Democratic, folksy North Carolina Congressman and angry financial services crusader Rep. Brad Miller gladly and fielded claims with little hesitation on a conference call today to discuss the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s lawsuit against the 17 largest banks. Primer: The FHFA is suing these banks (here’s your scorecard) for unloading onto Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac a bunch of piss-poor mortgages in (what they feel were) opaque financial sausage-casings designed to hide the bad meat (or: loans which would never be paid off) that went into those things, which, when they defaulted, cost the taxpayer-subsidized FHFA a bunch of money. So now they’re mad, and suing! (It’s quite a turnaround from when they used to defend themselves, but whatever.) To say Rep. Miller has helped spearhead efforts would be gravely understating the case, but it’s worth noting that he doesn’t actually work for the FHFA. Either way, highlights of the phone call, from most to least exciting:
1. After Zero Hedge Tweeted out the phone number for the call, a bunch of people who weren’t reporters climbed on.
2. It resulted in the following exchange:
ASSHOLE: So, come on, what’s the purpose of this call, then? Is it just PR for you?
REP. BRAD MILLER: “Well, uh, I…”
ANGRY PRESS SECRETARY: “I’ll take that. It’s an informational call for credentialed reporters. Any other questions from credentialed reporters?”
3. Rep. Miller didn’t know the answer to whether or not the private label securities and issues in the Bank of America housing lawsuit are separate from his lawsuit. “It seems likely that they are the same,” he noted, “but I don’t have any independent confirmation.”
4. He said the words “to not pursue claims that a private litigant would pursue would be a subsidy (to banks)” or some variant of them about nine times (approximately, by our count).
5. Rep. Miller’s from North Carolina, where Bank of America—the largest defendant named in the suit, on the whole—is based (in Charlotte). He fumbled over questions about how this would affect his home state’s big private-sector employer:
REPORTER: As you said, Bank of America is over $50B of the $250B here. Are you concerned that this lawsuit could have a catastrophic effect on the bank or…
REP. MILLER: I think that the rule of law really does require that we peruse those claims, if [people's] legal rights are violated. To think that those claims should not be perused or obstructed in the case of private litigants is destructive. I think the public has a right to know that, um, these largest banks are not getting an backdoor subsidy [someone on line audibly laughs] or bailout. I understand that Bank of America has been under pressure because of mortgage litigation, but this is not news, and has been a long time coming. Regulators have had ample opportunity to take this into account. Bank of America is in a far better position to raise capital six months ago or a year ago than they are now.
You parse that.
6. Unrestrained Shots at Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee:
REPORTER: Can you comment on Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee’s response to the suit?
REP. MILLER: I’ve been in North Carolina, I haven’t been up there. But…there has been precious little interest on the part of Republicans to pursue claims or to allow litigants to pursue claims. They have been very critical of any attempts to hold securitization efforts accountable.
Takeaway: Brad Miller will let you know someone somewhere is suing the banks and he’s psyched about it. Republicans, who stand in his way, are not. Conference call codes are better left not leaked out.
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