Category Archives: Moral hazard

Gaming the Cyprus Negotiations (Updated)

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.

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Hair of the Dog that Bit Us: Capital Requirements Provide Ethical Cover for Abuse of the Safety Net

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.

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Cyprus: The Next Blunder

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.

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David Dayen: Out of Control – New Report Exposes JPMorgan Chase as Mostly a Criminal Enterprise

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.

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Bill Black: Which Aspect of the FDIC’s Litigation Failures is the Most Embarrassing and Damaging?

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.”

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Dave Dayen: Servicers Committed Loan Error Rates of Either 4.2% or 97.2%, Take Your Pick

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?

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Ian Fraser: Stephen Hester, the Great Escape Artist

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.

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Neil Barofsky: Geithner Doctrine Lives on in Libor Scandal

By Neil Barofsky, the former special inspector-general of the troubled asset relief programme and is currently a senior fellow at NYU School of Law. He is the author of ‘Bailout’. Cross posted from the Financial Times with permission

Now that Tim Geithner has resigned as US Treasury secretary, it is time to survey the damage wrought from four years of his approach to the financial crisis.

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