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Saturday, August 14, 2010 12:14 PM

Former Bank Regulator William Black: U.S. Using "Really Stupid Strategy" to Hide Bank Losses - Will Produce Japanese Style Lost Decade

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Aaron Task has a nice interview with former bank regulator William Black on our "Really Stupid Strategy" to Hide Bank Losses

109 U.S. banks have failed so far this year, 23 in this quarter alone. These failures may not cost depositors, but they do come at a steep cost to the FDIC. As discussed here with ValuEngine’s Richard Suttmeier, the FDIC Deposit Insurance has already spent $18.93 billion this year, “well above the $15.33 billion prepaid assessments for all of 2010.”

The situation is likely even worse than the FDIC portrays, says William Black Associate Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“The FDIC is sitting there knowing that it has both the residential disaster and the commercial real estate disaster [and] knowing it doesn’t have remotely enough funds to pay for it,” he says.
William Black with Aaron Task Video

Partial Transcript

AAron Task: Should we be surprise there are not more bank failures?
William Black: Not Surprised,we should be upset there are not more bank failures. The industry has used its political muscle to get Congress to extort the financial accounting standards board to gimmick the accounting rules so that banks do not have to recognize their losses.

Aarron Task: In practical terms, what does the gutting of that rule mean for the banks?
William Black: Capital is defined as assets minus liabilities. If I get to keep my assets at inflated bubble values that have nothing to do with their real value, then my reported capital will be greatly inflated. When I am insolvent I still report that I have lots of capital.

Aaron Task: You are saying the FDIC is intentionally keeping foreclosures down because it knows it does not have enough money to pay off depositors who are insured by the FDIC?
William Black: That is correct and that is going to make ultimate losses grow. It also means we are following a Japanese type strategy of hiding the losses and we know what that produces - a lost decade, which is now two lost decades. Your listeners and viewers if they are stock types, look at the Nikkei. It lost 75% in nominal terms and has stayed that way for 20 years. I real terms it lost 85% of its value. This is a really stupid strategy. And it's ours.

Aaron Task: You can just keep kicking this down the road and have stagnant economic growth?
William Black: Geithner's original estimate was $2 trillion and of course things got much worse that their original estimates. The IMF estimates were in the $3 trillion range. So, there are trillions of dollars of unrecognized losses under these guy's scenarios. There is a huge slug, far more than they can pay for. What they are doing instead is these stupid subsidies for the biggest banks, with essentially no political oversight. It works, for the banks but it's really bad for the economy. It diverts moey from small businesses, large businesses, and entrepreneurs.

Aaron Task: What does it say to you that Tim Geithner and Larry Summers are still on the job?
William Black: Well I said it from the beginning, Geithner and Summers were selected and promoted, and the same is true with Bernanke, because they are willing to be wrong and have a consistent track record of being wrong. That's useful for senior politicians but disastrous for the country.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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