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
The 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
President Obama announced his intention to curb the use of offshore tax havens for multinational corporations. The Treasury Department is looking to raise tax revenues and believes that by closing the use of offshore tax shelters it will be able to raise over $200 bn over the next ten years. According to the New York Times, firms like Citibank, Morgan Stanley, GE and Proctor and Gamble utilize hundreds of these type structures to shelter revenue from being taxed by the IRS. It has effectively driven down the tax rates these companies pay and has been a key driver in maintaining corporate profitability.
This move should come as a surprise to no one. The Treasury Department needs to find sources of tax revenues to cover the massive spending programs necessitated by the credit crisis and the global economic meltdown. The TARP program designed to revitalize banks has expenditures that amounted to $700 bn. Amounts pledged for economic recovery through EESA, PPIP and ARRA will push Treasury Department expenditures targeting economic stimulus projects and programs to approximately $2 tn. These amounts are over and above routine federal budget expenditures that is running significant deficits as well.
The planned move by the Treasury Department to rewrite the tax code may be an intentional effort to close budget deficits but it also represents a significant rise in tax audit risk. For the past two years the IRS has been developing a practice strategy and organizational assets to more effectively enforce existing tax laws. Private sector expertise, practices and resource has significantly out gunned the IRS’s ability to detect and develop a regulatory comprehension of the tax implications of the sophisticated multidomiciled structured transactions flowing through highly stratified and dispersed corporate structures. The IRS is looking to level the playing field by adding to its arsenal of resources required to engage the high powered legal and accounting expertise that corporate entities employ.
The IRS has hired hundreds of new agents and has developed risk based audit assessment guidelines for field agents when examining corporations with sophisticated structures and business models. As such investment partnerships, global multinational corporations and companies utilizing offshore structures can expect to receive more attention from IRS examiners.
The IRS had developed Industry Focus Issues (IFI) to be used as an examination framework to guide audit engagements for sophisticated investment partnerships and Large and Mid-size Businesses (LSMB). The IFI for LSMB has developed three tiers of examination risk. Each tier has comprises about 12 examination issues that will help examiners focus attention of audit resource on areas the agency considers as high probability for non-compliance. Clearly the audit risk factors risk
To respond to this challenge, Sum2 developed an audit risk assessment program to assist CFO’s, tax managers, accountants and attorneys conduct a through IFI risk assessment. The IRS Audit Risk Program (IARP) is a mitigation and management tool designed to temper the threat of tax audit risk. A recent survey commissioned by Sum2 to measure industry awareness of IFI risk awareness indicated extremely low awareness of tax audit risk factors.
Sum2’s IARP helps corporate management and tax planners score exposure to each IFI risk factor. It allows risk managers to score the severity of each exposure, mitigation capabilities, mitigation initiatives required to address risk factor, responsible parties and mitigation expenses. The IARP allows corporate boards and company management to make informed decisions on tax exposure risk, audit remediation strategies, arbitration preparation and tax controversy defense preparation.
The IARP links to all pertinent IRS documentation and information on each tax statute and IFI audit tier. The IARP links to pertinent forms and allows for easy information retrieval and search capabilities of the vast IRS document libraries. The IARP also has links to FASB to have instant access to latest information on accounting and valuation treatments for structured instruments.
The IARP is the newest risk application in the Profit|Optimizer product series. The Profit|Optimizer is a enterprise risk management tool used by SME’s and industry service providers.
The IARP is available in two versions.
The IRS Audit Risk Program for investment partnerships (IARP)
Buy it on Amazon here: IARP
The Corporate Audit Risk Program (CARP)
Buy it on Amazon here: CARP
Sum2’s Audit Risk Survey results are here: IFI Audit Risk Survey
You Tube Video: Chairman of the Board, Pay to the Piper
President Obama’s announcement that he intends to limit compensation for CEO’s of banks that accept TARP funds is only the tip of the iceberg. This one gives real meaning to the concept of Good Bank/Bad Bank and it could get ugly. As the government led economic recovery plan is implemented the banking system will still require massive capital infusions to maintain solvency. This will usher in far reaching structural and systemic changes in the banking system and capital market industries. Executive compensation is but a minor issue.
These structural changes risk creating a bifurcated banking system. The Bad Bank, so designated because it was placed into a timeout with a capital infusion by a benevolent state agency will be forced to change the banks demeanor and the manner in which it conducts business. These Bad Banks will become wards of a state intent on controlling behaviors by minimizing the risk posture these types of institutions can assume. Good Banks, so named because they remain above the need to accept the federal largess of TARP funds, will be free to conduct business without the additional cumbersome oversight of regulatory agencies.
What will the topology of a bifurcated banking system look like? A model that one may consider could be found in the People’s Republic of China where state controlled banking enterprises conduct business alongside emerging private sector banks that are mostly agencies of large global investment banks. In the US the history may be reversed; but the full or partial nationalization of weak banks will create a new institutional hybrid that will need to function under different ground rules then those imposed on fully privatized domestic banks.
The Bad Banks will become quasi-state run enterprises. Their business model and charter will be highly risk adverse forcing them to focus on mortgage related and low margin retail transactional type business. These banks will be required to maintain expensive brick and mortar branch networks to make sure that all sectors of society have access to the financial system. This might actually provide a growth opportunity for these types of banks because the “unbanked sector” of the economy remains large. A large and vibrant money services business (MSB) industry has flourished and thrived to serve the unbanked sector. The unbanked sector purchases banking services and it represents a significant expense burden on the underclasses and working poor who don’t have checking or savings accounts. Bringing this sector into the state banking system would also help to combat money laundering and the loss of tax revenues of cash based businesses. The sale of money orders, money transfer services and the sale of savings bonds and other fungible certificates will become a source of revenue dedicated to paying down the TARP debt.
The Bad Banks will not just become glorified MSBs. Bad Banks will need to focus on the stressed mortgage and credit card debt markets. These customer facing retail lines of business will offer a full line of workout resources to stave off the rate of home foreclosures and credit card delinquencies.
The Bad Banks will be capitalized with the Level III toxic assets that Hank Paulson so shrewdly purchased from the large investment banking institutions. The Treasury Department can dispense with FASB valuation rules and use these assets to value the collateral to maintain sufficient levels of capitalization in line with Basel II recommendations. Smoke and mirrors perhaps; but backed by the full faith and credit worthiness of the US government who can argue?
Equity shareholders in the Bad Banks can expect to see their shares underperform the market and its Good Bank peers. A balance sheet loaded with questionable asset quality, high debt to equity ratios, low margin businesses and high overhead due to excessive fixed costs all conspire against the Bad Banks shareholders potential of realizing a handsome return on their investment.
The Good Banks, liberated from the tyranny of balance sheets polluted with toxic assets and freed from the need of additional rounds of TARP funding will be energized with new entrepreneurial zeal. They will be free to ply their trade as evangelists of free market laissez faire capitalism. The Good Banks will be unencumbered by any new regulations federal agencies impose on the TARP dependent Bad Banks.
Unfettered from bureaucratic control, the Good Banks will be able to fulfill their mission of maximizing value for their shareholders. The risk profile of the Good Banks will be considerably different from that of the Bad Banks. The focus of their business will be on marketing higher margin and more risky financial products. They will offer investment banking and other transactional services and will command fees on scales radically different from the Bad Banks collecting two bits for each money order sold. The Good Banks will offer a full array of investment products and transactional services. Hedge funds, brokerage transactions and a full range wealth management services will be part of the product portfolios of Good Banks.
The Good Banks blessed with healthy balance sheets and strong cash flows from steady product sales into high net worth market segments will embark on aggressive acquisition programs of financial service providers. Healthy regional and community banks will be purchased on the cheap with the blessing of the acquired company’s shareholders who want to be freed from the tyranny of state control and TARP dependency. Good Banks will be the preferred bank for a vibrant and growing small business market and will command healthy fee income and sit on generous account balances this type of business provides. If a small business or retail customer account underperforms or becomes delinquent the account will be banished to the workout professionals eagerly waiting in the Bad Bank.
The Good Banks will be more like a giant private equity firm holding a vast portfolio of public financial companies and services providers. Good Banks will be nimble and voracious practitioners of free market capitalism. The accouterments of affluence like generous stock options, corporate jets, exotic junkets, splashy corporate parties will be in full swing. Larry Kudlow should have nothing to worry about. Free market capitalism as the only sure road to wealth and freedom will remain open to anyone as long as they have the means to pay the modest toll.
You Tube Video: Ennio Morricone, The Good the Bad and the Ugly
Risk: systemic, banking, market
There is a wonderful story in the New Testament from the Book of Matthew. It tells about a man Jesus discovers in a synagogue with a withered hand. The Pharisees who were the fundamentalists of their day asked if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath? Jesus answers that it is always lawful to do the right thing on the Sabbath. Jesus understood that The Divine Healer requires us always to be mindful as to how to respond to those in need even if that means violating supposedly sacred rules to do so.
The Republican Party opposition to the economic stimulus legislation reminds me of this story from the Gospel. The passage of the recovery bill in the congress was accomplished without one affirmative vote from the GOP. Almost every Republican to the last member cited concern about the country sliding into socialism. Taking a cue from lead party shill Rush Limbaugh, the self anointed demagogue and chief has been howling about the government sponsored recovery plan. Speaking for all Republicans, Rush states that government involvement will lead to the corruption of free market enterprise, ballooning administrative bureaucracies and the sure return of the debauchery of erstwhile earmarks splayed about in an orgy of pork barrel spending sprees.
The economy like the man with the shrived hand needs healing. He cannot find work if he is not healed. The doctor is in the house and being faithful to the Hippocratic Oath is compelled to heal despite the incantations of conservative demagogues of damnable results if ideological dogmas are violated.
An interesting historical analogy steeped in realpolitik can be found in a famous statement made by Deng Xiaoping as China’s disastrous Great Leap Forward was concluding. Said Deng: “I don’t care if it’s a white cat or a black cat. It’s a good cat so long as it catches mice.” This was interpreted to mean that being productive is more important then upholding beliefs in communism or capitalism.
The leader of China at the time, Mao Tse-Tung saw this type of thinking as a great threat to his power. To consolidate his power and mitigate the threat Deng’s thinking represented, Mao launched the equally disastrous Cultural Revolution. Deng and his policies were rehabilitated years later only after the damage of the Cultural Revolution became apparent. The adoption of liberalized economic reforms and the eradication of ideological strictures has done wonders for China. Like Mao, the GOP demands ideological purity regardless of the effect. The United States has pursued the policies advocated by the GOP since the Reagan Administration. Those policies and philosophies have brought us to where we sit today. A moribund economy over dependent on a financial services industry, leverage and the availability of cheap credit.
President Obama’s recovery program is classic move taken from the Keynesian economics playbook. It offers a massive capital infusion into the economy that is funded by an increase in Federal debt and a generous tax cuts that should satiate the most rabid Reaganomic raconteur. Obama is not beholden to ideology. The Great Empiricist has proclaimed the death to all ideologies and is not beholden to the stale bread of old dogmas. Obama is willing and most able to craft solutions from tools and systemic loam to effect the cure. He might even resort to a dollop of supply-siderism and sprinkle a bitty bit of voodoo economics on the zombie republicans to get the American economy going again.
You Tube Video: Dr. John, Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya
Risk: economy, politics, recession
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.
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Risk: banks, market, credit
I always thought the quote “Whats good for General Motors is good for America.” was a vile admission that the rights and interests of individual citizens was subservient to the vested interests of corporations. I always thought this was uttered by Calvin Coolidge or Herbert Hoover, the historical poster boys of an out of touch presidency intellectually immune and emotionally removed from the pain and troubles of the working class. Happily ignorant or seemingly unconcerned of a country slipping into a paralyzing depression while they whistled past the grave yard.
More recently the voices of average citizens have again been raised to decry the power and privilege of special corporate interests. They buy access and favor through the deft abilities of well compensated lobbyists and generous financial contributions by the monied interests to encourage politicians to adopt their world view. America’s economic and political history is a sometimes sordid, sometimes splendid tale of the restive relationship of labor and capital and how their respective political interests are made manifest in our laws, policies and programs that emanate from Capitol Hill.
Since at least the beginning of this year we have been barraged with prognostications of a catastrophic economic collapse. The Federal Reserve and Treasury Department have moved with dispatch to bolster bank capital to assure that liquidity and confidence in the banking system is protected. The EESA and TARP responded to the capital formation needs of banks. Most legislators supported EESA even though it only had tepid support by taxpayers. But the deal went through because we were told that if we failed to pass the bailout legislation for banks our nation would be swallowed by an economic black hole. Paulson’s defense of the TARP and its strategic transformation will be covered in subsequent posts but this authors skepticism of the TARP and Paulson’s intention is on record. The TARP and EESA are temporary short term liquidity fixes to frozen credit and capital markets. Supporting and protecting manufacturing is how the US will transition its bankrupt merchant capitalism to an economy based on the manufacture of value capable of long term sustainable growth.
So today we go on record in support of a Federally mandated capital infusion and formation initiative for the automotive industry. As we have previously stated the dismantling of our countries manufacturing infrastructure lies at the root of our current economic dilemma. We advocate acceptance of The Hamilton Plan to address economic recovery and long term sustainability of the US economy. Manufacturing is the bedrock of recovery and the Federal Government needs to encourage the formation of capital clusters of all stakeholders to incubate support structures that will accelerate the recovery of manufactures. The support program is not about writing a blank check to an industry that is badly managed. The automotive recovery plan needs to recognize, aggregate and focus all forms of capital to address this rapid deterioration of our ability to create value through manufactures.
The Hamilton Plan advocates that the Treasury Department form an SME Development Bank to encourage manage and administer the capital formation required to address a GM turnaround. The recovery proscription will need capital, cooperation and political will from all parties. Those include, government, business, labor, social service and academic institutions. The need to support manufacturing is paramount if we hope to recover from structural economic malaise. The failure of GM would have a profound impact on the fiscal, physical and psychological health of the US economy and its citizens. In this instance what is good for GM is not only good for America but it is vital for its survival.
We will offer a more detailed outline in future posts.
You Tube Music Video: James Cotton, Rocket 88
Risk: manufacturing, recession, unemployment, sustainability