Easy Street - Most Commented
Nine Biggest Banks Publish Their 'Living Wills'
Today, July 3, is the deadline for the nine biggest banks working in the U.S. to publish their "living wills" - a handy guide to their financial position and what their plan is to sell off or refinance their businesses if there's another major financial crisis.
The living wills are part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform act; they're designed to help us break up and wind down banks if they fail in another financial crisis, without spending taxpayer money on bailouts. (Good luck with that).
Only the nine biggest banks - the ones with more than $50 billion in assets - released their living wills today. Another 114 banks will submit their living wills next year.
Easy Street brings you the link to the living wills, courtesy of the FDIC, here.
Just as an early look, the banks wanted to keep things as vague as possible. (Although we're sure their legal teams are going to be really mad at us for saying so.)
Bank of America, for instance, used its living will to do some cheerleading about its future goals in a very "dear diary" manner:It wants to "continue to build a fortress balance sheet" (from its current sand-castle balance sheet, we suppose); it wants to "manage efficiency well," and it wants to "be a good place to work." All of those are noble goals, but will they help the bank avoid a messy demise in a devastating financial crisis? They will not. Be sure to peruse the other living will as you sit in traffic on the way to the beach.
America: The Best-Looking Horse in the Glue Factory
Here at the Aspen Ideas Festival, we may be seeing the start of a meme about America's financial place in the world.
Here's the conundrum: The U.S. economy is finally on the road to an excruciatingly slow recovery. In fact, we're far better off than most of the rest of the world - particularly Europe and China - as their economies struggle with the prospect of recession. Investors keep buying Treasury bonds because America's economic future is considered a safe haven.
If you think we should celebrate being ahead of most of the world, you should listen to what economists are saying about us.
Most, they're searching for metaphors to describe how really, we're no great shakes after all. (See our piece from September 2011 to find one of the earlier examples, from our own pens.)
I've compiled a couple of the better ones I've heard here at the Aspen Ideas Festival and on Twitter.
"We're the best-looking horse in the glue factory." - Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve, to Maria Bartiromo at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
"We're the best-looking horse in the glue factory." - Erskine Bowles in 2010
"The U.S. is the least-dirty shirt in the laundry basket." - Simon Johnson, economist, to Kai Ryssdal at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
"We're the least-dirty shirt. The world is full of dirty shirts." - PIMCO's Bill Gross to Bloomberg, 2010
"The US is the fastest camper outrunning the bear." -Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, joking on Twitter.
Try out your own witty contributions in the comments below. I'll tweet the best ones.
Easy Street Goes to the Aspen Ideas Festival
Aspen, Colorado, is. on the surface, a 1% kind of town. The small local airport is filled with the sleek, blank white bodies of private jets. A trip of more than three blocks, joked one of my Twitter friends today, requires a limousine. Gucci and Louis Vuitton pepper the stores, even if most of the people are dressed in khakis and button-downs.
But that's not the whole story of Aspen. It's also a working town, a town where a considerable local population works to maintain the economy. The symbiosis of rich and middle-class here results in a surprising lack of class resentment; maybe, like the Aspen trees the town is named for, the residents realize that their experiences here are interconnected by the roots, that they share a common soil. Maybe it's also because Aspen is a town where almost everyone seems to be passing through - the wealthy on their vacations, many of the workers here for a summer or a couple of seasons or a year or so.
The Aspen Institute is one of the few stalwarts of permanence in the town. It was founded in 1950 to foster ideas and open thinking, and for the past eight years, has run its Aspen Ideas Festival for two weeks every summer. In hourlong sessions, conferences, tutorials and outings, the attendees devote themselves to a kind of cultural core curriculum: where is our society going? What can we learn from it? And how can it be better?
Marketplace has had a presence at the Ideas Festival in recent years -reporting and broadcasting live - and we do again this year. I'll post regular updates about the best ideas and discussions we're hearing here - often things you won't hear anywhere else. Check back often.