Belgian, Dutch Central Banks Seek Solution for Fortis

Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) — Discussions between European, Dutch and Belgian officials on the future of Fortis, Belgium’s largest financial-services firm, carried into the evening as they sought a “solution” for the beleaguered bank.

Dutch central bank chief Nout Wellink and Finance Minister Wouter Bos went to Brussels for talks with the Belgian government and regulators. European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet met with Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme and Finance Minister Didier Reynders today.

Fortis fell a record 20 percent in Brussels trading two days ago on concern the firm would struggle to raise the 8.3 billion euros ($12.1 billion) it’s seeking to bolster reserves. The bank said Sept. 26 its financial position is “solid,” and replaced interim Chief Executive Officer Herman Verwilst with Filip Dierckx, who heads the banking unit. Managers and government officials are considering a possible sale of part or all of the bank, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the situation.

“Fortis failed to restore confidence on its own and that can only be done now with the help of the regulatory institutions or rivals,” said Corne van Zeijl, a senior portfolio manager at SNS Asset Management in Den Bosch, the Netherlands, who oversees about $1.1 billion, including Fortis shares.

Fortis has fallen 71 percent this year in Brussels, the second-worst performance among the 69 companies on the Bloomberg Europe Banks and Financial Services Index, cutting the lender’s market capitalization to 12.2 billion euros ($17.8 billion).

Read moreBelgian, Dutch Central Banks Seek Solution for Fortis

U.K. to Protect Bradford & Bingley; BBC Reports Nationalization

Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) — The U.K. government will act to protect Bradford & Bingley Plc customers, Chief Whip Geoff Hoon said after the British Broadcasting Corp. reported the country’s biggest lender to landlords will be taken over by the state.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling “have worked right through this weekend to sort out the problems we’re facing,” Hoon, a parliamentary officer, told Sky News today. “I’m confident that in due course there will be a statement from the Treasury about Bradford & Bingley. We will act to ensure that the interests of depositors are properly protected.”

The government will take control of Bradford & Bingley, whose shares have tumbled 93 percent this year, the BBC reported on its Web site, without saying where it got the information. The Treasury and Financial Services Authority will negotiate with banks interested in buying parts of the Bingley, England-based bank, the BBC said. Possible buyers include Banco Santander SA, HSBC Holdings Plc and Barclays Plc, the report said.

Read moreU.K. to Protect Bradford & Bingley; BBC Reports Nationalization

Markets face major crash if US bail-out plan collapses

There will be a depression anyway, but if the bailout “succeeds” there will be a complete meltdown in the not too distant future. Again the elite is pressing the fear button.
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World markets depend on Paulson’s plan Photo: GETTY

London shares could lose a fifth of their value and the money market faces collapse unless US politicians succeed with their financial bail-out plan, it has been warned.

A leading investor predicted that the FTSE 100 could drop by as much as 1,000 points on Monday if Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s $700bn (£380bn) plan fails. Such a fall would come close to matching the stock market crash of 1987.

The warning came as markets lurched their way to the end of another fraught week amid fears that the White House rescue operation could be derailed in Congress by conservative Republicans.

Read moreMarkets face major crash if US bail-out plan collapses

Bailout can’t hide it – the United States is broke

By Chris Powell

CHRIS POWELL IS MANAGING EDITOR OF THE JOURNAL INQUIRER IN MANCHESTER.

Even leading Republicans in Congress, including presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, recoiled from Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson’s proposal to take absolute power over $700 billion to be borrowed by the federal government and used to purchase every sort of bad debt without ever having to answer for it – not to the courts, not to regulatory agencies, and only occasionally and incidentally to Congress itself.

The bad-debt bailout would be the biggest government patronage program in history and would amount to declaring martial law over the U.S. financial system and economy. Even if such martial law is necessary, its implementation should be put in democratic hands – a non-partisan agency with full transparency, statutory standards for its purchases, and close accountability to Congress.

All the same, even if it can work – that is, prop up insolvent financial institutions – the Treasury’s proposal is still a proclamation of the collapse of the whole U.S. financial system. Even if some financial institutions are saved, the collapse will manifest itself in other ways, probably ways more damaging to the public. For who cares if Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley endure if the issuance of $700 billion more in government bonds drives interest rates way up, diverts credit from the private economy, devalues the already sinking dollar, and sends commodity prices soaring again?

In that case the financial class will have won another battle in its long war against the producing class. It will be again as was said about the maneuvers of the Second Bank of the United States two centuries ago: “The bank was saved; only the people were ruined.”

Injecting throughout the world financial system their bogus and unregulated financial instruments, like collateralized debt obligations and credit-default swaps, the big New York financial houses have taken the world economy hostage. The president and Congress should strive to save the hostages, not the kidnappers.

But the president and Congress have participated eagerly with the kidnappers in the total corruption of the financial system.

They have staffed the regulatory agencies largely from Wall Street and then diminished financial regulation.

They have let the financial houses finance presidential and congressional campaigns.

They have watched haplessly as accounting firms and credit-rating agencies engaged in conflict of interest and failed to do their jobs over and over again even as corporate scandal followed corporate scandal.

They have waged mistaken imperial war not with taxes but with huge amounts borrowed from abroad, making the country hostage to foreign nations, including some with hostile interests.

They have approved the government’s falsification of inflation data and its surreptitious suppression of the price of gold so that interest rates could be set below the inflation rate, the government and everyone else could borrow more at lower interest, and the public would not become alarmed by monetary debasement.

Now the U.S. government is conjuring into existence via a few computer keystrokes fantastic, virtually inconceivable amounts of money. Unreal as these amounts are, they will be claims on the real goods and services of the country, and, if the rest of the world wants to keep playing along, which is doubtful, claims on the real goods and services of the rest of the world as well.

The purpose of all this will be to save the people who happen to be in charge of the payments system and to save the propertied class generally. But people without many assets, people who don’t earn enough to own housing, people who could gain from lower housing prices and lower prices of everything else, are not even in the government’s equation.

The country is simply busted. Its financial obligations are unpayable, its asset prices are illusions, and the great undertaking in Washington and New York is to preserve those illusions rather than face reality. If the price of preserving those illusions is $700 billion – and of course it is more likely to run into the trillions – could it really be more expensive to dispense with the illusions now? After all, instead of rescuing financial institutions that disregarded risk, the government just as easily could keep the country going by sending checks to everyone every month – as it already sends Social Security checks to retirees.

But as long as the government keeps paying ransom, the financial class will keep taking the country hostage.

Published on 9/26/2008

Source: The Day

WaMu: The biggest bank failure in U.S. history.

JPMorgan Buys WaMu Bank Business as Thrift Seized

Sept. 25 (Bloomberg) — JPMorgan Chase & Co., the third- biggest U.S. bank by assets, agreed to acquire Washington Mutual Inc.’s deposits and branches for $1.9 billion after regulators seized the thrift in the biggest bank failure in U.S. history.

Customers withdrew $16.7 billion from WaMu accounts since Sept. 16, leaving the Seattle-based bank “unsound,” the Office of Thrift Supervision said today. WaMu’s branches will open tomorrow and customers will have full access to all their accounts, Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., said on a conference call.

WaMu’s fate played out as Congress debated an accord to end the global credit crunch that drove Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and IndyMac Bancorp out of business and led to the hastily arranged rescues of Merrill Lynch & Co. and Bear Stearns Cos., which was itself absorbed by JPMorgan. WaMu in March rebuffed a takeover offer from JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon that WaMu valued at $4 a share.

Read moreWaMu: The biggest bank failure in U.S. history.

Hundreds of Economists Urge Congress Not to Rush on Rescue Plan

Sept. 25 (Bloomberg) — More than 150 prominent U.S. economists, including three Nobel Prize winners, urged Congress to hold off on passing a $700 billion financial market rescue plan until it can be studied more closely.

In a letter yesterday to congressional leaders, 166 academic economists said they oppose Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s plan because it’s a “subsidy” for business, it’s ambiguous and it may have adverse market consequences in the long term. They also expressed alarm at the haste of lawmakers and the Bush administration to pass legislation.

Read moreHundreds of Economists Urge Congress Not to Rush on Rescue Plan

Lawmakers: Financial bailout agreement reached


Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Chris Dodd., D-Conn., center, speaks during a news conference with, from left, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., and Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., following a meeting on the market turmoil on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) – Key Republicans and Democrats reported agreement Thursday on an outline for a historic $700 billion bailout of the financial industry, but there was still resistance from rank-and-file House Republicans despite warnings of an impending panic.

“I now expect we will, indeed, have a plan that can pass the House, pass the Senate, be signed by the president and bring a sense of certainty to this crisis that is sill roiling in the market,” Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, said as members of both parties emerged from a two-hour negotiating session.

Negotiators planned to present the outline at a White House meeting later Thursday with President Bush and the rivals to replace him, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barrack Obama.

“We’re very confident that we can act expeditiously,” said Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., the Banking Committee chairman.

Read moreLawmakers: Financial bailout agreement reached

Feds give customs agents free hand to seize travelers’ documents

SAN FRANCISCO — The Bush administration has overturned a 22-year-old policy and now allows customs agents to seize, read and copy documents from travelers at airports and borders without suspicion of wrongdoing, civil rights lawyers in San Francisco said Tuesday in releasing records obtained in a lawsuit.

The records also indicate that the government gives customs agents unlimited authority to question travelers about their religious beliefs and political opinions, said lawyers from the Asian Law Caucus and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They said they had asked the Department of Homeland Security for details of any policy that would guide or limit such questioning and received no reply.

Read moreFeds give customs agents free hand to seize travelers’ documents

Bailout Could Deepen Crisis, CBO Chief Says

Asset Sales May Lead to Write-Downs, Insolvencies, Orszag Tells Congress


Peter R. Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office, testifies on Capitol Hill yesterday. (By Brendan Hoffman — Getty Images)

The director of the Congressional Budget Office said yesterday that the proposed Wall Street bailout could actually worsen the current financial crisis.

During testimony before the House Budget Committee, Peter R. Orszag — Congress’s top bookkeeper — said the bailout could expose the way companies are stowing toxic assets on their books, leading to greater problems.

“Ironically, the intervention could even trigger additional failures of large institutions, because some institutions may be carrying troubled assets on their books at inflated values,” Orszag said in his testimony. “Establishing clearer prices might reveal those institutions to be insolvent.”

Read moreBailout Could Deepen Crisis, CBO Chief Says

FDIC May Need $150 Billion Bailout as Local Bank Failures Mount

Sept. 25 (Bloomberg) — Deborah Horn tugs on the handle of the glass-paned entrance of the IndyMac Bancorp Inc. branch in Manhattan Beach, California. The door won’t budge. The weekend is approaching, and Horn, 44, the sole breadwinner in a family of three, needs cash.

A small notice taped to the window on this Friday afternoon in mid-July tells her why she’s been locked out. IndyMac has failed, the single-spaced, letter-sized paper says; the bank is now in the hands of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Read moreFDIC May Need $150 Billion Bailout as Local Bank Failures Mount