WALL STREET JOURNAL: Federal investigators have opened preliminary probes into the financial troubles of four high-profile companies that are at the center of the current financial turmoil that the Bush administration says requires an unprecedented proposed taxpayer-funded bailout to clean up.The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s preliminary inquiries are focusing on whether fraud helped cause some of the troubles at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and American International Group Inc., according to senior law-enforcement officials. Lehman and AIG declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie and Freddie and has both companies in conservatorship, also declined to comment. The probes come as the huge potential tab for taxpayers in the crisis raises the stakes for the Justice Department. The FBI says it now has 26 companies under investigation, in addition to pursuing more than 1,400 mortgage-fraud cases nationwide. MORE
POYNTER: In covering the proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street don’t repeat the failed lapdog practices that so damaged our reputations in the rush to war in Iraq and the adoption of the Patriot Act. Don’t assume that Congress must act instantly, as so many news stories state as if it was an immutable fact. Don’t assume there is a case just because officials say there is. The coverage of the Paulson plan focuses on the edges, on the details. The focus should be on the premise. And be skeptical of what gullible Congressional leaders, most of them up before the voters in a few weeks, say after being given a closed-door meeting on supposed horrors.
The Administration has scared the markets and some key legislative leaders, but it has not laid out a coherent, specific and compelling need for this enormous proposal, which is the equivalent of a one-time 55 percent income tax surcharge. (Instead the money will be borrowed, so ask from whom and how this much can be raised so quickly if the credit markets are nearly seized up with fear.)
Ask this question — are the credit markets really about to seize up?
If they are then lots of business owners should be eager to tell how their bank is calling their 90-day revolving loans, rejecting new loans and demanding more cash on deposit. I called businessmen I know yesterday and not one of them reported such problems. Indeed, Citibank offered yesterday to lend me tens of thousands of dollars on my signature at 2.99 percent, well below the nearly 5 percent inflation rate. That offer came after I said no last week to a 4.99 percent loan. MORE