Banking and finance roundup

  • Bernie Sanders still rants and raves about Glass-Steagall Act. Who will break the news to him? [Catherine Rampell/WaPo, P.M. Carpenter (Krugman, Pearlstein in accord with Rampell), earlier] “Hillary Clinton vows to go ‘well beyond’ Dodd-Frank” [Housing Wire via Kevin Funnell]
  • “In the past, ‘financial institutions were unwilling, for relationship reasons, to litigate against each other…That has changed dramatically.'” [Daniel Fisher quoting New York attorney Brian Fraser]
  • “Government Thinks You’re Too Dumb To Try Crowdfunding” [Ben Weingarten, The Federalist]
  • “If every bank behaved like Abacus, the financial crisis wouldn’t have occurred.” So guess which bank got prosecuted [Jiayang Fan, The New Yorker back in October]
  • Billions in free money for consumers, just by regulating credit card fees! Sorry, it’s not that simple [Todd Zywicki]
  • “The war against cash”: government vs. the cash economy [Daniel Mitchell, Cato, first and second post]
  • New IRS authority to secure revocation of passports should give pause to everyone concerned about American liberty [Investors Business Daily]


  • In that cashless society, many regular activities will become taxable and regulated exchanges of services. Your child brings a friend home to play after school? Congratulations, you are running an illegal, unregistered child minding agency:
    Once any hobby/leisure activity where cash does not change hands is seen as a tax dodge, we are lost.

  • RE: crowdfunding. Thing is, they have a point.

    *There are innumerable stories of people who donated money to a project that went “foof”, disappearing in the night and taking the people’s money with it. Not even so much “this turned out to be too hard and we gave up”, but straight-up taking the money. Right now, there’s not any actual oversight other than Kickstarter (or whoever) banning that person. Maybe that kind of Wild West operation is cool, but–as with Uber–shouldn’t *everyone* get to play that way? (Or, as the SEC sees it, require everyone to play by the same rules.)

    *The sites most certainly want contributors to think of themselves as part of the operation; “backers” rather than “donators”, sort of thing. Which is misleading, as the people who contribute money have only as much say in the activity as the creators give them.

    *And there are cases where large corporations use crowdfunding to get around exactly the kind of regulations that we’re talking about. Which is where the real meat of this issue is, similar to the “managers get overtime” discussion a while back. It is not some kind of weird slam on the little guy, it’s more about closing a loophole that the big guys were ramming their business through. Sony does not lack for regulatory-compliance people and yet it pulled a crowdfunding operation for video game development!

  • RE: Abacus. The real meat of the story is two-thirds of the way down.

    I contacted a former employee of Abacus, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He felt that the case was wrongheaded, but for reasons that were completely different from any I’d heard other people voice. “I thought the D.A.’s office might address the bigger, systemic problem of tax evasion in Chinatown and admonish the population about the importance of following the law,” he said, shaking his head. “But they chose to draw this stupid parallel between Abacus and the financial crisis.”

    And that’s pretty much it. There’s a tendency in stories like this to paint the people as innocents abroad, people with poor English skills adrift in a hard-edged uncaring American culture. That’s manure. What they find “intimidating” about American banks is their uncomfortable tendency to ask questions like “why does your employer only pay cash” and “are you receiving income from welfare payments” and “did you pay taxes on any of this”. The questions that you’d expect any bank to ask, except for those like Abacus, run by con men who are used to dealing with lesser cons.