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Aug 11

For bailed out banks, it's business as usual

Posted by annearf in UBSMorgan Stanely Smith Barney, JPMorgan Chase, investmentscredit default swapCongressoinal Oversight PanelCitigroup


Surely, the recent report from the Congressional Oversight Panel that banks have done little to address the toxic assets on their books, underscores a fundamental point:  The government bailout has mostly allowed the usual suspects to keep on conducting business as usual.

In fact, here's more evidence. A bunch of banks have come up with new and improved products and investments, and, while they don't have the potential to bring down the global economy, they sound pretty risky to me.

 A story in Business Week says that Bank of America , Citigroup , JPMorgan Chase , and others have new products that link corporate lines of credit to credit default swaps. So, if the price of the CDS were to increase, the interest rate would, too. And that means an already weakened company would be hurt even more, since presumably, the CDS' price would rise because the company in question would be doing poorly. Also, fees are really high--much steeper than for traditional lines of credit.

Another example: new forms of so-called structured notes for small investors from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and UBS . For the first few years, they offer rates that promise big returns. But those rates go away eventually  and, after that, investors could face big losses if certain parameters, like short-term interest rates, don't stay within specific ranges.

 I'm not saying the bailout shouldn't have happened. As far as I'm concerned, we didn't throw the banks a lifeline for their sake, but to help the rest of us. Or, that's why I'm willing to let my taxes go to prop up these folks.

Yet, the bailout also permitted banks and others to avoid making significant systemic changes. And I think these latest offerings from some major recipients of taxpayer-financed corporate welfare serve to make that message loud and clear.

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