JPMorgan Chase has had a bad year. Not only has the bank just reported its first quarterly loss in more than a decade; it has also agreed to a tentative deal to pay $4 billion to settle claims that it misled the government-sponsored mortgage agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about the quality of billions of dollars of low-grade mortgages that it sold to them. Other big legal and regulatory costs loom. JPMorgan will bounce back, of course, but its travails have reopened the debate about what to do with banks that are “too big to fail.” We now have a global plan, of sorts, supplemented by various home-grown solutions in the US, the UK, and France, with the possibility of a European plan that would also differ from the others. In testimony to the UK Parliament, Volcker gently observed that “Internationalizing some of the basic regulations [would make] a level playing field. It is obviously not ideal that the US has the Volcker rule and [the UK has] Vickers…” He was surely right, but “too big to fail” is another area in which the initial post-crisis enthusiasm for global solutions has failed. The unfortunate result is an uneven playing field, with incentives for banks to relocate operations, whether geographically or in terms of legal entities. That is not the outcome that the G-20 – or anyone else – sought back in 2009.
The highlight of today's economic releases will be the 8:30 am non-farm payroll data, expected to print at 180K jobs, up from July's 162K, and result in an unchanged 7.4% unemployment rate. The "most important jobs number ever " is neither, because even if it comes as a wild outlier to the good or bad side, the Fed is unlikely to change its tapering intentions this late in the game. Still, it will provide fireworks in a very jittery market and if the number is far stronger than expected, expect the 10 Year to finally blow out from below the 3% range which it breached briefly overnight, and never look back, at least not until there is an August 2011 wholesale risk revulsion episode and stocks tumble. Speaking of jittery, overnight the WSJ reports that if picked as Bernanke's replscament, Larry Summers' faces an uphill battle to get the votes of three key democrats on the Senate Banking Committee (Jeff Merkley, Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren). It would be only fitting that the dysfunctional Democratic dominated senate now lashes out against the president, and in the process scuttles the market's only hope of maintaining its Fed-derived gains over the past five years... And there is, of course, Syria which is becoming increasingly problematic for Obama whose support in Congress is looking ever shakier. Will he go it alone in the case of a no vote?
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?
Last week: “A culture of dangerous greed and excessive risk-taking has taken root in the banking world.” Now: a quixotic moment for those senators from both sides of the aisle
- Summers Said to Show Interest in Fed Chairmanship After Bernanke (BBG)
- Obama Tells Chinese He’s Disappointed Over Snowden Case (BBG)
- Texas Threat to Abortion Clinics Dodged at Flea Markets (BBG)
- A Peek at Trucking Data, and Then the Stock Surged (WSJ)
- China cuts growth target… or does it? (FT) - yes, it does, net of goal seeked Random () of course
- China Official Suggests Tolerance for Lower Growth (WSJ)
- Disney Says Wristband Boosts Sales in Disney World Test (BBG) - next up: implanted RFID chips
- Spain Prepares Cuts in Renewable-Energy Subsidies (WSJ)
- Bernanke Departure With Duke Heralds Cascade of Fed Appointments (BBG)
We are confident the following amusing bill titled grandiosely enough "A 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act" (the Bill text here) by Elizabeth Warren, John McCain et al, to pretend Congress is not a bought and paid for by Wall Street marionette, will have a last minute rider that says "Compliance with any or all of the above provisions is purely voluntary."
Elizabeth Warren is one of the few Senators out there pushing to understand why the federal government has created an untouchable class of criminals in America that can do whatever they want whenever they want and, not only get away with it, but also get bailed out when they make mistakes. Now she has written a letter to Ben Bernanke, Eric Holder and Mary Jo White. My favorite line is: “If large financial institutions can break the law and accumulate millions in profits and, if they get caught, settle by paying out of those profits, they do not have much incentive to follow the law.” Indeed, which is why they don’t. Full letter embedded below.
Yo Liz: Subsidies for the zombie banks total more than $3 annually for every dollar in income reported by the industry...
What wasn’t said at the Senate hearings: too-big-to-jail is just part of the problem
It's an odd question, we know - especially ahead of today's Stress Tests, but given today's testimony on assessing the bank secrecy act, apparent trouble-maker Elizabeth Warren pokes and prods (correctly we would add) at the surreality that exists between the Department of Justice, The Treasury, and the financial system. David Cohen, Tom Curry, and Jerome Powell dodged bullets and blame, "does that mean essentially we have a prosecution-free zone for large banks in America?" But Warren wasn't going to be fobbed off with useless banter as she pointed out, "if you're caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you're going to go to jail... for the rest of your life. But evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night - I think that's fundamentally wrong." Indeed Ms. Warren.
This video has been going around for a few days, but wow. Very powerful and could be effective in knocking some sense into more sheeple if it gets spread widely enough. It’s an absolute joke that these people being questioned by Senator Elizabeth Warren are supposed hold the banks to task. She also makes the key point how ordinary citizens are constantly harassed by the “authorities” for what are in many cases petty and victimless crimes, while the bankers who have unleashed more destruction than anyone else, get slaps on the wrist. Every single American should watch this short clip.
When one speaks of a concept it is important that it is properly qualified so as to be correctly understood. Failure to accomplish that makes impossible for either the problem to be identified or a desired solution to be found. Perhaps this is why politicians have a tendency to speak of ill-defined and oft muddled concepts, like “social justice,” “a living wage” or “fair share.” These concepts are impossible to define in a way consistent with how they are represented, since their proponents represent them as definite, rather than abstract matters. Politicians and demagogues alike may debate these issues for as long or as short as they may desire, but whatever level they agree on is sure to be arbitrary, save for the only objective conclusion that such concepts are impossible to quantify. It follows that the “fair share” doctrine is an indefinable political tool intended to be used as needed, when needed, by office seekers. It is not a policy to be sought in order to bring equality under the law or economic prosperity, as it is a concept that runs against the principle of private property.
Presenting Dave Collum's now ubiquitous and all-encompassing annual review of markets and much, much more. From Baptists, Bankers, and Bootleggers to Capitalism, Corporate Debt, Government Corruption, and the Constitution, Dave provides a one-stop-shop summary of everything relevant this year (and how it will affect next year and beyond).
Investors in the TBTF banks need to understand that the business model for this industry has changed. Thank Liz Warren
Tim Geithner's time is almost done, but the former NY Fed head is only one of very many whose position is expected to be replaced in Obama's second term (just so there is a non-continuous chain of command if and when the time comes for the people to demand an explanation for the state of the US economy from the talented Mr. Geithner). Who else is out and who is expected to be in? The following list attempts to cover all upcoming rotations at the top of the US cabinet. What is not attempted is a prediction of where in the private sector people such as Geithner will end up: that is considered largely self-explanatory.