Thursday, April 7, 2011

James Quinn, "Are You Smarter Than a Wall Street CEO?"

"Are You Smarter Than a Wall Street CEO?"
by James Quinn

“All of the old-timers knew that subprime mortgages were what we called neutron loans — they killed the people and left the houses.” - Louis S. Barnes, 58, a partner at Boulder West, a mortgage banking firm in Lafayette, Colo

The Federal Reserve paid shills and Wall Street front men are out in droves declaring that TARP was a success and the banking system is recovering strongly. Columnists like Robert Samuelson declare  TARP was a great investment and will profit the taxpayer. Samuelson says that the Treasury has recouped $244 billion of the $245 billion it invested in banks and that, when it winds down its last investments, it likely will show a $20 billion profit from the banks. This type of propaganda is ludicrous, as Barry Ritholtz succinctly points out:

“No, we are not profitable on the bailouts. TARP has $123B to go before breakeven, and the GSEs are $133B in the hole. All told, the Taxpayers have a long way to go before we are breakeven. That’s before we count lost income from savings, bonds, etc., the increased costs of food stuff and energy due to inflation (the Fed’s has done this on purpose as part of their rescue plan), the higher fees the reduced competition of megabanks has created, and the future costs our Moral Hazard will have wrought in increased risks and disasters.” – Barry Ritholtz

It should warm your heart to know that Financial Profits have amazingly reached their pre-crash highs. All it took was the Federal Reserve taking $1.3 trillion of bad loans off their books, overstating the value of their remaining loans by 40%, borrowing money from the Fed at 0%, relying on the Bernanke Put so their trading operations could gamble without fear of losses, and lastly by pretending their future losses will be lower and relieving their loan loss reserves. The banking industry didn’t need to do any of that stodgy old school stuff like make loans to small businesses. Extending and pretending is much more profitable.

The big four of JP Morgan, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo should have undergone orderly bankruptcy liquidation in 2008. They took on a vast amount of leverage and a vast amount of risk. Their greedy bets went bad. In a true capitalist system, they would have failed. Instead, in our crony capitalist system, they were bailed out by taxpayers and continue to function as zombie banks pretending to be healthy. They reported profits of $34.4 billion in 2010. Every dime of these profits was generated through accounting entries that relieved their provisions for loan losses. These “brilliant” CEOs who virtually destroyed the worldwide financial system in 2008, looked into their crystal balls and decided their loan losses in the future would be dramatically lower. I’ll take the other side of that bet. I dug into their SEC filings to get the information in the chart below. Just the fact that Citicorp and Bank of America have still not filed their 10K reports after 3 months tells a story.

These four “Too Big To Fail” bastions of crony capitalism have $340 billion of commercial real estate loans on their books. That’s a lot of extending and pretending. Just properly valuing those loans at their true market value would wipe out most of their loan loss reserves. I wonder if Vikrim and his buddies have noticed that home prices have begun to plunge again. Deciding to not foreclose on home occupiers that haven’t made a mortgage payment in two years is not a long term strategy. These four banks have $1.1 billion of outstanding mortgage debt on their books. I wonder what a 20% further decline in home prices will do to these loans. Throw in another half a billion of credit card loans to Americans being hammered by soaring energy and food prices and you have a toxic mix of future losses. These banks are gonna need a bigger boat.

The game of extend and pretend at the expense of the American working middle class is growing old. When this game is over, Wall Street will be looking for another bailout. The American people will not fall for the lies again. Wall Street’s oppression reeks of greed and disgrace. They are liars and thieves. They have pillaged and stolen all that was left to steal. I will be surprised if they get out alive.
.
"Well you are my accuser, now look in my face,
Your oppression reeks of your greed and disgrace.
So one man has and another has not
How can you love what it is you have got
When you took it all from the weak hands of the poor?
Liars and thieves you know not what is in store.

There will come a time I will look in your eye,
You will pray to the God that you always denied.
Then I’ll go out back and I’ll get my gun,
I’ll say, “You haven’t met me, I am the only son.”


 - Mumford & Sons, "Dust Bowl Dance"
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