One reason that a lot of people are enamored with the Brown-Vitter approach to bank regulation is that it’s very simple, and everyone deep down sort of thinks that the simple answer has to be better than the complicated one. “You don’t need risk-based capital or stress tests or liquidity coverage ratios or VaR models or multiple tiers of capital or bail-in debt,” Brown and Vitter promise. “You just need to make sure that big banks don’t have assets of more than ~6x their common equity.”
Some people disagree1 and by all means feel free to question those people’s motives. Certainly some people benefit from complexity, bankers above all but also banking regulators, former regulators, and I suppose me too. Simple banking seems really boring, though maybe Brown-Vitter simple banking wouldn’t be.
Anyway that seems like the background to this interesting speech by Fed governor Daniel Tarullo about financial stability, which you could if you like read as sort of the Fed’s initial response to Brown-Vitter. And it’s not not that; the speech engages with Brown-Vitter on the capital stuff, basically defending the status quo of risk-based regulatory capital while conceding a little to Brown-Vitter’s call for higher capital.2
But he seems at least as focused on another source of systemic risk: not banks but wholesale funding markets, not capital but liquidity. You could see why the Fed might be focused there. Read more »
Some low-level employee at the Federal Reserve is having a very bad day today, and is undoubtedly receiving a refresher course in the central bank’s e-mail system if he or she has not already been fired or turned over to the FBI. Read more »
Jeff and Chuck, re-breaking old ground.
It was a banner day to hear the increasingly tired arguments for and against the Fed’s stimulus policies from the horses’ mouths in some of the U.S.’s more scenic locales.
First, to Alabama, where Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said things were going great. Read more »
The Federal Reserve has ordered Citigroup Inc to better police for the risk of money laundering, part of a broad U.S. regulatory crackdown on the potential for illicit money flows. The Fed told Citigroup’s board to submit a plan within 60 days to improve its oversight of companywide anti-money laundering compliance, according to a consent order dated March 21, but only made public on Tuesday. The order expands upon similar orders directed at several Citigroup units in 2012. The plan should include funding personnel and resources based on the risks of different units – policies that instill a “proactive approach” to identifying and managing money-laundering risks – and measures to ensure employees adhere to those compliance policies, the Fed said. [Reuters]
The Beard presides.
The Federal Reserve’s new taste for increased, if delayed, transparency has found a new venue: Flickr. Check it out for four-month old pictures of Ben & Friends. [Flickr via WSJ]
One of the nice things about last year’s Fed bank stress tests was that they were released, and everyone was like “OMG Citi failed!!,” and then we all calmed down and realized that all that meant was that Citi’s capital return plans had failed, so it couldn’t launch a big share buyback, but it wasn’t going to be smashed into dust as a warning to its compatriots. That turned out to be cold comfort for Vikram Pandit but was soothing for the rest of us. This year, in part to avoid the Vikram thing, the rules have changed: today the straight-up stress test results were released, while the Fed will approve or reject capital return proposals next week, and there’ll be a lot of weird disclosure gamesmanship in the interim. Early signs point to Citi being out of the doghouse, and Goldman possibly being in it.
Also Ally Bank failed, sorry! Legit failed, not failed pro forma for capital return. So, smashed into dust.
Here is a chart you may or may not find amusing:
This chart is intended to answer the question: how many a 1-in-100 terrible days would these banks need to have in order to get the Fed’s estimated trading losses?1 Read more »
There’s a lot to choose from but I’m going to say that the very best thing about AIG’s pretending it might sue the government last week, and then not doing it, is that then it actually sued the government:
American International Group Inc. filed a lawsuit against a Federal Reserve vehicle created during AIG’s bailout that held some of its troubled mortgage bonds, in a dispute over rights to sue over the bonds. … At issue is whether AIG, in selling billions of dollars in troubled mortgage bonds to the New York Fed in late 2008, transferred its rights to sue for losses it incurred on the securities.
So it’s not quite as big as the Hank Greenberg give-me-back-my-$25-billion lawsuit that AIG opted out of, but it’s pretty big; AIG thinks it has over $7 billion in damages against Bank of America/Countrywide alone. If it’s right, either AIG or the Fed should be entitled to about $7bn of BofA’s cash. So call this 1/4 as big as joining the Greenberg suit, though considerably less than 1/4 as offensive.
One way to resolve this dispute amicably might be to conclude that both AIG and the Fed should be entitled to $7bn of BofA’s cash. After all, who decided that only one investor gets to sue BofA per mortgage? We’ve talked before about the fact that BofA’s liability for Countrywide mortgages does not seem to be limited by the amount of mortgages that Countrywide wrote; several lawsuits now cover overlapping pools of mortgages. How much BofA ends up paying for those mortgages will depend on political and PR factors, on the existence of embarrassing emails, on technicalities of contract drafting and legal doctrines, and on how much money BofA, y’know, has, but it seems unlikely that it will depend on some sort of one-mortgage-one-lawsuit principle. You write enough bad mortgages and you give up your expectations of tidiness. Read more »
Clear your Junes and Decembers. Read more »
There’s little drama about what the Federal Reserve will say on Wednesday: It’s going to keep buying bonds in its effort to stimulate the economy. But what will the central bank be saying by what it doesn’t say? Read more »
I guess there’s some competition but this to me is clearly the chart of the day:
Ha, no, not really. But actually it is pretty neat:
The Federal Reserve on Friday released blank templates showing the format of the two charts it will use on January 25 to report Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) participants’ projections of the appropriate target federal funds rate. It also released a draft of an explanatory note that will accompany the projections.
The first chart, which will have shaded bars when released on January 25, will show FOMC participants’ projections for the timing of the initial increase in the target federal funds rate. The second chart, which will have dots representing policymakers’ individual projections when released on January 25, will show participants’ views of the appropriate path of the federal funds rate over the next several years and in the longer run.
Bars and dots! What’s not to like? The actual form, in its forlorn blankness, has the look of an exam you’re supposed to fill out,* and there’s this: Read more »