Posts filed under “Bailouts”
Paul Krugman, an economics professor at Princeton University, talks about the U.S. government’s move to cleanse banks of troubled assets and halt an exodus of investors from money markets and the outlook for the U.S. financial-services industry and economy
00:00 "Socialization" of U.S. financial system
01:51 Bailout’s justification; "inevitable" rescue
04:13 The outlook for U.S. banks is "not clear."
05:02 "Weakening" economy into next year
Running time 05:57
Krugman Sees `Socialization’ of U.S. Financial System: Video
Bloomberg, September 19, 2008 17:53 EDT
Last night, we discussed the absurdity of banning all short sales. The details of the SEC action have been released (see below). The specifics are a "temporary halt in short selling in 799 financial institutions" until October 2nd.
I have been trying to contextualize this, and I keep coming back to what seemed like a wild theory yesterday that seems a whole lot less wild today. During the day, I had an interesting phone conversation with Joe Besecker of Emerald Asset Management. (We used to do schtick together on Power Lunch, and made for an amusing financial comedy team).
But Joe is a good money manager, a great stock picker, and a thoughtful guy. He raised an intriguing issue: None of the many hedgies he knew were pressing their bets recently. The bear raids on the banks and brokers were NOT a case of piling on by US based hedge funds. And from what he was seeing and hearing about in terms of order flow, the vast majority of the financial short selling the past week or so were being done overseas. It appears that the lion’s share of shorting was coming out of overseas bourses such as London and Dubai.It may not be a coincidence that the financial short selling ban is both here and in London.
Then there is another coincidence: The huge increase in shorting of the financials occurred on the anniversary of 9/11. And on top of that, the same institutions attacked on 9/11/01 were the ones suffering in recent days.
Joe asked the question: Is anyone investigating whether this is a case of financial terrorism? He wanted to know if someone was at least looking into this question (Joe is buds with Jim Cramer, and mentioned it to him, who then omitted to cite in his column that this was Joe’s theory, not his own).
Anyway, its an interesting theory, one that seemed kinda out there — until last night’s emergency action. Nothing else really explains the insanity of banning short sales — except for Joe Besecker’s questions. I can think of only 3 other possibilities that explain this insane action:
1) Extreme idiocy and incompetence — not unthinkable ftom the gang that couldn’t shoot straight in DC these days;
2) Following the impetuous Fannie/Freddie rescue, the timing of this certainly has political overtones. We will see if it gets extended a month from October 2nd to November 5th.
3) Some other factor, possibly financial terrorism.
I can think of no other explanations for the dismantling of the free operations of trading markets.
The grand irony of all this is that Naked Shorting has been very profitable for the big broker dealers, like Morgan And Goldman and Merrill and Lehman. They have looked the other way for years, and the SEC has been AWOL on this issue.
Short sales require a locate (shares to borrow) and then a subsequent delivery. It should take less than 3 days to deliver the borrowed shares, but instead, delivery is often delayed indefinitely. Failure to deliver leads to a margin charge, which can be as high as 9-15%.
If you want to know who to blame for the past 5 years of naked shorting, you only have two places to look: The Financial brokers themselves, and the nonfeasance of a feckless SEC.
SEC: Ban All Short Selling (September 18, 2008)
SEC Halts Short Selling of Financial Stocks to Protect Investors and Markets
SEC Chairman Christopher Cox
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 2008-211
Here is tonite’s theater of the absurd SEC headline:
SEC intends to temporarily ban short selling, but it’s not clear if the commission has approved the move. Cox is briefing congressional leaders. Separately, the government is seeking congressional authority to buy distressed assets.
This is nothing short of a total panic by people who have no clue what they are doing. And to think, I mocked Russia for being a nation run by market commies.
This is the ultimate bailout attempt, which will have repercussions far far beyond our imaginations:
1) We suffer a loss of Market Integrity; The US is now a Banana Republic
2) Blatant market manipulation: this is nothing more than an attempt to force markets higher;
3) 60 days prior to a presidential election? This is a none-too-subtle attempt to influence the elections — especially coming on top of the Fannie/Freddie bailout;
4) The coming pop will create a huge air pocket, ultimately leading to us crashing much lower;
5) Expect a huge increase in volatility — upwards first, then down;
We Are A Nation of Morons, led by complete Idiots, making us complicit in our own self destruction.
The losses incurred by Bear Stearns and other large broker-dealers were
not caused by “rumors” or a “crisis of confidence,” but rather by
inadequate net capital and the lack of constraints on the incurring of
–Lee Pickard, former director, SEC trading and markets division.
Is Financial Innovation just another word for excessive and reckless leverage?
As we learn this morning via Julie Satow of the NY Sun, special exemptions from the SEC are in large part responsible for the huge build up in financial sector leverage over the past 4 years — as well as the massive current unwind
Satow interviews the above quoted former SEC director, and he spits out the blunt truth: The current excess leverage now unwinding was the result of a purposeful SEC exemption given to five firms.
You read that right — the events of the past year are not a mere accident, but are the results of a conscious and willful SEC decision to allow these firms to legally violate existing net capital rules that, in the past 30 years, had limited broker dealers debt-to-net capital ratio to 12-to-1.
Instead, the 2004 exemption — given only to 5 firms — allowed them to lever up 30 and even 40 to 1.
Who were the five that received this special exemption? You won’t be surprised to learn that they were Goldman,
Merrill, Lehman, Bear Stearns, and Morgan Stanley.
As Mr. Pickard points out that “The proof is in the pudding — three of the five broker-dealers have blown up.”
So while the SEC runs around reinstating short selling rules, and clueless pension fund managers mindlessly point to the wrong issue, we learn that it was the SEC who was in large part responsible for the reckless leverage that led to the current crisis.
You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.
Here’s an excerpt from The Sun:
“The Securities and Exchange Commission can blame itself for the current crisis. That is the allegation being made by a former SEC official, Lee Pickard, who says a rule change in 2004 led to the failure of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and Merrill Lynch.
The SEC allowed five firms — the three that have collapsed plus Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley — to more than double the leverage they were allowed to keep on their balance sheets and remove discounts that had been applied to the assets they had been required to keep to protect them from defaults.
Making matters worse, according to Mr. Pickard, who helped write the original rule in 1975 as director of the SEC’s trading and markets division, is a move by the SEC this month to further erode the restraints on surviving broker-dealers by withdrawing requirements that they maintain a certain level of rating from the ratings agencies.
“They constructed a mechanism that simply didn’t work,” Mr. Pickard said. “The proof is in the pudding — three of the five broker-dealers have blown up.”
The so-called net capital rule was created in 1975 to allow the SEC to oversee broker-dealers, or companies that trade securities for customers as well as their own accounts. It requires that firms value all of their tradable assets at market prices, and then it applies a haircut, or a discount, to account for the assets’ market risk. So equities, for example, have a haircut of 15%, while a 30-year Treasury bill, because it is less risky, has a 6% haircut.
The net capital rule also requires that broker dealers limit their debt-to-net capital ratio to 12-to-1, although they must issue an early warning if they begin approaching this limit, and are forced to stop trading if they exceed it, so broker dealers often keep their debt-to-net capital ratios much lower.
Chalk up another win for excess deregulation . . .
SEC’s Old Capital Approach Was Tried – and True
Lee A. Pickard
SECTION: VIEWPOINTS; Pg. 10 Vol. 173 No. 153
American Banker, August 8, 2008 Friday
Ex-SEC Official Blames Agency for Blow-Up of Broker-Dealers
They constructed a mechanism that simply didn’t work’
NY Sun, September 18, 2008
American Banker excerpt after the jump.
Professor Stiglitz’ explanation of the
"financial alchemy" responsible for the collapse of Lehman Brothers: "The Fall of Lehman Brothers"
Professor Stiglitz then addressed the question of whether Lehman’s executives should have to answer for their decisions: "Should We Hold Lehman’s Executives Accountable?"
Stiglitz also looked beyond the headlines, drawing attention to the less visible factors influencing America’s economy: "How Foreign Governments are Buying America"