Adam Smith, Charles Darwin and George Washington are not only rolling in their graves, they are dancing the macarena. A new study by the UMich School of Business has found what everyone has known since the crisis began, if not centuries prior: that the biggest, crappiest banks were guaranteed to get more bailout funding the more political ties they had (and more kickbacks they had offered). Is this sufficient to claim that capitalism in its purest sense has been corrupted beyond repair, courtesy of political intervention and constant pandering? Probably not, but it sure makes a damn good argument. In any case, the data is sufficient for all bears to start keeping a track of which banks are increasing their lobbying efforts and funding: those are the ones where the greatest weakness is likely still to be uncovered (if it hasn't already). And while the political relationship probably is not a big surprise to any realistic readers, another finding of the study makes a solid case for abolition of the "apolitical" Federal Reserve:
A new study by Ross professors Ran Duchin and Denis Sosyura found that banks with connections to members of congressional finance committees and banks whose executives served on Federal Reserve boards were more likely to receive funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the federal government's program to purchase assets and equity from financial institutions to strengthen its financial sector.
The unsupervised Federal Reserve gets to make or break banks, presumably under the gun of its one and only master, Goldman Sachs, which has already destroyed its major historical competitors: Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. This is a sufficient condition to not only audit the central bank but to immediately seek its abolition, and also to commence anti-trust proceedings against Goldman Sachs which is not only a monopoly, but by extension has veto power over the very regulatory mechanism that is supposed to keep it "fair and honest." The system is truly broken.
More findings from the study:
Further, their research shows that TARP investment amounts were positively related to banks' political contributions and lobbying expenditures, and that, overall, the effect of political influence was strongest for poorly performing banks.
Can someone reminds us what the core premise of capitalism is again, and why we pretend to live in anything other than a hard core socialist society?
One of the professors of the study had this to say:
"Our results show that political connections play an important role in a firm's access to capital. The effects of political ties on federal capital investment are strongest for companies with weaker fundamentals, lower liquidity and poorer performance — which suggests that political ties shift capital allocation towards underperforming institutions."
The US financial system now need a new four letter acronym: everyone knows TBTF. We hereby annoint the Too Blatantly Briby To Fail (TB2TF) category of financial institutions. We posit that in 5 years there will be two banks in the former group: JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, while every single other bank will make up the latter.
Among the specific data findings:
The researchers used four variables to measure political influence: 1) seats held by bank executives on the board of directors at any of the 12 Federal Reserve banks or their branches (the Federal Reserve is involved in the initial review of CPP applications from the majority of qualified banks); 2) banks with headquarters located in the district of a U.S. House member serving on the Congressional Committee on Financial Services or its subcommittees on Financial Institutions and Capital Markets (which played a major role in the development of TARP and its amendments); 3) banks' campaign contributions to congressional candidates; and 4) banks' lobbying expenditures.
They found that a board seat at a Federal Reserve Bank was associated with a 31 percent increase in the likelihood of receiving CPP funds, while a bank's connection to a House member on key finance committees was associated with a 26 percent increase, controlling for other bank characteristics such as size and various financial indicators.
The last data point is truly troubling: while it is one thing to pander to corrupt politicians, at least when their transgressions are made public they can and will be booted out. Yet what checks and balances exist to punish current and former Fed staffers who endorse near-bankrupt companies, in self-evident conflict of interest acts, for enhanced survival? As the Fed is accountable to nothing and nobody, save Goldman Sachs, one can argue that Goldman decides the fate of the very core of the US financial system: which firms get the thumbs up and down treatment. This is an unbelievalbe travesty of both the constitutional and the tenets of capitalism and must be rectified immediately. It certainly helps that the president, being a Constitutional law professor, will surely get right on it.
"Our findings also suggest that qualified financial institutions were more likely to receive an investment from CPP if they were bigger and had lower earnings and lower capital," said Duchin, U-M assistant professor of finance. "This is consistent with an investment strategy seeking to support systematically important institutions experiencing financial distress."
If this study's finding are confirmed and repeated independently by other research teams, it is safe to say that any pretense America has to being an efficient capitalism system (where those who can no longer compete, disappear) can be used to wipe the nation's collective backside. Between this, and a choice of US dollars and Treasuries, Cottonelle is starting to see some serious competition.
h/t Geoffrey Batt