What happened at the Paulson / bank heads meeting?

Posted on October 15th, 2008 by bile
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The chief executives of the nine largest banks in the United States trooped into a gilded conference room at the Treasury Department at 3 p.m. Monday. To their astonishment, they were each handed a one-page document that said they agreed to sell shares to the government, then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. said they must sign it before they left.

The chairman of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, was receptive, saying he thought the deal looked pretty good once he ran the numbers through his head. The chairman of Wells Fargo, Richard Kovacevich, protested strongly that, unlike his New York rivals, his bank was not in trouble because of investments in exotic mortgages, and did not need a bailout, according to people briefed on the meeting.

But by 6:30, all nine chief executives had signed — setting in motion the largest government intervention in the American banking system since the Depression and retreating from the rescue plan Paulson had fought so hard to get through Congress only two weeks earlier.

Sounds a lot like what Herbert Hoover did at the beginning of the Great Depression. We all know, or should after reading the above link, how well that went.

John, it’s completely rational

Posted on September 18th, 2008 by bile
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Morgan Stanley and Goldman have defended their business model, saying they have adequate capital and don’t need the deposit funding that banks have. Mack, 63, lambasted short sellers for pushing his firm’s shares lower.

In a memo to employees yesterday, Mack said the management committee is “taking every step possible to stop this irresponsible action in the market” and urged employees to contact clients to reassure them that the firm is performing strongly and has plenty of capital.

“There is no rational basis for the movements in our stock or credit-default spreads,” Mack wrote in the memo. “We’re in the midst of a market controlled by fear and rumors, and short sellers are driving our stock down.”

Things are bad and people don’t want to lose their investments. That is rational behavior. As for the short sellers… also rational. They expect prices to drop and wish to take advantage of that. It bugs me when individuals use the word rational in this way. Which is really “I don’t understand what’s going on or wish to excuse or diminish the action by claiming no one understands.” By definition those actions are rational.

The rumors surely are abundant. Who’s merging with who? Who’s got Morgan Stanley? Is it Wachovia? Citic Group? HSBC? Wells Fargo? JPMorgan Chase? Seems like people are just throwing out names. “What banks still exist? Yeah that one will buy them!” I’m guessing the reason Goldman isn’t getting this kind of attention is because they are a larger firm.

According to their press release MS has $170+ billion liquid. Some, months ago, was criticizing MS for having that much on hand as it would hurt their earnings just sitting around. They had a good quarter considering the environment. Goldman did relatively worse but still is in an decent position overall. It seems to me there is some game going on. As if there are forces trying to make these firms merge with a bank. Both firms’ credit default swaps are at 10ish levels below what Moody has rated them for which would put them at junk levels and their stocks plummeted on what looks to me to be nothing but positive news.

Unless GS and MS are lying about their liquid assets and the market knows something I don’t… I can’t help but feel like something bigger is going on. Perhaps it’s is just fear and shorters, people selling off to invest into safer things (gold stocks were up 7-12% yesterday) and those furthering the issue by taking advantage of it. With language like this I’m concerned the industry will become even that much more regulated and the world will be thrust further into financial crisis.