Friday, February 13, 2009

The Call of Time 1: Conventional Solution to Global Financial Crisis

1.Nationalizing Toxic Asset

This solution is invariably preferred by the banks themselves.It consists of either the government (in the initial Paulson bailout plan, for example, it is the U.S. Treasury Department) or a specially created institution funded by the government buying assets from the banks that they now want to jettison.Of course, determining the price at which these assets are purchased is a very tricky issue, particularly when a liquid market for such assets has dried up completely, as is the case now. If the government buys the assets at too high a price, it will be seen as a straightforward subsidy for previous bad behavior, and accentuate the "moral hazard" problem (defined below), something that is politically unpalatable.

2.Nationalizing the Banks

The second way to buttress the banks is by governments providing capital directly to banks themselves, either by buying stocks, or by acquiring a newly issued preferred stock. For example, this is what Warren Buffet did for Goldman Sachs in September 2008 in the US: He injected $5 billion in the form of preferred stock that would give him not only 7% of the capital, but also a guaranteed 10% dividend forever.
In Europe, governments have typically taken the bank-nationalization road, although with less demanding terms than what Warren Buffet obtained. Nationalizing the banks was the option taken for instance in Sweden in 1992, and in 2008, first for Northern Rock in the UK, and then for a wide range of banks in all countries by mid-October 2008.

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