Counterparties: Breaking up, with Sheila Bair

By Ben Walsh
May 25, 2012

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Sheila Bair, never too shy to make modest proposals, thinks that JPMorgan Chase should voluntarily split itself up:

[The] bank is worth more in smaller, easier-to-manage pieces. Let’s face it, making a competitive return on equity is going to become even harder for megabanks as their capital requirements go up, their trading and derivatives activities are reined in, and their cost of borrowing rises as bond investors recognize that too-big-too-fail is over.

Or, as David Merkel puts it in a different context: “complexity has a price; avoid it unless well compensated for it”. And, Felix notes, setting the Volcker Rule aside, if a business requires complexity and opacity to generate profit, it should be spun out of too-big-to-fail institutions. That would be a complex task, but things only grow murkier once a firm has failed.

The FDIC continues to clarify its resolution authority and currently thinks the best method to handle the failure of a large, complex financial institution is to place the “parent company into receivership and to pass its assets, principally investments in its subsidiaries, to a newly created bridge holding company”. Stephen Lubben doubts that the hundreds of billions of dollars in private debtor-in-possession financing required for a tidy resolution to work would be available during a financial crisis.

Daniel Tarullo, the Fed’s resident guru on such matters, argues that it’s not simple to preserve short-term funding and market confidence without an injection of government capital. Ben Walsh

On to today’s links:

Housing
Armed with special privileges, the Department of Agriculture is an unusually hard-nosed debt collector – WSJ

EU Mess
Bankia, Spain’s fourth-largest lender, expected to ask for an additional $19 billion bailout – Reuters
German bonds are turning Japanese – FT Alphaville

Facebook
People said Wall Street research was worthless – now we’re worried that it’s too valuable – The American Conservative
Reminder: Spending a month’s salary on an IPO is always a bad idea – Bloomberg
Henry Blodget reports that Morgan Stanley bashed Henry Blodget on a firmwide conference call – Business Insider

JPMorgan
None of the directors on JPMorgan’s risk committee have worked at a bank or as financial risk managers – Bloomberg

Comparisons
Pakistan provides 12 weeks more paid maternity leave than the US – Think Progress

Unfortunate Because It’s True
Study confirms that Germans are incapable of enjoying life – Der Spiegel

Bubbly
AOL campus squatter receives seed funding – CNET

Stuff We’re Not Linking To
Comparing Facebook to Bernie Madoff – Barry Ritholtz

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