The Trillion-Dollar Bank Shakedown That Bodes Ill for Cities
The Clinton administration has turned the Community Reinvestment Act, a once-obscure and lightly enforced banking regulation law, into one of the most powerful mandates shaping American citiesand, as Senate Banking Committee chairman Phil Gramm memorably put it, a vast extortion scheme against the nation’s banks. Under its provisions, U.S. banks have committed nearly $1 trillion for inner-city and low-income mortgages and real estate development projects, most of it funneled through a nationwide network of left-wing community groups, intent, in some cases, on teaching their low-income clients that the financial system is their enemy and, implicitly, that government, rather than their own striving, is the key to their well-being.
The Act, which Jimmy Carter signed in 1977, grew out of the complaint that urban banks were “redlining” inner-city neighborhoods, refusing to lend to their residents
In addition, the Act’s backers claimed, CRA would be profitable for banks. They just needed a push from the law to learn how to identify profitable inner-city lending opportunities.
A September 1999 study by Freddie Mac, for instance, confirmed what previous Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation studies had found: that African-Americans have disproportionate levels of credit problems, which explains why they have a harder time qualifying for mortgage money. As Freddie Mac found, blacks with incomes of $65,000 to $75,000 a year have on average worse credit records than whites making under $25,000.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas had it right when it saidin a paper pointedly entitled “Red Lining or Red Herring?””the CRA may not be needed in today’s financial environment to ensure all segments of our economy enjoy access to credit.” True, some householdsthose with a history of credit problems, for instance, or those buying homes in neighborhoods where re-selling them might be difficultmay not qualify for loans at all, and some may have to pay higher interest rates, in reflection of higher risk. But higher rates in such situations are balanced by lower house prices. This is not a conspiracy against the poor; it’s how markets measure risk and work to make credit available.
But for advocacy groups that were in the complaint business, the Clinton administration regulations offered a formal invitation. The National Community Reinvestment Coalitiona foundation-funded umbrella group for community activist groups that profit from the CRAissued a clarion call to its members in a leaflet entitled “The New CRA Regulations: How Community Groups Can Get Involved.” “Timely comments,” the NCRC observed with a certain understatement, “can have a strong influence on a bank’s CRA rating.”
The Senate Banking Committee has estimated that, as a result of CRA, $9.5 billion so far has gone to pay for services and salaries of the nonprofit groups involved. To deal with such groups and to produce CRA compliance data for regulators, banks routinely establish separate CRA departments. A CRA consultant industry has sprung up to assist them. New financial-services firms offer to help banks that think they have a CRA problem make quick “investments” in packaged portfolios of CRA loans to get into compliance.
The result of all this activity, argues the CEO of one midsize bank, is that “banks are promising to make loans they would have made anyway, with some extra aggressiveness on risky mortgages thrown in.” Many bankersand even some CRA advocatesshare his view. As one Fed economist puts it, the assertion that CRA was needed to force banks to see profitable lending opportunities is “like saying you need the rooster to tell the sun to come up. It was going to happen anyway.”
There is no more important player in the CRA-inspired mortgage industry than the Boston-based Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America. Chief executive Bruce Marks has set out to become the Wal-Mart of home mortgages for lower-income households. Using churches and radio advertising to reach borrowers, he has made NACA a brand name nationwide, with offices in 21 states, and he plans to double that number within a year. With “delegated underwriting authority” from the banks, NACA itselfnot the banksdetermines whether a mortgage applicant is qualified, and it closes sales right in its own offices. It expects to close 5,000 mortgages next year, earning a $2,000 origination fee on each. Its annual budget exceeds $10 million.
Marks, a Scarsdale native, NYU MBA, and former Federal Reserve employee, unabashedly calls himself a “bank terrorist”his public relations spokesman laughingly refers to him as “the shark, the predator,” and the NACA newspaper is named the Avenger. They’re not kidding: bankers so fear the tactically brilliant Marks for his ability to disrupt annual meetings and even target bank executives’ homes that they often call him to make deals before they announce any plans that will put them in CRA’s crosshairs. A $3 billion loan commitment by Nationsbank, for instance, well in advance of its announced merger with Bank of America, “was a preventive strike,” says one NACA spokesman.
Marks is unhesitatingly candid about his intent to use NACA to promote an activist, left-wing political agenda. NACA loan applicants must attend a workshop that celebratesto the accompaniment of gospel musicthe protests that have helped the group win its bank lending agreements. If applicants do buy a home through NACA, they must pledge to assist the organization in five “actions” annuallyanything from making phone calls to full-scale “mobilizations” against target banks, “mau-mauing” them, as sixties’ radicals used to call it. “NACA believes in aggressive grassroots advocacy,” says its Homebuyer’s Workbook.
During the Reagan years, the Right used to talk of cutting off the flow of federal funds to left-liberal groups, a goal called “defunding the Left”; through the CRA, the Clinton administration has found a highly effective way of doing exactly the opposite, funneling millions to NACA or to outfits like ACORN, which advocates a nationalized health-care system, “people before profits at the utilities,” and a tax code based “solely on the ability to pay.”
MUCH, MUCH MORE HERE...
Bruce Marks, Chief Executive Officer of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America
As a union activist for the Hotel Workers Union in Boston, Bruce Marks worked with the President of the Hotel Workers union, Domenic Bozzotto, to negotiate the first ever housing trust fund. This resulted in the first amendment to the Taft-Hartley Act in over twenty-five years and the first time a local union changed America's major labor law.
Marks moved from union activist to Executive Director of the Union Neighborhood Assistance Corporation (UNAC), where he used his finance and organizing experience to be the first to expose predatory lending and its devastating impact. Marks led the fight against the predatory lending practices of major New England banks. For two and a half years Marks and UNAC researched their predatory lending practices before releasing the research, which focused on Fleet Bank, to the public. The extensive research in Massachusetts, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan and other states documented Fleet's predatory lending practices in which they targeted home owners who were property rich but cash poor. As Marks expanded the advocacy and housing services nationally, the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) was established.
After a four and a half year war with Fleet, Marks was instrumental in negotiating an unprecedented settlement. Fleet committed to an $8 billion reinvestment program for low and moderate income people, settled lawsuits in Georgia for hundreds of millions of dollars, and provided $140 million in an unprecedented mortgage program to be administered by NACA.
Marks' role as an aggressive crusader for reform of the powerful banking and lending industry has its representatives up in arms. On May 5, 1999 from the Senate floor, Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX), head of the Senate Banking Committee, attempted to portray banks as victims of Bruce Marks. Gramm described Marks as, "... someone who graduates from college, goes to graduate school, and goes to work for the Federal Reserve in acquisitions and mergers, quits and goes into business, spends four years harassing banks and bank presidents, and finally the bank (Fleet Bank) caves and gives them $1.4 million, gives them $200,000 to set up their organization; they now have twenty offices, lending $3.5 billion..." Senator Gramm continued, "There is a CRA protester who calls himself an "urban terrorist" who used those charges against a bank, harassed them for four years, went to a speech of the president of the bank (Fleet Bank CEO Terrence Murray) at Harvard University, disrupted the speech, made this man's life miserable for four long years." Bruce Marks wears this personal attack as a badge of honor.
Under Marks' leadership, NACA has garnered commitments of over $6.7 Billion for the best mortgage product in America. NACA now has 31 offices throughout the country and will double in size within the next 12 to 18 months. NACA has become the largest housing services organization in the United States.
Today, Bruce Marks continues to expand NACA's role as lead reformer of the banking and lending industry. This includes enacting local and state legislation and regulations to address sub-prime and predatory lending. He continues to hold lenders and others who exploit working people accountable. And the fight goes on!!!
The bad news??
"REPUBLICAN" President George W. Bush committed $440 BILLION to the CRA back in 2002, setting up NOT ONLY the titanic financial disaster we're now facing between Bush's $700 billion TARP boondoggle and 0bama's $787 billion 'Stimulus Package', but the leftist Presidency of one B. Hussein 0bama-Soetoro.
CRA doesn’t stand for”Community Reinvestment Act”,it stands for”Community Redistribution Act”!