Monday, May 10, 2010
Banks and CPAs
"With all the attention to banking regulation, it seems strange that something called Basel III has escaped widespread notice, even though its various new rules have been up for public discussion since January and the window closed on that opportunity on Friday, April 16. Maybe it's because the Basel Accords, a set of rules agreed to by bank regulators around the world, have been something of an embarrasment to the authors. ... The idea was to give an increasingly globalized financial-services industry a common set of rules so that bankers could have more confidence in the solidity of their global counterparties. ... In an unsuprisingly generous gesture toward national treasuries, banks were allowed to regard government-issued securities as zero risk, meaning they would require not offsetting capital. ... Japanese banks were boasting that they were over-compliant with Basel standards right before they tanked in 1990. ... But the Basel standards proved to be largely irrelevant to the factors that caused the fall 2008 near-meltdown of global finance. For example, Lehman Brothers had close to triple the core capital required by the Basel standards when it crashed. ... The 2008 crisis resulted when the Fed-created credit bubble collapsed and soaring housing prices deflated as well. ... One of the great ironies of our times is that the two strongest defenders of the Fannie-Freddie shell game, Chris Dodd and Barney Frank, are now in charge of reforming banking regulation. ... Aside from giving Washington an even tighter grip on the banking industry, the Dodd bill partly institutionalizes what Ben Bernanke at the Fed and Henry Paulson at Treasury, and Timothy Geithner at the New York Fed did ad hoc in the fall of 2008. It permits backdoor bailouts and gives enormous powers to the same Fed that crafted the housing bubble", my emphasis, George Melloan at the WSJ, 24 April 2010, link:
The Dodd bill stinks. It's more of the same and more TBTF bailout. I agree with Melloan. There is virtually no rule that banks can't "engineer" around. Irony? Or as Yves Smith says, "Feature, not bug".