Sunday, April 05, 2009

Quality Readings

Some great reading out there this weekend: well worth your time:

1) The transcript of Bill Moyers' interview with William Black

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Well, Geithner has, was one of our nation's top regulators, during the entire subprime scandal, that I just described. He took absolutely no effective action. He gave no warning. He did nothing in response to the FBI warning that there was an epidemic of fraud. All this pig in the poke stuff happened under him. So, in his phrase about legacy assets. Well he's a failed legacy regulator.

BILL MOYERS: But he denies that he was a regulator. Let me show you some of his testimony before Congress. Take a look at this.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER:I've never been a regulator, for better or worse. And I think you're right to say that we have to be very skeptical that regulation can solve all of these problems. We have parts of our system that are overwhelmed by regulation.

Overwhelmed by regulation! It wasn't the absence of regulation that was the problem, it was despite the presence of regulation you've got huge risks that build up.

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Well, he may be right that he never regulated, but his job was to regulate. That was his mission statement.


WILLIAM K. BLACK: As president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which is responsible for regulating most of the largest bank holding companies in America. And he's completely wrong that we had too much regulation in some of these areas. I mean, he gives no details, obviously. But that's just plain wrong.

2) Andy Beal: His run in with regulators for not taking enough risk (Clusterstock), and an analysis of how his actions are exposing the hypocrisy of the FDIC (ZeroHedge). Full Forbes Beal interview here.

"Standing outside the glass-domed headquarters of his Plano, Texas, bank in March, D. Andrew Beal presses a cellphone to his ear. He's discussing a deal to buy mortgage securities. In just a few minutes, the deal's done: His Beal Bank will buy $15 million of face value for $5 million. A few hours earlier he reviewed details on a $500 million loan his bank is making to a company heading into bankruptcy--the biggest he's ever done. A few floors above, workers are bent over computer screens preparing bids for chunks of $600 million in assets dumped by two imploded financial firms. In the last 15 months, Beal has purchased $800 million of loans from failed banks, probably more than anyone else."

A friend asked me - "Isn't that bullish? That Beal is stepping in to buy paper?" I responded, "Not if he's paying 35c on the dollar for it, when the banks still claim it's worth close to par (100)!!!" Zerohedge's post gets into more details of this continued gap between the buyers and sellers. Below, more from the Forbes interview:

"In late 2006 he sold $74 million of preferred stock although he had no immediate use for the proceeds. He says he couldn't resist the "stupidly mispriced" terms--as low as Libor plus 1.7 percentage points for 30 years. He wanted as much money available when the boom turned to bust. With the extra money the bank could pay off nearly all its depositors with capital on hand--nearly unheard of in the history of banking.

Then came a shocker: Amid one of the most reckless lending sprees in history, regulators focused on the one bank that refused to play along. Beal's moves confused and worried them, and so they began to probe him with questions. "What are you doing?" he recalls them asking. "You're shrinking yet you're raising capital?"

Next, the credit rating agencies started pestering him about his dwindling loan portfolio. They never downgraded him but scolded him for seeming not to have a "sustainable" business model. This while their colleagues were signing off on $32 billion of bum collateralized debt obligations issued by Merrill Lynch."

Yes - you read that right: the regulators made inquiries into Beal Bank because he was doing too good a job making sure his balance sheet was sound: he was raising capital, and not making crappy loans.

3) Tyler Cowen wrote a piece in the Sunday Times about how the creditors of the failed firms like AIG are the real beneficiaries of the bailout, and that maybe we should look at capping their compensation to prevent such moral hazard in the future.

"In truth, it’s not the shareholders of the American International Group who benefited most from its bailout; they were mostly wiped out. The great beneficiaries have been the creditors and counterparties at the other end of A.I.G.’s derivatives deals — firms like Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, Société Générale, Barclays and UBS.

These firms engaged in deals that A.I.G. could not make good on. The bailout, and the regulatory regime outlined by Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury secretary, would give firms like these every incentive to make similar deals down the road."

Barry Ritholtz has a nice analysis of Cowen's piece.

4) ZeroHedge has been pumping out some tremendous stuff lately, and this piece titled "Wall Street Back to Its Criminal Ways" is no exception.

"To summarize: i) Merrill, which is probably not too happy with having lent out Kimco $707 million on its credit facility, underwrites a $720 (including a 15% overallotment) stock offering for which it gets $20 million, ii) Merrill's analyst changes the stock from a Sell to a Buy, causing it to pop 30% in one day, and allegedly allowing participants in the offering to sell their shares at a 30% gain in a day, a mindblowing annualized return, iii) Kimco uses to proceeds to repay Merrill's credit facility, cleaning out any credit risk exposure Merrill might have with respect to Kimco's underperforming properties and operations."

I highly recommend reading all of these well-written and thought provoking pieces.



Barnacle Bill said...

KD, good stuff, thanks.

P.S. Black's take on the mess is awesome. Check out William Greider's interview with Bill Moyer's, too. He's just as damming, goes as far as to suggest people get out their pitchforks (and Greider is a Democrat).

Barnacle Bill said...

This is awesome.