Archive for the ‘One-Dollar-Of-Capital’ Category
Representative John Campbell (R-CA), Chairman of Financial Services Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade, discusses new legislation to eliminate “Too Big to Fail” with Peter Cook on Bloomberg Television’s “In the Loop with Betty Liu”. Campbell’s legislation, the Systemic Risk Mitigation Act, would prevent future taxpayer-funded bailouts of large financial institutions that currently pose a systemic risk.
Federal Reserve Governor Daniel Tarullo, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH ) have all said recently that the 2010 financial reform legislation better known as Dodd-Frank has failed to reduce the size of the big banks even though its law promised to do just that. Now Republican Congressman John Campbell of California has introduced his own bill to deal with too big to fail institutions.
Its purpose: to protect the banking system while eliminating the implicit guarantee of a government bailout paid for by taxpayers.
Campbell told Yahoo’s Lauren Lyster:
Campbell’s Systemic Risk Mitigation Act would require banks with at least $50 billion in assets to hold additional capital, including at least 15% of their assets in long-term bonds. If a bank were to fail, those bondholders would have to take of loss of at least 20% on their investment, which could pressure banks to reduce their debt and protect taxpayers from a government bank bailout.
“Having investors with a lot of skin in the game is a better regulator than having a government regulating watchdog,” says Campbell.
His bill would also repeal the Volcker Rule which is included in Dodd-Frank and bans proprietary trading. Campbell says the Volcker rule wouldn’t be necessary with the additional capital banks would be required to hold but it “wouldn’t hurt things if you left it in.”
While this is a good start, it doesn’t go far enough. 15% capital isn’t sufficient, not for the kind of leverage we know that the TBTF banks have been using. It is imperative that everyone understand that the banks have ZERO capital requirements, which lack of requirements were implemented courtesy of Henry Paulson and with the passage of EESA and TARP. At minimum, what is needed is the restoration of Glass-Steagall, which would ensure that banks could not co-mingle commercial banking and investment banking or preferably implementation of Karl Denninger’s One-Dollar-Of-Capital. To do anything less, is nothing but an exercise in futility.
Many of you have read my various tickers over the years on One Dollar of Capital, including this one from 2009. This also features prominently in my book Leverage; indeed, quite a bit of ink was spent on this very topic.
I am continually asked by various policy-makers to define exactly what I mean by this standard, as it appears that the various previous Tickers are not sufficient for clarity. Thus, the definition set forward here.
One Dollar of Capital is simply the principle that nobody be permitted to “create credit out of thin air”, thus artificially expanding the spendable supply of “money” in the system. This, and only this, is the reason for all of the bubbles and financial collapses throughout history. This sleight-of-hand is why Tulip Mania happened, it’s why we had a crash in 1873, it’s why we had a crash in 1929, it is why the tech market blew up in 2000 and it’s why we had a crash in 2008 in housing. It is why we’re threatened with collapse in Europe now. It is a scam as old as the money changers during the time of Hammurabi, and until we stop it there will never be stability in the banking and financial system. This sleight-of-hand is in fact exactly identical mathematically to counterfeiting of the nation’s currency, a crime which we all should recognize, condemn, and when it occurs the punishment should include both imprisonment and forfeiture of every dollar of ill-gotten gain.
Putting a stop to unbridled credit creation also removes the threat of “inflation” because it makes inflation by sleight-of-hand flatly impossible. It returns the ability to cause inflation to the one place where it should rest — the entity that is supposed to be in control of the money supply, the federal government (specifically, Congress.) We have in fact had monstrous inflation over the last 30 years; one need only look at the increase in the price of stocks, of college educations and medical services to see it. The bankers and their cronies have tried to hide its impact on the common man through offshoring of labor so as to hold down “prices” in the CPI, but that’s a lie too as a man who loses his high-paying job to some slave in China has his spendable income destroyed at the same time as he gets “lower prices” at WalMart.
Simply put, for every dollar of alleged GDP there must be one of dollar of credit or currency with which to buy the goods and services produced. If you increase the denominator, that is, the number of units of either credit or currency in the system then each unit must inevitably be worth less than it was before. Only when those units are exactly in balance with economic output is there zero inflation and protection of the currency’s purchasing power.
That is the definition of Sound Money.
So mechanically, how do we get to One Dollar of Capital?
We impose the following standards on all institutions:
- Banks are limited to depository institutions. They are forbidden to speculate or trade in asset markets. In short, they are effectively what they were back during Glass-Steagall; they take deposits and make loans. Deposit insurance is limited to these firms on their deposits — and only deposits, not money market accounts and not debt issued them – and exists only as an assurance against government malfeasance.
- Investment banks can trade, be involved in in the capital markets or whatever else they wish. However, they are forbidden deposits, government-backed insurance of any form or any sort of public assistance. Again, this is similar to what everyone had to deal with before Glass-Steagall was repealed.
- All institutions must mark-to-market every night. We have computers, which are very good at counting things. We must use them.
- No loan may be made beyond either the marked-to-market value of the collateral pledged or the firm’s own capital. This forces all lending to be self-liquidating — either through repayment over time, through seizure and sale of the collateral posted or through the posted capital by the lending institution. For banks if they wish to lend unsecured (e.g. for a credit card) they must have either sold stock to investors in the amount of the loan (and have the cash proceeds set aside), have sold bonds to investors (and have the cash proceeds set aside) or have retained earnings that they set aside. A secured loan (e.g. a letter of credit, a home mortgage for less than the home is worth, a car loan for less than the depreciated value of the vehicle, etc) may be made without capital being posted as the security is the capital. However, since any asset may depreciate in value (e.g. a car) the assets must be continually marked to the market and if the liquidation value falls below the outstanding balance of the loan the bank must post actual capital for the difference on a nightly basis.
- We maintain a statutory “zero barrier” on excess actual capital in all institutions that have the privilege of lending against assets, at a level high enough to prevent a negative equity event from occurring. Only actual cash counts ascapital with the exception of Treasury Bills issued at a maturity of 13 weeks or less. The Treasury is authorized to issue and redeem repos on its own for this purpose. The zero barrier should be set somewhere around 6%, the former reserve ratio before Greenspan and Bernanke began tampering with it, and any violation of that excess capital requirement must lead to immediate seizure and liquidation of the firm. Banks and Investment Banks are free to dance as close to this line as they wish, but if they cross it the consequence is immediate business failure.
- All institutions that lend against assets must publicly disclose all transactions, marks and capital every night. The price of being able to lend against assets, temporarily increasing the supply of credit in the system, is that you must prove each and every day that you are not counterfeiting. Any institution can choose to avoid this disclosure requirement by lending only against its own capital and not claiming asset values “secure” its lending. Since most financial institutions will not want to disclose this information other than depository firms will likely choose to be investment banks and lend or finance only with the capital they actually raise.
Imposition of this model inherently requires resolving The Federal Reserve’s manipulation of the currency and interest-rate markets. We have seen that The Fed has intentionally refused to put a stop to manipulation by banks, including the recent LIBOR scandal; indeed The Fed argued that LIBOR was “the best” standard for money rates even while fully aware it was being gamed. The Federal Reserve Act allegedly requires that it both lend only against collateral at real values, but we do a terrible job of actually enforcing full transparency in this regard and an even worse job of stopping The Fed from circumventing the law (e.g. Maiden Lane.)
Note that a move to One Dollar of Capital immediately resolves all derivative concerns, since every underwater position must be netted every night against actual capital. If you cannot post actual capital on an underwater position you must liquidate the position. This instantly de-fangs the derivative monster.
Since no institution can “create credit” there is never systemic risk. Deposit insurance would be unnecessary except that we have a 30 year history of the government refusing to do its job and even participating in book-cooking schemes; during the crisis IndyMac allegedly back-dated deposits with the OTS, its government regulator, aware of the practice and in fact the same individual allegedly responsible this time did the same thing during the S&L crisis. Because we cannot trust the government nor can we seem to prosecute government agencies and individuals successfully when their malfeasance results in the loss of customer funds, FDIC insurance must be maintained.
With One Dollar of Capital Lehman could have gone broke and it would not have mattered, beyond Lehman. The bondholders and stockholders would have lost some or all of their investment, but since Lehman would have been prohibited from lending or guaranteeing the loan of any money that exceeded shareholder and bondholder equity the damage would have stopped there. Companies go bankrupt all the time; systemic risk only arises when you permit firms to commit acts that on any rational analysis amount to fraudulent emission of “money” such that they can imperil everyone else if their deception is forcibly recognized by the market.
Sandy Weill: ONE DOLLAR OF CAPITAL! (Light)
Now I’ve heard it all.
This is the man who created the “bankster superstore”; he built Citigroup, he pioneered unlimited leverage and game-playing in the financial system, and this morning he repudiated it all and called for:
1. 100% mark-to-market (!) of all bankster assets.
2. A complete split between deposit-taking banks that make loans and investment banks that have no access to credit-money creation via revolving depository doors.
This takes the entire capital markets structure and makes it run on actual capital. No off-balance sheet anything, no derivative games, everything is marked to the market every single day.
This is ONE DOLLAR OF CAPITAL folks — “lite”, to an extent, for deposit-taking institutions, butabsolute for everyone else.
In Defining Hypocrisy, Weill, Who Led Repeal Of Glass Steagall, Now Says Big Banks Should Be Broken Up
Who is Sandy Weill? He is none other than a retired Citigroup Chairman, a former NY Fed Director, and a “philanthropist.” He is also the man who lobbied for overturning of Glass Steagall in the last years of the 20th century, whose repeal permitted the merger of Travelers of Citibank, in the process creating Citigroup, the largest of the TBTF banks eventually bailed out by taxpayers. In his memoir Weill brags that he and Republican Senator Phil Gramm joked that it should have been called the Weill-Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Informally, some dubbed it “the Citigroup Authorization Act.” As The Nation explains, “Weill was instrumental in getting then-President Bill Clinton to sign off on the Republican-sponsored legislation that upended the sensible restraints on finance capital that had worked splendidly since the Great Depression.” Of course, by overturning Glass Steagall the last hindrance to ushering in the TBTF juggernaut and the Greenspan Put, followed by the global Bernanke put, was removed, in the process making the terminal collapse of the US financial system inevitable. Why is Weill relevant? Because in a statement that simply redefines hypocrisy, the same individual had the temerity to appear on selloutvision, and tell his fawning CNBC hosts that it is “time to break up the big banks.” That’s right: the person who benefited the most of all from the repeal of Glass Steagall is now calling for its return.
Hypocrisy defined 5:20 into the interview below:
I am suggesting that [big banks] be broken up so that the taxpayer will never be at risk, the depositors won’t be at risk, the leverage of the banks will be something reasonable… I want us to be a leader… I think the world changes and the world we live in now is different from the world we lived in ten years ago.
How ironic is it then that at the signing ceremony of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley, aka the Glass Steagall repeal act, Clinton presented Weill with one of the pens he used to “fine-tune” Glass-Steagall out of existence, proclaiming, “Today what we are doing is modernizing the financial services industry, tearing down those antiquated laws and granting banks significant new authority.”
How ironic indeed. And how hypocritical for this person to have the temerity to show himself in public, let alone demand the law he ushered in, be undone.
Weill discussing all of the above and more with a straight face here:
For those curious to learn a bit more about Weill, here is some good reading:
Weill is the Wall Street hustler who led the successful lobbying to reverse the Glass-Steagall law, which long had been a barrier between investment and commercial banks. That 1999 reversal permitted the merger of Travelers and Citibank, thereby creating Citigroup as the largest of the “too big to fail” banks eventually bailed out by taxpayers. Weill was instrumental in getting then-President Bill Clinton to sign off on the Republican-sponsored legislation that upended the sensible restraints on finance capital that had worked splendidly since the Great Depression.
Those restrictions were initially flouted when Weill, then CEO of Travelers, which contained a major investment banking division, decided to merge the company with Citibank, a commercial bank headed by John S. Reed. The merger had actually been arranged before the enabling legislation became law, and it was granted a temporary waiver by Alan Greenspan’s Federal Reserve. The night before the announcement of the merger, as Wall Street Journal reporter Monica Langley writes in her book “Tearing Down the Walls: How Sandy Weill Fought His Way to the Top of the Financial World… and Then Nearly Lost It All,” a buoyant Weill suggested to Reed, “We should call Clinton.” On a Sunday night Weill had no trouble getting through to the president and informed him of the merger, which violated existing law. After hanging up, Weill boasted to Reed, “We just made the president of the United States an insider.”
The fix was in to repeal Glass-Steagall, as The New York Times celebrated in a 1998 article: “…the announcement on Monday of a giant merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group not only altered the financial landscape of banking, it also changed the political landscape in Washington…. Indeed, within 24 hours of the deal’s announcement, lobbyists for insurers, banks and Wall Street firms were huddling with Congressional banking committee staff members to fine-tune a measure that would update the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act separating commercial banking from Wall Street and insurance, to make it more politically acceptable to more members of Congress.”
At the signing ceremony Clinton presented Weill with one of the pens he used to “fine-tune” Glass-Steagall out of existence, proclaiming, “Today what we are doing is modernizing the financial services industry, tearing down those antiquated laws and granting banks significant new authority.” What a jerk.
Although Weill has shown not the slightest remorse, Reed has had the honesty to acknowledge that the elimination of Glass-Steagall was a disaster: “I would compartmentalize the industry for the same reason you compartmentalize ships,” he told Bloomberg News. “If you have a leak, the leak doesn’t spread and sink the whole vessel. So generally speaking, you’d have consumer banking separate from trading bonds and equity.”
Instead, all such compartmentalization was ended when Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in late 1999. In his memoir Weill brags that he and Republican Senator Phil Gramm joked that it should have been called the Weill-Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Informally, some dubbed it “the Citigroup Authorization Act.”
Gramm left the Senate to become a top executive at the Swiss-based UBS bank, which like Citigroup ran into deep trouble. Leach—former Republican Representative James Leach—was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009 to head the National Endowment for the Humanities, where his banking skills could serve the needs of intellectuals. Robert Rubin, the Clinton administration treasury secretary who helped push through the Citigroup Authorization Act, was the most blatant double dealer of all: He accepted a $15-million-a-year offer from Weill to join Citigroup, where he eventually helped run the corporation into the ground.
Citigroup went on to be a major purveyor of toxic mortgage–based securities that required $45 billion in direct government investment and a $300 billion guarantee of its bad assets in order to avoid bankruptcy.
Weill himself bailed out shortly before the crash. His retirement from what was then the world’s largest financial conglomerate was chronicled in the New York Times under the headline “Laughing All the Way From the Bank.” The article told of “an enormous wooden plaque” in the bank’s headquarters that featured a likeness of Weill with the inscription “The Man Who Shattered Glass-Steagall.”
Well blow me down.
This morning Gary Johnson was on the 1787 Radio Network. I didn’t catch the front of the show, but will go through the entire thing later when it pops up as a podcast.
But, Gary Johnson effectively walked back from his claim at the Orlando Libertarian Convention in which he said “Nobody committed any crimes” in relationship to the financial collapse. Now he says he believes that there may have been crimes, and they should absolutely be investigated and, if evidence is present, prosecuted.
And while he claimed he was “misquoted” (rather than simply saying “I was wrong“, which would be more accurate — anyone who was actually there and saw not only the performance, in context, but in addition witnessed Rob Harrington confront him on the floor immediately after the debate — where he reiteratedwhat he had said on-stage — could not possibly believe that my often-used clip was a misquote) the fact remains that a position change is in fact a change in position.
More-importantly I heard a not-full-throated, but at least weak, support for One Dollar of Capital – and/or it’s half-blood (even if rather pretty) sister, Glass-Steagall.
This, if you recall, was something that I reported that Gary rejected out of hand while I was in his suite in Orlando, asking him this very question.
Governor Johnson doesn’t appear to yet “get it” that implementing this standard is not about “new regulation” (which I suspect is what makes him uncomfortable with it, along with some other Libertarians) – it is about prohibiting fraud in the form of effective counterfeiting of the nation’s currency.
Is this enough for me to issue a full-throated endorsement? Not yet; the two remaining places that I believe the Libertarian Party must address are:
- The medical system must have removed the cost-shifts and mandates that are forcing costs higher. I’ve written on this repeatedly; you cannot fix medical entitlements as the problem doesn’t lie there — the medical entitlement mess is a symptom rather than a cause. EMTALA must be repealed and the laws protecting the medical industry that allow it to effectively extort 2, 3, 5 or even 10 times as much money form one patient as another simply based on how they’re paying must go away. The market will fix the problem if the market is allowed to work (you’ll never be able to sell a drug for $2 in Canada and $20 here if I can buy it in Canada and bring it across the border, selling it for $2.50!)
- The withdrawal from our military adventurism is largely about protecting energy access. Therefore, if we stop that (and we must, both for ethical and financial reasons) we must at the same time address the energy problem or our economy will instantly collapse. I’ve also written on thisrepeatedly and there are solutions. We can implement them. Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party doesn’t appear to understand this connection, or if they do, they’re unable to articulate both the connection and that we can resolve it.
But the more I hear, the more it appears that Governor Johnson is figuring it out. And while I disagree with Gary Johnson on the “gay marriage” issue (the correct and Libertarian solution is to remove the government from marriage entirely, not “insert” it into yet more people’s lives!) that’s a secondary issue — the primary ones, from my perspective (and in my view the issues that will decide the election) are economic.
Gary has come to understand that deficit spending cannot continue; doing so will lead to a bond market and economic collapse.
I actually heard him say that in plain English, on the air.
From an understanding of what’s actually happening and will come all else, if you are intelligent, will ultimately follow once you put sufficient thought into the scope of the problem.
The tide is turning…. and so is my view on Gary Johnson – in the favorable direction.
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