Friday, February 18, 2011

Obama proposes fee for Canadian visitors to the U.S.

President Barack Obama is floating the idea of charging a fee for every Canadian entering the U.S. by air or sea.

President Barack Obama is floating the idea of charging a fee for every Canadian entering the U.S. by air or sea.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
The Canadian Press

President Barack Obama is floating the idea of charging a fee for every Canadian entering the U.S. by air or sea.

The proposal is outlined in the 2012 federal draft budget he submitted to Congress on Monday.

The $5.50 fee would not apply to visitors arriving in private vehicles.

Visitors from Canada, Mexico and a number of Caribbean countries are currently exempt from “passenger inspection fees.”

Obama's budget blueprint proposes lifting those exemptions and using the revenue from the charges to support air passenger inspections which have recently grown more intensive.

According to Statistics Canada some 16 million Canadians flew into the U.S. in 2009.

The proposal comes as Canada and the U.S. move toward increased cross-border cooperation on other fronts.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Obama signed off earlier this month on a plan that for the first time envisions throwing up a single security ring around the perimeter of Canada and the U.S.

The wide-ranging blueprint calls for increased cooperation between the two countries' police, border and intelligence agencies, an integrated Canada-U.S. exit-entry system using high-tech identification techniques, and more sharing of information about Canadians with U.S. authorities.

The document was prepared last fall, when the Canada-U.S. talks were being conducted without any public notice.

While Canadian industry cautiously endorsed that agreement, the proposed fee is unlikely to meet with enthusiasm.

“It's an indication that the United States is going to be looking to generate new moneys to offset their budget deficit on outsiders who don't vote — and that would be us,” Birgit Matthiesen, of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, told the Ottawa Citizen. “The raising of any fees on the Canada-U.S. border is troubling.”

The group is Canada's largest trade and industry association

U.S. close to punishing banks over foreclosure fraud

(Reuters) - U.S. bank regulators are finalizing punishments against mortgage servicers after a probe found "critical deficiencies" with the industry's foreclosure processes. John Walsh, the acting head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, said a national probe of foreclosure paperwork and procedures found that mortgage servicers broke laws, and that a small number of homeowners were wrongly evicted.

"These deficiencies have resulted in violations of state and local foreclosure laws, regulations, or rules and have had an adverse affect on the functioning of the mortgage markets and the U.S. economy as a whole," Walsh said in congressional testimony obtained on Wednesday by Reuters.

Walsh did not identify any servicers, but his testimony noted that the probe included Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan, and Wells Fargo, among others.

In separate testimony on Wednesday, David Stevens, the commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration, said the penalties could range from fines paid to the government to loan modifications to banks forgiving some of the principal balance on the loan.

Asked if the magnitude of the potential penalties could reach the range of billions or even tens of billions of dollars, Stevens declined to comment.

Continue reading at Reuters...


UPDATE 2-BofA subpoenaed over VIP home loans

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Feb 16 (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. House of Representatives oversight committee issued a subpoena on Wednesday to Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) for information about mortgage lender Countrywide's home loans program for so-called VIPs.

The subpoena is the latest in a two-year probe by U.S. Representative Daniel Issa, chairman of the committee, into Countrywide Financial Corp's mortgage program that allegedly gave better loan terms and preferential treatment to allies of former Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo.

The program was known informally as the "Friends of Angelo" inside the mortgage lender.


Fed's Sarah Raskin warns on mortgage servicing

(Reuters) - A top Federal Reserve official on Friday warned mortgage servicing industry executives they could face enforcement actions and that they shoulder some of the blame for a sluggish economic recovery.

"I have seen little or no evidence of improvement in the operational performance of servicers since the onset of the crisis in 2007," Fed Governor Sarah Raskin said in remarks to an industry conference in Park City, Utah.

"Until these operational problems are addressed once and for all, the foreclosure crisis will continue and the housing sector will languish," she said.

Raskin, formerly the top bank regulator for the state of Maryland, said a review of loan servicing practices shows widespread weaknesses still exist.


UPDATE 3-U.S. SEC charges ex-IndyMac execs with fraud

WASHINGTON, Feb 11 (Reuters) - A former chief executive of failed mortgage lender IndyMac Bancorp and two former chief financial officers were accused of securities fraud for concealing the bank's financial condition, U.S. securities regulators said on Friday.

The Securities and Exchange Commission alleged in one lawsuit that former IndyMac CEO Michael Perry and former CFO Scott Keys filed false disclosures about the financial health of the company and its IndyMac Bank subsidiary.

California-based IndyMac, which specialized in a type of mortgage that often required minimal documentation from borrowers, was seized by banking regulators in July of 2008 as the financial crisis gathered steam.

Its failure cost the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, which stands behind bank deposits, about $12.8 billion.

Another former IndyMac CFO, Blair Abernathy, settled a related SEC lawsuit without admitting or denying the allegations, paying $125,000 plus prejudgment interest.

The SEC alleges that the three executives received internal reports about the deteriorating capital and liquidity positions at the bank in 2007 and 2008. But the SEC said they kept that information under wraps even as the company filed to sell millions of dollars in new stock.


Jobless claims tick back above 400,000

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits edged up last week, the government said Thursday.

There were 410,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended Feb. 12, according to the Labor Department. That was up 25,000 from the week before, and slightly more than the 408,000 claims economists surveyed by had expected.

Continuing claims -- which include people filing for the second week of benefits or more -- rose by 1,000 to 3,911,000 in the week ended Feb. 5, the most recent week available.

While initial claims data have been distorted recently by severe winter snow storms, the numbers have been trending lower since August. The weekly figure is near its lowest levels since July 2008.

The numbers still reflect inclement weather in certain parts of the country, but the effect was minimal in the most recent week, according to a Labor Department official.

The 4-week moving average of initial claims, which aims to smooth out volatility, rose to 417,750 from the previous week's revised average of 416,000.

"This is nothing to worry about," said Ian Shepherdson, an economist at High Frequency Economics. "The downward trend is still in place, though the weekly numbers have been hugely volatile in recent weeks because of the severe weather."

Looking ahead, Shepherdson said he expects "a further sustained decline in claims" as conditions improve for small businesses and access to credit becomes easier.

The overall decline in jobless claims comes as the economy continues to show signs of strength. The Federal Reserve raised its forecast on Wednesday for economic growth this year, however the unemployment rate is expected to remain near 9%. To top of page

Geithner "Quite Open" to Chinese Proposal To Replace Dollar As Global Reserve Currency

Video - Tim Geithner at the Council on Foreign Relations answers a question about a new global reserve currency - Mar. 25, 2009

After news of last week's IMF proposal, we went digging and found this Geithner clip in the wayback machine. This made a brief splash back in early 2009 and was popular among conspiracy theorists, but it has largely been forgotten up to now, and we suspect that many observers simply dismissed it as a meaningless gaffe. However, in light of IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn's formal proposal to consider replacing dollars with SDR's (Special Drawing Rights), Geithner's comments look less like a gaffe (in the sense of a mistake), and more like a gaffe as defined by Michael Kinsley: "A 'gaffe' is the opposite of a 'lie.' It's when a politician [accidentally] tells the truth."

Read More Here...

Plan B: Cut Benefits To Bankers

Read more at...


Bankers' Benefits

Shockingly, banks are the most heavily subsidised businesses in the world. We give them over £130 billion in subsidies and benefits every year. Without these subsidies and benefits, the banks wouldn’t be making any profits, and they certainly wouldn’t be paying bonuses right now.

Banks, on the face of it, don’t come across as the kind of businesses that need benefits. The truth is that the only reason the banks are the richest companies in the world is that we are paying for it.

Most organisations receiving support from the government are given it for things that benefit or provide services to us; libraries provide free books, nurses provide healthcare, and teachers provide education. The banks don’t give anything back at all, and the benefits we provide them actually harm us more than if we didn’t give them any at all.

Goldman Closes Prop Trading Desk to Comply With Volcker

Source - Bloomberg

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the U.S. bank that relies on fixed-income trading for the largest portion of its revenue, will shut its Global Macro Proprietary Trading desk, a person with knowledge of the decision said.

The eight-person desk, which trades currencies and stocks as well as products tied to interest rates and other fixed- income markets, will close in the days ahead, said the person, who declined to be named because the decision wasn’t public. Stephen Cohen, a spokesman for New York-based Goldman Sachs, declined to comment.

“Keeping the prop business going will have little benefit and closing it will be seen as a positive move to comply with Dodd-Frank,” said Christopher Wheeler, a London-based analyst with Mediobanca SpA, who has a “neutral” recommendation on Goldman Sachs.

Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co. are among Wall Street firms breaking off or winding down such trading units to comply with the Volcker rule, a provision of the Dodd-Frank financial law that prohibits banks from betting capital for their own accounts. The intent was to avert losses that might cause the collapse of firms and the financial system.

The group reported results as part of Goldman Sachs’s fixed-income trading division, the person said. That division generated revenue of $13.7 billion in 2010, 35 percent of the firm’s total.

The Wall Street Journal reported the decision to close the trading desk yesterday.

Goldman Sachs last year shut down an equity proprietary- trading group, Goldman Sachs Principal Strategies, to comply with the Volcker rule. Pierre Henri Flamand, the former head of Goldman Sachs’s Principal Strategies group, retired last year to start his own hedge fund.

The bank said on Jan. 19 that earnings dropped 52 percent in the fourth quarter, its third straight quarterly decline.

Continue reading at Bloomberg...


Goldman Sachs is robbing and thieving the American sucker...

Archive Video - Dylan Ratigan on Goldman's profit miracle

Goldman's stock is up 155% since March, and the company netted $3.4 billion in profits last quarter, quadrupling it's earnings from a year ago. How did they do it?

  • "Through magic, we will show how a single investment bank can make more than $3 billion in cash in 3 months time and create absolutely NO VALUE as unemployment skyrockets, foreclosures soar and the dollar collapses."

The short answer is they used $70 billion from taxpayers to acquire assets on the cheap during the crisis last fall when very few others had access to capital and the deals were hot, and now the asset prices have recovered in value:

  • "Goldman Sachs is getting rich on the back of the American taxpayer."
  • The question is not why did we bail out the banks. The question is why did we give the banks billions of our money so they could then buy assets by the trillions with our money and they keep the profits?

The answer is Henry Paulson, former Goldman Sachs CEO who ran the US Treasury, and Tim Geithner, current Treasury Secretary who at the time ran the New York Federal Reserve, willingly delivered Goldman Sachs the $70 Billion --with no strings attached.

So what can we do?

  1. We must demand the return of those investment gains made with America's money - it was stolen from us and we can get it back. Demand Claw Backs - and not from the future but from the past - That is where our money is.
  2. We must have an exchange for all credit derivatives -- the current version is riddled with loopholes that let banks avoid transparency by mobbing offshore and prohibiting government regulators from being able to force the use of the exchange by the banks.

The Goldman Sachs bailout breaks down as follows:

  • $10 billion from TARP
  • $11 billion from the Federal Reserve
  • $30 billion from the FDIC
  • $13 billion from AIG

Rand Paul "I Don't Think We're On A Path To Balancing The Budget"

Click this link ......