Audit Notes: FHFA Suits, Corporate Taxes, SEC Out of Step

I’ve just skimmed through some of the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s huge lawsuits against seventeen big banks, but it was nice to see a lot of great press work cited.

Some examples I noticed: The Miami Herald’s excellent Borrowers Betrayed series, a Cleveland Plain Dealer subprime probe, Michael W. Hudson’s work on Argent/Ameriquest, The Seattle Times’s and New York Times’s probes of Washington Mutual, McClatchy’s Goldman Sachs investigation, and more.

Oh, and just to rub it in, the FHFA even cites Matt Taibbi in its lawsuit alleging fraud at Goldman Sachs.

— We’ve seen quite a few bogus arguments for why corporate tax rates should be lowered, but get a load of this from the WSJ’s Simon Constable:

When corporate analysts assess whether to build new factories they look at after-tax profits. To do that they make assumptions about corporate tax-rates. There’s the rub, because, get this, they don’t use the actual tax rate the company is paying — close to zero in many cases. No, the analysts use the corporate tax rate of 35%.

What’s really silly is that this analytical method is considered “best practices” in corporate America. I know, I used to do this type of work.

That somehow leads to this:

The question the White House should be asking this weekend is this: Which is easier: change the ingrained way corporations make their decisions; or change the tax-rate on profits that result from new investment?

Companies use dumb modeling therefore we should lower their taxes. Great idea.

— The Washington Post has a smart follow-up again on Matt Taibbi’s scoop that the SEC has been systematically destroying records from its preliminary investigations. The Post shows how abnormal SEC practices are by comparing it to other agencies:

The Financial Services Authority, a British counterpart to the SEC, regards its investigative records as “intelligence,” and it orders that they be retained for seven to 15 years, a spokeswoman said.

The policy is essentially “don’t get rid of them because you might need to use them,” FSA spokeswoman Sarah Bailey said. The FSA is one of the world’s premier financial regulators because of London’s role as a global financial capital.

The FBI, which polices some of the same offenses that the SEC does, keeps case files of all criminal investigations for at least 20 years after they are closed, officials said.

Then there are the matters that don’t even rate an FBI investigation — tips that are dismissed with little or no spadework. They are classified into hundreds of subject categories and are deposited in records known as “zero files.”

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,