The private equity industry, seeing a window of opportunity following the onset of the pandemic, has taken it upon itself to have the companies that it owns issue at least $10 billion in debt solely for the purpose of paying itself. This is yet another example of private equity looting.
Ten years after Congress passed a major reform of Wall Street in response to the financial crisis voters overwhelmingly support more and tougher regulation of finance and they strongly approve of the mission of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And, as the decade after the 2008 crisis unfolded to reveal continuing abuses by Wall Street, and the growth of predatory financial practices, notably by private equity, the public’s appetite for additional reform has strengthened. And the results underscore the need for rigorous oversight to ensure consumers aren’t victimized by unscrupulous lending practices.
A provision inserted by Sen. Mike Crapo, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, would encourage Trump-appointed regulators, who have already sought to reduce the minimum amounts of their own risk capital that banks have to hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, to go further. Sen. Susan Collins, sponsor of the part of Dodd-Frank in 2010 that Crapo wants to gut, has already filed an amendment that would strike the part of Republican bill that would make this change. The Senate should follow her lead and preserve minimum statutory thresholds for bank capital.
Now that Wall Street is reporting earnings for a quarter that took place entirely during the coronavirus pandemic, it is clear that the Federal Reserve has bailed out the bankers quite effectively. Workers, families, small businesses, states, and municipalities have not fared nearly as well.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York announced the initial composition of the index they will be using to purchase corporate bonds through its Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility (SMCCF). The corporations included in their June 5 “Broad Market Index” raise serious concerns about public benefit, solvency, and further incentivizing companies to take on additional debt unnecessarily.
In place of a heartless free market of panicked investors who might want to cut their losses and sell, the plan is to simulate real buying and selling of financial products like mortgages and bonds with directed deployments of the Fed’s endless trillions. And they will be endless … Marcus Stanley of Americans for Financial Reform said, “The Fed’s perspective on this is, they want to create normalcy.” But what does “normal” mean in an economy that may be changed forever?
At the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, big banks will be paying some $13 billion in shareholder dividends. If this level of dividends continues for the rest of 2020, big banks could be permitted to pay out over $50 billion in dividends for 2020.
Apart from the obvious fact that this is a public health crisis and should be treated as such, we should all be immensely skeptical of any suggestion from Wall Street that it needs a bailout or any kind of assistance. We need to help people, not profits.
In The News: Financial System Faces Biggest Test Since 2008 as Coronavirus Spreads (The New York Times)
“We are in a much more fragile situation than we should be because the regulators haven’t been on the job,” said Marcus Stanley, policy director for Americans for Financial Reform. “This is a real economic crisis we’re facing.”
In August regulators issued a rule that dramatically weakened the Volcker Rule limits on direct proprietary trading by banks. Today, they have proposed new changes that would greatly weaken restrictions on banks taking risks through ownership of external funds, including venture capital funds and securitization vehicles like collateralized debt obligations.