The GLBA’s [Gramm-Leach-Bliley] “repeal” of a portion of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 is said to have somehow contributed to the current financial meltdown. Nonsense.
Adopted early in the New Deal, the Glass-Steagall Act separated investment and commercial banking. It prohibited commercial banks from underwriting or dealing in securities, and from affiliating with firms that engaged principally in that business. The GLBA repealed only the second of these provisions, allowing banks and securities firms to be affiliated under the same holding company. Thus J.P. Morgan Chase was able to acquire Bear Stearns, and Bank of America could acquire Merrill Lynch. Nevertheless, banks themselves were and still are prohibited from underwriting or dealing in securities.
Allowing banks and securities firms to affiliate under the same holding company has had no effect on the current financial crisis. None of the investment banks that have gotten into trouble — Bear, Lehman, Merrill, Goldman or Morgan Stanley — were affiliated with commercial banks. And none of the banks that have major securities affiliates — Citibank, Bank of America, and J.P. Morgan Chase, to name a few — are among the banks that have thus far encountered serious financial problems. Indeed, the ability of these banks to diversify into nonbanking activities has been a source of their strength.
Most important, the banks that have succumbed to financial problems — Wachovia, Washington Mutual and IndyMac, among others — got into trouble by investing in bad mortgages or mortgage-backed securities, not because of the securities activities of an affiliated securities firm. Federal Reserve regulations significantly restrict transactions between banks and their affiliates.
Posts Tagged ‘failout’
Remeber when Nancy Pelosi ordered a “wide Wall Street probe” a few weeks ago?http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0908/13514.html)
Well, Lehman was front and center today on Capitol Hill: http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5ioHc80xKMiATnqCpK0cDKJzk_nPQD93L05D04
So, why not have a hearing for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae? If the Dems want to do their dog and pony show, maybe they should invite all the dogs that are responsible. Today, Rep. Shays called for hearings on Freddie and Fannie. Don’t hold your breath.
Shays Calls For Hearings On Fannie And Freddie
By Daniel W. Reilly
(The Politico) Republican Rep. Chris Shays called for hearings on the role of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the financial crisis Monday, accusing the two mortgage companies of “wretched manipulation” of Congress.
“We are not confronting the 800 pound gorilla in room…the role of Fannie and Freddie in this debacle,” said Shays at a congressional hearing on the financial crisis.
Shays wondered why Democrats will target Wall Street firms during their planned set of hearings, but not Fannie and Freddie, who he said offered the type of subprime loans that helped trigger the crisis.
“Congress stood idly by as Fannie and Freddie played with trillions of dollars under a different set of rules,” Shays said.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman said his staff is already reviewing documents provided by Fannie and Freddie and may hold hearings on the topic in the future.
McCain about to get awesome:
Our current economic crisis is a good case in point. What was his actual record in the years before the great economic crisis of our lifetimes?
This crisis started in our housing market in the form of subprime loans that were pushed on people who could not afford them. Bad mortgages were being backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and it was only a matter of time before a contagion of unsustainable debt began to spread. This corruption was encouraged by Democrats in Congress, and abetted by Senator Obama.
Senator Obama has accused me of opposing regulation to avert this crisis. I guess he believes if a lie is big enough and repeated often enough it will be believed. But the truth is I was the one who called at the time for tighter restrictions on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that could have helped prevent this crisis from happening in the first place.
Senator Obama was silent on the regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and his Democratic allies in Congress opposed every effort to rein them in. As recently as September of last year he said that subprime loans had been, quote, “a good idea.” Well, Senator Obama, that “good idea” has now plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
To hear him talk now, you’d think he’d always opposed the dangerous practices at these institutions. But there is absolutely nothing in his record to suggest he did. He was surely familiar with the people who were creating this problem. The executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have advised him, and he has taken their money for his campaign. He has received more money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than any other senator in history, with the exception of the chairman of the committee overseeing them.
Did he ever talk to the executives at Fannie and Freddie about these reckless loans? Did he ever discuss with them the stronger oversight I proposed? If Senator Obama is such a champion of financial regulation, why didn’t he support these regulations that could have prevented this crisis in the first place? He won’t tell you, but you deserve an answer.
We’ll know this worked if, by the time 8:00 rolls around, flapping heads are picking this apart for supposed innacuracies. Stand up and kick some tail!
Leon H. Wolf of Redstate:
One of the items in the proposed bailout that a number of Republicans seem to be insisting on is either a suspension or outright end to mandatory mark to market accounting rules. It is supposed by many people that this will somehow aid the unfreezing of the credit markets and/or provide liquidity to the market. Count me among those who are not so sanguine about the long-term prospects of suspending MTM; in fact, I suspect that it may make the situation worse.
In the very, very short term, the suspension of MTM may help certain companies who have built in balance sheet triggers in contracts, credit agreements, or corporate charters and/or bylaws to avoid immediate catastrophic consequences. But as a systemic matter, the suspension of MTM would seem to inject more uncertainty into the market, which is frankly the very last thing the market needs right during the middle of a crisis of confidence.
To review, the accounting fiascos of 1999-2002 that brought us mandatory MTM accounting taught us that traditional accounting methods make it easier for a company – through “aggressive” accounting – to appear solvent for much longer than the company actually is solvent. Everyone in the lending world remembers this. To further review, a large part of the genesis of the current crisis is a widespread fear that certain assets are toxic, and that it’s impossible to identify the toxic assets from the good ones. So… I guess we’re supposed to assume that allowing a change of accounting rules which leads the credit markets to believe that companies might be (but no way to tell for sure) faking solvency is a good thing?
If we suspend MTM in the current climate, what exactly is supposed to happen? Will companies hire accountants to come in and hastily rewrite their accounting books? If they do, will any lender actually extend them credit without forcing them to crack open the old MTM books instead? And if they can’t force that, will they lend at all? Like I said, the market will go from widespread uncertainty about certain classes assets to having widespread uncertainty about every company, especially in these uncertain times. I fear that this may make the credit markets freeze even tighter than they are, even if we inject a bunch of liquidity into the system.
Interesting take as I have hear mixed things on both sides about mark to market
Yahoo News reports that the Senate just passed this 700 billion dollar turd with the three senators in the race voting for it. Interestingly though, it is unclear whether or not the House will pass this bill. Jake Tapper reports that neither Steny Hoyer or Roy Blount, in the House, signed off on the bill. They only need to switch 11 votes. As you may recall, the failout failed 205–28 on Monday. The bill, which last week was 3 pages, ended up being almost 500 pages and loaded to the gills with “tax extenders“ and pork barrel projects. There is a chance that 17 democrats may switch their yea votes to nays.
From today’s WSJ:
A running cliché of the political left and the press corps these days is that our current financial problems all flow from Congress’s 1999 decision to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 that separated commercial and investment banking. Barack Obama has been selling this line every day. Bill Clinton signed that “deregulation” bill into law, and he knows better.
In BusinessWeek.com, Maria Bartiromo reports that she asked the former President last week whether he regretted signing that legislation. Mr. Clinton’s reply: “No, because it wasn’t a complete deregulation at all. We still have heavy regulations and insurance on bank deposits, requirements on banks for capital and for disclosure. I thought at the time that it might lead to more stable investments and a reduced pressure on Wall Street to produce quarterly profits that were always bigger than the previous quarter.
“But I have really thought about this a lot. I don’t see that signing that bill had anything to do with the current crisis. Indeed, one of the things that has helped stabilize the current situation as much as it has is the purchase of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America, which was much smoother than it would have been if I hadn’t signed that bill.”
One of the writers of that legislation was then-Senator Phil Gramm, who is now advising John McCain, and who Mr. Obama described last week as “the architect in the United States Senate of the deregulatory steps that helped cause this mess.” Ms. Bartiromo asked Mr. Clinton if he felt Mr. Gramm had sold him “a bill of goods”?
Mr. Clinton: “Not on this bill I don’t think he did. You know, Phil Gramm and I disagreed on a lot of things, but he can’t possibly be wrong about everything. On the Glass-Steagall thing, like I said, if you could demonstrate to me that it was a mistake, I’d be glad to look at the evidence.
“But I can’t blame [the Republicans]. This wasn’t something they forced me into. I really believed that given the level of oversight of banks and their ability to have more patient capital, if you made it possible for [commercial banks] to go into the investment banking business as Continental European investment banks could always do, that it might give us a more stable source of long-term investment.”
We agree that Mr. Clinton isn’t wrong about everything. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act passed the Senate on a 90-8 vote, including 38 Democrats and such notable Obama supporters as Chuck Schumer, John Kerry, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Dick Durbin, Tom Daschle — oh, and Joe Biden. Mr. Schumer was especially fulsome in his endorsement.
As for the sins of “deregulation” more broadly, this is a political fairy tale. The least regulated of our financial institutions — hedge funds — have posed the least systemic risks in the current panic. The big investment banks that got into the most trouble could have made the same mortgage investments before 1999 as they did afterwards. One of their problems was that Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns weren’t diversified enough. They prospered for years through direct lending and high leverage via the likes of asset-backed securities without accepting commercial deposits. But when the panic hit, this meant they lacked an adequate capital cushion to absorb losses.
Meanwhile, commercial banks that had heavier capital requirements were struggling to compete with the Wall Street giants throughout the 1990s. Some of the deposit-taking banks that were allowed to diversify after 1999, such as J.P. Morgan and Bank of America, are now in a stronger position to withstand the current turmoil. They have been able to help stabilize the financial system through acquisitions of Bear Stearns, Washington Mutual, Merrill Lynch and Countrywide Financial.
Mr. Obama’s “deregulation” trope may be good politics, but it’s bad history and is dangerous if he really believes it. The U.S. is going to need a stable, innovative financial system after this panic ends, and we won’t get that if Mr. Obama and his media chorus think the answer is to return to Depression-era rules amid global financial competition. Perhaps the Senator should ask the former President for a briefing.
Liberal friends of mine point to “deregulation” and the GLB as th reason for our financial crisis. The article makes a great point about the lack of regulation in hedge funds and the success they have had.