More Shenanigans from the Big Banks
The big banks are still using the same kind of deceptive tricks and shenanigans that led to the financial crisis. The Wall Street Journal:
Major banks have masked their risk levels in the past five quarters by temporarily lowering their debt just before reporting it to the public, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
A group of 18 banks—which includes Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc.—understated the debt levels used to fund securities trades by lowering them an average of 42% at the end of each of the past five quarterly periods, the data show. The banks, which publicly release debt data each quarter, then boosted the debt levels in the middle of successive quarters.
Excessive borrowing by banks was one of the major causes of the financial crisis, leading to catastrophic bank runs in 2008 at firms including Bear Stearns Cos. and Lehman Brothers. Since then, banks have become more sensitive about showing high levels of debt and risk, worried that their stocks and credit ratings could be punished.
That practice, while legal, can give investors a skewed impression of the level of risk that financial firms are taking the vast majority of the time.
We need real regulatory reform to stop the banks from deceiving the public. It gets worse:
The practice of reducing quarter-end repo borrowings has occurred periodically for years, according to the data, which go back to 2001, but never as consistently as in 2009.
The repo market played a role in recent accusations leveled by an examiner in Lehman's bankruptcy case. But rather than reducing quarter-end debt, Lehman took steps to hide it.
Anxious to maintain favorable credit ratings, Lehman engaged in an accounting device known within the firm as "Repo 105" to essentially park about $50 billion of assets away from Lehman's balance sheet, according to the examiner. The move helped Lehman look like it had less debt on its books, the examiner said.
Other Wall Street firms, including Goldman and Morgan Stanley, have denied characterizing their short-term borrowings as sales, the way Lehman did in employing Repo 105. Both of those firms also make standard disclaimers about debt...
Some banks make big trades that don't show up in quarter-end balance sheets. That is what happened recently at Bank of America involving a trade designed to mature before the end of 2009's first quarter, people familiar with the matter say.
Two Bank of America traders bought $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities from clients for one month, while at the same time agreeing to sell the securities back before quarter's end, according to people familiar with the matter. This "roll" trade provided the clients with cash and the bank with fees.
Nothing has changed. The banksters are still playing the same old games that brought our economy to it's knees. We need reform.