Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Citigroup's big fine doesn't cover damage done

The $7 billion that Citigroup agreed to pay on Monday to settle a federal investigation into its irresponsible handling of subprime mortgages sounds like a hefty penalty. But it is not nearly enough to cover the damage created by the reckless behavior of Citigroup and other banks that contributed to the nation's economic meltdown. That is why it is important that the deal does not eliminate the possibility of criminal prosecution of bank executives and that the Obama administration does not back down on increased regulation of the financial industry.

Attorney General Eric Holder bragged that the fine includes a record $4 billion civil penalty, but let's put the numbers into perspective. While Citigroup will pay a total of $7 billion, it received $45 billion in taxpayer bailouts during the 2008 economic collapse. And $7 billion is just more than half of Citigroup's $13 billion profit last year. While Holder expects the fine to serve as a deterrent against risky mortgage lending practices, it is not going to leave a permanent mark. Citigroup's second-quarter earnings announced Monday beat expectations, and its stock price opened nearly 4 percent higher following news of the settlement, which brings some certainty for investors.

At least Citigroup did accept some responsibility and acknowledge wrongdoing. It agreed to a statement that bank employees knew some mortgage loans did not meet guidelines for credit scores for home buyers or were based on inflated appraisals. So Citigroup just made sure grades on some loans were changed and put them into bundles of subprime mortgages, effectively duping investors who had no idea what they were really buying. That was exactly the sort of behavior that helped overheat the housing market and trigger the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.

Holder agreed Monday that the deception "shattered lives," yet the Citigroup settlement money directed toward helping borrowers is not in proportion to the damage left behind in Florida and in thousands of households. The settlement includes $2.5 billion aimed at helping homeowners, including $820 million toward a program to modify mortgages or forgive some debt so homeowners would no longer owe more than their homes are worth. Smaller amounts will go to help homeowners refinance mortgages and finance affordable rental housing. The Obama administration should ensure that the assistance gets to homeowners as soon as possible and does not get tangled up in red tape as other mortgage relief efforts have in Florida and elsewhere.

This is neither the first nor the last check the Justice Department will collect from the banks that did so much damage to the economy. JPMorgan Chase & Co. settled last year for $13 billion and was able to make a large part of the payment tax-deductible. That was strongly criticized in Congress and elsewhere, and at least Citigroup's $4 billion fine will not be tax-deductible. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is expected to turn toward negotiating a settlement with Bank of America. Those talks reportedly stalled last month, suggesting there is still a significant gap between what the bank is offering and what the Justice Department will accept. That settlement should eclipse the JPMorgan deal.

Holder called Citigroup's behavior "egregious" on Monday and said the settlement is appropriate. But for too many homeowners who lost their homes and too many neighborhoods that have yet to recover from the economic collapse, it is too little, too late.

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Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18