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ECONOMICS AND ESOTERICA FOR A NEW PARADIGM

Posts Tagged ‘misrepresentation of risk

You want to fix the U.S. economy? Here’s a start…

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by Charles Hugh Smith
Posted July 19, 2011
on Of Two Minds 

A SIMPLE 8-POINT PLAN WOULD RESTORE BOTH THE BANKING and the real estate sectors, and end the political dominance of the parasitic “too big to fail” banks. Craven politicos and clueless Federal Reserve economists are always bleating about how they want to fix the U.S. economy and restore “aggregate demand.” OK, here’s how to start:

1. Force all banks to mark all their assets to market at the end of each trading day, including all derivatives of all types, including over-the-counter instruments.

2. Allow citizens to discharge all mortgage and student loan debt in bankruptcy court, just like any other debt.

3. Banks must mark all their real estate to market weekly as defined by “last sales of nearby properties” adjusted for square footage and other quantifiable measures (i.e. like Zillow.com).

4. Require mortgage servicers and all owners of mortgage-backed securities to mark every asset within each pool to market weekly.

5. Any mortgage, loan or note which was fraudulently originated, packaged and sold, including the misrepresentation of risk, the manipulation of risk ratings, fraudulent documentation by any party, etc., will be discharged as uncollectable and the full value wiped off the books and title records without recourse by any of the parties.

If a bank fraudulently originated a mortgage and the buyer misrepresented material facts on the mortgage documents, then both parties lose all claim to the note and the underlying asset, the house, which reverts to the FDIC for liquidation, with the proceeds going towards creditors’ claims against the bank.

6. Any bank which misrepresents marked-to-market asset values will be fined $10 million per incident.

7. Any bank which is insolvent at the end of a trading day will be closed and taken over by the FDIC the following day, and liquidated in an orderly manner via open-market auctions of all assets, including REO (real estate owned).

8. All derivative positions held by the insolvent bank will be unwound immediately, and counterparties who fail to make good on their claims will also be closed, given to the FDIC and liquidated.

You know what this is, of course: a return to trustworthy, transparent accounting.
And you know what the consequences would be, too: all five “too big to fail” banks would instantly be declared insolvent, and most of the other top-25 big banks would also be closed and liquidated.

At least $3 trillion in impaired residential mortgage debt would be written off, maybe more, and $1 trillion in impaired commercial real estate would also be written down. Derivative losses are unknown, but let’s estimate it’s at least $1 trillion and maybe much more.

If $5.8 trillion of fantasy “value” is wiped off the nation’s books, that’s only a 10% reduction in net household and non-profit assets, which total $58 trillion. Even an $11 trillion hit would only knock off 20%. If that’s reality, if that’s what the assets are really worth in the real world, then let’s get it over with. Once we’ve restored truthful accounting and stopped living a grand series of debilitating lies, then the path will finally be clear for renewed growth.

The net result would be the destruction of the political power of the “too big to fail” banks, the clearing of the nation’s bloated, diseased real estate market, and the restoration of trust in institutions which have been completely discredited.

Bank credit would flow again, and we could insist on a healthy competitive system of 250 small banks instead of a corrupting system of 5 insolvent parasitic monsters and 20 other bloated but equally insolvent financial parasites.

Those who lied would finally get fried. At long last, those who misprepresented income, risk, etc. would actually pay some price for their malfeasance. Criminal proceedings would be a nice icing on the cake, but simply ending the pretence of solvency would go a long way to restoring banking and real estate and ending regulatory capture by TBTF banks.

What’s the downside to such a simple action plan? Oh boo-hoo, the craven politicos would lose their key campaign contributors. On the plus side, the politicos could finally wipe that brown stuff off their noses.

Here’s the Setup for the Con of the Decade

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by Charles Hugh Smith
Posted April 15, 2011

The Con of the Decade, which I described last July, is being set up nicely.

I described The Con of the Decade last July (2010). The Con makes me a heretic in the cult religion of Hyperinflation. I consider myself an agnostic about the destruction of the U.S. dollar and hyperinflation (basically the same thing), but my idea that hyperinflation is fundamentally a political process makes me a heretic. I skimmed a few of the dozens of comments posted on Rick’s Picks and Zero Hedge after they posted one of my expositions on this dynamic, and didn’t see even one comment in favor of this perspective.

The Con is being set up right now, and the outlines are clearly visible. The Con works like this:

1. The Financial Elites/Oligarchy raked in billions in private profit from the orgy of leverage, credit expansion, fraud, embezzlement and misrepresentation of risk that resulted in the Housing Bubble.

2. The losses were transferred to the public (Federal government, i.e. The Central State) or its proxy, the Federal Reserve (i.e. the central bank), via bailouts, backstops, guarantees, the Fed’s purchase of taxic assets, and an open window for the financiers to borrow billions at zero interest (ZIRP) for further speculations.

3. The Treasury now borrows $1.6 trillion every year, fully 11% of the nation’s GDP, as the Central State has replaced private demand and credit expansion with its own borrowing and spending.

4. Non-U.S. central banks have largely ceased to support this unprecedented scale of borrowing, so the Federal Reserve now buys most of the Treasury’s issuance of debt via QE2 (quantitative easing, the direct purchase of $600 billion in Treasury bonds).

5. Unlike Japan, the U.S. cannot self-fund its own government borrowing: while U.S. investors, banks and insurance companies do own a significant chunk of Treasuries, the U.S. savings rate (capital accumulation) is still abysmally low, around 4%, which is half the historical average savings rate.

This is the result of the Keynesian Cult’s One Big Idea, which is to pull demand forward and encourage borrowing and spending now by any means necessary, and thus sacrifice capital formation/saving.

So the basic outline of the Con is that private losses from the financialization of the U.S. economy were shifted to the public. Now to keep the Status Quo and Financial Plutocracy from imploding, the public is on the hook for $1.6 trillion in additional borrowing every year until Doomsday (around 2021 or so).

Having secured the backing of the Central Bank and Central State, the Plutocracy’s only problem now is that it needs a risk-free source of high-yield income. Yes, it has a trillion dollars or so sitting in bank reserves, collecting interest from the Federal Reserve; this is certainly risk-free, but the Fed’s Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP) keeps the rate of return absurdly low.

Here’s where we see the Con taking shape. The ideal setup for risk-free returns is to own Treasurys that pay a high yield. The way to get higher interest rates is to first make the Treasury market supremely dependent on a central bank or single buyer: Done. That buyer is the Federal Reserve.

Next, have that buyer stop buying. Suddenly, interest rates start moving up. If you don’t believe this is possible, or part of a larger project, then please explain why PIMCO sold all its Treasuries. Duh – because interest rates are set to rise, and not by a little bit or for a brief span, but by a lot and for years.

That means holders of long-term Treasuries (and other debt) will be cremated as rates rise. (Holders of TIPS will do OK, unless the government fraudulently sets the rate of inflation well below reality. Hmm, isn’t that exactly what’s it’s already doing?)

Once long-term rates have leaped up, then start accumulating the high-yield bonds. Why would rates jump? Supply and demand: as the demand for low-yield Treasuries dries up, the supply keeps rising: every month, the Treasury has to auction tens of billions of dollars of bonds, or even hundreds of billions of dollars. There is no Plan B, the bonds must be sold, and if there are no buyers, then the yield has to rise.

Once rates have been engineered much higher, the Financial Oligarchy accumulates the high yielding bonds.

Here’s where “austerity” comes in. Once rates are so high that they’re choking the real economy, then voices arise demanding the Federal government stop borrowing and spending so much. Austerity (forced or otherwise) soon reduces the supply of bonds hitting the market and so rates decline, boosting the value of the high-yield debt.

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