Financial Times’ Martin Wolf: Team Obama "Too Politically Frightened" to Admit US Banks Insolvent Posted on February 9, 2009 by Yves Smith I’ve never seen Martin Wolf speak before, and he’s refreshingly energetic and direct. Watch Part One here. And Part Two. Post navigation ← US Desire for Priority Repayment May Lead to GM, Chrysler Bankruptcy Filing Geithner Bank Bailout Plan: Fiasco → Subscribe to Post Comments 28 comments Early Withdrawal February 9, 2009 at 11:48 pm NYTimes: Geithner Said to Have Prevailed on the Bailout (bank bailout) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/business/economy/10bailout.html “In the end, Mr. Geithner largely prevailed in opposing tougher conditions on financial institutions that were sought by presidential aides, including David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the president, according to administration and Congressional officials… he prevailed over top administration aides who wanted to replace bank executives and wipe out shareholders at institutions receiving aid.” Obama and Timmy sitting in a tree, K I S S I N G! These people are the scum of the earth. Not only is the latest incarnation of the bad bank plan as awful as the first five iterations, but according to this NYTimes article Obama had voices in the room pushing cram downs and scalpings and still the fraudsters won completely. Could there be a bigger indictment of the hollowness of ‘Change’. Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 12:03 am Its called fascism Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 12:05 am mp and Conjure Bag say, “Seize the banks. Do it now.” Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 12:07 am Thanks Yves, great post. I’m still not used to agreeing with Wolf (how the world has changed in the last four months!), but everything he says resonates… …and I think his directness is from a growing sense of alarm, that seems to be shared among top-echelon economists. But we’re not there yet…let’s see what happens. gdd9000 February 10, 2009 at 12:33 am Good to see MP in the right places. Oh, and lest I forget conjure…might up and bite me in the arse. Here’s a cigar, big C. Now go talk some sense into big O. It’s quite interesting, though, that all of our fears about a more chicago economics school Barak are coming true. If Timmy needs to over-rule Summers and Volcker is sidelined, well, then you KNOW that BO gave Timmy the green light. This will prove to be fatal flaw. geoff gdd9000 February 10, 2009 at 12:34 am And Anonymous, dont feel bad. You may have found yourself disagreeing with MW over the past few years, but that’s not uncommon. He harped on structural imbalances constantly. geoff doc holiday February 10, 2009 at 1:07 am All anyone has to do is look at the lack of earnings and the lack of money that banks have and then be truthful about insolvency. JPM, as one of the stronger wall street banks, will most likely not make a dime in share growth during 2009 and the only reason they appear to have any earnings manipulation on the upside is because of the games played with TARP, Treasury, The Federal Reserve Hocus Pocus and probably things like goodwill and various adjustments to write down crap from the recent voodoo associated with The WaMu Magic Show — in a nutshell, JPM is a shell with nothing inside except taxpayer revenue, which should be taken from those crooks ASAP! As for the rest of the wall street survivors, they really are insolvent and why Obama would not focus his energy on nationalizing these toxic entities is fully beyond me. The longer this game goes on, the more obvious it will become, so if Obama wants to look like something other than a crook, he needs to distance himself from these retarded generals giving him shit for advice! Amen and someone let the dog out… But wait, I do have a wild idea: What about a sort of reverse strategy, where smaller regional banks join forces to take over the good assets from garbage dumps like JPM? That sort of ring fence would force the bad banks out of business and let the good banks take control. Jim in Chicago February 10, 2009 at 1:10 am Apparently, we came within 3 hours of the point of no return in September: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/2/9/234340/6189/142/695504 Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 2:30 am doc holiday, Chris Whalen over at Institutional Risk Analytics has been arguing the very same thing. http://us1.institutionalriskanalytics.com/pub/IRAMain.asp doc holiday February 10, 2009 at 3:22 am anon: That is good! Re: "WABC's bank unit had "only" 6.35% leverage at end of Q3 and about the same in Q4, putting them slightly below peer in terms of capital, but with an ROE of 13% at the end of Q3 and 14.9% at the end of Q4 2008, equity capital is not an issue. Charge-offs for WABC bank unit increased from 31bp in Q3 to 52bp at year-end 2008, well below peer loss rates for both periods. But analysts note the two key positives on WABC as it ends 2008: strong earnings and excellent operating efficiency. With the branches of County Bank, WABC will be a $5 billion asset regional player in CA and well positioned to take advantage of opportunities as 2009 proceeds. Did we mention that WABC closed over $48 on Friday, up 10% for the day? The 90-day equity volatility on WABC is 167% based in the EOD pricing from our friends at Morningstar, which is less than half the implied volatility of larger bank names. For all of you stock pickers out there who are users of the IRA Bank Monitor, consider that a hint. If members of Congress and the Obama Administration take one lesson from us this week, then they ought to look at the growing crowd of investors – several who are working with IRA – forming to purchase assets cleansed through the process of insolvency. Banks, branches and individual loans are being bought and sold by investors with capital and the ability to manage credit. These are the beginnings of economic recovery and are an early indicator that the bull case is reappearing for financials – if not yet ripe." >> That is a great example of the smaller well run regional banks, taking over the mess. The consolidation is somewhat of a reverse concept where the little guys take over the giants, but it will probably be a smart way to save the system. Think in terms of Obama versus Clinton and the way cash was obtained by Obama, i.e, small amounts from large groups of people, versus Clinton that relied on fewer LARGE entities; and we all know how that turned out, so, same thing with this toxic shitpile banking pirates from wall street. Shut down wall street banks and give the cashflow to small banks and then contain the toxic waste, away from the pirates. Fire every manager that ever had a job on wall street and turn it all over to the "little" guys! If the BIG guys wanna fight, hang them for treason! UB, Feck & Kona, LTD February 10, 2009 at 3:33 am This country (countries? world?) is going to look a lot different two years from now. Dave February 10, 2009 at 3:52 am I believe US citizens en masse should be considering a permanent IRS tax holiday and a protest movement the likes of which have not been seen since the Vietnam war. This is just getting beyond a joke. Let’s see whether Washington “hears” the message when 10+ million citizens march on the hill. purple February 10, 2009 at 4:14 am Wolf does a lot of good research and has clear ideas to go along with it. Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 6:27 am “The second part of the discussion gets to the crux of why Nationalization is not the slam dunk that its proponents make it out to be as once you wipe out the common equity and cram down the bondholders you’ve now got an entirely new set of institutions (Insurance Companies, Pension Funds, etc.) who are going to be in dire trouble.” They get stock. And if the CDO’s are worth something, they make money. Better the public gets upside than Flowers, Ross, Carlyle, KKR, Blackstone, and the other vultures that want to buy bank assets on the cheap, with taxpayers eating losses. Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 8:39 am Obama could really use this opportunity to “clear the air” in DC with telling the american public what some already know…..the banks are insolvent and we have been propping them up….”… He could really gain tremendous capital by them providing the leadership to nationalize them immediately, close the bad ones, and sell off all the assets to pay back the taxpayer, start some new banks with some new money, then IPO them when ready and put that money in the treasury too. But Noooooooooo! Can’t do the right thing!REVOLUTION HERE WE COME Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 9:04 am as a passionate supporter of Obama during the election season it really hurts to realize that those who called him a “empty suit” might be right. It is clear that he has no knowledge of economic matters and is a hostage to the same kleptocrats as the previous administration Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 9:33 am As a guy who didn’t expect much of Obama it also hurts to be given a choice between a senile fascist autocrat and a callow and malleable banker’s dupe. It’s sad to a see a decent man in over his head in a shark tank. Markel February 10, 2009 at 9:36 am As someone who didn’t support Obama, at least not during the primaries, and who has criticized some of his early moves, I think we should avoid getting carried away here. The notion that he has “no knowledge of economic matters” is laughable, though it may be true that he doesn’t have quite enough knowledge to cut through all the BS that the plutocrats are throwing at him. Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 9:56 am Markel- can you point to one element of the economic stimulus plan that Econ. 101 student couldn’t have put together.? The plan is breath taking in its timidity. Obama is doing exactly what George Bush did with regard to Iraq. There is a massive gap between the rhetoric as to the risk and the means that are being employed. FDR didn’t fight the depression just by throwing money at the problem but rather changed the basic structure that lead to the depression which in turn gave us us – social security, bank insurance, Glass Steagal National Labor relations board, NRA, crop support plans, a slew of housing programs (it extended the 5 year bullet mortgage to a 10-15 year mortgage). Is there any one element of the stimulus or bank bailout that comes anywhere close to this fundamental reset? lineup32 February 10, 2009 at 10:34 am Anon says:“The second part of the discussion gets to the crux of why Nationalization is not the slam dunk that its proponents make it out to be as once you wipe out the common equity and cram down the bondholders you’ve now got an entirely new set of institutions (Insurance Companies, Pension Funds, etc.) who are going to be in dire trouble” The to big to fail logic which has driven U.S. financial policy is still alive and kicking and while Obama has picked up this baton we can expect further financial contortions that will strain logic but keep up the illusion of American financial strength. Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 10:54 am I'm pro-nationalization, but Wolf's later comments about the impact on the bond market has given me pause. I honestly hadn't taken that into account…not sure I completely understand it. Nationalization is normally fairly cut & dry…the challenges are more political than economic. In our case, which seems FUBAR, then Obama may have just decided to let Geithner continue to act like the little Dutch boy, until the administration can figure out a real strategy. And Wolf's comments might justify that delay. I've been expecting some real pain for the economy, something that would last several years. But this may be more serious than I had contemplated. Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 11:08 am Anon 10:54 again: I would resurrect an idea that I had back in Sept/Oct., and that I’ve seen floating around on the blogosphere in various forms. Buiter really fleshed it out and made it respectable in a column over the weekend. And that is to simply keep the banking system on life support, until a new state-run banking system can be assembled. Once established, the dead banks could be left to collapse, and Main Street would stay functional through the state banking system. That would also seem preserve the banks that are only technically insolvent, as they could “rope themselves onto” the state banking system during storm when the truly dead banks are left to finally collapse. The state banking system would be permanent, as a hedge towards future regulatory subversion among the private banks. Wolf’s comments about the bond market have me changing my mind: it’s probably wise for Obama to delay action for awhile longer. The President’s behavior makes a lot more sense now…the guy’s in a tough spot. Hopefully, somebody bright and bushy-tailed is behind the scenes, drawing up the administration’s plans for assembling a state-run system to anchor the entire banking sector. doc holiday February 10, 2009 at 12:02 pm Hey UB, What a great thing to see another member of THE firm here! UB, Feck & Kona, LTD said… >> Yes, things have a way of changing! I'm seeing the light in the little good banks (The David's) all consolidating in an effort to destroy The Monster from wall street. Obviously banks are connected, but this is a matter of re-engineering the circuit boards and going from the current chaotic system to a more efficient beast. Few will rcall this post from last year: In 1965, Moore examined the density of transistors at which cost is minimized, and observed that, as transistors were made smaller through advances in photolithography, this number would increase at "a rate of roughly a factor of two per year".The term "Moore's law" was coined around 1970 by the Caltech professor, VLSI pioneer, and entrepreneur Carver Mead. Moore may have heard Douglas Engelbart, a co-inventor of today's mechanical computer mouse, discuss the projected downscaling of integrated circuit size in a 1960 lecture.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore's_lawSee Also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transistor_countThus during the recession of 1990, many PC users were using computers that had engines like an Intel 80486, which was the first x86 chip that used more than a million transistors. This chip had a Specified max clock rate between 16 MHz to 100 MHz.Conversly, PC users during The Early "W" Bush reign of 2001 were using 7th-generation architecture, called NetBurst in Pentium 4 processors, with Max CPU clock between 1.3 GHz to 3.8 GHzInterestingly, in this late stage of The Bush Coup deflationary spiral, Intel be attempting to sell Tukwila, a processor which may pack more than 2 billion transistors on a single chip and IMHO, place supercomputing within the reach of people that will have no clue as to what they are dong.Moore's Law and economies of scale are the dominant factors in supercomputer design: a single modern desktop PC is now more powerful than a 15-year old supercomputer, and the design concepts that allowed past supercomputers to out-perform contemporaneous desktop machines have now been incorporated into commodity PCs. Nonetheless, even fewer will recall: "However complicated a machine we construct, it will … correspond to a formal system, which in turn will be liable to the Gödel procedure for finding a formula unprovable-in-that-system. This formula the machine will be unable to produce as being true, although a mind can see it is true. And so the machine will still not be an adequate model of the mind [Minds, Machines and Gödel]." >> Puking Treasury goo and head turning in circles (round and round): Also see: T.S. Eliot – Growltiger’s Last Stand Then recall: Bodysnatchers Then, as a final attempt at remembering that the future belongs to our children and not wall street pirates, see the seeds of reality: Don’t Stop Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 2:49 pm But the banks cant be insolvent!!! There are accounting rules that ensure this is obviousThere are accounting audits that stste the current solvencyThere are bank regulators that ensure banks are not allowed to contuinue to trade if insolvent UB, Feck & Kona LTD February 10, 2009 at 3:08 pm Doc: My little Kirk Hammett will be playing a Joe Satriani song next month (and of course, some Metallica). See you in the blagues. Jim T February 10, 2009 at 5:00 pm The Treasury has NO RIGHT TO GIVE AWAY TAX PAYER MONEY! THAT IS CRIMINAL AND IF IT ISN’T IT DAMN WELL SHOULD BE! TREASURY SHOULD HAVE TO GO BACK TO THE BANKS THAT SHORT CHANGED THE AMERICAN TAX PAYERS TO THE TUNE OF $78 BILLION DOLLARS AND HAVE TO EITHER HANDOVER THE STOCK IN THAT VALUE OR THE MONEY. (PERIOD) IF THAT MEANS THE BANK IS INSOLVENT AND NEEDS TO BE NATIONALIZED THEN SO BE IT! THE TREASURY CAN INVEST ON A DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR OF VALUE BASIS OR THEY CAN LEND MONEY, BUT THE GOD DAMN CAN NOT GIVE IT AWAY! Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 8:18 pm Doc & UB, I'm good with it all, the cast is almost set, but who will ride the bomb in. If not for this wheel chair I would volunteer, what a ride it would be, (Base Jumping or HALOs are for wussies). Skippy…arm pointing to the sky…must be a fly on the ceiling or old habit glitch. Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 8:30 pm check the historysaving capital from itself via nationalization became soplong ago so did (re)privatization handouts but with close to four decades of belt bustingfinance overriding private and then public food supplies well its capturous reign has ceased in factyet antigravity worship feeding fair to foul persists no solution[s] on the finance side boys best focus on the real without quotation marks best set a social floor Comments are closed. Tip Jar Please Donate or Subscribe!