The lessons for today? So far, the Treasury and the Federal Reserve have done a good job of consolidating the commercial and investment banking sector into four giants: Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. But based on those banks’ continued depressed stock prices and the high cost of credit they are being forced to pay, it is clear that the market is not yet convinced of their health.
Instead of printing up money to create a huge, unwieldy “bad bank,” I would recommend creating separate bad banks for each of these four institutions (and perhaps some others), and financing them by having the government assume an amount of each good bank’s corporate debt equal to the value of the troubled assets put into the bad banks.
It would work this way: The managements of each of the four banks would be given a one-time opportunity to sell any assets (from vanilla domestic corporate bonds to the most exotic foreign derivatives) to a new bad bank owned entirely by the government. The only condition would be that the four big banks would have to convey the assets at year-end, audited book values, not at some guess of what they might be worth down the road.
While these assets are “toxic” to the banks right now because they are illiquid, volatile and at depressed prices, the government can hold on to them until they regain value, making it an investment for the taxpayer that could pay off handsomely in the end. The public would have transparency, as it would know what the assets are and how they are liquidated over time.
Read it all.
Posted February 1, 2009 at 2:14 pm
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