black and Latino households as reasons for the decision. (The Wall Street Journal

Correction: Morning Consult Finance on Tuesday misstated Pete Buttigieg’s title. He is the Transportation secretary, not the Treasury secretary.


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What Else You Need to Know


How a Hobbled Main Street Survived the Pandemic ‘Asteroid’

Jonno Rattman et al., The New York Times

Small cities and towns have spent decades trying to revive their faded Main Streets. The pandemic threatened to undo those renewal efforts, and no more so than in Wilkes-Barre, a city of 41,400 people in northeastern Pennsylvania.


Everything’s becoming a subscription, and the pandemic is partly to blame

Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam, The Washington Post

Six restaurants in Washington, D.C., joined together earlier this year to sell a subscription supper club. They offered home delivery of a gourmet meal from a different chef each week for six weeks for $360.


U.S. Treasury Secretary Yellen and China’s vice premier talk about cooperation and economic recovery

Evelyn Cheng, CNBC

China’s Vice Premier Liu He and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen spoke Wednesday for the first time since President Joe Biden took office. Both the U.S. and China said the two leaders talked about the economy and cooperation, and “frankly” discussed issues of concern.


CEOs Pledged to Increase Diversity. Now Boards Are Holding Them to It.

Emily Glazer and Theo Francis, The Wall Street Journal

The killing of George Floyd in police custody a year ago and the subsequent protests prompted pledges from U.S. business leaders: They would fight racism and work to recruit and promote Black and other minority employees. Now, more companies are putting money behind those pledges by tying executive compensation to specific goals.


Biden Meets With Tulsa Massacre Survivors, Discusses Racial Wealth Gap

Tarini Parti, The Wall Street Journal

President Biden detailed what he said was the lasting impact of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre on Black Americans and laid out steps his administration will take aimed at narrowing the racial wealth gap, after meeting Tuesday with survivors of the tragedy. The president made the remarks at the Greenwood Cultural Center, located in the business district once known as Black Wall Street, where 100 years ago white mobs killed as many as 300 Black residents and destroyed the district’s roughly 35 city blocks.

Fiscal Policy

‘SpongeBob’ and ‘Transformers’ Cost U.S. Taxpayers $4 Billion, Study Says

Edmund Lee, The New York Times

Dismissed by critics and devoured by fans, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” was the top box office film in 2014, bringing in $1.1 billion, with more than three-quarters of those dollars coming from overseas. ViacomCBS’s Paramount Pictures, which distributed the computer-animated action-fest, saved much of that money by licensing the international rights through a complex strategy designed to avoid paying U.S. taxes, according to a study published on Tuesday by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, a nonprofit group funded in part by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Biden Targets a Tax Break That Helped Trump Build His Fortune

David Kocieniewski and Caleb Melby, Bloomberg

President Joe Biden is pushing to close a tax break that helped his predecessor amass a fortune. The Democrat has proposed narrowing a tax code provision that allows real estate investors to avoid capital gains taxes when they sell property, as long as they use the gains to buy more. 

Economy and Monetary Policy

Quarles floats staying at Fed after vice chair stint expires

Sylvan Lane, The Hill

The Federal Reserve’s vice chairman of supervision said Tuesday he will not leave the central bank before December and floated staying on the Fed board even if President Biden demotes him.


The Southwest Is America’s New Factory Hub. ‘Cranes Everywhere.’

Ben Foldy and Austen Hufford, The Wall Street Journal

Companies producing everything from steel to electric cars are planning and building new plants in Southwest states, far from historical hubs of American industry in the Midwest and Southeast. The lure is open land, local tax breaks and a growing supply of tech-savvy workers.


The jobs report that could upend Biden’s economic agenda

Megan Casella, Politico 

Businesses say they can’t find enough workers to hire. The pace of Americans moving off the unemployment rolls is slowing. And a top Federal Reserve official is warning that job trends in May might look “odd.” All of that suggests that the next monthly U.S. employment report, which will be released Friday morning, may not show the robust growth that President Joe Biden needs to help pass his sweeping agenda.


Why central bankers no longer agree how to handle inflation

Chris Giles et al., Financial Times

Rising price growth looms for first time in decades but policymakers pursue differing strategies.


Fed’s Brainard: more ‘progress’ on recovery ahead, though still far from goals

Howard Schnieder and Ann Saphir, Reuters

The United States is getting closer to the Fed’s maximum employment and 2% inflation goals, Fed Governor Lael Brainard said on Tuesday, but the depth of the remaining problem still requires the central bank to stick to its super-easy monetary policy until more progress is seen. “While we are far from our goals today, we are seeing welcome progress, and I expect to see further progress,” Brainard told the Economic Club of New York. 


Hogan to end enhanced federal unemployment benefits in Maryland on July 3

Rachel Chason, The Washington Post

Maryland will end enhanced federal unemployment benefits next month, Gov. Larry Hogan said, and require people getting unemployment checks to prove they are looking for new jobs. Hogan (R) cited the widespread availability of vaccines and a tight labor market in explaining his decision, which according to the most recent unemployment filings would affect about 15,000 people.


Credit Suisse plots lawsuit against SoftBank over Greensill

Arash Massoudi et al., Financial Times

Dispute between bank and tech investor centres on US construction group Katerra.


Bank of America Fixes Ordered After Hacked Customers ‘Go Hungry’

Joel Rosenblatt, Bloomberg

Bank of America Corp. was ordered by a judge to change its practices after thousands of unemployed California customers receiving public benefits complained that when their prepaid debit cards were hacked, the bank made matters worse by treating them like criminals. In response to allegations that the bank was refusing to investigate account holder claims and in some cases freezing accounts that weren’t affected by fraud, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria on Tuesday directed the bank to take several steps to improve its processes. 


Regulators insist derivatives industry must ditch Libor

Laurence White, Reuters

Global financial regulators on Wednesday urged firms to stop using Libor by the end of the year, and said derivatives markets linked to the tarnished interbank rate should switch to “risk free rates” or RFRs compiled by central banks. The Financial Stability Board (FSB), which coordinates financial rules for the Group of 20 Economies (G20), set out its latest roadmap for firms transitioning away from Libor.


Lazard CEO Says Remote Work Damages Prospects for Young Bankers

Sonali Basak, Bloomberg

Lazard Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Ken Jacobs said remote work hasn’t hurt dealmaking, but it could have a big impact on prospects for younger bankers across the industry. “This ultimately is an in-office experience,” Jacobs said Tuesday in a Bloomberg Television interview.

Financial Products and Investments

Senate Passes Bill to Fund CFTC Whistleblower Program

Mengqi Sun, The Wall Street Journal

A newly passed Senate bill would temporarily create a separate account to pay for the operation of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s whistleblower program as the agency confronts a funding crisis over a large potential payout. Currently, the CFTC’s Customer Protection Fund, which is funded by money the agency collects in enforcement penalties, is used to pay successful whistleblowers as well as for operating expenses and educational initiatives associated with the whistleblower office.


The $10 Billion Bright Spot in the Battered World of Office Real Estate

John Gittelsohn, Bloomberg

Even as the remote-work era clouds the future for offices, one segment of the business is drawing cash from investors including Blackstone Group Inc. and KKR & Co. More than $10 billion has gone toward buying buildings used for life sciences and other research this year, according to Real Capital Analytics Inc. 


The Mystery of the $113 Millıon Deli

Jesse Barron, The New York Times

In a letter to his investors this April, David Einhorn, founder of the hedge fund Greenlight Capital and a well-known short-seller, complained that the stock market was in a state of “quasi anarchy.” As one piece of evidence, he pointed to Elon Musk, whose commentary on Twitter, Einhorn said, amounted to market manipulation. 


Private equity groups on diverging paths with post-pandemic bets

Mark Vandevelde, Financial Times

Some have wagered on resumption of normal life while others see lasting change.

Housing and GSEs

Supreme Court decision on FHFA expected at any time

Georgia Kromrei, HousingWire

A Supreme Court decision which will determine if the Biden administration can fire the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) director will arrive before the month’s end. The court recently updated its calendar indicating its session will extend through the end of June. 

Financial Technology

Robinhood Adds New Board Members to Advance IPO Push

Peter Rudegeair, The Wall Street Journal

Robinhood Markets Inc. named three new directors to its board on Tuesday, as the stock-trading startup laid more of the groundwork for what is expected to be one of the year’s most eagerly awaited initial public offerings. The new Robinhood board members are former Apple Inc. and Bridgewater Associates executive Jon Rubinstein, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP partner Paula Loop and former World Bank President Robert Zoellick. Messrs. Rubinstein and Zoellick’s appointments are effective immediately, and Ms. Loop’s will be effective June 17.


The Mayor of Reno Is Betting Big on the Blockchain

Gregory Barber, Wired

Hillary Schieve, the mayor of Reno, Nevada, takes my arm before we jaywalk across the street from City Hall. She continues clutching it as we traverse the gritty public plaza on the other side, and does not let go until we reach the foot, or rather fin, of our destination: a hulking steel and stained-glass sculpture of a humpback whale nuzzling its calf. 

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Three Reasons Why Financial Services Shouldn’t Fret Over Bitcoin’s Negative Buzz

Charlotte Principato, Morning Consult

Elon Musk’s recent criticism of Bitcoin’s negative impact on the environment may have depressed the cryptocurrency’s outlook, but financial institutions who read too much into the bad buzz are missing out on a promising trend, according to a new analysis which shows that interest in the distributed ledger technology as an asset is actually on the rise. 2021 was a big year for Bitcoin.


Manic Housing Market Needs a Calming Dose of Deregulation

Michael R. Strain, Bloomberg

The U.S. housing market is on fire, with the supply of available homes falling drastically short of pandemic-stoked demand. Worrywarts are calling it a “crisis” and circulating weird tales of buyer desperation — including one about a supplicant in Bethesda, Maryland who apparently offered to name her first-born child after a seller — and warnings of stunted recoveries. Or maybe the thing to fear is another speculative bubble, like the one that set off the 2008 global financial crisis.


How financial volatility impacts health care decisions: What we don’t know is hurting us

Aaron Klein and Kavita Patel, Brookings

Edward had a good job, health insurance, and good wages. Then he received an unexpected bill for $1,800 for treatment of an infected tooth. He applied for a medical-expense credit card and paid half the amount with that card, the other half out of pocket in cash – coming up with $1,800 at once is hard for most Americans. Edward and his family may reconsider the next health decision they have to face simply due to the uncertainty around cost. 


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