Posts filed under “Legal”

Is Wells Fargo “Sugarcoating” Balance Sheet?

NY Post quotes a trader fearful of SEC reprisal on

When Wells Fargo reported third-quarter earnings last week – which beat
Wall Street expectations by a few pennies – investors cheered, and
watched the bank’s shares keep most of the 9 percent gain they had
pocketed the previous day.

But banking and mortgage-sector analysts cast a wary eye on the San Francisco-based bank. That’s because Wells Fargo, despite booking a near $1 billion increase
in non-performing loans in the third quarter compared to the previous
three-month period, cut its loan-loss reserve by $500 million. The slick accounting moves, while perfectly legal, gave a false
impression of just how strong Wells Fargo’s balance sheet actually was,
the analysts said in separate interviews and reports last week.

"Wells Fargo are pretenders," said a trader at one top hedge fund, who
spoke on condition of anonymity because he is afraid of trouble from
the Securities and Exchange Commission, in light of the regulatory
body’s recent threat to prosecute short sellers.

The trader said trimming the loan-loss reserves had the effect of boosting profits, which in turn boosted its share price, which in turn made it easier for the bank to successfully move forward with a move it announced this week to raise $20 billion of capital."

Note that earlier this year, Wells Fargo increased its definition of non performing loans, from 120 delinquent to 180 days. This made their balance sheet appear stronger than it was.

Analysts fearful of SEC reprisal for doing analysis — that is the net result of the ruinous tenure of the worst SEC chair in decades — Christopher Cox.

click for larger graphic:

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Source:
THE PRETENDERS: ANALYSTS SAY WELLS FARGO SUGARCOATS BALANCE SHEET
TERI BUHL
NYPost, October 19, 2008 4:00 am
http://www.nypost.com/seven/10192008/business/the_pretenders_134253.htm

See Also:
The Invisible Man
SEC Chairman Cox has often been missing in action during the financial crisis, even while Treasury Secretary Paulson and Fed Chairman Bernanke tread on his turf
Jesse Westbrook and Robert Schmidt
Bloomberg Markets, November 2008   
http://bloomberg.com/news/marketsmag/mm_1108_story2.html

Category: Data Analysis, Finance, Financial Press, Legal

Bad Medicine

http://www.grantspub.com/cartoonbank/?crtnYr=2007

Category: Credit, Federal Reserve, Legal, Real Estate

Quote of the Day: Fair Value Accounting

Category: Legal, Valuation

Understanding the Significance of Mark-to-Market Accounting

“Blaming fair-value accounting for the credit crisis is a lot like going to a doctor for a diagnosis and then blaming him for telling you that you are sick.”
analyst Dane Mott, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bloomberg

“Suspending the mark-to-market prices is the most irresponsible thing to do. Accounting does not make corporate earnings or balance sheets more volatile. Accounting just increases the transparency of volatility in earnings.”
Diane Garnick, Invesco Ltd., Bloomberg

Category: Corporate Management, Credit, Derivatives, Earnings, Legal

Fair-Value Accounting & FASB 157

“Blaming fair-value accounting for the credit crisis is a lot like going to a doctor for a diagnosis and then blaming himfor telling you that you are sick.” -Dane Mott , JPMorgan Chase & Co. > The debate on fair value accounting, FASB157, and transparency continues apace. If you want to understand why this is…Read More

Category: Credit, Finance, Investing, Legal

SEC: Less Personnel Than the Smithsonian

Category: Legal, Taxes and Policy

SEC: Brokerage Collapse Was Our Fault

The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a longtime proponent of deregulation, acknowledged on Friday that failures in a voluntary supervision program for Wall Street’s largest investment banks had contributed to the global financial crisis, and he abruptly shut the program down.

The S.E.C.’s oversight responsibilities will largely shift to the Federal Reserve, though the commission will continue to oversee the brokerage units of investment banks.

Also Friday, the S.E.C.’s inspector general released a report strongly criticizing the agency’s performance in monitoring Bear Stearns before it collapsed in March. Christopher Cox, the commission chairman, said he agreed that the oversight program was “fundamentally flawed from the beginning.”

“The last six months have made it abundantly clear that voluntary regulation does not work,” he said in a statement. The program “was fundamentally flawed from the beginning, because investment banks could opt in or out of supervision voluntarily. The fact that investment bank holding companies could withdraw from this voluntary supervision at their discretion diminished the perceived mandate” of the program, and “weakened its effectiveness,” he added.

Mr. Cox and other regulators, including Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, and Henry M. Paulson Jr., the Treasury secretary, have acknowledged general regulatory failures over the last year. Mr. Cox’s statement on Friday, however, went beyond that by blaming a specific program for the financial crisis — and then ending it.

On one level, the commission’s decision to end the regulatory program was somewhat academic, because the five biggest independent Wall Street firms have all disappeared.

The Fed and Treasury Department forced Bear Stearns into a merger with JPMorgan Chase in March. And in the last month, Lehman Brothers went into bankruptcy, Merrill Lynch was acquired by Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs changed their corporate structures to become bank holding companies, which the Federal Reserve regulates.

But the retreat on investment bank supervision is a heavy blow to a once-proud agency whose influence over Wall Street has steadily eroded as the financial crisis has exploded over the last year.

Because it is a relatively small agency, the S.E.C. tries to extend its reach over the vast financial services industry by relying heavily on self-regulation by stock exchanges, mutual funds, brokerage firms and publicly traded corporations.

The program Mr. Cox abolished was unanimously approved in 2004 by the commission under his predecessor, William H. Donaldson. Known by the clumsy title of “consolidated supervised entities,” the program allowed the S.E.C. to monitor the parent companies of major Wall Street firms, even though technically the agency had authority over only the firms’ brokerage firm components.

The commission created the program after heavy lobbying for the plan from all five big investment banks. At the time, Mr. Paulson was the head of Goldman Sachs. He left two years later to become the Treasury secretary and has been the architect of the administration’s bailout plan.

The investment banks favored the S.E.C. as their umbrella regulator because that let them avoid regulation of their fast-growing European operations by the European Union.

Facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Mr. Cox has begun in recent weeks to call for greater government involvement in the markets. He has imposed restraints on short-sellers, market speculators who borrow stock and then sell it in the hope that it will decline. On Tuesday, he asked Congress for the first time to regulate the market for credit-default swaps, financial instruments that insure the holder against losses from declines in bonds and other types of securities.

The commission will continue to be the primary regulator of the companies’ broker-dealer units, and it will work with the Fed to supervise holding companies even though the Fed is expected to take the lead role.

The Fed had already begun regulating Wall Street firms that borrowed money under a new Fed lending program, and the S.E.C. had entered into an agreement under which its examiners worked jointly with Fed examiners, an arrangement that is expected to continue.

The S.E.C. will still have primary responsibility for regulating securities brokers and dealers.

The announcement was the latest illustration of how the market turmoil was rapidly changing the regulatory landscape. In the coming months, Congress will consider overhauls to the regulatory structure, but the markets and the regulators are already transforming it in response to events.

Still, the inspector general’s report made a series of recommendations for the commission and the Federal Reserve that could ultimately reshape how the nation’s largest financial institutions are regulated. The report recommended, for instance, that the commission and the Fed consider tighter limits on borrowing by the companies to reduce their heavy debt loads and risky investing practices.

The report found that the S.E.C. division that oversees trading and markets had failed to update the rules of the program and was “not fulfilling its obligations.” It said that nearly one-third of the firms under supervision had failed to file the required documents. And it found that the division had not adequately reviewed many of the filings made by other firms.

The division’s “failure to carry out the purpose and goals of the broker-dealer risk assessment program hinders the commission’s ability to foresee or respond to weaknesses in the financial markets,” the report said.

The S.E.C. approved the consolidated supervised entities program in 2004 after several important developments in Congress and in Europe.

In 1999, the lawmakers adopted the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which broke down the Depression-era restrictions between investment banks and commercial banks. As part of a political compromise, the law gave the commission the authority to regulate the securities and brokerage operations of the investment banks, but not their holding companies.

In 2002, the European Union threatened to impose its own rules on the foreign subsidiaries of the American investment banks. But there was a loophole: if the American companies were subject to the same kind of oversight as their European counterparts, then they would not be subject to the European rules. The loophole would require the commission to figure out a way to supervise the holding companies of the investment banks.

In 2004, at the urging of the investment banks, the commission adopted a voluntary program. In exchange for the relaxation of capital requirements by the commission, the banks agreed to submit to supervision of their holding companies by the agency.

Category: Bailouts, Legal, Politics, Taxes and Policy

Short Selling Ban Spreads Around the World

Category: Legal, Markets, Short Selling, Taxes and Policy

SEC Induced Mother-of-All Short Covering Rallies

Back in July, Bill King wrote up something called "SEC Induced Mother-of-All Short Covering Rallies." Its all the more relevant today, and is reprinted with permission after the jump . . .

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Category: Bailouts, Legal, Markets, Psychology, Short Selling

SIPC: Lehman To Be Liquidated

Category: Corporate Management, Credit, Legal, M&A, Short Selling, Valuation