What If No One Came?

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It strikes us that the PPIP plan requires a certain faith by the administration. Specifically, that balance sheets are not actually so underwater that even a 30% subsidy is a hollow gesture. What's more, how sure is the administration that actual price discovery is something that any of these institutions actually want? Clearly, given the seller-financing leverage shell-game baked into the plan, the hope is that bids will buoy up. The problem, however, was perfectly highlighted on today's FDIC call.
What, a banker effectively asked, if his participation were to "blow a hole in the capital?" Would capital requirements be waived or adjusted to keep the institution from running afoul? (Probably not). The meaning was somewhat veiled, but the broader implication was that actual price discovery would so impact the balance sheet and impact equity capital so negatively as to reveal this particular institution to be liver sausage.
What about bids or asks that resulted in no actual transaction? Would they, one voice trembled, constitute... (gulp, deep breath)... pricing data sufficient to trigger mark-to-market treatment? (Could be!)
As if on cue, another questioner wondered if the FDIC could force participation. (Probably not). You could almost feel the exhale of held breath.
Would participation exempt an institution from special examination? (Laughter). No exhale on this one.
Could it be that the biggest problem confronting the nation isn't that Goldman Sachs might make money buying assets in the PPIP because Tim "The Safecracker" Geithner is in league with the devil? What if almost no one participated at all? One side of us thinks that we are reading too much into all this. Another thinks that if you can read between the lines you can almost hear the cracks widening.

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