Do not withhold plans for messing with the global financial system from the Financial Services Authority. (Until Monday, anyway.) Read more »
You know what would have made the financial crisis even more exciting? A proliferation of smaller British banks begging for a little help or full-on nationalization. In any event, the FSA is apparently going to keep busy right up until the moment that George Osborne shuts the lights. Read more »
It’s getting to be a struggle to be amused by Libor manipulation chats. RBS took its lumps today, and the CFTC and FSA orders are full of quotes, and you can read them in various round-ups, but, meh. Even Bart Chilton is bored; today’s imagery (“sends a signal to those who would monkey around with benchmark rates … much more than a slap on the wrist …”) is a letdown after his UBS masterpiece (“Financial sector violations are hurtling toward us like a spaceship moving through the stars”) just a few weeks ago. I get it! Everyone manipulated Libor! In writing! And then they were like “heh, fukin awexome man, u manipluated libor, gud work, i sexx u now, w champain.” Fabulous.1
We’ve talked a lot about bank capital today but there’s still time for one quick addendum. First, though, two rough-and-ready equations:
- Capital = cash paid in by shareholders plus retained earnings
- Capital ratio = capital divided by assets
The first equation explains my puzzlement at the claim that Deutsche Bank “book[ed] a loss to boost its capital ratio without selling shares;” it’s arithmetically impossible to boost your capital by losing money, though you can (separately) boost your capital ratio by fiddling with the denominator.
The important thing about the second equation is that, for banks, the ratio is well under 1. So if your capital ratio is a relatively robust 10%, that means that 90% of your total assets are funded with borrowed money, and 10% are funded with cash from shareholders and retained earnings. Some people dislike this system.
Anyway there are various semi-magical ways to monkey with the denominator but there is one simple and obvious way to monkey with the numerator – the actual amount of capital that you have – and it is this:
- Take some money,
- dress it up in a fancy costume, and
- issue some new shares to the the now-cleverly-disguised money.
You have magically transformed Assets (money) – which, remember, are 90%+ funded with borrowed money – into Capital. This has perpetual-motion-machine properties,1 so it’s pretty good.
Also it is, like, wildly wildly wildly illegal. Or, I mean, it’s pretty illegal as I just outlined it above, but if you put a fancy enough costume on the money maybe that makes it okay.2 Anyway draw your own conclusions about this: Read more »
UBS Traders Convinced Brokers To Give Other Banks Fake Estimates Of Those Other Banks’ Fake Estimates Of LiborBy Matt Levine
The UBS Libor settlements are really a garden of infinite delights; there are many semi-literate, fully criminal emails and IMs and you can read them here or here or here or here or in the FSA Final Notice. It is hard to pick a favorite thing but here’s a quirky one from the FSA:
58. Certain [interdealer] Brokers also routinely disseminated their views about where LIBOR would set based on their market knowledge, including information about transactions in the relevant cash markets. These market views, commonly referred to as “run throughs”, were of assistance to market participants, including Panel Banks when determining their JPY LIBOR submissions. A number of Panel Banks relied on run throughs and on occasions some of them simply adopted them when making their submissions.
59. In addition to asking Brokers to make specific requests of Panel Banks for specific submissions, Trader A also asked Brokers to tailor their run throughs to benefit UBS’s JPY positions.
So: Trader A, the yen swaps trader who seems to have been the worst1 Libor manipulator at UBS, sometimes asked his brokers to lie when they wrote down their guesses of the rate that other people would guess those other people could borrow at. UBS in general, and Trader A in particular, seem to have been all-around horrible, granted, but it’s worth taking a step back to notice the oddity of the system they lived in:
David Einhorn’s $7.7 billion hedge fund Greenlight Capital Inc. disclosed a short position of 4.4 percent in the shares of Daily Mail and General Trust Plc, which publishes the U.K.’s second-biggest selling daily newspaper.
Greenlight’s bearish bet on London-based Daily Mail and General Trust, disclosed today on the website of the U.K.’s Financial Services Authority, was the biggest short position revealed by any hedge fund against a U.K. company under rules that took effect last week.
And yet there’s also this:
What are you doing, England? Don’t you know that when David Einhorn is short a stock, that stock goes down? There are rules here you know; today’s mild drop is not enough to comply. Read more »
Although not authorized to invest company cash in trades, Steve Perkins, a long standing, senior broker at PVM Oil Futures, had managed to spend $520 million on oil futures contracts throughout the night of June 30, 2009, the FSA said today. On the morning of the 30th, an admin clerk called Perkins to ask why he had bought 7 million barrels of crude during the night. Perkins had no recollection of the transactions, and it turned out that he had made the trades during a “drunken blackout,” according to the FSA. By the time PVM realized the transactions had not been authorized by a client, they had incurred losses of $9,763,252. Between the hours of 1:22 a.m. and 3:41 a.m., Perkins gradually bought 69 percent of the global market, while driving prices up from $71.40 to $73.05, by bidding higher each time. At 6:30 a.m., presumably sobering up and realizing what he’d done, he sent a message to his managing director claiming an unwell relative meant he would not be able to make it into work. Following an official investigation Perkins admitted to having a drink problem, had his trading license revoked for five years, and was given a fine of £72,000 ($116,878). The FSA has said that they will re-approve his license after the five-year period, if he has recovered from his drinking problem, although they warned that,“Mr Perkins poses an extreme risk to the market when drunk.” [CNBC, earlier]