Stress tests may induce market stress

A pedestrian walks across 15th Street in front of the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C.


Steve Chiotakis: Let's just say some of the nation's largest banks have had some tightness in the chest lately. Not full-fledged heart attacks, but some serious symptoms nonetheless. Symptoms that have helped fuel the global economic fallout. So Uncle Sam has been ordering stress tests to make sure they don't need surgery. And executives from 19 of those banks will hear today just how sick they may or not be. The latest from Mitchell Hartman.

Mitchell Hartman: The exams are confidential, and Treasury officials say no one will "fail." But banks that get a "low pass" may have to explain how they'll boost their balance sheets.

Paul Miller is managing director at FBR Capital Markets:

Paul Miller: Anybody who is perceived to have to raise capital, the market will look at those companies saying those companies failed the stress tests.

Miller says those banks will come under significant pressure to disclose more about their finances to offset investor fears.

Bill Brown teaches law at Duke. He used to be a managing director at Morgan Stanley. He says Treasury isn't likely to force troubled banks to open their books entirely and expose themselves to the world.

Bill Brown: The banks have tried to keep the kimono closed totally, and at this point the government's focused on opening up just a little bit. But again, we're not going to see everything under the kimono.

Congress may have different ideas. Lawmakers may insist on full and frank disclosure from those banks that ask for more taxpayer money.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.
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Concealing the metrics and results of the “stress tests” after the government has shelled out over $12 trillion in loans (at no cost), subsidies and gifts to shore them up is banana republic government. How much of the “profits” are part of the $12 trillion, part of the government’s making good on AIG’s CDS contracts with Goldman Sachs, et al? Last fall we were hysterically told that absent TARP the financial system would cease functioning. It did anyway. Accounting rules now encourage lying about the value of assets, inflating them rather than marking them down. More accounting gimmicks minimize reported loan losses. Actual data may be worse than the worst case stress scenario. Government is engaged in a massive campaign to nationalize the losses of bankers and banks while privatizing their profits. Nationalizing the banks could expeditiously resolve the banking crisis, even Greenspan advocates doing so. But that would cost bankers and their unsecured creditors, that is the political donor class, or as Simon Johnson call them, oligarchs.

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