Bear-Chase Bailout Raises Questions of Transparency and Countrywide
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
WASHINGTON, March 14 -- As the Federal
Reserve Board Friday morning voted to change its rules to back JP
Morgan Chase in a bail-out of Bear Stearns, questions expanded about
lack of transparency and the Fed's insider role. JPM Chase will assume
no credit risk at all, but will have access for at least 28 days to all
of Bear's books and collateral, with an eye to buying on the cheap.
Jaime Dimon, in a speech here in Washington Wednesday night, spoke of
being halfway through the subprime meltdown write-offs, and bragged
about the green gut-rehab of Chase's midtown headquarters. Less than two
days later, there's talk of Bear Stearns' nearby building being one of
its few assets of remaining value -- perhaps most of all to Chase.
In speech late Friday morning at
the Economic Club of New York, President Bush spoke against a bill
pending in Congress which would allow bankruptcy judges to modify
mortgage loans. This provision was praised on Thursday by, among others,
Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC), who noted that the House of Representatives
passed such a provision in 1978, but the Senate never followed.
The Fed to rationalize its
favoritism for JPMorgan Chase and Bear Stearns has hearkened back to
supposedly similar discount window deals in the 1930s and 1960s. Who
benefited then? Who's benefiting now? JPMorgan Chase, it seems clear.
Fed chairman Ben Bernanke,
bailout and Countrywide subprime negligence not shown
JPMorgan Chase is the third largest bank in the U.S.. One place up, in
second place to Citigroup, is Bank of America, which has applied to the
Fed to scoop up subprime bandit Countrywide Financial. Even as
Countrywide faces criminal probes, BofA seeks to withhold from Inner
City Press and others its mortgage data until the Fed's comment period
close on March 31. Will that deal too lack transparency?
chairman Ben Bernanke is slated to speak at 1 p.m. on Friday about the
subprime consumer protection issues which the Fed for so long
negligently ignored, although the speech or more likely any Q & A to
follow seem likely to be cancelled. Who, however, will explain these
back-room deals? Watch this site.
Update of 12:37
p.m. -- Bear Stearns has invoked copyright to prevent the broadcast of
its 12:30 conference call. Note to SEC: heard of Regulation FD?
Update of 2 p.m.
-- On Fed chair Bernanke's way to the podium for his speech, Inner City
Press asked him if he would be taking any questions. "No," he said,
remaining expressionless as Inner City Press called after him, "Bear
Stearns? JPMorgan Chase? Why?" His speech, purportedly on the
subprime lending crisis, did not even mention the role of securitizers.
And when it was over, his entourage decamped in two large black cars,
license plate BJ 3135, out onto D Street with siren lights on top.
* * *
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