The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
Deutsche Bank inserted two bold new financial targets into its annual report in 2000. Thanks to “the enhancement of our organisational structure”, the German bank committed itself to “planned annual growth in earnings per share of at least 15 percent” for the subsequent three years, and an average annual return on equity of “more than 15 percent”.
The crisis currently roiling the developing world has revived a debate in some circles about the very validity of the "emerging markets" concept. Used since the early 1980s as a convenient moniker grouping countries that were thought to be less developed -- financially or infrastructure-wise or due to the size or liquidity of their financial markets -- the widely varying performances of different countries during the turmoil has served to underscore the differences rather than similarities between them. An analyst who traveled recently between several Latin American countries summed it up by writing that he had passed through three international airports during his trip but had not had a stamp in his passport that said "emerging market".
Has there ever been a more lopsided multibillion-dollar case than the Federal Housing Finance Agency's fraud litigation against the banks that sold mortgage-backed securities to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? I don't think U.S. District Judge Denise Cote of Manhattan, who is overseeing securities fraud suits against 11 banks that haven't already settled with the conservator for Fannie and Freddie, has sided with the banks on any major issue, from the timeliness of FHFA's suits to how deeply the defendants can probe Fannie and Freddie's knowledge of MBS underwriting standards in the late stages of the housing bubble. But even in that context, Judge Cote's summary judgment ruling Monday - gutting the banks' defenses against FHFA's state-law securities claims - is a doozy.
Investors in emerging markets are facing a tough choice. Should one buy cheap shares in the hope that poor corporate governance and profitability will improve some day? Or is it better to close one's eyes and buy into expensively valued companies that sell mobile telephones, holidays and handbags -- all the things high-spending emerging market consumers hanker after?