28 July 2012

Big Banks Continue To Game the System With Public Money, Aided By the Fed

"The suspicions that the system is rigged in favor of the largest banks and their elites, so they play by their own set of rules to the disfavor of the taxpayers who funded their bailout, are true.

It really happened. These suspicions are valid.”

Neil Barofsky, TARP Inspector General

The Fed is not the solution; the Fed is a creature of the biggest banks, and very much a part of the problem.

Once again we hear a lone voice of common sense, and reason for reform, in this case Sarah Bloom Raskin, speak out forcefully for reform.

You may recall 'The Warning' which featured Brooksley Born, who sounded the alarm about the growing dangers of the unregulated derivatives market during the Clinton Administration. And who was thwarted and bullied by team Greenspan-Summers-Geithner.

And you might remember how the Wall Street Banks used the NY Fed and the Treasury's Tim Geithner to block the reforms proposed by the FDIC's Sheila Bair.

I do not think that these men who block reform and serious change are evil. Rather, I think they are just dead wood, who know nothing more than the system of privilege that has elevated them, and rewarded them, and which they are loathe to see change.

But the times are getting difficult, and so it is time for a change, which is necessary for there to be a sustainable economic recovery.

And in the election of the President this year the people are being given a choice, as someone so aptly put it, between an ineffective and compromised gamekeeper and one of the worst and greediest of the poachers. Obama was marketed as an independent outsider, but he is not. They are both owned by the system, each in their own way.

And that means change is not going to come from the top. But it will come nonethless.

If this continues the capitalists will eventually destroy themselves, because none of them will want to be the first that calls a stop. And that will be a tragedy.

Baseline Scenario
Fed Governor Speaks Out For Stronger Rules
By Simon Johnson
July 28, 2012

A powerful new voice for financial reform emerged this week – Sarah Bloom Raskin, a governor of the Federal Reserve System. In a speech on Tuesday , she laid out a clear and compelling vision for why the financial system should focus on providing old-fashioned but essential intermediation between savers and borrowers in the nonfinancial sector.

Sadly , she also explained that she is a dissenting voice within the Board of Governors on an essential piece of financial reform, the Volcker Rule. Her colleagues, according to Ms. Raskin, supported a proposed rule that is weaker, i.e., more favorable to the banks; she voted against it in October. At least on this dimension, financial reform is not fully on track.

Two years after the passage of the landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, you might imagine that the crucial detailed regulations would already be in place.

But, not so, at least with regard to the Volcker Rule, which is intended to limit the ability of big banks to make large “proprietary ” bets. (Proprietary trading is jargon for speculation – betting on asset prices going up and down.)

The basic idea of this is simple and completely compelling. Paul A. Volcker, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve System, has stressed that this measure will help us move away from an arrangement in which the people who run big banks get the upside when they are lucky – and the rest of us are stuck with some enormous, awful bill when things go awry . Senators Jeff Merkley , Democrat of Oregon, and Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, fought long and hard to get meaningful provisions into the legislation. But these still need to be turned into regulations that must be followed.

The final Volcker Rule was due out last week but did not appear. The current expectation is that it will appear at some point in August. (The Fed is one of five regulators involved in setting the Volcker Rule;  the others are the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Securities and Exchange Commission.)

As Ms. Raskin explained in her speech, “I view proprietary trading as an activity of low or no real economic value that should not be part of any banking model that has an implicit government backstop.”

Our largest financial institutions are bank holding companies, which include both banks and enormous trading operations. These activities are intermingled deliberately by bank management – and typically with the approval of regulators.

In a recent study released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Dafna Avraham, Patricia Selvaggi and James Vickery found that legal and organizational complexity – for example, measured by total number of corporations within a single global financial institution (think Citigroup or JPMorgan Chase) – has increased greatly in recent years.

These structures are intended to benefit from association with federally guaranteed deposits as well as the broader but more nebulous protection that comes from being perceived – by officials and by markets – as too big to fail. A commercial bank gives trading operations huge financing advantages, in part because they have the implied backing of depositors and taxpayers; this is why so many banks have put their enormous derivatives trading operations in their insured banks.

Goldman Sachs this week announced that it will expand its regulated bank as a way to obtain lower-cost financing. The federal insurance on deposits is a great deal for a high-risk trading operation like Goldman’s, lowering its financing costs by perhaps 200 basis points (two percentage points, an enormous amount in today’s markets).

Without government guarantees, creditors to Goldman would want to be compensated for the risks they are taking. As things now stand, Goldman is receiving a large implicit government – and taxpayer – subsidy . The same is true at all the other large banks...

Read the rest here.