To reminisce on a part of history, certain to repeat itself:
On April 14 2006, George W Bush’s appointed Josh Bolten, a one-time Director for Government Affairs at Goldman Sachs, as his White House Chief of Staff. Next, Treasury Secretary John Snow got offered chairmanship at Cerberus, an investment adviser to the government, often accorded contracts to manage the bailout funds of the taxpayer. On May 30 2006, Goldman Sachs’ CEO Hank Paulson formally accepted the vacated #1 post at Treasury. On June 28, the Senate handily approved the nomination and, on the July 10, Paulson filled the position.
Think about that for a second. The White House hired the CEO of Goldman Sachs to take over the Treasury just around the time Goldman saw their housing bubble topping, then popping.
“If you look at recent history, there is a disturbance in the capital markets every four to eight years,” Paulson told Bush in July 2006. “I was convinced we were due for another disruption,” he also wrote in his Wall Street meltdown memoir ‘On The Brink’.
By the end of that July of 2006, Paulson was mentioning OTC derivatives as the fuse that could trigger a chain reaction to the detonation of a bomb with enough blast radius to impact not just Wall Street, and every sewer underneath, but Main Street as well. “My point was that we had gone eight years since the last serious problem in capital markets and that there’d been all of this innovation,” he remarked, sticking to Wall Street script that insisted Financial Weapons of Mass Destruction, i.e OTC derivatives, be referred to as “innovation.”
So convinced was Paulson that something bad was about to happen, that he next resurrected the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, a conglomerate of the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, the SEC and the CFTC, to deal with it. The last time that regulatory foursome had been put to use, was after Black Monday 1987.
“We can’t predict when the next crisis will come. But we need to be prepared,” Paulson told Bush.
And, boy, did he prepare. By the time the crisis was in full swing in late 2008, Hank was telling members of Congress like Rep. Brad Sherman of California that there’d be Martial Law on the streets of America if the bailouts were not approved, pronto!
And there was Hank in Sep 2013 telling Germany’s newspaper, Handelsblatt, that “the world should prepare for a new financial crisis” next.
He should know. He predicted the last, years in advance.
Wall Street’s biggest Bank Holding Companies — with exposures flammable enough to incinerate their balance sheets — will of course, felled to their knees, beg for bailouts on those knees.
No wonder Goldman Sachs et al. prefer either Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush (i.e. the biggest beneficiaries, by far, of Wall Street money in the universe) as President, when they come calling for that rescue.
Focus now, if you will, on the following sequence of events…
On May 15 2013, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Financial Services holds a hearing at 10:00 am in Room 2128 of the Rayburn House Office Building titled: “Does Title II of the Dodd-Frank Act Enshrine Taxpayer-Funded Bailouts?” On June 26, 2013, a hearing titled “Examining How the Dodd-Frank Act Could Result in More Taxpayer-Funded Bailouts” is convened at 10:00 am in Room 2128 of the Rayburn House Office Building. In attendance this time: the Full Committee of the House Committee on Financial Services. With banker-buddy Republicans in charge of the House, and the Wall Street wings of both Parties stacked top-to-bottom in that Committee, we have no doubt the hearings were pure theater, but (ironically) the accuracy of the titles that Committee Chair Jeb Hensarling applied to those hearings, could not be denied.
On July 11 2013, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), John McCain (R-AZ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Angus King (I-ME) introduce the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act, to install a modernized version of the Banking Act of 1933. This, after Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and David Vitter (R-LA) introduced a bill in the United States Senate labeled S.798 to terminate taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street on April 24.
As you might expect, with Wall Street in control of wide (if not all) swathes of Washington DC, the legislative efforts of Sens. Brown, Vitter, Warren, and others, were as D.O.A. as Dodd-Frank’s Title I.
Just as an earlier legislative effort by Senators Sherrod Brown and Ted Kaufman — to limit the size of banks — was D.O.A., voted down by no less than 27 Democrats and 34 Republicans on the Senate floor.
[FYI: Brown-Vitter, or S.798, fared worse. It garnered just one supporter at first, in Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, the sole United States Senator brave enough to admit (in May 2009) that (quote) “the banks are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill — and, frankly, they own the place.”
Initial support from Senators Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) melted away fast — Sen. Kirk cited a “miscommunication” to withdraw his support, and Sen. Sessions cited a “need to be careful that you first do no harm.” (Harm to banker wallets, presumably.)
Predictably, the White House, the Treasury, and the Federal Reserve expressed opposition to the bill in their oh-so soft-spoken way.]
Then, on Dec 19 2013, Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and John Cornyn (R-TX) presented a bill to override the alternate resolution mechanism — known as Orderly Liquidation Authority — accorded to the FDIC in Title II of Dodd-Frank. The co-sponsors proposed a new bankruptcy provision, called Chapter 14, to apply to megabanks in times of severe crisis or extreme financial duress. In introducing the bill, Sens. Toomey & Cornyn sought to profess the obvious in OLA, that it:
- institutionalized “Too Big to Fail” (which it did)
- guaranteed the privatization of bank profits and socialization of bank losses (which it also did)
- contained a “process ripe for political manipulation, that provides for yet another bailout” (and that too it did, with the Secretary of the Treasury once again a former bank exec, named Jacob “Jack” Lew, that’d returned to government through the revolving door, this time from Citigroup)
Presented to the Senate just days before the holidays, the Toomey-Cornyn proposal was bound to go nowhere (holidays or not) because everyone from Harry Reid on up, and everything from the FDIC on up — to the Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and the White House — were all but certain to kill it, in another round of D.O.A.
Why, because O.L.A. was what Wall Street, K Street, and even Paul Saltzman (at the Clearing House Association) wanted left intact in the travesty that Dodd-Frank became.
As Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont candidly admitted back in 2010 when he attempted to augment a bill with a provision to audit the Fed, only to find himself up against the Obama Administration on down…
“On this amendment, you’re taking on all of Wall Street, you’re taking on the Fed obviously, and unfortunately you seem to be taking on the White House as well. And that’s a tough group to beat.”
With no third Party yet in power, indeed.
On June 23 2013, media outlets report that the Feds were receiving “living wills” from Systemic Banks. This, in relation to demands of Section 165 of the Dodd-Frank Act that each megabank or large nonbank financial present “the plan of such company for rapid and orderly resolution in the event of material financial distress or failure.”
The living will was supposed to explain how such company would restructure under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code, or liquidate under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code, in a crisis.
With the creditors of megabanks often being other megabanks, and no agreement (or plausible plan) in sight for cross-border resolution across the hundred or so countries the mega’s operated in, and a synthetics & derivatives interconnect so interlocked that (absent government intervention) the demise of one biggie-bank pretty much assured the destruction of another, the living wills were in effect an exercise in tomfoolery.
In accordance, the most revealing parts of living wills, of the Systemics, ended up under wraps, shrouded in mystery and buried in vaults that only bank execs and authorized regulators could access.
The lock-down in secrecy was a necessity, because Dodd-Frank had something to say about living wills that were so incredible that they were emphatically NOT credible:
If “the resolution plan of a nonbank financial company supervised by the Board of Governors or a bank holding company described in subsection (a) is not credible or would not facilitate an orderly resolution of the company” … then the Fed and the FDIC. “may jointly impose more stringent capital, leverage, or liquidity requirements, or restrictions on the growth, activities, or operations of the company, or any subsidiary thereof, until such time as the company resubmits a plan that remedies the deficiencies.”
WHICH WOULD SPELL THE END OF PERKS AND BONUSES AND DIVIDENDS, plus all those other sweet things that bank execs liked to bestow upon themselves, irrespective of how bad the bank’s finances are.
Dodd-Frank also directed regulators to require the provider of any incredible living will:
“to divest certain assets or operations identified by the Board of Governors and the corporation, to facilitate an orderly resolution.”
No, bankers would have none of that either, lest it showed — especially — the true frailty of impaired-asset price discovery. God forbid what damage that would inflict upon megabank balance sheets, suspended on illusion, everywhere.
Over at The Systemic Risk Council, where Paul Volcker and Brooksley Born also hang their hat, Sheila Bair would on Dec 2 2013 write FDIC Chair Martin Gruenberg and Fed Chair Ben Bernanke to remind of the guidelines of Section 165 of Dodd-Frank. And, in an effort to shed even a smidgen of light into those dark vaults hiding the most relevant parts of living wills, Ms. Bair would on behalf of her esteemed colleagues also ask:
that the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation take steps to substantially improve the amount and quality of information published in the public sections of “living wills” … Unfortunately, the public portions of living wills have been disappointing. They … lack crucial data … and are little more than selective, idiosyncratic reiterations of existing public information … This information gap, which was not corrected in the regulatory guidance for the second round of living wills, fuels skepticism about the end of too big to fail…
Actually, there should be no skepticism. Too Big To Fail in 2013 made Too Big To Fail circa 2008 look positively Lilliputian in relation.
A number of Eurozone-headquartered Global Systemics on Wall Street, some of whom are Primary Dealers with the Fed, are cooking their books in an already over-pressurized pressure-cooker. US-based Systemics may be in behaving somewhat better, with respect to accounting fabrication & manufacture, than their Eurozone-based brethren, but that’s just comparing bad to worse.
The last we checked in 2011, America’s biggest banks had reportedly written Credit Default Swap protection on as much as one-half of the total debt outstanding in the Eurozone’s most affected economies. As of Q4 2012, a move of just 23 basis points (0.23%) in the notional value of the derivatives book of JP Morgan Chase, would exterminate the bank’s Tier 1 capital, and render the House that Morgan built on the verge of collapse.
Badder, yet: As of Q4 2012, a move of just 10 basis points (0.1%) in the notional value of the derivatives book of Germany’s biggest bank, Deutsche Bank, would extinguish the bank’s Tier 1 capital, and render the German giant on the verge of collapse.
[Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) deserves an honorary mention here. By Dec 12 2014, with the 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Bill winding its way through Congress, past the Wall Street wings of both parties, and on its way to garner Mr. Obama’s signature, which it eventually would, Senator Warren would protest:
“Mr. President, I’m back on the floor to talk about a dangerous provision that was slipped into a must-pass government spending bill at the last minute to benefit Wall Street. This provision would repeal a rule called, and I’m quoting the title of the rule, PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BAILOUTS OF SWAPS ENTITIES.”
And, so, now you know where all sick swaps go to hide when Wall sees the writing on the wall.]
Greece may have been sidelined and near-abandoned in 2015, but until Deutsche finally unloaded its peripheral exposure on the taxpayer (via the ECB) in the intervening years, itsy-bitsy Greece was kept onboard, instead of being sent the way of teeny-weeny Cyprus. And regarding that we learn from Morire di Austerita or “Dying of Austerity” by ex ECB executive councilman, Lorenzo Bini-Smaghi, that Angela Merkel considered Greece to be expendable, and expellable from the Eurozone, as late as Sep 2012. But realizing that an expulsion of even Greece could inflict perhaps insurmountable losses on counter parties across the Eurozone, “including central banks and states”, she flipped and rushed to Athens, to heap upon the new Greek government, her unmitigated praise.
And, with that as a backdrop, let’s take a moment to talk about the land of the once much touted € that even Gisele Bündchen wanted to be paid in (versus US$s) only months before the Euro currency peaked near $1.60. “Contracts starting now are more attractive in euros because we don’t know what will happen to the dollar,” said the supermodel’s sister and manager, Patricia Bündchen, to Bloomberg. What will happen to the dollar vs the euro was easy to predict back then (in 2007) as it is now: the € can only decline against a currency like the $ in the end because it was flawed at its construction to begin.
When member states are as disparate as they are in the eurozone, economically — think how different economically Finland is from, say, Portugal — without debt consolidation between the member states, any monetary union between the states is pretty much destined to fail.
And, fail, the eurozone will, with what’s remaining of the euro heading for less than half its peak (in exchange rate to the dollar) in the near future.
Eurozone banks have been refinancing bad debt — that can never be repaid — like a re-fi factory with conveyor belts, to not show those hundreds of billions in impaired loans on their official declaration of non-performing loans(NPL’s).
Italian bank NPL’s are in allegedly worse shape than Spain’s, at least so they say in the media, but we’re not so sure about that. In a twist not so often seen, we believe the Italian bank CFOs are being a tad more honest about their finances than their Spaniard equivalents.
Italy may be up there, but Spain no doubt should worry Eurozone authorities the most. Officially (and as of this writing) the private Spanish banks were telling the Bank of Spain that their NPL’s were just shy of 13%, which is awful enough already — but, with the speed Spanish bank conveyor belts were running to re-fi de-facto defaults, Spanish NPL’s could very well have been encroaching a near double that percentage. (Knowledgeable sources were telling us of credible NPL estimates exceeding 20%.)
Add to that: Spanish bank loans collateralized by non-existent properties, address-less properties, key-less properties (because there was no property there in the first place, to stick a door-key in), untold numbers of straw buyers, 30% general unemployment per “official” stats, with the factual one certainly much higher — that NPL’s might’ve been getting into the 20-some-percent range didn’t, in light of all that, sound all that crazy.
To the Fed, who’s been watching both Spain and Italy for some time now in a cold sweat, the trendline on NPLs must be the most worrisome, because NPL’s have been on the incline, not decline, despite official claims to the contrary, through every phase and pretense of Spanish “recovery”.
Spain has hugely concealed — from its reported debt-to-GDP ratio — the great mass of contingent liabilities accumulated in guaranteeing the ECB borrowings of Spanish banks. (As the European Commission’s statistics office, Eurostat, has said: “Countries were additionally asked about the amount of state guarantees — these do not form part of government debt, but are a contingent liability.”)
Debt-to-GDP would not be so important to Spain were Spain a currency-issuer, but it is anything but — since adoption of the Euro, it is very much a currency-user now.
Spain’s accounting is probably the worst in the Eurozone. In so many words issued via separate reports in April and November 2013, even Eurostat (almost) admitted it.
But to get an idea of how bad Spain’s debt-to-GDP might be, consider Belgium, a country Eurostat has regarded far more kindly: In Q2 2012, the ratio of official Belgian debt to GDP got reported at 98%; but were Belgium’s contingent liabilities related to a number of bank rescues added on (including that of banking conglomerate Dexia), and were its commitments to the Eurozone’s multiple stabilization, assistance, and investment funds also aggregated, alongside its share of responsibility to the ECB’s balance sheet (which, by the way, happens to be loaded-up with all sorts of unmarketable swill, including non-marketable mortgage backed debt, that not even Ben Bernanke would touch with a loose hair off his beard), then Belgium’s debt to GDP, all tallied up, surpasses 200%.
As of this writing, Spain’s banks are heavily-invested, and Spain’s Fondo de Reserva de la Seguridad Social is near-100% invested, in Spanish sovereign issue.
While all that changed in 2015, as of this writing in 2014 the ECB had only threatened Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) to keep Zone-wide sovereign issue somewhat immune to both speculative and bond-vigilante attacks. It had not yet actually wielded the OMT threat in 2014, as OMT was supposed to come with strings if not ropes attached. Because a precondition to OMT required the beneficiary be subject to adherence and obedience to new austerity, more austere than past and present austerity, not an easy thing to keep selling to Spain’s already-uprising under-25 youth, buried under a 60% “official” unemployment.
Update: As 2014 came to a close, however, it appeared the ECB had been green-lighted to do an OMT in 2015 provided it was of a kind found digestible to the Germans and Finns etc. No doubt an act of heightened desperation on the part of the Troika.
Like we wrote somewhere else: if the insolvency of the Eurozone’s banking system deepens, and even the borderline bankrupt institution of systemic importance becomes categorically bankrupt, count on the ECB, thrashing about at its head and flailing at its tentacles, to grasp at its last straw and push on its last string.
The creditor nations will not like OMT, but they’ll likely allow Draghi & Company one last trick up his sleeve before the former vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs International is roundly and soundly booed offstage.
No parliamentary government can long survive their nation’s young fuming — then voting — as the Euro-young are.
No amount of austerity-preconditioned bailouts — be it OMT or other — can thwart, much less pacify, this angry youth dynamic.
Even in France, where a President reigns somewhat above Parliament, and austerity hasn’t yet hit near Spanish, Portuguese, and Greek levels, President François Hollande had seen his approval rating plummet to 20% just 18 months into office in 2013, a record low in the Ifop poll’s entire 55-year history of measuring presidential approval ratings in France.
Spain is a already a too-big-to-default nation of the Eurozone, but add on Greece, Portugal and Italy to the mix, with France heading their way, and you’ve got the entire region teetering on the edge of an E.L.E. or Extinction Level Event.
The likes of Mario Draghi and Herman van Rompuy will swear that that’s all humbug, and they’ll point to their Oriental Massage with Happy Ending “Stress Tests” to prove it, but like we asserted: one does not get to the top of a House of Cards, like these two Eurocrats have, without blessing the bending (or torturing) of inconvenient truths.
On March 7 2013, the International Accounting Standards Board would write:
Financial reporting requirements both internationally and in the US currently use an incurred loss model to determine when impairment is recognised on financial instruments. The incurred loss model requires that a loss event occurs before a provision can be made … under the incurred loss model today which in practice has resulted in provisioning only when financial assets are close to default [and not necessarily when a financial instrument has deteriorated significantly in credit quality]. However, during the financial crisis the incurred loss model was criticised for delaying the recognition of losses and for not reflecting accurately credit losses that were expected to occur. Hans Hoogervorst, Chairman of the IASB commented: “We look forward to receiving feedback on these proposals and moving swiftly to finalise this important project.”
6 months later, nothing was finalized, and we doubt anything will until sometime after the next crisis. No Euro Area regulator or government official would dare reveal the extent of bank bankruptcy and, by extension, state insolvency in the Eurozone.
Till all that comes to light, the Euro Area Banks will continue to value the sovereign bonds of Spain as no-risk, and Spanish commercial real estate (collateral for which paperwork on file is often iffy, at best) as, well, good enough collateral for the ECB to accept in exchange for ongoing life-support.
Until, that is, Germany, Finland, Netherlands, and maybe Luxembourg — the only Eurozone countries left with palatable credit ratings, so far — scream Basta!!! in the only Spanish they’ll need to know.
Per Q2 2013 data found at the FDIC, JP Morgan Chase said it had about $209 billion in equity on its balance sheet against $3.715 Trillion in assets per International Financial Reporting Standards, int’l standards that happen to serve the truth a bit better than the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles we have here in the U.S. (which are “Accepted” by banks, but not by any responsible accountant).
As for how much of that $209 billion in equity was real, i.e. deliverable in the thick of a financial crisis was, of course, a whole lot less and anyone’s guess.
Of this $209 billion reported, about $59 billion was Goodwill & Other Intangibles, and about $12 billion was Deferred Tax Assets, which brought JPM’s Adjusted Tangible Equity to Adjusted Tangible Assets ratio — or Leverage Ratio — in Q2 2013 to:
$(209–59–12) / $(3715–59–12) = 3.78%
Now, put that 3.78% up against the following two minutiae:
- In the olden days, when banking was about all about lending responsibly and not at all about betting irresponsibly, when risk was highly contained and extremely distant from the taxpayer and not on top of the taxpayer, bankers were (still) careful enough about their bank’s finances to finance as much as 25% of its lending with equity. Why? Because bankers knew it was their money and their necks that were on the line (back then), and not the hides of taxpayers (as is the case now).
- In April 2010, Alan Greenspan would tell the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission: “I believe that during the past 18 months, there were very few instances of serial default and contagion that could have not been contained by adequate risk-based capital and liquidity. I presume, for example, that with 15% tangible equity capital, neither Bear Stearns nor Lehman Brothers would have been in trouble.”
And you see the problem!
So, about how much time might we have on hand, before the next crisis?
For an answer to that, let’s just stay a bit longer with JP Morgan Chase and ask its CEO, Jamie Dimon, because we think he’s got the the answer, more or less…
With on-and-off-balance-sheet assets exceeding the GDP of Germany, JP Morgan Chase is the world’s biggest bank (with $3.715 Trillion in total assets per I.F.R.S. in Q2 2013), making its CEO, Jamie Dimon, planet Earth’s de facto Banker-in-Chief.
Once labeled Obama’s “favorite banker” by The New York Times, Dimon was (to the ruling classes) the demigod that could do no wrong, at least as of this writing.
For example: On June 13 2012, after a London trader eviscerated a hefty chunk of the bank’s capital, Dimon went before the Banking Committee in the United States Senate, to perhaps hear an earful on risk mismanagement, and to maybe even receive a lashing for the filing of false affidavits in relation to that trading loss. Instead he got to enjoy a full frontal stroking. “If we could do anything to encourage the [banking] industry to develop a lot of its own voluntary rules, that would guide us,” said alleged conservative champion and self-anointed taxpayer guardian Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) to the banker.
The banker slurped up the adulation. ”Me and lots of other folks, we’ll even get apartments down here [in Washington DC, to do that advising],” volunteered a mouthwatering Dimon to DeMint in reply.
Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Mike Johanns (R-NE), sitting alongside DeMint, could barely contain their glee. And in the end they didn’t contain anything, sucking up to Dimon so effusively, Dimon near needed a bathroom break to wipe himself clean.
Anyway, in late 2008, the man who walked water in Washington DC was gracious enough to share a private family matter with the rest of us peasants: Asked what a “financial crisis” was by his daughter, Dimon admits he readily told her “It’s something that happens every 5 to 7 years.”
And in the moment we heard it, we couldn’t help but think: damn, if only he knew how right he’d be about ‘recurrence’ — except, we would’ve given recurrence a bit more than 7 years for the next financial crisis.
With ‘let’s kick the can even further down the road, until either the road runs out or our feet bleed out’ increasingly in fad with the central bankers of the world, we’d give it more like 10 years … which would take us out to around 2018/2019, give or take.
And, finally, for why the Wall Street ‘Reform’ Act of 2010 will be a stupendous dud when that next Crisis hits— a SuperCrisis because it’ll be both banking and sovereign in its character…
Wall Street Reform & Consumer Protection, signed into public law July 21 2010, was by the Congress and the President officially defined (in its so-called “Long Title”) as an act to protect consumers, defend taxpayers, promote stability, improve accountability, enhance transparency, end Too Big To Fail, and stop bailouts. The only thing missing in the litany of promises — the promise that the Act would also bring Elvis back!
So here’s to a nauseating under-the-covers look at the all-too-predictable unraveling of Public Law 111–203…
(Note: The following was largely published in Nov 2013)
Congress likes do-goody names for its most deceptive bills. Of course, Members of Congress do NOT want you to read their most mission-critical bills. The way they figure, if they sugar-coat the names of those bills, they hope you’ll assume those bills to be good bills, as sweet as cotton candy and as wholesome as apple pie.
The 2010 Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, known as Dodd-Frank for brevity, could also have been called Frank-Dodd for where it originated (in Barney Frank’s House) and terminated (in Chris Dodd’s Senate) before it went into joint House-Senate reconciliation… but we prefer to call the whole contraption “Frodd’s Fraud”.
Harsh? Hardly. If you read the bill, connected the dots, you’ll probably come away thinking worse.
“I don’t think any American is impressed when they see Gov. Romney and all the Republican candidates say the first thing they’d do is roll back Wall Street reforms, and go back to where we were before the crisis, and let Wall Street write its own rules,” said David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s chief campaign strategist, to ABC’s This Week, sometime before the 2012 election.
But letting “Wall Street write its own rules” is precisely what Mr. Obama and the Democrats did!
Were Romney and the Republicans in charge of authoring Wall Street “Reform” they would’ve gone for facility, i.e. making it easier for the banks to escape sudden death at the next crisis. Mr. Obama and the Democrats, fearing Main, needed cover, and extended the banks flexibility to escape sudden death at the next crisis, instead.
That flexibility resided in the rule writing phase, which added 40-some new words to Dodd-Frank’s Federal Register for every 1 word of guideline in Dodd-Frank.
Dodd-Frank did not lay down the rules. It merely set guidelines. Rule-writing was left to Wall Street lawyers and lobbyists working in tandem with regulators and staffers, those unelected officials who (nowadays especially) occupy that beehive at the pivot of the revolving door that connects banks to government.
When for example Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass, tried to legislate a 20% limit to a Too Big To Fail bank’s ownership of a Way Too Big To Fail clearinghouse, he was roundly and soundly blocked from accomplishing the feat, leading his spokeswoman Meaghan Maher to in surrender submit: “No numeric limitations were set — regulators were given the ability to do so.”
In fact, the banking industry spent more in the first quarter of 2011, to influence final outcome of the legislation with regulators, than it did in the first quarter the year when the Dodd-Frank bill was still in Congress and subject to debate.
Even lobbyists for payday loan centers swarmed Congress, to influence final outcome for their business of usury.
Others got busy incentivizing rule-writers at the Federal Reserve, at Treasury, at SEC, at CFTC etc, to go their way, with all sorts of dangling succulent fruit.
Rule makers were given an initial 18 months to figure things out, but if those 18 months were not enough for some reason, there’d be more months (and years) that could be piled on, said Congress. By the end of June 2010, it was reported that bailed out banks could get until 2022 to divest out of risky funds, a 12 year window of leeway.
Glass-Steagall of the 1930′s, by contrast, provided banks with the following leeway: Get out of underwriting within 12 months, or lose your banking license 6 months after that.
How things have changed.
“We’re not against regulation. We’re for regulation. We partner with regulators“ — said a Goldman Sachs lobbyist in relation to Dodd-Frank.
Yes, because the rule-writing phase is their most productive. With no protect-the-taxpayer types anywhere in the room or hovering about, lawyers and lobbyists are, in rule writing, the most free to shape legislative end-product to the form and texture they see fit.
And the regulators advantage it and relish it. Having a chance to rub shoulders and elbows, to shake hands and pat backs, to hobnob in total privacy, with those who will later employ them, and take care of them, is a lovefest for both recruiters and recruits alike.
“I can’t legislate integrity. I can’t legislate wisdom, I can’t legislate passion or competency,” Senator Dodd once said on the Senate floor, regarding his namesake legislation. Now you see why.
Dodd also said: “No one will know, until this is actually in place, how it works.” Just the day before, bank stocks, in an otherwise dismal stock market, partied and rallied. Clearly, banks and their investors knew exactly how it would work in the end.
“We will be among the biggest beneficiaries of reform,” said Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein to clients of Private Wealth Management, before the passage of the 2010 Wall Street ‘reform’.
After its passage, and more than two years into its rules phase, Blankfein would continue to praise the bill: “If I could push a button and eliminate Dodd-Frank would I do it? No, I would not … The vast bulk of it is good …”
Lloyd was right. Because, as TARP’s Inspector General Neil Barofsky asserted: “The idea that the government is not going to let these banks fail, which was implicit [before], is now explicit.”
After Congress reconciled the House and Senate versions of the Dodd-Frank bill — on a day that the Dow Jones Industrial Average barely budged — Goldman Sachs stock rose nearly 4% in market hours into after hours, as did JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup rose over 4%, Morgan Stanley climbed 3%, as did Bank of America — making it clear what the bank sector stock celebration was about.
“(Banks) come out of this big-time winners,” said Bob Froehlich, senior managing director at Hartford Financial Services, of the banks. “Two years later, people will look back and say ‘My gosh, nothing really changed.’”
But that did not deter Senator Chris Dodd from shedding alligator tears… ”It’s a great moment. I’m proud to have been here.” (Too bad John Boehner wasn’t yet Speaker to stand beside and cry a tubful of real tears to compensate.)
But standing beside, Chris Dodd did have Barney Frank. Mr. Frank didn’t feel quite as emotional, but figured he’d make something up to look emotional anyway, so he said: “It is reassuring to know that when public opinion gets engaged, it will win.”
Bank stocks happily concurred.
In the final months of 2010, logs of meetings at the Treasury Department showed anyone who looked that Secretary Tim Geithner and key deputies had been busy receiving a procession of leading executives from large banks, to no doubt shape the exemptions to follow Dodd-Frank, and provide Treasury with an outline/guideline/suggestions & proposals list. (Don’t be surprised if consumer groups were conspicuously absent from those logs. Because they were not invited.)
By March 2011, it was reported that Treasury and its Secretary were ready to announce key exemptions to any forthcoming regulatory framework, starting with FX derivatives, a beneficiary of massive Federal Reserve assists in 2008/2009.
This was all too predictable. In the months and years that followed, the Wish Lists that Wall presented to Treasury got a mile long and more than a mile wide.
On July 21 2010, the Dodd-Frank Act, enacted by the 111th Congress, was signed by the President of the United States to much pomp, fanfare, and resplendent ceremony. Like we said, the long title of Public Law 111–203 promised a bevy of beautiful things, including everything but bringing Elvis back to Memphis. The Republicans mostly stood firm against the bill, not because it lacked the Elvis provision, but because GOP party leaders hated anything that inconvenienced their most prized constituency, and the gift that kept on giving: those free-market-talking Wall Street socialists who espoused the crony capitalists’ entrenched philosophy that some American institutions, mega financials specifically, were naturally endowed the inalienable right to privatize profits or socialize losses, depending on how their business might’ve been going in the moment.
On January 16 2013, thirty months into the rule-writing phase of Dodd-Frank, Richard Fisher, head of the Dallas Fed, would issue: “Congress thought it would address the issue of TBTF through the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act… We contend that Dodd–Frank … on balance … has made things worse, not better.”
Rep. Brad Sherman, a California Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, put it a bit more succinctly in 2010: “The bill has unlimited executive bailout authority. That’s something Wall Street desperately wants but doesn’t dare ask for. The bill contains permanent, unlimited bailout authority.”
Among the ten regulatory agencies involved in the rule-making phase of 111–203, are the SEC, the CFTC, the CFPB, the OCC, the FDIC, and the Fed. Taking the first of those six agencies to illustrate a point, let’s look briefly at its revolving door, to get a pulse of what is also happening at the other five, and in fact all ten.
In Oct 2009, about a year after the bailouts of Wall, the Securities & Exchange Commission hired a vice president in Goldman Sachs’ Business Intelligence Group, a mere 29-year-old named Adam Storch, as the SEC’s first Chief Operating Officer of its Enforcement Division.
Adam Storch’s boss at the SEC: Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami, who would also come into the SEC in 2009 after 7 years as “General Counsel for the Americas” at Deutsche Bank. Khuzami was referred to the SEC by Richard Walker, General Counsel for corporate and investment banking at Deutsche Bank, who was himself a Director of the Enforcement Division at the SEC in the 1990s. Stephen Cutler was the SEC’s Director of the Division of Enforcement from 2001 until 2005. In 2007, he became General Counsel of JP Morgan Chase.
In the years since 2009, the revolving door standing between banks and regulators has spun so many times over what’s described above, that it would leave one’s head spinning, to a point of nausea if not death.
The revolving door at America’s regulatory agencies is one of the richest in the land. Want to become a multimillionaire without becoming a politician first? Then become a government regulator. KA-CHING.
Presumption vs Certainty
When it comes to “orderly liquidation” of “failing financial companies that pose a significant risk to the financial stability of the United States” in Dodd-Frank, our politicians decided that losses to creditors and shareholders (of failing financials) would not be a foregone conclusion, but a possibility only.
In deference to banks and their lobbies and their monies, Congress and the White House legislated that losses to creditors and shareholders would be a matter of “strong presumption” not certainty.
The decision as to who eats the losses, whether it’ll be taxpayers or shareholders or general creditors, was of course left to regulators.
The Bank Tax Idea
In May 2010, around the time Dodd-Frank neared conclusion, Minneapolis Fed head Narayana Kocherlakota gave a speech:
“The opening language of the Senate bill actually declares that it will end taxpayer bailouts. This objective is laudable. But it is not achievable…
Indeed, I’m led to make a prediction: No matter what mechanisms we legislate now to impose losses on creditors, Congress, or some agency acting on Congress’ behalf, will block them when we next face a financial crisis…”
Therefore, Mr. Kocherlakota argued, we need a special tax to be imposed on banks:
“The tax amount exactly equals the extra cost borne by the taxpayers because of bailouts…
Knowing that it faces this tax schedule, the firm no longer has an incentive to undertake inefficiently risky investments…
It is useful to tax a financial institution producing a risk externality, just as it is useful to tax a firm producing a pollution externality.
The purpose of the tax in both instances is to ensure that the firm pays the full costs — private and social — of its production decisions.”
Referencing the House proposal for a $150 billion tax, he said the amount and the whole idea of a cap on it is “problematic.” Inference: the limit was too low.
Still, the $150 billion amount never made it into the final bill. Because the Obama Administration rejected the idea of a special tax on banks to pay for future bailouts.
Why? The answer is simple but its logic gets convoluted, but here’s us taking a go at it… Initially, in Jan 2010, the Administration did sign onto the idea, figuring it would win the President kudos with the base and populist points with the public. But then the Administration realized that the existence of such a tax would only go to prove that the bailout regimen had never really ended, despite the President’s promises to end it once and for all.
So, the tax ultimately got nowhere, but, until it did get nowhere, on a conference call with Wall Street, the Obama Treasury led by Tim Geithner reassured its bank audience on the other end of the line that they need not worry too much about the tax, even if it did materialize. Because that tax to fund future bailouts would be … (get this!) … tax-deductible!
Eventually, a measly $19 billion tax, floating around for a while in the Senate, got killed by Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, with the behind-the-scenes blessings of the Obama-Geithner Treasury.
So the final tax that Mr. Kocherlakota thought was essential, but ought not to be capped at $150 billion, ended up being … (drumroll, please) … $0.00.
Now, how’s that for a cap!
Some of what was in the Bill
In Jan 2010, when the Wall Street reform bill first came out of Barney Frank’s Financial Services Committee in the US House of Representatives, it: (i) authorized the Federal Reserve to provide up to $4 trillion in emergency funding were Wall Street to crash again, and (ii) permitted the US Government to guarantee the obligations of the banks that crashed, provided “there is at least a 99 per cent likelihood that all funds and interest will be paid back.”
Get that? At least a 99% likelihood.
Of course, we understand that making the number 100% would have killed the next bailout.
But if we could’ve talked to Barney at the time about that “99 per cent likelihood,” we would’ve loved to ask him:
Why not 99.99% — just for the heck of it?
Or why not 99.314159265 — out of appreciation for the ubiquity of π?
Or why not 99.03 31 1940 to memorialize and immortalize Barney’s birthday.
If the conditional clause had been: provided there is at least a half-ass decent — or even none at all — chance that all funds and interest will be paid back, at least then taxpayers could have called the House version of the bill an honest one. At least, then, the American people could have called their Representatives an honest lot. Too much to ask, we suppose.
Meantime, over in the Senate, somewhere in Chris Dodd’s draft was this about any bailout funds owed to taxpayers: Failing firms must repay “any amounts owed to the United States, unless the United States agrees or consents otherwise.”
Unless the United States agrees or consents otherwise! — Forget any “99% likelihood” being applied to that clause, because (for sure) that carried a 100% likelihood up ahead.
In an interview with Charlie Rose in March 2011, Barney Frank said he “got better than 90 percent” of what he wanted in the final Dodd-Frank bill.
If he’d said 10 percent, we would’ve respected it. Clearly, what Mr. Frank wanted, was not what the country needed.
Senator Chris Dodd had this to say about his namesake bill: “The bill as drafted ends bailouts. Nothing could be more clear.”
Nothing could be more clear?
Not even still water?
How about crystal-clear crystal, Chris?
Or see-through glass?
Or, better yet, how about a ‘Friend of Mozilo’ Countrywide mortgage from Angelo — one of those very clear things you received?
In Oct 2009, as Dodd-Frank got underway, an original draft relating to derivatives legislation entertained a ban on swaps deemed (quote) “detrimental to the stability of a financial market.”
But then — at the behest of Obama Administration officials, apparently — Barney Frank pulled the plug on that ban with this argument in favor of “abusive” swaps: “There was concern that a broad grant to ban abusive swaps would be unsettling.”
And, with that, abuse became settling again.
More than 2,000 lobbyists lobbied on financial reform. But here’s the interesting thing about that: According to the Center for Responsive Politics and Public Citizen, 1,447 of them used to work for the federal government, 56 of them used to work for the 43 US Senators and US Representatives sitting on the Wall Street reform conference committee, and — get this — 73 were former Senators and US Representatives.
Two special mentions from among the thousands of locusts:
(1) Peter Roberson was a special aide to House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank. After working on the most mission-critical aspect of financial reform, i.e. derivatives legislation and especially Credit Default Swaps regulation, Roberson leapt over to Intercontinental Exchange, owner of the world’s largest CDS clearinghouse, as VP of none other than “Government Relations” to enjoy his reward.
(2) On the Dodd-Frank bill, the lobbying campaign for Goldman Sachs was led by lobbyist Michael Paese, by some chance another former top staffer to Barney Frank.
The Toughest & Most Sweeping’est
Through a good part of 2010, President Obama liked to call Dodd-Frank “the toughest financial reform since the one we created in the aftermath of the Great Depression.” (That being Glass-Steagall.)
First we thought: Not to rain on your parade, Mr. President, but since the Depression and Glass-Steagall, there’s been no tough financial reform to be “toughest” against.
But then we thought about what Citigroup Chairman Richard Parsons told a Fortune Global Forum in Cape Town in June 2010: That Dodd-Frank “will make it tougher for smaller competitors, and the big banks are going to get bigger.”
And with that we realized we stood corrected, because Mr. Obama was right — his Wall Street Reform Act was indeed the “toughest” … against small banks! In fact, his Act will be the toughest against all small and community banks in history!
Then, when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner echoed: “(Dodd-Frank) is going to be the most sweeping set of reforms we have contemplated as a country, since those put in place after the Great Depression,” we received once again validation for why David Axelrod had said that Geithner and Obama had a (quote) “man-crush” on each other.
Mutually Assured Destruction
M.A.D. is a term coined from the Cold War that basically says: if you nuke us, we nuke you back, and (in the end) we’re all dead — so don’t nuke us to begin.
“It would be a very bad long-term policy error to have banks that are too big to fail,” said JP Morgan Chase’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, some time ago. Yes, you heard him right. And, no, he had not been hit in the head by the tennis racket shown here when he said that. Because, right after he’d add: “By that I don’t mean make the banks smaller. We’re large because we have a reason to be large.”
The reason to be large, is manifold. Large helps conceal accounting “control frauds” (hat-tip Dr. Bill Black). Large helps make multi-Billion dollar bonuses appear blasé. Large gets politicians worshipping at your feet, making them easier to buy. Large also makes regulators think twice, before pushing the button on the banks at the next crisis … although, we do think most regulators won’t bother thinking that far, or staying around for it.
Ben and Barack share a smoke
A few years back, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve and the President of the United States took turns trying to explain serial bailouts to the public, assuming a vast audience of neanderthals in America.
First, Ben Bernanke:
“If you have a neighbor, who smokes in bed. And he’s a risk to everybody. If suppose he sets fire to his house, and you might say to yourself, ‘I’m not gonna call the fire department. Let his house burn down. It’s fine with me.’
But what if your house is made of wood? And it’s right next door to his house? What if the whole town is made of wood?”
And 7 months earlier, Barack Obama would also find himself in a town made of wood:
“You know, if my neighbor’s house is on fire, even if they were smoking in the bedroom or leaving the stove on, right now my main incentive is to put out that fire, so that it doesn’t spread to my house.”
Knowing all Main Street Gov knows now, about how Dodd-Frank has been structured to facilitate serial bailouts up ahead, all we can say to their smoke-weed-and-burn-wood analogy is this:
It’s one thing to be dealt a lie, but quite another to be taken for a fool.
Bait & Switch
In Dec 09, President Obama said the $700 billion bank bailout, known as TARP, was both “flawed” and “launched hastily under the last Administration.”
Never mind that TARP was approved in 2008 by both houses of Congress controlled by Democrats, and voted ‘aye’ by then Senator Obama, with that Senator even pushing the legislature to (quote) “step up to the plate and get this done.” In fact, Candidate Obama personally called progressive members of Congress and lobbied them to pass TARP.
That was for the first $350 billion portion of the bailout. The vote for the second installment happened just days before President-Elect Obama was inaugurated and again happened at his urging, with most Democrats obliging.
Next, the Obama White House and Secretary Geithner pushed for the whole “flawed” and “hastily launched” bailout to be extended, into Oct 2009. And, again, Democrats in Congress, at President Obama’s urging, went along.
We doubt Mr. Obama suffers from selective amnesia, but we have no doubt he is the consummate pivot, able to turn fact into fiction, with both ease and clear conscience.
It is as sad as it is remarkable to watch.
or is it: Clueless?
In April 2010, Mr. Obama took the Dodd-Frank farce to Cooper Union in Manhattan. “I want to urge you to join us, instead of fighting us in this effort,” the President said to an audience of Wall Streeters in attendance.
Someone forgot to tell the Prez — or the Prez forgot to tell whoever was listening — that there was no fight to be had. Wall was not fighting the reform. Like we said: If anything, it was writing the reform.
The language in Dodd-Frank, everywhere that mattered, had the distinct markings of Wall’s authors. An inspection of the terminology etc would have made it clear to anyone that checked, that behind the signatures of Congress, finance industry ghostwriters abounded.
That same April in 2010, President Obama bombarded the air and the airwaves with a catalog of statements on Wall Street reform, and infused them with pledge after pledge:
“The derivatives market is where a lot of the big, risky financial bets by companies like AIG took place…. When things go wrong, as they did in AIG, they can bring down the entire economy…. We can’t afford another AIG.”
“[I will veto any legislation that] does not bring the derivatives market under control … I’m absolutely confident that the bill that emerges is going to be a bill that prevents bailouts.”
“After a recession that stole eight million jobs … this will require that we continue to tackle the underlying problems that caused this turmoil in the first place. In short, it’s essential that we learn the lessons of this crisis — or we risk repeating them…. These reforms would put an end — once and for all — to taxpayer bailouts.”
“Big banks and financial institutions will pay for the bad decisions they make, not taxpayers. Simply put, this means no more taxpayer bailouts. Never again will taxpayers be on the hook because a financial company is deemed too big to fail.”
“That’s how we’ll help to put an end to the cycles of boom and bust that we’ve seen. And that’s how … we’ll not only revive the economy, but help to rebuild it stronger than ever before.”
“Every day we don’t act, the same system that led to bailouts remains in place, with the exact same loopholes and the exact same liabilities. And if we don’t change what led to the crisis, we’ll doom ourselves to repeat it. That’s the truth.”
Seriously, Mr. President, if that’s the truth, we’d hate to hear you tell us an untruth.
“The reform that both parties have been working on for a year, would prevent a crisis like this from happening again,” said Mr. Obama on 4.26.2010, but just the prior month, on 3.15.2010, Mr. Obama’s fellow Democrat, Congressional point man and lead sponsor of the ‘reform’, Chris Dodd, said: “This legislation will not stop the next crisis from coming.”
As for the assessment from someone in a unique position to know, here’s the chairman of Fifth Third Bancorp and former chairman of the FDIC, Bill Isaac: “[Dodd-Frank] didn’t fix anything. It would not have prevented the last crisis, and won’t prevent the next one.”
Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat: “The bill should have included reforms to prevent another such crisis. Regrettably, it did not … My test for the financial regulatory reform bill is whether it will prevent another crisis. The conference committee’s proposal fails that test, and for that reason I will not vote to advance it.”
On 4.14.2010, in a letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 36 individuals with all sorts of gravitas, including Bill Black, Robert Reich, Josh Rosner, Jim Chanos, and Dean Baker wrote: “Neither the bill passed earlier this year by the House, nor the one currently under consideration in the Senate would have prevented the crisis…”
Moody’s: “[T]he proposed regulatory framework does not appear to be significantly different from what exists today.”
On April 5 2010, Robert Reich said: “[T]he only way to make sure no bank it too big to fail is to make sure no bank is too big. If Congress and the White House fail to do this, you have every reason to believe it’s because Wall Street has paid them not to.”
And, two years later, Robert Reich would take that a step further to say: “The new Dodd-Frank law that was supposed to stop Wall Street from a repeat performance is now so riddled with loopholes, courtesy of the Street’s lobbyists, that it’s almost a sham.”
Minneapolis Fed president, Narayana Kocherlakota, in May 2010: ”Bailouts will inevitably happen… Knowing bailouts are inevitable, financial institutions fail to internalize all the risks that their investment decisions impose on society”
Richmond Fed president, Jeffrey Lacker, also around the time Dodd-Frank neared conclusion: “Arguably, we will not break the cycle of regulation, bypass, crisis and rescue until we are willing to clarify the limits to government support… Measured against this gauge, my early assessment is that progress thus far has been negligible.”
On June 27 2011, at an event hosted by the Pew Financial Reform Project and New York University Stern School of Business, head of the Kansas City Fed, Tom Hoenig, had this to say: “The Dodd-Frank reforms have all been introduced before, but financial markets skirted them.”
And, About Dodd-Frank’s promise to never again bail out a systemic bank, he added: “I just can’t imagine it working.”
Regarding the current standard for capital requirements, his thought: “I don’t have any faith in it at all”
As for higher capital requirements being an impediment to lending, his statement: “It’s almost propaganda.”
Concerning the status quo, his opinion: “I suggest that the problem with Systemically Important Financial Institutions, is they are fundamentally inconsistent with capitalism. They are inherently destabilizing to global markets and detrimental to world growth. So long as the concept of a SIFI exists, and there are institutions so powerful and considered so important that they require special support and different rules, the future of capitalism is at risk and our market economy is in peril.”
Also in 2011, by Mr. Hoenig: “The final decision on solvency is not market driven, but rests with different regulatory agencies and finally with the Secretary of the Treasury, which will bring political considerations into what should be a financial determination.” Mr. Hoenig said he expects bailouts to happen again at the next crisis, irrespective of “who the Secretary of the Treasury is.”
We could go on and on. Still, in 2010 President Obama took to the Rose Garden to declare: “Over the last year, the financial industry has repeatedly tried to end this reform with hordes of lobbyists. Today, I think it is fair to say that those efforts have failed.”
Seriously, does this President know what he stamps his presidential signature to?
Or, are we getting this all wrong?
About the most important (but impotent) legislation to have been penned by a President in 80 years, is it Mr. Obama that’s been clueless? Or is it us that’s been clueless about him? A few of us at Main Street Gov have long had our answer in a third possibility — more on that in our High Time bill-request, under the banner Puppeteers & Puppets/Presidents.
On July 15 2010, President Obama concluded: “Because of this reform, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes. There will be no more taxpayer-funded bailouts, period.” The President meant comma, not “period”.
But if he’d said comma, he’d probably have lost re-election. So Mr. Obama was re-elected, and, with his re-election, on January 2013 Newsweek celebrated President Obama on its cover as “The Second Coming”. And we couldn’t help but think:
If there is one thing that this President has heralded, it will not be a media-frenzied “Second Coming” of anything, but rather the earlier-than-anticipated arrival of something very primal and most pristine. (What that is, you’ll see going into Nov 3 2020.)
Because, the Apostle of “Change” — and the Prophet of “Change You Can Believe In” no less — never intended himself to be the Bearer or Deliverer of such monumental “Change”.
Instead, he was meant to be the hapless and unwitting Harbinger of it.
Without the Great Expectations motorcade following Barack Obama, and the catacomb of broken promises in his wake, all that’s to come would not be possible, this early into the new century.
As of the original year of this writing, in 2013, 3 years into its passage Public Law 111–203 had garnered four dozen Congressional hearings, with dozens more to come. Potential total number of congressional hearings we may see before all is said and done: well over one hundred.
3 years into the passage of 111–203, there have been more than 4250 publicly listed meetings convened by ten regulatory agencies. Potential total number of regulatory meetings we may see before all is said and done: more than 10,000, and possibly as many as 12,000.
When all is said and done with the most over-hyped, most misrepresented pieces of legislation in US history, nothing will have changed.
And, if anything has, it’s been that it’s got better for the usual suspects.
And taxpayers would’ve forked over billions of dollars in salaries and benefits to the thousands of government officials and staffers hosting the hearings and meetings, so they could go collect billions more on the other side of the revolving door.
All for what? To end up bailing out the banks, all over again, at the next crisis.
There are 2 components to this. But before that, a consolation to all rank-and-file bank shareholders who fret the very thought of messing with the megabanks:
The sum of the parts of a megabank can be worth more than the whole, especially if that megabank is thinly cushioned by capital and thickly exposed to risk.
- The ‘Breakup’
Per the proposal set forth by Richard W Fisher, former head of the Dallas Fed, in remarks before the “Committee for the Republic” on January 16 2013 — with the major recommended modification by Main Street Gov to that proposal being that the breakpoint for every megabank’s ‘breakup’ be $50 billion in balance sheet LIABILITIES instead of $250 billion in balance sheet ASSETS as Mr. Fisher has proposed — this Bill-Request asks that the following be implemented:
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Speech by Richard W. Fisher, President and CEO (2005-2015) Richard Fisher's remarks before the Committee for the…
2. The ‘Bail-in’
In light of Alan Greenspan telling the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that “with 15% tangible equity capital, neither Bear Stearns nor Lehman Brothers would have been in trouble,” how about getting to at least that number — and preferably more — before it’s too late, by taking equity, additional Tier-1 securities (contingent convertible bonds or hybrids), subordinated debt, and senior debt available for bail-in, to the cutting board or chopping block.