Yves here. The longer you look at the Cyprus “rescue,” the worse it looks. As you can learn from our compendium in today’s Links, the Cypriot economy is already reeling. It’s straining under the extended bank holiday, which is scheduled to end Thursday. Moreover, the impact of losses radiating from number two bank Laiki are already propagating through the island.
And that’s before we get to the wider ramifications. Whether Germany understands it or not, it has delivered a fatal blow to the Euro project. How long it continues is anyone’s guess, but the Balkanization of the financial system that the Eurocrats have set in motion means they won’t be able to go the US/Japan zombification route.
The state of play in Cyprus is that negotiations in Parliament are underway, with the hope of a yes vote on a “Plan B” today. The Cypriot officialdom has allowed for slippage in this timetable, with the bank holiday in effect till Thursday. The latest events were largely a nothingburger, aside from the big news of the failure to approve the president’s plan yesterday: European ministers confirmed that they’ll approve an agreement so long as Cyrpus obtains €5.8 billion from depositors. Monday night, President Nicos Anastasiades gave his version of the Hank Paulson armageddon speech on national TV, laying out the fact that no deal means an immediate collapse of “one bank” (presumably Liaki), and a possible exit from the Eurozone.
The widespread assumption is that the Cypriots will fall into line, since the alternative really does look even uglier. But the runway is pretty short.
By Edward Kane, Professor of Finance at Boston College and founding member of the hadow Financial Regulatory Committee
“We are a moving company not a storage company”
…Apocryphal Bear Stearns executive
Regulators define a financial institution’s capital as the difference between the value of its asset and liability positions. The idea that capital requirements can serve as a stabilization tool is based on the presumption that, other things equal, the strength of an institution’s hold on economic solvency can be proxied by the size of its capital position. That in turn assumes you can rely on those figures.
Yves here. Our post today on Cyprus provides some broad background, including the political dynamics and the not-terribly-defensible reasons the Eurozone went that route, and a short discussion of the large risk that this inept move precipitates a wider crisis. This article by Charles Wyplosz serves as a companion, since it discusses the “tax,” um, expropriation option versus other alternatives. Even more important, it sketches out why this scheme, even if it manages not to kick off a crisis, is still inadequate to rescue Cyprus. It is thus a toxic variant of the Eurozone “kick the can down the road” strategy.
There’s been an unlikely yet welcome resurgence of chatter about breaking up the nation’s largest and most powerful banks. Bloomberg’s story quantifying the too big to fail subsidy grabbed some eyeballs (and there’s an upcoming GAO report on the subsidy that will do the same). Sherrod Brown announced an unlikely pairing with David Vitter working on legislation on the subject. Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher is going to give a big speech on Friday on breaking up the banks… at CPAC, the largest conservative political conference of the year.
By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Jointly posted with New Economic Perspectives
Dave here (always wanted to say that!): I know Yves wrote about this yesterday, but it’s always worth getting Bill Black’s reaction on these regulatory matters – not to mention to further illustrate and amplify the FDIC’s conduct.
On March 11, 2013 the Los Angeles Times published a revealing article by E. Scott Reckard entitled: “In major policy shift, scores of FDIC settlements go unannounced.”
The article’s summary statement captures the theme nicely. “Since the mortgage meltdown, the FDIC has opted to settle cases while helping banks avoid bad press, rather than trumpeting punitive actions as a deterrent to others.”
By David Dayen, a lapsed blogger, now a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on Twitter @ddayen
Anyone paying a smattering of attention justifiably raised a skeptical eyebrow at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s assurances to Congress that the Independent Foreclosure Reviews revealed hardly any borrower harm from servicer malfeasance. One has to marvel at this wondrous finding, particularly since just about no one who has gotten close to the records who was not paid for by banks has come up harm estimates remotely this low. Which raises another question: did the OCC lie (or more charitably, artfully fudge numbers) to Congress?
By Michael M. Thomas, who figured out Wall Street was not all it was cracked up to be before most of you were born. Originally published at his Midas Watch column at the New York Observer, March 10, 2009
By Ian Fraser, a financial journalist who blogs at his web site and at qfinance. His Twitter is @ian_fraser. [An edited version of this article was published on pages 34-35 of the Sunday Herald on February 10th, 2013].
It has been described as the biggest banking felony in history … yet no-one has been prosecuted for the Libor fixing scandal. Ian Fraser looks at the RBS sacrificial lambs.
During Royal Bank of Scotland’s IT meltdown last summer, chief executive Stephen Hester referred to the risk “that you turn over rocks and find new things [that you have to clean up].” Last Wednesday, nearly five years on from the £45.5 billion taxpayer funded rescue of the Edinburgh based lender, a vast rock was hoisted aloft by three regulators. What lurked underneath was not a pleasant sight.
Today we release the two latest posts in our whistleblower series on the Bank of America foreclosure reviews, focusing on the role of the “independent” consultant hired to perform the reviews, Promontory Financial Group.
Hope you enjoy this chat. I did, despite its predictably depressing conclusion. Stewart and Barofsky do a good job of conveying how DC works and why that guaranteed “a thoroughly broken financial system” would stay intact.