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Sheila Bair and the PPIPs Tour: Cancelled

Posted by Larry Doyle on June 4, 2009 7:56 AM |

What is going on with the PPIPs?

The Public Private Investment Program was “scheduled” to play a grand national tour in helping the banking industry cleanse itself of toxic assets. Did the “lead singer,” Sheila Bair, lose her voice? Did the “backup” in the form of the banks and investors lose their rhythm? Let’s “boogie” on over and check it out.

The FT reports, FDIC Stalls Sale of Toxic Loans:  

Details of the Treasury’s toxic asset plan are in doubt after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation on Wednesday said it was suspending a test run of the legacy loans programme.

Sheila Bair, chairman of the FDIC, said development of the programme – designed to encourage investors to buy toxic, or legacy, loans from banks in order to restart the flow of credit – would continue but a pilot sale of assets was on hold.

“Banks have been able to raise capital without having to sell bad assets through the LLP, which reflects renewed investor confidence in our banking system,” Ms Bair said in a statement.

Is this all that it appears to be or is there more of a smokescreen on the stage inhibiting all parties – Uncle Sam, the banks, and investors – from “giving it their all”? Let’s dive into the mosh pit.

Sense on Cents views the situation as follows:

1. Impetus for banks to liquidate toxic assets (now called legacy assets by the Obama administration) is dramatically lessened. Why? Are they now less toxic? No, anything but that. With the relaxation of the mark-to-market accounting standard, banks can now “mark to model.” As such, banks are not forced to write the asset value down. In so doing, banks are now not compelled to sell it at a price which would incentivize an investor to purchase.      

2. What about all of the equity capital raised by banks over the last few weeks after results of the Bank Stress Tests? Has that had an influence on banks need to raise capital via the PPIP?

Yes, but remember that the Bank Stress Tests only covered the largest 19 banks in our nation. These banks have been largely successful in raising new capital. That said, the toxic legacy assets remain on their books. Do not forget, though, that many small to medium sized banks and thrifts have a sizable amount of underperforming loans (residential mortgages, commercial real estate, corporate loans) on their books. These banking institutions were neither put through a “stress test” nor are they in a position to raise capital as easily as the large banks.

A successful PPIP program would have helped these institutions.

3. Hints of potential self-dealing by banks involved in the PPIP, both as seller of assets and buyer of assets, would have created a firestorm. I addressed this problem in writing, Putting “The Fix” in the PPIP.      

4. With all due respect to the lead singer, Sheila Bair, all indications are that her handler – an individual named “Uncle Sam” – can not be trusted. Potential investors have been very reluctant to get overly involved with Sam. Why? In other performances, Sam has “strip searched” individuals upon entry and also played various iterations of “bait and switch.”

As the FT reports:

Banks and investors, meanwhile, had misgivings over taking part in the PPIP amid fears the politically charged climate could prompt Congress to change rules on issues such as executive compensation for those firms that participated in the programme.

While this tour is being cancelled, don’t get overly despondent. I am sure our Summer concert series will be able to provide plenty of entertainment going forward!!

LD  






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