View Full Version : Beancounters´ nose-dive

18th Mar 2008, 01:25
First the giant Mortgage bailout, now the giant bank bail out.

Either Capitalism is a good system or it isn't but I guess we'll never know until someone actually has the courage to operate a capitalist system, through the hard times as well as the good times.


Buster Hyman
18th Mar 2008, 01:45
Lets not forget the great Airline bail out of 2001/2002...

18th Mar 2008, 01:50
Have to agree, don't bail it out. If I go bankrupt there is nobody that will bail me out, nor should they.

I do have an idea however; take everything that the executive officers of the bank/loan company own, their homes, cars, aircraft, boats, all cash, all assets no matter what and let them live in the street after they serve a few years in prison.

In other words, no more golden parachutes.

Yeah I'm a capitalist, proud of it, but this crap is way too socialist. Chrysler should have gone under as well, the government didn't try to save Pan American Airlines. Who makes the choice of what company to save? There should not be a choice that has to be made. It may hurt in the short term, however, in the long run (or the big picture if you must) it is much better to let the market/economy basically run itself. With proper controls to prevent cheating and base robbery of the public.

Sometimes I glad I'm 60 years old, so I will not live another 50 years to see what the politicians will do to this country. I do worry about my children and grandchildren however. :(

Oh, one more thing, add public flogging to the punishment to the executives. :p

Two's in
18th Mar 2008, 03:27
Getting your MegaCorp into financial dire straights by gambling on the stupidity of poor people, being dug out of the inevitable Financial oblivion by your high rolling Political lackies on Capitol Hill, and all because the Government doesn't want to see or hear the "recession" word before it hands over the reins in 9 months time, meanwhile everyday the dollar is losing value against the Matabele Gumbo Bean - I'm sorry Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! that all strikes me as entirely Capitalist behaviors based on all those I've ever met or been Governed by.

My God did you ever consider the alternative - that Ben Bernanke is not actually very good at his job and Government intervention is entirely arbitrary and based on partisan lines! Surely some mistake.

18th Mar 2008, 04:59
The modern-style "managed" economy as seen in the US has qualities of a living, organic thing. It has obtained the current forms and patterns of behavior (which seem good enough to inspire many admiring imitators) through the collaboration of several dozen generations of builders and participants. As such it has a "bottom's-up" evolved design adapted to many conditions and circumstances existing right now and also is adapted to specific historical circumstances leading up to the present. The evolution process was complex and slow; likely a new economy that functions as well cannot be fashioned quickly and easily, should we carelessly break the evolved one existing now.

If fundamental economic circumstances are allowed to change very suddenly, some branches of this organic adaptation may cease to be necessary or useful. No longer useful branches will rapidly wither, taking with them the outer branches and leaves (people, businesses, etc.) growing in that portion of the economy. This death-rebirth process is healthy on a limited scale, but devastating if too many people and institutions are affected.

When the very largest branches die back, the entire organism of the economy may be disrupted -- possibly to the extent that it cannot function properly as a dynamic, living collaboration of symbiotic elements. The entire tree may die, or it may linger on for some while, half dead, while disease and other predators do their work. When the economy dies in a populous nation, the order of society itself likely breaks down into much simpler and rougher components as people desperately try to work through the long, painful process of building a new economy on the ashes of the old.

No matter how twisted the scaffold branches of the economic tree may seem, nor how ugly the history of their growth, some certain ones of them are likely critical to the survival of the economy as a whole. For this reason, everyone who participates in and benefits from the organic life of the economy as it presently is has an interest in seeing that these critical supports are not casually discarded in moments of extraordinary stress.

There will be Plenty of time for hangings, after the dust settles. I'll bring my flute.

Track Coastal
18th Mar 2008, 05:48
Con-pilot and Two's in, excellent posts to an interesting topic, I was discussing this at the saltmine today with colleagues. Good answers and worth a thought. The Brits did the same with Northern Rock.

I always thought that the Capitalist system and what made it so was Darwinian in its ethos, the strong (Corporations) survive, the weak dissappear.

I can see tears and wailing on the horizon.

18th Mar 2008, 06:42
I can see tears and wailing on the horizon.

So can I.

I do know that bank insolvency is covered in some State laws. This from Mississppi seems fair:

SEC. 81-9-5. Closing insolvent banks.

If at any time the state comptroller shall be of the opinion that a bank is insolvent, or that its condition is such that a further continuance of its business is hazardous to its creditors, depositors, or the public, or is unable to meet its obligations in the ordinary course of business, he shall close said bank and proceed as provided in this chapter

Sunray Minor
18th Mar 2008, 12:11

One thing, isn't bankruptcy a form of bailing out? Surely true capitalism would require bankrupts have no protection?

In the UK it seems quite an acceptable option to spend up large on your credit card, pay for your ATPL and declare oneself bankrupt.

That said, the idea that the market is entirely self regulating, everyone on a level playing field, is pretty ridiculous. The market is naturally constrained without any state intervention, so if the government does resort to picking national favourites, is that necessarily harmful? Afterall, this is exactly how East Asian states grew from basket cases to world leaders in the space of a few decades.

Dan D'air
18th Mar 2008, 12:27
The Brits did the same with Northern Rock.

The Labour government bailed Northern Rock out because the majority of their voters come from that area. If they had allowed the bank to fail, they would never have won an election again.

Al Fakhem
18th Mar 2008, 12:33
The irony is clearly that America sees itself as the bastion of the free world and of capitalism only when it wants to. As long as wankers (there seems to be a problem with my spelling checker.....) walk away with massive bonuses after being able to flog dodgy hedge funds to other wankers who had less than 3% of own capital to so (but still got massive bonuses) but found other wankers (who again got massive bonuses) to fund the 97% balance (as in the case of some Carlyle Capital transactions) but never seem to be asked to pay back these bonuses when everything goes belly up, the system is not capitalist but socialist (i.e. as in you can never lose, because you get bailed out by the government).

Or am I missing some massive media coverage of bonuses being recalled?

Right Way Up
18th Mar 2008, 12:41
Al Fakhem,

That seems a pretty accurate summary to me. :D

18th Mar 2008, 13:03
Or am I missing some massive media coverage of bonuses being recalled?

The bonuses are paid for past performance, on he basis of audited financial statements. At least mine is. My company did well in 2007 and my bonus was calculated after the audited financial statement was issued to shareholders in mid February. If, in the course of this year, we don't do well then we get no bonus. But to take away the bonus for a period when we did well because we are not doing well now would be counter productive.

It is possible that some of the decision making in the past led to poor performance now, but then you get into "what if" scenarios and the financial statements can only be based on facts.

18th Mar 2008, 13:06
Dan- your 100% correct.

If it had been Southern Rock it would have been left to go tits up- and quite rightly so.

18th Mar 2008, 13:25
This death-rebirth process is healthy on a limited scale, but devastating if too many people and institutions are affected.So are you saying that Capitalism is NOT a viable system?

If, in the course of this year, we don't do well then we get no bonus.How unfortunate ... and unusual. You need to find a new board.

One thing, isn't bankruptcy a form of bailing out? Surely true capitalism would require bankrupts have no protection?
Ironically as of last year (?) bankruptees have very little protection - well individual bankruptees that is. Large corporations and the people who run them obviously get whatever they need.

Don't get me wrong, I can see a reason for hard work and risk being transferred into gains in wealth and I can see how such a philosophy makes for a vibrant economy. I just want to see an honest implementation. If Capitalism is so good then follow its rules and don't cut corners.

18th Mar 2008, 13:35
Not a simple "bailout": read The Real Bear Stearns Story (http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article4049.html).

This is not a bailout. The shareholders at Bear have been essentially wiped out. Note that a third of the shares of Bear were owned by Bear employees. Many of them have seen a lifetime of work and savings wiped out, and their jobs may be at risk, even if they had no connection with the actual events which caused the crisis at Bear. Don't tell them there was no moral hazard. For all intents and purposes, Bear would have been bankrupt this morning. The $2 a share offer is simply to keep Bear from having to declare bankruptcy which would mean a long, drawn out process and would have precipitated a crisis of unimaginable proportions. Cue the lawyers.

It is time to step back and recognize that the current situation isn't a liquidity issue and hasn't been for some time now. Rather there is uncertainty about the underlying quality of assets which is a solvency issue driven by a breakdown in highly leveraged positions. Many of the special purpose entities and vehicles are comprised of pyramids of paper assets supported by leverage whose values are now unknown.

18th Mar 2008, 13:41
Good posts all. I think the real culprut here is fear, fear of our elected reps losing the next election. Those in govt know very well that the US is in real trouble here - hence the 300 bucks they're gonna give me - really, what am I going to do with 300 dollars, buy a new car? I dont think so. They established the FED in 1913 to have some modicum of prudent control on the economy - a good move - trouble is, the US suffers from what ALL democracys eventually suffer from, the dreaded socialism word. Methink its all over but the shouting. Just take a look at the Democrats going at one another. "A fools name and fools face, always seen in a public place." Sorry for the dis-jointed post - its just that I think that the human excrement that control the US has sold its manure to the masses, anyone for global warming?

18th Mar 2008, 14:05
I gave my three hundred bucks to the cats' home as I didn't want blood money in my bank account.

Most everyone else probably gave it to China :rolleyes:

Sunray Minor
18th Mar 2008, 14:24
Dorfer, are you saying the economic issues the US is facing are a result of socialistic protection?

I would put it the other way: the neo-liberal, free market ideal is imploding on itself so catastrophically that the only way to lessen the blow is social protection. Unfortunately in the case of the USA, social protection is usually only extended to the very rich, not the very poor. This of course all coupled by Keynes resurrection.

Aren't we really seeing the realities of unsustainable lifestyles?

18th Mar 2008, 14:39
Looks like Ronnie/Maggie's claimed trickle down effect really does work after all.

West Coast
18th Mar 2008, 17:26
Just as we in the US don't have an absolute right to freedom of speech or absolute freedom of action, the economy is reigned in within limits as well.

The rest is theory. All y'awl can argue with regard to what economic model it falls under but it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Its what's been happening for a long while now.

Ken Wells
18th Mar 2008, 17:33
As the old Arab joke goes:

Bush gets a call telling him The Bank of America has just been robbed.

"how can that be" he screams, "all the thieves are sitting around my table!!"

18th Mar 2008, 17:58
the system is not capitalist but socialist (i.e. as in you can never lose, because you get bailed out by the government).

This death-rebirth process is healthy on a limited scale, but devastating if too many people and institutions are affected.
So are you saying that Capitalism is NOT a viable system?

These lofty -ism names for economic-social systems are meaningless enough, in and by themselves. The clear and easily understood principles that economic philosophies espouse and embody tend to not work for a certain percentage of the time - quite predictably.

Humanity has struggled for 10,000 years or so to come up with a method of coordinating the productive work of populations so as to share between the weak and the powerful while still allowing the ones who are smart, diligent, and lucky to retain and build up some wealth and influence. NONE of those systems, including Socialism, Communism, and Capitalism has ever "worked" entirely correctly - without the efforts of informed and sometimes inspired folks in the background doing occasional out-of-ordinary necessaries from behind the stage curtains.

Economists chuckle as they say: "In the long run ...... (long pause for effect)
...we are all dead." So, too, it is with philosophy-based operating plans, schemes, systems, etc. that do not have some flexibility for grappling with realities which do not fit the rules of the plan.... they do not survive.

Wherever money flows freely, crime is close by. Some mischief certainly has gone into the current situation in the financial markets, along with a lot of overreaching opportunism and self-indulgent gullibility among investors and politicians. The courts will have some exercise sorting out how best to view that -- whether from the perspective of the fishermen or the perspective of the fish?

West Coast
18th Mar 2008, 19:11
the system is not capitalist but socialist (i.e. as in you can never lose, because you get bailed out by the government).

A small but significant difference. The government does allow companies to fail. Others are thrown a life ring. It comes to the larger picture, managing the economy, not individual sectors or companies. If a sector in trouble is likely to affect the larger picture, then yes you can expect intervention. When and where that happens has much to do with who resides in the White House.

18th Mar 2008, 19:45
From the letters page in today's Telegraph

Sir - I just cannot help thinking that, if they had named the firm Bull Stearns, this would not have happened.

Iain McKie, Farnham, Surrey

Brilliant :D

18th Mar 2008, 20:00
Galaxy paid more for Beckham than JP Morgan are offering to pay for Bear Stearns.

Who got / is getting the better deal?

Track Coastal
18th Mar 2008, 21:51
My God did you ever consider the alternative - that Ben Bernanke is not actually very good at his job
A concept increasing in its support.

"Helicopter" Bernanke just slashed interest rates from 3.00% to 2.25%. A further devaluation of the USD and rising commodity prices (oil, gold and other base metals), will see higher inflation. Rising inflation and a contracting economy is out of kilter and called STAGFLATION.

Before the 'Nixon Shock' of 15th August 1971, paper money represented a portion of gold (Bretton Woods agreement) and gold was set at a price (under $50/oz) with the USD being the currency benchmak for world trade. The paper greenback respresents nothing now and "Helicopter" is printing it and pumping it ala Zimbawean and Reichstag central banking principles.

Keynes was part of the Bretton Woods agreement, Milton Friedman was a critic of Keynes and Bernanke makes no bones about being a Friedman fan (in times of economic stagnation pump money).

Another big sub-prime loss declaration by some corporate head w*nker/banker (we've been making squillions by lending money to people who can't afford to repay, whats wrong with that) where does Helicopter go with interest rates? Toward Zero? He has no monetary policy leverage anymore.

I thought all the Kondratieff winter advocates were taking the wrong pills, I'm not so sure now.

PS Why is he called Helicopter or Blackhawk Bernanke? Google helicopter+bernanke.

18th Mar 2008, 22:10
Beckham, much as I dislike the hype surrounding him. is still credible. The other lot are dyslexic bankers.

18th Mar 2008, 22:45
Here is some help on the correct use of terms:-

Communism means the government owns/controls all the factors of production - land, labour, capital.
(By the way both the UK and USA governments took control, although not ownership, of most factors of production during the Second World War, but they would not have considered themselves Communist!!)

Socialism is something different - it means the government controls the 'commanding heights of the economy'. Bailing out a firm now and then or giving a few benefits doesn't make a government socialist.

Keynes was most definitely a capitalist and would have been offended to be called anything else. But he thought that the markets weren't always self regulating in the short run. so governments sometimes needed to intervene. It was Keynes who said 'We are all dead in the long run'.

18th Mar 2008, 22:46
Did you really mean 'bankers' or were you thinking of something else?

18th Mar 2008, 22:50
Labour took over Northern Rock last year.

Conservatives took over Johnson Mathey in early 1980s - Mrs Thatcher's government no less!

In each case they thought the alternative was even worse.

19th Mar 2008, 00:14

One thing, isn't bankruptcy a form of bailing out? Surely true capitalism would require bankrupts have no protection?

Sorry Sunray, been actually working for a living for the first time in over 40 years, just now saw your question.

There are two types of Bankruptcy that counts in the US; Chapter 7 and Chapter 11. One is total distribution of all assets; everything, all that you, or the company own is sold off and the proceeds go to the creditors. You end up on the street. The second is more of a second chance, one is allowed to negotiate with all the creditors and deferrer or reduce the credit amount therefore be allowed to keep your business and personal assets, including your home. All creditors must agree to this, if just one creditor says "Hell no, I want all I can get" you are forced into total bankruptcy and lose everything.

I believe this is fair and just, the government has no business bailing out any business that files for bankruptcy, if the free market decides that the company in question should fail, then it should.

The bottom line regarding bankruptcy is to protect the employees, investors and the creditors of any company. Many, many times it has been proven that the Bankruptcy Laws of the United States has saved jobs, repaid creditors and allow investors to profit from their investments.

I am sure there are some people here on Pprune that can explain this much better than I.

Bankruptcy is not a governmental bailout, except in a few occasions that I was against then and now.

19th Mar 2008, 03:16
Problem with Bankruptcy in the case of key financial institutions is that the well-established procedures for B are slow as molasses (due process being a part of it). The case with Bear Sterns and perhaps others (Citibank is our favorite candidate for the BIG ONE) is that they have control of SO MANY assets and financial interests, all jumbled & cross-linked throughout the banking system and the corporate economy in the US and in banking and business abroad, that it would be a first rate catastrophe to take all those assets out of play for months or years while the bankruptcy procedure plays out.... access to all funds is typically frozen and unavailable for the life of the proceeding ... a horrible mess when the assets are financial instruments that may only have working lives of a few days - or that may be collateral for other transactions which must go forward on a short fuse. A bankruptcy in one of these companies is not meant to be possible.... the design of the system does not really allow for it.

No Gimli gliders in banking - if enough financial engines fail, the lights will go out in NYC and elsewhere for a long time.

19th Mar 2008, 04:47
if enough financial engines fail, the lights will go out in NYC and elsewhere for a long time.

Very, very true my friend. Let us hope that it never happens.

The Nr Fairy
19th Mar 2008, 07:12
Not for nothing is the collective noun for bankers a "wunch".

19th Mar 2008, 11:27
Got the Emerging Markets report from Bear Stearns this morning.

It started, "Another day, another dollar.....or two."

I kid you not. Hats off to Tim Ash for maintaining a sense of humour!

19th Mar 2008, 14:46
I´m just a simple anarchist and could manage without any government if it were allowed.

Perhaps someone can tell me where all this "bailout" money comes from as I thought both the US and UK governments or Federal Bank and Bank of England were short of the "readies"

19th Mar 2008, 15:48
Interesting editorial in the Evening Standard today, reprinted at MoneyWeek. The title says it all: Britain realises you can go wrong with property (http://www.moneyweek.com/file/43966/britain-finally-realises-that-you-can-go-wrong-with-property.html). :bored:

19th Mar 2008, 15:54
Confused about the subprime issue? The following link explains it all:}:


19th Mar 2008, 16:11
The US govt has a licence to print money and that's what they've been doing since the gold standard was dropped. They just print more and more. There's not enough gold in the world anymore for the amount of cash. We're all f*cked. Except the rich, they're alright.

19th Mar 2008, 16:14
I suspect the Evening Standard may not be ranked among the top journalistic mastheads of the world, but oh how I wish the article linked to by bnt could be read and understood by my oldest daughter.

My voice doesn't carry any weight. I am perceived as a negative influence on her desire to be a "property developer," which to her means buying, waiting for the inevitable rise and selling.

She is 26, she doesn't want to know that for the whole of the 90's property in Queensland did absolutely nothing. Even less does she want to hear about Sydney prices plummeting in the late 80's. Nope, property just keeps on going up. Can't lose. There is no such thing as a peak in the market.

I am just going to have to watch as she learns a lesson the hard way, and it hurts.

19th Mar 2008, 17:34
OK, the article

IMHO it is a very bad article
The author doesn't understand the problem

So he says credit has been cheap? This is a good example of what I called "received wisdom" - so many people have been saying it, that he can't be wrong if he says it too, right?

To be fair to him, a small part of the problem has been caused by cheap mortgages which have become more expensive to service, especially if the mortgagor has come off a 3 or 5 year fix recently.

So now to have a dig.
Problems are as follows:
Not cheap credit, but too easy credit. People that should never have been lent the money, were lent the money. And strangely, because the people to whom they were lending money were poor credit risks, the money was also not cheap. Loan sharks give easy credit - it aint cheap.
Not cheap credit, but too much credit. You want how much? How many times your salary? 5x ? 7x? sure.......Property prices have ceased to be realistically priced in terms of what land and houses cost to build, but in terms of how much money someone can pay for it. You also want how many thousands of pounds on your credit card? sure....just help yourself.

Right. Rant over. Why some journalists having picked some fag ends up over the months then think they know everything defeats me. And then once one journalist starts, the others all start. "Oooh a journalist said it, it must be true."


OK - so I lied. The rant wasn't over.

Well it is now.

19th Mar 2008, 20:21
How about this then: My two year fix is up so I'm remortgaging. Two weeks ago, I was offered a 5.4% tracker over two years plus a £499 arrangement fee. Foolishly, I demurred, in order to have a look round the market. Today, I went back to my broker to have another look & was advised in no uncertain terms that I had better get on now as deals are being pulled left right & centre.

So now, I have just swallowed a two year tracker at 6.1% with a £999 arrangement fee. So now, my mortgage jumps to £850 per month from £670. If I'd taken the deal a fortnight ago, it would have gone to £760. Plus a grand cash for the pleasure. And who's taking this money? The banks who fnucked up their impossible to understand, calamitously complex financial instruments in the first place.

I could just about spit tonight.

19th Mar 2008, 20:28
I classify this as a combination of cheap and easy credit. Cheap between banks and other lenders, to each other: easy to "consumers", but not-so-cheap, and therefore lucrative to the institutions. :ugh:

When I bought a HP 27S (http://www.rskey.org/detail.asp?manufacturer=Hewlett-Packard&model=HP-27S) Scientific calculator years ago, I played around with all its functions, including the "amortization" functions that let you calculate the payments, interest, and total outlay on loans. Seeing the total outlay on a 25-year mortgage - around 3X the principal at typical interest rates - put me off all forms of credit for years afterwards. Paid for itself many times over. :8

19th Mar 2008, 20:37
a lot of the borrowers were not reckless, they were often poor with little prospects.
there are examples where on the one hand you have a bank which is about to shut down the major employer of a town, but the same bank is giving out mortages to borrowers it KNOWS will shortly not be able to afford the repayments.
a lot of the loans were also completely at the margin, so that if anything upset a very stretched and tight budget of the borrower, he would default.

whether an asset is overvalued or not is easy to say with the benefit of hindsight. the market is usually a good indicator - i.e. what someone is prepared to pay for it. but you want to predict if UK house prices will fall 5% or 10%, remain flat, or even go up this year? OK - so it's not so difficult to guess that UK property is not going to go up or down very fast this year. you could guess plus or minus 5%, and you wouldn't be far wrong. if you were a lender it would therefore be immaterial this year if the deposit was only 10% or 20% so long as the borrower can afford to keep making the payments. Even if the house several years later is worth less than the amount of the mortgage it will still not be a problem if the borrower can still make the payments. Banks are very familiar with lending on assets which could fall to less than the amount of loan - for example cars. But back to houses and lets look ahead several years? is it likely the UK house securing the mortgage be worth 40% less? Possibly, but unlikely. remember the 1992 property bubble - property came off 30% in a couple of years. But looking back now don't you wish you had bought a big house then? I do......Mortage banks should be taking a longer term view because most of the property bubbles in western europe this century have been short lived although people tend to keep mortgages for only 7 years on average in the UK before paying them off - according to statisticians I work with.

It is always easy with the benefit of hindsight to say that was "a bubble" -but lots of people said a bubble existed in 2003 in property. Lots of people said the stock market was a bubble in 1996 (including the governor of the Federal Reserve who talked about irrational exuberance !) - but look what happened - it doubled in the next 4 years before finally going pop!

so I still don't think the article was any good.

Ken Wells
19th Mar 2008, 22:51
G-ZUZZ get help

Sunray Minor
19th Mar 2008, 23:44

G-ZUZZ has a very important point. US gold reserves in no way match the USD in circulation. While we can sleep easy that nations aren't going to overnight march in to the US treasury and demand their dollars are exchanged for gold, the simple imbalance of value is just another indication of how distorted and illusionary the finances of today really are.

Tick tick tick....

19th Mar 2008, 23:51
Let's see here now: the Fed rescued Bear Stearns, swiftly followed by a 3/4% cut in interest rates. Stock markets see their biggest one-day gains in many years. The aftermath: "those in the know" take profits (or cut their losses) while they can, leaving the Dow only a little higher than before the ordinary taxpayers in the guise of the Fed and ECB held out the goodies crying "alms for the poor - come and get 'em" - you get the picture...?! :rolleyes:

20th Mar 2008, 00:38
I follow a lot of this through a couple of commentaries (through website and daily newsletters). For interesting insights have a look at:

http://www.dailyreckoning.com.au/ (and its US counterpart http://www.dailyreckoning.com/)

and on the lighter side:


23rd Mar 2008, 22:17
Great quote from Bill Maher regarding (Republican) government bailing out of Bear Sterns (airlines, and others in the past):

"They believe in the free market for profit, but they want to socialize losses."

Great line ! In hindsight it pisses me off that I didn't think of that obvious one 1st :{ :}

Ref.: Bill Maher Real_Time_3-21-08_Panel_Discussion_Part_3