Fox in the … ?
It is not every day that a program's biggest opponent gets a say in its management, but that's exactly what happened last week when Republicans chose Rep. Jeb Hensarling to help oversee the financial bailout.The Texas Republican was one of the most vocal House Financial Services Committee Republicans opposing creation of the $700 billion emergency fund.
"I did not support the original Emergency Economic Stabilization Act … . Now that it is the law of the land, I will work to ensure that the Tarp is transparent to the taxpayers that fund it and will operate with much needed oversight and accountability so that it is able to work," Rep. Hensarling said in a press release.
Speaking of regulatory restructuring, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors formed a task force last week to be a liaison with Congress on the issue, including choosing a long-time Washington banking figure to assist.Bill Haraf recently quit the District of Columbia for California, where he became commissioner of the state's Department of Financial Institutions last spring. He is now on a new seven-member CSBS task force that is made up of state bank regulators, with Maryland's top regulator, Sarah Bloom Raskin, as chairwoman.
Mr. Haraf spent nine years in senior posts at Banc of America Securities and Bank of America Corp. He was most recently a consultant at Promontory Financial Group.
Block that Metaphor
As lawmakers grilled Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson at a hearing last week, the cliches became a little hard to parse.Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., started things off by asking Mr. Paulson why he forced some large banks to take $25 billion in capital when the same amount would cover the costs of a loan modification program promoted by Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair.
"You're dealing with apples and oranges here," Mr. Paulson responded. "And the apple is a very, very big apple because the step that was taken to stabilize the … "
Rep. Watt cut him off and recast his question in a more fruitful way. "The question I'm asking: Is the apple more important than the orange? Or is the orange more important than the apple?"
Mr. Paulson opted to mix his metaphors.
"I'd say that the forest through the trees here was the important step, " he said.
Committee Chairman Barney Frank tried to clarify matters.
"We got a little metaphorically confused there," he said. "But I think the summary is that our accusation is that you can't see the orange grove through the apple trees."
At least Mr. Paulson could stick to fruits and trees.David Kittle, the chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association, was forced to defend himself from accusations that he was a villain from a Charles Dickens story.
"You're taking on the role of Scrooge in this — basically saying, 'Tough luck. Foreclosure happens,' " Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin told Mr. Kittle.
But Mr. Kittle pushed back.
"I'm not Scrooge, and neither is my association or my members," he responded, before making the case for his group's opposition to mortgage bankruptcy reform. "Two-thirds of everybody that goes to the Bankruptcy Court will fail. So the real Scrooge in this is the legislation, in that they will lose their house anyway."