Trump and Dodd-Frank – What You Don’t Know

In 2009, I began working for several financial sites –  mostly keeping up with their blogs and some white papers. It wasn’t too long before the 2009 CARD Act was signed into law and within a year after that, so was Dodd-Frank Act.  I had to immerse myself in a crash course as to what these laws meant for consumers. Both were straight out of the Obama Administration.

It wouldn’t take long to realize the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was founded under Dodd-Frank, was a different regulatory agency. Under the guidance of Director Richard Cordray, many Americans saw there were government agencies that really had no ulterior motives. Let me say this: most of those who drive the financial sector machine in this country are reliable, honest and truly work to do good each day. It’s the ones who don’t, the ones who can’t see past the dollar signs, who cause so many problems.

This week, less than a month into his term, President Trump has effectively unraveled every protection Americans had against everythingcapture-20170215-182226 from “too big to fail” banks (JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Bank of America), predatory college loans, insane interest rates on mortgages, and much more. By repealing Dodd-Frank, he’s also eliminating all of those financial protections the average American relies on. By the way, it’s important to note, this was the solution to ensure we would never see another mortgage meltdown that we saw in 2008 with the record number of foreclosures for millions of American families.

Here’s what you might not know:

February 5, when asked by a reporter what his intentions were, President Trump said “We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank.”  He said this during a White House meeting with big business leaders and bank presidents, including JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. That’s a problem.

It’s interesting that the president would say something like this during a meeting with Dimon and his counterparts, mostly because of the headache CFPB has been for many of these CEOs – and most certainly JPMorgan’s leader. Here are just a few of the clashes JPMorgan Chase has had with CFPB.

CFPB Orders Chase and JPMorgan Chase to Pay $309 Million Refund for Illegal Credit Card Practices

SEP 19, 2013

CFPB Takes Action Against Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase for Illegal Mortgage Kickbacks

JAN 22, 2015

CFPB, 47 States and D.C. Take Action Against JPMorgan Chase for Selling Bad Credit Card Debt and Robo-Signing Court Documents

JUL 08, 2015

CFPB isn’t reserved just for the banks. It has also focused on predatory lending on everything from payday loans to mortgages to aggressive collection actions:

CFPB Takes Action Against Two Law Firms for Misrepresenting Attorney Involvement to Collect on Medical Debts This one ordered medical debt collection law firms to refund $577,135 to consumers.

JAN 09, 2017

CFPB Takes Action Against NewDay Financial for Deceptive Mortgage Advertising and Kickbacks

FEB 10, 2015

CFPB Takes Action Against ACE Cash Express for Pushing Payday Borrowers Into Cycle of Debt

JUL 10, 2014

This agency has sought to protect consumers on all things financial, including student loans and the aggressive manner in which collection agencies collect debts. Imagine your parents filing for social security and being told they couldn’t until YOUR student loans from thirty years ago were paid back. That’s what this agency does – takes these kinds of disturbing companies down. Well,  maybe not so much now.

The reality is Trump had an opportunity to fix what wasn’t working with Dodd-Frank. In all honestly, the accounting and different regulations are confusing. I’m sure there are analysts who can dissect the law far better than I could begin to understand. I’ll leave that to them. In terms of the every day family with typical challenges and not knowing who to trust in the financial sector, this is a real disappointment – even if no one realizes it right away. Mark my words – you’ll soon see the next time you apply for a college loan or a mortgage and feel like a loan officer is playing fast and loose on your unfamiliarity of contracts or if an unethical debt collector begins seeking you out on social media.


Conglomerates, MLPs, Chevron – Reality Check

oildownRemember back in the 70s and early 80s, everything was all about the conglomerates? Companies gobbled up smaller companies, with everyone – except those in the larger companies who knew better – believing all was safe and good in Corporate America. Only problem was, the smaller companies were not only gobbled, but spit out, part by part until there was nothing left but a sad memory, a warm beer and some country music song to send it out. Eventually, this seemingly “strengthening” effort of the larger companies became their downfall. By picking and choosing through the process of piecing different parts, these conglomerates themselves became weakened and were quickly deemed relics of days gone by. This corporate strategy was all fine and good for a little while, but it simply wasn’t financially feasible. It was a failure, but it took more than a decade for it to come full circle. Sometimes, bigger is not better.

Now, though, we have the master limited partnerships. These trusts are designed with more than a few benefits in mind, most importantly, their tax advantages. Few things in the American economy are taxed just once. Take estate planning, for instance, people with considerable wealth set up trusts for their assets so that those who receive their inheritances don’t have to worry about estate taxes eating up what their loved ones worked their lives to provide. MLPs work in a similar way. They’re designed to bypass some of the taxes, at least temporarily. It gets complicated because of the absence of the familiar 1099s in lieu of the sometimes complicated S K-1 forms.

At any rate, MLPs are found in the energy sector – oil companies, upstream, midstream and downstream companies, etc. and are traded on the securities markets. They contain several different entities from seemingly unlikely acquisitions, such as retail stores. They’re supposed to be the cure-all, except oil and gas is struggling…as in struuuugggggling.

The big players, of course – Chevron, Exxon and the like are holding on by a thread. The question is: why? These companies have been through it all. Nothing’s working. Their earnings – are they even still an option at this point? Cash flow? That’s a joke. And despite talk of the future, with big promises, it’s simply too far out. Not only that, but the money to secure this future is borrowed. Just like the conglomerates of yesteryear, these companies are just too bulky, are laying off left and right and frankly, are threatening the entire sector. The reality is this sector is fragile. There are too many things unfolding that ensure it doesn’t regain quickly and depending on the damage Obama can do in his final days in office, it could be permanent. The one thing anyone who relies on this industry wants to see is the big daddies sitting pretty. They’re not.

Without going too much into the outside factors, including Iran, Russia and China and other dynamics – most of which I’ve written about extensively in the past, it’s time to shoot the ailing dog. The days of $100 per barrel are gone. Even with a comeback, those who are underestimating Obama’s goals are fools. There’s a reason he’s been quiet the past few weeks and if you’re wondering what he’s been up to, look no further than here and here – you probably haven’t seen either of these stories in the 5 o’clock news, what with the Trump/Kelly war and of course, the U.S./Cuba new best friend status. Don’t underestimate him; the fact that the Iran sanctions are now moot is proof that he does hold power, God help us all. I’ve said for more than a year that shale’s too expensive and with the state of the entire sector, those who insist on pushing it might as well line their horizontal drills with their dollars.

While we’ve yet to see the “too big to fail” banks really pay their dues for the havoc they wreaked in 2008 and earlier, the energy sector, even with the protective mama bear MLPs, won’t enjoy the same fate, but will likely go down in a flaming ball of good intentions, just as the conglomerates did years ago. There is no Reagan or Bush White House. And, if you’re keeping up: Rick Perry, despite Kelcy Warren’s millions, is sinking fast.

The Day the World Noticed

I can’t remember a more bizarre day than what we saw today. It’s, well, it’s just hard to even find a word that comes close to describing it. But let’s see if we can’t get it hammered out.

Before I even get into all of the strange and baffling nonsense, there is no way I’m letting the John Kerry circus freakshow slide. It would be criminal to not bring it full circle, even if it is likely the most embarrassing and jaw dropping decision ever made in politics and at the expense of our nation. Yeah, it’s that hokey. As bad as I hate flying, I’d have paid big money to have witnessed this first hand.

John Kerry showed up in France with none other than James Taylor. And then Taylor serenaded the entire nation with Kerry, in true roadie form, watching and wanting so bad to sing with him (you could just tell). Oh, and that woman? Talk about a completely awkward position of having to hold the mic as Taylor crooned “You’ve Got a Friend”. Never, ever, ever should a Democrat be allowed again to make fun of President Bush’s loose take on the English language.

This happened overnight, so it’s not exactly breaking news anymore; I won’t dwell on it. I will say, however, his quote made in Bulgaria that he intends “to share a big hug with Paris and express the affection of the American people for France and for our friends there who have been through a terrible time,” is already going in my Top 10 end of the year list.

And now, I’ll allow the video and the Twitterverse to wrap this up:

Here’s the video – fair warning: prepare yourself for 3 minutes and 39 seconds of sheer horrific deliciousness.

I’m telling y’all – this has Jen Psaki all over it.

Here are a few of the groovy tweets that have entertained me all day (and there are so many):

So, while that’s ridiculous and silly, there were other closer-to-reality-though-still-hokey events unfolding.

President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron shared a press conference today that began, typically, with a classic Obama pre-emptive strike or maybe he was establishing that whole bromance thingey:


And then, about thirty minutes in, he said:


OK, well, let’s see. Here’s the thing – there is so much wrong that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of jobs, the economy and everything else that supports this nation. So, with that in mind, I thought a bit of perspective might be good.

Ma, What’s for Supper?

More than 50 years ago, President Johnson earmarked $20 trillion to fight poverty in this nation. Under the Obama Administration, records are being broken and not in a good way. President Johnson would be disappointed:

47 million Americans receive food stamps. This is 13 million more than when he took office.

More than 50 million Americans are living below the poverty line.

His administration loves to tell the tale of how it pulled 12.6 million out of poverty since 2009. What it doesn’t tell is that another 13.5 fell into poverty.

One of the biggest indicators of whether a child will live in poverty is a matter of whether that child is born to single mothers. A whopping 42 percent of all babies born today are born in one-parent households.

Today, the New York Times reports:

Study Finds Widespread Poverty Among U.S. Public School Children

The Real Fear

And now, let’s get to the heart of the matter because trust me – this is the dirty little secret many are still trying to keep hidden away.

As we know, oil is taking a beating, what with OPEC calling the shots, Russia keeping its hand close and all of the repercussions that are now being felt, I’m surprised it took a few weeks for the tension to build.

United Arab Emirates Oil Minister Suhail bin Mohammed al-Mazroui gave comments at an energy conference in Abu Dhabi and said, “The strategy will not change,” noting also that he expected no sudden rebound and he believes these prices will actually stabilize for the next few years.

Energy shares are way down – last week, they lost 8 percent. The big players in the sector are all being downgraded, as oil continues its downward tumble. Take a look at the logistics –

Goldman Sachs nearly halved its three month forecast for Brent crude, from $80 to now $42 per barrel with assurances that prices would continue to stay low.

Also this week, Goldman Sachs made significant reductions in its targets for energy stocks.

Oceaneering International lowered its target price by $10 to $64, indicative of a massive 28 percent decline.

If that weren’t bad enough, RIG has lost nearly 67 percent of its value and is barely hanging on to its $16.10 share price.

Goodrich Petroleum CorpNASDAQ and Zacks have said it may be a stock worth dropping and noted, “The stock also has seen some pretty dismal trading lately, as the share price has dropped 23.9% in the past month.”

Regency Energy Partners was downgraded by analysts at Morgan Stanley. It’s now rated as “underweight”. That was announced today, right before a report was sent to investors and clients outlining the less than rosy news.

Morgan Stanley’s not the only one, though. Credit Suisse downgraded Regency from “outperform” to “neutral” and The Street downgraded from “buy” to “hold”. This all happened in the past few days.

Transocean Ltd. – Every analyst – 16 in total – have issued nothing better than a “hold’

So how does all of this look from a jobs perspective?

On Thursday, oilfield dominator Schlumberger announced it was letting go of a whopping 9,000 employees.

Dallas Federal Reserve reports it expects at least 128,000 lost jobs –in Texas alone – by mid-2015 “if West Texas Intermediate crude oil remains around $55.00 a barrel”. (Stocks closed today with WTI crude at $46.25 a barrel).

Also this week, U.S. Steel Corp, which makes the pipes and various tubes for the sector, and specifically for oilfield drilling, is laying off 142 people in Houston.

JPMorgan Chase’s U.S. economist says a recession in Texas is a strong possibility. Alberta, Canada is already preparing for a recession.

Fitch Ratings said this week that low oil prices could affect “economic and revenue trends for certain cities, counties and school districts” in states that rely heavily on the sector.

Meanwhile, this also means that every other sector will feel the burn. Fitch explained that other “economically sensitive revenue at hotels, restaurants, retailers and construction will suffer”. Banks are bracing for debt defaults and investments are being cancelled already.

At least two contract drillers, Helmerich & Payne and Energy Services Corp. admit that clients are paying early termination fees to rescind contracts. Caterpillar is already warning of a lower forecast for 2015.

Bringing it Around

While the country braces for the bottom to fall out, unsure of whether it will or won’t and how it might or might not affect their families, Obama said not once, but at least twice today during the presser that the economy’s strong and that the U.S. and UK are rocking the good news wagon (you can read the entire transcript here). Clearly, that’s not true. And I’ve not even touched the whole free tuition, free widespread Wi-Fi and the increase in minimum wage and how he intends on paying for it. I’m sure, though, he’ll outline it all in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

So, what now? Well, it’d be great if we could ask the president, but he’s hosting an exclusive party tonight with the cast of the film Selma, as well as the rapper Common and John Legend who were nominated for song of the year that links 1965 and 2014 using references to police brutality. This party is, I suppose, a consolation prize for not being nominated, even though the song and film were, well, both nominated for Oscars.

Now, before you get upset about taxpayer dollars being used to soothe bruised egos with a shindig at the White House, even as poverty ticks up and fears about the job market grow each minute, just remember, it’s not going to be anything near the $4 million we paid for the 17 day vacay to Hawaii last month. Or, at least, we hope it won’t.

JPMorgan Fines for 2013 (So Far)

It boggles the mind that a bank (or any business entity) can get away with the unethical and illegal practices the way JP Morgan, Bank of America and the other “Big Banks” have managed. And worse? They continue to rake in huge profits, despite the billions in fines they’re being forced to pay – by the U.S. and other countries. Here’s a look at what JPMorgan Chase has paid in 2013 alone – and the year’s not over, even as some of these cases – and hopefully criminal cases – are heating up. Click the image to open the inforgraphic.


Summer 2013 Newsletter

The latest It’s All About the Right Writing newsletter is up – complete with a new host for viewing. I think Adobe is going to be a great fit, especially considering I convert to pdf before I release them. Click here or click the icon.

Summer 2013 Newsletter

White Paper, Anyone?

I’ve noticed a lot of white papers over the past year. Actually, I’ve found some great ones that have been enormously useful. So, I thought maybe it’s time I take a leap of my own into this really versatile avenue of writing. Here’s my first attempt


The Far Out World According to Andy Nortnik

They say behind every great man is an inspiring, supportive and incredible woman. If you ask Andy Nortnik, a andy-nortniktrue retro artist with an endless source of talent, you’ll hear him give his wife credit for the success he’s found as a freelance artist – and to call it “success” seems so inadequate for the talent behind the name. You’ll also hear him say he has no regrets about leaving the lucrative private sector in search of opportunities to really delve into his passions, “…it wasn’t as hard as you might think.” Still, it was a leap of faith, especially when you’re looking at his impressive resume: a senior artist for a Fortune 100 company – MCI/WordCom, an art director for Arthur Andersen Consulting and a production artist for an ad agency. Still, in 2000, back when words like “housing market crash” and “fiscal cliff” were never even mumbled, Andy Nortnik made that crucial decision to leave the excruciatingly long days at the office behind. It’s a dream most can relate to, but only few rarely ever see come full circle. 

If he was worried about leaving the private sector, complete with the prestigious employers, he was about to realize another fact that few are ever made privy to: living your passion, when you’re good, is the true foundation for success. And that’s probably about the time he realized that his wife knew it all along. Her faith was well-placed, indeed.  No longer was he working a job that felt like a burden; these days, he was chasing those dreams, catching them and then allowing them to serve as the foundation for his own version of the popular Fluxus Movement, reminiscent of the late 1950s and into the early 1960s. This artistic movement was defined simply as the absence of boundaries.

Soon, clients were flocking to him, sure that he was born a generation too late. No one so young has been able to recreate the senses, energy or even mindset of those who lived through the fantastic 50s. And don’t make the mistake of assuming his works are scans of images created during that decade; his work is all original. His inspiration is as pure as it comes, just as is his art manages to capture the essence – the vibrancy – of the times.

George Brecht, a conceptual artist who was as respected as an artist can be, said in the late 1950s:

In Fluxus there has never been any attempt to agree on aims or methods; individuals with something unnamable…have simply naturally coalesced to publish and perform their work. Perhaps this common thing is a feeling that the bounds of art are much wider than they have conventionally seemed, or that art and certain long established bounds are no longer very useful.

Nortnik personifies that concept and you see it in his art. While the rest of the world’s graphic artists focus on the latest Paint Shop brushes, Andy looks to the past for his inspiration. Those were the simpler days when traditions ruled, good manners were synonymous with a proper upbringing and the beauties out of  Hollywood didn’t come with addictions and immaturity. Cowboys were rock stars and starlets were a bit more proper, at least in the public eye. The 1950s are still magical; even those younger generations who haven’t lived enough to even feel nostalgia can appreciate the era.

Andy has found a way to combine the latest in technology with his passion for retro and  vintage art work. The result is a collection of magnificent digital images – all of which are his own designs.

For anyone who grew up during the 1980s, there’s a common ribbon of bittersweet familiarity that flows through our veins. When we want to feel young again, we break out those cassettes of Tina Turner, REO Speedwagon and maybe even Bon Jovi and we allow ourselves to climb right back into the mindset of who we were then. Ah, but when we’re looking for that comfort, the safer realties of our past, we go even further back; back to a time that existed long before we were even born. We break out the DVDs of The Andy Griffith Show or any of the Lucille Ball classics. Rocking out with the hair bands screaming from the old scratchy cassette tapes allows us to feel reckless, or as reckless as a forty-something can be dancing awkwardly around the living room; but for comfort, we dig a bit deeper and travel a bit further into the past.

Nortnik says his work allows him to live “vicariously through nostalgic illustrations”. It’s funny that his clients say the same thing: his work also allows them to live vicariously through his nostalgic illustrations.

His website is chock full of those retro images. The attention to detail is flawless and the spectacular hues and shadows are nothing short of gorgeous. With plenty of World War II pin up girls, those vintage artistic efforts towards western art and the cowboys who roamed the countryside and a generous supply of the fonts and matte color combinations, Andy Nortnik has raised the bar for all things digital art.

All of his work is for sale, most available as instant downloads. His clip art collections incorporate Pantone Matching System colors, a modern assurance that the art is as crisp as the images one sees on his computer screen. Many clients purchase his clipart with the goal of incorporating a 1950s inspired theme into their home décor choices; others have ideas of a great facelift for the websites. Whatever their reasons, his first time visitors have become long-term clients and in the end, isn’t that really what defines success?

These days, Nortnik continues to enjoy the success his freelancing efforts bring. He’s also in the process of launching another business, this time, the focus is on custom made metal sculpture and lighting pieces. It’s groovy, man.

For more information on Andy Nortnik and his freelance business or to browse his portfolio and purchase his work, start with his Clip Art collection. You can also follow him on Twitter @clip_art.