Finance

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May 4, 2021
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  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is expected to name Michael Hsu, associate director of the Federal Reserve’s bank supervision and regulation division, as first deputy comptroller at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, where he will then assume the role of acting comptroller, according to a person familiar with the matter. It’s still not clear who the Biden administration plans to tap for the position permanently, although at least one person, former Fed governor Sarah Bloom Raskin, turned down an offer to lead the OCC, people familiar with the matter said. (The Wall Street Journal
  • The Biden administration has chosen Richard Cordray, former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to lead the Education Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid, which oversees the federal government’s $1.6 trillion student loan portfolio and financial aid programs. In an interview, Cordray stressed his experience working with the Education Department during his time heading the CFPB and noted that the Biden administration’s pick to lead the agency, Rohit Chopra, was the CFPB’s top student loan official during the Obama administration. (Politico)
  • Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said that the Community Reinvestment Act rules should apply to all firms that provide consumer credit, not just banks, noting that “like activities should have like regulation.” Powell also cited results from a Fed survey that will be released later this month showing the COVID-19 pandemic’s outsized impact on minority workers and women. (The Wall Street Journal)
 

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What Else You Need to Know

General
 

Productivity Is Finally Looking Up, and the Gains Could Lift Growth

Enda Curran, Bloomberg Businessweek

The Covid-19 crisis is accelerating a technology boom that has the potential to boost productivity across much of the world, spurring growth even in mature economies such as those of Europe and the U.S. Whether in restaurant kitchens, on the factory floor, or at e-commerce fulfillment centers, the pandemic has sped the adoption of robots, artificial intelligence, and other technologies that, in theory, free workers from manual or repetitive tasks to focus on higher-value output.

 

Exim Bank’s Greensill deal raises questions over due diligence

Cynthia O’Murchu, Financial Times

Agreement completed just months before the UK supply-chain finance group collapsed.

 

Pandemic Relief Fund for Restaurants Is Open, but Cash Will Go Fast

Stacy Cowley, The New York Times

Restaurants, bars, caterers and other food businesses devastated by the pandemic began applying Monday for help from a new $28.6 billion federal aid program, but the money isn’t expected to last long. Despite a few glitches after thousands descended on the application website for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund when it went live at noon, the process was fairly straightforward, applicants said. 

 

Treasury: States can seize stimulus payments to provide criminal restitution

Naomi Jagoda, The Hill

States can seize third-round stimulus payments from those convicted of crimes in order to provide restitution for victims and their families, according to the Treasury Department. “To the extent permitted by applicable state and local law, amounts paid in the third round of [economic impact payments] may be subject to garnishment by state governments, local governments, or private creditors, as well as pursuant to a court order (which may include fines related to a crime, administrative court fees, restitution, and other court-ordered debts),” a department official said in a letter to Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) last month.

 

Asian-American Business Leaders Fund Effort to Fight Discrimination

Andrew Ross Sorkin and Edmund Lee, The New York Times

Some of the wealthiest and most influential Asian-American business leaders are mounting an ambitious plan to challenge anti-Asian discrimination, rewrite school curriculums to reflect the role of Asian-Americans in history and collect data to guide policymakers. The group has pledged $125 million to a new initiative, the Asian American Foundation. 

 
Fiscal Policy
 

Congress’ top tax man won’t be a blank check for Biden

Brian Faler, Politico 

President Joe Biden’s $4 trillion plan to greatly expand the federal government relies on sharply higher taxes on the wealthy, but the man who would steer the proposal through Congress has his own ideas. Even as many of his colleagues rally around the cause of sticking it to the rich, House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) remains wary. 

 

Treasury Expects to Borrow $1.3 Trillion Over Second Half of Fiscal 2021

Kate Davidson, The Wall Street Journal

The U.S. plans to borrow nearly $1.3 trillion over the next two quarters as federal spending picks up following the Covid-19 relief package enacted in March, the Treasury Department said Monday. That would bring total borrowing for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 to $2.3 trillion, compared with $4 trillion in the last fiscal year, when the pandemic plunged the U.S. into a recession that drove deficits to record highs.

 

Biden Tax Rule Would Rip Billions From Biggest Fortunes at Death

Caleb Melby and David Kocieniewski, Bloomberg

Jeff Bezos has an ex-wife, a girlfriend, four children and billions of reasons to watch whether Joe Biden’s tax overhaul wins congressional approval. The Amazon.com Inc. founder’s heirs may have to pay more than $36 billion if the president succeeds in closing a loophole that helps the rich transfer their fortunes tax-free at death.

 
Economy and Monetary Policy
 

New York Fed’s John Williams Says Fed Far From Achieving Job, Inflation Goals

Michael S. Derby, The Wall Street Journal

Federal Reserve Bank of New York President John Williams said Monday that while the U.S. economy is likely to have a very strong year ahead, there isn’t yet an imminent need for the central bank to pull back on its aggressive levels of monetary policy support. “The economy is now positioned to grow quickly” and “with accommodative financial conditions, strong fiscal support, and widespread vaccinations, I expect that the rate of economic growth this year will be the fastest that we’ve experienced since the early 1980s,” Mr. Williams said in a virtual appearance where he also took questions from the audience and then reporters.

 

Women central bankers want action on ‘hidden barriers’ to equality

Martin Arnold, Financial Times

Isabel Schnabel and Margarita Delgado say promotion of women is still a problem,

 

What to Watch for in Congressional Debate on Biden Economic Plan

Erik Wasson, Bloomberg

The fate of President Joe Biden’s $4 trillion economic vision for the U.S. now rests with the lawmakers turning his infrastructure and social-spending plans into legislation that can get through a narrowly divided Congress. Congress approved his $1.9 trillion coronavirus-relief plan in March, largely intact and less than two months after it was proposed. 

 
Banking
 

U.S. Supreme Court refuses to revive Wells Fargo accounts scandal suit

Andrew Chung, Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rebuffed a bid by current and former employees of Wells Fargo & Co to revive a lawsuit over losses to their retirement plan following a scandal over fake accounts that rattled the bank in 2016 and led to billions of dollars in fines and penalties. The justices declined to hear an appeal by the employees of a lower court ruling that threw out their proposed class action case against San Francisco-based Wells Fargo under a federal law requiring careful management of private-sector retirement plans.

 

Cash-rich US banks move to reduce corporate deposits

Imani Moise, Financial Times

JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup take unusual step to avoid additional capital requirement.

 

Bank of America Tech Chief Says Cyber Attacks Have Surged ‘Dramatically’

Lananh Nguyen, Bloomberg

Bank of America Corp. is devoting more resources to fighting cyberattacks after seeing a jump in threats amid the pandemic. The company’s centralized global information-security unit has boosted spending in recent years to about $1 billion annually, according to chief operations and technology officer Cathy Bessant. 

 

Bank of America, JPMorgan Enter Swaps Trade Tied to New Libor Replacement

Lananh Nguyen and Alex Harris, Bloomberg

Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. struck the first swaps trade tied to the Bloomberg Short Term Bank Yield index Friday, as Wall Street tests new benchmarks meant to help replace Libor. The banks entered into a $250 million one-year basis swap with one side tied to BSBY, as the reference rate is known.

 
Financial Products and Investments
 

Biden administration considering changes to China securities ban following lawsuits

Kellie Mejdrich, Politico 

The Biden administration is considering changes to Trump-era rules aimed at barring China-based companies with links to that country’s military from U.S. stock exchanges, according to comments from a Justice Department lawyer in court on Monday. The comments from DOJ lawyer Joseph Borson came during D.C. District Court arguments over a challenge to the Pentagon’s move last year to impose a prohibition on securities transactions in companies found to be affiliated with China’s communist government and military.

 

A reckoning for Spacs: will regulators deflate the boom?

Mile Kruppa and Ortenca Aliaj, Financial Times

The SEC is concerned about the market for ‘blank-cheque’ companies, including optimistic projections and celebrity endorsements.

 

The Man With More SPACs Than Anyone

Maureen Farrell, The Wall Street Journal

Alec Gores has built a SPAC machine. The billionaire investor, who first tried his hand at the unconventional reverse-merger IPO process in 2015, has watched the market for SPACs reach a fever pitch over the last two years.

 
Housing and GSEs
 

White House races to clear rent relief logjam as mass evictions loom

Katy O’Donnell, Politico 

The pandemic crisis is finally winding down for much of the country, with both vaccinations and the economy surging. But the Covid-19 housing crisis hasn’t even hit yet, and Washington’s efforts to head it off have stalled. A federal moratorium on evictions is set to expire June 30, leaving millions of tenants facing long-term damage to their credit and the potential loss of their homes if they can’t scrape together more than a year’s worth of back rent.

 
Financial Technology
 

Broker Robinhood upbraids Buffett over casino comparison

Shublam Kalia and John Mccrank, Reuters

Robinhood Financial on Monday struck back against comments by Warren Buffett that likened the retail brokerage to a casino that encourages millions of inexperienced day traders to place short-term stock market bets. At Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s annual meeting on Saturday, Buffett said Robinhood has attracted, “maybe set out to attract,” large numbers of people who just gamble on short-term price movements. Buffett’s long-time business partner, Charlie Munger, was harsher, saying it was “god-awful that something like that would draw investment from civilized man and decent citizens.”

 

Digital Dollar Project to launch five U.S. central bank digital currency pilots

Michelle Price, Reuters

The U.S. nonprofit Digital Dollar Project said on Monday it will launch five pilot programs over the next 12 months to test the potential uses of a U.S. central bank digital currency, the first effort of its kind in the United States. The private-sector pilots initially will be funded by Accenture Plc and involve financial firms, retailers and NGOs, among others.

 

Central Bank-Issued Digital Coins Seen Co-Existing With Bitcoin

Matthew Leising, Bloomberg

 Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether will co-exist “for a while” with more-restrictive digital coins such as the one issued by China’s central bank, according to Changpeng Zhao, chief executive officer of Binance. Zhao, who runs the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange, said digital assets issued by central banks will be different than public coins in many ways.

 

Ether’s 1,500% Jump Is Just the Start for the Crypto Faithful

Joanna Ossinger, Bloomberg

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts are scaling up price targets for Ether after the second-largest token’s record-breaking run, an echo of the unbridled optimism that accompanied an earlier surge in Bitcoin. The token affiliated with the Ethereum blockchain — a digital ledger popular for financial services and sales of so-called cryptocollectibles like online art — is up about 1,500% in the past year and hit a new peak of $3,455 on Tuesday.

 
Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives
 

Postal Banking: Return to Sender

Dan Berger (president and CEO of the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions), Morning Consult

Today, 63 million Americans are either unbanked or underbanked. This is a problem that deserves congressional attention, particularly during a worldwide pandemic and a period of economic uncertainty. 

 

Biden’s Stimulus for the IRS

The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

President Biden says he wants to “revitalize” IRS enforcement to target wealthy Americans who “aggressively plan to avoid the tax laws.” No doubt tax avoiders exist. But a lot less money is likely to be found under the sofa cushions than Mr. Biden and progressives think.

 






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