Chris Whalen

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I personally believe that there is no "free" alpha. That said, there is a way to earn returns that may look like alpha, especially if you are an astute student of human nature. You can make a bet when other people are behaving irrationally, as when you buy when there is blood in the street.

Another Blow For America's Banks (And Bank Of America) After California Kills Robosigning Settlement

Anyone exiting the third quarter with a Bank of America (or Wells, or JPMorgan, or Citi) short on their books will be delighted to learn that the "other" mortgage fraud scandal, not the putback litigation which is sure to cost Bank of America billions in incremental legal fees now that that particular settlement appears to be challenged and banks even across the Atlantic are joining in the legal free for all, but the "Linda Green" robosigning affair, which various conflicted attorneys general had held a tenuous grasp over with a settlement in process, has just blown out wide into the open once again, after California joined New York AG Schneiderman in pulling out of the talks, and leaving Iowa Atty. Gen. Tom Miller with a completely lost cause. We expect all other states to promptly follow New York and California's examples. The net impact is quite adverse for all mortgage lenders, as this development will merely snarl the traditional foreclosure process for even longer, and while beneficial to borrowers, it will put even less cash into the depleted coffers of the banks that so desperately need it. Since few if any will actively pursue distressed, or any, housing sales, it will not only hinder further balance sheet repair of the banking sector, but will keep a lid on any potential housing market improvement, which as BCG indicated a few days ago, is the most critical missing link to any economic recovery. Without it the hands of the Fed chairman are  tied even more, and leave him (and the middle class) with just one, nuclear as it may be, option.

Bank Of Countrywide Asbestos

Ten days ago Zero Hedge presented the idea of applying an Asbestos-type settlement to the neverending lawsuits against Bank of America which if continue at the current rate will result in the swift and brutal end of the massively undercapitalized bank by a thousand Rep and Warranty litigation cuts. Yesterday, we were happy to see that the idea has received far broader billing, and is being taken up by non other than Reuters: "When some look at all of the litigation arising from Bank of America's big role in the U.S. mortgage mess, they start thinking of asbestos and how thousands of lawsuits arising from that cancer-causing product brought down many manufacturers more than a decade ago. The solution back then to dealing with claims filed by more than 750,000 workers exposed to asbestos was the creation of dozens of "asbestos settlement trusts," which have paid out tens of billions dollars in damages. Some of them are still going strong today. The asbestos trusts were seen as an innovative approach to deal with seemingly endless litigation and provide a measure of compensation to sick workers and their families. The system for dealing with claims also allowed some of the hobbled manufacturers to emerge from bankruptcy largely free of the crushing weight of lawsuits." In other words, the choices for Bank of America are now two: either it prepares for a slow, painful, insolvency as all of its cash is bled out in litigation fees and "one-time" lawsuit charges, or, almost just as bad, it funds a massive trust, ringfencing all past, current, and future claims, and which is funded...by nearly all of Bank of America's equity. Yes, the end result will be a near wipe out of the existing Bank of America stock, but it will not be bankruptcy! In essence, what BAC will do is a bankruptcy remote "prepackaged bankruptcy" in which it spins off its contingent liabilities, with an equity buffer of whatever the litigants choose (most likely up to about 95% of the firm's current equity value), and proceeds to grow as a simple bank (with or without Merrill) and fund itself through retained earnings, in the process shedding off the "cancer" that are $1.2 trillion in toxic mortgages. The result of this would be a BAC share price of under $1 but that is inevitable. The alternative: freefall chapter 11 and technically 7 (which will never be allowed by the administration, sorry Chris Whalen), means BAC trades to $0.00, and the status quo system of crony communism is finished.

Guest Post: Bernanke Pledges To Screw Your Grandmother For At Least Two More Years

 

I wonder what goes through Ben Bernanke’s mind as he sits in his gold plated boardroom in the majestic Marriner Eccles building in Washington DC and decides to screw grandmothers in order to further enrich Wall Street bankers. He just pledged to keep interest rates at zero percent for two more years. Ben is a supposedly book smart man. Does he have no guilt or shame for what he has wrought? How does he sleep at night knowing he has created bloody revolutions around the globe due to his inflationary zero interest policy? People are dying because he has decided that an elite group of Wall Street bankers who recklessly brought down the worldwide financial system in 2008 deserve to be kept alive and enriched at the expense of the many.

Guest Post: Unforgiven - Part Five

The Fourth Turnings that centered upon an external threat ended with a glorious High. The Civil War Fourth Turning resolution felt more like defeat, with the country exhausted, bitter and angry. All indications are this Fourth Turning will be mainly an internal struggle between the ruling class of bankers, business elites, and politicians and the downtrodden middle class. The lying, cheating, fraud, theft and other wrongs committed by those in power will need to be atoned for. The generational dynamics in place will drive the reactions of the country moving forward. We have been badly led. A vast swath of the populace has lived beyond their means. The existing system is unsustainable. The Boomer generation does not want to yield on their perceived entitlements. The Millenial generation will be saddled with un-payable debts. Generation X is caught in the middle of this generational struggle. The huge imbalances in our society have built up over decades like flood waters behind a weakening levee. When the levee breaks the existing order will be swept away in the raging torrent that will follow.

Guest Post: Mr. Bernanke's Manipulation Nation

Manipulation is the beating heart of Federal Reserve and Central State policies. The centrally planned economy has failed to respond as expected, and so the response is to put more cocaine-laced pellets in the feedbox and encourage the poor starved rat inside the cage to press the bar labeled "debt" to get another pellet of addiction and highly profitable enslavement. Welcome to Manipulation Nation, a.k.a. the unlimited debt experiment. Think rat cage, one bar to press, and unlimited cocaine-laced pellets.

Guest Post: Outlaw Josey Wales - Part Four

At this point it looks bad for the working middle class and it looks
like they aren’t going to make it through the next banker made financial
crisis. The middle class just wants the chance for a new beginning.
They want jobs. They know the country has been hijacked by the banking
corporatocracy, supported by the corrupt political class in D.C. It is
time for the middle class to channel their inner Josey Wales and get
plumb mad-dog mean. It is not time to lose your head and give up. The
middle class are being pursued by Wall Street bounty hunters and
government crooks trying to finish them off. It is time to make a stand
and fight. It is essential that we know our enemies and how they
achieved their power. It all began in 1913 with the creation of the
Federal Reserve and the implementation of the personal income tax. I’ve
previously detailed how the baby boom generation contributed to our
fiscal plight in Part One – For a Few Dollars More,
how the actions of the Federal Reserve’s over the last few decades have
impoverished the middle class and placed the country at the brink of
collapse in Part Two – Fistful of Dollars and addressed the nefarious creation of a central bank in Part Three – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Chris Whalen: "Why The Fed Must Let Rates Rise"

This week all eyes are on the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. The FOMC must decide whether to stop monetizing the federal debt issued by the Treasury, which is what the U.S. central bank calls “quantitative easing.” Americans continue to believe — and hope — that the Fed can save us from our collective idiocy when it comes to debt, both public and private. While there are growing signs that the Fed’s zero interest rate policy, or “ZIRP,” is greatly damaging individuals and financial institutions alike, we also need to question whether the Fed can let rates rise without provoking another financial assets collapse. In effect, the Fed and other global central banks are all caught in a “Catch-22? situation, to borrow the phrase from the 1961 novel by Joseph Heller. The Fed’s aggressive easing of interest rates and purchases of trillions of dollars in Treasury debt and other assets has stabilized and even raised the price of financial assets, but in other respects the Fed’s policy of reflation has failed — especially compared with past interest rate cycles.

Per Chris Whalen, Wells Fargo's CFO Quit Due To An Internal Dispute Over Financial Disclosures

Last week, the CFO of Wells Fargo suddenly resigned for "personal reasons"  and was immediately replaced by CAO Tim Sloan. The departure was promptly buried, and everyone moved on. Not so fast, says Institutional Risk Analytics' Chris Whalen, who speculated that there is much more here than meets the eye. In a report released yesterday, Institutional Risk Analytics notes that "The departure of Atkins, we are led to believe, was not merely the result of personal issues, but reflects an ongoing internal dispute within WFC’s executive suite regarding the bank’s disclosure." As a result of this action, IRR went ahead with the following rating action: "We are downgrading from “Neutral” to “Negative” the outlook for the forward operating results for Wells Fargo & Co. (“WFC”/Q3 2010 Stress Rating: “B”/Outlook: “Negative”). Recent management changes, the poor quality of WFC disclosure and unresolved issues regarding on and off balance sheet exposures to the GSEs and private investors and/or insurers led to this downgrade, as discussed below."