Bill Cooper’s TCF sues the Federal Reserve over fees

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.

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Comments (26)

  1. Submitted by Peter Swanson on 10/13/2010 - 09:41 am.

    Uh, Bill Cooper does not support Powerline, as Powerline makes money through advertising. I think it is safe to say that they have more readers than MinnPost, without having to pay PiPress/Strib/City Pages alumni. They don’t need “generous donors” like you do.

    Ready, fire, aim.

  2. Submitted by Michael Hunt on 10/13/2010 - 09:41 am.

    “I hope they [Palin & Bachmann] never come back”.

    Yeah, you and 98% of the rest of the country.

  3. Submitted by Brett Johnson on 10/13/2010 - 10:06 am.

    I thought TCF were a bunch of pro-business Republicans? Reducing interchange fees affects *merchants* directly who have to pay the fees, and consumers only indirectly, as the fees are passed on to them. Why does TCF want to hurt their cousins in private enterprise by maintaining these fees? Reducing these fees would increase in the income in the pocket of the business owner. Very strange indeed. I say join a credit union and enjoy lower fees, better loan rates and fewer hidden costs … but … they’re collectively owned … smells like socialism.

  4. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 10/13/2010 - 11:42 am.

    @#3 – “Why does TCF want to hurt their cousins in private enterprise by maintaining these fees?”
    Excellent question. I’m afraid the simple answer is “greed.” Sometimes, the self-correcting mechanism of “self-interest” may not work exactly as one would wish or hope. And that’s when a somewhat impartial body (namely, Government) may need to step in.

    Mr. Bill Cooper is obviously not only very greedy but also very high on bad oxytocin, the kind that makes you just a rabid Government hater.

  5. Submitted by Greg Price on 10/13/2010 - 01:20 pm.

    Give Cooper credit…they feel strongly about this and are willing to put their bucks & reputation on the line over this issue. The so-called consumer advocates will pillory both Bill Cooper and TCF over this.

    Fact of the matter…you need to draw a line in the sand over goverment interference in the free market…this is a good a place as any…

  6. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/13/2010 - 01:20 pm.

    TCF under Bill Cooper has devised more and more devious ways of extracting money from the accounts of their customers, especially those in marginal financial condition, than any other financial institution in the state of Minnesota. Bill has, in all honesty, grown obscenely wealthy extracting money from his poorest and most powerless customers.

    My heart weeps for his reduced circumstances now that the federal government is going to reign in a practice wherein he has been able to accrue to himself a piece of EVERY penny ever spent by a TCF customer. No doubt he will be seeking space in a homeless shelter any day now.

    Funny how, if the state were to increase their sales taxes by 1.3%, the public would scream bloody murder even though the proceeds would go to the public good, whereas when Bill adds his own personal, private 1.3% tax on everything you purchase, and the proceeds just go to padding his already overstuffed pockets, no one seems to mind.

    I guess the anti-tax, pro-wealth propaganda really has worked since most people now seem to believe that ALL taxes are bad whereas rich people extracting money from the income you would otherwise have had, from the value of your property, and from your retirement accounts in order to further enrich themselves, no matter how dishonestly it’s accomplished, is ALWAYS good (and only wish they could figure out how to get in on that game with every expectation that someday they will).

  7. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/13/2010 - 01:34 pm.

    “Funny how, if the state were to increase their sales taxes by 1.3%, the public would scream bloody murder…whereas when Bill adds his own personal, private 1.3% tax on everything you purchase…no one seems to mind.”

    It’s no surprise that leftists wouldn’t see the gaping logical hole in that statement.

    Since I’m the most helpful fan of “the Glean”, allow me to, well, help.

    When government leviess a tax, I can scream and yell to my heart’s content, but I can’t avoid it, and if I try, the government can, and will enforce their tax at the end of a gun barrel.

    When Bill Cooper “taxes” his customers, after they’ve screamed as much as they like, they are free as the wind to take their business elsewhere without fear of consequence.

  8. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 10/13/2010 - 01:58 pm.

    @#5 – “…you need to draw a line in the sand over [government] interference in the free market …”


    Good point.

    But to fight the fight, Mr. Cooper is using his bank’s (TCF’s) resources which emanate from the business it does with consumers and merchants and other private enterprises. Thus, Mr. Cooper is not necessarily purely interested in the welfare of his bank, but of what it can do for him and his other personal agenda items.

    I do not see any objectivity or impersonal (unemotional) motivations in his position. But defiance is his prerogative; and even if he wins in court, he will be the one to blame as the public begins to regard TCF as a pariah.

  9. Submitted by Michael Hunt on 10/13/2010 - 02:24 pm.

    Sorry Swifty, as someone who takes all his talking points from Shot in the Dark, let ME explain.

    When the party that wins the election campaigns on and passes a tax, that’s democracy.

    And by the way, you DO have a choice. It’s called changing your residence. And the vast majority of people in the State will be more than happy to help you pack your bags.

  10. Submitted by Rich Crose on 10/13/2010 - 02:30 pm.

    In TCF there is a single counter with a sign over it reading “Service.” There was a long, slow moving line leading up to it that didn’t seem to move. With no other place to go, I got in line. I stood behind two farmers who were talking quite explicitly about how they had brought their heifer to the neighbors bull for service.

    That’s when I began to understand the warped mind of Bill Cooper.

  11. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/13/2010 - 02:47 pm.

    Mike, I’d like to gently suggest you not try and take talking points from SITD…there be wide ranging, multisyllabic discussions goin’ on over there. It’s no place for the novice.

    Stick with “the Glean”…we have fun just for the heck of it. And, as you illustrate, we help each other…we’re helpers.

  12. Submitted by David Hanners on 10/13/2010 - 02:55 pm.

    I’m trying to remember the last time the IRS or a state revenue department used armed force (or even drew a weapon) to collect a tax.

  13. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 10/13/2010 - 03:07 pm.

    @#7 – “…without fear of consequence.”

    Alas, my friend, there are always consequences of one sort or another, direct or indirect.

  14. Submitted by Linda Miller on 10/13/2010 - 03:33 pm.

    When Bill Cooper “taxes” his customers, after they’ve screamed as much as they like, they are free as the wind to take their business elsewhere without fear of consequence.


    Except you realize how Interchange fees work, right? it is the merchant who is stuck with the fee – they are not “choosing” to have their customers use TCF debit cards, they are accepting the cards that their consumers use.
    What is TCF doing for the “1.3%” fee exactly?(and you had better believe that small merchants are paying higher fees, because they don’t have the volume business to negotiate with TCF for the lowest fee) It has just become a means for the banks to hold hostage merchants who want to give their consumers flexibility in the way they pay.
    Maybe they should focus on making money the old fashion way – providing an actual service in exchange.

  15. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/13/2010 - 03:58 pm.

    “they are accepting the cards that their consumers use.”

    Or not, as they choose. My point stands Linda.

    I do business with a lot of merchants that will not accept certian forms of payment; AmEx among the most common. It is then my choice to either tender an acceptable form of exchange, or take my business elsewhere.

    I’m not sure how many people are arrested each year for tax evasion, David, but if it’s only one (and it’s surely not), my point stands.

  16. Submitted by David Hanners on 10/13/2010 - 04:42 pm.

    Uh, your point doesn’t stand just because you say it does, Tommy. You said “the government can, and will enforce their tax at the end of a gun barrel” and since you’re always demanding other people to back up their statements with facts, all I want you to do is show a case where an IRS agent or a state revenue agent pulled a service weapon and aimed it at a taxpayer over an unpaid tax.

  17. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/13/2010 - 05:43 pm.

    Clearly, some among us are SO addicted to the seductive snake oil of “protect the rich because someday I’ll be rich too,” and have been drinking far too much of it for far too long to be able to look at the world through anything but “rich good, everyone else bad” glasses.

    I suppose the alternative is just too hard to deal with: facing the reality that you’re just a poor schlub making a good deal less in 2010 dollars than you would have made doing the same job 30 years ago and that you’re NEVER going to be able to improve your standard of living.

    In fact, with the richest of the rich extracting a larger and larger percentage of the proceeds of the economy for their own personal use, it’s likely that all of us not in the top 5% are going to see our standards of living continue to go down hill for the foreseeable future and, if they manage to regain control of the government, watch our economy collapse completely within the next decade. Perhaps reality will be easier to see if that day comes.

  18. Submitted by Joseph Skar on 10/13/2010 - 07:07 pm.

    #16 – Al Capone?

  19. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/13/2010 - 07:46 pm.

    @18- Al Capone, now he had a business model. Exponential growth. He’d have grow houses if he had grown up in this era.

  20. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 10/13/2010 - 08:05 pm.

    @#18 – “Al Capone?”


    Nice try.

    But the keyword Mr. Hanners used in #16 was “taxpayer.”

    Al Capone was never a taxpayer, and did not fulfill his obligations as a citizen. We all know that privileges and responsibilities go hand in hand. That is Civics 101.

  21. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/14/2010 - 08:34 am.

    An interesting image… Bill Cooper as the 2010 version of Al Capone. HMMM.

  22. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/14/2010 - 09:32 am.

    Dave, let me explain how this works.

    You get a tax bill.

    You don’t pay the bill.

    The IRS takes you to court; a judge orders you to pay.

    You don’t pay.

    The judge issues a warrant and the police show up at your house ready to enforce the warrant by any means necessary.

    With the government, the threat of armed enforcement is always implied. If you refuse to pay your taxes, and resist complying with an order to do so, the government will resort to the force of arms to force you to.

    Bill Cooper doesn’t have that option. You can tell him to pound sand and take your business elsewhere.

    You getting any of this?

  23. Submitted by David Hanners on 10/14/2010 - 10:20 am.

    So in other words, Tommy, you can’t cite any examples of IRS agents or state revenue agents drawing their service weapons on a taxpayer. (I’m excluding instances where the taxpayer was armed and drew first and federal agents had a right to protect themselves.)

    Yes, the government might very well indict and try a person for not paying taxes. That person has a presumption of innocence and a right to put on a defense. If the government overcomes that presumption and proves its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the person might wind up in prison. But your image of IRS agents bursting in, guns drawn, is false. And you know it.

    You getting any of this?

  24. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/14/2010 - 10:41 am.

    I didn’t think so.

  25. Submitted by David Hanners on 10/14/2010 - 11:04 am.

    Fortunately, while you lack facts and logic, you do make up for it with entertainment value, Tommy.

  26. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 10/14/2010 - 09:26 pm.

    “Bill Cooper doesn’t have that option. You can tell him to pound sand …”


    Oh, no. Uh Uh! He may just do that, and sell it back to us @ $10.00/lb. for when we need sandbags for floods, etc.

    Oh, no. I think the only option for him should be to go jump in a lake. There are at least 10,000 of them to choose from, and no charge or fee to us now or later! 🙂

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