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Bank of America was one of the 15 big U.S. banks that passed the Fed's latest stress tests.
The Federal Reserve has released the results of its latest "stress tests" of the country's biggest banks — two days early. Why two days early? Marketplace's Heidi N. Moore had the best quip: The Fed didn't have much choice, after J.P. Morgan Chase jumped the gun on the planned Thursday announcement and showed Wall Street its report card.
Four banks flunked the test: Citigroup, Suntrust Banks, Ally Financial and MetLife, which isn't really a bank but an insurance company with bank-like businesses. Citigroup is the most worrying of that group, as some advance handicapping had it sailing through the Fed tests. Not so, as it turns out. This may remind some of the revelations, from Ron Suskind's controversial recent book about the Obama economic team and the financial crisis, that the White House at one point wanted to shut Citigroup down. Treasury Secretary Tim Geither reportedly stalled the President to avoid executing that decision.
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US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today in which he makes the case for financial reform based on a "It's déjà vu all over again" argument. We had "financial crisis amnesia" when the financial crisis struck in 2008 — and in 2012, we the amnesia has returned.
But Geithner has his own form of amnesia. Specifically, he's forgotten his role in bringing the financial crisis about in the first place. Here's an excerpt:
Regulators did not have the authority they needed to oversee and impose prudent limits on overall risk and leverage on large nonbank financial institutions. And they had no authority to put these firms, or bank holding companies, through a managed bankruptcy that wound them down in an orderly way or to otherwise adequately contain the damage caused by their failure. The safeguards on banks were much tougher than those applied to any other part of the financial system, but even those provisions were not conservative enough.A large shadow banking system had developed without meaningful regulation, using trillions of dollars in short-term debt to fund inherently risky financial activity. The derivatives markets grew to more than $600 trillion, with little transparency or oversight. Household debt rose to an alarming 130% of income, with a huge portion of those loans originated with little to no supervision and poor consumer protections.
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U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
As the sovereign debt crisis continues to roil Europe, the eurozone is currently in the process of trying to save the euro single currency by deposing elected political leaders — Papandreou in Greece, Berlusconi in Italy, the socialists in Spain — and replacing them with "technocrats," or economic experts who, in theory, will be able to make the dispassionate, non-political, utterly essential decisions that need to be made.
Can't happen here, right? Well, maybe it's happened already. Take as Exhibit A one Tim Geithner, U.S. Treasury secretary and according to the Atlantic's Dan Indiviglio, a man disliked by all but his boss, one Barack Obama.
Geithner is probably the closest creature to a technocrat we have in American government. And he runs practically the entire economy (the Federal Reserve runs the rest, and its part is extremely not insignificant). So who needs to hire technocrats when we already have one in the top job?