Posts Tagged ‘banks’

A national cap on consumer interest rates?

Two politicians with whom I regularly disagree have proposed a national cap on credit card interest of 15% a year. Because they are well known figures, the proposal is likely to get some attention.

Per one reporter, the current median card interest rate of 21.36% breaks down to 17.73% for high credit scores and 24.99% for people with low credit scores. Who do you think will be denied credit altogether under a 15% cap? Are they better off with an option of 24.99% credit, or with no option of credit at all?

Since the idea of interest caps is anything but new, economists have had a long time to study this issue, as I noted in this earlier post. One recent study looked at Arkansas, a state with a throwback constitutional provision capping allowable interest rates at 17 percent. The effect is to keep some otherwise common financial products from being offered in the state, as a result of which many Arkansans “drive to neighboring states to take out small-dollar installment loans.”

Why think that the government can set price ceilings well below market clearing levels without causing shortages of the affected good or service? More fundamentally, why should the government stand between two parties in a willing transaction? More: Steve Horwitz.

P.S. Did someone bring up postal banking?

Banking and finance roundup

  • “In the banking world, with which I am familiar, the general belief has been that you disobey supervisory guidance at your peril. That sounds like law and regulation, but without the open process and accountability. Over many years it has certainly felt that way.” [Wayne A. Abernathy, Federalist Society commentary]
  • Some House Democrats use hearings to badger banks into cutting off clients in industry areas like guns, pipeline construction [Zachary Warmbrodt, Politico]
  • New U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform papers on reforming securities litigation: “Risk and Reward: The Securities Fraud Class Action Lottery” [Stephen J. Choi, Jessica Erickson, Adam C. Pritchard]; “Containing the Contagion: Proposals to Reform the Broken Securities Class Action System” [Andrew J. Pincus]
  • “A pot banking bill is headed to House markup with bipartisan support” [Jim Saksa, Roll Call]
  • Your periodic reminder that corporate law *is* a form of public interest law [Stephen Bainbridge quoting Hester Peirce]
  • “History Shows Forcing Companies to Put Workers on Boards Is a Bad Idea” [Ryan Bourne, UK Telegraph/Cato, earlier on Elizabeth Warren proposals]

Banking and finance roundup

Buying a home? Feds want to know your identity

Another valued little piece of financial privacy being lost: in the name of enforcing money laundering and know your customer regulations, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has expanded a program the effect of which is to require disclosure of your identity if you buy a home in some parts of country [Kathleen Pender, San Francisco Chronicle]

Related: British financial regulators adopt new approach of “shifting the burden of proof onto foreign investors; they must now prove their wealth is legitimate.” [Jeffrey Miron, Cato]

NYT: credit card companies should cut off (or report) gun sales

In the New York Times, financial writer Andrew Ross Sorkin asks why credit card companies and banks should not be made to monitor customers’ accounts for unusual gun purchases and share the information with law enforcers. Excerpts from my response at Cato.

…In an advocacy piece imperfectly dressed up as a news story, New York Times financial reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin observes that some perpetrators of mass public shootings have bought guns and ammo using credit cards, and asks why credit card companies and banks should not be made to stop this. How? Well, they could “create systems to track gun purchases that would allow them to report suspicious patterns” and “prevent [customers] from buying multiple guns in a short period of time.” Invoking the Patriot Act – you knew that was coming, didn’t you? – the piece goes on to ask why the sweeping financial-snooping powers bestowed on the feds by that act should not be deployed against everyday civilians who purchase more guns than would seem fit for them to buy.,,,

The piece mentions one reason gun dealers are reluctant to pass on to banks information about what products their customers buy: someone else might come into possession of the list and know to pitch guns to those names. It doesn’t spell out nearly as clearly what might seem a bigger fear about a who-bought-guns data file, namely that it would go a long way toward identifying owners once confiscation of existing weaponry gets on the table as a proposal. The ACLU may not care about gun rights, but as Sorkin concedes, one of its policy analysts gets to much the same point by a different route: “The implication of expecting the government to detect and prevent every mass shooting is believing the government should play an enormously intrusive role in American life.”

Whole piece here.

P.S. Scott Greenfield: And just wait till they accomplish their crackdown on transactions in cash. More: David French, James Setterlund.

“Should Governments Restrict Cash?”

“Central bankers and mainstream monetary economists have become intrigued with the idea of reducing, or even entirely eliminating, hand-to-hand currency. Advocates of these proposals rely on two primary arguments. First, because cash is widely used in underground economic activities, they believe the elimination of large-denomination notes would help to significantly diminish criminal activities such as tax evasion, the illicit drug trade, illegal immigration, money laundering, human trafficking, bribery of government officials, and even possibly terrorism. They also often contend that suppressing such activities would have the additional advantage of increasing government tax revenue. [A second argument relates to monetary policy.]…

“Yet the arguments for phasing out cash or confining it to small denomination bills are, when not entirely mistaken, extremely weak.” [Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, Cato Policy Analysis No. 855]

Operation Choke Point documents show FDIC brass covertly pressured banks

Since the termination of Operation Choke Point, some have questioned whether Obama-era federal regulators really did engage in systematic and top-down attempts to squeeze off access to financial services for businesses that were lawful but disliked. Now Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) has released documents produced in connection with a lawsuit against the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. They show extensive pressure by numerous FDIC regional directors and other officials on regulated banks to terminate customer relationships with payday lenders (the banks were generally already not themselves engaged in such lending). They also include repeated wordings about how higher-ups wanted the pressure applied and that banks’ decisions to cut off customers should be styled as if it were a voluntary choice. [Luetkemeyer press release; Norbert Michel, Forbes; John Berlau, Forbes; trade group Community Financial Services of America]

Banking and finance roundup

Cato-centric edition:

Banking and finance roundup