Donnerstag, 12. Februar 2009

Nationalization is actually as American as apple pie

sagt Paul Krugman. Allein in den USA seit 2006 331 Hypothekarkredite vergebende Institutionen implodiert. Nicht alle davon waren Banken. Seit Anfang 2007 sind in den weltweit 69 Banken in Konkurs gegangen und weiter übernommen worden. Die bekanntesten sind die drei isländischen Banken, Lehman Brothers, Barn Stearns und National City in den USA, sowie Northern Rock, HBOS und die Royal Bank of Scotland im UK. Die meisten allerdings in den USA. In den USA werden Banken über die die Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) abgewickelt, die NCUA macht dasselbe für Credit Unions. Allerdings fehlen in dieser Liste einige Übernahmen/Bail-Outs die offiziell nicht als Konkurse gelten können, wie z.B. die Übernahme von Wachovia durch Wells Fargo.
Hier ist eine inoffizielle Liste von US troubled banks. Schaut nicht so gut aus, besonders wenn man bedenkt, dass einige der groessten Namen (z.b. Citygroup) fehlen, die mehr oder weniger als insolvent gelten.
Martin Wolf meint in seinem Kommentar zum neuen Amerikanischen Bankenpaket in der Financial Times, dass es zwei unterschiedliche Betrachtungsweisen der Bankenkrise gäbe: Zum einen dass es eine Panik ist, zum anderen, dass es ein Insolvenzproblem sei. Martin Wolf ist von zweitem überzeugt:
(...) a sizeable proportion of financial institutions are insolvent: their assets are, under plausible assumptions, worth less than their liabilities. The International Monetary Fund argues that potential losses on US-originated credit assets alone are now $2,200bn up from $1,400bn just last October. (...) In recent comments to the Financial Times, Nouriel Roubini of RGE Monitor and the Stern School of New York University estimates peak losses on US-generated assets at $3,600bn. Fortunately for the US, half of these losses will fall abroad. But, the rest of the world will strike back: as the world economy implodes, huge losses abroad – on sovereign, housing and corporate debt – will surely fall on US institutions, with dire effects.
[... The question is wheter ...] in the presence of such uncertainty, it can be right to base policy on hoping for the best. The answer is clear: rational policymakers must assume the worst. If this proved pessimistic, they would end up with an over-capitalised financial system. If the optimistic choice turned out to be wrong, they would have zombie banks and a discredited government. This choice is surely a “no brainer”.
Why then is the administration making what appears to be a blunder? It may be that it is hoping for the best. But it also seems it has set itself the wrong question. It has not asked what needs to be done to be sure of a solution. It has asked itself, instead, what is the best it can do given three arbitrary, self-imposed constraints: no nationalisation; no losses for bondholders; and no more money from Congress. Yet why does a new administration, confronting a huge crisis, not try to change the terms of debate? This timidity is depressing.
The correct advice remains the one the US gave the Japanese and others during the 1990s: admit reality, restructure banks and, above all, slay zombie institutions at once.

Roubini ist für eine Preprivatisierung der grossen US Banken:
The main problem with the Treasury plan – that in some ways it may resemble the deal between Merrill Lynch (ML) and Lone Star (LS) - is the following: Merrill sold its CDOs to Lone Star for 22 cents on the dollar; and even in that case ML remained on the hook in case the value of the assets were to fall below 22 as LS paid initially only 11 cents (i.e. ML guaranteed the LS downside risk). But today a bank like Citi has similar CDOs that, until recently, were still sitting on its books, at a deluded and fake value of 60 cents. So, since the government knows that no one in the private sector would buy those most toxic assets at 60 cents it may have to promise a guarantee (formally or informally by putting capital into a public-private bad bank that will receive extra lending from the private sector) to limit the downside risk to private investors from purchasing such assets. But that implicit or explicit guarantee would be hugely expensive if you need to induce private folks to buy at 60 what is worth only 20 or even 11. So the new Treasury plan may end up being again a royal rip-off of the taxpayer if the guarantee is excessive given the true value of the underlying assets. And if instead the implicit or explicit guarantee is not excessive (if the public-private bank truly tries to discover the value of such assets as in the formal Treasury proposal) the banks need to sell the toxic assets at their true underlying value that implies massive writedowns that will uncover the insolvency of such banks. I.e. the emperor has no clothes and a true valuation of the bad assets – without a huge taxpayers’ bailout of the shareholders and unsecured creditors of banks – implies that banks are bankrupt and should be taken over by the government.

UPDATE: copy and paste von Calculated Risk

From Eric Dash at the NY Times: Bank Test May Expand U.S. Regulators’ Role

Nearly 100 federal banking regulators descended on Citigroup in New York on Wednesday morning. Dozens more fanned out through Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and other big banks across the nation.
[E]xams for 18 or so of the biggest banks are set to begin immediately, and the first results could arrive within weeks. They are not expected to be made public for every institution.
Regulators plan to assess the potential losses a bank could face over the next two years, rather than the typical one year ... They are also expected to look at banks’ exposure to derivatives and other assets normally carried off their balance sheets ... Their assumptions will be guided on a “worst case” basis.
Kingt als ob der Stress-test recht schnell abgewickelt werden können. Calculated risk schreibt, dass die Banken wahrscheinlich in 3 Kathegorien fallen werden:
1) No additional assistance required. These banks will definitely want this publicized!

2) The banks in between that will need additional capital. This is where the Capital Assistance Program comes in:
While banks will be encouraged to access private markets to raise any additional capital needed to establish this buffer, a financial institution that has undergone a comprehensive “stress test” will have access to a Treasury provided “capital buffer” to help absorb losses and serve as a bridge to receiving increased private capital. ... firms will receive a preferred security investment from Treasury in convertible securities that they can convert into common equity if needed to preserve lending in a worse-than-expected economic environment. This convertible preferred security will carry a dividend to be specified later and a conversion price set at a modest discount from the prevailing level of the institution’s stock price as of February 9, 2009.
3) Banks that will need to be nationalized or sold.
Wenn es in Europa so weiter geht und die Bankenkrise amerikanische Dimensionen annimmt ist eine unkoordinierte Bankenrettung durch nationale Finanzmarktaufsichten sicherlich nicht optimal, denn unterschiedliche Konditionen verzerren Wettbewerbspositionen. Von einer zeitgerechten und koordinierten Aktion ist man dann weit weg. Vielleicht wird dann eine europäische Regulierung der Banken - zumindest der europäisch aktiven Banken im Euroraum - durch einen Regulator bei der EZB (oder einer separaten Institution) angedacht. Nebeneffekt 1: Preprivatisierung würde eine glaubwürdigere Option, denn nationale Banken kann und wird eine Europäische Institutionen nicht lange halten wollen. Nebeneffekt 2: Die Gefahr, dass Posten in preprivatisierte Banken politisch motiviert besetzt werden ist eine erheblich geringere.

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