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Inside Washington (03/08/2012)
  • WASHINGTON (3/9/12)--Several Democratic House members Wednesday called on President Barack Obama to dismiss Edward DeMarco if the Federal Housing Finance Agency acting director would not commit to large-scale principal reductions for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages. The demands were made during a press conference, where some housing activists called for DeMarco's immediate firing (American Banker March 8). Activists have called for write-downs of mortgage principal for underwater homeowners to save families from foreclosure, reset the housing market, and drive an economic recovery. "Writing down these mortgages is the best tangible step forward to help homeowners immediately," said Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (N.Y.). "The best way to combat the rise of foreclosures is for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--now the largest holders of subprime mortgages--to be directed to provide straightforward principal reductions." DeMarco, whose agency has authority over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, said reductions are not in the best interests of U.S. taxpayers …
  • WASHINGTON (3/9/12)--Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) Wednesday criticized the U.S. Department of Justice's fair lending settlement with Countrywide. Grassley said it only amounts to an average of $1,700 per victim--although the case's original complaint sought to make victims whole again. The $335 million settlement is the largest fair lending settlement in history (American Banker March 8). Grassley also said a $25 billion mortgage servicer settlement does not provide adequate compensation to borrowers. Tom Perez, the assistant attorney general of Justice' civil rights division, defended both settlement agreements. Perez said banks view the penalties as too harsh. There is no "home run" in such settlements, nor is there a panacea for the settlement abuses of the previous 10 years, he added. Grassley is the ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He also criticized justice for failing to file any criminal charges related to the financial crisis ...
  •  VIENNA, Va. (3/9/12)--Financial institutions, of course, are not the only ones required to file Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) under the Bank Secrecy Act. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Thursday reported an increase in filings of suspicious activity reports by casinos and card clubs or (SAR-Cs), as these reports are known. Filings rose to 13,986 in 2010, up from 5,962 in 2004. The FinCEN report, "Suspicious Activity Reporting in the Gaming Industry," also showed 8,327 SAR-Cs were filed in the first half of 2011, the most recent data available. FinCEN noted that the types of activities reported in SAR-Cs reflected known money laundering and criminal techniques. For instance, the types of activities described most frequently in SAR-C narratives, the section of the SAR-C where filers provide details of what they detect, were suspected structuring of cash transactions to avoid the currency transaction report (CTR) threshold of more than $10,000, and financial transactions with minimal or no gaming activity. FinCEN further noted: Based on total filings, the average dollar amount of suspicious activity reported per filing was $23,664, and the median was $10,000. However, some casinos reported much higher amounts: reports by one casino averaged $402,319. Over the study period, the total amount of suspicious activity reported was $1.77 billion …


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