As many of you may already know, insvestment banking firm J.P Morgan recently lost nearly $2.3 billion dollars on some very, very, bad bets.
Sources in the MSM accordingly, show a trader only dignified by the sobriquet ‘London Whale’ was able to hedge together larger shares of Morgan company money and place them on malevolent trade returns. They did not pay off.
Some circles call it business as usual. Other circles call this collusion, or extended risk. Yet others would call this, hedging- or: placing large assets on wide-open targets, at just the right time and place. I don’t need to mention the implications of this; we’re back to 2007, when the Recession we are currently in, evolved- by these means.
Now, clearly- you could claim- the company knew what it’s employees were aiming at with their stoked assets. They didn’t. This story is just emerging, but it seems clear that this is a perfect example of those who don’t know what they are doing, laksadaising large amounts of money; and wielding power so great, there could be serious repercussions.
Gladly, at least so far, there have been few.
Nevertheless, what this shows is not only nefariousness on the part of some, but also the evident close ties in finance between Europe and the United States. We may think this country is just pulling from a recession, when in reality we’re right back to 2007, or earlier.
Entire Markets and nations are tanking in Europe: acidic debt scouring away at the health of entire economies. The European Union ready to dissect into multiple breakaway-province nationalities. National furor is high, while economic support has hit all-time lows.
At first sight, the entire investments-gone-wrong scenario would yearn for more oversight- but beware of what you ask for! Oversight by whom? I don’t think market regulation is a particularly good example of solving fiscal ‘problems’ by any stretch of the economic imagination.
My list of examples of the unintended consequences of government intervention in the marketplace gets longer and longer. This time, I’m going to point out the latest irony: Investment banking’s profitable last quarter.
This would be wonderful news if it were genuine, but looking a little deeper reveals the truth. First, in one of Barron’s feature articles by Andrew Bary, we learn about a little-discussed fact: Goldman Sachs has only been able to issue low-cost debt due to the backing of the FDIC through a program called the TLGP, or Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program.
A few weeks ago, J.P. Morgan Chase earned the ire of Congress over a $2+ billion loss. In what was clearly a show to play off public antipathy against bailouts, members grilled CEO Jamie Dimon the mistake, which could go as high as $9 billion.
Apologists for the company have defended the loss as an example of the free market at work. J.P. Morgan took made a gamble and it clearly didn’t pay off. And in some respect, that’s true. However, Bloomberg recently noted that more than three-quarters of J.P. Morgan’s income comes from taxpayers (emphasis mine):
JPMorgan receives a government subsidy worth about $14 billion a year, according to research published by the International Monetary Fund and our own analysis of bank balance sheets. The money helps the bank pay big salaries and bonuses. More important, it distorts markets, fueling crises such as the recent subprime-lending disaster and the sovereign-debt debacle that is now threatening to destroy the euro and sink the global economy.
With each new banking crisis, the value of the implicit subsidy grows. In a recent paper, two economists — Kenichi Ueda of the IMF and Beatrice Weder Di Mauro of the University of Mainz — estimated that as of 2009 the expectation of government support was shaving about 0.8 percentage point off large banks’ borrowing costs. That’s up from 0.6 percentage point in 2007, before the financial crisis prompted a global round of bank bailouts.
According to JP Morgan’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, the financial giant can immediately return TARP money to taxpayers , but his company is waiting on the government:
Dimon, calling money received through the Troubled Asset Relief Program “a scarlet letter” and “the TARP baby,” said on a conference call with reporters today that the New York- based bank is awaiting guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department. “We could pay it back tomorrow,” he said.