The Market Ticker - Commentary on The Capital Markets
2009-11-13 11:27 by Karl Denninger
in Banking System , 8 references Ignore this thread

It never, ever ends, does it?

Our company, J.P. Morgan Chase, employs more than 220,000 people, serves well over 100 million customers, lends hundreds of millions of dollars each day and has operations in nearly 100 countries. And if some unforeseen circumstance should put this firm at risk of collapse, I believe we should be allowed to fail. As Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner recently put it, "No financial system can operate efficiently if financial institutions and investors assume that government will protect them from the consequences of failure." The term "too big to fail" must be excised from our vocabulary.

But ending the era of "too big to fail" does not mean that we must somehow cap the size of financial-services firms. Scale can create value for shareholders; for consumers, who are beneficiaries of better products, delivered more quickly and at less cost; for the businesses that are our customers; and for the economy as a whole. Artificially limiting the size of an institution, regardless of the business implications, does not make sense. The goal should be a regulatory system that allows financial institutions to meet the needs of individual and institutional customers while ensuring that even the biggest bank can be allowed to fail in a way that does not put taxpayers or the broader economy at risk.

The solution is very simple, but you will notice that Jamie doesn't bring it up.  That's because he finds it unacceptable.

What's that solution?

Prohibit as a matter of Federal Law, and enforce it vigorously under pain of immediately dissolution, THE LENDING OF MONEY UNSECURED THAT EXCEEDS THE FIRM'S CAPITAL.

This is in fact the only way you can both end "too big to fail" and not constrain size or influence.

It is also the definition of sound lending.

It is also how lending was done prior to the banksters corrupting the government and literally usurping the sovereign credit of The United States.

As we have seen clearly over the last several years, financial institutions, including those not considered "too big," can pose serious risks for our markets because of their interconnectivity. A cap on the size of an institution will not prevent that risk. Properly structured resolution authority, however, can help halt the spread of one company's failure to another and to the broader economy.

A requirement that you hold one dollar of actual capital for each dollar of unsecured obligation you have, marked to market nightly, absolutely prevents this risk.

That actual excess capital can be lost but there can be no systemic bleed-through as your capital then backs your bets in each and every instance.

While the strategy of artificial limits may sound simple, it would undermine the goals of economic stability, job creation and consumer service that lawmakers are trying to promote. Let's be clear: Banks should not be big for the sake of being big. Moreover, regardless of a company's size, it must be well managed. As we've seen in many industries, companies that grow for the sake of growth or that expand into areas outside their core business strategy often stumble. On the other hand, companies that build scale for the benefit of their customers and shareholders more often succeed over time.

Then prove it by putting your own capital at risk in each and every unsecured lending transaction.  For each loan you write where the collateral is worth less than the outstanding amount of the loan, at any point in time, hold one dollar of your own capital as security against that loan's default and the bleed-through effects on the economy.

And it's not just multinational corporations that rely on such a large scale. J.P. Morgan Chase and others supply capital to states and municipalities as well as to firms of all sizes. Smaller banks play a vital role in our nation's economy, too -- but a fragmented banking system cannot always provide the level of service, breadth of products and speed of execution that clients often need. Capping the size of American banks won't eliminate the needs of big businesses; it will force them to turn to foreign banks that won't face the same restrictions.

Yes, and JP Morgan/Chase will allegedly bribe states and municipalities (aka Jefferson County Alabama) to "obtain" that business and earn a 400% profit beyond the market rate too.  Yes, I know, you didn't admit guilt in the "settlement", but you did pay $75 million and forfeit another half-billion+ in termination fees.  Is it "usual and customary" for your company to pay nearly three quarters of a billion dollars in forfeits and fines when you did nothing wrong?  Our states and municipalities would be far better off without your firm's "services."

Global economic growth requires the services of big financial firms. It also requires that big financial firms be allowed to fail.


A one-sentence Bill that, were it to become law, would instantly end "too big to fail" and yet let you grow as large as you'd like - provided you are gambling with your own money and not the sovereign credit of The United States.

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