Opinion

The Great Debate

from Commentaries:

Geithner of Oz

Earlier today I wrote that Sheila Bair is one of the few financial regulators who gets it. And by getting it, I mean not sucking up to the banks and the big money interests on Wall Street. You know, the guys (and most of them are guys), who got us into this financial mess. Tim Geithner, on the other hand, is a regulator who just doesn't get it.

It's not that the Treasury secretary isn't smart--he is. And it's not that he's not up to job--he is. It's that Geithner is too much of a politician and his views have been molded by people who work on Wall Street.

So, that's why we have Geithner telling The Wall Street Journal today that Wall Street isn't reverting back to its old ways--even though everything indicates that's exactly what is going on. In Geithner's world, things are getting better and the banks are becoming better citizens:

I don't think the financial system is reverting to past practice, and we won't let that happen. The big banks are running with much less leverage now, much more conservative liquidity cushions. There has been a significant shrinking of their balance sheets, getting rid of bad assets and cleaning up. And the weakest parts of the system don't exist anymore.

But Geithner lives in the land of Oz. A land where we should ignore the man behind the screen and all the toxic assets that still line the balance sheets of the nation's banks.

How the bailout feeds bloated banker pay

jamessaft1– James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Rising pay in the finance sector in the wake of the global financial crisis is no surprise and is driven partly by the government’s bailout itself and the underwriting of banks that are too big to fail.

News that some financial firms benefitting from government largesse actually increased the share of revenue they pay their employees sparked a lot of outrage but more heat than light.

from The Great Debate UK:

Banks get mixed reviews from institutional shareholders

Brendan Woods- Brendan Wood is Chairman of Brendan Wood International, a global intelligence advisory firm. Recently, BWI published the World’s TopGun CEOs as ranked by 2500 institutional investors, which provides insight into the executives in whom shareholders feel the greatest confidence. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Brendan Wood International tracks the competitive position of investment bankers in global and regional markets. It also compiles the confidence rankings of hundreds of global shareholders in corporate investments, including those in the world’s leading banks. As of mid-2009, the Brendan Wood Investor Panel found a mixture of sharp criticism, but also some occasional strong praise for these “newly refurbished” financial behemoths.

First, the bad news: while all the banks have by now somewhat improved their situation from what it was earlier in the year – repaying $68 billion in government assistance, raising new equity, and carrying out a number of boardroom shuffles – their improving news and modest profit reports have not led to any total absolution from the Brendan Wood Panel for the worst falls from grace when the credit crisis exploded.

from The Great Debate UK:

Germany’s bad bank fudge

REUTERSpaul-taylor-- Margaret Doyle and Paul Taylor are Reuters columnists. The opinions expressed are their own --

LONDON/PARIS, April 23 (Reuters) - Germany is to set up a system of bad banks before the summer recess to hold some 250 billion euros of toxic assets. Finance Minister Peer Steinbruek has assured taxpayers that his solution -- called "eine Bad Bank" (there is no German word for the concept) -- will not weigh on the budget.

He is fooling them, if not himself. If the rescue really were such a free ride for the taxpayer, some savvy commercial investor would have stepped in. Under the proposed scheme, the taxpayer will end up carrying the risk of "Schrottpapiere" (scrap paper).

Goldman’s TARP out: give up ALL state aid

goldman-crop – Jonathan Ford is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

Goldman Sachs wants to do its duty by the American people and give them their TARP money back. Some spoilsports have urged the government simply to say no because allowing the investment bank to repay the cash would make other banks look bad.

But this seems rather un-American. Why shouldn’t taxpayers get their money back if Goldman really doesn’t need it? The point to insist upon is that they get all of it back — and on commercial terms.

Geithner’s naked subsidy redefines toxic

jimsaftcolumn31– James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own

Treasury Secretary Geithner is all but admitting that U.S. banks are suffering not from market failure but self-inflicted collateral damage.

The U.S. Treasury on Monday detailed an up to $1 trillion plan to buy up assets from banks in partnership with private investors, using financing bankrolled by the government, financing that is only secured by the value of the doubtful assets the fund buys.

One portion will be dedicated to buying complex securities from banks employing capital contributed by private investors and the government topped up with funds borrowed from the Federal Reserve. A second portion will buy older securities that are, or were, rated AAA, using, you guessed it, more non-recourse funding.

Let sleeping shadow banking systems lie

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

Rather than vainly trying to refloat the shadow banking system, the U.S. would be better off grappling with the inevitable ultimate solution — debt destruction and inflation.

The common denominator of policies like the Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility (TALF) that was detailed on Tuesday, is that they try to solve fundamental problems with indebtedness by attempting to float asset prices high enough that they are back in proportion with the debt.

Too many hopes pinned on EU bank

paul-taylor– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

It works more like a sprinkler than a power hose, but the European Investment Bank has a role to play in preventing a financial inferno from sweeping across central and eastern Europe.

The trouble is that politicians have overloaded the European Union’s long-term lending arm with exaggerated expectations, calling on it like a fire brigade in every emergency, from saving credit-starved small firms to greening the car industry, combating the energy crisis and fighting climate change.

Geithner’s hair of the dog plan for banks

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

U.S. plans for a public-private fund to buy up toxic assets are likely to amount to a fig leaf with which to hide subsidies to failing banks.

It is also, inevitably, an entirely new subsidy to outside investors, who by definition will only participate if they get better terms than now available in what we formerly thought of as the free market.

Tarp Two: New deal or no deal?

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner speaks during a news conference in the Cash Room of the Treasury Department in Washington, February 10, 2009.

The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday unveiled a revamped financial rescue plan to cleanse up to $500 billion in spoiled assets from banks’ books and support $1 trillion in new lending through an expanded Federal Reserve program. But initial market reaction reflected investors’ doubts about the plan, with stocks falling around 3 percent after the announcement by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

“For all the rhetoric that this is a new plan, they’ve done nothing but rehash and expand the old procedures,” said Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities USA.

Carl Lantz, U.S. interest rate strategist at Credit Suisse in New York, said details of a proposed public-private investment fund for mopping up toxic bank assets were “very vague”.

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