September 27, 2008
Elaine Meinel Supkis
I spent 8 hours with no breaks, observing the US House as it tried to deal with the complete collapse of the entire US banking system. While debating the $700 Billion Bank Bail Out Bill, I was astounded at the lack of knowledge, the shallow discussions, the stone-walling, the wailing of Gollum Sachs complaining about not sleeping, but no discussion as to how Congress enabled and assisted in this collapse. So here is a comprehensive article about just ONE aspect of this historic banking disaster: the death of the Glass-Steagall Act and how it enabled the banking lending bubble.
The bills were introduced in the Senate by Phil Gramm (R-TX) and in the House of Representatives by James Leach (R-IA) and Thomas Bliley (R-VA). The bills were passed by a 54-44 vote largely along party lines with Republican support in the Senate and by a 343-86 vote in the House of Representatives. Nov 4, 1999: After passing both the Senate and House the bill was moved to a conference committee to work out the differences between the Senate and House versions. Democrats agreed to support the bill only after Republicans agreed to strengthen provisions of the Community Reinvestment Act and address certain privacy concerns.
The final bipartisan bill resolving the differences was passed in the Senate and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on November 12, 1999.
The banking industry had been seeking the repeal of Glass-Steagall since at least the 1980s. In 1987 the Congressional Research Service prepared a report which explored the case for preserving Glass-Steagall and the case against preserving the act.
Many of the largest banks, brokerages, and insurance companies desired the Act at the time. The justification was that individuals usually put more money into investments when the economy is doing well, but they put most of their money into savings accounts when the economy turns bad. With the new Act, they would be able to do both 'savings' and 'investment' at the same financial institution, which would be able to do well in both good and bad economic times.
The Gramm-Leach bill was a 100% GOP affair. Many commentators on the right would like to make this affair Bill Clinton's responsibility. The bipartisan nature of the vote for this bill definitely puts a lot of responsibility on both parties. But the initiative for the impetus behind this and the bankruptcy bill lies within the GOP. A number of Democrats desired this, too. But nearly the entire GOP desperately wanted these bills.
For example, in the Senate, only one Democrat voted for the bill. All Republicans but 2 voted for it. Only one of the two didn't vote at all, the other voted 'Present.' 79% of the House voted because of the addition of provisions that would encourage these new-fangled financial institutions to lend to inner city neighborhoods. The House alterations to this terrible bill gave the GOP a veto-proof majority.
Clinton, in turn, signed this. Interestingly, all but 3 NY Representatives supported this bill. Half of the Texas delegation voted against it. The number of Republicans against the bill, in contrast to the Senate vote that was 100% behind the Senate version, was due to anger over the inclusion of the easing of lending to inner cities. A common thread in our history is the frowns over spending money on our inner cities! More about that later.
To review this matter and look more closely at the machinery that destroyed US banking from top to bottom, we should look closely at this bill:
TITLE I -- FACILITATING AFFILIATION AMONG BANKS, SECURITIES FIRMS, AND INSURANCE COMPANIES
Repeals the restrictions on banks affiliating with securities firms contained in sections 20 and 32 of the Glass-Steagall Act.
Creates a new "financial holding company" under section 4 of the Bank Holding Company Act.
Such holding company can engage in a statutorily provided list of financial activities, including insurance and securities underwriting and agency activities, merchant banking and insurance company portfolio investment activities. Activities that are "complementary" to financial activities also are authorized. The nonfinancial activities of firms predominantly engaged in financial activities (at least 85% financial) are grandfathered for at least 10 years, with a possibility for a five year extension.
The Federal Reserve may not permit a company to form a financial holding company if any of its insured depository institution subsidiaries are not well capitalized and well managed, or did not receive at least a satisfactory rating in their most recent CRA exam.
To join in this carnival, first the banks and investment houses had to be capitalized. Citigroup already won permission to do this before the bill passed. We know that during the following 10 years, Citigroup had to sell larger and larger pieces of its corporate self to OPEC lords and Asians in order to re-capitalize the floundering Citibank group.
Let's look at the stock charts for Citigroup after it got permission to become this new, dangerous entity:
Even as the Dot Com collapse riled markets and stocks fell and fell, Citigroup shot upwards! The magic of the creation of this new entity attracted investors a great deal especially overseas investors. In just 2 years and this, during a huge downturn in stocks, the Citigroup stocks shot upwards from $15 a share to $55 a share! This was $20 a year increase in value which meant it more than doubled in value every year.
In general, indeed the very definition of a bubble is, it more than doubles in size every year. This is called 'unsustainable growth'. All growth in any system has to level off at some point or it overwhelms natural limits. The only entity that can have eternity and infinity is the unimaginable place that surrounds our entire universe, the anti-universe which can contain infinite numbers of expanding universes. I call this place, 'The Outer Darkness' since astronomers can't see it and the Big Bang veils even the darkness itself from our eyes. We can only see inside of our own bubble.
The fact that our universe is a big bubble troubles astronomers who think this universe bubble will collapse like all other, smaller bubbles. It can't double in size forever, in other words. We don't know but usually, micro-natural forces are mirrored nearly perfectly by macro-natural forces.
After 9/11, our entire economy went on the skids. All of Wall Street was literally damaged or huge parts of it destroyed on that day. The rest was nearly unusable for weeks. The economy began to retract. Greenspan had already been cutting interest rates quickly as Bush cut taxes so the economy could run again.
And it did! ON THE WRONG TRACKS. 2003, Citibank was on the ropes. But then, the Saudis stepped in and bought a huge stake in it thanks to the flood of easy profits from soaring oil prices, post-9/11. The US government was banging the drums for a war with Iraq. The Greenspan 1% interest rates were kicking in.
Citibank suddenly was 'capitalized' by all this and the new, sub-inflationary rates were a god-send to that bank and they began writing both private and corporate loans at a tremendous pace. The stocks shot up in value to the 2000 levels of $55 a share and this peaked on the end of February, 2007. This is when the first banking collapse shocks hit world markets.
From Bellepheron on Pegasus to Icarus or the son of Helios, when one rides the wild horses to the very heavens themselves, the fall is great and obvious. For several years, I have said repeatedly that a trillion dollars in FOREX funds would trigger the secret (HAHAHAHA) Chinese plan to upend the American empire via economic meltdown.
The ernest Chinese felt they should warn us so several months ago, as they approached that sum, they warned us to cut spending and start saving...ALL OF US. Not just any one person. Having warned us, now comes the inevitable storm.On a side note, today the Chinese stock exchange fell a great deal because they know the American markets are about to collapse because we can't use rising home values to pay for goodies from China. The Chinese government doesn't care if billionaires lose money. They want people to put money in savings, not stocks. Stocks are gambling.
But this drop in value reflects reality: the USA is going belly-up and won't be able to buy stuff much longer as the dollar drops in value and the USA continues insane spending programs that are entirely based on generous loans from Asia. The Chinese assessment of the future is correct. Our own leader's rosy prognastigations are wrong.
And this is the real bomb that is set to go off right under our noses.
The silly American media has been lying to everyone about China: that the Chinese were foolish and stupid and didn't understand inflation or the idea of comparative value versus comparable trade or anything. They were supposed to be naive and frankly, stupid.
For several years, I have struggled to make cartoons and charts that lay out in no uncertain terms, what is going on with our economy. They started out rather crude as I learned how to use the Wacom pad which is a very disassociative way of drawing, the picture shows up far from where the hand is drawing and the computer process is slightly delayed compared to the normal speed which one draws using analog tools like pencils and paper.
Xinhua News even thoughtfully explains fully what happened yesterday.Securities analysts said the culprit behind the "Black Tuesday" panic was a rumor that China is to levy capital gains tax on retail equity investors. However, as the Ministry of Finance and the State Administration of Taxation blew out the rumor, Chinese shares regained their momentum with the recovery of investors' confidence.
HAHAHA. So, Chinese officials launched this crash and then they gently told the investors in China who read Chinese newspapers, 'Just kidding.' I must be the only person in blogland who noticed the Chinese communists are holding a big meeting this month to discuss our futures. A great time to see what control they have over our lives.
Namely, it is total. Arf.
The housing bubble popped one year before this event. It was a hyper-magic number day and like 7/17/7, is a key date in the unfolding of this collapse. When this event roiled world markets, all the central bankers but China's, began to play hysterical funny money games to keep the GROWTH momentum up. When we look back at the Citigroup charts, we see clearly how there was a very sudden, steep decline which ended quickly.
Like a cork in water, it popped back up to $55 dollars a share. But this was very temporary. By mid-July, Citibank as well as all its fellow new-fangled fellow financial investment banks were all sliding off the exact same cliff and for the exact same reasons.
We can see from the charts who selling of these toxic stocks shot through the roof. All bankrupt corporations have the exact same charts. The sudden rise in the selling graphs along with a steep reverse-hockey stick value graph above! Nearly never can a corporation survive this sort of shock. They can be bailed out by governments but this is a faux wealth event. Citibank has gone from 30 million shares in exchanges to over 300 million shares traded in less than two years. Everyone is bailing.
The close-up chart showing this week makes it very clear that last week, it nearly totally collapsed. The only support for this crummy, stupid bank was the Bank Bail Out Bill. When the Democrats were scared into rushing through the bill on Monday, these stocks shot upwards tremendously. And stayed at that level for three days. By Tuesday, I was roaming the Halls of Congress, sniffing around and spreading warnings. By Tuesday afternoon, the flood of calls from outraged American patriots killed the Paulson coup bill that would hijack US credit and hand the entire thing to the bankers with no reforms, not strings attached and no review by courts or anyone!
Citibank's stocks began to flounder again. But has risen slightly on the hopes that the Democrat's amended bill will bail them out. This is a very long article because it is vital that we understand perfectly well how Congress, the corrupt Presidents [Clinton picked up $100 million for his services, for example] have helped the banking gnomes create machines that were badly designed and had serious internal flaws that doomed them to create bubbles that would inevitably pop. Back to the document, 'The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act':
If any insured depository institution or insured depository institution affiliate of a financial holding company received less than a satisfactory rating in its most recent CRA exam, the appropriate Federal banking agency may not approve any additional new activities or acquisitions under the authorities granted under the Act.
Provides that bank holding companies organized as a mutual holding companies will be regulated on terms comparable to other bank holding companies. [HAHAHA]
Lifts some restrictions governing nonbank banks. [De-regulation, big time!]
Provides for a study of the use of subordinated debt to protect the financial system and deposit funds from "too big to fail" institutions and a study on the effect of financial modernization on the accessibility of small business and farm loans.
OK: This week, debate has been raging in DC concerning all this! Washington Mutual was 'too big to fail' so it was what? Broken up? Or did all the juicy parts get sucked up by JP Morgan? Of course! Everyone is watching passively as JP Morgan sucks down all rivals! So what is JP Morgan?
In finance, subordinated debt (also known as subordinated loan, subordinated bond, subordinated debenture or junior debt) is debt which ranks after other debts should a company fall into receivership or be closed.
Such debt is referred to as subordinate, because the debt providers (the lenders) have subordinate status in relationship to the normal debt. A typical example for this would be when a promoter of a company invests money in the form of debt, rather than in the form of stock. In the case of liquidation the promoter would be paid just before stockholders -- assuming there are assets to distribute after all other liabilities and debt has been paid.
Subordinated debt has a lower priority than other bonds of the issuer in case of liquidation during bankruptcy, below the liquidator, government tax authorities and senior debt holders in the hierarchy of creditors. Because subordinated debt is repayable after other debts have been paid, they are more risky for the lender of the money. It is unsecured and has lesser priority than that of an additional debt claim on the same asset.
Subordinated loans typically have a higher rate of return than senior debt due to the increased inherent risk. Accordingly, major shareholders and parent companies are most likely to provide subordinated loans, as an outside party providing such a loan would normally want compensation for the extra risk.
Corporate issuers tend to prefer not to issue subordinated bonds because of the higher interest rate required to compensate for the higher risk, but may be forced to do so if indentures on earlier issues mandate their status as senior bonds. Also, subordinated debt may be combined with preferred stock to create so called monthly income preferred stock, a hybrid security paying dividends for the lender and funded as interest expense by the issuer.
HAHAHA. These newfangled banking entities made PROFITS selling the RISKS of subordinated lending! As I pointed out in the past, the side effect of the free funny money regime of Greenspan was that people had to take greater and greater risks in order to beat mere inflation! So bankers sought 'new instruments' to sell that would carry much higher rates of return. This is why a flood, a tsunami of lending to the most riskiest sectors of the real estate and commercial markets shot through the roof!
The world's #1 and #3 economies wanted desperately to make easy money but couldn't do this via simpler systems due to the Bank of Japan and the Federal Reserve both dropping interest rates to the cellar. So homeowners in America who put 20% down and qualified for the lowest lending rates were PURE POISON to these bankers but the 0% down crew that had to get 9% interest rate loans, etc, these SUB-PRIME borrowers were viewed as pure gold!
This is what happens when the Fed foolishly ignores real inflation. People imagine, if they are good credit risks, they will be beloved by the bankers. But in the upside-down world of sub-inflation rate lending, we get the exact opposite! The BAD BORROWERS are valuable and the GOOD BORROWERS become pure poison. But any banking system that depends on spendthrifts who go bankrupt for profits will end up where ours is: bankrupt.
Streamlines bank holding company supervision by clarifying the regulatory roles of the Federal Reserve as the umbrella holding company supervisor, and the State and other Federal financial regulators which ‘functionally' regulate various affiliates.
Prohibits FDIC assistance to affiliates and subsidiaries of banks and thrifts. [This was inserted by the Democrats in Congress]
Allows a national bank to engage in new financial activities in a financial subsidiary, except for insurance underwriting, merchant banking, insurance company portfolio investments, real estate development and real estate investment, so long as the aggregate assets of all financial subsidiaries do not exceed 45% of the parent bank's assets or $50 billion, whichever is less. To take advantage of the new activities through a financial subsidiary, the national bank must be well capitalized and well managed. In addition, the top 100 banks are required to have an issue of outstanding subordinated debt. Merchant banking activities may be approved as a permissible activity beginning 5 years after the date of enactment of the Act.
Provides for national treatment for foreign banks wanting to engage in the new financial activities authorized under the Act.
The negotiations going on this weekend concern this section of the banking reforms that utterly failed and ruined the entire US banking systems. Namely, the FDIC has to assist everyone or the whole mess will turn into a Great Depression. The hedges and assurances of this bill passed a mere 10 years ago are going out the window.
When this bill was passed, the national banks were NOT 'well capitalized and well managed' at all. Look at Citigroup's stocks from just before they got the exemptions! It was in the toilet. The exemptions allowed it to balloon rapidly in value! Also the pathetic timeline here: these laws were to take effect in 5 years! That would mean, by 2004. Right when Greenspan was busy bailing out the woefully undercapitalized banks with his 1% lending to them from the Federal Reserve!
TITLE VI -- FEDERAL HOME LOAN BANK SYSTEM MODERNIZATION
A new, permanent capital structure for the Federal Home Loan Banks is established. Two classes of stock are authorized, redeemable on 6-months and 5-years notice. Federal Home Loan Banks must meet a 5% leverage minimum tied to total capital and a risk-based requirement tied to permanent capital
Equalizes the stock purchase requirements for banks and thrifts.
Voluntary membership for Federal savings associations takes effect six months after enactment.
The US was moving rapidly towards the 0%-0%-0% Japanese system. Dropping the leverage minimum to just 5% is very inflationary as well as creates bubbles while undercapitalizing the banks! As China raised their own reserve rations relentlessly upwards, the US dropped our own ratios. This is also a big part of our banking collapse. The Federal Reserve's position in world FOREX reserves fell dramatically in the last 20 years and especially in the last 7 years. Our undercapitalization of our entire banking system from the lowliest thrift to the highest unthrifty levels, this is why our entire banking system is collapsing.
Congress, the Treasury and the Fed sparred and yakked for hours while I fumed. Not once did any of them talk about any of this. This article is required reading for all of them, especially Beranke. He might even learn something from my economic cartoon collection I included here which I published on the magic number day that signified the beginning of the collapse of the banking lending bubble.
Now, for entertainment, some good You Tube links provided by the very good, very busy readers of our news service: