Never Ending Stupid Bank Tricks

moneyhatBanks are at it again, as usual, and these latest adventures in fictional finance are off the public radar. Maybe the public has lost their outrage and why the latest news is out of earshot. Maybe people are just exhausted, watching absurdity after outrage coming from these financial institutions and the ones who are supposed to watch them. After all, nothing ever changes. We hear the same song, just a little bit louder and a little bit worse.

Banking Fraud Is Just the New Way of Doing Business

bigbenThe manipulation of the LIBOR scandal just keeps growing. Ever since Barclays was busted for manipulating this key critical interbank interest rate, more outrageous details keep pouring out.

Europe wants to make such evil financial dealings criminal. Yes, that's right, already manipulating a key interest rate is being classified as not criminal by this announcement.

Europe's top regulatory official intends to propose new rules that would criminalize the manipulation of benchmarks such as Libor.

Other investigations are also being announced:

The U.K. Serious Fraud Office opened a criminal probe into the attempted rigging of interest rates that led to a record fine against Barclays Plc (BARC), adding to pressure on banks already under investigation by regulators around the globe.

Supposedly the U.S. opened a criminal probe in February 2012:

Several major global banks, including Citigroup Inc, HSBC Holdings Plc, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and UBS AG, have disclosed that they have been approached by authorities investigating how Libor is set.

The Copious Copula Blame Game

Seems the infamous mathematical probability distribution function, the Gaussian Copula, is at the forefront of controversy once again. It seems those financial engineers, the Quants, the ones who use advanced probability and statistics to model financial markets, upon whose work many derivatives are based, knew the use of Gaussian Copulas was fundamentally flawed.

Jamie's Round Up

rounduplassoThe Senate Committee on Banking held a hearing, A Breakdown in Risk Management: What Went Wrong at JPMorgan Chase? They had one witness, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

This one man apology show is about the $2 billion or greater trading loss JPMorgan Chase incurred due to speculative derivatives.

Truth be told the hearing was softball, not a grilling. This should be no surprise since JPMorgan Chase gives a lot of campaign contributions including those on the Senate Banking Committee.

Dimon revealed very little about the trade and not much more about his knowledge of it. He refused to discuss details of it, lest he reveal secrets to competitors -- who already know all about the trade and have been hammering JPMorgan on it, adding to the bank's losses. But the committee didn't challenge him on that, even after he turned down an offer to close the hearing to the public.

Bloomberg's story quote implies the Senators plain don't understand derivatives:

Greece Defaulted After All

greece parthenonMoody's has proclaimed Greece defaulted.

Moody's Investors Service says that it considers Greece (C/no outlook) to have defaulted per Moody's default definitions further to the conclusion of an exchange of EUR177 billion of Greece's debt that is governed by Greek law for bonds issued by the Greek government, GDP-linked securities, European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) notes. Foreign-law bonds are eligible for the same offer, and Moody's expects a similar debt exchange to proceed with these bondholders, as well as the holders of state-owned enterprise debt that has been guaranteed by the state, in the coming weeks. The respective securities will enter our default statistics at the tender expiration date, which is was Thursday 8 March for the Greek law bonds and is currently expected to be 23 March for foreign law bonds. Greece's government bond rating remains unchanged at C, the lowest rating on Moody's rating scale.

Moody's understands that 85.8% of debtholders holding Greek-law bonds issued by the sovereign have agreed to the exchange, with the vast majority of remaining bondholders likely to be drawn in following the exercise of Collective Action Clauses that will be inserted pursuant to a recent Act by the Greek parliament. The terms of the exchange entail a discount -- a loss to creditors -- of at least 70% on the net present value of existing debt.

Bank of America's Socialize the Risk and Reap the Reward Business Model

boycott BoABank of America just made $6.2 billion dollars in record profit.

Buoyed by one-time gains from accounting changes and the sale of assets, Bank of America reported a $6.23 billion profit for the third-quarter

What were those accounting changes and sale of assets? It appears Bank of America moved Merrill Lynch derivatives to a FDIC insured subsidiary. Bloomberg:

Bank of America Corp. (BAC), hit by a credit downgrade last month, has moved derivatives from its Merrill Lynch unit to a subsidiary flush with insured deposits, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

The Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. disagree over the transfers, which are being requested by counterparties, said the people, who asked to remain anonymous because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. The Fed has signaled that it favors moving the derivatives to give relief to the bank holding company, while the FDIC, which would have to pay off depositors in the event of a bank failure, is objecting, said the people. The bank doesn’t believe regulatory approval is needed, said people with knowledge of its position.

Weapons of Mass Destruction Build Up Post Economic Armageddon

Remember those time bombs called derivatives which threatened to economically blow up the world in 2008? Not only were they never really regulated, they are back with a vengeance. A new report, by the Comptroller of the Currency, on Bank Trading and Derivatives Activities, Q2 2011, shows derivatives have increased 11.6% from one year ago to a U.S. holdings of $249 trillion dollars.

Five large commercial banks represent 96% of the total banking industry notional amounts and 86% of industry net current credit exposure.

According to DealBook, those banks are, pretty much the same banks who were given massive bail outs via TARP. BoA especially is already in trouble due to their Countrywide holdings. 99% of all derivatives are held by just 25 banks.

The nation’s four biggest banks — JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs — are the biggest players, holding roughly 95 percent of the industry’s total exposure to derivatives. JPMorgan, which holds the most among commercial banks, carries some $78 trillion worth of derivatives on its books, according to the report. Citi is next on the list, with $56 trillion, up from $54 trillion in the first quarter.

Seeking Alpha has a good explanation of how the actual loss risks are much less than the frightening $249 trillion dollar amount.

Yet, the OCC report still shows a huge financial risk associated with derivatives: