Worldwide Business Search Engine


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Barack’s Reforms make Big Banks Cry

Being that I own hordes of bank stocks in my personal portfolio -- and that I work for one -- you might expect me to decry President Obama’s recent pronouncement that big banks will no longer be allowed to engage in certain high-risk trading. On the contrary, I think it’s a perfectly acceptable idea, one that Wall St. professionals have known the practicality of for years.

In 1987, when markets crashed and big banks were “saved,” many thought that this set a dangerous precedent. It was believed that banks, confident that they would be bailed out no matter what their level of gambling, would start acting like hedge funds and go for broke. And they did.

So, while I am dismayed that my annual investment returns may decline a few points due to the proposed changes, I am also grateful that I won’t come back from the bathroom to find my stocks down 80%. In short, I expect my U.S. bank stocks to become more like the banks themselves: large, boring, and immensely profitable.

“If we bail out this one (Penn Square Bank)…then the markets will know that, no matter what risks they take, the government will bail them out. Eventually, it’s going to lead down the road to nationalization of the banking system.” William Isaac, FDIC chairman, July 1982.

“CMO equity is a particularly slippery mortgage investment. The CMO stands for Collateralized Mortgage Obligation, but bond salesmen call it ‘toxic waste.’” Michael Lewis, The Money Culture

“I would confidently predict that most of the derivative books of major banks cannot be liquidated for anything like what they’re carried on the books at. When the denouement will happen and how severe it will be, I don’t know. But I fear the consequences could be fearsome.” Charlie Munger, Poor Charlie’s Almanac, 2005