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Healing the Breach: An Essay on Sound Practices for Fund Managers

…“the “money-management business” (with its plethora of mutual funds, investment counseling firms, and hedge funds) has so many practitioners who’ve grown up in an era where it’s all been about marketing and not risk management,…” “If 2004 goes bad, it will go really bad “ Bill Fleckenstein Contrarian Chronicle

This candid remark is an astonishing observation. The assertion that money management is more about marketing then risk management is a bit disconcerting. The most recent Security Exchange Commission’s (SEC) announcement concerning its investigations of brokerage firms for receiving commission payment premium’s by asset management firms for directing investors into purchases of preferred mutual funds is the latest example of how this statement is a tragic reality for investment product consumers.

We live in the era of radical capitalism. It is characterized by fierce political pronouncements of the sanctity of laissez-faire principles and the ultra aggressive pursuit of free markets, resulting in the increased rationalization of the market mechanism into our culture and daily lives. For many readers this statement is not surprising or profound. Marketing is king, and if you have any doubts about it, try locating a music station in New York City that is not wed to a Top 40 play list or Talk Radio format.

However, as this Milton Friedman vision of utopia continues its inexorable march of rationalization, a strange alchemy is taking place. As businesses damn the torpedoes to pursue markets, ethical business practices and sound corporate governance principles are being sacrificed at the alter of EBITDA, ROE, P/E’s and the Holy of Holies those sacred stock options. The ironic twist to all this is that these aggressive business practices defended on the grounds that they enhance shareholders value are actually seriously eroding the values of brands, profit margins and market capitalizations. Ask a shareholder of Enron, Parmalat or WorldCom about the clever corporate stewardship of these company’s former management teams and you’ll get a resounding thumbs down.

But there is something deeper going on here. When investors entrust their money to an investment manager, they may be attracted to the sizzle (remember past performance is not indicative of anything) but what they want is still the steak. Investors want an investment manager that can understand their investment goals and risk tolerance and provide them with an investment vehicle that can balance that risk tolerance with the capability of realizing an expected return. The act of giving a manager discretionary power over an individuals retirement fund, a union’s pension portfolio, a family office or child’s educational financing vehicle is a tremendous act of faith that requires an extraordinary degree of confidence in the manager’s ability to provide an acceptable return, but to also be a trusted fiduciary that has the requisite operational support and controls in place that will safeguard and honestly seek to grow and protect an investors capital.

Mr. Fleckenstein’s assertion that risk management has taken a back seat to marketing and product placement is unfortunately an accurate assertion. The financial services industry is unique in the sense that it is the loam of all capitalist constructs. Yet as a business, financial services companies are no different from any other economic enterprise. All companies create products and differentiate themselves through the value proposition incorporated into their product. Intrinsic to the product creation process is a determination of the type of materials that will form its composition. A conscious decision is made as to how the product will be positioned and marketed, its performance metrics determined, customer service resources required to support the product as consumers use it and how it will be distributed. Once those variables have been determined, a profit margin is added and a value proposition to potential customers is conveyed. The value proposition that is communicated to consumers comes to be known and identified as the product brand. An investment product is designed to essentially address current and future financing requirements and the risk profile of the consumer are central to the design and purpose of the product. That is why this bifurcation is so dangerous. It undermines the inherent purpose of the investment product and should more truthfully be marketed as a product that enriches the commission merchant that may over a specified period of time garner a return for the investor. Think about all the Enron employees who had their 401k’s invested entirely in Enron stock.

This is probably the most significant point and primal differentiator of companies that manufacture financial products with that of companies that manufacture consumer durables. Financial products facilitate the flow of capital through the markets. It feeds the invisible hand that guides and directs all economic activity. If the flow of financial products is impeded, or abates due to consumers lack of confidence, a consumer driven economy like that of the United States will suffer greatly. Foreign governments and institutions buy US Government bills, bonds and notes because of the well-earned confidence they have in Uncle Sam’s stable currency and it’s ability to pay it’s debt and provide a fair return to all note holders. However if that confidence goes away, Uncle Sam will have to curtail its deficit spending, raise taxes on its people and enter into other messy measures to remain economically viable. Confidence is a lovely thing both for nations and companies and once that confidence is lost it is a difficult, if not an impossible thing to regain. Confidence is the basis of risk management. Credit risk and rates of return, the key variables of risk management, all start with the certainty of confidence.

Yes, from an investment performance point of view 2003 was a terrific year. All major equity indices were up. Thanks in large part to a federal tax rebate program the US economy grew by 8% during the 3rd quarter, prompting Mr. Greenspan to proclaim with a certain degree of confidence that the recession had ended. Yet from corporate governance, business confidence point of view, 2003 business news makes the turn of the century robber barons look like acolytes of Mother Teresa. To restore confidence investment managers need to develop a Sound Practice program that will repair the breech and bridge the bifurcation of marketing and risk management within the investment management enterprise. Lets turn our focus on how and why this bifurcation must be bridged.

Sound Practices Builds Confidence

The explosive growth of the global hedge fund industry and the important role it plays in providing market liquidity and as an alternative asset class for high net worth investors and institutions is increasingly placing the industry in the global spotlight and many regulators, interest groups and institutional consumers are demanding greater transparency and advocating increased oversight and government regulation.

The Long Term Capital Management debacle, George Soros’s unilateral assault on and profitable dismantling of the Pre-Euro Exchange Rate Mechanism, numerous hedge fund blow-ups through poor management controls or outright fraud, and the most recent disclosure of the widespread collusion of hedge fund arbitrageurs and mutual fund managers to conduct market timing trading, is seriously eroding investor confidence in financial institutions. This is creating a political climate favorable to enhanced regulation and oversight of financial institutions. The recent investigative actions of New York State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, and the appointment of William H. Donaldson to head the SEC are clearly political responses to the crisis in corporate governance and regulatory malfeasance.

At last count, there are approximately 20,000 companies engaged in investment management within the United States. Some investment companies are regulated by the SEC, some by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), some by the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), some conform to best practices required by custodial counter-parties, and some are guided solely by the good conscience of the fund manager.

In this rapidly expanding market, managers are seeking to differentiate themselves and attract investors assets through slick marketing campaigns, presentations, road shows, and shameless boasts about a mangers progeny, experience and past performance. Attestations of operational readiness and management’s commitment to ethical corporate governance is usually covered with a statement that lists the prime broker, the accounting firm for auditing and the administrator for transfer agency and shareholder communications. The manager believes that by listing the service providers (corporate brands) they convey a message to the investor that they are operationally sound and have the operational controls in place to satisfy all contingencies. Unfortunately, these service providers are retained for a very specific purpose and taken in aggregate do not amount to the implementation of a unified sound risk management program. Indeed, Arthur Anderson was a leading provider of services to the alternative investment management market and reliance on this brand to infer regulatory compliance or adherence to sound operational practices was clearly a miscalculation.

In the day-to-day operation of the business the tension between regulatory compliance and entrepreneurial zeal is usually resolved in favor of doing the transaction. When we asked an executing broker working a large sale transaction for a first time hedge fund customer if the hedge fund identity had been properly documented and verified in conformance with the rules of the USA PATRIOT Act he stated, “They’ll never answer these questions and if we ask they’ll simply go to another broker to work the order. We’ll take the hit to do the deal.” Yes this broker made a calculated decision based on the potential that the hedge fund was not entering into this transaction to launder money through the capital market system or was a front for terrorist financing. He was probably right, and earned his firm a nice commission for working the 100,000-share block at $.05 per share. But what if he was wrong? Was the premium commission rate a fair return for a ruined reputation, a million dollar fine, the revocation of your industry license, a lifelong ban from the industry, or even a prison sentence?

What are Sound Practices?

Sound Practices are a set of standards and operational controls that mitigate numerous risk factors in the investment management enterprise. Sound Practices address the investment process, its decision and operational support functions, capital introduction, compliance requirements, business continuity, fund strategies and investor communications within a set of defined expense ratios.

What’s the difference between Sound Practices and Regulatory Compliance?

If we accept the definition that compliance is a set of externally imposed rules required to insure that counter-parties of a transaction and the rules governing the transaction meet acceptable minimum standards to facilitate an ethical and efficient exchange of value; I think we come pretty close to the meaning and nature of compliance and the purpose of the functions required to support it.

In the United States, depending upon the type of products a financial services firm offers, there may be or may not be a governmental agency or Special Regulatory Organization (SRO) that is charged with compliance oversight and enforcement of its business practices. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is charged with the responsibility to oversee compliance with regulatory statutes for savings and loans, thrifts and banks. For broker/dealers the NASD is the SRO oversight body. For mutual fund companies and publicly listed companies, the SEC is the regulator. Future Commission Merchants are regulated by the CFTC; and hedge funds, -sometimes referred to as an Unregistered Investment Company (UIC)- at present escape any formalized regulatory oversight body.

Each regulatory body has its own set of compliance rules, guidelines and enforcement mandates. One can imagine the overlap and confusion that occurs when a bank owns a broker dealer, which owns an asset management firm, that offers mutual funds and off shore hedge fund products to institutional, retail and high net worth investors. The maze of regulators and the differing and sometimes contradictory regulatory requirements creates a reactionary and possibly antagonistic response to regulatory examinations and demands. At the very least, compliance is a significant cost of doing business and adds little to the intrinsic value of the product offered by the institution. The added expense of compliance deals with the structural aspects of the market, not the intrinsic value of the product. This is a dangerous bifurcation in its own right. A financial product, (specie for the capital markets) requires a denigration of value to assure a controlled velocity through a regulated market structure.

For companies that view regulatory compliance as a necessary evil that tempers entrepreneurial pursuits and whose function is an added cost of doing business; these organizations will develop a best practice culture that is inherently restrictive. This type of corporate response to regulatory or best practices initiatives will always be overwhelmingly reactive and places the enterprise at great operational and regulatory risk.

Sound Practices are different. Sound practices are a set of internally (organically) developed operating principles that inform the values of ethical corporate governance, is enforced by internal management and seeks to become invisible as it ingrains itself into the operational and business culture of the firm. Sound practices must be viewed as fundamental to a firm’s value proposition, organically grown and endemic to the corporate culture and proactively conveyed to the market as a premium brand.

The internal development or organic growth of best practices as a central desire and objective of the corporate enterprise is revealed as central to product brand and the value proposition offered in the market. This positions the firm and its products as a premium brand. The business benefits of a sound practice program are enhanced margins, product performance and the attraction of quality clients and vendor relationships. More importantly it differentiates the firm in a crowded market because its quality brand is perceived by the market as endemic to the firm’s corporate culture and as such is inherently superior to something that is externally imposed by some governmental or regulatory body. On a macro-economic level the socialist or state capitalist experiments in highly regulated planned economies are the logical extreme and true antithesis of a sound practice culture.

Within the hedge fund industry in the United States the concept of Sound Practices first surfaced in an industry study entitled Sound Practices for Hedge Funds. The study was an industry response to the Clinton Administration’s request to examine the lessons learned from the Long Term Capital Management implosion and recommend basic guidelines to avoid similar disastrous occurrences in the future. The paper was a breakthrough on a number of fronts, placing the science of risk management and the utilization of risk measurement tools at the center of the investment management enterprise. Though the study was a political response to a catastrophic market event, the real purpose of the study was to temper the drive to regulate the hedge fund industry. In essence, the authors of the study asserted that regulatory oversight is not needed if hedge funds implement and maintain a sound practices program. Sound practices will allow investment companies to remain unregulated and will assure that the industry is fully capable of self-policing through the creation of practice standards. Indeed, any regulation or governmental oversight will further drive the industry offshore to more discreet and tax friendly domiciles and could potentially drain capital and liquidity from the US capital markets.

Operational Risk Mitigation

As previously stated, developing and adhering to a set of best practices principals and guidelines will add intrinsic value to product and corporate brand. The purveyors of Business Performance Management (BPM) solutions routinely boast the claim that publicly listed companies that practice BPM have P/E ratios that trade at a 15% premium to industry peers who have not implemented a BPM strategy. The question whether BPM is a silver bullet to enhance market value or whether BPM practitioners are leading companies dedicated to implementing programs and mechanisms to build shareholder value are irrelevant. What is important is that BPM practitioners are implementing processes and tools to understand and isolate operational risk to create product delivery and decision support mechanisms that build intrinsic product and corporate brand value. Thus at its heart, BPM practitioners seek to heal the bifurcation of marketing and operational risk management and firmly establish and display the synthesis as central to the value proposition a company delivers to its clients.

Operational risk factors in the investment management complex are numerous. They include valuation practices, system infrastructure, business continuity contingencies, vendor and service provider dependencies, risk management tools, risk management function segregation and asset gathering or capital introduction and investment acceptance principles. All of these risk factors are significant and each one on its own could threaten the ongoing viability of the enterprise. Each risk factor must be addressed in detail with a comprehensive programmatic approach to develop and implement processes and controls to enhance best practices to support the function and mitigate the risk factor associated with the business process. The Basel Capital Accord (Basel ll) proposes the introduction of a capital charge related to the operational risks of financial institutions. Basel II defines operational risk as “the risk of direct or indirect loss resulting from inadequate or failed internal processes, people and systems or from external events.”

As an example, poor record keeping or an honest miscalculation on a corporate action treatment or security valuation can be forgiven. After all, the restatement of earnings -even during the Sarbanes Oxley Era- in corporate America is common. Laundering money for criminal enterprises, or heaven forbid, financing terrorism goes way past lax controls. In the eyes of the law it is criminal, in the eye’s of regulatory authorities it’s a serious offence, and a heavy fine and asset forfeiture is possible. If this occurs, in the mind of the consumer the fund manager is guilty of two counts of treason. The first count of treason the fund manger is guilty of is against his country. The second count the fund manager is guilty of is the betrayal of a sacred fiduciary duty. A hedge fund manager would probably never recover from this type of avoidable catastrophic risk event.

Fund managers need not look at compliance with the USA Patriot Act as another cumbersome compliance requirement that will be expensive to address. The belief that compliance will antagonize or annoy potential clients and may in fact drive them to a competitor whose controls are not as stringent and whose compliance laxity facilitates transactions by making it easier for investors to place assets with the competitor may hold some truth. But shouldn’t a fund manager avoid those types of clients anyway?

Compliance with The USA Patriot Act requires that investment companies conduct due diligence and maintain and administer a Customer Identification Program (CIP). Investment companies should view compliance with the Act as an opportunity to develop a Know Your Customer (KYC) capability that enhances and enriches the client relationship with the firm. When fund managers make KYC the cornerstone of their product development initiatives marketing will then truly serve the risk management requirements of clients.

The process of conducting the KYC due diligence exercise results in a more in-depth understanding of the customer. As managers are verifying customer identification information they will routinely uncover residential, employment and family histories that give them a better perspective on the client’s needs, their appetite for risk, other fiduciary relationships the client has and the source of the clients wealth. The regulatory objective of the KYC process is to verify the clients identity and to make sure they are not a money launderer or terrorist. The sound practice objective of the KYC process is to cover the regulatory requirements and more importantly to gain insights and understandings into their personal and business motivations. Armed with this understanding the manager can design or offer an investment product that will address the client’s risk management requirement. Client’s will appreciate the fact that managers are conducting this due diligence to insure that their funds will not be commingled with money launderers or terrorists, and that the firm is taking appropriate steps to insure that they transact business with reputable clients whose ethical and moral standards are similar to their own high standards.

As clients experience the KYC discovery process, they will begin to understand that the firm is committed to delivering a qualitatively superior value proposition. The client experience will help them to understand that the marketing focus of the firm is to acquire trusted customers and the depth and quality of client relationships are established to understand client needs and requirements. The client will also gain the assurance that regulatory risk and the potential for large fines and asset forfeitures are minimized due to the care the firm has exercised in determining that its clients are the right type of clientele and that the firm’s management has created operational controls and processes to prevent the risk of money laundering within the investment management enterprise.

Furthermore, subscription and redemption releases are facilitated due to proper controls in place with administrators and custodial institutions. This places enhanced liquidity at a fund manager’s disposal allowing the manager to practice effective cash management techniques that position the manager to take advantage of investment opportunities that may arise. This raises the possibility of developing a more effective collateral management capability that will tighten spreads on haircuts and dramatically reduce financing expenses. The credit rating of the firm would improve allowing lenders to further reduce financing rates to capture the funds business in a competitive credit and financing market. The reduction in the cost of capital can dramatically affect investment performance and the marketers can truly boast of a source of alpha that is directly attributable to operational sound practice processes.

Having proper procedures and business processes in place with administrators and custodian institutions will also facilitate the transfer of shareholder data to accountants for tax and audit purposes. This will expedite the delivery of tax and performance information to shareholders, generating savings in preparation fees and lessening the possibility of costly restatements. This will reduce and maintain fund expense ratios to absolute minimums. Marketers can clearly demonstrate that the fund managers are good stewards and are as concerned with minimization of business expenses as well as investment performance and high watermarks.

Increased transparency and the opportunity to dramatically enhance shareholder communications and reporting will be a strong attraction to many investors. Indeed, many institutional investors demand a level of transparency, communication protocols, and reporting tools that would have been unthinkable only a short while ago. As sophisticated institutional participation grows within the industry, the implementation of a sound practice program will be the only way hedge fund products can incorporate the necessary value proposition that addresses their risk management profiles and requirements. Sound practices and the compliance function become significant differentiators and powerful marketing tools. At last, the bifurcation is healed.

James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank has been quoted as saying, “Corporate governance is about promoting corporate fairness, transparency and accountability.” Sound Practices is a necessary prerequisite for effective and ethical corporate governance. Fund managers must accept it’s precepts and sell side institutions and other industry participants and service providers must demand compliance, disclosure, ethical trading principals, honest research, operational integrity and a full commitment to its implementation and adherence. Effective corporate governance practices will restore the faith of the investing public in the global financial services industry and maintain the rationality of the world’s capital markets. It will also please investors to see realized enhanced returns on investment portfolios and help fund managers to fully participate and enjoy the benefits of a thriving hedge fund practice.

Originally written January 5, 2004, the article is significant because it raises concerns about financial services product marketing practices that still need to be addressed six and half years later.

You Tube Music Video: Mike Oldfield, Tubular Bells

Risk: regulatory, consumer confidence, sound practices

June 7, 2010 Posted by | AML, banking, Basel II, credit crisis, hedge funds, investments, marketing, operations, private equity, product, product liability, regulatory, reputational risk, risk management, sound practices | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sum2′s Hamilton Plan Gets Some Scholarly Attention

The following research paper on The Hamilton Plan was written by Deepak Verma, a business student at Baruch College.  To our knowledge it is the first scholarly research that incorporates the Hamilton Plans theme of a focus on SME manufacturing.

ISSUES MANAGEMENT PROJECT
Prof. Michael Kirk Stauffer

DEEPAK VERMA
The Societal and Governmental Environment of Business
Baruch College, the City University of New York
December 16, 2009

Table of Content

Topic Page No
1. Executive Summary 2
2. The Issue: Shrinking Manufacturing Base 3-4
3. The Origin of the Issue and Solution 4-5
4. Small & Medium Enterprises; Catalyst of Sustainable Growth 6
5. Initiative for Development of SMEs 7-8
6. Future of SME and SMEs in USA 9
7. Appendix : References 10

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Living beyond means is not sustainable. One of the primary reasons of prolonged Economic and Credit Crisis in United States is its low manufacturing base and American way of consuming more than what is produced. This research paper will examine issue of shrinking manufacturing base of USA, unfair and unethical business practices adopted by countries such as China to boost export thereby causing trade deficit to USA, reasons for low manufacturing base and role of small and medium enterprise (SME) manufacturers in developing a sustainable manufacturing base of the US economy.

Prior to coming at Baruch College for pursuing MBA in finance and investments, I worked for over 10 years with Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), an apex financial institution of India engaged in the development and financing of SMEs and micro financial institutions. Having worked with this financial institution, I realized the importance of SMEs in bringing sustainable economic development and employment creation, particularly in a mixed economy like India.

The paper will discuss on public-private initiative in USA for development of SMEs, their efforts and capital investment for empowerment and financing of SMEs. Various initiatives taken by private and public sector will be analyzed. Efforts have been made to forecast future of SMEs vis a vis manufacturing sector, role of community development financial institutions (CDFIs), and flow of commercial bank credit and private equity investment in SMEs in the United States.

THE ISSUE: SHRINKING MANUFACTURING BASE
Why should shrinking manufacturing base be an issue in a market driven service oriented economy like US? Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stated on Feb. 28, 2007, “I would say that our economy needs machines and new factories and new buildings and so forth in order for us to have a strong and growing economy.” Strong Manufacturing base is the only solution to rising trade deficit and industrial job loss. Manufacturing promotes innovation which leads to investments in equipment and people, research and development, improved products and processes and increase in productivity and higher standards of living. Increase in manufacturing leads to increase in demand for raw materials and other commercial services.

United States has transitioned from an agricultural economy to Industrial economy to a service economy. Over a period of this transition US has lost its manufacturing base substantially and has been importing goods from around the world which has resulted into huge trade deficit and industrial job losses. IMF has categorized the US current account deficit as unsustainable. Warren Buffet also once commented “The U.S trade deficit is a bigger threat to the domestic economy than either the federal budget deficit or consumer debt and could lead to political turmoil… Right now, the rest of the world owns $3 trillion more of us than we own of them.”

Since the United States joined the WTO, US trade deficit has risen from $150.6 billion in 1994 to $817.3 billion in 2006. US reliance on imports ranges from electronic items to apparels and other consumables. For example, electronic items sold in United States are developed by companies such as Philips, Toshiba, Sony, Hitachi, Samsung and Sharp. We have lost significant market share in Auto Industry also. Toyota has surpassed General Motors to become leading auto manufacturer in terms of global sales. Ironically, items such as clothing and apparel where USA had its dominance are also being imported from foreign countries. Over 90 percent of clothing and shoes sold in the United States are made in foreign countries. US economy has thrived on consumerism which has led to increase in demand for goods over the years but production of domestically manufactured goods has been declining, thereby giving rise to imports from foreign countries and loss of industrial jobs.

Critics of the argument say it is the increase in production efficiencies, resulted from technological innovation and advancement that has resulted in loss of jobs. Additionally, it is the increase in consumption which is the root cause of import deficit rather than shrinking manufacturing base. Undoubtedly long term data indicates an increase in US manufacturing, but the way we are loosing our manufacturing share from last 2 decades and if we continue shrinking, we will soon have no choice but to consume whatever is dumped in our market and will be on the mercy of foreign imported goods. Increase in manufacturing has not kept pace with global growth in manufacturing in USA. Since 2000 global manufacturing growth has been 47%, whereas USA has recorded a growth rate of only 19%.

ORIGIN OF THE ISSUE & SOLUTION
What is causing shrinking manufacturing base in the United States? Is it purely competitive and cheaper products manufactured in Asia and Europe or some other factors are also responsible? Undoubtedly competitive global business environment has severely affected domestic production in the United States, this crisis in large arises due to unfair and unethical business practices adopted by its trading partners mainly China. Some of those practices are significant government subsidies, currency manipulation, large-scale dumping in the U.S. market, and other market-distorting practices. Additionally, unfavorable govt. policies, tax structure, increase in cost involved in healthcare, litigation, and regulation has significantly affected the bottom line. Increase in cost and strict regulation forced manufacturing units to move their facilities to other countries where companies do not face those kinds of impediments. Companies operating in the U.S. started outsourcing low-value tasks like simple assembly or circuit-board stuffing, but lower cost of outsourcing and shrinking margin lured them to continue outsourcing sophisticated engineering and manufacturing capabilities that are crucial for innovation in a wide range of products. As a result, the U.S. has lost or is in the process of losing the knowledge, skilled people, and supplier infrastructure needed to manufacture many of the cutting-edge products it invented.

Is there any way to bring back our manufacturing base? The view that the U.S. should focus on R&D and services is completely flawed. Manufacturing is part of the innovation process and United States has to expand its manufacturing base to remain a world leader.

Following may be suggested to address the issue:

(1) Increase the tariffs on foreign goods so that they are more expensive than domestic goods.
(2) Demand the same level of quality in all foreign goods as American goods.
(3) Diplomatic measures should be taken to create pressure on foreign countries particularly China to stop manipulating their currencies.

Efforts should be made to open up foreign consumption markets adequately to U.S. producers so as to increase export and minimize trade deficit and should endeavor to combat predatory foreign trade practices aimed at undermining U.S. producers in their home market. Next big step is to promote small and medium enterprises to set-up manufacturing units.

SMALL & MEDIUM ENTERPRISES (SMEs); CATALYST OF SUSTAINABLE GROWTH
The issue of shrinking manufacturing base in the United States has been discussed by economist, policymakers, industrialists, and think tanks since economic integration and various measures to improve domestic manufacturing base have been suggested. But considering our free market dominance no sincere efforts were made to expand manufacturing base. Alarming rise in trade deficit and current economic and credit crisis which resulted in to massive industrial job loss has called for immediate intervention of private-public participation to protect and develop domestic manufacturing base for long term sustainable economic growth of United States. It is this time only that the role of SME manufacturers was felt inevitable to address this alarming issue.

President Obama during an interview said “We’ve got to make sure that we’re cultivating small businesses and entrepreneurs who are going to be driving employment growth,” the President said, “so that 20 years from now we can look back and we can say, ‘This was the pivot point, this is where we started to turn the corner.”

US need to change course at this point of time and need to develop a network of small and medium enterprises focusing on cleaner and green technology. The U.S. can explore strategies used in emerging markets for development of SMEs. According to Hau L. Lee, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, “America needs large industrial zones devoted to specific industries–similar to zones in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and much of China. Such areas offer tax breaks, cheap or free land, workforce training, plenty of water and power, and agencies that serve as one-stop shops for all of the necessary permits and regulatory approvals.” A national level specialized financial institution may be created to provide low cost credit to newly setup SMEs in the manufacturing sector. US strength lies in high end technology, innovation, R&D, robust infrastructure, and know-how.

INITIATIVE FOR DEVELOPMENT OF SMEs

US govt. runs a number of programs for providing technological know-how, contracting opportunities, counseling and assistance, financing, and R&D facilities to small and medium enterprises. Some of the prominent programs run by US department of commerce are Manufacturing Extension Program, Advanced Technology Program, Technology Transfer, and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. State govt. and number of govt. agencies are deployed for implementation of these schemes across the United States. SBA provides technical and financial assistance to SMEs through its partner lending institutions.

On November 17, 2009 The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. launched 10,000 Small Businesses — a $500 million initiative for development of 10,000 small businesses across the United States. The plan envisaged to provide greater access to business education, mentors and networks, and financial capital to small businesses. Lloyd C. Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs quoted “Small businesses play a vital role in creating jobs and growth in America’s economy.” Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway also mentioned “Our recovery is dependent on hard working small business owners across America who will create the jobs that America needs. I’m proud to be a part of this innovative program which provides greater access to know-how and capital – two ingredients critical to success.”

Sum2 LLC, a firm which assists SMEs in implementing sound business practices by offering a series of programs and products, announced The Hamilton Plan on Labor Day. The Hamilton Plan is a ten point program to foster the development of manufacturing in the United States by tapping the entrepreneurial energy of small and mid-size enterprises (SME). The Hamilton Plan requires concerted focus of investment capital to fund development and establishment of an SME Development Bank (SDB) which will focus, manage and administer capital formation initiatives to incubate and develop SME manufactures.

I contacted James McCallum, CEO of Sum2llc to discuss the issue of shrinking manufacturing base and how SMEs can help in restoring manufacturing base in the United States. In response to my comment here is what he stated “It is pretty amazing that the United States has not done more to specifically encourage and address the unique needs of this critical economic driver. Many Asian countries are miles ahead of the US in SME banking and capital formation. These banks have extensive portfolios of finance products and technical assistance they provide to SME’s. The reasons that the US lacks focus in this area are many. US commitment to free market forces has badly warped our economic infrastructure. SMEs in the US have primarily relied on community banks for financing. Most of which went for real estate and construction projects. SME manufactures have just about disappeared from the economic landscape of the US. The credit crash and the economic malaise are awakening our understanding of the critical nature of SMEs and our need to manufacture products. Goldman’s 10,000 Businesses Initiative coalesces nicely with the Hamilton Plan we developed in 2008.”

USA MANUFACTURING & SMEs IN YEAR 2030

With the concerted government efforts for promotion and development of SMEs and private sector initiatives such as “10,000 Small Businesses plan” by Goldman, SMEs will be largely benefited having access to innovative financial products and services from a network of financial institutions. Ten point program suggested in Hamilton plan, if implemented, will bring cluster based development of SME manufacturers. Cleaner and green technology will drive long term sustainable growth, increase national income and result in employment creation. Healthy SMEs will be focusing on export of goods thereby reducing the trade deficit and offer a new market for commercial banking sector. High-tech growth oriented SMEs will also have access to private equity investments and will offer a new avenue of diversification to private equity industry.

But the task of SME development is a challenging task and requires strong will on the part of different stakeholders. SMEs are considered to be the riskiest segment of borrowers from a financial institution’s perspective and thus struggle for timely and adequate credit. Access to technical and market information, financial assistance and trained and educated workers is the biggest challenge for SMEs. Future SMEs require sound business practices such as corporate governance, risk management, stakeholder communications and regulatory compliance.

I believe that SMEs are sine qua non for manufacturing sector & I can foresee a bigger space for SMEs in next 20 years from now. I am so intrigued with the idea of SMEs development and their contribution in the economic growth that in the long run I wish to work as a freelancer offering consultancy and advisory services on financial and strategic matters to SMEs. I would work with a network of financial institutions, venture capitalists, engineers, environmentalists, social workers, suppliers, and policy makers so as to offer SMEs a comprehensive set of services.

APPENDIX: REFERENCES

U.S. Needs to Return to Its Manufacturing Base
http://seekingalpha.com/article/119136-u-s-needs-to-return-to-its-manufacturing-base

Securing America’s Future: The Case for a Strong Manufacturing Base, A Study by Joel Popkin and Company, Washington, D.C. June 2003, Prepared for the NAM Council of Manufacturing Associations

http://www.pmihome.org/Popkin_Study_3-03.pdf

President predicts it will take decades to revive declining U.S. manufacturing base?

http://www.sodahead.com/united-states/president-predicts-it-will-take-decades-to-revive-declining-us-manufacturing-base/question-637119/

Manufacturing & Investment Around The World: An International Survey Of Factors Affecting Growth & Performance, ISR Publications, revised 2nd edition, 2002. ISBN 978-0-906321-25-6.

Economy Watch: Economy, Investment & Finance Report

http://www.economywatch.com/world_economy/usa/export-import.html

USA Manufacturing output continues to increase (over the long run), Curious cat, Investing and economics blog

http://investing.curiouscatblog.net/2008/12/02/usa-manufacturing-output-continues-to-increase-over-the-long-term/

Alliance for American Manufacturers http://www.americanmanufacturing.org/issues/manufacturing/the-us-manufacturing-crisis-and-its-disproportionate-effects-on-minorities/

Can the future be built in America? http://proquest.umi.com.remote.baruch.cuny.edu/pqdweb?index=28&did=1860761601&SrchMode=1&sid=2&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1259505905&clientId=8851

TO SAVE AMERICAN MANUFACTURING: USBIC’S PLAN FOR AMERICAN INDUSTRIAL RENEWAL BY Kevin L. Kearns, Alan Tonelson, and William Hawkins

http://americaneconomicalert.org/USBIC_Save_American_Manufacturing_Jobs_Plan.pdf

Goldman Sachs Launches 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative

http://www2.goldmansachs.com/our-firm/press/press-releases/current/10-k-business.html

Goldman Sachs as Social Entrepreneur http://sum2llc.wordpress.com/

Hamilton Plan by Sum2llc http://sum2llc.wordpress.com/2008/09/03/sme-development-bank/

You Tube Video: Isley Brothers, Work to Do

Risk: SME, manufacturing, economic revitalization, social wealth

February 3, 2010 Posted by | business, commerce, economics, Hamilton Plan, manufacturing, recession, SME | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Profitability of Patriotism: SME Lending

What a  difference a year makes.  A year ago the banks came crawling to Washington begging for a massive capital infusion to avoid an Armageddon of the global financial system.  They sent out an urgent SOS for a $750 billion life preserver of tax payers money to keep the banking system liquid.  Our country’s chief bursar Hank Paulson, designed a craft that would help the banks remain afloat.  Into the market maelstrom Mr. Paulson launched the USS TARP as the vehicle to save our  distressed ship of state.  The TARP would prove itself to be our arc of national economic salvation.  The success of the TARP has allowed the banks to generate profits in one of the most prolific turnarounds since Rocky Balboa’s heartbreaking split decision loss to Apollo Creed.  Some of the banks have repaid the TARP loans to the Fed.  Now as Christmas approaches and this incredible year closes bankers have visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads as they dream about how they will spend this years bonus payments based on record breaking profitability.   President Obama wants the banks to show some love and return the favor by sharing more of their balance sheets by lending money to small and mid-size enterprises (SME).

Yesterday President Obama held a banking summit in Washington DC.  Mr. Obama wanted to use the occasion to shame the “fat cat bankers” to expand their lending activities to SMEs.  A few of the bigger cats were no shows.  They got fogged in at Kennedy Airport.  They called in to attend the summit by phone.    Clearly shame was not the correct motivational devise to encourage the bankers to begin lending to  SMEs.    Perhaps the President should have appealed to the bankers sense of patriotism; because now is the time that all good bankers must come to the aid of their country.  Failing that, perhaps Mr. Obama should make a business case that SME lending  is good for profits.   A vibrant SME sector is a powerful driver for wealth creation and economic recovery.    A beneficial and perhaps unintended consequence of this endeavor is  the economic security and political stability of the nation.  These  are the  worthy concerns of all true patriots and form a common ground where bankers and government can engage the issues that undermine our national security.

The President had a full agenda to cover with the bank executives.  Executive compensation, residential mortgage defaults, TARP repayment plans, bank capitalization and small business lending were some of the key topics.  Mr. Obama was intent on chastising the reprobate bankers about their penny pinching credit policies toward small businesses.  Mr. Obama conveyed to bankers that the country was still confronted with major economic problems.  Now that the banks capital  base has been stabilized with Treasury supplied funding they must get some skin into the game and belly up to the bar by making more loans to SMEs.

According to the FDIC, lending by U.S. banks fell by 2.8 percent in the third quarter.  This is the largest drop since 1984 and the fifth consecutive quarter in which banks have reduced lending.   The decline in lending is a serious  barrier to economic recovery.  Banks reduced the amount of money extended to their customers by $210.4 billion between July and September, cutting back in almost every category, from mortgage lending to funding for corporations.  The TARP was intended to spur new lending and the FDIC observed that the largest recipients of aid  were responsible for a disproportionate share of the decline in lending. FDIC Chairman Sheila C. Bair stated,   “We need to see banks making more loans to their business customers.”

The withdrawal of $210 billion in credit from the market is a major impediment for economic growth.  The trend to delever credit exposures is a consequence of the credit bubble and is a sign of prudent management of credit risk.  But the reduction of lending activity impedes economic activity and poses barriers to SME capital formation. If the third quarter reduction in credit withdrawal were annualized the amount of capital removed from the credit markets is about 7% of GDP.  This coupled with the declining business revenues due to recession creates a huge headwind for SMEs.  It is believed that 14% of SMEs are in distress and without expanded access to credit, defaults and  bankruptcies will continue to rise.  Massive business failures by SMEs shrinks market opportunities for banks and threatens their financial health  and long term sustainability.

The number one reason why financial institutions turn down a SME for business loans is due to risk assessment. A bank will look at a number of factors to determine how likely a business will or will not be able to return the money it has borrowed.

SME business managers must conduct a thorough risk assessment if it wishes to attract loan capital from banks.  Uncovering the risks and opportunities associated with products and markets, business functions, macroeconomic risks and understanding the critical success factors and measurements that create competitive advantage are cornerstones of effective risk management.  Bankers need assurances that managers understand the market dynamics and risk factors present in their business and how they will be managed to repay credit providers. Bankers need confidence that managers have identified the key initiatives that maintain profitability.  Bankers will gladly extend credit to SMEs that can validate that credit capital is being deployed effectively by astute managers.  Bankers will approve loans when they are confident that SME managers are making prudent capital allocation decisions that are based on a diligent risk/reward assessment.

Sum2 offers products that combine qualitative risk assessment applications with Z-Score quantitative metrics to assess the risk profile and financial health of SMEs.   The Profit|Optimizer calibrates qualitative and quantitative risk scoring  tools; placing a powerful business management tool into the hands of SME  managers.   SME managers  can  demonstrate  to bankers that their requests for credit capital is based on a thorough risk assessment and opportunity discovery exercise and will be effective stewards of loan capital.

On a macro level SME managers must vastly improve their risk management and corporate governance cultures to attract the credit capital of banks.  Using programs like the Profit|Optimizer,  SME’s can position themselves to participate in credit markets with the full faith of friendly bankers.  SME lending is a critical pillar to a sustained economic recovery and stability of our banking system.  Now is the time for all bankers  to come to the aid of their country by opening up credit channels to SMEs to restore  economic growth and the wealth of our  nation.

You Tube Music Video: Bruce Springsteen, Seeger Sessions, Pay Me My Money Down

Risk: banking, credit, SME

December 16, 2009 Posted by | banking, credit, government, Paulson, Profit|Optimizer, recession, risk management, Sum2, sustainability, TARP, Treasury | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Cost of Banking Goes Up

screamThe severity of the banking crisis is evident in the 95 banks the FDIC has closed during 2009. The inordinate amount of bank failures has placed a significant strain on the FDIC insurance fund. The FDIC insurance fund protects bank customers from losing their deposits when the FDIC closes an insolvent bank.

The depletion of the FDIC Insurance fund is accelerating at an alarming rate. At the close of the first quarter, the FDIC bank rescue fund had a balance of $13 billion. Since that time three major bank failures, BankUnited Financial Corp, Colonial BancGroup and Guaranty Financial Group depleted the fund by almost $11 billion. In addition to these three large failures over 50 banks have been closed during the past six months. Total assets in the fund are at its lowest level since the close of the S&L Crisis in 1992. Bank analysts research suggests that FDIC may require $100 billion from the insurance fund to cover the expense of an additional 150 to 200 bank failures they estimate will occur through 2013. This will require massive capital infusions into the FDIC insurance fund. The FDIC’s goal of maintaining confidence in functioning credit markets and a sound banking system may yet face its sternest test.

FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair is considering a number of options to recapitalize the fund. The US Treasury has a $100 billion line of credit available to the fund. Ms. Bair is also considering a special assessment on bank capital and may ask banks to prepay FDIC premiums through 2012. The prepay option would raise about $45 billion. The FDIC is also exploring capital infusions from foreign banking institutions, Sovereign Wealth Funds and traditional private equity channels.

Requiring banks to prepay its FDIC insurance premiums will drain economic capital from the industry. The removal of $45 billion dollars may not seem like a large amount but it is a considerable amount of capital that banks will need to withdraw from the credit markets with the prepay option. Think of the impact a targeted lending program of $45 billion to SME’s could achieve to incubate and restore economic growth. Sum2 advocates the establishment of an SME Development Bank to encourage capital formation for SMEs to achieve economic growth.

Adding stress to the industry, banks remain obligated to repay TARP funds they received when the program was enacted last year. To date only a fraction of TARP funds have been repaid. Banks also remain under enormous pressure to curtail overdraft, late payment fees and reduce usurious credit card interest rates. All these factors will place added pressures on banks financial performance. Though historic low interest rates and cost of capital will help to buttress bank profitability, high write offs for bad debt, lower fee income and decreased loan origination will test the patience of bank shareholders. Management will surely respond with a new pallet of transaction and penalty fees to maintain a positive P&L statement. Its like a double taxation for citizens. Consumers saddled with additional tax liabilities to maintain a solvent banking system will also face higher fees  charged y their banks so they can repay the loans extended by the US Treasury to assure a well functioning financial system for the benefit of the republic’s citizenry.

You Tube Music Video: The 5th Dimension, Up Up and Away

Risk: bank failures, regulatory, profitability, political, recession, economic recovery, SME

September 30, 2009 Posted by | banking, business, commerce, economics, government, Hamilton Plan, private equity, regulatory, SME, sovereign wealth funds, TARP, Treasury | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Day of Atonement: Al-Chet for Risk Managers

YomKippurTNToday is Yom Kippur. It is the Day of Atonement. The Jewish faith marks this day each year as a day to reflect on our sins and shortcomings we have committed during the past year. It is a day of personal assessment. Calling all to examine how we have failed to live a life in conformance to our highest aspirations and ideals. It is customary to recite an Al-Chet confession prayer. The Al-Chet is a confession of a persons past year sinful behavior. It is hoped that this admission of sin leads to reconciliation with the aggrieved and an awareness that helps to establish a pattern of improved behavior in the future.

It is good that we commemorate such a day and use it to a constructive purpose. After all, how many among us are without sin? How many of us have achieved a level of perfection that obviates the need to reflect on how we can improve and make amends to those we may have hurt? To be sure, even the best among us have fallen short of the glory of God. The divine Higher Power that keeps mere mortals rightsized and humble when our egos and perception of ourselves grows too large and burdensome. The need to keep a strong self will from running riot is critical. It is particularly dangerous when a person or corporation is unaware and ambivalent to the collateral damage its actions spawn through the naked pursuit of self interest and ambition. In a sense, God is the ultimate celestial Chief Risk Officer that keeps wanton will in check.

The Day of Atonement is an important day because it is a day of transformation. It calls for self examination and transformation. Once we have learned the nature and extent of how our actions and inaction have negatively impacted ourselves and others, we are called to make amends to set things right. It is a day that requires considered action to improve ourselves so we can become a positive force for change in the world.

Considering the year that just transpired in the financial services industry, I wonder what an Al-Chet confession for risk managers would include. We need a strong dose of atonement so we don’t repeat the egregious mistakes we committed last year.

An Al-Chet for Risk Managers:

I was not strong enough to stand up to my boss

I put selfish gain ahead of ethical considerations

I falsified or hid data to conceal results

I failed to be objective

My risk model was too subjective

I ignored warning signs

I was in over my head

I did not understand all the risk factors

I failed to get an outside opinion

I was beholden to monetary gain

I was victim to group think

I placed institutional interest ahead of ethical considerations

I failed to admit I was wrong

I was not honest with regulators

I was not honest with shareholders

I looked the other way

I failed to act

I conveniently overlooked infractions / irregularities

I made exemptions

I did not understand the depth of the problem

I know there are many more.

Please help me to uncover, understand make right and overcome.

Shalom

You Tube Music Video: Aretha Franklin, I Say a Little Prayer

Risk: compliance, reputation, catastrophic risk, moral hazards

September 28, 2009 Posted by | banking, compliance, credit crisis, culture, operations, psychology, regulatory, religion, reputation, reputational risk, risk management, sound practices | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Economy Bleeding Jobs

The ADP National Employment Report was just released. The US economy is bleeding jobs. Over 693,000 jobs were lost during the month of December 2008. The report shows steep declines in all market segments that include, small and mid-size businesses, large businesses, manufacturers, service businesses and construction. The Report shows that job loss is accelerating more rapidly then observed levels during the 2001 recession.

Full ADP report and an explanation of their methodology can be accessed here.

You Tube Video: Johnny Cash, The Ballad of John Henry

Risk: economy, jobs

January 7, 2009 Posted by | economics, unemployment | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Economy Sheds 157,000 Jobs


Lost in the euphoria of Barack Obama’s electoral triumph is todays rude reminder of the the continued deterioration of the economy.  ADP published its monthly report on employment yesterday revealing that the US economy shed another 157,000 jobs during the month of October.

According to the report, “large businesses, defined as those with 500 or more workers, saw employment decline 41,000, while medium-size companies with between 50 and 499 workers declined 91,000. Employment among small-size businesses, defined as those with fewer than 50 workers, declined 25,000. This is the first outright decline in small business employment reported by the ADP Report since November of 2002, and the largest percentage decline since the economy was emerging from recession in early 2002.”

The recession is now enveloping small businesses.  This is a most ominous sign.  It should be born in mind that the ADP report usually reports numbers that are not as severe as numbers that the Department of Labor will issue later this week.

Not surprisingly manufacturing lost 85,000 jobs during the month.  This was the 26th consecutive monthly decline for the sector.

The full ADP Employment report can be accessed here.

President elect Obama will have a tough row to hoe.  The revival of the economy will be a prolonged and difficult effort requiring patience and careful attention to undo three decades of erosion to the countries industrial infrastructure.  Sum2 advocates The Hamilton Plan as a recovery program for the economy and SME manufactures.

Music Video: Bruce Springsteen, Pay Me My Money Down

Risk: recession, industrial capacity, unemployment

November 7, 2008 Posted by | folk, manufacturing, recession, unemployment | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bollywood Blockbuster: Wach & Wells

What may be a surprise to Citi’s CEO Vikram Pandit, his new bride Wach has left the nest and is now snuggled safely in the loving arms of its free market hero the west coast banking giant Wells. Apparently Citi’s arranged marriage with Wach was never consummated and looks like it’s heading for an annulment.

This one’s got all the drama of a Big Bollywood blockbuster. The young and troubled Wach is forced by her desperate father FedSec to submit to a loveless arranged marriage to Citi. FedSec has offered a worthless and mysterious dowry it calls EESA whose origins, authenticity and value is highly questionable.

Citi is one of the last vestiges of the crumbling rule of a decrepit Credit Markit Raj. The New York based Citi whose Brahmin’s family lineage is long past its prime is now desperate for the favors of FedSec’s EESA dowry. Citi believes that EESA can prop up the Credit Markit Raj and prolong its position of power and privilege.

Wells the fine looking paramour from California is rumored to have slain gigantic sub-prime mortgage monsters spawned by the evil excesses of Credit Markit Raj. Wells has recovered nicely from its battles and purportedly has a quality balance sheet and size that is preferred by Wach. Apparently size does matter and Wach may have found the true love with Wells it will never have with Citi.

Wells issued $20B in new securities as an example of it’s free market might and demonstration of love for Wach. Wach’s self-esteem has suffered throughout this entire drama. Wach was troubled by the public perception of her intrinsic worth. This past Monday when FedSec announced the arranged marriage to Citi, the marketplace said her value was the equivalent of $.75 per share. But Wells value and sense of self worth rose with Wells attention. As of this morning Well’s affection has raised Wach’s value to over $6.00 per share.

Wells capture of Wach’s affection may threaten FedSec’s mastery and attempted control of the Credit Markit Raj with the offering of the EESA dowry. Ultimately the riches promised by the EESA dowry may not materialize. A governing group of petite demigods called SENCONS may confiscate the dowry and abscond back to their ivory tower hideout.

Lawsuits and high highfalutin philosophizing by the SENCONS about an activist FedSec and letting free markets prevail assures that theater goers will enjoy many sequels of the Wach & Wells story of true love and capital market freedom. Stay tuned.

You tube music video: Bollywood Mix

Risk: EESA

October 4, 2008 Posted by | banking, EESA, SEC, soundtrack, TARP, Treasury | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Retreat to the Alamo

As the country waits for the government bailout package to become law, large banks are retreating to a new Alamo. The new Alamo will protect a club of 5 bank’s that the Fed and Treasury desperately wish to protect. The five banks are Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Bank of America and JP Morgan. It is upon these TBTF rocks that the American banking system will make its last stand in an Alamo fortress to weather the capital market storm.

The FDIC has arranged another marriage between Citigroup and Wachovia. Its truly a combination of weak sisters. Wachovia’s equity holders wiped out.

Hedge funds are cashing in their prime brokerage accounts. Three EU countries have acquired major stakes in Fortis Bank. Iceland an island country in the North Atlantic has nationalized its third largest bank.

New bank holding company, Morgan Stanley has just received an equity investment of $9 bn by Mitsubishi a Japanese bank that has also acquired 98% ownership in Union Bank California. The other new bank holding company, Goldman Sachs admits to a $50 bn war chest (recently augmented by Warren Buffett) in capital to make acquisitions of distressed banks assets. Once taxpayers assume ownership of the non-performing bank assets GS and other Club of 5 members will emerge from their bunker and get first pickings on a bunch of equity distressed regional and community banks at bargain basement prices. The banks are deleveraging while the Fed is asking the US taxpayers to leverage-up on more debt to fund that deleveraging.

President Bush made a statement this morning on the economic situation. W said he is ready to sign the EESA (Emergency Economic Security Act). This is an emergency situation said W. W also said he “appreciates the leadership of our legislators to come together and the true spirit of bipartisanship to serve the greater interests of our country.”

I wonder if anyone in this country knows what the word bipartisan means let alone willingly set aside parochial interest and actually practice it. This inability to come together is the result of twenty years of the fine art and practice of radical partisanship championed by Republican Rovian attack politics.

This Rovian posturing was ably demonstrated and on display for all the world to see during Friday’s debate. The Arizonian Maverick a self proclaimed champion of bipartisanship couldn’t find the courage in his Country First heart to look at Barack Obama to engage in a substantive discussion concerning this nations problems. His contempt for his opponent and his refusal have a dialog with him was truly ugly as it is despicable and exposes McCain as a Me Firster. Country be damned.

Due to a system malfunction the opening bell at the NYSE failed to ring. What kind of omen does this augur?

Music: Queen, Another One Bites the Dust

Risk: leveraging, political dialog, democracy, depression

September 29, 2008 Posted by | banking, credit crisis, EESA, rock, TARP | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Economy Starts to Freeze Up

They say if they don’t get this TARP deal done the credit markets will freeze. Heck they were saying that all this afternoon on CNBC. Its amazing how tempers are flaring even on CNBC about this bailout. They are trying their best to sell it, but Americans don’t like to be told what they must do. God bless em. Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi have been trashing McCain all day. They think a deal will be struck by this weekend. The markets are hopeful this will be the case.

Today US equity markets were mixed with the S&P 500 up and the Dow is holding tough at 11,000 plus. Incredibly the DOW was up by 121 points after the FDIC seizure of WAMU and sale of assets to JP Morgan. Next up for seizure is Wachcovia and National City. Fortis the large Belgian Bank said today that it is sufficiently capitalized to remain solvent. As the banks continue to fall like so many cascading dominoes pretty soon the severity of the economic crisis will be more apparent. Make no mistake we are in a rough spot. The US dollar remained stable and US Treasuries yields are falling as money seeks a safe haven.

The Labor Department expects employment to fall by 90,000 jobs in its September Employment Report. Today the Commerce Department revised down second quarter GDP by .5% to annual growth of 2.8%.

This debate looms large and Obama and McCain have lots to talk about. Good thing McCain put country first and decided to show up. His countrymen want to hear what he has to say and don’t deserve a cold shoulder from this old warrior.

Heres a great song by Ray Charles and Betty Carter Baby its Cold Outside.

Risk: political apathy

September 26, 2008 Posted by | banking, credit crisis, EESA, jazz, McCain, Obama, politics, TARP | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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