"The [Fed] significantly scaled back the size of the capital hole facing some of the nation's biggest banks shortly before concluding its stress tests, following two weeks of bargaining. In addition, according to bank and government officials, the Fed used a different measure of bank-capital levels than analysts and investors had been expecting, resulting in much smaller capital deficits. ... Government officials defended their handling of the stress tests, saying they were responsive to industry feedback while maintaining the tests' rigor. ... [BofA] was 'shocked' when it saw its initial figure, which was more than $50 billion, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. ... At times, frustrations boiled over. Negotiations with Wells Fargo, where Chairman Richard Kovacevich had publicly derided the stress tests as 'asinine,' were particularly heated, according to people familar with the matter. Government officials worried San Francisco-based Wells might file a lawsuit contesting the Fed's findings. ... With the stress tests, government officials were walking a fine line. If the regulators were too tough on banks, they risked angering their constituents and spooking markets. But if they were too soft, the tests could have lost their credibility, defeating their basic confidence-building purpose", my emphasis, David Enrich, Dan Fitzpatrick and Marshall Eckblad (EF&E) at the WSJ, 9 May 2009.
"I've been thinking about stresses. Actually I've been thinking about Treasury Secretary Geithner's stress tests, rosy scenarios, the missing laugh track, the classes of 2009, households, and the automotive giants. ... You see an army of 200 federal examiners had gone over the books and calculated the impact of growing unemployment, asset (particularly real estate portfolio lending) deterioration, potential exposure on other investments, and various personal-credit/ loan write-offs. The unstated goal was to re-assure the general public that our banking behemoths were on solid ground and that there was no reason to fear any 1930's type meltdown. ... It was set up from the get go to advance all of them to the next grade level in the spirit of 'no child (or mega bank) left behind.' Well, guess what? THAT is exactly what happened! ... The worst case scenarios (of what can go wrong, will go wrong) for the coming two years suggested a 'further potential exposure' of a mere $599 BILLION in losses (roughly 5.1% of total assets)", Fred Cederholm (FC) Financial Sense, 11 May 2009, link: http://www.financialsense.com/editorials/cederholm/2009/0511.html.
"Are America's banks: a) healthy, b) insolvent, or c) being kept alive by the government but delighted to pretend otherwise? ... That any bank can sell equity is one big benefit of the stress test. By producing a credible estimate of losses over the next two years--$600 billion--officials have restored some confidence in the banks' word. ... But investors can now buy a bank's shares and be confident that its books are not being cooked flagrantly and that it is not about to be nationalised", my emphasis, Economist, 14 May 2009, link: http://www.economist.com/finance/PrinterFriendly.cfm?story_id=13665327.
"Finally, a stimulus plan Wall Street can get behind. ... But thanks to the government's stress tests, Wall Street is being flooded with fees. A number of the stress-tested 19 financial institutions, whether told by the [Fed] to raise money or to boost their capital cushions or not, are rushing to sell new shares. The 10 that have been told to plug a capital hole have a month to submit a capital-raising plan and than six months to raise the cash. ... What does that mean for Wall Street? Plenty of underwriting fees. ... Add to those offerings [GSG's] sale of $5 billion in common stock last month, and the fees that were generated from TARP bank follow-on deals in the past two months stand at more than $670 million. The big winners? The investment banks of [GSG], [MS], JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, and Wells Fargo and its Wachovia unit, which will share in this fee party, according to Dealogic", Stephen Grocer at the WSJ, 14 May 2009.
"Federal officials have pressured [BofA] to revamp its board by bringing in directors with more banking experience, as regulators place the bank under increasingly heavy government scrutiny. The move represents unusual influence by the federal government over the workings of a financial institution in which it doesn't own a stake. It's particularly significant because many of the bank's woes stem from its purchase of Merrill Lynch & Co.--an acquisition that was completed after heavy prodding by federal regulators. The Merrill deliberations were the beginning of regulators' deepening involvement in the Charlotte, NC, lender's day-to-day operations. ... Prior to those moves, federal banking regulators--the [Fed] and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency--had signalled to the bank's leadership that such steps would be well received by the federal government. Government officials also suggested that the task of reshuffling the board be led by independent directors, and that the board needed more members with banking expertise", my emphasis, Dan Fitzpatrick and Damian Paletta at the WSJ, 15 May 2009.
Come on SE&P, you can do better than this. How do you know what Zimbabwe Ben (ZB) thinks? Would ZB make a confidence shattering announcement? What do we learn from this? Ken Lewis "rats out" ZB and Hank Paulson, the BofA gets dinged for $34 billion. GSG wants to return its TARP funds, it's fine. How can anyone take these tests seriously? Is the BofA worse off than Citigroup? I have no idea what these tests consisted of. ZB said on television they were not solvency tests. What then?
Does the Economist realize it indicted the: Big 87654, SEC, OCC and PCAOB all at once? Ye who favor more regulation, think about this.
It's good to see GSG will get something out of this.
Who does the Fed want added to BofA's board? Vikram Pandit? Lloyd Blankfein? That this is retaliation for Ken Lewis violating the Fed's "omerta" becomes more obvious every day.