Is Ben Bernanke driving the QEII or the Titanic?
By Christopher Whalen
Our colleagues in the media have been diligently pouring over the latest disclosure by the Federal Reserve on rescue loans made to banks and corporations around the world in the hope of uncovering a pearl. For one thing, the details of the extensive rescue operation by the Fed following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 confirms the role of the U.S. central bank as the global lender of last resort, a job description as yet unauthorized by Congress. But there are some rather subtle revelations which do deserve investigation.
A number of writers have noticed that the fact that the Fed did not reveal these operations until now doubtless effected how the Congress finally legislated in the case of the Dodd-Frank law. “The Fed’s current set of powers and the shape of the Dodd-Frank bill over all might have looked quite different if this information had been made public during the debate on the bill,”American Institute for Economic Research fellow Walker Todd told Gretchen Morgenson in the Sunday New York Times. “Had these tables been out there, I think Congress would have either said no to emergency lending authority or if you get it, it’s going to be a much lower number — half a trillion dollars in the aggregate.”
Perhaps more important is the fact that there is now confirmation that the Fed took in equities as collateral during the market liquidity operations in 2008 and 2009. As one of our favorite equity market observers wrote last week, the fact of the Fed financing equity positions was known in September of 2008, but as my colleague noted at the time, “you had to read between the lines.”
As it turns out, the Fed’s primary dealer credit facility or “PDCF” was essentially able to take any paper, debt or equity, proving once and for all that the Fed had abandoned any pretense at market discipline. For 25 pips over Fed funds, you could finance any equity security: “Eligible collateral will include all collateral eligible in tri-party repurchase arrangements with the major clearing banks as of September12, 2008,” said the Fed in a press release.
Previously I had heard from a number of large bulge bracket firms that there was no problem financing anything with the Fed during the crisis: office furniture, equities, whatever. So now this latest data dump from Chairman Bernanke seems to confirm that eye-opening fact and more, namely that during the crisis dealers were using the Fed to finance equity positions as well as Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities.
- Bernie Sanders: 'Will You Tell The American People Which Banks Got $2.2 Trillion Of Their Dollars?' Bernanke: 'No'
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