Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What Happens Now? Questions on the Passage of the Dodd-Frank Financial Bill

/PRNewswire/ -- The following statement is attributed to Tom O'Grady, CEO, Pro Teck Valuation Services.

Pro Teck Valuation Services applauds the passage of the Dodd-Frank Financial Bill. It incorporates the best of HVCC, provides overdue protections to consumers and limits the financial exposure firms can maintain while investing.

Now comes the hard part.

During the next 90 days the Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, National Credit Union Administration Board and the Federal Housing Finance Agency will be drafting the regulations, rules, interpretive guidelines and general statements of policy - a daunting task. With so many moving parts, interdependencies and constituents, drafting the regulation should prove more difficult than passing the bill.

As an AMC, Pro Teck hopes that common sense prevails while drafting regulation. Most notably, we look forward to clarification on AMC appraiser registration fees and the definition of "customary and reasonable" fees paid to appraisers.

Part of the Dodd-Frank bill was a yearly $25 per appraiser per AMC registration fee (which may be adjusted to a maximum of $50 per appraiser per year). While Pro Teck understands the need to finance the new regulation, the way it is now written looks to be excessive.

Currently there is no cap on the fee an AMC can pay.

As an example, let's say there is an appraiser in California who works with 10 different regional and national AMCs (there are 350 registered AMCs in CA). The government would now receive $250 in fees for that one appraiser. If you estimate that approximately 40,000 appraisers are on at least one AMC panel, the cost to AMCs, including registration fees to comply with various State AMC registration and regulation laws, are likely to be in excess of $10,000,000.

These increased costs of doing business will eventually be passed onto the consumer.

Also in the bill it says that "customary and reasonable" fees will be determined by a study, excluding the fees that are "customary and reasonable" when an appraiser works with an AMC. Because of the reach of national lenders and their need for a national appraisal solution, 70% of appraisals in 2010 are being performed through AMCs.

How can you exclude 70% of the market in a study to determine market rates?

A good AMC adds value by investing in technology, data, quality control and customer service - all leaving the appraiser more time to appraise. AMCs also finance receivables, do all sales and marketing and manage workflow and orders.

Isn't it reasonable that the AMC would share some of the fee for what it provides the client and appraiser?

A recent experience of mine made the absurdity of these provisions come to light. What experience? Buying a dishwasher.

I bought the dishwasher at Sears, but it just as easily could have been Home Depot, Best Buy or any other national chain. I paid Sears the "customary and reasonable" fee to have the dishwasher delivered and installed by a licensed master plumber. The fee was the same as if I went to a plumber myself. The plumber took less from Sears for the customer service, marketing, billing, back office and planning they provide. I'm happy with my dishwasher, the plumber was happy for the business and Sears was happy with the sale.

Now, what if Sears had to register each plumber they use? What if each chain had to do the same? What if the government came in and told the chains how much they had to pay the plumber?

Sears needs the plumbers, so they will pay the added cost, but who is ultimately going to pay? The consumer.

Same is true in this. I know installing a dishwasher and appraising a piece of property are two totally different things, but the free market dynamics, wholesale versus retail, and responsibilities of the contractor and managing companies are the same.

Large national lenders are still going to work with AMCs because most banks do not want to become AMCs. They don't want the added cost, overhead and it's not a core competency. So who is going to pay?

The consumer.

For more than 30 years banks, servicers, investors and independent appraisers have seen the value of doing business with AMCs like Pro Teck. The need is there, the positive track record is clear, yet the bill in its current form does not reflect these truths.

Pro Teck Valuation Services sees the need for AMCs, lenders, appraisers, investors, consumers and the federal government to work together to guarantee efficient and effective commerce. We believe that if those writing the Dodd-Frank regulations share this belief, then common sense will prevail.

Libertarians oppose record federal spending levels

The White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently released its Mid-Session Review. On reviewing the report, Libertarian Party Chair Mark Hinkle called the report's spending projections "disappointing and troubling."

According to the report, federal spending was 24.7% of GDP in 2009, and is expected to be 24.6% this year, rising to 25.1% in 2011. (All years are fiscal years.)

Hinkle commented, "The federal government is commanding a larger percentage of our economy than it has at any time in American history, except a few years during World War II. Instead of free citizens making our own economic decisions, the federal government is making those decisions for us."

Hinkle added, "At the beginning of the twentieth century, the federal government spent less than five percent of GDP."

The report projects that federal spending will still be over 23% of GDP in the year 2020. "In other words," said Hinkle, "the White House is admitting that its spending will be at record-high levels as far as the eye can see. That's great for special interests who get their money from the federal government, but it's very bad news for the rest of us.

"I'm seeing visions of low economic growth and high dependence on government. Future generations are facing economic hardship instead of prosperity.

"The current crop of politicians in Washington simply don't have what it takes to reverse this damage. Democrats and Republicans have proven decade after decade that they are incapable of doing anything but grow government. In just the last ten years, they have worked together to give us two costly wars, a giant Medicare expansion, and the TARP bailouts, among many other massive new expenses.

"It's time for American voters to start thinking outside the box, and electing Libertarians to office."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

FRC Action: Senate's Rejection of DISCLOSE Act is a Victory for Free Speech Rights

/PRNewswire/ -- FRC Action, the legislative advocacy arm of the Family Research Council, released the following statement after the U.S. Senate failed to reach cloture on the DISCLOSE Act, which would limit free speech for organizations during election cycles.

Among the bill's requirements is that organizations must list their top five donors on a television advertisement, regardless of whether or not those donors contributed to the particular campaign.

FRC Action Senior Vice President Tom McClusky made the following comments:

"The Senate's rejection of the DISCLOSE Act is a victory for free speech rights and for the democratic process. Liberals in Congress failed in their attempt to push through legislation which only amounts to Democrat incumbent protection legislation disguised as campaign finance reform.

"Instead of addressing the problems often found in the financing of campaigns, the DISCLOSE Act would add to the already onerous burdens placed on organizations that act within the law by going after their donors and exposing them in public forums. The exceptions, or 'carve-outs,' in this unconstitutional bill demonstrate the hypocrisy of its supporters. They provide special treatment for select special interest groups in a bill supposedly designed to crack down on the power of special interests.

"The leadership of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on this legislation has solidified him as the leading champion of the First Amendment in the U.S. Senate," concluded McClusky.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

FRC Calls Obama Administration's Defense of the National Day of Prayer Inadequate

/PRNewswire/ -- Today Family Research Council and The Liberty Institute announced the filing of a motion for argument in a recent National Day of Prayer (NDP) case citing the Obama Administration's weak defense of the NDP as the cause. Last April, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb declared the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional. The district court's decision is now being reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins made the following comments:

"President Obama's Justice Department filed a brief that doesn't go far enough in defending the National Day of Prayer, which is why we are petitioning the court to participate in oral arguments. The President's attorneys failed to cite any of the key cases that would require immediate dismissal of this lawsuit because the plaintiffs lack standing to bring it. FRC plans to mount a robust defense of this important national event that a liberal judge has attempted to scrub from the public square," Perkins said.

Ken Klukowski, Director of Family Research Council's Center for Religious Liberty and lead counsel for FRC's amicus brief in the case, added to Perkins' remarks:

"In recent months, Obama Administration officials have stated a willingness to defend the 'freedom to worship' but much more is at stake in this case - our First Amendment right to freedom of religion, which goes far beyond just worship.

"FRC is respectfully requesting that the court allow us to participate in oral arguments to ensure a vigorous defense is made against a lawsuit that claims a national day of prayer - a tradition as old as the country itself - is unconstitutional. It is our hope that the Court will recognize that the American people deserve and expect their elected leaders to vigorously defend our constitutional right to religious freedom.

"The courts cannot ban free religious expression by citizens who participate in the NDP because such participation is not imposed. Neither the Constitution nor the NDP itself require any religious activity by anyone, anywhere. So, if permitted, we intend to present a convincing case that this is a perfect example of a harassing lawsuit that should have been dismissed at the outset," concluded Klukowski.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Statement by Governor Jan Brewer Comments Regarding Federal Border Security Efforts

"Part of my rationale for signing S.B. 1070 was to get the federal government to do its job and secure the border. Despite the mantra by the Obama administration that the border is 'as secure as ever,' in Arizona both Republicans and Democrats recognize they have failed. Their failure to date is borne out by today's announcement of more federal resources. While the announcement of more resources is welcomed, it does not appear to be enough, or tied to a strategy to comprehensively defeat the increasingly violent drug and alien smuggling cartels that operate in Arizona on a daily basis. We need the implementation of a federal plan to achieve victory over these brutal cartels and the porous nature of our open border."

Governor Jan Brewer
July 19, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ridiculous pornography trial violates Constitution

The federal trial of pornographer John Stagliano began last week. Libertarian National Committee Chairman Mark Hinkle issued the following statement July 15:

"The Obama Administration's prosecution of John Stagliano is a travesty.

"As Reason magazine's Richard Abowitz wrote, 'The case against Stagliano concerns the selling of movies performed by consenting adults to entertain adult DVD viewers who have chosen to watch these films. In a free and open society this is exactly the kind of prosecution that should not happen.'

"Many Americans find it far more obscene that Democrats and Republicans are piling trillions of dollars of debt on our children and grandchildren, in order to further the creation and expansion of bad federal programs. The president should be worrying more about these problems, and less about prosecuting and censoring Mr. Stagliano.

"Different people will have different opinions about how valuable or harmful Mr. Stagliano's products are. Fortunately, no one is forced to watch them.

"Federal anti-obscenity laws are unconstitutional in two ways. First, because the Constitution does not grant Congress any power to regulate or criminalize obscenity. And second, because the First Amendment guarantees the right of free speech.

"In addition, there appear to be serious irregularities in the judge's conduct of the trial. He is reportedly refusing to allow the defense to call expert witnesses; refusing to allow the jurors to see the entirety of the films, even though that is necessary to apply the legal tests required by earlier Supreme Court rulings; and refusing to allow the press to see evidence or the questionnaires that were used in jury selection.

"It is worth noting that this case was not initiated by citizen complaints. FBI agents just purchased the materials, watched them, and then brought charges. It's clear that the FBI budget needs to be cut.

"Apparently President Obama's Justice Department is no different than former President Bush's when it comes to prosecuting speech. Obama has sustained the 'Obscene Prosecution Task Force,' which was created by the Bush Administration in 2005."

The Libertarian Party's platform states, "We support full freedom of expression and oppose government censorship, regulation or control of communications media and technology."

Disclosure: John Stagliano has been a donor to the Libertarian National Committee.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

FRC Action: Donald Berwick's Views on Rationing Will Undermine U.S. Health Care System

/PRNewswire/ -- Today, the White House announced that Donald Berwick will be appointed to serve as the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Dr. Berwick is the President and CEO of the Institute for Health Care Improvement. He will play an instrumental role in implementing the recently-enacted health care overhaul law.

FRC Action Senior Vice President Tom McClusky released the following statement regarding the President's choice:

"Donald Berwick is another example of President Obama's extreme liberal agenda, and only the latest in President Obama's numerous missteps related to health care in America.

"Donald Berwick has stated himself that England's socialized medical services are better than those in the United States, and has said that 'any health care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must, must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate. Excellent health care is, by definition, redistributional.'

"Another quote from just last year shows how Dr. Berwick makes very clear his view of the government's role in health care. He stated in an interview that '[t]he decision is not whether or not we will ration care - the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.'

"Americans should keep their eyes open to guard their health from Donald Berwick's extreme view of medicine. He will only bring America's high standards for health care services down, and hurt Americans through rationing and lower standards of medical treatment."