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Old 07-24-2012, 06:57 AM  
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The Big Happy Thread of LIBOR

I think this is an excellent read over the LIBOR scandal.

LIBOR is the perfect example where so-called self-regulation, and blind faith in an unregulated, unchecked free market can be disasterous. They're building prosecutions on this as we speak.

Free markets are the engine of a progressive society, but simply assuming that they can regulate themselves or provide consumers any sort of protection through "choice," or the facade of choice in some markets... well, this is what you get.

This theme is hardly new news. But the extent of this scandal makes the issue crystal clear.

http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financ...alk_surowiecki

Bankers Gone Wild
by James Surowiecki
July 30, 2012

In order to work well, markets need a basic level of trust. As Alan Greenspan said, in 1999, “In virtually all transactions we rely on the word of those with whom we do business.” So what happens to a market in which the most fundamental assumptions turn out to be lies? That is the question in a scandal that has roiled the banking industry all summer. The LIBOR (London Inter-bank Offered Rate) index is the most important set of numbers in the global financial system. Used as a benchmark for interest rates around the world, it’s assembled by asking a panel of big banks to estimate what it would cost them to borrow money today, if they had to. Hundreds of trillions of dollars in derivatives, corporate loans, and mortgages are pegged to these rates. Yet we now know that for years LIBOR rates were rigged. Barclays has agreed to pay nearly half a billion dollars to regulators for its manipulations, and a host of other big banks are under investigation for similar misdeeds.

Rigging LIBOR was shockingly easy. The estimates aren’t audited. They’re not compared with market prices. And LIBOR is put together by a trade group, without any real supervision from government regulators. In other words, manipulating LIBOR didn’t require any complicated financial hoodoo. The banks just had to tell some simple lies.

They had plenty of reasons to do so. At Barclays, for instance, traders were making big bets on derivatives whose value depended on LIBOR; changing rates by even a tiny bit could be exceptionally lucrative. In the years leading up to the financial crisis, these manipulations were, in the words of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, “common and pervasive.” And, once the crisis hit, banks had a new incentive to distort LIBOR: if their estimates were higher than their peers’ (meaning that it would be expensive for them to borrow money), investors, creditors, and regulators would worry that they were about to go under. So the banks sent LIBOR downward in order to make themselves look stronger than they were. The result was that, instead of reflecting what was real, LIBOR reflected what the banks wanted us to believe was real.

The most striking thing about this scandal is that it was predictable—the way LIBOR was designed practically invited corruption—yet no one did anything to stop it. That’s because, for decades, regulators and people in the financial industry assumed that banks’ desire to protect their reputations would keep them honest. If banks submitted false LIBOR estimates, the argument went, the market would inevitably find out, and people would stop trusting them, with dire consequences for their businesses. LIBOR was supposedly a great example of self-regulation, evidence that the market could look after itself better than regulators could.

But, if recent history has taught us anything, it’s that self-regulation doesn’t work in finance, and that worries about reputation are a weak deterrent to corporate malfeasance. To begin with, traders at a bank are typically rewarded according to how much money their trades make, not on whether they enhance the bank’s reputation. Bank C.E.O.s, meanwhile, are now paid so lavishly that even when they wreak havoc on a bank’s good name they can still walk away with immense amounts of money. What’s more, it’s not clear how good the market is at sniffing out and punishing bad behavior before serious damage is done. During the housing bubble, the stock prices of the banks that were making hundreds of billions of dollars in bad loans soared instead of falling. Once the crisis hit, the market did a great job of slamming the barn door. But it did nothing to stop the horses from escaping in the first place.

Even in the absence of market discipline, self-regulation could work if institutions had strong internal safeguards against corruption. But while every institution says that it has these norms—that’s why scandals like LIBOR are always blamed on a “few rogue traders”—the track record of the banking industry over the past two decades doesn’t inspire confidence in its devotion to the truth or to the public interest. The Barclays traders, for instance, sent e-mails casually thanking their colleagues for lying, and sometimes talked with their supervisors about their plans, revealing a culture in which deception was simply part of how things got done. As the behavioral economist Dan Ariely writes in his new book, “The Honest Truth About Dishonesty,” cheating is contagious—when we see others succeed by cheating, it makes us more likely to cheat as well. So when institutions tolerate, and even reward, bad behavior, all that self-regulation gets you is bankers gone wild.

How do we rein them in? We could start by making it harder for the banks to game the system—LIBOR, for instance, should be revamped so that it reflects actual market rates, not self-serving guesses. Then we need to admit that fraud is a crime and throw some people in jail. That shouldn’t be too hard in the case of LIBOR, which involves no complicated debates about who knew what when. Bankers were asked a simple question, and they lied in response. Most important, though, we need an attitudinal shift on the part of regulators, who need to recognize that their gentleman’s-club ethos is ill-suited to today’s financial world, and who need to be aggressive not just in punishing malfeasance but in preventing it from happening. (For some tips on how to do this, they might look to the way that American police forces have dramatically lowered big-city crime rates.) This new approach would be intrusive and overbearing, and would make it harder for bankers to do what they want. In other words, it’s exactly what the financial industry needs.
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Old 07-24-2012, 07:04 AM   #2
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That's BS. Banks do NOT game the system through any sort of free-market. Anyone who claims this is an economic ignoramus much like Marx who throught he was observing capitalism. Bankers have always had a comfy connection with govt through history where they were granted bank holidays for their mistakes and so forth. They are the classic mercantilist arrangement because govts need them to fund their wars or programs. Banks do NOT operate in any sort of free-market. Please learn to recognize one.
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Old 07-24-2012, 07:07 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BucEyedPea View Post
That's BS. Banks do NOT game the system through any sort of free-market. Anyone who claims this is an economic ignoramus much like Marx who throught he was observing capitalism. Bankers have always had a comfy connection with govt through history where they were granted bank holidays for their mistakes and so forth. They are the classic mercantilist arrangement because govts need them to fund their wars or programs. Banks do NOT operate in any sort of free-market. Please learn to recognize one.

Pay attention. This is only one facet of what a limited number of banks were able to do, and it wasn't really tightly controlled or regulated. He's not saying banks aren't regulated, generally.
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Old 07-24-2012, 07:08 AM   #4
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Oh, and I'd like to add—Europe never had a Glass-Steagall. So whey didn't they have the same financial crisis some years prior 2008, the event that leads economic ignoramuses to blame de-regulation.

Furthermore, one of the great true free-market advocates, Ron Paul, didn't even vote to repeal Glass-Steagall. That ought to tell ya' something about what category of economics that falls into.
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Old 07-24-2012, 07:10 AM   #5
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Pay attention. This is only one facet of what a limited number of banks were able to do, and it wasn't really tightly controlled or regulated. He's not saying banks aren't regulated, generally.
Pay attention Mr. Chronic Strawman. You don't understand what I was addressing, which is related to a part of the article, I wanted to address. Things like self-regulation, banks gaming the system and what a free-market is, which that article mentions in a false sense. People made arguments earlier about GS being a cause too. It's not surprising for you, an anti-free market Big Govt type.
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Old 07-24-2012, 07:19 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by BucEyedPea View Post
Pay attention Mr. Chronic Strawman. You don't understand what I was addressing, which is related to a part of the article, I wanted to address. Things like self-regulation, banks gaming the system and what a free-market is, which that article mentions in a false sense. It's not surprising for you, an anti-free market Big Govt type.

Ah, then your post isn't actually a response to the OP at all, nor is it particularly relevant.

As usual you're in your own world. Enjoy your stay.
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Old 07-24-2012, 07:21 AM   #7
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Did you say something?
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Old 07-24-2012, 07:44 AM   #8
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Did you say something?

Odd that you think this a clever reply, which you must since you use it all the time.

It's basically admitting that you read something and have no good response to it, so you pretend you're ignoring the post, while you're actually saying "ok, you win".
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Old 07-24-2012, 10:04 AM   #9
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Felix Salmon echoes my thoughts.

http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmo...er-regulation/

Why finance can’t be fixed with better regulation
By Felix Salmon
July 23, 2012

Jim Surowiecki and John Kay both have columns today looking at the way in which regulatory structure failed to stop abuses in the financial-services industry, and wondering how we might be able to do better in future.

Surowiecki says that we trusted the banks when we shouldn’t have: their incentive to preserve their reputation was not nearly big enough to override their incentive to make money. He’s right about that. But his proposed solution is vague: first, he says, prosecutors should “admit that fraud is a crime and throw some people in jail”, and secondly regulators should “be aggressive not just in punishing malfeasance but in preventing it from happening”. Well, yes. This is the rhetorical equivalent of throwing your hands up in the air: if you end up proposing something which absolutely everybody will agree with, then there’s almost certainly no substance there.

Kay, by contrast, has been looking at UK equity markets in detail, and has determined that the problem lies more with market structure than with anything within the realistic control of prosecutors or regulators. Surowiecki’s proposal basically boils down to “all you prosecutors and regulators are weak, weak people, you should man up and go to war”. I don’t know how many prosecutors and regulators he’s talked to, but this does them a disservice: there are serious institutional and legal constraints here. And what’s more, we can’t try to reform financial-services regulation by assuming that we can easily find a whole new breed of regulators: we can’t.

One reason why we can’t is laid out clearly by Kay:

Quote:
Regulators come to see the industry through the eyes of market participants rather than the end users they exist to serve, because market participants are the only source of the detailed information and expertise this type of regulation requires. This complexity has created a financial regulation industry – an army of compliance officers, regulators, consultants and advisers – with a vested interest in the regulation industry’s expansion.
But this is in turn only a symptom of a broader problem, which is the way in which the consolidation and ever-increasing complexity of the financial-services industry has reduced the ability of firms to police each other and to earn each others’ trust, while at the same time increasing incentives to fraudulently game the system. Barclays’ Libor lies, for instance, started life as a way for its derivatives traders to make money: something which could never have happened when the banks reporting into the Libor system didn’t have derivatives desks.

A large part of the problem is the way in which financial tools which had a utilitarian purpose when initially designed have become primarily vehicles for financial speculation. Libor, for instance, was a way for banks to peg loan rates to their own funding costs, and thereby minimize their own risks while at the same time minimizing the amount that borrowers had to pay. Today, banks don’t fund on the interbank market any more, and Libor has become something else entirely: a number to be speculated on in the derivatives market, and, in times of crisis, an indication of how creditworthy banks are perceived to be.

Similarly, equities used to serve a capital-allocation purpose, and there was, as Kay says, a chain of trust running from investor to board to management. “Most asset managers want to do a good job – earning returns for their clients through strong, constructive relationships with the companies in which they invest,” he writes. “Most corporate executives also want to do a good job, leaving the companies they manage in a stronger competitive position.”

But that’s not the equity market we see today: “It is hard to see how trust can be sustained in an environment characterised by increasingly hyperactive trading, and it has not been.”

Kay’s conclusion is sobering spot-on: the entire financial-services industry, he says, needs to be restructured so as to create the kind of institutions which thrive on increased trust, rather than on maximized arbitrage of anything from news to interest rates to regulations.

In order for that to happen, we’re going to need to see today’s financial behemoths broken up into many small pieces — because at that point each small piece is going to have to earn the trust of the other small pieces which rely on it.

Of course, that’s not going to happen. And as a result, financial-industry scandals will continue to arrive on a semi-regular basis. When they do, they will always be accompanied by calls for stronger regulation: rules-based, or principles-based, or some combination of the two. But the real problem here isn’t regulatory, and as a result there isn’t a regulatory solution. The real problem is deeply baked into the architecture of too-big-to-fail banks. And frankly I don’t see any realistic way of unbaking that particular loaf.
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Old 07-24-2012, 08:59 PM   #10
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Of course, that’s not going to happen. And as a result, financial-industry scandals will continue to arrive on a semi-regular basis. When they do, they will always be accompanied by calls for stronger regulation: rules-based, or principles-based, or some combination of the two. But the real problem here isn’t regulatory, and as a result there isn’t a regulatory solution. The real problem is deeply baked into the architecture of too-big-to-fail banks. And frankly I don’t see any realistic way of unbaking that particular loaf.
I agree that the banks do need to be broken up. If the banks aren't going to be broken up (won't happen anytime soon), then we need additional regulations.
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Old 07-24-2012, 09:25 PM   #11
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I agree that the banks do need to be broken up. If the banks aren't going to be broken up (won't happen anytime soon), then we need additional regulations.
THIS. Oligoptastic!
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Old 07-24-2012, 09:26 PM   #12
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Lol! The financial sector under Obama has been effectively nationalized. Mussolini would be proud.
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Old 07-24-2012, 09:31 PM   #13
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Lol! The financial sector under Obama has been effectively nationalized. Mussolini would be proud.
You have no ****ing clue of what you're talking about. The banks still make their own decisions and have throughout the crisis and tepid recovery. They have not been nationalized. They have benefited from a massive transfer in wealth from the tax payers to the banks.
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Old 07-24-2012, 09:31 PM   #14
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Old 07-24-2012, 09:34 PM   #15
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No games are played without constraints.
Yeah, but how much? And what kind?

Seriously, fascism allows private property to exist but only under the strict regimentation of govt.
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