European leaders closed ranks to defend Greece from the punishment of investors in a pledge of support that may soon be tested.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her counterparts yesterday pledged “determined and coordinated action” to support Greece’s efforts to regain control of its finances. They stopped short of providing taxpayers’ money or diluting their own demands for the country to cut the European Union’s biggest budget deficit.
“It’s like Paulson’s bazooka,” said Nielsen, Goldman Sachs’s chief European economist in London. “It’s a difficult balancing act — saying something comforting to the market without committing money and hoping the market will take their word for it.”
After a three-month long plunge in Greece’s bonds amid speculation it was facing the threat of default, euro-region leaders yesterday ordered the country to slash its budget deficit and warned investors they would be willing to defend the country from speculative attack if necessary.
The pledge lacked specifics and officials are now working on measures such as establishing a lending facility for Greece, with each country making a contribution according to its size, an EU official said yesterday on condition of anonymity.
With Ireland forcing public workers to accept pay cuts of as much as 10 percent to meet EU budget rules, Merkel and other leaders are trying to convince voters that Greece won’t get an easy escape after a decade of fiscal profligacy.
Money For Free?
“This is not money for free,” said Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the group of euro-area finance ministers. “This is a strong commitment imposed on Greece.”
With the Greek crisis testing Europe’s ability to run a common currency with 16 separate national fiscal policies, leaders want to avoid Paulson’s fate. In July 2008, he won power from Congress enabling a government rescue of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, calling it a “bazooka in your pocket” that would make a bailout less likely.
With the Greek crisis testing Europe’s ability to run a common currency with 16 separate national fiscal policies, leaders want to
by ilene - August 31st, 2010 10:33 am
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
Paul Farrell’s take on Jeremy Grantham’s recent essay Seven Lean Years (previously posted on Zero Hedge) is amusing in that his conclusion is that should Obama get reelected, his entire tenure will have been occupied by fixing the problems of a 30 year credit bubble, and if anything end up with the worst rating of all time, as the citizens’ anger is focused on him as the one source of all evil. "Add seven years to the handoff from Bush to Obama in early 2009 and you get no recovery till 2016. Get it? No recovery till the end of Obama’s second term, assuming he’s reelected — a big if." Also, Farrell pisses all over the recent catastrophic Geithner NYT oped essay, which praised the imminent recovery which merely turned out to be the grand entrance into the double dip: "In his recent newsletter, "Seven Lean Years Revisited," Grantham tells us why expecting a summer of recovery was unrealistic, why America must prepare for a long recovery. Grantham details 10 reasons: "The negatives that are likely to hamper the global developed economy." Sorry, but this recovery will take till 2016."
For those who have not had a chance to read the original Grantham writings, here is Farrell’s attempt to convince you that Grantham is spot on:
But should you believe Grantham? Yes. First: Like Joseph, Grantham’s earlier forecasts were dead on. About two years before Wall Street’s 2008 meltdown Grantham saw: "The First Truly Global Bubble: From Indian antiquities to modern Chinese art; from land in Panama to Mayfair; from forestry, infrastructure, and the junkiest bonds to mundane blue chips; it’s bubble time. … The bursting of the bubble will be across all countries and all assets … no similar global event has occurred before."
Second: The Motley Fools’ Matt Argersinger went back to the dot-com crash of 2000: Grantham "looked out 10 years and predicted the S&P 500 would underperform cash." Bull’s-eye: The S&P 500 peaked at 11,722; it’s now around 10,000. Factor in inflation: Wall Street’s lost 20% of your retirement since 2000. Yes, Wall Street’s a big loser.
Third: What’s ahead for the seven lean years? Wall Street will keep losing. Argersinger: "Grantham predicts below-average economic growth, anemic corporate-profit margins, and other
by ilene - June 9th, 2010 2:35 am
Here’s Karl Denninger’s thoughts on Goldman Sachs’s data dump on the FCIC.
“We did not ask them to pull up a dump truck to our offices and dump a bunch of rubbish,” said Angelides, 56, who previously served as California’s treasurer. “This has been a very deliberate effort over time to run out the clock.”
I wonder if there’s an obstruction charge in here somewhere.
Another source says that Goldman dumped five terabytes of data on the FCIC. To put this in perspective that’s something on the order of five hundred full-length DVD movies. That sort of "data dump" is clearly intended to obstruct investigation and is the sort of tactic sometimes employed in civil litigation when one is trying to prevent the actual discernment of something important by burying it under 100 tons of what amount to chatter over whether the janitor was banging one of the secretaries.
This is the sort of arrogance that I find flatly unacceptable – and so should both Congress and others. It appears the FCIC does, which is a good thing. It also appears that Goldman badly miscalculated in their belief they could pull this crap and get away with it.
Goldman has a many-year history of simply pissing on people who claim to come to them with regulatory requirements. Remember, it was Henry Paulson, then their chief, who came to the SEC and "asked" for the leverage limits that formerly bound them to be removed. When he was told "no" in 2000, he waited a bit and came back in 2004, and this time got what he asked for.
After this he was "rewarded" with the Treasury Secretary position.
Both Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers failed with leverage more than double the former legal limits – limits they could not have exceeded but for Henry Paulson’s "request."
Put another way, neither of those firms would have failed but for Paulson’s act.
That puts a bit of a different color on the financial mess, doesn’t it?
Perhaps the FCIC will examine that factor in the lead-up to the explosion in our financial markets that began in 2007…..
Hope springs eternal!
Picture via Jr. Deputy Accoutant
McCain: Paulson and Bernanke Promised that the $700 Billion Troubled Asset Relief Program Would Focus on the Housing Meltdown
by ilene - February 23rd, 2010 7:31 am
McCain: Paulson and Bernanke Promised that the $700 Billion Troubled Asset Relief Program Would Focus on the Housing Meltdown
Courtesy of George Washington at Washington’s Blog
The Arizona Republic reports:
Sen. John McCain of Arizona … says he was misled by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. McCain said the pair assured him that the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program would focus on what was seen as the cause of the financial crisis, the housing meltdown.
"Obviously, that didn’t happen," McCain said in a meeting Thursday with The Republic‘s Editorial Board, recounting his decision-making during the critical initial days of the fiscal crisis. "They decided to stabilize the Wall Street institutions, bail out (insurance giant) AIG, bail out Chrysler, bail out General Motors. . . . What they figured was that if they stabilized Wall Street – I guess it was trickle-down economics – that therefore Main Street would be fine."
McCain isn’t the only one to say that Paulson was doing a bait-and-switch.
The TARP Inspector General found that Paulson misrepresented the too big to fail banks’ health in the run-up to passage of TARP.
Congressmen Brad Sherman and Paul Kanjorski and Senator James Inhofe all say that the government warned of martial law if TARP wasn’t passed (Inhofe says Paulson was the one doing the talking).
And Paulson himself has said:
During the two weeks that Congress considered the [TARP] legislation, market conditions worsened considerably. It was clear to me by the time the bill was signed on October 3rd that we needed to act quickly and forcefully, and that purchasing troubled assets—our initial focus—would take time to implement and would not be sufficient given the severity of the problem. In consultation with the Federal Reserve, I determined that the most timely, effective step to improve credit market conditions was to strengthen bank balance sheets quickly through direct purchases of equity in banks.
So Paulson knew "by the time the bill was signed" that it wouldn’t be used for its advertised purpose – disposing of toxic assets – and would instead be used to give money directly to the big banks. But he didn’t tell Congress before they voted to approve the TARP legislation.
by ilene - February 18th, 2010 12:36 am
Courtesy of MICHAEL HUDSON writing at Counter Punch
Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson wrote an op-ed in The New York Times yesterday, February 16 outlining how to put the U.S. economy on rations. Not in those words, of course. Just the opposite: If the government hadn’t bailed out Wall Street’s bad loans, he claims, “unemployment could have exceeded the 25 per cent level of the Great Depression.” Without wealth at the top, there would be nothing to trickle down.
The reality, of course, is that bailing out casino capitalist speculators on the winning side of A.I.G.’s debt swaps and CDO derivatives didn’t save a single job. It certainly hasn’t lowered the economy’s debt overhead. But matters will soon improve, if Congress will dispel the present cloud of “uncertainty” as to whether any agency less friendly than the Federal Reserve might regulate the banks.
Paulson spelled out in step-by-step detail the strategy of “doing God’s work,” as his Goldman Sachs colleague L. Blankfein sanctimoniously explained Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Now that pro-financial free-market doctrine is achieving the status of religion, I wonder whether this proposal violates the separation of church and state. Neoliberal economics may be a travesty of religion, but it is the closest thing to a Church that Americans have these days, replete with its Inquisition operating out of the universities of Chicago, Harvard and Columbia.
If the salvation is to give Wall Street a free hand, anathema is the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency intended to deter predatory behavior by mortgage lenders and credit-card issuers. The same day that Paulson’s op-ed appeared, the Financial Times published a report explaining that “Republicans say they are unconvinced that any regulator can even define systemic risk. … the whole concept is too vague for an immediate introduction of sweeping powers. …” Republican Senator Bob Corker from Tennessee was willing to join with the Democrats “to ensure ‘there is not some new roaming regulator out there … putting companies unbeknownst to them under its regime.”
Paulson uses the same argument: Because the instability extends not just to the banks but also to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, A.I.G. and Wall Street underwriters, it would be folly to try to regulate the banks alone! And because the financial sector is so far-flung and complex, it is best to leave everything deregulated. Indeed, there simply is no time…
by ilene - February 12th, 2010 1:53 pm
Courtesy of Mish
In a desperate attempt to rein in problems in Greece, EU leaders once again offered moral support, this time with a Bazooka aimed right at Greece.
Please consider EU Leaders Deploy ‘Bazooka’ to Repel Attack on Greece
by ilene - February 1st, 2010 2:28 pm
Courtesy of Ellen Brown at Web of Debt
We are witnessing an epic battle between two banking giants, JPMorgan Chase (Paul Volcker) and Goldman Sachs (Rubin/Geithner). The bodies left strewn on the battleground could include your pension fund and 401K.
The late Libertarian economist Murray Rothbard wrote that U.S. politics since 1900, when William Jennings Bryan narrowly lost the presidency, has been a struggle between two competing banking giants, the Morgans and the Rockefellers. The parties would sometimes change hands, but the puppeteers pulling the strings were always one of these two big-money players. No popular third party candidate had a real chance at winning, because the bankers had the exclusive power to create the national money supply and therefore held the winning cards.
In 2000, the Rockefellers and the Morgans joined forces, when JPMorgan and Chase Manhattan merged to become JPMorgan Chase Co. Today the battling banking titans are JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, an investment bank that gained notoriety for its speculative practices in the 1920s. In 1928, it launched the Goldman Sachs Trading Corp., a closed-end fund similar to a Ponzi scheme. The fund failed in the stock market crash of 1929, marring the firm’s reputation for years afterwards. Former Treasury Secretaries Henry Paulson and Robert Rubin came from Goldman, and current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner rose through the ranks of government as a Rubin protégé. One commentator called the U.S. Treasury “Goldman Sachs South.”
Goldman’s superpower status comes from something more than just access to the money spigots of the banking system. It actually has the ability to manipulate markets. Formerly just an investment bank, in 2008 Goldman magically transformed into a bank holding company. That gave it access to the Federal Reserve’s lending window; but at the same time it remained an investment bank, aggressively speculating in the markets. The upshot was that it can now borrow massive amounts of money at virtually 0% interest, and it can use this money not only to speculate for its own account but to bend markets to its will.
But Goldman Sachs has been caught in this blatant market manipulation so often that the JPMorgan faction of the banking
by ilene - January 14th, 2010 2:47 am
Karl speaks out again and suggests some sort of taxpayer strike. If you ask people in real estate and lending industries, many will admit knowing that lies and deception were ubiquitous. For example, see my interview with J.S. Kim:
Ilene: What did you learn while working in the banking industry?
J.S.: I was seeing an unsettling picture of industry excesses. I saw problems developing, for example, with mortgages – no document loans or liar loans. If the loan application didn’t support a mortgage, the loan might be denied at first, but then it was sent through a special process to convert it to a no document loan. Every bank did it. This was not specific to Wells Fargo. All the major U.S. banks had this “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, so they could say they didn’t know. They either should have known from the start that the mortgages couldn’t be paid back, or they didn’t care because they were making huge commissions up front. So they would make the loans and then slice and dice them up and quickly sell them off.
Ilene: The banks knew what they were doing and knew they’d be bailed out as well?
J.S.: Yes, this happened before in the 1920s and I believe they knew it would happen again. The process of taking the clients’ money and making loans that are gambles (heads I win, tails the taxpayer pays) has a history that goes back to the Great Depression. They have the best of both worlds. The reward for risks stays with the banks top executives, but losses are shifted to the taxpayers. [more here>>]
Courtesy of Karl Denninger at The Market Ticker
Jan. 13 (Bloomberg) — Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein testified today that he was never asked to accept a discount on investment contracts his firm had with American International Group Inc….
The New York Fed said it had to make the payments after banks refused to accept so-called haircuts, according to a November audit from Neil Barofsky, the special inspector of the U.S. Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Had to eh? And they had to…. why?
by ilene - December 14th, 2009 10:07 pm
Did someone mention leverage? – Ilene
Courtesy of The Daily Bail
Nothing about the single most relevant factor in the blow-up.
Until 2004 (quick refresher) our investment banks had a leverage limit of 12:1. After Paulson led the multi-year effort to sway the SEC to drop these rules entirely, allowing 5 banks to utilize unlimited leverage, all 5 became effectively insolvent within 4 years.
It’s the most important factor in explaining how this banking crisis was so devastating compared to previous blow-ups, and why it was so widespread — European banks were (and remain) even more leveraged than our own.
And, it’s the easiest part to fix. Just turn the rule back to pre-2004.
There are only 2 possibilities.
- Congress is completely, undeniably, captured by Wall Street and so they did not allow leverage limits to make their way into either the House or Senate bill? OR
- Congress is so flipping stupid that no one thought to propose a leverage limit?
The obvious answer is ‘captured’, but the more I consider it, the second choice of ‘just plain stupid’ is not out of the realm of possibilities.
I wrote this short post Friday night; I read this morning that Blodget had a similar thought:
- Raise capital requirements, forcing the banks to use their tremendous profits to build big cushions against future problems instead of paying huge bonuses. Given the forced bailouts of last year, why on earth should banks be allowed to pay out normal compensation ratios for the next few years? Why shouldn’t they be forced to keep this money on hand for a rainy day?
- In a just world, the way out would be to finally make the bank bondholders pay for their stupidity, converting bank debt to equity and correcting the error made last time. In the heat of another crisis, however, the government will likely be terrified at the thought of rocking the boat and will fight tooth and nail to give bondholders another free pass. If this proves politically impossible, the government might actually have to let some firms fail, or risk being run out of town. And because we have yet to create a system in which banks CAN fail in an orderly
by ilene - September 4th, 2009 10:58 pm
In 2006, Goldman Sachs C.E.O. Henry Paulson reluctantly became Treasury secretary for an unpopular, lame-duck president. History will score his decisions, but the former Dartmouth offensive lineman definitely left everything on the field. In private conversations throughout his term, as crisis followed crisis—Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, A.I.G., and so forth—Paulson gave the author the inside track, from the political lunacy and bailout plans to the sleepless nights and flat-out fear, as he battled the greatest economic disruption in 80 years.
It was February 2008, and Henry M. Paulson Jr., a prince of Wall Street turned secretary of the Treasury, was reflecting on his biggest achievement to date: a $168 billion economic-stimulus package that had passed Congress four days earlier after swift, bipartisan prog ress through both houses. In light of all the later twists and turns that the global financial system and the national economy took, this measure would come to seem quaint and fainthearted. But at the time, it was a very big deal indeed, and Paulson felt justifiably proud. The stimulus had been his baby. Paulson had persuaded George W. Bush, whose relations with both parties in Congress were by then close to toxic, to articulate only the broadest principles, and not to present a detailed plan. Paulson himself, in endless night and weekend negotiations with congressional leaders, had delivered the final package.
“Nancy Pelosi to me was a wonder in this deal, and she was available 24-7, anytime I called her on the cell phone,” Paulson told me, his hulking frame unfolding in a comfortable chair in his office at the Treasury, dominated by an oil portrait of his first pred e ces sor, Alexander Hamilton. “She was engaged, she was decisive, and she was really willing to just get involved with all of her people on a hands-on basis.” Paulson paused. “Now let me … I’ll be there in one minute … Let me just make a … I have been, you know … I finished this thing on Thursday night, flew over to Tokyo,…
by ilene - July 7th, 2009 8:23 pm
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Courtesy of Karl Denninger at The Market Ticker