Posted by Larry Doyle on April 7th, 2009 2:40 PM |
In thinking about the economy, markets, and our banking system, my memory brings me back to my early days in New York. While working my way along 8th Avenue back to my apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, I would happen upon numerous versions of the classic NYC “hustle.” The shell game (also 3 card monte) was rampant in NYC in the ’80s. Mayor Giuliani cleared out this game, along with a host of other street scenes. For those not familiar with this game, there was a constant need for new players with new money to keep the game alive.
Why do these games remind me of our current banking system? The similarities are scary. Let’s access the most recent piece from John Mauldin’s site to “view the games.”
Mauldin’s guest, John Hussman, comments on these various “games” (TALF, PPIP, TARP, FDIC, FASB), in which taxpayers bear the brunt of the risk in the government’s engagement with financial institutions. Hussman writes of the PPIP:
this is a recipe for the insolvency of the FDIC and an attempt to bail out bank bondholders using funds that have not even been allocated by Congress. The whole plan is a bureaucratic abuse of the FDIC’s balance sheet, which exists to protect ordinary depositors, not bank bondholders.
Posted by Larry Doyle on April 6th, 2009 4:30 PM |
A few loyal readers have graciously shared video clips of interviews with former banking regulator, William K. Black. These interviews address the fact that a tremendous amount of mortgage originations at the core of our current economic turmoil were fraudulently underwritten. The borrowers were never qualified only then to fall upon hard times. The loans were often NINJA (No income check, No job check or asset check) and the fraud was more often committed by the lender than the borrower.
Why and how did this happen? Let’s briefly revisit my writing from November 12th:
At the turn of the century, the Wall Street model was a pure “originate to distribute” model with little to no residual risk on behalf of the originators or underwriters. When there is no residual risk, those who “WIN” are the players that can purely process the most volume. Well, how does one get volume? Lower the credit standards, put fewer restrictions on borrowers, little to no covenants (NINA Loans … no income, no asset check). WOW!!! What were we thinking?? Well Wall St. felt, “let’s worry about it tomorrow or maybe not at all because we are making too much money today.”
That money SUPPOSEDLY being made left tremendous risks on the books of the banks. The pursuit of ever greater SUPPOSED profits incorporated the use of CDS (credit default swaps) as synthetic collateral for structured deals. These CDS allowed for an enormous increase in volume and SUPPOSED profits. Don’t forget, though, at the core of the process a large percentage of the underlying loans were fraudulently underwritten. (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on April 3rd, 2009 11:14 AM |
Will banks sell toxic assets? This question is being asked ad nauseum. Investors have indicated a willingness to purchase at the right price. That price has moved up somewhat given the assistance of government financing (read this as taxpayer financing) and government assumption of losses (read this as taxpayer assumption of losses). Bank executives have indicated a willingness to sell, “at the right price.” Ken Lewis, CEO of Bank of America, made that assertion again this morning.
What’s the right price? Well, a Bloomberg survey of investors and banks provided indicated levels of interest as to what the right price for certain of these toxic assets might be. Investors are willing to pay 32 cents on the dollar. Banks are willing to sell at 84 cents on the dollar. In Wall street parlance, between those levels one can drive many Mack trucks!!
Aside from the disparity in perceived value, banks now are further incentivized not to sell given the reprieve they received just yesterday in the relaxation of the mark to market. (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on April 2nd, 2009 9:45 AM |
***Bumped up from original publication time of 7:30AM. The FASB has now just voted its approval of the change in mark-to-market accounting.
It is speculated that the FASB (Federal Accounting Standards Board) will today relax its rule known as the mark-to-market. This rule requires firms under the FASB’s purview to mark their assets to changing market prices on an ongoing basis. The institutions subject to this rule have been lobbying FASB and Congress for a change because the markets for these assets have imploded and in certain cases totally dried up.
What does the FASB plan to do? The FASB is going to cave to the lobbying pressure and will allow institutions to use their own internal models based upon cash flow analysis to price these assets. This change in the mark-to-market will not only allow institutions the flexibility to not mark down certain assets, but simultaneously mark up other assets.
The media only presents the impacted assets as “hard to value” or the dreaded “mortgage-backed securities” or “securitized assets”. In fact, many of these assets are very simple and plain vanilla. Let’s enter the world of the Federal Home Loan Banks.
The FHLB system consists of 12 regional banks and it provides liquidity (capital) for its respective members to operate. The FHLB system invests its own capital, primarily in plain vanilla conventional mortgages (Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Ginnie Mae) and Jumbo ARMS (adjustable rate mortgages) and fixed-rate pass-thrus. Certain banks within the FHLB system may have moved slightly off the plain vanilla path to purchase a small percentage of sub-prime assets, but that was much more the exception than the norm. (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on March 30th, 2009 5:15 AM |
Poor Oliver Twist faced the wrath of the workhouse master when he asked for more soup. Why is it that certain banks do not face similar wrath when they go back to Uncle Sam for more “bread” with the soup?
They want more??!!
I have commented extensively on the banks’ need for more capital. Bernanke and Geithner now share that the banking industry has significant embedded losses which need more capital: Geithner Says Some Banks to Need ‘Large Amounts’ of Assistance.
Over and above this fact, it is now widely speculated that significant revenues at certain banks (Citi and BofA) were generated in the last few months via unwinding exposure to AIG. In short, AIG entered into massive transactions with these banks to eliminate further exposure on pre-existing trades. In the process, AIG (taxpayers) incurred larger losses while these banks generated large profits. Why would AIG do this? It’s part of a “going out of business sale” and executed with a “volume discount.”
As an investor, though, am I supposed to think that bank revenues are improving because of positive trends in the economy? No way.
Risks remain extraordinarily high. To that end, I STRONGLY encourage people to listen to the audio recording or the podcast of my interview with Michael Panzner from last evening. Michael has had the economy and the market called for the last few years. His books are comprehensive in laying out a sobering reality and potentially a daunting future.
Posted by Larry Doyle on March 28th, 2009 3:30 PM |
Is there anything worse than engaging a dishonest broker? Regrettably, our financial landscape (banking, investing, real estate, insurance, et al) is littered with shady brokers. How and why these people remain in business is another topic for another day. This piece is to highlight the integrity of an honest broker, Sheila Bair, and her involvement in the PPIP (Public-Private Investment Program) designed to handle toxic assets, both securities and loans.
For those unaware of the specifics of the PPIP, the toxic securitized assets will be sold via a facility known as the TALF (Term Asset Backed Lending Facility) and via partnerships with 5 large private money managers.
Toxic loans (unsecuritized) are the much more difficult part of the program. The bulk of these loans are likely still held on banks’ books at origination cost (not yet marked down) and pose a much greater disparity in perceived value and challenge in reaching agreeable prices. (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on March 11th, 2009 12:54 PM |
I will provide my insights and perspectives on Charlie Rose’s interview of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner last evening. The interview has been broken down into 6 separate clips, with my commentary preceding each clip.
In this clip, Geithner wears both the political and policy hats. While promoting the Obama agenda initially (housing, education, healthcare, energy), he then turns toward the specifics of unlocking the consumer credit securitization markets via the TALF (Term Asset Backed Securities Loan Facility). This facility attempts to restart the securitization market and model which I wrote was broken back on November 12th (The Wall Street Model Is Broken…and Won’t Soon be Fixed). That market provides approximately 40% of the financing to a wide array of consumer finance markets. Geithner attempts to portray a measure of confidence and aggressiveness. The market has currently responded with a vote of no confidence.
Part 2 (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on February 22nd, 2009 10:24 PM |
UPDATED from late last night . . .
I just proposed on LD’s Dollars and Sense the idea that the markets would force Citigroup into the government’s hands. I thought it would occur within a month. In just checking the WSJ newswire it appears that executives from Citi are negotiating with the government as I write this. The fact that Citi is looking to broker a transaction currently is effectively an admisson on their part that they are technically insolvent. While the U.S. Eyes Large Stake in Citi, the common shareholders in Citi would be seriously diluted. How would creditors be treated? At this stage I would guess that creditors will be untouched. I would imagine that if this transaction occurs, other banking shares will trade down in sympathy.