Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
In today's episode of blast from the past, Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil takes us on a time journey, which presents the Too Big To Fail bank problem from a different perspective: that of the Cocaine Cowboy roaming the streets of Miami in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Just like today's big banks they were untouchable; just like today's banks they were collaborating and existing in perfect symbiosis with the Federal Reserve; just like today the Cocaine Cowboys existed in an untouchable vacuum courtesy of endless bribes to the local law enforcement and judicial officials, and just like today, the TBTF institution du jour isn't "merely an economic problem. It is a great moral failing of our society that poisons our democracy." Back then, Ronald Reagan stepped in just when Miami (whose real estate market had soared in 1979-1981 courtesy of rampant crime and money laundering: hint hint NAR anti money-laundering exemptions) was about to be overrun, forming a task force that in the nick of time restored law and order. Today we are not that lucky, as there is not a single politican willing to risk it all just to eradicate the modern version of a classic scourge: only this time they don't hand out 8 balls; they give away 0% introductory APR cards and 3 Year NINJA Adjustable Rate Mortgages. Both however get you hooked for life: either on drugs or on debt. Will someone step up this time and form a task force to eliminate the second coming of the Cocaine Cowboy? Sadly, we don't think so. At least not until the next great crash happens.
Senate Throws The Book At HSBC Accusing It Of Massive "Money Laundering And Terrorist Financing", No Comment On NAR Money Laundering YetSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/16/2012 17:30 -0500
Just because there is already an overflow of confidence in the financial system, here comes the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee On Investigations with a 340 page report detailing how HSBC "exposed the U.S. financial system to a wide array of money laundering, drug trafficking, and terrorist financing risks due to poor anti-money laundering (AML) controls." Of course, since HSBC is one of the world's largest banks, what it did was not in any way unique, and it is quite fair to say that every other bank has the same loose anti-money "laundering" provisions. What HSBC was likely most at fault for was not providing sufficient hush money to the appropriate powers in the highest US legislative administration. But at least tomorrow we will have yet another dog and pony show, accusing that HSBC did what the NAR does every single day. Because let's not forget that the National Association of Realtors lobbied for and received a waiver for anti-money laundering provision regulations: after all how else will US real estate remain at its current elevated levels if not for the drug, blood, and fraud money from various Russian, Chinese, and petrodollar kingpins, mafia bosses and otherwise rich people who need to launder their money in the US, in the process keeping Manhattan real estate in the stratosphere? But one can't possibly pursue the real truth if it just may impair the fair value of that backbone of honest, hard-working US society: still massively overpriced housing in a world in which those who need mortgages will never get them.
US Attorneys General Jump On The Lieborgate Bandwagon; 900,000+ Lawsuits To Follow, And What Happens Next?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 07/11/2012 20:00 -0500
The second Barclays announced its $450 million Libor settlement, it was all over - the lawyers smelled not only blood, but what may be the biggest plaintiff feeding frenzy of all time. Which is why it was only a matter of time: "State attorneys general are jumping into the widening scandal over whether banks tried to manipulate benchmark international lending rates, a move that could open a new front against the top global banks. A handful of state attorneys general said they are looking into whether they have jurisdiction over the banks, and are starting preliminary discussions to determine what kind of impact the conduct involving the Libor rate may have had in their states."
Proposals from BIS, OCC and FDIC Would Reclassify Gold as a Tier 1 Asset
Back on May 10, when JPMorgan announced its massive CIO trading loss (which may or may not have been unwound courtesy of a risk offboarding to another hedge fund which may or may not be backstopped by the Fed as the massive IG9 position was not novated but merely transferred) JPM also disclosed something else which may have bigger implications for the broader, and just downgraded, banking sector. As a reminder, in the 10-Q filing, the bank reported a VaR of $170 million for the three months ending March 31, 2012. This compared to a tiny $88 million for the previous year. According to the company, “the increase in average VaR was primarily driven by an increase in CIO VaR and a decrease in diversification benefit across the Firm.” What JPM really meant is that after being exposed in the media for having a monster derivative-based prop bet on its books, it had no choice, as it was no longer possible to use manipulated and meaningless risk "models" according to which the $2 billion loss, roughly 23 sigma based on the old VaR number, was impossible (ignoring that VaR is an absolutely meaningless and irrelevant statistical contraption). Turns out it is very much possible. Which brings us to the latest quarterly Office of the Comptroller of the Currency report, and particularly the chart on page 7. More than anything it shows what happens when a big bank is caught red-handed lying about its risk exposure. We urge readers to spot the odd one out.
Sadly the man who thought (with good reason) he was more important than the Chairsatan (until the whole CIO fiasco blew up in his face of course), Jamie Dimon, will not be there (and will thus not be available to provide an update on the CIO's losses to date, which are likely orders of magnitude greater than the $2 billion benchmark previously disclosed, but that does not mean today's Senate hearing on lack of regulatory oversight and massive bank prop losses will be any less interesting. From C-Span: The Senate Banking Committee will hold an oversight hearing on efforts to overhaul the regulation of derivatives. Lawmakers will focus on the steps the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) are taking to implement provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, and their efforts to reduce systemic risk and improve market oversight. The session also will spotlight J.P. Morgan Chase's $2 billion trading loss, which is under investigated by the FBI and the SEC." We, for one, can't wait to find out what the FBI's trained CDS forensic experts discover on this one...
For anyone who had doubts that the JPM CIO debacle was only just starting, the just broken news by Bloomberg that the firm has hired former SEC enforcement chief William McLucas "to help respond to regulatory probes of the firm’s $2 billion trading loss" should put all doubts to rest. Because the last thing JPM needs now is to be perceived as engaging in even more regulatory capture (its current general counsel was also previously a head of enforcement at the SEC) . Yet because it is doing precisely this, means that the offsetting cost, namely the fallout that will be associated with the CIO unwind if and when completed (and we will know for sure when the Q2 earnings are released at the latest), will be fast and furious.
There's a big, fat "I told you so" coming down the pike.
Bill Black is a former bank regulator who played a central role in prosecuting the corruption responsible for the S&L crisis of the late 1980s. He is one of America's top experts on financial fraud. And he laments that the US has descended into a type of crony capitalism that makes continued fraud a virtual certainty - while increasingly neutering the safeguards intended to prevent and punish such abuse. In this extensive interview, Bill explains why financial fraud is the most damaging type of fraud and also the hardest to prosecute. He also details how, through crony capitalism, it has become much more prevalent in our markets and political system. A warning: there's much revealed in this interview to make your blood boil. For example: the Office of Thrift Supervision. In the aftermath of the S&L crisis, this office brought 3,000 administration enforcements actions (a.k.a. lawsuits) against identified perpetrators. In a number of cases, they clawed back the funds and profits that the convicted parties had fraudulently obtained. Flash forward to the 2008 credit crisis, in which just the related household sector losses alone were over 70x greater than those seen during the entire S&L debacle. So how many criminal referrals did the same agency, the Office of Threat Supervision, make?
Foreclosure Fraud Settlement Documents Released, Read Them Here
Aspirin at the door
The CDS index market remains one of the most liquid sources of hedges and positioning available (despite occasional waxing and waning in volumes) and is often used by us as indications of relative flows and sophisticated investor risk appetite. However, as Kamakura Corporation has so diligently quantified, the broad CDS market (specifically including single-names) remains massively concentrated. This concentration, evidenced by the Honolulu-based credit guru's findings that three institutions: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citibank National Association, have market shares in excess of 19% each has shown little to no reduction (i.e. the market remains as closed as ever) and they warn that this dramatically increases the probability of collusion and monopoly pricing power. We have long argued that the CDS market is valuable (and outright bans are non-sensical and will end badly) as it offers a more liquid (than bonds) market to express a view or more simply hedge efficiently. However, we do feel strongly that CDS (indices especially) should be exchange traded (more straightforward than ever given standardization, electronic trading increases, and clearing) and perhaps Kamakura's work here will be enough to force regulators and the DoJ to finally turn over the rock (as they did in Libor and Muni markets) and do what should have been done in late 2008 when the banks had little to no chips to bargain with on keeping their high margin CDS trading desks in house (though the exchanges would also obviously have to step up to the plate unlike in 2008).
Indeed, the MF Global failure suggests that the US and EU banking systems may be facing a far larger problem than even the most bearish analysts suspect.
How US Banks Are Lying About Their European Exposure; Or How Bilateral Netting Ends With A Bang, Not A WhimperSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/01/2011 12:49 -0500
A little over a month ago, Zero Hedge started an avalanche in the financial sector, and an unprecedented defense thereof by the "independent" financial media and conflicted sell side, by being simply the messenger in pointing out that the gross exposure of one Morgan Stanley to the French banking sector is $39 billion. The firestorm of protests, which naturally focused on the messenger, and not the message, attempted to refute the claims that Morgan Stanley (and many others) are overexposed to Europe (both banks and countries) by stating that gross is not net, and that when one nets out "hedges" the real exposure is far, far lower. The logic is that bilateral netting, as the principle behind this argument is called, should always work - no matter the market, and that counterparty risk, especially when it comes to hedges, should always be ignored because banks will always honor their own derivative exposure. Obviously that this failed massively when AIG had to be bailed out, to preserve precisely the tortured and failed logic of bilateral netting was completely ignored, after all things will never get that bad again, right? Well, wrong. Because the argument here is precisely what the exposure is when the chain of netting breaks, when one or more counterparties go under (such as MF Global for example, which filed bankruptcy precisely due to its hedged (?) European exposure - luckily MF was not in the business of writing CDS on European banks or else all hell would be breaking loose right now). So little by little the story was forgotten: after all when everyone says gross is not net, contrary to what history shows us all too often, everyone must be right. Today it is time to refresh this story, as none other than Bloomberg pulls the scab right off and while confirming our observations, also goes further: yes, banks are not only massively exposed to Europe, but they are in essence misrepresenting this exposure to the public by a factor of well over ten!