Monday, May 11, 2009

Ohio to Blame for National City's Demise

Via Null Space, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland has issued a report that investigates the disparity in foreclosure rates between Cuyahoga (Cleveland) and Allegheny (Pittsburgh) Counties. An article in Crain's makes obvious the cause:

“Ohio in general was the wild, wild West,” Cuyahoga County treasurer Jim Rokakis said. “When it came to regulation, there wasn’t any.”

Mr. Rokakis said that wasn’t the case in Pennsylvania, where the state did a better job of cracking down on predatory lenders. His attempts to lobby legislators in Columbus to strengthen this state’s regulations and monitoring were often rebuffed, Mr. Rokakis said.

Claudia Coulton, co-director of the Center on Urban Poverty & Community Development and a professor of urban research and social change at the Mandel School of Applied Social Science at Case Western Reserve University, said the huge lobbying effort by lenders against such regulations likely contributed to a lack of control here, and the explosion of the region’s foreclosure problem.

People in Ohio “needed better consumer protection,” Ms. Coulton said. Many new homeowners were cheated by the fine print.

In Pennsylvania, the state benefited from a wave of foreclosures earlier in the decade that led to the drafting of more stringent lending legislation, said Sabina Deitrick, an assistant professor of urban affairs in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.

Ms. Deitrick said because Pennsylvania “reigned in things” earlier in the decade, the state positioned itself to minimize the impact of another wave of foreclosures. In Ohio, she said, there were fewer limitations and fewer rules monitoring what people could do.

“It looks like a free-for-all,” she said. “The volume here was not the same. There were fewer controls on people getting loans and lenders in the Ohio market.”

Bad mortgages helped to undermine National City. You might say that the Cleveland bank shot itself in the foot. Instead of blaming Pittsburgh or national economic recovery policies, Cleveland should hold its own politicians into account for the job losses and the damaged civic pride.


Kevin Leeson said...

The politicians in Cleveland and other big cities actually did their jobs. They passed predatory lending legislation, but by 2002, those laws were wiped out by the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature. It wasn't until 2006 that the legislature passed a bill regulating the mortgage market.

Jim Russell said...


Thanks for the clarification.

This passage got my attention:

"Between 1999 and 2000, banks alone contributed almost $400,000 to reelection campaigns in the Ohio House and Senate (most of it went to Republicans, with Democrats getting about $50,000), according to campaign finance records compiled by government watchdog Ohio Citizen Action."

What was Nat City's role in the lobbying scandal? Are the hands of Cleveland bank executives clean?

Kevin Leeson said...

I suspect that refers to this report, which says that National City gave about $151,000. That put them at number 30 in the list of top organizational contributors.

Jim Russell said...

$151,000 out of the $400,000 cited? Looks as if Banc One was the only bank to give more money at $173,238. More than 75% of the total donations between those two.

The Cleveland Free Times is clear that the bank lobby trumped local efforts to clamp down on predatory lending. Doesn't exactly paint a flattering picture of the National City leadership and its relationship with Cleveland.

Kevin Leeson said...

Bingo. See item five in this post by Bill Callahan about the bank takeover.

Jim Russell said...

"... it was National City, more than any other local bank, that fought to stop the City of Cleveland from passing and enforcing a modest predatory lending ordinance that could have headed off a lot of the foreclosure carnage we’ve suffered."

Thanks again for the education on this issue. The truth of the matter is even more insidious than I suspected.