Bernanke Getting Cold Feet On European Bank Bail Out?
Two weeks after Bernanke agreed to invest unlimited taxpayer funds in the form of global FX swap lines to prevent a worldwide dollar funding squeeze arising from the Europen financial collapse, the Chairman appears to be getting cold feet. BusinessWeek reports: "The Federal Reserve Bank of New York may ask foreign lenders for more detailed daily reports on liquidity as the U.S. steps up monitoring of risks from Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. Regulators held informal talks with some of the largest European lenders about producing a “fourth-generation daily liquidity” or 4G report, according to the people, who asked for anonymity because communications with central bankers are confidential. The reports may cover potential liabilities such as foreign-exchange swaps and credit-default swaps, said one person. The U.S. has already increased the number of examiners embedded in these banks, the person said." In other words, not only after Bernanke's pledge to fund as much money as is needed to prevent bank defaults around the world, is he actually going to have enough information to determine if there is any danger of this money not getting repaid. Well, better late than never. But at least we can permanently set aside any latent questions over whether European banks have liquidity problems. When even the Fed no longer believes you, you have far bigger problems than just liquidity (except for Dexia: liquidity there may well be the largest problem, but at least it won't be for long).
From Business Week:
Concern is growing that European lenders may falter as Greece teeters on the brink of default. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has warned that failure to bolster European backstops would threaten “cascading default, bank runs and catastrophic risk” for the global economy.
“The Fed is trying to understand what the pressure points are in terms of liquidity and potential risks that are imposed by foreign banks to domestic institutions in our financial system,” said Kevin Petrasic, an attorney at the Washington- based law firm of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLC. “There is a little bit more sense of urgency as a result of what’s going on in Europe.”
"The report requires rapid and in some cases daily data on a banks’ assets, liabilities and potential claims to measure the degree to which the bank could be caught in the classic borrow- short, lend-long squeeze,” Petrou said. “The 4G is one of the tools to reveal liquidity risk.”
Oh, wait, so there is liquidity risk...because based on the prior set of lies, it didn't seem that way. And it gets better:
Regulators lack access to data on foreign institutions operating in the U.S. that would allow them to “make informed judgments about the adequacy of such firms’ capital and liquidity buffers,” William C. Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said in a Sept. 23 Washington speech.
But, but, isn't September 23 a week after the Fed pledged however much money is needed to rescue the world? Shouldn't the Fed have had this information before it took the generous decision to risk not only taxpayer capital but the reserve currency status of the dollar. Because based on historical experience, and based on Bernanke and Geithner's repeated promises that the only thing they care about is the stability of the dollar, there may be a modest to quite modest discrapncy between rhetorica and reality.
As for the actual 4G reports, we can't wait to find out just which European bank has bought or sold CDS on itself (because, unlike in the US, in Europe it appears that this is actually not prohibited).