Opinion

James Saft

Stephen Schwarzman’s hair of the dog

January 28, 2009

jimsaftcolumnSo what is Blackstone Group chairman Stephen Schwarzman’s prescription for solving the banking crisis?

More leverage and less transparency, apparently.

Schwarzman told a panel at Davos that you can’t mandate higher levels of bank capital at the same time losses are mounting and that mark-to-market accounting needed to be changed.

“You need lower capital. Do something with fair value accounting which is exacerbating things . . . We have to add more leverage to the system.” He further took issue with what he described as a “fixation on transparency” and said “We have to use regulators to schedule out losses.” By that I presume he means keep the bank on life support until they can make enough to absorb their losses. It did work in the 1990s with some prominent U.S. banks, but…

Laura Tyson, an economic advisor to the Obama administration, didn’t seem to be buying in to the more leverage less disclosure meme.

“Nobody trusts the private system, why should they trust them?” she said. She also mentioned the Swedish solution, which you may remember imposed some pretty tough conditions on bank shareholders. She said that voters would be watching who made money out of bailouts and would be concerned by “compensation and dividends.”

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