The NYT ran a piece profiling former IBM executive and Bank of America adviser Hans-Olaf Henkel, who is now head of a German anti-euro party. While it discusses much of his background in business and politics, it neglected to mention his efforts to blame the U.S. housing bubble and financial crisis on anti-discrimination laws. Specifically, he attributed the crisis to the 1977 Community Re-investment Act (CRA), which prohibited banks from discriminating based on the racial compensation of a neighborhood and required them to invest in the areas from which they were drawing deposits.
As Henkel described the problem:
"Mr. Galbraith [University of Texas economist James Galbraith] should familiarize himself Jimmy Carter's "Housing and Community Development Act" where in Section VIII Banks were prohibited the practice of "red lining" which until then enabled them to distinguish 'better living quarters' and 'slums.'"
This tidbit would seem to provide an important insight into Mr. Henkel's background that deserves to be noted in a profile.
As a practical matter, Henkel's claim about the CRA is absurd on its face. Much of the sub-prime lending of the bubble years was done by financial institutions that were not covered by the CRA to areas that would not be covered. Huge subprime lenders like Ameriquest, Countrywide, and New Century mostly raised their money on Wall Street, not from bank deposits and therefore were not subject to CRA regulation. Furthermore much of the lending was to newly built exurbs that would not be covered by the CRA, which was intended to protect inner city neighborhoods.
The subprime loans were made for the old-fashioned reason, they were hugely profitable. Bankers don't need government bureaucrats to tell them to make money.
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