Opinion

The Great Debate

from Commentaries:

Wall Street’s $4 trillion kitty

matthewgoldstein.jpgThe Obama administration's plan for reining in derivatives leaves unchecked one of Wall Street's dirty little secrets: the ability of a derivatives dealer to redeploy cash collateral that gets posted by one of its trading partners.

On Wall Street, this practice of taking collateral and reusing it is called rehypothecation. In essence, it's a form of free money for derivatives dealers to use as they please -- even to repost it as collateral to finance their parent company's own borrowings.

And we're talking big bucks. The International Swaps and Derivatives Association recently reported that derivatives dealers have taken in $4 trillion in collateral from their trading partners. That's an 86 percent increase over the $2.1 trillion in cash collateral those same dealers reported having on their books in early 2008.

Now it's not surprising that investment firms took in more collateral from their trading partners over the last year, when the financial markets were in turmoil. Cash collateral is one way for derivatives dealers to protect themselves against the risk of a trading partner defaulting on one of these sophisticated financial contracts.

There's nothing wrong with a dealer taking legitimate steps to insure an orderly unwind of a busted trade.

from Ask...:

Bailout bonuses: Does the public have a right to know?

Is it anybody's business how much money you make?

When it comes to Wall Street and the meltdown that whacked financial markets and emptied investors' pockets, the normal rules of etiquette don't seem to apply.

Wall Street salaries seem to be everybody's business lately. Nevertheless, the Obama administration's pay czar may try to keep a large portion of the compensation plans he is reviewing under wraps.

It's Kenneth Feinberg's job to review salaries at the biggest corporate recipients of government bailout funds.

Obama’s troubles with healthcare

morici– Peter Morici is a professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland School, and the former Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission. The views expressed are his own. –

Healthcare reform is in trouble, because President Obama and congressional leaders are not adequately addressing issues that trouble many Americans.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius caution Americans to ignore terrorist claims about death panels. Reasonable enough—unseemly critics on both the right and the left seek to stir up unwarranted hysteria.

Obama, Elvis and America’s birthers

Bernd Debusmann– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own. –
Nobody ever landed on the moon, the televised images are a hoax. John F. Kennedy was murdered in a complex plot involving the Mafia and the CIA. Elvis Presley lives. Barack Obama was born outside the United States and therefore is ineligible to be president.

All these claims stem from conspiracy theories and myths born in the U.S. and they throw a question mark over the long-held view of experts that such ideas flourish most in societies where news is controlled, access to information difficult and barriers to independent inquiry difficult to overcome.

This kind of restrictive environment  applies to many Third World countries – conspiracy theories are particularly abundant in the Middle East and Africa — but not to the technologically and economically advanced United States. Yet there is a parallel universe inhabited by millions and millions of Americans immune to facts, logic and common sense.

from The Great Debate UK:

Bagram lesser known – but more evil – twin of Guantanamo

clara_gutteridge-Clara Gutteridge is renditions investigator at Reprieve. The opinions expressed are her own.-

The big surprise in Tuesday’s revelations of prisoner abuse at Bagram is how long these stories have taken to reach the international media, given the scale of the problem.

Bagram Airforce Base is Guantanamo Bay’s lesser known - but more evil - twin. Thousands of prisoners have been "through the system" at Bagram, and around 600 are currently held there. Meanwhile President Obama’s lawyers are fighting to hold them incommunicado; stripped of the right to challenge the reasons for their imprisonment.

Regulation reform hints of “Old Europe”

bob-bench– Robert R. Bench, a former Deputy Comptroller of the Currency in the Reagan administration, is a senior fellow at the Boston University School of Law’s Morin Center for Banking and Financial Law. The views expressed are his own. –

“Le laissey faire, c’est fini” – French President Nicolas Sarkozy

There indeed is a French flavor to the administration’s proposals for reforming the structure of regulation and supervision of financial institutions operating across the United States. In many ways the proposals resemble the “Commission Bancaire,” the French regime for financial oversight.

Perhaps the proposals reflect commitments the U.S. has been making at the meetings of the G20 countries, consisting of countries which finance much of U.S. government operations and American consumer credit.

from Commentaries:

Obama loves hedge funds

Matthew GoldsteinThe big winner in the Obama administration's financial regulatory reform package is the beaten-up hedge fund industry.

Hedge funds get a particularly "light touch'' when it comes to government oversight in the Obama plan. Essentially, the administration is calling for a reinstatment of a Securities and Exchange Commisison rules that requires managers to register with the agency as investment advisors.  The rule was overturned by the federal courts, but many large hedge funds remained registered with the SEC--even though they weren't required to do so.

The registration requirement would give the SEC the authority to conduct periodic inspections and require hedge funds to report information on trading positions. But the information reported by the hedge fund would remain confidential and not shared with the general public.

Blunting Obama’s tax cuts

Christopher Swann– Christopher Swann is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

Obama’s tax cuts were meant to be the first strike force of the stimulus package. The main selling point — other than political popularity — was speed.

Higher take-home pay in April and May would be the first evidence many Americans would see of their government’s broad effort to rescue the economy. The hope was that this would prop up spending long before lumbering public work projects could get under way.

Bernanke’s deficit warning helps Obama

obama– James Pethokoukis is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

Sorry, Larry Summers. It’s looking more and more likely that you’re going to be stuck in the West Wing for the duration.

See, if your boss fails to reappoint Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chairman come January, it would be a public betrayal worthy of the television reality show “Survivor.” For President Obama has no greater ally: Bernanke is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Obama and flawed logic on Cuba

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate

– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

The U.S. case for isolating Cuba and keeping it out of international meetings such as this week’s Summit of the Americas sounds simple: the country doesn’t have democratically elected leaders, it holds political prisoners, it violates human rights and its citizens can’t travel freely. All perfectly true.

But if the logic used for isolating Cuba were applied consistently, neither China nor Saudi Arabia, for example, should have taken part in the London G20 summit. The U.S. State Department estimates China has “tens of thousands” of political prisoners and describes it as “an authoritarian state in which the Chinese Communist Party … is the paramount source of power.”

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