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By: Eastvillagechic Sun, 31 Jan 2010 19:30:15 +0000 “And he had a provocative idea about who that one regulator should be, saying that it should be given, every five years, to the most admired and successful bank CEO of the time.”
may I remind all here that Ken Lewis, then head of Bank of America, won “Banker of the Year” when Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch, only to have it revealed after the merger closed that Merrill Lynch had in fact lost twice as much money as it had disclosed at the time of the Bank of America’s shareholders’ vote in favor of the merger. Eventually even the board of Bank of America forced Lewis out.
The most succcessful and admired bank CEO — like the most successful and admired CEO of, say, energy companies, such as Enron? — may only be the biggest empire-builder.

By: polit2k Sun, 31 Jan 2010 16:53:40 +0000 Volcker to spell out future of banks

The BBC has obtained a recent article by Mr Volcker for a specialist magazine, OMFIF (Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum).

In it, Mr Volcker made it clear that he wants a complete separation of commercial banks from the financial markets.
“We simply cannot afford further financial market breakdowns,” said Mr Volcker’s article.
“I favour a separation of commercial banking activities that are essential to the functioning of our financial system from more speculative trading-oriented capital markets activities that are not.
“To lower the risk and vulnerability of commercial banks, I favour prohibiting their ownership or sponsorship of hedge funds, private equity funds, and large-scale purely proprietary trading activities in securities, derivatives or commodity markets.
“These measures would directly eliminate potential areas of risk, reduce conflicts of interest and focus management attention on the core functions of banking.” 091.stm

This seems to be very much at odds with Tim Geithner’s view, let alone continental european banks.

By: polit2k Sun, 31 Jan 2010 16:35:35 +0000 King urges division of global bank empires

Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, told MPs today that the best way to reform multinational banks was to force them to divide into national subsidiaries that can be shut down in the event of a future failure. siness/economics/article7002962.ece

I’m surprised that this subject has not been commented on before. It’s a very good idea.

By: dWj Sat, 30 Jan 2010 18:34:17 +0000 If it’s fairly certain that a financial institution is solvent, it becomes comparatively easy to say “you can borrow at 18% whenever you need to” — it becomes easier politically to say you can borrow from the fed, but it also becomes easier for a smaller bank to borrow from, say, JP Morgan or Berkshire Hathaway, at least where “smaller” means small enough that a single entity can provide all the liquidity the bank needs without significantly impairing the larger entity. (That same principle applied when “smaller” is in comparison to the Fed, I suppose, which gets us back to the “too big to bail out” problem.)

Incidentally, I was — literally — hiking the Appalachian Trail when Bear went down, and have recently been reading all the details that weren’t public at the time, anyway, and they were operating on something like $70B of overnight funding, and asked JPM initially for a loan on the order of $40B. Well, I’m not sure Bear was solvent, although it seems more plausible to me than it did two months ago, but that’s an awfully big liquidity burden even for JPM or BRK. If it had been a third that size, and clearly solvent, Buffett would have loved to play loan shark; he’s no longer worried that he needs the rest of the market to get rational, at least not anytime soon.