TARP Charts!

The Federal Reserve has this new paper out about TARP that does a bit of highly suggestive eyebrow raising about some banks that shall remain nameless. They start from the awkward fact that TARP wanted everything in one bag but didn't want the bag to be heavy, or as they put it: The conflicted nature of the TARP objectives reflects the tension between different approaches to the financial crisis. While recapitalization was directed at returning banks to a position of financial stability, these banks were also expected to provide macro-stabilization by converting their new cash into risky loans. TARP was a use of public tax-payer funds and some public opinion argued that the funds should be used to make loans, so that the benefit of the funds would be passed through directly to consumers and businesses. So you might reasonably ask: were TARP funds locked in the vault to return the recipient banks to financial health, or blown on loans to risky ventures, or other? Well, here is Figure 1 (aggregate commercial and industrial loans from commercial banks in the U.S.): So ... not loaned then. But that's not important! The authors are actually looking not primarily at aggregate amounts of loans but at riskiness of loans and here's what they get:
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The Federal Reserve has this new paper out about TARP that does a bit of highly suggestive eyebrow raising about some banks that shall remain nameless. They start from the awkward fact that TARP wanted everything in one bag but didn't want the bag to be heavy, or as they put it:

The conflicted nature of the TARP objectives reflects the tension between different approaches to the financial crisis. While recapitalization was directed at returning banks to a position of financial stability, these banks were also expected to provide macro-stabilization by converting their new cash into risky loans. TARP was a use of public tax-payer funds and some public opinion argued that the funds should be used to make loans, so that the benefit of the funds would be passed through directly to consumers and businesses.

So you might reasonably ask: were TARP funds locked in the vault to return the recipient banks to financial health, or blown on loans to risky ventures, or other? Well, here is Figure 1 (aggregate commercial and industrial loans from commercial banks in the U.S.):

So ... not loaned then. But that's not important! The authors are actually looking not primarily at aggregate amounts of loans but at riskiness of loans and here's what they get:

Our results indicate that TARP had a surprising effect on bank risk-taking. In our event study and in our regression results, we find evidence that the average risk of loan originations at large TARP banks increased relative to non-TARP banks through 2009 whereas the average risk at small TARP banks decreased relative to non-TARP banks. Evidence also indicates that the interest spreads on loans from the large TARP banks increased substantially following the injections.

This may reflect the conflicting influences of government ownership on bank behavior. Although TARP money was given to increase bank stability and reduce incentives to take excessive risks, it was also given with the understanding that the funds would be used to expand lending during a period of increased risk. These two objectives have an opposing influence on bank risk-taking that may have led to a different effect of TARP on lending by large and small banks. Large banks may also have been more susceptible to the moral hazard associated with government bailout funds given to large “too-big-to-fail” institutions.

Hee hee. Also fun is that large banks reduced lending vs. non-TARP banks while increasing the riskiness of their loans. Lending:

(Don't worry about, like, units. Red line is TARP banks, dotted blue line is non-TARP banks, vertical line is time of TARP receipt, red line goes down faster than blue but recovers 18 months after TARP.) Aaaaand risk:

(Again, units will drive you mad if you let them; don't. Up is riskier.)

I pass this paper along to you in the spirit of copying and pasting charts into a Dealbreaker post so that you'll have charts to look at. It's interesting enough, I guess, but I don't really get worked up about its moral hazard story. If your goal was to measure, like, "did the biggest TARP recipient banks view TARP as a license to do whatever they wanted because they'd always get a government bailout?," one thing you probably wouldn't measure would be commercial loans because that is not ... like ... that is not the particular casino where I'd take my government money if I was feeling frisky, and I doubt I'm alone in that view. That seems to be the sort of business where you, y'know, invest $100 to get $100 back in five years and L+400 along the way. Everything's relative, but that doesn't strike me as a cesspit of moral hazard for people who have access to, like, CDO-squareds.

But the data is kind of fun and maybe you can tell a story from it. I liked this aside:

It is interesting to note that the average risk rating of loan originations at the TARP banks is significantly greater than the average risk rating of loan originations at the non-TARP banks both before and after the TARP injections.

Yes! Interesting! Riskier banks needed bailouts. (And then kept being riskier.)

Maybe one story you'd tell is - well, here is small bank lending activity:

You'll notice that small banks used their TARP money to lend more money to companies, which was the point, unless it wasn't. Also they tended to make less risky loans than non-TARP recipients.

We talked a while back about this cool paper basically demonstrating that bank capital regimes were driving banks to put more of their money into non-lending activities because those activities often get better capital treatment than lending. The author, Patrick Slovik, wrote:

[I]nnovative engineering of regulatory risks and the move to unconventional business practices by systemically important banks has been a consistent trend for almost two decades and was not limited to a few years preceding the financial crisis. The trend reached its lowest point at the onset of the financial crisis when the capital requirements of systemically important banks were determined based on the historically lowest amounts of risk-weighted assets (relative to total assets). Risk-weighted regulation leads to unintended consequences as it encourages innovation designed to bypass the regulatory regime rather than to serve non-financial enterprises and households.

So "systemically important banks" got up to most of their getting up to no good outside of commercial lending, which will probably come as no surprise to most of you, and they were driven to do so by capital requirements.

After TARP, or so my imaginary story goes, little banks, which were always basically in the commercial lending business and were now better capitalized than before TARP, could go make more loans while still looking financially stable, and so they did. On the other hand big banks - systemically important banks - now were better capitalized and so decided to make fewer, though riskier, loans. So where did their TARP money go? Well what if there was a way for them to put that money to work - in some sense, though not the sense involving lending it to companies - while also further improving their capital position, pleasing their TARPmasters and also maybe paying TARP back quicker? That seems like a good imaginary story.

The Effect of TARP on Bank Risk-Taking [Fed]

Related

Let's Talk About: Basel III

The Fed last night unleashed eight zillion pages of Basel III implementation on the universe and I'm tempted to be like "open thread, tell us about your hopes and fears for capital regulation." So do that! Or don't because it is super boring, that is also a valid approach. Still I guess we should discuss. Starting slow though. Banks have to have capital, meaning that they have to fund some of their assets with things that are long-lived and loss-absorbing, like common equity, rather than with things that have to be paid back soon and at face value. The reason for this is that the rest of banks' assets are funded with things that we really do want to be paid back soon and at face value, like deposits, and if the value of those assets declines you don't want those deposits to be wiped out. The rules say that you need capital equal to a percentage of your assets. The game is deciding (1) what that percentage is, (2) what is capital (proceeds from selling common stock, and actual earnings, yes, but, like, deferred tax assets?), and (3) how you count assets (you might want more capital to shield you from losses in, say, social media stocks than you would to shield you from losses in Treasury bonds, so regulators use "risk-weighted assets," so that $1 of corporate bonds counts as $1 of assets, $1 of Treasuries counts as $0 of assets, and $1 of Facebook stock counts as $3 of assets*). Anyway, here are the required capital levels:

Facebook Will Take Free Money From Banks But Don't Expect It To Show Any Gratitude

The Wall Street Journal today discovered that universal banks that lend money to companies for cheap tend to want investment banking business in return for that lending and I guess that's a scandal: As the market for technology IPOs revs up and the biggest banks seek to capitalize on the size of their balance sheets, the practice of selecting underwriters that also provided loans is coming under focus, spurred by Facebook's IPO process. Critics of the practice say the choices aren't accidental and reflect the "you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours" way that Wall Street works. Bankers, for their part, say they aren't allowed to make loans on the condition that they receive other business, but borrowers can use the loans as a factor in choosing underwriters. Some bankers say that lending is just one of the many services they offer companies. At Facebook, the credit line played a role in the batting order for underwriters, said a banker who worked on an underwriting pitch to the company. When I was young and naive and pitching for underwriting business against banks that did lots of lending, I always thought that banks "aren't allowed to make loans on the condition that they receive other business, but borrowers can use the loans as a factor in choosing underwriters" thing was ripe for a scandal. I still sort of think that: I just do not believe that no client coverage banker has ever said "we'll be in your credit facility but only if you promise us underwriting or M&A business." (Some people agree with me!) And, as the Journal notes, that would be a criminal violation of the antitrust laws, which is unspeakably weird but there you go. But if you ask a banker who has been carefully and recently briefed on anti-tying regulations, he will probably tell you something like "we don't demand underwriting business to provide a loan. Companies demand loans to get underwriting business." And, as the Journal says, that's not illegal.

Citi Will Try The Stress Test Again With A $9bn Stock Buyback

More stress tests, bleargh. I guess the news is that Citi "failed", though I can't get all that excited by that because it didn't exactly "fail" in the sense of now it's being forced to raise capital / broken up / burned to the ground. Instead it failed assuming it follows the capital plan it submitted to the Fed, which is clearly a capital-lowering rather than capital-raising plan. I ballpark it at $10bn of share repurchases and dividends,* which is ... well, it's pretty big for Citi. So they can just not do that then. Or not do quite as much of that, which seems to be their plan: In light of the Federal Reserve’s actions, Citi will submit a revised Capital Plan to the Federal Reserve later this year, as required by the applicable regulations. The Federal Reserve advised Citi that it has no objection to our continuing the existing dividend levels on our preferred stock and our common stock, and we plan to do so, subject to approval by the Board of Directors each quarter. The Federal Reserve also advised that it has no objection to Citi redeeming certain series of outstanding trust preferred securities, as Citi proposed in its Capital Plan. We plan to engage further with the Federal Reserve to understand their new stress loss models. We strongly encourage the public release of these models and the associated benchmarks and assumptions. We believe greater transparency in this process will best serve all banking institutions and their shareholders as well as the international regulatory community and market participants, and will encourage a level playing field globally. There are at least two ha! moments in that snotty last paragraph. First there's the fact that the Fed had planned to release the stress test results on Thursday and got gun-jumped by Jamie Dimon. So much for Fed transparency. But also, specifically, as people are all running around suing each other about the Fed maybe kind of encouraging bank CEOs to hide material information from investors, it is odd that the Fed would have the stress test results and sit on them for two days. Imagine the scenario where Jamie Dimon, Vikram Pandit, and the Fed all know that JPM passed and was going to do a largeish buyback, while Citi failed and was going to do a ... I guess somewhat smaller buyback - and they didn't tell anyone from today until Thursday. If you sold JPM to buy C today, wouldn't you be kind of annoyed?**

Banks Prove That They Are Not Too Big To Fail By Saying "We Can Fail" On A Piece Of Paper, Moving On

One way you could spend this slow week is reading the "living wills" submitted by a bunch of banks telling regulators how to wind them up if they go under. Don't, though: they're about the most boring and least informative things imaginable and I am angry that I read them.* Here for instance is how JPMorgan would wind itself up if left to its own devices**: (1) It would just file for bankruptcy and stiff its non-deposit creditors (at the holding company and then, if necessary, at the bank). (2) If after stiffing its non-deposit creditors it didn't have enough money to pay its depositors it would sell its highly attractive businesses in a competitive sale to willing buyers who would pay top dollar. This seems wrong, no? And not just in the sense of "in my opinion that would be sort of difficult, what with people freaking out about JPMorgan going bankrupt and its highly attractive businesses having landing it in, um, bankruptcy." It's wrong in the sense that it's the opposite of having a plan for dealing with banks being "too big to fail": it's premised on an assumption that the bank is not too big to fail. If JPMorgan runs into trouble that it can't get out of without taxpayer support, it'll just file for bankruptcy like anybody else. Depositors will be repaid (if they're under FDIC limits); non-depositor creditors will be screwed just like they would be on a failure of Second Community Bank of Kenosha.