Posts filed under “Regulation”
When Bear Stearns failed, the government induced JPMorgan Chase to buy it by offering a knockdown price and guaranteeing Bear Stearns’s shakiest assets. Bear Stearns bondholders were made whole and its stockholders lost most of their money.
Then came the collapse of the government-sponsored entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both promptly nationalized. Management was replaced, shareholders badly diluted, creditors left intact but with some uncertainty. Next came Lehman Brothers, which was, of course, allowed to go bankrupt. At first, the Treasury and the Federal Reserve claimed they had allowed Lehman to fail in order to signal that recklessly managed Wall Street firms did not all come with government guarantees; but then, when chaos ensued, and people started saying that letting Lehman fail was a dumb thing to have done, they changed their story and claimed they lacked the legal authority to rescue the firm.
But then a few days later A.I.G. failed, or tried to, yet was given the gift of life with enormous government loans. Washington Mutual and Wachovia promptly followed: the first was unceremoniously seized by the Treasury, wiping out both its creditors and shareholders; the second was batted around for a bit. Initially, the Treasury tried to persuade Citigroup to buy it — again at a knockdown price and with a guarantee of the bad assets. (The Bear Stearns model.) Eventually, Wachovia went to Wells Fargo, after the Internal Revenue Service jumped in and sweetened the pot with a tax subsidy.
In the middle of all this, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. persuaded Congress that he needed $700 billion to buy distressed assets from banks — telling the senators and representatives that if they didn’t give him the money the stock market would collapse. Once handed the money, he abandoned his promised strategy, and instead of buying assets at market prices, began to overpay for preferred stocks in the banks themselves. Which is to say that he essentially began giving away billions of dollars to Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and a few others unnaturally selected for survival. The stock market fell anyway.
It’s hard to know what Mr. Paulson was thinking as he never really had to explain himself, at least not in public. But the general idea appears to be that if you give the banks capital they will in turn use it to make loans in order to stimulate the economy. Never mind that if you want banks to make smart, prudent loans, you probably shouldn’t give money to bankers who sunk themselves by making a lot of stupid, imprudent ones. If you want banks to re-lend the money, you need to provide them not with preferred stock, which is essentially a loan, but with tangible common equity — so that they might write off their losses, resolve their troubled assets and then begin to make new loans, something they won’t be able to do until they’re confident in their own balance sheets. But as it happened, the banks took the taxpayer money and just sat on it.
The End of the Financial World As We Know It
MICHAEL LEWIS and DAVID EINHORN
NYT, January 3, 2009
How to Repair a Broken Financial World
MICHAEL LEWIS and DAVID EINHORN
NYT, January 3, 2009
The entire OpEd section of the Sunday New York Times has been taken over by an article jointly written by Michael Lewis and David Einhorn, titled The End of the Financial World As We Know It. Its this morning’s must read piece . . . Excerpt: “OUR financial catastrophe, like Bernard Madoff’s pyramid scheme, required…Read More
I’m fascinated by this huge article in the Washington Post called The Beautiful Machine. Its about AIG’s Financial Products divisions, a hugely profitable operation specializing in derivatives, with roots in Drexel Burnham, that traces its AIG affiliation all the back to 1987. Its the first of three parts, and I’ll pull excerpts from each. Here’s…Read More
Some toothless watchdog: This year, the S.E.C. has brought the fewest number of securities fraud prosecutions since 1991. That’s according to the data that the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a research group at Syracuse University, has amassed. Soft on White Collar Crime, by the Numbers: • 2008 had 133 prosecutions for securities fraud (thru…Read More
I am trying to figure out who is the biggest jerk in this story. It is a challenge, given the collection of utter clowns and ne’er-do-wells that run that office.
First, you have some moron who helped cost the taxpayers a hundred large ($100B) back in the 1980s. How this idiot ever ended up in a position of responsibility in any regulatory agency again is beyond my comprehension. There are some who would point to all government regulation as the root cause, but crony capitalism and the disbelief in and and all regulations is what leads to putting someone so unsuitable in this position of authority.
Second, you have to wonder about just how frickin’ dumb the idiots who run the office of Thrift Supervision have been the past 8 years. These were the clowns that blamed Schumer for the collapse of Indy Mac, after backdating their capital levels. As you will see below, if the OTS weren’t incompetant boobs, Indy Mac should have been shut down months before their run!
That the OTS is run by such half-wits and morons, that they blamed a US Senator — for having the temerity to ask how much money the criminally incompetant managers running Indy Mac were going to cost the taxpayer — rather than their own inadequate supervision. (BTW, the answer to Schumer’s question was about $9 billion).
Recall that when James Gilleran took over the Office of Thrift Supervision, he took a chainsaw to a stack of regulations to symbolize how his agency was going to “cut red tape” for thrifts (a.k.a. S&Ls), which were heavily involved in mortgage lending. The ideologue in him declared: “Our goal is to allow thrifts to operate with a wide breadth of freedom from regulatory intrusion,” Gilleran said in a 2004 speech.
This wasn’t mere malfeasance by Gilleran — as we have been repeatedly noting, it was nonfeasance — the intentional failure to perform a required legal duty or obligation.
As for the FBI, the division in charge of enforcement, after sounding the warning bell, subsequently made a “strategic alliance” in 2007 with the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) the trade association for (then) major industry players like IndyMac and Countrywide Financial. Imagine if the FBI division in charge of organized crime set up a joint venture with the Cosa Nostra. That’s what this was the equivalent of at the FBI.
It all comes back to the radical deregulatory philosophy we discussed Sunday: Appoint cabinet level people who share that same belief system, who think government can never work — and voila! – this is what you get.
Anyone who thinks that really bad behavior in the corporate world needs no proscribing should not be put in charge of Regulatory agencies.
Excerpts after the jump . . .
Won’t be the last one, either: Thierry Magon de La Villehuchet, who ran a fund that invested with Bernard Madoff, was found dead at his Madison Avenue office today, a New York City police officer at the scene said. The death appeared to be a suicide, he said. De la Villehuchet, 65, was a founding…Read More
Here’s one of the simple truisms that gets lost in the political (i.e., bumper sticker) discussions. Don’t regulate the free markets! Don’t interfere with innovation! Don’t stifle incentives! What bullshit. One of the best ways to win a debate is to control the language used. This was one of the elements George Orwell was discussing…Read More
In 2001, reporter Erin Arvedlund wrote an article for the financial weekly Barrons that was skeptical of Bernard Madoff’s strategy and performance on Wall Street. She questioned how Madoff was able to offer good returns. She talks with Steve Inskeep about the impetus for her story and what she learned in the process.
Morning Edition, December 18, 2008