Weil on Finance: Shadow Banks Rule and Dodd-Frank Drools

Jonathan Weil joined Bloomberg News as a columnist in 2007, and his columns on finance and accounting won Best in the Business awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in 2009 and 2010.
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Good morning, View fans. Here's a look at some of my breakfast reading today.

Is there anything about Dodd-Frank that didn't get watered down?

Robert Pozen of Harvard Business School and the Brookings Institution writes about newly proposed federal rules that gut the requirement in the Dodd-Frank Act for mortgage originators to keep 5 percent of the risk of loss on the loans they sell. Because of the proposed exemptions, "banks will thus have little incentive to ensure that the borrowers can make their monthly payments on these mortgages." Plus, borrowers can still get mortgages that are insured by the Federal Housing Administration with only a 3.5 percent down payment. Hence, the headline on Pozen's Wall Street Journal op-ed: "How to Create Another Housing Crisis."

Tech executives faced jail if they revealed NSA secrets.

That's what Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's chief executive, said during an interview at a conference in San Francisco. And I don't doubt she's right. Still, there's a related question I've wondered about since the Edward Snowden leaks began pouring out: What would happen if a company's executives refused to comply with an order from the secret foreign intelligence surveillance court, but didn't go public about it? How does the government jail anyone for contempt of court if the court ruling itself must be kept secret? Are the jails secret now, too? Wouldn't someone notice if Mayer didn't show up for work one day? Wouldn't the National Security Agency have to explain? I'd love to see somebody write about this who knows the system's ins and outs.

Shadow banking and the derivatives business.

Patrick Jenkins and Daniel Schafer of The Financial Times write that "shadow financial institutions have taken advantage of the wave of new regulation to steal the lion's share of the derivatives business from the major banks in a blow to those institutions' profitability." They point to data from the Bank of International Settlements showing that hedge funds and other non-bank financial institutions now claim more than 50 percent of interest-rate and foreign-exchange trading.

Economists can't figure out what to make of Draghi.

From Bloomberg News, referring to Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank: "Of 31 economists in a Bloomberg monthly survey, 16 said the ECB president's commitment that official rates would remain at `present or lower levels for an extended period of time' hasn't been effective. The remainder said it has." So there, it's settled now.

Foreclosures fall to levels not seen since late 2005.

"Our long national foreclosure nightmare may be over," writes Les Christie of CNNMoney, who cites figures showing that the number of new foreclosure filings in August hit its lowest level since October 2005. Then again, it may not be. Let's see how the housing market holds up after the Fed taper begins. It seems premature to celebrate.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Weil at jweil16@bloomberg.net