La semaine dernière nous avons vu que la déréglementation, qui a été désignée par les médias comme étant responsable de la crise, n’est qu’un mythe (ici, ici & ici). Cette semaine nous verrons que c’est plutôt la réglementation qui a amené le système financier américain au bord du gouffre.

Depuis les années 90, le gouvernement américain a forcé les institutions bancaires à relâcher le crédit hypothécaire pour favoriser l’achat d’une propriété par les moins nantis. Parmi les réglementations adoptées, sous le couvert de la lutte contre la discrimination, il y a eu le Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Voici un extrait d’un guide, préparé par la Réserve Fédérale en 1992 à l’intention des banques, leur rappelant que ces dernières s’exposent à des poursuites si elles font preuve de « discrimination » dans l’attribution des prêts hypothécaires.

Federal Reserve

« Did You Know? Failure to comply with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act or Regulation B can subject a financial institution to civil liability for actual and punitive damages in individual or class actions. Liability for punitive damages can be as much as $10,000 in individual actions and the lesser of $500,000 or 1 percent of the creditor’s net worth in class actions. »

Voici les conditions aberrantes fixées par le Equal Credit Opportunity Act:

Federal Trade Commission
Equal Credit Opportunity

When You Apply For Credit, A Creditor May Not…

– Discourage you from applying because of your sex, marital status, age, race, national origin, or because you receive public assistance income.

-Ask you to reveal your sex, race, national origin, or religion. A creditor may ask you to voluntarily disclose this information (except for religion) if you’re applying for a real estate loan. This information helps federal agencies enforce anti-discrimination laws. You may be asked about your residence or immigration status.

-Ask if you’re widowed or divorced. When permitted to ask marital status, a creditor may only use the terms: married, unmarried, or separated.

-Ask about your marital status if you’re applying for a separate, unsecured account. A creditor may ask you to provide this information if you live in « community property » states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington. A creditor in any state may ask for this information if you apply for a joint account or one secured by property.

-Request information about your spouse, except when your spouse is applying with you; your spouse will be allowed to use the account; you are relying on your spouse’s income or on alimony or child support income from a former spouse; or if you reside in a community property state.

-Inquire about your plans for having or raising children.

-Ask if you receive alimony, child support, or separate maintenance payments, unless you’re first told that you don’t have to provide this information if you won’t rely on these payments to get credit. A creditor may ask if you have to pay alimony, child support, or separate maintenance payments.

When Evaluating Your Income, A Creditor May Not…

-Refuse to consider public assistance income the same way as other income.

-Discount income because of your sex or marital status. For example, a creditor cannot count a man’s salary at 100 percent and a woman’s at 75 percent. A creditor may not assume a woman of childbearing age will stop working to raise children.

-Discount or refuse to consider income because it comes from part-time employment or pension, annuity, or retirement benefits programs.

-Refuse to consider regular alimony, child support, or separate maintenance payments. A creditor may ask you to prove you have received this income consistently.

Une tonne de réglementation qui a joué un rôle dans le déclenchement de la crise en incitant, voire en obligeant, les banques à donner du crédit à des gens insolvables.

H/T: L’institut Économique de Montréal