Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

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

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

Do You Know Where Your TARP Money Is?

Obama wants Congress to authorize the release of the second $350 Bn in TARP money authorized under EESA. Apparently he has called his good buddy Bush and asked if he would be kind enough to pull the trigger and release the funds. Perhaps Obama is concerned about the ability of Citicorp to make good on its separation agreement for his key adviser Robert Rubin?

When Paulson envisioned the TARP, I guess they figured that if they just threw a TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) of money over the banking problem everybody would forget that our banking system is broken. I believe this a a kind of ostrich strategy. Just suggest to all American taxpayers that all they have to do is stick their heads in the sand and pretend that the TARP money is saving our crashing banking system. All should be oakie dokie.

During the holidays I welcomed a little respite from the real time news feeds of the capital market carnage that the credit crisis has wrought. The daily bulletins that our investment portfolios and 401K’s are worthless and that our home equity nest egg is gone with the wind seemed to have abated. But now that the holidays are over the sad news concerning our nations economic health is starting to trickle in again. Today two little news items came across our desk arousing our curiosity about the $350 Bn Paulson, Kashkari and the rest of the crew at the Treasury Department has been throwing at US banks and bank wannabe’s.

The first item elevated my comfort level a couple of notches. The FDIC is requesting that banks receiving TARP program monies need to improve reporting on how the provision of credit products and lending is being enhanced through the participation in the program. WOW what a thought. The Treasury Department dolls out $350 Bn and as an after thought is now setting reporting requirements as to how the taxpayers capital is being used for lending to restore the economic vibrancy of the stalled economy.

If taxpayers and politicians remain unsure as to how the TARP monies are being put to good use by the banks one doesn’t have to look further then the news items concerning Morgan Stanley’s interest in purchasing Citibank’s investment banking arm. Citibank owner of the remaining vestiges of Salomon Brothers and Smith Barney have been under investor pressure for years to divest its brokerage divisions. The transformation of the banking industry as a result of the credit crisis will accomplish this feat. Citibank continues to require major capital infusions. So far, Citibank has received almost $45 Bn in TARP and federal assistance monies. It still requires substantial capital to remain solvent, Mr. Rubin’s separation package notwithstanding. Morgan Stanley flush with at least $10 Bn in TARP money will put it to good use by acquiring Citi’s brokerage unit on the cheap. This asset for cash swap exchange is a telling example as to how TARP funds are being deployed by its recipients.

I can’t believe that many American taxpayers are feeling too good about their money being used to enrich the shareholders of Morgan Stanley and to protect the threatened equity capital of our countries once largest banking institution. In a capitalist economy you need institutions that are allowed to fail. If capitalists are protected from the possibility of failure they can’t be rightfully called a capitalist. Given all that the capitalists have been through with the credit crisis, recession and bank failures; we cannot allow our financiers to experience an identity crisis as well. That would be cruel.

You Tube Video: Grateful Dead, US Blues

Risk: banks, market, credit

January 13, 2009 Posted by | banking, Bush, credit crisis, EESA, Obama, Paulson, TARP | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hair on Fire!

As expected the Labor Department has released employment report for November and it is dire. Employers laid off 533,000 workers last month raising the unemployment level to 6.7% its highest level since 1974. Secretary of the Treasury Paulson believes unemployment could rise to 11% before this is through. I recall a Risk Rap post from 5/1 that quoted Paulson saying that we were half way through the economic slowdown. If Paulson’s past prognostications concerning the duration of the recession matches his assessment of its severity I fear that an 11% unemployment rate might just be a best case scenario.

This should have all the lights on Capitol Hill and in the nations corporate board rooms flashing red. This is truly a hair on fire moment. But as the country floats along in the existential netherworld of the Bush/Obama interregnum, America’s economy is in a free fall, rudderless and bereft of any leadership. Our leaders see the flashing red lights but they are more concerned with “free market” political posturing on the right and “big business bashing” on the left then getting down to the business of fixing a very broken a listless ship of state.

First order of business is too expeditiously lineup a credit facility for the Big Three auto makers. That will send a powerful message that America is dedicated to its workers and the country’s future by supporting and encouraging its manufacturers to reaffirm their preeminent position as world class providers.

You tube video: Bing Crosby, Brother, Can You Spare a Dime

Risk: depression, unemployment, government policy

December 5, 2008 Posted by | jazz, Paulson, recession, unemployment | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Corporate Extinctions

A large meteor that hit the Yucatan peninsula 65 million years ago is considered one of the causal factors that led to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. The theory gained wide acceptance after a photogemmetric satellite captured the image of the Chicxulub Crater centered just off the peninsulas northeast shore. The meteor theory seemed to solve the dinosaur extinction mystery of how a dominant species that ruled the earth for 200 million years can suddenly disappear. Apparently the theory suggests that the extinction happened more with a bang then a whimper.

Like the Chicxulub meteor, the economic crash of 2008 promises to claim a dramatic toll of corporate victims and drastically alter the landscape of the global capitalist system. The casualty list prominently includes some marquis corporate banking brands like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, WAMU, Wachovia, Fannie, Freddie, Fortis, RBS, NorthernRock and threatens to claim the solvent souls of a UBS or Citibank. The State of California and the Sovereign State of Iceland are also endangered and the economic crisis may claim them as its biggest prize.

Hedge funds are quickly folding up shop. Morgan Stanley estimates that the AUM of the industry may shrink from $1.9tr to $900bn due to market losses and investor redemption and withdrawals. At its peak the global hedge fund industry was estimated to offer AIM products by over 6000 providers. By the close of the next year the size of the industry will be considerably smaller as capacity downsizes to serve less demand. Downsizing will also be the prevailing theme for community banks, RIA’s and CTA’s as excess capacity is worked out of the system through closures, consolidations and seizures. This contraction will effect industry service providers that sell services to the financial services market. Lawyers, accountants, IT providers and consultants will be hard pressed to maintain their book of business as the market for their services contracts.

Free marketeers and Social Darwinists may find it right and fitting that the financial services industry comprises the bulk of the corporate casualty list due to their culpability in nurturing this economic apocalypse and their proximity to the epicenter of the crash. The Hollow Men who led the US economic colossus to this dramatic self immolation however won’t have to fall on their swords. Their champion in the Treasury Mr. Paulson has swaddled them in a protective TARP so these masters of the universe can don superman capes to continue their selfless endeavor of saving the US economy from a total collapse.

Unfortunately the deadly meteor that almost liquidated the banking system is spreading outward to what some refer to as the real economy. Goldman Sachs’ indicates that the recession will shave a cool $1.3tr from the GDP. This will inhibit buying power by individuals, corporations and governments. Some economists fear that this will create enormous deflationary pressure prolonging the recession. Many see similarities with the Japanese recession of the 1980’s. That recession brought on by the burst of Godzilla sized real estate and equity market bubbles lasted for over a decade. Japanese central bankers cut interest rates to almost zero and the vicious downward spiral of the economy recovered as a result of SE Asian and North American market demand drivers that fueled tremendous export growth.

Retail is another sector that will be particularly hit hard by corporate failures. Industry statistics indicate that 14,000 retailers are expected to close their doors during the next year. US auto dealerships from the Big Three are expected to contract by 25%. The auto industry is a major hub of a large and intricate manufacturing supply chain and as such this sector will be hit hard with business closures as well. Construction, housing and domestic oriented leisure industries will continue to stagnate as the American consumer buying power evaporates. Not good news for an economy so strongly dependent on consumer spending.

Yesterday the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) announced that the economy went into a recession in December 2007. Its a bit funny that it took a year for the NBER to hear, feel and detect the Chicxulub Meteor that crashed into our economy. Today’s Employment Report from ADP indicates that the US economy shed another 250,000 jobs during the month of November. Now that the reality of the recession is upon us the corporate endangered species list will be a pressing problem and success metric that the Obama Administration will need to squarely address with any stimulus package he plans to enact to get the economy moving again. This actually bodes well for the passage of a rescue package for the Big Three Automakers. One thing is certain, urgent action is required or our economy will continue to go down not with a bang but with a whimper.

You tube video: Ranny Weeks and Orchestra: Out of Nowhere

Risk: recession, bankruptcy, solvency, rescue package, economic stimulus

December 4, 2008 Posted by | banking, bankruptsy, Bear Stearns, economics, Paulson, pop, unemployment | , , , , | Leave a comment

People’s Guide to Recovery Acronym’s

Carl Sandburg
“The People, Yes!”

The economic recovery program is creating new acronyms faster then Hank Paulson can spend a $100 billion of taxpayers money.

This is an modest attempt to develop a glossary of acronyms so taxpayers can keep track of where, how and who is spending the dough.

EESA: Emergency Economic Security Act

TARP: Toxic Asset Recovery Program

VEPP: Voluntary Equity Purchase Program

LIBOR: London Interbank Overnight Rate

FDIC: Federal Deposit Insurance Corp

SEC: Security Exchange Commission

The US passed EESA to legalize TARP and VEPP to lower LIBOR so the FDIC and SEC can help banks get us out of this xo#*!&^ mess.

Got it?

You Tube Video: Carl Sandburg: The People Yes!

Risk: language, communication, humanity

October 14, 2008 Posted by | EESA, Paulson, poetry, SEC, TARP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Conference Call with Hank

National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) members had an opportunity to participate in a conference call with Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson. Mr. Paulson was keen to solicit the support of NFIB members for the passage of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, (EESA).

NFIB members are small business owners who are generally very conservative, free market advocates who vigorously support tax relief, oppose regulatory oversight and large governmental spending programs. NFIB member firms are the entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, service providers and small business risk takers who populate the small stores and office space on Main Street USA.

Small business owners are a politically vocal and influential constituency whose support proponents need to gain passage of EESA. Last night EESA passed the Senate. It will now return to the House of Representatives for a vote. Secretary Paulson asked NFIB members to contact congressmen, senators and media to urge support of EESA passage.

Key points raised were as follows:

FDIC deposit insurance limit was raised to $250,000

EESA Bill included riders with tax cuts and other rebate incentives

EESA has a recoupment provision “put” that allows Treasury to sell assets back to banks at a previously agreed upon price

Failure of EESA will curtail community bank lending activity to small businesses

Large businesses and municipalities dependent on credit markets for short term funding will scale back purchases with small businesses

Current Treasury tools are not sufficient to deal with problem

EESA funding (Federal Budget program cuts) will need to be addressed in next budget cycle

Regulatory frameworks of financial services industry need to be streamlined, strengthened and reformed

Mark to Market of toxic bank assets will help to temporarily address bank solvency and capitalization ratios

Music Video: Blondie, Hangin on the Telephone

Risk: bank solvency, credit, interest rates, recession

October 2, 2008 Posted by | credit crisis, EESA, Paulson, pop, TARP, Treasury | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Ship of State: USS TARP

It seems they clinched the TARP deal. (Troubled Asset Release Program). Paulson’s Ark the USS TARP is about to leave port. Our elected representatives have christened the USS TARP with a $700 bn bottle of Christol. The USS TARP will immediately set sail to conquer the intrepid sea of bad debt and clean up massive pools of dirty US banking assets. We wish the USS TARP great success and offer our prayers for a successful dispatch on its maiden voyage.

The launch of the USS TARP was the result of a strange and unexpected political alchemy. Democrats took the lead in the bailout bill and are now the official party of the big money on Wall Street. If the USS TARP fails to conquer the calamitous economic seas severe partisan warfare will surely plague our nation and threaten to swallow it in a swirling whirlpool of political instability.

If Obama wins the election and if the USS TARP grounds itself on the troubled shoals of the global economy; he will be the focus of scorn, derision and vitriolic invectiveness by Country Firsters. It will make effective governance by Obama’s Administration difficult if not impossible. I can already hear the first taps of the syncopated drum beats of divisiveness by the howling yodelers of Country First Talk Radio. Their aim will be to cripple the possibility of civil political discourse. Country Firsters will closely chart the progress of the USS TARP and will loose a fusillade of political attacks if it starts to take on water. They’ll certainly refuse to help man the pumps to prevent the USS TARP from swamping. No doubt they’ll be first to launch the life boats as Country Firsters quickly become Me Firsters.

The Country Firsters will look to repeat the vitriol imposed on the Clinton Administration. The extreme Rovian attack politics on Clinton’s sexual dalliances put this country through an unnecessary national trauma. The Monica Lewinsky affair distracted the Executive Branch from focusing on the pressing issues confronting the nation. This distraction made it impossible for Bill Clinton to focus on terrorism, the economy, social welfare and national security. Our Country Firsters were only too willing to back burner these critical national security issues to prosecute Clinton. This sorry chapter in our nations history contributed to our country’s unpreparedness that lead to the devastating losses from the 9/11 attacks.

Constitutional democracies need consensus to function. If consensus cannot be achieved democracies cannot survive. Consensus is built with dialog, trust, honesty and compromise. If our nation cannot form consensus due to our inability to communicate and negotiate a democratic republic cannot function. If democracy cannot function authoritarianism and fascism will be the bastard incubus born from our political impotency.

Patriots will serve their country first. All Americans must rise to serve our country first, last and always.

God Speed USS TARP.

Music: Beach Boy’s “Sail On Sailor”

Risk: depression, fascism

September 28, 2008 Posted by | Bush, McCain, Paulson, politics, pop, republicans, TARP | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Foggy Mountian Breakdown

It was all going along as planned. Paulson’s 3 page USS TARP was carefully constructed and sitting in dry dock. His exemplary stewardship and all out PR campaign had all oars in the water and the crew rowed with great athletic precision. America’s Chief Fear monger “W” was recruited to address the nation to explain the complicated nuances of mortgage backed securities and issue a stern warning about the cataclysmic consequences if we failed to act positively on TARPs adoption.

The free marketeers of Wall Street had skillfully wheeled their Trojan Horse into the heart of the capitol city of the free world. Disguised as a kind of Noah’s Ark to float the ship of state through the pending economic tsunami; the ships Captain Henry Paulson, tour director W and the able crew of yeoman Democrats implored their countrymen to quickly board the Ark to avoid the pending economic apocalypse. The cost of steerage passage, a cool $700 BN. A small price to pay for a tiny slice of economic subsistence pie.

The deal that was done became undone as the Maverick from Arizona boldly sailed into town on an apolitical hydrofoil boasting a “Nation First” bumper sticker and presumingly powered only by fuel efficient populist sentiment. He sat at the feet of his party leader the BIG W, smiled for the camera, fingered his pen, said little and did much less. He took great risk to accomplish this feat. He sat on the right side of the table, exposing the left side of his melanoma scarred face to the frenzied cameras of the political paparazzi. McCain did not care that his least flattering side was exposed. It was truly a moment of profiles in courage.

This morning WHOO HOO WAMU was seized by the FDIC and sold to JP Morgan. TPG a very clever private equity firm lost a big chunk of its investors capital (see Risk Rap post 4/9/08). Even the fat cats are taking a haircut on this one. Yes the banking crisis is real and the rising tide of economic duress needs drastic and immediate attention.

There is a great reluctance by my countrymen to sheepishly accept this deal. I think they believe in the principles of free market capitalism that has been religiously preached to them by the very same leaders who are now resorting to the impressment of their tax dollars to force them aboard this life raft. I hope we understand the price we may pay for the courage of our convictions.

For now the TARP deal, like the stasis in our government and the frozen debt markets are broke and lost in a foggy mountain breakdown. Watch this space for periodic progress reports as we chart the fantastic odyssey of our rudderless ship of state.

Music: Earl Scruggs and Friends, Foggy Mountain Breakdown

Risk: depression, recession

September 26, 2008 Posted by | elections, McCain, Paulson, politics, TARP | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paulson’s Beer Hall Putsch

Drawing by Georg Grosz

On the night John Kerry ceded the election to Bush’s second term, I can still see W smirking while his smiling brain, Karl Rove looked on with smug satisfaction. Opined Bush, “I earned some political capital and I’m gonna spend it.” Spend it he did and his administration has nearly bankrupted the trust, treasure and security of this country.

As the United States limps to the blessed close of 8 years of the Bush Administration and the rule of a party that professes a disdain for government while demonstrating a striking ineptitude for governance; American’s are left holding a massive bag of bad debts reaping the painful yields of much squandered political and economic capital.

The regime that has refused to govern has left the door unguarded. Making it possible for a clique of collective interests that has the will, intelligence, verisimilitude and motive to take the reigns of state and to guide it in a dire hour of need.

Paulson’s bank bailout might just be a bloodless putsch of financial elites led by an alumni of investment and merchant bankers and their well placed confederates. The monied interests who have enriched themselves by gorging at the public troughs creating unfathomable pools of wealth for themselves are now trying to seize the country as their grandest prize. To be sure they remain hungry for returns, crave capital preservation and see the crisis as a great investment play to enlarge their riches. They smell the stench from the stinking corpse of the US banking system and are looking to claim the opportunity of a lifetime. They will go to great lengths to achieve their objectives. They are ready to employ economic blackmail to extort a massive tribute from multiple generations of US taxpayers to finance a takeover of the banking system.

This is the triumph of state capitalism. It is a similar model utilized by China, the EU, OPEC and other countries practicing the fine art of a state managed economy. This is not socialism. If this where socialism, all American’s would be receiving stock certificates and purchase warrants in the companies the Treasury is looking to finance. That is not in the cards. China is managed by a class of technocrats embedded in a centralized political party. America will now be ruled by a class of managers employed by Americas financial services whose sole goal is to maximize shareholder returns.

Is this a grand fleecing of America? The powerful and well placed are raiding the public treasury to fix past mistakes of their making and to bankroll their next bold move. When the state assets of the former Soviet Union were privatized, a class of oligarch’s arose out of the depths of the CCCP to seize control of them. The bank bailout is an event that bears similar characteristics. In Russia the private sector took control of state assets expropriating state ownership. Our bank rescue plan will provide US Treasury assets to the private sector so they can recapitalize and buy distressed bank assets on the cheap. No doubt sometime in the future, these privateers will be lauded by our elected officials as capital market heroes who single handedly rescued America by rationalizing the banking system.

Under normal circumstances the public trust would be secured by the social compact we have entered into with our Federal Government. Tragically, our three branches of government have all failed in their fiduciary duty to protect and serve the interests of American citizens. Special interests, ideologies, privilege and the rights of the stronger has trumped and crushed the will and interest of “We the People.” We are a representative democracy; republicans all, who believe in the democratic ideal who freely give our informed consent to be governed in exchange for the protection of public interest. This trust has been grievously violated. Our consent needs to be revoked.

Chris Dodd the Senator from Connecticut emerged from a weekend meeting with his head shaking. Said Dodd on the need to bail out the banks, “they painted a picture that was absolutely frightening and devastating for America. We must do this deal.”

The monied interests are holding the promise of America hostage. They say if we don’t comply with their demands, we will not be able to send our children to school, our retirement system and social security program will collapse, interest rates will go to double digits causing a cascade of mortgage defaults and bank failures. There will be anarchy in the streets. Sovereign Wealth Funds and other well heeled global investors will liquidate their holdings in US Treasuries and place the Federal Government in default. We’ll be no better then a banana republic.

It all looks very suspicious. Hank Paulson fully in control at the US Treasury making major moves to drastically alter our nations books and ledgers. Robert Rubin, former GS Chair and current well placed executive at Citicorp is now seen escorting Barack Obama no doubt offering real time sage advice. Jon Corzine, Mike Bloomberg and Governor Paterson are all bewailing the pending doom state and city budgets will suffer. State governments all over the country are growing more concerned each day as tax revenues fall, expenditures increase and the angst of American’s grow.

I’m having a hard time with this one. If its only about writing that $1 Trillion check to acquire a bunch of worthless assets I’m down with it. It’s only funny money anyway. Whats another $1T on a Federal debt of $11T. But this rescue plan serves a special interest more then it serves the general good of the common polity. As Alexander Hamilton taught us, debtor nations cede political liberty. It is unconscionable to saddle our country with this debt burden. Doing this deal will bind future generations to cover an obligation that condemns them to a life of indentured servitude.

This is not the way of free people. There is a better way.

Music: Bertolt Brecht’s Alabama Song Performed by The Doors

Risk: Democracy, Federalism, Free Markets, Debt, managed economy, state capitalism

September 23, 2008 Posted by | Bush, credit crisis, Paulson, politics, rock, TARP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pennies from Heaven

Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have changed their charters and are now bank holding companies. I believe this was necessary for Goldman and Morgan Stanley to have access to Federal bailout money in the newly proposed bank workout plan.

Paulson insists that we must move with great dispatch. I get nervous when these types of transactions occur with such velocity that I have a hard time understanding the value proposition. After all, if me and my countrymen are being asked to belly up to the bar and put $1Trillion into the game I want more of an understanding then believing Chris Dodd has seen the horror if we don’t act and it ain’t pretty.

Couple of questions:

Does this allow Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to purchase commercial banks? Will Goldman and Morgan be opening up S&L’s and local community banks? If that is the case should we allow them to take over the management of the banking system considering their poor track records of managing investment banks? A disturbing characteristic of our managed economy is that the more colossal the failure the greater reward is bestowed.

Second question is a small technicality. Paulson’s suggestion to segregate good bank assets and bad bank assets centers around FAS:157 Level Three Assets. If the current holders of these assets cannot value them now, how will the Treasury acquire them from the failed banks and at what value will they carry them on their books? We should also assume that since the US Treasury will want to sell these assets how will it know its getting a good price or “fair value” when it liquidates its position?

Will Level Three assets be used as collateral for the new bank holding companies capitalization requirements? If these assets are not performing now, how can we assume these assets will perform in times of “real economic duress” to meet defaults in the future?

Level Three Assets are principally the CLO, MBS and Credit Default Swaps (CDS) that lie at the root of this crisis. If they functioned as they should, all credit risk should have been hedged out of the system and we should not be experiencing this economic crisis because of insurance CDS provided. Seems to me that the CDS were more snake oil then insurance. If they didn’t work when they were needed (see AIG) why would the US Treasury think there will be a market for them in the future?

Will the investment banks and financial engineers who enriched themselves on the creation and sales of CDS instruments be required to return the money they earned in commissions on the sale of this worthless junk?

Just asking.

Music: Billie Holiday with Lester Young: Pennies from Heaven

Risk: bank, managed economy, bank capitalization,

September 22, 2008 Posted by | banking, credit crisis, FASB, jazz, Paulson, TARP | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment