Felix Salmon

The doomed Grayson/Clay/Miller CFPA amendment

Mike Konczal has discovered an interesting amendment to the Consumer Financial Protection Agency bill, which would force the new agency to do an annual “financial autopsy” on a year’s worth of bankruptcies and foreclosures, to see whether any financial products turn out to have been particularly to blame. If there are, the CFPA would then be authorized to ban such products going forwards.

Personal jet usage datapoint of the day, Ken Lewis edition

2008 was not exactly a pleasant, relaxing year for Ken Lewis. You can see how he might have spent a large part of the year on the BofA corporate jet, but it’s hard to see how he would have had much time to do so for personal reasons.

The secret Paulson-Goldman meeting

Andrew Ross Sorkin’s new book is out today, and breaks some pretty stunning news, dating from the end of June, 2008. At this point, we’re still months away from the now-famous but then-secret waiver, issued in mid-September, which allowed Hank Paulson to talk to Goldman Sachs; he’d promised not to do that when he moved from Goldman to Treasury.

Counterparties

Hank Paulson’s call logs. This is the kind of insanity that results when you refuse to use email. — Sorkin

Those rising falling interchange fees

Something smells very fishy to me about this chart in today’s WSJ:

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How can fees be going down as a percentage of transactions if they’ve been rising sharply in nominal terms? The total amount of goods bought on plastic isn’t rising that fast. The WSJ doesn’t help answer the question, preferring instead a simple he-said she-said:

Spinning off Banamex

Well done to the FT’s Adam Thomson for getting the word “candescent” onto the front page of today’s FT — it’s not a word we see nearly often enough. He uses the word in the context of the debate over Banamex, which, if various lawsuits go against Citigroup, could force the US bank to divest itself of its highly-profitable Mexican subsidiary.

Honest bank of the day: Banco Popular

Banco Popular’s earnings this morning were pretty bad, and its press release reflects that. The headline is simply “Popular, Inc. Reports Financial Results for the Quarter and Nine Months Ended September 30, 2009″ — no crowing there. And the opening paragraph is sober indeed:

Crowdsource the CFPA!

The credit unions and the banks have won: thanks to something known as the Miller-Moore amendment, the Consumer Financial Protection Agency will now be barred from overseeing all but a handful of credit unions and any bank with less than $10 billion in assets. That’s 98% of all the banks in the country. Even so, however, it’s not exactly suprising to see the headline in The Hill this morning: “Tweaks to consumer agency fail to calm banks, credit unions”. Those lobbyists, they’re never satisfied. (If they were, they’d be out of a job.)

Levitt and Dubner on the northern spotted owl

In light of all the controversy over the war against environmental science being waged by Superfreakonomics, I’ll add only that this comes as no surprise to me, since something similar (albeit on a much smaller scale) can be found in the first book. I actually did some reporting on this when Freakonomics first came out, but since it was buried in a 4,400-word review on a little-read personal website, it’s hardly surprising that nobody saw it. So I’ll resuscitate it here. The upshot is that the Freakonomists have a history of misrepresenting environmental science: