The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

Is the executive pay bubble popping?

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Signs are it won't just be the salaries of bankers coming under fire.

An unusual array of forces are combining to make it very likely that top tier pay may be structurally falling, rather than simply taking a cyclical dip during a downturn.

Take it for granted that pay in the financial sector will fall. A combination of increased government ownership and a shrinking businesses taking fewer risks with other people's money will see to that.

But even if you cast arguments about a new mood of sobriety aside as humbug, government intervention and shareholder activism may combine to force down the share that top executives get of profits in businesses across the economy, even among companies not getting government handouts.

U.S. Treasury Secretary-designate Tim Geithner told Congress last week he would consider extending a $500,000 cap on the tax deductibility of executive pay to companies beyond those taking government bailout money.

from The Great Debate:

Nationalization: Terrible but inevitable

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Nationalization of weak banks in Britain and the United States may be preferable to current plans for insurance and soft "bad banks" schemes which risk being swamped by future losses as assets, especially real estate, continue to crater.

An insurance program, getting banks to identify their riskiest assets to the government which will insure them for a fee, is one of the main planks of a UK plan to bail out banks unveiled this week.

from The Great Debate:

As Big Brother steps up, time for credit

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Want to do well out of the rolling and ever expanding bailouts? Hold your nose, buy corporate credit and try not to read any news for the next five years.

First off, let's get one thing clear: the prospects for companies in Europe and the U.S. are absolutely awful and many will default, quite probably more than in any post-war recession.

from The Great Debate:

Pension assumptions hitting the wall

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

That 8 percent annual return on investment you and your pension fund manager were banking on is now looking almost as optimistic as Madoff's magic 12 percent, as deleveraging and deflation bite.

With extremely low or negative interest rates and everyone from consumers to banks trying to shed debt and assets at the same time, what seemed like reasonable projections for a mixed portfolio of stocks, bonds and other assets are now substantially too high.

from The Great Debate:

Of boom, bust but maybe not the Black Death

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

As the crisis has deepened we've had to search farther back in history for precedents, and with deflation at hand much of the debate now centers on how similar the next while will be to the Great Depression.

But what if, rather than the 1930s, we ought to be thinking about the revolutionary crisis of the 18th century, or even further back to the 14th century lending and spending spree that ended with the Black Death?

from The Great Debate:

UK suffers from banks’ Darwinian hibernation

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Britain's banks are fulfilling their Darwinian role, to survive, rather than their economic one, to lend, and there is no easy or painless way out.

A glance at the latest Bank of England Credit Conditions Survey makes grim reading, with yet another marked tightening of lending conditions to households and businesses. Loans are harder to get and more expensive where available, which is hardly surprising given rising defaults and a hardening view that the UK will suffer a long and deep recession.

from The Great Debate:

We are all Madoff investors

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

It was perhaps inevitable that we ended 2008, the year we learned we were up the creek, with a great financial scandal: the Madoff Ponzi case.

What is even more remarkable is the way in which the alleged fleecing of many billions of dollars from wealthy people and charities -- investors who should have known better or employed people who did -- serves as a mirror for the broader culture, showing how we went wrong and where we are left now that we realize our errors.

from Reuters Editors:

Typewriters, Technology and Trust

dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

A little girl in my family got a typewriter for Christmas.

Not a laptop. Nothing with a screen. A typewriter. The old-fashioned manual kind with a smeary ribbon and keys that stick.

Britain faces recession without housing ATM

Photo

James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

james-saft1Even in the good times, many British consumers were borrowing against their houses just to fund routine consumption, indicating a big hit to come for retail sales and for the banks who hold the loans.

With house prices falling rapidly and mortgage debt tougher to get, it is no surprise that homeowners are less able and inclined to borrow against their houses in order to spend.

from The Great Debate:

Finance throws sand in wheels of trade

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

Trade finance, a basic lubricant for the global economy, is becoming much more expensive and tougher to get, accelerating an already harrowing downturn.

Banks are reluctant to allocate scarce capital to trade finance, which funds cross-border buying and selling, and are very wary about being caught short by defaults by other banks which write letters of credit or by the importers and exporters themselves.

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