In our sister blog four days ago, George Mason University law professor Michael S. Greve does a huge service in a few words.
He highlights the fact that the feds have taken $110 billion--that's right: billion with a "b"--in fines just from banks. I was seeing those billions here and billions there and had wondered about the total. Professor Greve links to an excellent investigative report by two Wall Street Journal reporters, Christina Rexrode and Emily Glazer, in which they document what they could account for and what they couldn't.
I've got to say, though, that because I have such distrust in the government, I actually found the following sentence heartening:
• The Treasury Department received almost $49 billion of the funds, including money the agency received directly and sums funneled to it by other departments, including government-chartered housing associations Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. How the money is spent isn't specified.
That's a $49 billion drop in federal debt.
But I found these four items the kind of thing I expect of government and dislike intensely:
• About $45 billion was earmarked for "consumer relief," a category that includes money dedicated to helping borrowers and funding housing-related community groups.
• The Justice Department, whose prosecutors led many of the negotiations with banks, collected at least $447 million. How it spends the money isn't specified.
• States received more than $5.3 billion, usually to spend as they saw fit. Almost all states received payments from a national settlement in 2012 over mortgage-servicing abuses, and seven also received payments in the Justice Department's blockbuster mortgage-securities settlements that started in 2013.
• Roughly $10 billion went to other recipients, including housing-related federal agencies, two federal agencies responsible for cleaning up failed banks or credit unions, and whistleblowers who helped the Justice Department. Some funds from these deals typically revert to the Treasury.
Consider the first: "housing-related community groups." How do they deserve that money?
Or take the second: $447 million will pay for a lot of prosecutions. Congress should regulate that.
The third: what did state governments do to deserve that money?
This is one gigantic scam. Kudos to Ms. Rexrode and Ms. Glazer for documenting it.