In a recent Washington Post op-ed, former FDIC chair and perpetual-pain-in-Bernanke's-backside Sheila Bair takes some […]
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Listen, we know the FDIC is broke, there’s no use pretending they aren’t. But apparently we’re going to keep doing it so let’s stop for a moment and analyze the FDIC’s latest crackpot scheme to keep bad banks afloat and their balance in the black, shall we?
The summation up to now — for those of you with short attention spans — is that the FDIC is looking to tax banks’ asses based on the risks they take. On the surface that doesn’t sound like a bad idea until you consider the fact that the FDIC, by its very nature as a “safety net”, encourages the exact behavior they’re looking to “penalize”. Keeping in mind also that the Obama administration is coming down on banks from the other end with some tax scheme, it makes you wonder why the hell we bailed them out in the first place.
Blame the academics and these brainiacs in Washington who believe there’s nothing wrong with the fundamental framework of American banking, least of all that any of it could possibly be attributed to the attitude that Uncle Sam will always come to banks’ rescue. Here’s hoping the bankers paid attention in Econ 101 when they went over that whole “no such thing as a free lunch” part.
FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said there was “a broad consensus of academic studies,” that concluded “poorly designed compensation structures can misalign incentives and induce risk taking.”
Bair said called a study of “compensation structure, rather than levels of compensation,” a fair approach.
Maybe I just don’t have the auditor mind needed to wrap around a concept like this but WTF is that supposed to mean?! The FDIC epitomizes moral hazard so how in the hell is it that the FDIC is the one coming in to tap banks to cover said risks? I’m not rationalizing banks’ behavior (I remind dear reader here that the top 5 banks in America hold $275 trillion in notional derivative exposure) but, uh, just because Sheila needs to cover the next round of failed banks doesn’t make it appropriate to start regulating now.
Has she ever heard of too little too late? How about too much too late?
As I have already pointed out, we all know who is going to ultimately pay for this and it sure as hell isn’t the banks. Bend over, the next round is about to hit and it’ll hurt less if you’re prepared.
Editor’s note: Adrienne Gonzalez is founder and managing editor of Jr Deputy Accountant as well as regular contributor to leading financial/investment sites like Seeking Alpha and GoldmanSachs666. By day, she teaches unlicensed accountants to pass the CPA exam, though what she does in her copious amounts of freetime in the evening is really none of your business. Follow her adventures in Fedbashing and CPA-wrangling on Twitter @adrigonzo but please don’t show up unannounced at her San Francisco office as she’s got a mean streak. Her favorite FASB is 166.
In honor of Bank Fail Friday, let’s take a look at our doubt over the FDIC continuing as a going concern. Sure, we know it’s technically a government agency and therefore not subject to the same sorts of worries as public companies but there is certainly something brewing here.
We are not in the business of auditing the financial statements of the FDIC, even if they provided such information. Frankly, if they did, we really aren’t equipped to analyze said statements. Be that as it may, you don’t need to be an expert to see that the FDIC is in a whole shit ton of trouble (yes, that is our qualified opinion).
More, after the jump
Remember Colonial Bank? Surely Sheila Bair has been up late since the news broke on Monday that they’d cooked their books, or something about TARP fraud (though the bank never received TARP funds after that TBW deal for $300 million fell through Friday). Maybe it was undercapitalization? Who keeps track of these things?
Anyway, the point here is that the FDIC well has run dry and there’s no magically conjuring up a Treasury line of credit. While Congress has offered up a $500 billion “line of credit” to our friends at the FDIC, that money technically does not exist. (Psst: hate to break it to Congress but yours truly is only a tad concerned that there may be trouble in the bond market ahead).
I’m no mathlete but this should be fairly simple to understand:
Colonial has about $25.5 billion in assets, while the FDIC has about $13 billion remaining in the fund. According to Sheila’s math, new FDIC fees levied against Too Big to Fail will net the fund about $27 billion this year. To put this into perspective, the FDIC lost $33.5 billion in 2008 to cover 25 bank failures. Add it up, as we’ve had 69 bank failures in 2009 to date. Carry the 1 and I believe we arrive at the following figure: the FDIC is screwed.
Like I said, someone might want to check my numbers but it doesn’t look good.
I could also point out that perhaps the FDIC should have chosen the “proactive” route and collected insurance premiums for the last 10 years instead of assuming the good times would last forever but again, not my jurisdiction.
Disclosure: the author has long since diversified her “investments” in the First National Bank of Her Mattress, thankyouverymuch.