Citigroup - what was known and when?
This year Christmas has come before December, especially if you are a money center bank, a brokerage house, insurance company, or car manufacturer. For regular people though the holiday may not arrive at all. Such is the way things happen when the Government gets involved.
The news is out now that Citigroup will receive another $20 billion, with guarantees for $306 billion in assets, before the holiday season ends. In fact they should have the money, your money, in hand before the holiday season officially starts this Friday. Santa it seems has a 401k.
The good part of this is that Citi should not fail. Thus money will be stable in over 100 countries around the world, for the time being. Another bonus that New York City officials must love is that Citi will not be sold off in parts, and thus tens of thousands of additional jobs should be secure. And there is a better than 50% chance that many of the major bonuses that help the Big Apple float will be paid out (contractual obligations don’t end when the company gets a Government bailout). And in all honesty that is a good thing for the U.S. economy too, as long as they spend the money and not hoard it in fear of future layoffs.
The bad thing is that none of the officials tasked with resolving the financial crisis the nation is in foresaw this event. Chriss Dodd and Barney Frank didn’t see it coming, not because they were asleep at the wheel like when they promised Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be ok, because they were too busy blaming anyone but themselves for missing the problem. Treasury Secretary Paulson missed it. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke missed it too.
Not one of these men, each tasked with identifying this continuing problem, envisioned this problem. They have dozens of staffers and hundreds working behind the scenes crunching numbers. Yet they all missed the chance of this happening. And the public is left to assume that it was so sudden they couldn’t have known.
“I believe that the move to junk rating of ACA, the probable $6 - 12 billion loss at JP Morgan [significantly higher than expected], eventual losses from Citigroup - which reinsures itself, oil breaking $100 a barrel, and the multiple overseas investments will all hit the market in mid-January 2008. Thus I think a move to 11,000 is more than probable.”
I said that in December of 2007. That’s without being a stockbroker for years, without financial racords, conversations with CEO’s, discussion of the Fed, data from international sources, or Congressional committees. Just me reading the news and analyzing the public information.
I in fact went on to say
“Will those experiencing deflation outweigh the inflation fears? And if more people lose their homes how much of our financial institutions are we willing to sell to avoid the harshest realities of a crash?”
I knew Citigroup was in trouble a year ago. I knew there would be a major crisis from the mortgage industry, and that a bear market would hit the stock market. And I defined it several times, months in advance, in detail. The main thing I have been wrong on is the severity and speed at which all these things happened.
My point about this is simple. If I can figure out how bad things were, and most likely will continue to get, then what the hell were all these people whose only job is to figure this out doing!?
If they can’t get off they political posteriors, open their Government entrenched eyes, and understand the degree of a problem that is apparent to a guy on a computer in Binghamton – without even a stock ticker – they why are we giving them control of $700 billion and more? How can we expect that a single dollar of that money will be put to a use that is effective?
Case in point. Citigroup is in big trouble. They insure themselves internally. They are failing. So what is the value of the $306 billion in assets today, what was it yesterday? Are we guaranteeing a value that was intially set for these assets, the current market value of these assets, or are we getting to pick up the debt and bad loans of Citigroup mixed in with actual assets? The difference is very important. And I doubt if Barney Frank and Chris Dodd are even aware that this question should be asked.
I asked how much are we willing to sell to avoid a problem a year ago. Today I am looking forweard and I have to ask a different question. How much of the American capitalist system the nation functions on are we willing to lose to avoid the pain of this crisis? And if we are willing to comnpromise the basis of our economy, how do we prevent losing the freedoms a solcialist nation cannot tolerate?