Monday, March 5, 2012

Why isn't Romney for breaking up the big banks?

In a post on the American Enterprise Institute's online magazine, James Pethokoukis asks "why isn't Romney for breaking up the big banks?"

Because he has already put forth his solution to the financial crisis and that is to adopt the Swedish model and require banks to recognize all the losses currently hidden on and off their balance sheets.

In an earlier post, Mr. Romney was quoted as saying,

We're just so overleveraged, so much debt in our society, and some of the institutions that hold it aren't willing to write it off and say they made a mistake, they loaned too much, we're overextended, write those down and start over. They keep on trying to harangue and pretend what they have on their books is still what it's worth. 
In some cases, if the debt is not in something you can service, it's like you have to move on and start over away from those debts. It's helpful if you get an institution that's willing to work with you, but if you don't you have no other option. 
The banks are scared to death, of course, because they think they're going to go out of business... They're afraid that if they write all these loans off, they're going to go broke. And so they're feeling the same thing you're feeling. They just want to pretend all of this is going to get paid someday so they don't have to write it off and potentially go out of business themselves." 
This is cascading throughout our system and in some respects government is trying to just hold things in place, hoping things get better... My own view is you recognize the distress, you take the loss and let people reset. Let people start over again, let the banks start over again. Those that are prudent will be able to restart, those that aren't will go out of business. This effort to try and exact the burden of their mistakes on homeowners and commercial property owners, I think, is a mistake.
Based on his proposed solution, Mr. Romney does not see a need for breaking up the Too Big to Fail banks.  These banks will only be allowed to restart if they are prudent.

And the way that the market will know if they are prudent is they will be required to disclose on an on-going basis their current asset, liability and off-balance sheet exposure details.  With this data, market participants will be able to assess whether management is prudent or not.

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