We have long claimed that any financial reform, determined by the Senator from Countrywide and the Rep from Fannie (thank you Cliff Asness), is worthless, and any debate over it is completely useless as it will achieve absolutely nothing. Sure, it fills blog pages and editorials but at the end of the day, the only thing that can save the financial system is, paradoxically, its destruction. There are just too many vested interests in the status quo, that absent a full blown implosion and subsequent reset of the system, it is all just smoke and mirrors. Luckily D-Day is approaching. We present an opinion by Robert Reich which validates our view that FinReg, and any debate thereof, is a joke. Robert Reich On Why The Finance Bill Won’t Do Anything.
The most important thing to know about the 1,500 page financial reform bill passed by the Senate last week — now on he way to being reconciled with the House bill — is that it’s regulatory. If does nothing to change the structure of Wall Street.
The bill omits two critical ideas for changing the structure of Wall Street’s biggest banks so they won’t cause more trouble in the future, and leaves a third idea in limbo. The White House doesn’t support any of them.
First, although the Senate bill seeks to avoid the “too big to fail” problem by pushing failing banks into an “orderly” bankruptcy-type process, this regulatory approach isn’t enough. The Senate roundly rejected an amendment that would have broken up the biggest banks by imposing caps on the deposits they could hold and their capital assets.
You do not have to be an algorithm-wielding Wall Street whizz-kid to understand that the best way to prevent a bank from becoming too big to fail is preventing it from becoming too big in the first place. The size of Wall Street’s five giants already equals a large percentage of America’s gross domestic product.
That makes them too big to fail almost by definition, because if one or two get into trouble – as they did in 2008 – their demise would shake the foundations of the financial system, even if there were an “orderly” way to liquidate them. Because traders and investors know they are too big…
A bill sponsored by Ron Paul and Alan Grayson to thoroughly audit the Fed, passed the House. However in a brazen move that ought to offend the sensibilities of every citizen, the Fed is lobbying Senate members to water down the bill so that it is meaningless.
The Federal Reserve is privately lobbying against a bipartisan Senate amendment that would open the central bank to an audit by the Government Accountability Office, according to documents distributed to Senate offices by a Fed official.
In order to obtain the documents, HuffPost agreed not to reveal the name of the Federal Reserve official who did the specific lobbying in question.
"As I mentioned, we believe that the bipartisan Corker-Merkley provision in the Dodd Bill is quite strong and addresses issues of transparency and disclosure without impinging on the independence of monetary policy," the official goes on.
Merkley teamed with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on an audit provision, but Merkley himself says he’d prefer to go further. "I appreciate Representative [Alan] Grayson’s concerns over accountability at the Federal Reserve. I have been a strong proponent of Fed reform and voted against the re-confirmation of Ben Bernanke because the Fed has been so lax in using its regulatory powers," Merkley said in a statement to HuffPost, responding to an analysis from Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) showing that the Senate bill did not meaningfully expand transparency.
The Fed argument is a replay of a tactic that the bank tried in the House. Instead of outright opposition, the Fed backed an amendment in the lower chamber from Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), which the bank said would expand transparency but not interfere with monetary policy. It became clear, however, that the amendment would not expand transparency and was an attempt to defeat the audit in general. The Watt amendment was soundly defeated.
The Corker-Merkley amendment is the Senate version of the Watt amendment and the Fed is once again arguing that the broader amendment will impinge on the independence of monetary policy.
"The Sanders amendment, however, would directly interfere with monetary policy," argues the Fed official. "The amendment removes the current statutory protection for core monetary policy activities from GAO audit and would permit the GAO to
The Wall Street reform bill headed for a test vote on the Senate floor Monday night will allow the Federal Reserve to continue to pump trillions of dollars into major banks largely in secrecy, the co-author of House language that would open the central bank to an audit charged in a memo to the Senate.
"The Senate has a provision in its reform bill that purports to audit the Fed. But, it really doesn’t do anything of the sort. I’m going to run down the details for you, and reprint the legislative language so you can read it yourself," writes Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.).
It would not allow the GAO to look into the Fed’s massive purchase of toxic assets, its hundreds of billions in foreign currency swaps with other central banks or its open market operations, among other restrictions.
Grayson and co-author Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) passed legislation through the House that would allow the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to audit the Federal Reserve and, after a delay, release the information to Congress. It was a remarkable victory, with a populist coalition beating back the combined lobbying efforts of the Treasury Department, the Fed and Wall Street banks.
The Senate has been more hostile territory for the Fed audit provision. Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) opposes the Grayson-Paul version, but allowed a much more restrictive audit proposal from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) into his bill.
Grayson, in his memo, outlines the shortcomings of the Senate bill. Walker Todd, who spent some 20 years as a counselor with the Federal Reserve Banks of New York and Cleveland, reviewed Grayson’s analysis and told HuffPost he concurs with it.
The Seante bill would allow an audit of the TALF program and slightly expands authority to audit emergency lending conducted under section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act, but restricts it to very specific purposes.
Meanwhile, it would not allow the GAO to look into the Fed’s massive purchase of toxic assets,…
First, Let’s Kill the Angels
Equal Choice, Equal Access, Equal Opportunity
Some Quick Thoughts on Goldman
La Jolla and Dallas
When you draft a 1,300-page "financial reform" bill, various special interests get language tucked into the bill to help their agendas. However, the unintended consequences can be devastating. And the financial reform bill has more than a few such items. Today, we look briefly at a few innocent paragraphs that could simply kill the job-creation engine of the US. I know that a few Congressmen and even more staffers read my letter, so I hope that someone can fix this.The Wall Street Journal today noted that the bill, while flawed, keeps getting better with each revision. Let’s hope that’s the case here.
Then I’ll comment on the Goldman Sachs indictment. As we all know, there is never just one cockroach. This could be a much bigger story, and understanding some of the details may help you. As an aside, I was writing in late 2006 about the very Collateralized Debt Obligations that are now front and center. There is both more and less to the story than has come out so far. And I’ll speculate about how all this could have happened. Let’s jump right in.
First, Let’s Kill the Angels
I wrote about the Dodd bill and its problems last week. But a new problem has surfaced that has major implications for the US economy and our ability to grow it. For all intents and purposes, the bill will utterly devastate angel investing in the US. And as we will see, that is not hyperbole. For a Congress and administration that purports to be all about jobs, this section of the bill makes less than no sense. It is a job and innovation killer of the first order.
First, let’s look at a very important part of the US economic machine, the angel investing network. An angel investor, or angel (also known as a business angel or informal investor) is an affluent individual who provides capital for a business startup, usually in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity. A small but increasing number of angel investors organize themselves into angel groups or angel networks to share research and pool their investment capital.
Angels typically invest their own funds, unlike venture capitalists, who manage the…
One of the first things that ‘put me off’ of Obama was the choice he made of key appointments to his Administration, selecting the two Robert Rubin acolytes Tim Geithner and Larry Summers to his team, marginalizing Paul Volcker, and then making no place for Robert Reich.
Make no mistake, the Fed looks to have been abusing its secrecy and its position, and Bernanke and Geithner are culpable. Reich makes the points as well or better than I could so here is his recent piece on the subject. All the blog’s are picking it up.
As I recall, the Fed said they were only acquiring ‘investment grade’ instruments, which would be taken on its balance sheet in support of the US Dollar, in addition to the usual Treasury Debt. The recent exposures of the holdings of Maiden Lane show these to be more like junk bonds, and certainly not as represented.
The Fed must be audited, and it role as the ‘master regulator’ and as the place where the Office of Consumer Financial Protection would be located is a farce, a cruel joke. Chris Dodd must either be senile, entirely cynical, or believe the American people to be complete idiots. The only reason I could even imagine for considering it is that the Fed is a ‘cost plus’ agency, meaning that they are self funding out of the mechanism of creating money, taking all their costs out before they turn over the interest income from the public debt back to Treasury. This is also a source of their growth and power. The problem that public agencies often have is that the industries that are regulated by them use their donations and lobbyists to stifle approrpriations for the agencies that regulate them in order to hamper and stifle them.
How can you even think of putting an office of reform and consumer protection in the very institution that was at the epicenter of a historic fraud? And shows itself completely willing to mislead the public, and some even believe perjure itself to the…
The Fed has finally came clean. It now admits it bailed out Bear Stearns – taking on tens of billions of dollars of the bank’s bad loans – in order to smooth Bear Stearns’ takeover by JPMorgan Chase. The secret Fed bailout came months before Congress authorized the government to spend up to $700 billion of taxpayer dollars bailing out the banks, even months before Lehman Brothers collapsed. The Fed also took on billions of dollars worth of AIG securities, also before the official government-sanctioned bailout.
The losses from those deals still total tens of billions, and taxpayers are ultimately on the hook. But the public never knew. There was no congressional oversight. It was all done behind closed doors. And the New York Fed – then run by Tim Geithner – was very much in the center of the action.
This raises three issues.
First, only Congress is supposed to risk taxpayer dollars. The Fed is not part of the legislative branch. Its secret deals, announced almost two years after they were done, violate the democratic process, if not the Constitution itself. Thomas Jefferson put a stop to Alexander Hamilton’s idea of a powerful central bank out of fear it would be unaccountable to the public. The Fed has just proven Jefferson’s point.
Second, if the Fed can secretly bail out big banks, the problem of “moral hazard” – bankers taking irresponsible risks because they know they’ll be rescued – is far greater than anyone assumed after Congress and the Bush and Obama administrations bailed out the banks. Big banks will always be too big to fail because they know the Fed will secretly back them up if they get into trouble, even if Congress won’t do it openly.
Third, the announcement throws a monkey wrench into the financial reform bill now on Capitol Hill, which gives the Fed additional authority by, for example, creating a consumer protection bureau inside it. Only yesterday, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) blasted the Dodd bill for expanding the Fed’s authority “even as it remains shrouded in secrecy.”
The Fed has a big problem. It acts in secret. That makes it an odd duck in a democracy. As long as…
When a company wants to fend off a hostile takeover, its board may seek to put in place so-called “poison pill” defenses – i.e., measures that will make the firm less desirable if purchased, but which ideally will not encumber its operations if it stays independent.
Large complex cross-border financial institutions run with exactly such a structure in place, but it has the effect of making it very expensive for the government to takeover or shut down such firms, i.e., to push them into any form of bankruptcy.
The Citigroup situation is simple. They would like to downsize slightly, and are under some pressure to do so. It is hard to sell assets at a decent price in this environment, so why don’t they just spin off companies – e.g., quickly create five companies in which each original shareholder gets a commensurate stake?
The answer is that Citi’s debt is generally cross-guaranteed across various parts of the company. US and foreign creditors have a claim on the whole thing, more or less (including the international parts), and you can’t break it apart without upsetting them. The cross-border dimensions make everything that much more knotty.
Senator Kaufman explains what this means – essentially the “resolution authority” proposed in the Dodd legislation is meaningless. How would any administration put a huge bank into any kind of “resolution” (a FDIC-type bank closure, scaled up to big banks) when it knows that doing so would trigger default across all the complex pieces of this multinational empire?
You could do it if you are willing to accept the costs – and if you understand there are big drawbacks to providing an unconditional bailout of the 2009 variety. But will a future administration be willing to take that decision? The Obama administration was not – and big finance will only become bigger and more complex as we move forward.
If you look into the eyes of the decision-makers from spring 2009, they honestly believe that taking over Citi or Bank of America would have caused greater financial trouble and a worse recession. You can argue about their true motivation all you want; this…
I am a big fan of the law of unintended consequences.
My thoughts on Michael Covel’s article: you can’t legislate away human nature, true, but if you define and enforce penalties for criminal behavior, you can decrease its occurrence. It is part of human nature to be deferred by harsh penalties. We’ve seen a lot of fraud go un-prosecuted and even rewarded recently. As long as this persists, it is human nature that the human behavior will continue.
This is where good legislation vs. bad legislation comes in, and real law enforcement (rarely spotted in the financial kingdom) vs. non-enforcement makes a difference. - Ilene
“[Senator] Dodd’s 1300-plus page proposal includes a laundry list of items: a new consumer financial protection agency, new supervision of hedge funds and derivatives trading, a reshuffling of banking industry regulators, investor protection, new federal authority to handle too-big-to-fail financial firms meant to limit taxpayer bailout funds and the creation of a systemic risk council as part of an early warning system.”
Kids, repeat after me and tap your ruby red slippers three times: you can’t legislate away human behavior, you can’t legislate away human behavior, you can’t legislate away human behavior…Followed by: bigger bubbles will follow, bigger bubbles will follow, bigger bubbles will follow…
Seriously, doesn’t it appear the United States federal government is attempting to strap a diaper on all of us? I get the idea of a diaper’s job, but guess what: When everyone shits away it might not hit the floor, but it will still smell awful — diaper or not.
The New York Times reports that financial reform is the next top priority for Democrats. Barney Frank, fresh from meeting with the president, sends a promising signal,
“There are going to be death panels enacted by the Congress this year — but they’re death panels for large financial institutions that can’t make it,” he said. “We’re going to put them to death and we’re not going to do very much for their heirs. We will do the minimum that’s needed to keep this from spiraling into a broader problem.”
But there is another, much less positive interpretation regarding what is now developing in the Senate. The indications are that some version of the Dodd bill will be presented to Democrats and Republicans alike as a fait accompli – this is what we are going to do, so are you with us or against us in the final recorded vote? And, whatever you do – they say to the Democrats – don’t rock the boat with any strengthening amendments.
Chris Dodd, master of the parliamentary maneuver, and the White House seem to have in mind curtailing debate and moving directly to decision. Republicans, such as Judd Gregg and Bob Corker, may be getting on board with exactly this.…
...The Republican Governors Association today ordered its members to discontinue the use of e-mail, “effective immediately.”
According to a memo sent to all Republican governors, “Any plots, schemes, conspiracies, or violations of campaign-finance laws should be conducted using pay phones or easily disposable cell phones such as the ones used on ‘The Wire.’ ” The governors were instructed to read the memo once and then either burn or eat it.
The Conflict-of-the-Day is over rule PRN 2013-138, an amendment to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission's Licensing Service regulations for licensed moto...
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Understanding the economic slowdown in the Chinese economy is very important because not only does it impact American companies doing business there, but what happens in the Chinese economy -- now the second-largest economy in the world -- affects the global economy.
While media outlets tell us the Chinese economy will grow by about seven percent this year (30% below the 10% the economy has been growing annually over the past few years), the statistics I see point to much slower growth.
In February, manufacturing activity in the Chinese economy contracted and hit an eight-month low. The final readings on the HSBC Purchasing Managers? Index (PMI) for February showed manufacturing output and new orders decli...
Shares in McDonald’s are up the most in the Dow Jones Industrial Average today, rising nearly 4.0% to $98.92 and the highest level since November 26th during the first hour of the session. The rally in shares of the world’s largest restaurant chain today is more than making up for yesterday’s dip in the price of the underlying on the heels of a larger than expected dip in February same store sales. Options traders hungry for continued gains in the stock in the very near term appear to be snapping up weekly options across several striking prices today.
The most traded weekly options by volume are the 14 Mar ’14 $97 strike...
DAILY PRICE REPORT
Today’s AM fix was USD 1,348.00, EUR 973.57 and GBP 810.44 per ounce.
Yesterday’s AM fix was USD 1,334.25, EUR 961.55 and GBP 800.87 per ounce.
Gold rose $0.7 or 0.05% yesterday, to $1,339.90/oz. Silver dropped $0.08 or 0.38% to $20.81/oz.
Gold in US Dollars - 1 Year (Bloomberg)
Gold rose in all currencies again today and headed towards a four month high in dollar terms as the standoff between Russia and Ukraine led to demand for gold as a haven. Silver surged 1.4%, platinum added 0.3% to $1,481.60/oz and pal...
Today was the beginning of “spring break” for the market. At least it seemed that way with a very low trading volume of only 600M shares on the NYSE. Either the college crowd does more trading than we imagined or parents are taking the week off as well.
The market barely woke up for the session with the S&P 500 down 0.05% and the NASDAQ down 0.03%. However, the DJI must have gotten extra sleep this weekend as it was up 0.21%. Small caps took a bigger hit with the Russell 2000 dropping nearly 0.50% percent. There was nothing major in the news other than a disappointing trading figure from China. Indeed, the whole week will only include a meager four major economic reports with Wholesale Inventories tomorrow, Retail Sales and Jobless Claims on Thursday, and Producer Price In...
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This post is for all our live virtual trade ideas and daily comments. Please click on "comments" below to follow our live discussion. All of our current trades are listed in the spreadsheet below, with entry price (1/2 in and All in), and exit prices (1/3 out, 2/3 out, and All out).
We also indicate our stop, which is most of the time the "5 day moving average". All trades, unless indicated, are front-month ATM options.
Please feel free to participate in the discussion and ask any questions you might have about this virtual portfolio, by clicking on the "comments" link right below.
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Ladies and Gentlemen, hobos and tramps,
Cross-eyed mosquitoes, and Bow-legged ants,
I come before you, To stand behind you,
To tell you something, I know nothing about.
And so the circus begins in Union Square, San Francisco for this weeks JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. Will the momentum from 2013, which carried the S&P Spider Biotech ETF to all time highs, carry on in 2014? The Biotech ETF beat the S&P by better than 3 points.
As I noted in my previous post, Biotechs Galore - IPOs and More, biotechs were rushing to IPOs so that venture capitalists could unwind their holdings (funds are usually 5-7 years), as well as take advantage of the opportune moment...
Welcome to the fouth update of the IRA Virtual Portfolio. First I am going to summarize the current state of the Portfolio then I will get into all the activity we had during September expiration.
Profit and Loss – Net of closed positions the portfolio is up a total of $769
Market Commentary – Last expiration I said, "I would like to put a total of $20,000 to work by the end of SEP expiration. If the VIX pops up to around 20 I plan to put about $50,000 total to work." The market didn't quite reach the goal but I did manage to deploy $15,000 of buying power. I still feel the market is too high and expect a correction during October. If the vix pops up to around 20 I still plan to put about $50,000 to work. If a correction doesn't happen I still plan to have a total of $25,000 in buying power put to work by October expiration. Now on to the act...
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