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Commentary- Too Big to Fail Then Get a Living Will

ABI Bankruptcy Brief | June 28, 2012
 
  
June 28, 2012
 
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COMMENTARY: TOO BIG TO FAIL? THEN GET A LIVING WILL

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon's congressional testimony on trading losses has again stirred debate on the notion of "too-big-to-fail" banks, according to a Bloomberg News commentary yesterday by John C. Dugan, the former Comptroller of the Currency, and T. Timothy Ryan Jr., president and CEO of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s losses were buffered by a strong balance sheet and sufficient capital levels to avoid putting the bank at risk. However, opponents of the Dodd-Frank financial reform's resolution process have used this to resurrect their belief that "too big to fail" has not been eliminated, but instead been codified into law. As former bank regulators who both sat on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. board, Dugan and Ryan disagree that this step has taken place. The FDIC recently proposed a way of reorganizing a large financial institution under Dodd-Frank that would avoid runs by short-term depositors and creditors and prevent messy defaults on swaps and other derivatives. More important, the FDIC's proposal would also avoid taxpayer losses, which Dodd-Frank flatly prohibits. Instead, losses would be borne by shareholders and long-term creditors of the failed holding company. Long-term creditors would swap their debt for equity to recapitalize the company. The process would be functionally identical to a chapter 11 reorganization, according to the commentary, with two critical exceptions: It could be done much faster, and, if necessary, the Treasury Department could provide temporary loans (backed by collateral) to the reorganized company until market funding returns. Read the full commentary.

ANALYSIS: BREAKING UP BIG BANKS HARD TO DO AS MARKET FORCES FAIL

Politicians and regulators have resisted calls from some investors to split up conglomerates that were assembled over two decades by executives such as former Citigroup CEO Sanford "Sandy" Weill and former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, Bloomberg News reported yesterday. While these universal banks offered customers everything from checking accounts and insurance to derivatives trading and merger advice, the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent performance of the companies is calling that approach into question. Some investors, tired of unpredictable losses, costly regulation and legal headaches, have abandoned the banks in favor of more focused lenders such as Wells Fargo & Co. and U.S. Bancorp. Bank of America has traded below book value since 2009, while New York-based Citigroup has done so since 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. "It is not clear why a bank needs to do lots of activities in financial services that aren't banking," said Ken Fisher, CEO and founder of Woodside, Calif.-based Fisher Investments, which manages about $44 billion in investments. "The universal bank model is broken," said David Trone, an analyst at JMP Securities LLC. Read more.

CALIFORNIA FORECLOSURE-PREVENTION MEASURE NEARS FINAL PASSAGE

A foreclosure-prevention measure is one step away from final passage in the California Legislature, the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday. A two-house conference committee yesterday, on a partisan 4-1 vote, sent identical measures to the floors of the California Assembly and Senate with final votes scheduled for Monday. The bills, S.B. 900 and A.B. 278, are the most controversial elements of a Homeowner Bill of Rights legislative package sponsored by California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris. The bills aim to protect homeowners in two ways:

  • They ban "dual tracking," when mortgage loan servicers allow borrowers to open an application for loan modification to lower their payments while at the same time the foreclosure process continues to move forward. Servicers would be required to provide homeowners with "a single point of contact" so that they will not suffer from bureaucratic runarounds.

  • They give owner-occupier, first-mortgage holders a right to sue financial institutions, under limited conditions, if the lenders have willfully, intentionally or recklessly violated the law.

Bankers, the state Chamber of Commerce and the securities industry oppose the bills, saying that they are overly complicated, lack legal clarity and could spur many unnecessary lawsuits. The bills would take effect on Jan. 1 if approved, as expected, by Democratic majorities in both houses. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has not indicated whether he would sign the measures, though sponsors have said they do not expect a veto. Read more.

ANALYSIS: SOME STUDENT LOANS TO BECOME MORE EXPENSIVE DESPITE DEAL

College students are still facing a roughly $20 billion increase in the cost of their federal loans, despite a much-heralded deal by Congress to contain the expense of higher education, according to a Washington Post analysis yesterday. Starting Sunday, students hoping to earn the graduate degrees that have become mandatory for many white-collar jobs will become responsible for paying the interest on their federal loans while they are in school and immediately after they graduate, meaning that they will have to pay an extra $18 billion out of pocket over the next decade. Meanwhile, the government will no longer cover the interest on undergraduate loans during the six months after students finish school. That is expected to cost those borrowers more than $2 billion. Much of the recent debate about the nation's soaring student debt burden has centered on how to prevent the interest rate on new federally subsidized undergraduate loans from doubling to 6.8 percent on Sunday. This week, Senate leaders announced that they had finally reached a compromise on how to pay the estimated $6 billion cost of freezing the rate for one year. Congress is expected to approve the deal by Friday. Read more.

FIRMS RESIST NEW PAY-EQUITY RULES

As the final shareholder votes on executive pay round out this year's proxy season, companies are fighting another rule that could force them to disclose the gap between what they pay their CEOs and their median pay for employees, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. The rule's supporters - a group that includes labor unions, institutional shareholders and left-leaning activists - say that it would force companies to consider rank-and-file workers during boardroom discussions over CEO pay and could put the brakes on executive compensation, which has been rising faster than inflation and the average worker's pay. The so-called internal pay equity provision, passed as part of the July 2010 Dodd-Frank package of financial reforms, is intended to expose the income disparity within public companies and help investors better evaluate the firms. Read more. (Subscription required.)

ABI IN-DEPTH

LATEST CASE SUMMARY ON VOLO: LEVESQUE V. SHAPIRO (IN RE LEVESQUE; 9TH CIR.)

Summarized by Emil Khatchatourian of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of California

The Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel held that the chapter 7 trustee had standing to appear with respect to the debtors' motion to reopen their chapter 7 case and motion to convert the chapter 7 case to one under chapter 11, and that the bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion in denying the debtors' motion to convert.

More than 500 appellate opinions are summarized on Volo typically within 24 hours of the ruling. Click here regularly to view the latest case summaries on ABI’s Volo website.

NEW ON ABI’S BANKRUPTCY BLOG EXCHANGE: FSB REPORTS REGULATOR REFORM IS ADVANCING, BUT SLOWLY

The Bankruptcy Blog Exchange is a free ABI service that tracks 35 bankruptcy-related blogs. A recent post looks at a June 19 report by the Financial Stability Board (FSB) on the steps FSB member nations have taken to implement financial reforms designed to improve the stability of the global financial system. The FSB concluded that its member nations have made significant progress in implementing globally agreed upon financial reforms, but large strides are still necessary to protect the global economy against future financial crises.

Be sure to check the site several times each day; any time a contributing blog posts a new story, a link to the story will appear on the top. If you have a blog that deals with bankruptcy, or know of a good blog that should be part of the Bankruptcy Exchange, please contact the ABI Web team.

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