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It Is Time to Nationalize the Insolvent Banking Systems by Nouriel Roubini

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Better Believe It Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Feb-11-09 02:24 PM
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It Is Time to Nationalize the Insolvent Banking Systems by Nouriel Roubini

It Is Time to Nationalize Insolvent Banking Systems
by Nouriel Roubini
February 10, 2009

A year ago I predicted that losses by US financial institutions would be at least $1 trillion and possibly as high as $2 trillion. At that time the consensus such estimates as being grossly exaggerated as the nave optimists had in mind about $200 billion of expected subprime mortgage losses. But, as I pointed out then, losses would rapidly mount well beyond subprime mortgages as the US and global economy would spin into a most severe financial crisis and an ugly recession. I then argued that we would then see rising losses on subprime, near prime and prime mortgages; commercial real estate; credit cards, auto loans, student loans; industrial and commercial loans; corporate bonds; sovereign bonds and state and local government bonds; and massive losses on all of the assets (CDOs, CLOs, ABS, and the entire alphabet of credit derivatives) that had securitized such loans. By now writedowns by US banks have already passed the $1 trillion mark (my floor estimate of losses) and now institutions such as the IMF and Goldman Sachs predict losses of over $2 trillion (close to my original expected ceiling for such losses).

But if you think that $2 trillion is already huge, our latest estimates RGE Monitor (available in a paper for our clients) suggest that total losses on loans made by U.S. financial firms and the fall in the market value of the assets they are holding will be at their peak about $3.6 trillion. The U.S. banks and broker dealers are exposed to half of this figure, or $1.8 trillion; the rest is borne by other financial institutions in the US and abroad. The capital backing the banks assets was last fall only $1.4 trillion, leaving the U.S. banking system some $400 billion in the hole, or close to zero even after the government and private sector recapitalization of such banks. Thus, another $1.4 trillion will be needed to brink back the capital of banks to the level they had before the crisis; and such massive additional recapitalization is needed to resolve the credit crunch and restore lending to the private sector. So these figures suggests that the US banking system is effectively insolvent in the aggregate; most of the UK banking system looks insolvent too; and many other banks in continental Europe are also insolvent.

The very cumbersome U.S. Treasury proposal to dispose of toxic assets - that was presented by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner today - can be best understood (subject to the large fog of uncertainty about its many details) as combining taking the toxic asset off the banks balance sheet with providing government guarantees to those private investors that will purchase them (and/or public capital provision to fund a public-private bad bank that would purchase such assets). But this plan is so non-transparent and complicated that it received a thumbs down by the markets as soon as it was announced today as all major US equity indices went sharply down.

The main problem with the Treasury plan that in some ways it may resemble the deal between Merrill Lynch (ML) and Lone Star (LS) - is the following: Merrill sold its CDOs to Lone Star for 22 cents on the dollar; and even in that case ML remained on the hook in case the value of the assets were to fall below 22 as LS paid initially only 11 cents (i.e. ML guaranteed the LS downside risk). But today a bank like Citi has similar CDOs that, until recently, were still sitting on its books, at a deluded and fake value of 60 cents. So, since the government knows that no one in the private sector would buy those most toxic assets at 60 cents it may have to promise a guarantee (formally or informally by putting capital into a public-private bad bank that will receive extra lending from the private sector) to limit the downside risk to private investors from purchasing such assets. But that implicit or explicit guarantee would be hugely expensive if you need to induce private folks to buy at 60 what is worth only 20 or even 11. So the new Treasury plan may end up being again a royal rip-off of the taxpayer if the guarantee is excessive given the true value of the underlying assets. And if instead the implicit or explicit guarantee is not excessive (if the public-private bank truly tries to discover the value of such assets as in the formal Treasury proposal) the banks need to sell the toxic assets at their true underlying value that implies massive writedowns that will uncover the insolvency of such banks. I.e. the emperor has no clothes and a true valuation of the bad assets without a huge taxpayers bailout of the shareholders and unsecured creditors of banks implies that banks are bankrupt and should be taken over by the government.

Please read the complete article at:

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liberalmuse Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Feb-11-09 02:36 PM
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1. Thank you. I was trying to remember his name earlier.
Now I'm off for some reading!
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blueclown Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Feb-11-09 05:45 PM
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2. Roubini is a brilliant man.
Glad to see that someone as respected as him is reccomending nationalization.
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Waiting For Everyman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Feb-11-09 06:27 PM
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3. Yup, they caused everybody else's losses, now make them eat their own.
Write down their assets to what they really are. Until we do, they'll only try to make up their losses to save their face by overcharging us consumers for it. Enough.
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