Banking Scandals And Politicians

The dirty laundry showing in the banking industry is also worn by our politicians. Why is not Obama and Romney talking about what is going on in banking; not only the LIBOR scandal, but the huge trading losses incurred by JP Morgan Chase. In traditional politics our candidates would get free air time in all news outlets and be on television front and center. Further, politicians in America  are much quieter about this scandal than their counter parts in the U.K..


In years gone by Romney would be shouting “it is happening on Obama’s watch.” Obama would be uttering “let’s get those scoundrels.” The legislative branch is just as silent. Congressman Spencer Bachus, Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services and Tim Johnson, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs would be holding hearings and issuing subpoenas calling bankers on the carpet like they did during the collapse of the auto industry. I still remember Senator Shelby publicly demeaning the auto executives. Where is he now?

The silence is obvious. What is not so obvious is why. If one imagines the possible reasons for Washington being so quiet, high on the list would be the fact that the financial services industry is a heavy contributor to political campaigns. After all, we do have a major campaign going on right now. Could this be the reason? Where is Thomas M. Hoenig when you need him? More: http://bit.ly/FF1012tbts

Jamie Dimon And Mitt Romney

Jamie Dimon’s job is to maximize the wealth of his shareholders. If the government allows him to put the country at risk and to destroy free markets, so be it.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has the same approach. When Romney was in Detroit this year campaigning he said of the Chinese, “They are good competitors, and like all good competitors, will take every advantage they can get. As long as we allow it, they will continue doing so.”

“A lot of the proposals are built around things that the Federal Reserve and other regulators believe did not work as well as they could leading up to the financial crisis,” said Deborah P. Bailey, a director in Deloitte & Touche’s banking and securities group. Over all, she added, the proposals “are designed to make sure that banks are strong and won’t need government help going forward.” Fed Proposes New Capital Rules For Banks, New York Times, December 20, 2011, by Edward Wyatt

Many people saw the housing bubble coming during the last decade; however, no one in the banking industry foresaw the magnitude of the problem and the affect that it would have on the banking industry and the economy in general. until it was too late. This will happen again. After all, we are human. The crisis in the future will be a different one. It will come from a different industry and it will present different problems.

The only way to solve the problem is don’t let banks become too big to fail as proposed by Thomas M. Hoenig, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City http://goo.gl/kc3TY

Too Big To Succeed

The article below appeared in the New York Times on December 2, 2010. THE MESSAGE IS RIGHT ON! It was written by Thomas M. Hoenig, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

“THE world has experienced a severe financial crisis and economic recession. The Treasury and the Federal Reserve took actions that saved businesses and jobs and may very well have saved the economy itself from ruin. Still, the public seems ungrateful, expressing anger at these institutions that saved the day. Why?

Americans are angry in part because they sense that the government was as much a cause of the crisis as its cure. They realize that more must be done to address a threat that remains increasingly a part of our economy: financial institutions that are “too big to fail.”

During the 1990s, Congress, with encouragement from academics and regulators, repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era law that had barred commercial banks from undertaking the riskier activities of investment banks. Following this action, the regulatory authority significantly reduced capital requirements for the largest investment banks.

Less than a decade after these changes, the investment firm Bear Stearns failed. Bear was the smallest of the “big five” American investment banks. Yet to avoid the damage its failure might cause, billions of dollars in public assistance was provided to support its acquisition by JPMorgan Chase. Soon other large financial institutions were found to also be at risk. These firms were required to accept billions of dollars in capital from the Treasury and were provided hundreds of billions in loans from the Federal Reserve.

In spite of the public assistance required to sustain the industry, little has changed on Wall Street. Two years later, the largest firms are again operating with bonus and compensation schemes that reflect success, not the reality of recent failures. Contrast this with the hundreds of smaller banks and businesses that failed and the millions of people who lost their jobs during the Wall Street-fueled recession.

There is an old saying: lend a business $1,000 and you own it; lend it $1 million and it owns you. This latest crisis confirms that the economic influence of the largest financial institutions is so great that their chief executives cannot manage them, nor can their regulators provide adequate oversight

Last summer, Congress passed a law to reform our financial system. It offers the promise that in the future there will be no taxpayer-financed bailouts of investors or creditors. However, after this round of bailouts, the five largest financial institutions are 20 percent larger than they were before the crisis. They control $8.6 trillion in financial assets — the equivalent of nearly 60 percent of gross domestic product. Like it or not, these firms remain too big to fail.

How is it possible that post-crisis legislation leaves large financial institutions still in control of our country’s economic destiny? One answer is that they have even greater political influence than they had before the crisis. During the past decade, the four largest financial firms spent tens of millions of dollars on lobbying. A member of Congress from the Midwest reluctantly confirmed for me that any candidate who runs for national office must go to New York City, home of the big banks, to raise money.

What can be done to remedy the situation? After the Great Depression and the passage of Glass-Steagall, the largest banks had to spin off certain risky activities, and this created smaller, safer banks. Taking similar actions today to reduce the scope and size of banks, combined with legislatively mandated debt-to-equity requirements, would restore the integrity of the financial system and enhance equity of access to credit for consumers and businesses. Studies show that most operational efficiencies are captured when financial firms are substantially smaller than the largest ones are today

These firms reached their present size through the subsidies they received because they were too big to fail. Therefore, diminishing their size and scope, thereby reducing or removing this subsidy and the competitive advantage it provides, would restore competitive balance to our economic system

To do this will require real political will. Those who control the largest banks will argue that such action would undermine financial firms’ ability to compete globally.

I am not persuaded by this argument. History suggests that financial strength follows economic strength. A competitive, accountable and successful domestic economic system, supported by many innovative financial firms, would restore the United States’ economic strength.

More financial firms — with none too big to fail — would mean less concentrated financial power, less concentrated risk and better access and service for American businesses and the public. Even if they were substantially smaller, the largest firms could continue to meet any global financial demand either directly or through syndication

Crises will always be a part of our capitalist system. But an absence of accountability and blatant inequities in treatment are why Americans remain angry. Without accountability, we cannot hope to build a national consensus around the sacrifices needed to eliminate our fiscal deficits and rebuild our economy.”

Thomas M. Hoenig is the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.