Today is technically the drop-dead date for Argentina to work out an agreement to pay off vulture funds that long ago purchased their distressed debt, or else the country will go into default for the second time in thirteen years. 11th-hour negotiations with a mediator have yielded no results thus far. WSJ divines momentum from the length of the mediation session, which is pretty weak tea.
The default would actually be to the exchange bondholders who already hold agreements with Argentina for restructured debt payments going back to the 2001 default. Judge Thomas Griesa prevented the country from making a scheduled interest payment to the exchange bondholders without the vulture funds getting their $1.5 billion first (the vultures paid roughly $48 million for the distressed debt, so it’s a huge payday).
At one level, a crackdown on foreclosure rescue scams and not the overarching mortgage and foreclosure fraud is like letting the arsonist who set fire to the house go while busting the guy who took five bucks off the dresser before the house started to burn. Nevertheless, these scams do represent some of the worst elements of our society, featuring the kind of people who see suffering and vulnerability and think about dollar signs. One of my first entrees into this world of foreclosure nightmares was through a friend who had fallen behind on his payments, and then paid somebody up-front money to help him secure a loan modification. That person did nothing to help and then skipped town with the cash.
So it’s good to see CFPB finally take a crack at this, in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission and 15 states.
Almost everyone now knows that the world of international finance is not a particularly robust one, nor is it particularly just or fair. But it has just got even weirder and more fragile, if this can be imagined. A recent ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court, refusing to hear an appeal by the government of Argentine against a decision of a lower court on a case relating to its debt restructuring agreement with creditors over a decade ago, is not just a blow against the state and people of Argentina. It has the potential to undermine the entire system of cross-border debt that underlies global capitalism today.
Yves here. I’m serving an extra heaping of contempt on the latest giveaway bank settlement, this one with Citigroup for a headline figure of $7 billion which is really $4.5 billion in cash and the rest in various chits. We’re turning the mike over to Bill Black, who excoriates Attorney General Eric Holder.
Yves here. This post looks at how little has been done in the wake of the global financial crisis is instructive because it takes an international view. The Australian writer, Catherine Cashmore, is particularly anxious about the failure to address the usually lucky country’s ginormous property bubble, and its not alone in having this problem (cue the UK, China, and Canada). It the US, although we’ve had a housing “recovery” and some markets are looking frothy, the bigger issues are the squeeze on renters as former homeowners are now leasing and the stock of rentals is tight in some markets (in part due to destruction of homes that would have been rentable in the foreclosure process due to servicer mismanagement and in some markets, due to properties being held off the market, both by servicers and by landlords who are either in the process of rehabbing them or have otherwise not leased them up). And it focuses on the elephant in the room: lousy worker wage growth.
One the markets that has been least easy to predict this year has been US bonds. The long term US bond bears, that are often monetarists at heart and believe QE will bring inflation, have been queuing up to short. Likewise, post-Keynesian’s have pointed at Japan and laughed about secular deleveraging and widow-maker trades.
The fact is, the bears have been wrong all year, and even with recent inflationary rumblings are still wrong.
Despite unimpressive and often mixed economic data, market prices in a wide range of financial assets have continued to grind higher. And the results that cheered pundits are hard to square. For instance, Floyd Norris in the New York Times today scratches his head over how inconsistent recent employment gains are with the first quarter GDP contraction at an annualized 2/9% rate. It’s also hard to reconcile with reports of weak retail sales and falling in-store traffic. Similarly, China has become concerned enough about growth that it’s started pump priming again. Even so, car sales dropped by 3.4% in June. And in Japan, machinery orders plunged by 19% in May. And despite the recent discussion of Eurozone recovery, recent reports have put a dent in cheery forecasts.
With Argentina’s payment to the holders of its restructured debt on June 30th in limbo at the Bank of New York Mellon, blocked by Federal Judge Thomas Griesa, and the 30 day grace period to official default ticking away, financial pundits have taken a keen interest in the biggest debt struggle in memory.
Some have been very critical of both the judge’s interpretation of the pari passu clause that created this mess and, more importantly, of his damaging precedent. But no one seems able to resist adding digs at Argentina, even when generally supporting its position in the litigation.
Yves here. We ran an earlier post by Ashoda Mody, he argued that Eurozone was failing in resolving its recurring crises successfully. That is a coded way of saying that the odds of breakup are rising. Needless to say, that view elicited a lot of commentary from his readers. Mody addresses their reactions and objection below.
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, we all wax “desperate with imagination”, looking for explanation. For solution. For retribution!
The financial system is rotten. Our banking regulators and supervisors failed us in the run-up to the crisis, they failed us in the response to the crisis, and they are failing us in the reform that we expected in the aftermath of the crisis.
The protracted legal saga between Argentina and NML Capital, Paul Singer’s hedge fund, owner of a fraction of Argentina’s non-restructured, pre-2001’s default debt, went through a decisive moment last week, when the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear Argentina’s appeal. With the “stay” order lifted after the Supremes Court’s decision, Argentina faced a huge conundrum that needs solving before June 30th, when an interest payment on its restructured debt is due.
Ann Pettifor has penned an effective rebuttal of the Chicago Plan, which has been taken up in the UK as “Positive Money”. Its advocates call for private banks to have their ability to create money taken from them, and put in the hands of a committee, independent of the state, that would decide on the level of money creation. Banks would be restricted to lending money that they already have on deposit.
Pettifor explains how the enthusiasm for the Chicago Plan rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of money and confusion about its relationship to credit. While readers may not like the notion that credit, and therefore money creation, is best left in the hands of banks, the problem is much like the one that Churchill articulated about democracy: it looks like the worst possible system until you consider the alternatives.