The last couple of days we have been hearing from the CEOs of three of largest financial conglomerates (Citigroup, Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase). All three are talking up the profitability of their companies. And of course as a result of public statements about profitability the price of their respective stocks goes up. How convenient is that? Is this stock price manipulation? What they fail to mention is the hundreds of billions of dollars in toxic stuff still on their balance sheets.
There was a time when a person could get in trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for making publicly misleading statements. But these CEOs statements are probably border line legal. Besides, I am sure that the SEC has its hands full with other matters.
Don't believe the hype. It will take huge profits for an extended period of time or huge amount of taxpayer infusions to fill the huge holes in the balance sheets of these three financial conglomerates. McClatchy News did a good article about the extent of the hole in the balance sheets.
Citibank, Bank of America, HSBC Bank USA, Wells Fargo Bank and J.P. Morgan Chase reported that their "current" net loss risks from derivatives — insurance-like bets tied to a loan or other underlying asset — surged to $587 billion as of Dec. 31. Buried in end-of-the-year regulatory reports that McClatchy has reviewed, the figures reflect a jump of 49 percent in just 90 days.
What these CEOs won't say is that investing in these financial conglomerates is still extremely risky.
Gary Kopff, president of Everest Management and an expert witness in shareholder suits against banks, has scrutinized the big banks' financial reports. He noted that Citibank now lists 60 percent of its $301 billion in potential losses from its wheeling and dealing in derivatives in the highest-risk category, up from 40 percent in early 2007. Citibank is a unit of New York-based Citigroup. In Monday trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Citigroup shares closed at $1.05.
Besides, why should we believe anything that these CEOs say. They have failed in so many ways and their credibility has to be called into question. They are fighting for their survival and the truth is not on their side.
The banks' quarterly financial reports show that as of Dec. 31:
_ J.P. Morgan had potential current derivatives losses of $241.2 billion, outstripping its $144 billion in reserves, and future exposure of $299 billion.
_ Citibank had potential current losses of $140.3 billion, exceeding its $108 billion in reserves, and future losses of $161.2 billion.
_ Bank of America reported $80.4 billion in current exposure, below its $122.4 billion reserve, but $218 billion in total exposure.
I guess this is what we can expect from "dead man walking" - pure desperation.