Monthly Archives: April 2011

Marshall Auerback: QE2 – The Slogan Masquarading as a Serious Policy

By Marshall Auerback, a portfolio strategist and hedge fund manager Cross posted from New Deal 2.0.

Bernanke’s QE2 program has hurt savers, done nothing for banks, and eviscerated middle class living standards.

The U.S. Federal Reserve signaled the end of its controversial $600 billion bond-buying program as planned. And not a moment too soon.

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Why Does Reputation Count for So Little on Wall Street?

There is a very peculiar article by Steven Davidoff up at the New York Times: “As Wall St. Firms Grow, Their Reputations Are Dying.” It asks a good question: why does reputation now matter for so little in the big end of the banking game? As we noted on the blog yesterday, a documentary team was struggling to find anyone who would go on camera and say positive things about Goldman, yet widespread public ire does not seem to have hurt its business an iota.

Some of Davidoff’s observation are useful, but his article goes wide of the mark on much of its analysis of why Wall Street has become an open cesspool of looting and chicanery (as opposed to keeping the true nature of the predatory aspects of the business under wraps as much as possible).

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Housing Wire Again Runs PR Masquerading as News on Behalf of Its Big Client, Lender Processing Services

The very fact that this item “LPS fires back with motion seeking sanctions against Alabama attorney,” was treated as a news story by Housing Wire is further proof that Housing Wire is above all committed to promoting client and mortgage industry interests and only incidentally engages in random acts of journalism.

LPS is desperate to create a shred of positive-looking noise in the face of pending fines under a Federal consent decree, mounting private litigation, and loss of client business under the continued barrage of bad press. Housing Wire, who has LPS as one of its top advertisers, is clearly more than willing to treat a virtual non-event as newsworthy to help an important meal ticket.

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Crowdsourcing Questions for the First Press Conference by a Fed Chairman Tomorrow

Readers may know that tomorrow at 2:30 PM, Ben Bernanke is hosting the first press conference ever held by a Federal Reserve chairman ever. It’s remarkable that an official widely described as “the second most powerful person in America” has managed to sidestep basic measures of accountability to the public and transparency like this for so long.

We are participating in an effort spearheaded by the Dylan Ratigan show to crowdsource questions for reporters tomorrow.

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On Economics of Contempt’s Reliance on His Own Brand Fumes

Economics of Contempt is aptly named. While his stand alone pieces on various aspects of regulation are informative, if too often skewed towards officialdom cheerleading (he too often comes off as an unpaid PR service for Geithner), his manner of engaging with third parties leaves a lot be desired. He often resorts to the blogosphere version of a withering look rather than dealing with an argument in a fair minded manner. This then puts the target in a funny position: do you deal with these drive-by shootings which have either not engaged or misrepresented your argument, by cherry picking and selective omission? If you do, you can look overly zealous or argumentative. But if you do nothing, particularly if it’s in an important area of regulatory debate, you’ve let disinformation, at the expense of your reputation, stand.

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OCC Makes Patently False Claim That Slap-on-the-Wrist Servicing Penalties Could Hurt Banks

It’s time we come up with a new handle for the Office of the Controller of the Currency. It is difficult to convey how shameless this regulatory-agency-turned-slut for the banking industry has become. It’s the Stage 4 disease version of where our government is heading at a rapid clip: officials masquerading as serving the public interest when they are uber lobbyists for the pet whims of their supposed charges.

So what do we call the OCC? The Office of Capital Corruption? The Office of Criminal Capitulation? I have no doubt readers will have even better ideas (and don’t be constrained by the acronym).

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A Rare Bit of Cheery News on the Banking Front

Posts will probably be thin tonight because I lost a big chunk of the afternoon getting to and from and then doing a filming session for a French TV documentary on Goldman Sachs to be broadcast in the fall. The focus is whether the firm is too dangerous and powerful. They are interviewing some of the other logical suspects on this topic, such as Nomi Prins, John Carney, and Anat Admati. The session was fun even though it put me behind the eight ball.

One amusing tidbit: they were desperately pumping me to put them on to anyone credible who would say something positive, or even mixed, on camera about Goldman. They have been unable to find anyone independent of even moderate stature who will defend the firm.

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William Hogeland: Hamilton Speaks Out on the Debt Ceiling! (Or Not)

By William Hogeland, the author of the narrative histories Declaration and The Whiskey Rebellion and a collection of essays, Inventing American History who blogs at http://www.williamhogeland.com. Cross posted from New Deal 2.0

The father of the founding debt may have been most concerned with his wealthy friends, but his ideas spawned the liberal view of government.

At FrumForum, Kenneth Silber has posted a funny interview with Alexander Hamilton, deploying actual Hamilton quotations in order to suggest how our first Treasury Secretary, the founding architect of U.S. finance policy, might advise us in the current debate on national debt.

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So How Exactly Does Buffett Get Information Like This?

Reader Hubert soliders on in the lonely task of continued Lehman spadework. He highlighted this section of FCIC testimony from Warren Buffett:

I think that if Lehman had been less leveraged there would have been less problems in the way of problems. And part of that leverage arose from the use of derivatives. And part of the dislocation that took place afterwards arose from that. And there’s some interesting material if you look at, I don’t exactly what Lehman material I was looking at, but they had a netting arrangement with the Bank of America as I remember and, you know, the day before they went broke and these are very, very, very rough figures from memory, but as I remember the day before they went broke Bank of America was in a minus position of $600 million or something like that they had deposited which I think J.P. Morgan in relation to Lehman and I think that the day they went broke it reversed to a billion and a half in the other direction and those are big numbers.

Hubert muses:

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At Least One Country With Big Banks is Not Afraid of Them

This development, which was cited in last week’s Eurointelligence, has not gotten the attention it warrants:

The Swiss government wants to impose capital requirements on their two internationally active big banks UBS and Credit Suisse that by far exceed what European or American regulators intend to ask their banks to do, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports.

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