Be careful what you wish for. That’s my modest advice to some bankers and their government regulators who want to ease up on bank oversight.
An article in the Wall Street Journal last week reported that several banks around the country are dropping the Federal Reserve as a regulator. The actions so far seem innocent enough, and perfectly reasonable in the examples mentioned, but they did conjure up some bad memories of how the housing bust – and subsequent global financial crisis – got started.
Here’s the story.
According to the Journal, Little Rock-based Bank of the Ozarks in June opted to ditch its holding-company structure, which means it is no longer regulated by the Fed. Now, as a bank only, and not a BHC, it will be regulated solely by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Saving money from having two layers of regulation was the main motivator for the bank. George Gleason, the bank’s CEO, said, “We didn’t really need to be regulated by both.”
The bank, which has about $21 billion in assets, is the largest bank to make such a move, but it’s not the only one. Continue reading "Let's Not Relive The Past The Hard Way"
The financial markets have been fixated for years at the prospect of interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve but have largely ignored the $4.5 trillion elephant in the room, namely the Fed’s gargantuan balance sheet. But last week several members of the Fed began publicly discussing their support to finally start winding down that massive portfolio.
Way back before the global financial crisis, the Fed’s portfolio held pretty steady in the high $800 billion to low $900 billion range. Then, as the crisis hit full force in the last three months of 2008 after the Lehman Brothers collapse, the portfolio more than doubled, ending that year at slightly north of $2 trillion. While the worst of the crisis may have been reached at that point, that was only the beginning of the balance sheet’s growth.
Between the end of 2008 until the end of 2012, the Fed’s portfolio grew gradually by another $800 billion or so, before spiking again, adding another $2 trillion over the next two years as the Fed embarked on quantitative easing. Eventually the portfolio reached $4.5 trillion, including both Treasury and mortgage-backed securities, at the end of 2014, where it has held largely steady ever since. Continue reading "What Happens When The Fed Starts Selling?"
Last November, shortly after the election, I wrote a column that discussed the “claustrophobic, one-dimensional, group-think atmosphere” at the Federal Reserve. “With just a couple of exceptions, everyone on the Fed, voting or non-voting, is an economist, teaches economics, or worked in the banking industry on one side or the other,” I wrote then. No business people, no small business owners, no one “who lives and works in the real world, who has to deal with the edicts the Fed hands down.”
“Wouldn’t that perspective – even one – be a useful new voice to be considered when making monetary policy?” I asked. Continue reading "Revamping the Fed: The Time is Now"
By The Associated Press
In 2008, as they faced imploding financial markets and a staggering economy, Federal Reserve policymakers occasionally lightened their mood with references to Monty Python, "Desperate Housewives," "Star Wars" villains and plastic surgeons in San Francisco's East Bay.
They also sketched sometimes varying pictures of the financial crisis, with Janet Yellen, now the Fed chair, among those who most accurately grasped the depth of the crisis at hand.
The Fed on Friday released transcripts from its 14 policy meetings during 2008, six of them emergency conference calls. It was a frantic year in which officials rescued investment bank Bear Stearns, bailed out insurer American International Group and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and allowed the venerable investment bank Lehman Brothers to fail in the biggest bankruptcy, in American history.
The documents offer some revealing behind-the-scenes looks at the Fed in action: Continue reading "Transcripts Show Fed Officials Easing Tension With Jokes"