The Surprising Way to Stop Bankers From Robbing the American People

Pernicious cultural norms inside American banks and regulatory agencies crowd out basic ethics. This post originally appeared on the blog for the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Does morality have a place in the realm of banking and regulation? That it feels awkward to even raise the issue is convenient for bankers who engage in reckless and harmful activities every day without fear of punishment. Ed Kane, professor of finance at Boston College, believes it’s vital to discuss moral questions, in plain English, without abstractions. Following his own advice, he is blunt in characterizing some of the behavior in the banking industry in recent years: “Theft is a forced taking of other people’s resources,” he says. “That’s what’s going on here.” Kane urges a deep inquiry into our culture to understand why bankers so commonly get away with crimes in the United States. In 2007, just before the housing […] Read More

Jail the Banksters? Bernanke Now Claims “Wall Street Execs Should’ve Been Held Accountable”

It is not uncommon to hear people in the streets, on blogs or on talk radio arguing that the gangs of Wall Street should have been jailed — or even hung — for their crimes against the American people. But to hear that kind of talk from a former Federal Reserve chairman is surprising… even if it is well after the fact. Though you could be forgiven for assuming most politicians and bankers have no conscience at all, there are apparently many in the halls of power who carry a guilty conscience for their role in selling out the country, and undermining its recovery at every level. Few have more guilt to carry than the functionaries at the Federal Reserve, the quasi-governmental central bank that now looms so large over the economy, and has so much to do with why the financial world is facing devastating failure all over […] Read More

Bailout is Back: Fannie and Freddie Likely Need “Additional Treasury Investment” After Derivatives Losses

There is trouble again for federal mortgage backers and bailout queens Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose failures helped to trigger the housing market collapse and subsequent 2008 economic crisis. The government enterprises are again turning their lowest profits since the recovery, thanks to derivatives losses – where most of the mortgage lender money is invested: Fannie Mae will make its smallest payment to taxpayers in more than four years after large derivatives losses crimped its fourth-quarter profit, the government-controlled mortgage financier said on Friday. Fannie Mae said a drop in long-term interest rates sharply reduced the value of the derivatives contracts it uses as hedges in financial markets, adding that low capital buffers are raising the risk it could need taxpayer money in the future. The derivatives losses helped reduce quarterly profit to $1.3 billion, about 80 percent less than a year earlier, and the $1.9 billion check […] Read More