Can It Happen Again? Emphatically, Yes

The last few weeks the financial press has been filled with articles noting the passing of the 10th anniversary of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. A few of the articles have been hand-wringing of the sort that if Lehman had only been rescued – like AIG – or merged with a strong commercial bank – like Merrill Lynch – the crisis would have never happened, or at least it wouldn’t have been so severe.

That’s wishful thinking. There was plenty of reckless and irresponsible behavior taking place on Wall Street to create the crisis that did develop, whether Lehman was saved or not. Like giving home mortgages to anyone who asked while creating securities backed by these often worthless loans, which only magnified the risk by a huge factor, then slapping a triple-A credit rating on them, so everyone was assured that everything was fine.

But most of the recent articles have been about whether such a crisis can happen again. And the answer is, unfortunately, absolutely. We may already be seeing the seeds being planted right before our very eyes, although I’m not sure how close we are to the next crisis. It certainly bears careful watching.

Boom-and-bust cycles are endemic to any free-market capitalist system anywhere, unfortunately, since they’re largely based on self-interest and, too often, greed. The only system where that is not the case is a planned or Communist one, where the economy is perpetually in bust mode. When the next bust will hit is anyone’s guess, but it seems with each passing day that we keep moving closer and closer to it, and not a whole lot is being done about it. Continue reading "Can It Happen Again? Emphatically, Yes"

Let's Not Relive The Past The Hard Way

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates


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"

What Happens When The Fed Starts Selling?

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates


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?"

Revamping the Fed: The Time is Now

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates


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"

Transcripts Show Fed Officials Easing Tension With Jokes

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"