Monthly Archives: October 2017

Treasury Department sides with Wall Street, against federal consumer watchdog agency on arbitration rule

By Renae Merle

Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, left, listens during a Financial Stability Oversight Council meeting at the U.S. Treasury in Washington in 2013. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)

In a highly unusual move, the Trump administration on Monday attacked a rule proposed by one of its own agencies.

The intergovernmental fight pits regulators appointed by President Trump — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and acting comptroller of the currency Keith Noreika — against one of the few Obama administration appointees remaining — Richard Cordray, the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

It is not unusual for such regulators to disagree, but rarely do those squabbles spill out into public view. The Trump administration has made unwinding many of the regulations put in place following the Great Recession a top priority, arguing that eliminating cumbersome rules would spark economic growth. But Cordray has repeatedly been a stumbling block in some key areas.

The regulation at the center of the fight addresses the fine print in many of the agreements that consumers sign when they apply for credit cards or bank accounts. These agreements typically require them to settle any disputes they have with the company through arbitration, in which a third party rules on the matter, rather than going to court or joining a class-action lawsuit.

The rule approved by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a watchdog agency, would block mandatory arbitration clauses, allowing more people to file or join a lawsuit to press their complaints.

The new rule is widely loathed on Wall Street, which has estimated it would cost them billions of dollars, and among Republicans in Congress, who call it a gift to plaintiffs’ attorneys.

The rule “fails to account for significant costs of class action litigation and benefits of arbitration in a meaningful way,” the Treasury Department said in an 18-page report. …read more

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America’s affordable-housing stock dropped by 60 percent from 2010 to 2016

By Tracy Jan

(Illustration by Rachel Orr/The Washington Post; iStock)

The number of apartments deemed affordable for very low-income families across the United States fell by more than 60 percent between 2010 and 2016, according to a new report by Freddie Mac.

The report by the government-backed mortgage financier is the first to compare rent increases in specific units over time. It examined loans that the corporation had financed twice between 2010 and 2016, allowing a comparison of the exact same rental units and how their affordability changed.

At first financing, 11 percent of nearly 100,000 rental units nationwide were deemed affordable for very low-income households. By the second financing, when the units were refinanced or sold, rents had increased so much that just 4 percent of the same units were categorized as affordable.

“We have a rapidly diminishing supply of affordable housing, with rent growth outstripping income growth in most major metro areas,” said David Brickman, executive vice president and head of Freddie Mac Multifamily. “This doesn’t just reflect a change in the housing stock.”

[Here’s how much you would need to afford rent in your state]

Rather, he said, affordable housing without a government subsidy is becoming extinct. More renters flooded the market after people lost their homes in the housing crisis. The apartment vacancy rate was 8 percent in 2009, compared to 4 percent in 2017. That trend, coupled with a stagnant supply of apartments, resulted in increased rents.

Freddie Mac buys mortgage loans from a network of primary market lenders, and issues mortgage-related securities. This helps lenders provide loans to developers and owners for the purchase, refinancing, rehabilitation and construction of multifamily properties.

The study defined “very low income” as households making less than 50 percent of the area median income, and “affordable” rent as costing …read more

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Leveraging Bitcoin & Blockchain For ‘Solar Power’ Sun Exchange Scores $1.6M From U.S. Investors

By Roger Aitken, Contributor In a push to accelerate global access to solar power using Blockchain technology and Bitcoin, ‘peer-to-peer’ solar equipment leasing marketplace Sun Exchange in South Africa has raised $1.6m from U.S. partners including New York-based Network Society Ventures and leading technology accelerators. …read more

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