- Progressive sentiment vs. actual progress: Philadelphia bans cashless stores [Jeffrey Miron; related, Billy Binion, Reason (council member thinks city should legislate against “elitism”), Joe Setyon, Reason (NYC)] Meanwhile, heading in the opposite direction: “California bill would require businesses to offer e-receipts” [Don Thompson, Associated Press]
- “Overhaul CRA? Why Not Eliminate It?” [Diego Zuluaga, American Banker; video of panel on CRA at Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention with Bert Ely, Deepak Gupta, Keith Noreika, and Jesse Van Tol, moderated by Hon. Joan Larsen]
- SEC should see its role as fostering, not just reining in, risk taking [Cato audio with Commissioner Hester Peirce; more from Peirce, Cato Journal]
- Your taxes pay for bad mortgage loans [Hans Bader]
- “With Emulex Corp., Supreme Court Could Raise Bar for ‘Merger Tax’ Securities Suits” [Stephen Bainbridge, WLF; Emulex Corp. v. Varjabedian]
- In car insurance, credit scores “effectively predict risk of claims within racial and ethnic groups” and banning their use would likely “result in insurers finding other, less good and possibly discriminatory methods of distinguishing high from low risks” [Luke Froeb, Managerial Econ via Alex Tabarrok]
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]
The Arkansas constitution caps allowable interest rates for lending at 17 percent. Is the effect more to protect consumers, or deprive them of desired choices? A study [Ben Lukongo and Thomas W. Miller Jr., Mercatus]
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.
“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]
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]
- “Fractional reserve banking is at the root of business cycles” is no more persuasive than “fractional-reserve banking is inherently fraudulent” [George Selgin, Cato Alt-M] And Cato’s 36th annual monetary conference will be held in DC Nov. 15 with the theme: “Monetary Policy: Ten Years After the Crisis”;
- Some fear anticompetitive effects from patterns of common ownership of corporate equities among index funds and institutional investors. Not so fast [Thomas A. Lambert and Michael E. Sykuta, Regulation magazine]
- “10 Years Later, Assessing the Dangerous Legacy of TARP” [John Allison, Real Clear Markets]
- “Why Bitcoin Is Not an Environmental Catastrophe” [Diego Zuluaga, Cato]
- Vern McKinley reviews book by advocate of postal banking revival [Regulation; earlier here and here]
- “America has strong protection of private property rights, is bound by the rule of law, and pays its debts.” Well, for the most part [Gerald O’Driscoll, Jr., Cato Journal reviewing book on FDR gold episode]
- “California’s Unconstitutional Gender Quotas for Corporate Boards” [Ilya Somin, Stephen Bainbridge, Jerome Woehrle, Ann Althouse]
- Useful tool, or abuse of power? “Leveraging allows regulators to use their gatekeeping authority to secure concessions that they might not be able to achieve otherwise—and to do so quickly and cheaply.” [William Kovacic and David Hyman, Cato Regulation magazine]
- The conflict minerals law fiasco: “between 2010 and 2012, the monthly incidence of battles, looting and violence against civilians strongly increased in the mining areas targeted by Dodd-Frank” [Nik Stoop, Marijke Verpoorten and Peter van der Windt, Washington Post “Monkey Cage”, Dominic Parker, PERC (summarizing two recent studies), my earlier]
- “Return of Bill Lerach: Disbarred attorney consults on case alleging hedge funds mismanaged Kentucky pensions” [ABA Journal]
- “The Politics of Pay: The Unintended Consequences of Regulating Executive Compensation” [Kevin J. Murphy and Michael C. Jensen, Cato Institute Research Briefs in Economic Policy series]
- “Increasingly, our [financial] regulatory structure has been adopting processes that are inconsistent with adherence to the rule of law.” What to do? [Charles Calomiris, Cato Journal]
- Federal judge Preska of Southern District of New York rules structure of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unconstitutional, creating split with D.C. Circuit which upheld CFPB structure;
- “Australia Attempts to Fight Tobacco Black Markets by Banning Large Cash Transactions” [Scott Shackford]
- “Restoring Accountability to the Business of Banking” [John A. Allison and Lydia Mashburn, Washington Examiner]
- NAM is among backers of Main Street Investors Coalition that will push back against corporate governance and shareholder activism forces on Left [Bainbridge; Alicia McElhaney, Institutional Investor]
- Supreme Court agrees to hear SEC enforcement action case on scope of liability for false statements [Greg Stohr, Bloomberg; Peter J. Henning, New York Times DealBook; Lorenzo v. Securities and Exchange Commission]
- “Why the Fall in IPOs Is a Threat to Popular Capitalism” [Diego Zuluaga, Cato]
As we mentioned in a brief earlier item, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has “directed the Department of Financial Services to urge insurance companies, New York State-chartered banks, and other financial services companies licensed in New York to review any relationships they may have with the National Rifle Association and other similar organizations. Upon this review, the companies are encouraged to consider whether such ties harm their corporate reputations and jeopardize public safety.” [Cuomo press release] Maria T. Vullo, Superintendent of Financial Services for the state of New York, issued a guidance memorandum. In language not altogether typical of safety-and-soundness financial regulation, Vullo wrote:
While the social backlash against the National Rifle Association (the “NRA”) and similar organizations that promote guns that lead to senseless violence has in the past been strong, the nature and the intensity of the voices now speaking out, including the voices of the passionate, courageous, and articulate young people who have experienced this recent horror first hand, is a strong reminder that such voices can no longer be ignored and that society, as a whole, has a responsibility to act and is no longer willing to stand by and wait and witness more tragedies caused by gun violence, but instead is demanding change now.
Brian Knight writes at FinRegRag:
This request could easily be construed is a thinly veiled threat. While the NYDFS statement does not explicitly say that NY FIs (financial institutions) that may face regulatory sanction for failing to cut ties with the NRA, it doesn’t rule out the possibility either. If the NYDFS had no intention of threatening regulatory sanctions, they could clearly have added language taking the threat of enforcement off of the table. They didn’t, which indicates they want NY FIs to think there is a potential the government will come after them if they don’t end their relationships with groups like the NRA.
These instructions to NY FIs could also be seen as an attempt to suppress political speech that some New York policy makers disagree with. Whatever one thinks of the NRA, it is an organization engaged in legal political speech and advocacy. Cutting off the NRA’s access to financial services could change the political debate by reducing opposition to political efforts to tighten gun laws. The NYDFS release says, “This is not just a matter of reputation, it is a matter of public safety, and working together, we can put an end to gun violence in New York once and for all.” Given that the NRA does not make a product that could pose a direct risk to public safety, this release is clearly referencing the NRA’s political advocacy.
Knight compares the initiative to the Operation Choke Point episode, in which federal regulators steered banks away from dealing with various controversial but lawful lines of business, including some that were politically fraught. But in that episode, at least, the target enterprises were primarily engaged in the sale of goods and services and thus might in principle have faced financial risks related by fraud or unfulfillable obligations to customers.
The NYDFS order appears to be inherently about political speech. After all, there is no allegation that the NRA is committing fraud against its members. Rather, the argument is that the NRA’s positions are so dangerous that they are harmful to the community and pose a risk to the reputation of any FI that works with them. This could fairly be seen as an attempt to restrict the NRA’s ability to operate in the political arena and marketplace of ideals.
The guidance memorandum might thus accomplish by indirection what it would be plainly improper for the state to attempt directly:
There is no law that says a FI (financial institution) cannot do business with a gun rights group and such a law would almost assuredly be unconstitutional. However if the regulator declares that such an affiliation poses a reputational risk to the FI (that the regulator, not the market, determined existed), it has leverage to force the FI to comply.
The NRA has filed a suit against the governor and New York officials saying the program amounts to “coercion” aimed at depriving the association and its constituents of First Amendment rights. More: Scott Greenfield.
Meanwhile, in other news of regulatory retaliation — see also our tag on that — U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly urged the U.S. Postal Service to double its rates for handling packages shipped by Amazon.com, linked in his mind through founder Jeff Bezos with his journalistic nemesis the Washington Post. Postmaster General Megan Brennan is said to have “resisted Trump’s suggestion in private conversations in 2017 and 2018, telling him that package delivery rates are set by contract and reviewed by an independent commission” and that the Postal Service does not get a bad deal from its arrangements with Amazon and other e-commerce firms. [Reuters]