Credit Rating Agencies
You might not realize it, but yesterday was a very important date. Yes, of course, it was Cinco de Mayo. But possibly more important, it’s also the deadline for banks around the world to sign up for information-sharing agreements with the IRS.
So you want to be a mortgage banker? then listen now to what i say Just get liability insurance... and get ready to pay and pay...
- Winter Storm Expected to Make Northeast Commutes Harder (BBG)
- Invasion of Spanish Builders Angers France Struggling to Compete (BBG)
- Toronto mayor, caught ranting on video, admits drinking a 'little bit" (Reuters)
- IBM's Hardware Woes Accelerate in Fourth Quarter (WSJ)
- Sharp Divisions Come to Fore as Peace Talks on Syria Begin (NYT)
- Afghanistan cracks down on advertising in favor of U.S. troops (Reuters)
- Microsoft CEO Search Rattles Boards From Ford to Ericsson (BBG)
- Banks Sit Out Riskier Deals (WSJ)
- Netflix Seen Reporting U.S. Web Users Reach 33.1 Million (BBG)
- House Unveils $1.01 Trillion Measure to Fund Government (BBG)
- Credit Suisse Tells Junior Bankers to Take Saturdays Off (BBG)
- Spot the odd word out: ECB Sees Bad-Debt Rules as Threat to Credible Bank Review (BBG)
- Insert laugh track here: Spain GDP grows at fastest pace in almost six years (FT)
- Scandinavian Debt Crisis Waiting to Happen Puzzles Krugman (BBG)
- Fed Said to Release Plan to Limit Banks’ Commodities Activities (BBG)
- Thai Protesters Extend Blockade After Rejecting Poll Talks (BBG)
- China provinces set lower growth goals for 2014 (BBG)
The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) latest civil suit against Bank of America (B of A) is an embarrassment of tragic proportions on multiple dimensions. We're "only" going to explore seven of its epic fails here. The two most obvious fails (except to most of the media, which failed to mention either) are that the DOJ has once again refused to prosecute either the elite bankers or bank that committed what the DOJ describes as massive frauds and that the DOJ has refused to bring even a civil suit against the senior officers of the banks despite filing a complaint that alleges facts showing that those officers committed multiple felonies that made them wealthy by causing massive harm to others. Those two fails should have been the lead in every article about the civil suit. There are many more...
Greed; corporate arrogance; lobbying influence; excessive leverage; accounting tricks to hide debt; lack of transparency; off balance sheet obligations; mark to market accounting; short-term focus on profit to drive compensation; failure of corporate governance; as well as auditors, analysts, rating agencies and regulators who were either lax, ignorant or complicit. This laundry list of causes has often been used to describe what went wrong in the credit crunch crisis of 2008-2010. Actually these terms were equally used to describe what went wrong with Enron more than twenty years ago. Both crises resulted in what at the time was the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history — Enron in December 2001 and Lehman Brothers in September 2008. Naturally, this leads to the question that despite all the righteous indignation in the wake of Enron's failure did we really learn or change anything?
The ancient question: how do you extract some moolah while you still can?
This fall, the US government might go the very same way as Detroit and end up filing for chapter-11 help. In other words, it will end up asking itself to bail itself out.
Two days in Washington D.C. kept caterers busy but produced a 2,126 word communique long on slogans and short on anything actionable. The G-20 statement (below) can be boiled down simply, as we tweeted,
G-20 statement: "if we all lie, same as nobody lying"
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) April 19, 2013
And just to add one more embarrassing detail for them, while section 4 discusses "Japan's recent policy actions," not only does Canada's finance minister James Flaherty believe they "didn't discuss the Japanese Yen," but Japan's Kuroda believes, comments on 'misalignments', "were not meant for the BoJ."
It was May in 2010 that Greece suffered its first bailout by its Eurozone peers. At that moment it effectively went bankrupt, however it took nearly three years for reality to set in. Yet it wasn't until months later that Greece's smaller (as we are constantly reminded) neighbor was first downgraded from its legacy "pristine" status, by the jokes that are the "Big 3" credit rating agencies. That downgrade unleashed an "waterfall of reality", shown exquisitely on the chart below culminating with yesterday's S&P cut of the island nation to CCC from CCC+, which is only comparable to the boom to bust ratings of CDS issued in early 2007 only to see full loss a few months later. How long until one or more agencies push the country to the dreaded "D" line?
Thirty cities at the center of the nation’s most populous metropolitan areas faced more than $192 billion in unpaid commitments for pensions and other retiree benefits, primarily health care, as of fiscal 2009. Pew notes that these cities had 74 percent of the money needed to fully fund their pension plans but only 7.4 percent of what was necessary to cover their retiree health care liabilities. Cities typically count on investment earnings from their pension funds to cover two-thirds of benefits. During the Great Recession, though, returns were lower than expected, and unfunded pension liabilities grew in nearly all of the cities. Even cities with well-funded systems struggled to keep up their yearly contributions as local tax revenue plummeted during the recession, and while pension assets have largely returned to pre-recession levels, they still must make up for years of lost growth, as liabilities continue to rise. So pressure for reforms is not expected to lessen. New York and Philadelphia may have the largest unfunded liability per household, but it is Chicago and Pittsburgh that have the lowest funding levels for pensions and the lowest retiree health care funding levels - while Washington D.C. tops the list in both. Benefits down, taxes up.
One of the first axioms of analysis is: "Garbage In, Garbage Out"! If your data is flawed, everything you do with it and the decisions stemming from it are flawed and dangerous to your financial health. Experienced analysts will often be found relentlessly checking, rechecking and validating their inputs and assumptions. If only our economists and the sell side analyst community were this diligent. But then it isn't their money. Only a year-end bonus for the 'extras' in their life is at risk. If economic practitioners were held to higher standards of accountability, they simply wouldn't accept the raft of fundamental data points that are the pillars of most economic assessment. Markets have become so dysfunctional with so much cheap money chasing so few real opportunities, that collateral values within the rehypothecation process are now in jeopardy and exposed to collateral contagion. The question is - what would things look like if the Fed wasn't engaged in Monetary Malpractice?
It is refreshing to see that the SEC has taken a much needed break from its daily escapades into midgetporn.xxx and is focusing on what is truly important, such as barring outspoken rating agency Egan-Jones from rating the US and other governments. From the SEC: "EJR and Egan made a settlement offer that the Commission determined to accept. Under the settlement, EJR and Egan agreed to be barred for at least 18 months from rating asset-backed and government securities issuers as an NRSRO. EJR and Egan also agreed to correct the deficiencies found by SEC examiners in 2012, and submit a report – signed by Egan under penalty of perjury — detailing steps the firm has taken." Hopefully the world is no longer insolvent in July of 2014 when this ban runs out.
"The scaled-down deal passed in the Senate addressed the fiscal cliff but did nothing to address longer term fiscal health of the nation. This puts the US rating at risk for a downgrade. However, credit rating agencies may decide to wait and see what emerges from the subsequent talks. There is an implicit new cliff at the end of February related to the sequester and to the expected exhaustion of extraordinary measures related to the debt ceiling. This date is expected to be used by Republicans as leverage for spending cuts. President Obama has already signaled that a new round of spending cuts – those related to the sequester as well as entitlement spending – will have to be matched by additional revenue increases. Therefore entitlement and tax reform are likely to be at the center of discussions over the next two months."