The massive $16-billion mortgage fraud settlement agreement just reached by Bank of America and federal authorities — only the latest in a string of such settlements — makes it easy to lose sight of what good shape banks are in.
The Great Debate
The Dodd-Frank Act to re-regulate the big banks was intentionally tough. It was passed in the wake of the 2008-2009 financial crash to end cowboy banking; require far more capital and much less leverage, and rein in the trading-desk geniuses who pumped up serial bubbles. Since Congress is a poor forum for crafting such a complex statute, the details were left to the expert regulatory agencies.
from Stories I’d like to see:
1. Crash Winners
Here’s a new entry for the lists of winners and losers that get published this time of year: The ten lawyers, bankers, consultants or accountants who reaped the most from the financial disaster of the last three years.
By Katrina Pugh
The opinions expressed are her own.
In the jitteriness over the stock market’s worst quarter in two years, a racing volatility index, and protests spreading across the nation’s major cities, all bank leadership (and perhaps all corporate leadership) needs to ask a fundamentally new question: “What blindspots are dogging us?” This hardly seems like a radical question. After all, most arbitrators make their money off of other people’s blindspots by seeing around corners where others can’t.
If you want less of something, tax it.
That truism is often used as an argument against a tax on profits, or health benefits, or employment, but in the case of the rents extracted from the economy by the financial services industry here’s hoping it proves more of a promise than a threat.
from James Saft:
Sometimes it's what doesn't happen that is most illuminating.
When Pay Czar Kenneth Feinberg first slashed executive compensation at U.S. firms that benefited most from a government bailout the cry was that this would hurt these weakened firms when they could least afford it, as the best and brightest would leave for better money elsewhere, where the free market still ruled.
So it can be done after all.
Britain is poised to take tough steps to break up the large banks it rescued, setting it in stark contrast to the United States, which seems set on a policy of shoring up the unfair advantages it grants its too-big-to-fail banks while regulating around the edges.
Ken Lewis started at Bank of America 40 years ago, working his way up from junior credit analyst to the CEO suite. His employment contract at the nation's largest banks obviously predates the government's bailout of Bank of America. Yet pay czar Kenneth Feinberg may have a say on whether he cashes in on retirement benefits and accumulated compensation worth $125 million.
from Rolfe Winkler:
Judge Rakoff has rejected the settlement deal between the SEC and Bank of America. He clearly wasn't happy with it to begin with, and subsequent briefs from the two parties did nothing to allay his concerns. At the end of the day, he hated the idea that B of A shareholders, on whose behalf the SEC actually brought the case, would end up paying the fine for executives' wrongdoing.