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“Beholden to Failed Banksters”

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 9, 2009 3:56 PM |

Any investor or manager with a degree of experience knows that the “first loss is the best loss.” What do I mean by that? Once the market detects a loss or a weakened position, the price for that asset will remain capped unless and until the asset is sold or liquidated. This price action occurs in every sector of every market.

Welcome to the world of global finance 2009. As banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, and other financial entities deal with losses, we see a lack of aggressive posture being taken on dealing with these losses. Why? Once moral hazard is violated with a single entity, every other entity will look to violate it as well.

Immediate losses are forestalled in hopes that they will be covered or disguised. However, every loss ultimately must be recognized. By whom  and how is the question.

At this juncture, more of the losses in our financial system are being directed toward the taxpayers. How? Via the wide array of government programs. What is the cost? A likely underperforming economy due to a lack of credit, and higher taxes to offset lower revenues. 

The financial and political arenas have been intertwined in this mess right from the outset. The highly respected Bloomberg reporter Jonathan Weil opines on how President Obama is taking greater political risk in forestalling losses within the banking system. Weil writes:

Why doesn’t the Obama administration force insolvent banks and insurance companies to come clean about their losses first? It’s the “why” that’s so vexing. The who, what, when, and how are mere details, by comparison.

More than anyone else’s, it should be in Obama’s political self-interest to accelerate the worst of the financial crisis and get as much of the inevitable pain behind us as quickly as possible. Every day he waits is one less day he will have between the time we hit rock bottom and the next election. And yet, Obama and his minions are doing all they can to delay the reckoning, which only will make it worse.

In my opinion, Obama does not force the hands of these financial firms for three reasons:

1. his lack of understanding of the issues

2. his lieutenants’ connections to the firms

3. Congressional connections to those firms and payoffs made by Wall Street

While the taxpayers bear the enormous financial risk of these losses at this juncture, Obama and his troops bear the political risk in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

Why are Obama and team taking that risk? Weil offers:

Perhaps they’re scared the markets would panic if large, insolvent financial institutions started telling investors just how undercapitalized they are. There’s the distinct chance some of Obama’s advisers are beholden to failed banksters, because they used to work for them and may want to do so again someday.

Additionally, if Obama and team aggressively challenged the banks to address the losses currently, perhaps they may feel the risks to the financial system would spill over into the political arena. Thus, instead of truly inspiring confidence in the markets by dealing directly with the situation, we get the smoke and mirrors. To wit, Weil asserts:

Why else would the Treasury tell the 19 biggest U.S. banks to undergo “stress tests” of their financial health, and then put the banks in charge of performing the tests on themselves? Those reasons also might help explain why regulators pressured the board that sets U.S. accounting standards to weaken the rules on mark-to-market accounting, so the banks could hide their losses and show more capital.

Weil continues to provide a measure of integrity and transparency I wish we would see from our financial executives and political leaders.


Obama Stakes His Fortunes on Failed Banksters
by Jonathan Weil; April 9, 2009

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