White House officials are considering new candidates for at least one and possibly both empty seats on the Federal Reserve Board for President Donald Trump to nominate, Bloomberg News reported. Fed economist Nellie Liang withdrew from consideration earlier this month for one of the vacancies. Less clear is whether the White House will re[-]nominate Carnegie Mellon University economist Marvin Goodfriend. Efforts the White House has made to contact potential new nominees show that, despite Liang’s withdrawal and the delay in a decision on re[-]nominating Goodfriend, the administration isn’t putting on hold appointments to the Fed board. Trump nominated Goodfriend for the board in 2017, but the Senate didn’t vote on his confirmation. Goodfriend didn’t appear on a list of dozens of re-nominations the White House submitted to the Senate this year.
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO) estimates that federal courts can sustain funded operations through Jan. 31, according to an AO press release. The Judiciary continues to explore ways to conserve funds so it can sustain paid operations through Feb. 1. No further extensions beyond Feb. 1 will be possible. The Judiciary previously had revised its estimate for exhausting available funds from Jan. 18 to Jan. 25. The extensions have been achieved through a multi-pronged strategy of deferring non-critical operating costs and utilizing court filing fees and other available balances. Most of the measures are temporary stopgaps, and the Judiciary will face many deferred payment obligations after the partial government shutdown ends. In recent weeks, courts and federal public defender offices have delayed or deferred non-mission-critical expenses, such as new hires, non-case-related travel, and certain contracts. Judiciary employees have been reporting to work and currently are in full-pay status.
The longest government shutdown in modern U.S. history is choking the economic lifeblood of many entrepreneurs, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Small Business Administration has stopped approving routine small-business loans that the agency backs to ensure entrepreneurs have access to funds, halting their plans for expansion and repairs and forcing some owners to consider costlier sources of cash. SBA loans are a mainstay for many entrepreneurs, who generally can borrow as much as $5 million to start, buy, expand or run a small business through the agency’s two biggest programs. While the SBA doesn’t directly fund small-business owners, it covers as much as 90 percent of loan losses, giving an incentive to banks and other financial institutions to finance businesses they might not otherwise serve. Lenders say they are still taking loan applications and closing loans that have already received SBA approval. But it isn’t clear when borrowers will get financing. “About half the loans going through due diligence now aren’t going to be able to close before the government opens up,” said John Moshier, president of small business lending at Ready Capital Corp., a licensed nonbank SBA lender in New Providence, N.J.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is changing course on its previous decision to stop supervising lending to active duty service members, HousingWire.com reported. Kathy Kraninger, the recently confirmed director of the bureau, sent a letter to Congress yesterday, asking for “clear authority” to supervise for compliance with the Military Lending Act. This turnaround comes several months after Mick Mulvaney, who served as acting director of the CFPB prior to Kraninger’s confirmation, decided that the bureau would stop supervising lending made to active duty service members. Much to the dismay of congressional Democrats, who pushed the CFPB to retain oversight. Under Mulvaney’s changes, the CFPB relied solely on complaints from service members and their families to trigger investigations. Mulvaney had reportedly expressed that the bureau had overstepped its authority by proactively looking into cases against military members without receiving complaints. Now, Kraninger has sent a proposal to clarify the CFPB’s authority to supervise compliance with the Military Lending Act to Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The proposal outlines a case for spelling out clearly what authority the CFPB would have over supervising military lending and proposes amending several sections of the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 to outline that, according to the draft, “the Bureau shall have nonexclusive authority to require reports and conduct examinations” in regard to lending to military service members.
Heightened scrutiny on bankruptcy advisers’ conflict disclosures by the U.S. Trustee Program is sending a new and forceful message that current practices among some participants are likely to face challenges from the Justice Department and has already resulted in greater transparency in two chapter 11 cases, the Wall Street Journal reported. A judge in New York overseeing the Synergy Pharmaceuticals Inc. bankruptcy today will be asked to decide whether to approve Centerview Partners LLC as an adviser to the company on its reorganization. An objection last week from the U.S. Trustee citing “vague client confidentiality concerns” prompted Centerview yesterday to identify by name a connection it previously had sought to keep secret. (Subscription required.)
The Federal Reserve has linked rising student debt to a drop in homeownership among young Americans and the flight of college graduates from rural areas, two big shifts that have helped reshape the U.S. economy, the Wall Street Journal reported. The effect of student debt on the economy has been debated in recent years, as the total has soared to $1.5 trillion, surpassing Americans’ credit-card and car-loan bills. Congress and various White House administrations have pointed to federal student loans as a key way for Americans to pay for college and boost their career earnings. Critics have said the debt is damaging the economic prospects of a generation of Americans. The Fed research published Wednesday didn’t offer a verdict on those assertions. But it showed that student debt is linked to key life decisions for some — including whether to buy a home and where to live. Homeownership among people ages 24 to 32 fell 9 percentage points, to 36 percent from 45 percent, between 2005 and 2014, the Fed said. While many factors affected the homeowner rate, the Fed said 2 percentage points, or about a fifth, of the decline was tied directly to student debt. That translated into 400,000 borrowers who could have owned a home by 2014 but didn’t because of student loans.
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday turned away a Texas bank’s constitutional challenge to the structure of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, passing up a case that could have led to more presidential power over an independent agency that President Donald Trump’s administration already has weakened, Reuters reported. The decision by the justices not to hear an appeal by State National Bank of Big Spring may not be the final word on the matter as three other cases involving the CFPB are heading toward the high court. At issue was whether the CFPB’s sole director possesses too much power in violation of the authority the U.S. Constitution gives a president to appoint and remove certain federal officials. A ruling in favor of the bank could have allowed a president to fire the agency’s director for any reason. The Texas bank’s challenge was delayed in reaching the justices because it was put on hold while the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dealt with a case involving mortgage servicer PHH Corp that had raised the same issues. Only eight of the nine justices on the court, which has a 5-4 conservative majority, participated in the decision to hear the case. Trump’s appointee Brett Kavanaugh recused himself, most likely because he took part in an earlier ruling in the case before joining the high court last October.
The average millennial (aged 18 to 34) had about $36,000 in personal debt, excluding home mortgages, last year, according to Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning & Progress Study. That debt can feel both crushing — and endless. Just over 60 percent of millennials (classified here as those aged 18-37) with debt don’t know when, or if, they’ll ever be able to pay off what they owe, according to a new CreditCards.com report. That includes roughly 42 percent of millennials who don’t know when they’ll be able to wipe out their debt, and almost 20 percent of those who expect to die in debt. There are some bright spots in the data: Among those aged 18 to 30 with credit card debt specifically, 79 percent say they have a plan to wipe it out. On average, they expect to be debt-free by age 43, CreditCards.com finds.
Still, a lot of young people are feeling trapped. A lot of older people, too: Over 35 percent of those over age 73 predict that they’ll never pay off their debt.
The partial government shutdown has left some companies unable to get a taxpayer identification number from the IRS, holding up routine business deals until the agency’s workers return, the Wall Street Journal reported. Andy Mattson, an accountant with Moss Adams LLP in California who advises Silicon Valley companies, said the number-issuing halt has delayed deals for startups, some of which are based offshore to prevent double taxation of investors. Without a tax identification number, a foreign startup can’t get bank accounts to receive venture-capital money or make crucial tax elections, Mattson said. The shutdown’s impact on small businesses reaches beyond the slowdown in new identification numbers. “We have a buyer, but the buyer can’t actually take ownership of the business,” said Thompson. “All our tax planning is done. We are retiring. We are trying to be done, but it’s not happening.” The IRS system is still processing online requests for new taxpayer identification numbers. Many businesses in the U.S. or a U.S. territory can use the online system. But paper applications that need to be processed by IRS workers are stuck for now. Physical applications are typically made by foreign companies and by some companies in complicated financial situations. The IRS has been operating with a skeleton staff since the shutdown started on Dec. 22. Just one in eight employees are working, largely to maintain computer systems and investigate crimes, according to the IRS’s shutdown plan. Under federal law, the IRS can generally still perform activities needed to protect life and government property, including tax revenue.
Corporate bankruptcy cases unfolding in the nation’s federal courts are largely continuing during the government shutdown, even if it means furloughed Justice Department lawyers have to work for free, the Wall Street Journal reported. While the country’s bankruptcy courts have enough money to operate normally at least until Jan. 18, Justice Department officials are only allowed to play a limited role in continuing corporate bankruptcy cases during the shutdown. Some major cases are proceeding anyway. On Friday, a Delaware bankruptcy judge rejected the Justice Department’s request to pause the bankruptcy case of hospital operator Promise Healthcare Group LLC, which cares for more than 9,000 patients. Justice Department lawyers said their oversight power has been weakened by the government shutdown. Promise officials had argued that halting the case could scare off buyers who are interested in its 16 hospitals and two nursing homes. The Boca Raton, Fla., company employs about 4,500 people in nine states. Justice Department officials who are working without pay asked on Wednesday to halt the case, citing the heavily regulated nature of Promise’s operations. “I have limited ability to continue reviewing orders and participating in hearings,” Justice Department lawyer Danielle Pham told Judge Christopher Sontchi during a Friday hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del.