A new report from the Center for Responsible Lending found that some of the nation's largest banks are providing short-term loans with interest rates of up to 300 percent, driving borrowers into a cycle of debt, the Washington Post reported today. The study that was released today gives an updated look at the perils of advance-deposit loans offered by Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp, Regions Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Guaranty Bank and Bank of Oklahoma. Researchers looked at a sample of 66 direct-deposit advances over a 12-month period. Critics say that the structure of advance-deposit loans promotes a cycle of debt. Account holders typically pay up to $10 for every $100 borrowed, with the understanding that the loan will be repaid with their next direct deposit. If the deposited funds are not enough to cover the loan, the bank takes whatever money comes in, triggering overdraft fees and additional interest. Banks contend that they are offering a vital service to customers at more reasonable price points than storefront lenders, who often charge twice as much as banks. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has supervisory and enforcement authority for storefront and bank payday lenders with more than $10 billion in assets. The bureau issued a request for comment last year to gauge consumer and industry concerns. Read more.
In related news, a New York Times editorial today found that even though JPMorgan Chase has instituted new policies intended to shield customers from predatory lenders, which can charge up to 500 percent in interest, banks should be doing more to protect their customers. State and federal banking officials also need to expedite their investigations into the relationship between banks and predatory lenders, according to the editorial, with the aim of developing industrywide regulations that protect the public. New rules that go into effect at JPMorgan in May will limit the overdraft fees charged to customers in situations where the lender tries to collect a payment multiple times. Banks could adopt common practices that would allow customers to close their accounts at any time and deny lenders access to automatic payments in states where predatory loans are illegal. Read more.
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT PROBING BANKS' ROLE IN FRAUD BY CUSTOMERS
The U.S. Justice Department is examining the role financial institutions play in fraud schemes perpetrated by bank customers offering deceptive products, Reuters reported yesterday. Attorneys and investigators in the DOJ's Civil Division are examining banks' possible role in assisting scammers who offer questionable payday loans, false offers of debt relief, fraudulent health care discount cards and phony government grants, according to Michael Bresnick, who heads the department's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. That task force has been focused on pursuing the type of misconduct that fueled the financial crisis, but the new priorities suggest that investigators are looking beyond those cases into other types of financial misconduct that extends to different industries, from payday lending to auto loans. Read more.
WITH FREDDIE MAC SUIT, BANKS FACE BILLIONS MORE IN LIBOR CLAIMS
The fallout from the manipulation of the London interbank offered rate (Libor) has already cost banks $2.5 billion in penalties, but that sum pales in comparison to payouts that will come from private lawsuits, the New York Times DealBook blog reported yesterday. Any finding of liability could be compounded because of the potential for any award to be tripled under the antitrust laws. The latest salvo comes from mortgage finance company Freddie Mac, which has filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va. It asserts that the company was harmed by collusive activity among the banks that lowered the benchmark interest rate. And where Freddie Mac goes, Fannie Mae, its larger sibling, usually follows, so we can expect it to file a suit seeking damages from Libor manipulation. The three regulatory settlements to date – with Barclays, UBS and the Royal Bank of Scotland — provide much of the evidence Freddie Mac relies on in its complaint. Among the documents now public is a litany of e-mails demonstrating just how the banks worked to lower their Libor submissions to benefit their trading positions and make themselves appear stronger during the height of the financial crisis. Read more.
COMMENTARY: THE PROBLEM WITH "TOO BIG TO FAIL" BANKS
The real issue with "too big to fail" financial institutions resides in the government-provided incentives for banks to get inefficiently big in the first place, according to a commentary in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. In the absence of such incentives, according to the commentary, the risk-averse funding on which banks thrive would not be available to allow banks to create sprawling credit portfolios impossible for regulators or investors in the marketplace to assess. Modern governments, as long as they are assuming the risks of the financial system, find it convenient to have those risks concentrated in a few very large, very handy institutions. A lean solution would be to require banks to hold Treasury paper against their insured deposits, according to the commentary. Those experts who prefer solutions like higher capital requirements maintain that the business of banks would survive, forcing banks to rely more on equity than debt to finance their activities. If so, then experts should also consider that equity markets might erect new business models to finance small businesses and credit-worthy consumers if government-insured deposits were no longer available at all to underwrite such risks. Read the full commentary. (Subscription required.)
ANALYSIS: SYNTHETIC CDOs MAKING COMEBACK
Derivatives that pool credit-default swaps to make magnified bets on corporate debt, popularized in the last credit bubble, are making a comeback as investors search farther afield for alternatives to bonds at record-low yields, Bloomberg News reported yesterday. Citigroup Inc. is among several banks that have sold as much as $1 billion of synthetic collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) this year, following $2 billion in all of 2012, according to estimates from the New York-based lender. Trading in tranches of indexes that use a similar strategy to juice yields rose 61 percent in the past month. Synthetic credit, which amplified the financial crisis five years ago, is enticing investors after corporate-bond yields dropped to less than half the 20-year average. Read more.
LATEST ABI PODCAST EXAMINES EFFECTIVENESS OF CURRENT FINANCIAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS
The latest ABI podcast features ABI Resident Scholar Prof. Scott Pryor speaking with Prof. Lauren Willis of Loyola Law School talking about the effectiveness of current financial education programs. Willis discusses the strengths and weaknesses of current financial education programs and what improvements can be made going forward. Click here to listen to the podcast.
BLOOMBERG'S LATEST "BILL ON BANKRUPTCY" VIDEO: WHY IS KODAK'S STOCK SOARING?
Despite Eastman Kodak Co. stock shooting up dramatically in a week's time, investors might not have the same long-term profitable outcome that owners of American Airlines shares enjoyed, as Bloomberg Law's Lee Pacchia and Bloomberg News bankruptcy columnist Bill Rochelle discuss on their new video. Click here to watch the video.
DON'T MISS ACB'S FREE EVENT TOMORROW, "THE AUTO BANKRUPTCIES: CHECKING THE REARVIEW MIRROR," ON MARCH 22!
ABI members are encouraged to register for the American College of Bankruptcy's "The Auto Bankruptcies: Checking the Rearview Mirror" on March 22 at Boston College Law School in Newton, Mass. The afternoon event will feature key players looking back at the events that led to GM and Chrysler being placed into bankruptcy and the lessons that have been learned from the cases. Panelists include:
• Corinne Ball of Jones Day (New York), who served as lead bankruptcy counsel to Chrysler.
• Matthew A. Feldman of Willkie Farr and Gallagher LLP (New York), who served as chief legal advisor to the Obama administration's Task Force on the Auto Industry.
• Hon. Arthur J. Gonzalez, a Senior Fellow at New York University School of Law and formerly the Chief Bankruptcy Judge for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, who presided over the Chrysler chapter 11 proceedings.
• Harvey R. Miller of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP (New York), who served as lead bankruptcy counsel to GM.
The moderator will be Mark N. Berman of Nixon Peabody LLP (New York).
Registration for the afternoon event is free, so be sure to sign up today before it reaches capacity!
HOTEL BLOCK FOR ABI'S ANNUAL SPRING MEETING ALMOST SOLD OUT! REGISTER TODAY!
The hotel block at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., is almost sold out for ABI’s 2013 Annual Spring Meeting! Held April 18-21, 2013, ASM features a roster of the best national speakers, while the depth and scope of topics offer something for everyone. Specifically, four concurrent workshops will cover various “tracks,” including programs for attorneys in commercial cases, a track for restructuring professionals, a track of professional development programming and a track dealing solely with consumer issues. More than 16 hours of CLE/CPE is offered in some states, along with ethics credit totaling 3 hours, making the cost only about $50 per credit. In addition, committee sessions will drill down on other topics to provide you with the most practical and varied CLE/CPE experience ever. Sessions include:
• 17th Annual Great Debates
• Mediation: An Irrational Approach to a Rational Result
• Creditors’ Committees and the Role of Indenture Trustees and Related Issues
• Current Issues for Financial Advisors in Bankruptcy Cases
• The Individual Conundrum: Chapter 7, 11 or 13?
• The Power to Veto Bankruptcy Sales
• Real Estate Issues in Health Care Restructurings
• How to Be a Successful Expert
• The Ethical Compass: Multiple Ethical Schemes Applicable to Financial Advisors
• Chapter 9s, Nonprofits and Other Nontraditional Restructuring Processes
• And much more!
The Spring Meeting will also feature a field hearing of the ABI Commission to Study the Reform of Chapter 11, a report from the ABI Ethics Task Force, a luncheon panel discussion moderated by Bill Rochelle of Bloomberg News, and a Final Night Gala Dinner featuring a concert by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts!
Starting with the Annual Spring Meeting, ABI will offer conference registrants the option to participate in the ABI Golf Tour. The Tour will take place concurrently with all conference golf tournaments. The Tour is designed to enhance the golfing experience for serious golfers, while still offering a fun networking opportunity for players of any ability. As opposed to the format used in the regular ABI conference events, Tour participants will "play their own ball." They will be grouped on the golf course separately from other conference golf participants and will typically play ahead of the other participants, expediting Tour play. Tour participants will randomly be grouped in foursomes, unless otherwise requested of the Commissioner in advance of each tournament. Prizes will be awarded for each individual Tour event, which are sponsored by Great American Group. The grand prize is the "Great American Cup," also sponsored by Great American Group, and will be awarded to the top player at the end of the Tour season. Registration is free. Click here for more information and a list of 2013 ABI Golf Tour event venues.
NEW BANKRUPTCY PROFESSIONALS: DON'T MISS THE NUTS AND BOLTS PROGRAM AT ABI'S ANNUAL SPRING MEETING! SPECIAL PRICING IF YOU ARE AN ASM REGISTRANT!
An outstanding faculty of judges and practitioners explains the fundamentals of bankruptcy in a one-day Nuts and Bolts program on April 18 being held in conjunction with ABI's Annual Spring Meeting. Ideal training for junior professionals or those new to this practice area!
The morning session covers concepts all bankruptcy practitioners need to know, and the afternoon session splits into concurrent tracks, focusing on consumer and business issues. The session will include written materials, practice tip sessions with bankruptcy judges, continental breakfast and a reception after the program. Click here to register!
LATEST CASE SUMMARY ON VOLO: STAKER V. JUBBER (IN RE STAKER; 10TH CIR.)
Summarized by Geoffrey Miller from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona
Dismissing the appeals of the bankruptcy court's orders remanding two quiet title actions to state court, the Tenth Circuit BAP held that the appeals were moot and that the debtors lacked the requisite standing to appeal the bankruptcy court's orders.
There are more than 800 appellate opinions summarized on Volo, and summaries typically appear within 24 hours of the ruling. Click here regularly to view the latest case summaries on ABI’s Volo website.
NEW ON ABI’S BANKRUPTCY BLOG EXCHANGE: EXAMINATION OF PENSION AND OPEB LIABILITIES FACING MUNICIPALITIES
The Bankruptcy Blog Exchange is a free ABI service that tracks 35 bankruptcy-related blogs. A recent blog post examines two of the largest issues facing municipalities today: underfunded pensions and unfunded "other" post-employment obligations (OPEB).
Be sure to check the site several times each day; any time a contributing blog posts a new story, a link to the story will appear on the top. If you have a blog that deals with bankruptcy, or know of a good blog that should be part of the Bankruptcy Exchange, please contact the ABI Web team.
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