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Bill Cooper’s TCF sues the Federal Reserve over fees

ALSO: More Bachmann news, Minnesota’s Tea Party and more Hecker developments.

No one messes with Bill Cooper, the notoriously crusty CEO of TCF Bank (and former state Republican chairman), not even the federal government. Cooper now has his bank suing the Federal Reserve over new rules — under the recently passed financial reform law — that will limit fees banks like TCF can charge businesses for customers using debit cards. Martin Moylan at MPR writes: “TCF argues the legislation directing the Fed to determine the fees is unfair and unconstitutional. Last year, TCF had about $100 million in fee income from those cards, most of the money coming from merchants. TCF has said the average fee charged was about 1.3 percent. But Bill Cooper, TCF’s CEO, said he can’t tell how much revenue could be lost with caps on fees charged merchants. ‘It remains to be seen, if indeed this law is found to be constitutional, what the final impact will be,’ Cooper said.” Before adding this: “… I’ve just got to tell you, people are afraid of the government today.” Moylan quotes Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who introduced the amendment, saying, “ ‘TCF’s complaint not only fundamentally misunderstands the law regarding interchange fees, but it also ignores the facts.’ ”

The Wall Street Journal story says: “U.S. banks collect an estimated $20 billion a year from the debit-card fees, long opposed by merchants who contend that they are too high. Banks typically charge merchants 0.75% to 1.25% on each transaction. Such fees usually are lower than those charged to merchants for credit-card transactions. Analysts expect TCF to be hit unusually hard if interchange fees on debit cards decline. The company is the 10th-largest issuer of consumer debit cards under the Visa logo and ranks 34th in assets among publicly traded U.S. banks. TCF has generated $55.7 million in debit-card revenues this year, or an estimated 9.1% of its revenue, according to Sandler O’Neill & Partners LP.”

Quite remarkably, the Power Line boys, with their very close ties to Mr. Cooper, are completely on board with this suit. In a blog post titled “A Lawsuit for the Age of Obama,” Scott Johnson writes: “The amendment directs the Federal Reserve to issue implementing regulations in a matter of months. The amendment is an ill advised piece of special interest legislation in the guise of consumer protection. If anyone, it will serve to benefit the retail industry that supported its passage. TCF National Bank is a regional bank … whose parent holding company is led by straight talking chairman and chief executive officer Bill Cooper. (Full disclosure: TCF is my former employer and Bill is a friend whom I greatly admire.)” Should we also assume Mr. Cooper provides no financial support to Power Line?

Meanwhile, another (very) big bank operating locally is saying it will review but not halt home foreclosures. A story by the San Francisco Business Times says: “Wells Fargo said Tuesday it’s now reviewing all pending foreclosures in 23 states where judges monitor foreclosure proceedings, the first wavering in Wells’ resolve not to backtrack on home seizures. For now, Wells said it’s sticking with its plans to not halt foreclosures.” And: “Wells Fargo’s latest comments come as a coalition of as many as 40 attorneys general is expected to announce a foreclosure probe Wednesday in which they reportedly seek loan restructuring and principal forgiveness. Such a move will send shock waves throughout the housing finance system. But attorneys general in states where foreclosures don’t require judicial review are asking why questionable practices pass muster in their states, while greater care is taken in states where foreclosures involve the courts.” Yeah … why is that?

Tragic story out of exurban Lakeland. Two junior high kids appear to have died in a murder-suicide incident. The Strib story by Anthony Lonetree and Mary Lynn Smith says: “According to some area residents, two students from the school reportedly had been discussing a suicide pact recently and deleted their Facebook pages on Tuesday. Investigators with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension began to process the scene Tuesday evening and will assist the Sheriff’s Office with the investigation. A resident who lives adjacent to the park said he was home all day and hadn’t heard or seen anything unusual. But at least one television report quoted residents who said they had heard gunshots.”

The sheriff makes a point of how unusual this sort of thing is — presumably referring to the age of the victims. Here’s WCCO’s Lindsey Seavert’s report.

Annie Baxter at MPR reports on Tarryl Clark challenging Michele Bachmann to eight town hall meeting appearances here in the final weeks of the campaign, but having to debate Independent Bob Anderson alone last night in Stillwater, Bachmann’s hometown. Says Baxter: “Meanwhile, I can’t recall Bachmann’s last interview with local media, though she’s been talking to national media. She appeared yesterday on Fox Business News. Bachmann did the interview in a studio just up the street from MPR. She has declined two MPR News interview requests in the past week. Bachmann also appeared last week on Fox talking about U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. UPDATED 11:56 AM: Sergio Gor says ‘We will have an interview with a local station this week, and a local paper too.’ ” What are you guessing — Chris Baker on KTLK and the Red Wing Republican Eagle?

Speaking of Bachmann and Fox, the congresswoman was on Glenn Beck’s show Tuesday, with frequent Fox guest Judge Andrew Napolitano, talking about how, after the Tea Party-energized Republicans win big next month, she’s going to teach a weekly class on the Constitution for freshman legislators. The Fox watchdog site Newshounds goes on to tell … the rest of the story: “Napolitano said he was ‘deeply flattered [by Bachmann’s invitation for him to speak at one of her classes] and acknowledged that the Tea Party doesn’t want ‘to spend more than we take in’ or ‘legislate in areas that the Constitution doesn’t authorize.’ But, he asked, ‘What about the area of civil liberties? For example, Congresswoman Bachmann, should the government be able to hack into your email without a search warrant from a judge?’ Bachmann [replied], ‘I think that’s a very serious issue and one that I don’t think anyone wants to see happen going forward.’ Napolitano pressed, ‘But it happens under the PATRIOT Act, which many Republicans, most respectfully, yourself included, voted for.’ ” Somebody didn’t stick to his talking points.

Kevin Diaz of the Strib files a story on divisions within the Tea Party in Minnesota. “While national Tea Party organizations spend millions on advocacy and congressional elections, Minnesota’s two leading Tea Party groups still operate on the edges of the Republican Party — though close enough to nudge the state party to the right on some key endorsements, including that of gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.” And: “The Tea Party Express rally in Minneapolis last April with Bachmann and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin generated excitement around the Tea Party and getting out the vote, but it also vacuumed up a lot of local fundraising donations. ‘I hope they never come back,’ [Randy] Liebo [of the North Star Tea Party Patriots] said.” Oh, but I think they will.

OK, pop quiz:  Who is this statement referring to? “He has behaved as if the rules of this Court and the bankruptcy court do not apply to him and as if nothing can get in the way of his desired lifestyle.”  Damn you’re good if you said, “Denny Hecker.” MaryJo Webster of the PiPress files on the latest Hecker-mania, this time a move by PO’d bankruptcy trustee Randy Seaver to throw Hecker in the slammer AND make him repay taxpayers for the public defender he availed himself of this past summer while living his usual high-on-the-hog lifestyle: “Seaver’s memo includes copies of pre-paid credit card statements that Hecker and Rowan used between mid-June and the end of August. The statements show routine expenses for groceries, gasoline and prescriptions, but also more than $900 for three plane tickets, more than $1,100 in charges at an upscale Edina salon, more than $200 at a tanning salon, $156 at Lord Fletcher’s On the Lake and more than $700 at J. Crew. Rowan’s statement showed expenses incurred in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Dallas.” $900 for three tickets? Denny, my man, what happened to First Class?

Denny’s got his problems, but Cargill had a good quarter. The Financial Times’ story on the company’s earnings picture says: “Big spikes in grain prices have led to soaring profits at Cargill, the world’s largest agricultural commodities trader. The Minnesota-based company’s net profit rose 68 percent to $883m in the first quarter ended August 31, from $525m a year earlier. The gains came as food demand rebounded after the global financial slowdown and fears of a shortfall sent grain prices toward the highest levels since the world food crisis of 2007-2008. During the quarter, wheat jumped 43 percent, sugar rose 39 percent, corn moved up 20 percent and cotton gained 11 percent. Privately-held Cargill and its main competitors, including Illinois-based Archer Daniels Midland, New York-based Bunge and France’s Louis Dreyfus, dominate global trading of agricultural commodities. The four trading houses, known because of their initials as the industry’s ‘ABCD’, are set to profit from crop shortages, executives say.”
We may have found a mother to match the father who left his 4-year-old son in a car last week while he went to a movie in Inver Grove Heights. Chao Xiong’s Strib story about the 23-year-old mom, Chelscia English, who left her 3-year-old daughter in her SUV … in a handicapped space … with the motor running while she ran into a St. Paul Rainbow gets more colorful by the paragraph. “Police said witnesses reported seeing the toddler climb into the front of the car and shift the car’s gears. The vehicle rolled across the main traffic lane in front of the grocery store and crashed through the 4- by 6-foot glass window of a Cost Cutters.  The car suffered front-end damage, and nearly hit several cars in its path.” And then this: “Police said they also found marijuana in her car. English told police it belonged to her, and that she and her boyfriend were planning to smoke it, but that she had not smoked it before driving. She also admitted that she did not have a valid driver’s license, and that she made poor decisions Sunday. English’s criminal record includes a guilty plea this September for shoplifting at Wal-Mart, a guilty plea in 2008 for a disorderly house where narcotic transactions were witnessed and a 2005 guilty plea for theft of a motor vehicle in which English and her then-15-year-old sister asked a stranger for a ride, went to his apartment and stole his car while he was in the bathroom.” All that’s missing on that rap sheet is a job with Tom Petters.