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Tempest in a health-care teapot
Ron F

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Apr 10
2010

Grounds for skepticism about the recovery

Posted by Ron F in unemployment, recoveryrecessionjoblessnessfinancial crisisconsumer spendingconfidenceCareers/Management

Ron F

This is at least the second piece by Floyd Norris of the New York Times in the past three or four months suggesting the recovery may be stronger than pessimists believe it will be, based on comparisons with previous recoveries.

I take all his points, but it seems to me he's missing an important difference between this recession and other post-World War II downturns. This is the first since the Great Depression to be associated with a financial crisis.

Apr 09
2010

Banks' balance sheet maneuvers aren't limited to Lehman-like moves

Posted by Ron F in RiskRepo 105Regulation, Lehman Brothers, Goldman SachsdebtcomplianceBanksbanking industryBankingAccounting

Ron F

This article on the balance sheet maneuvers of 18 banks obscures the difference between risk taking and accounting for it.

For starters, the findings don't show that banks are moving a lot of debt off their balance sheets a few days before quarter's end, and moving it back on afterward, the way Lehman Brothers did through short-term financing arrangements involving repurchase agreements treated as "sales."

Apr 08
2010

The partial re-education of Robert Rubin

Posted by Ron F in Volcker RuleTARPRegulationPaul VolckerGoldman SachsGlass Steagall Actfinancial crisisderivativesCongressCitigroupBanksbanking reformBankingbank failuresbailoutsAlan Greenspan

Ron F

Better late than never, I suppose. But Big Bob Rubin has apparently had a change of heart as to the virtues of financial deregulation.

Appearing before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission today with former Citigroup CEO Charles Prince in his capacity as former vice chairman of the bailed out bank, Rubin expressed much different sentiments about the need to prevent banks from becoming too big to fail and derivatives from adding untold amounts of undetectable leverage to the financial system than he did when he was President Clinton's deregulator in chief.

Apr 08
2010

We weren't dumb, we just blew it, ex-Citiguys claim

Posted by Ron F in RiskRegulationfinancial crisisFederal ReserveCitigroupBanksbanking reformBankingbank failuresbailouts

Ron F

Man, I just caught some of the last part of the financial crisis show this afternoon and I have to say it did very little to clarify who the hell was responsible for Citigroup's near-death experience during the mortgage meltdown, even though the panel had four former Citifolks on it.

Citi's ex co-CEO of markets and banking, Thomas Maheras, for example, testified that the bank was well aware that housing was heading south in late 2007 and was actively managing its balance sheet to deal with that.

Apr 07
2010

Big companies, big auditors, sitting in a tree

Posted by Ron F in PwC, KPMG, Goldman SachsGeneral ElectricErnst & YoungDeloittecost cuttingCashBig FourBig 4auditorsauditingAccounting

Ron F

Hey, I got hold of some interesting data from Audit Analytics on the length of time that some US companies have had the same auditors.

The issue arises in connection with a CFO cover story on audit fees that I wrote about yesterday.

Apr 07
2010

The Census, unemployment and GDP

Posted by Ron F in recoveryrecessionjoblessnessemploymenteconomyCommerce DepartmentCareers/Management

Ron F

The 48,000 jobs added in March by hiring for the US Census will be followed by more of the same in the coming months, and it's nothing to sneeze at in terms of the paychecks involved and even the temporary boost that provides to the economy, according to a Commerce Department report released in February

The total number of positions added will peak in May at some 800,000, according to the report, though the number showing up in the employment figures would be some 200,000 less, because some workers fill more than one position.

Apr 06
2010

Taking the Big Four down a notch

Posted by Ron F in Sarbanes OxleyRegulationcomplianceauditorsauditingAccounting

Ron F

There's a bit of a tiff going on over at my former place of employment as a result of the cover story in the latest issue of CFO Magazine on the recent fall in auditor's fees.

Some critics seem to fear that the phenomenon will be encouraged by a new benchmarking tool the website unveiled on April 1.

Apr 06
2010

Why financial reform is likely to fail

Posted by Ron F in Volcker RuleTimothy GeithnerRiskRegulationPaul VolckerObama Administration, Lehman Brothers, financial crisisCongresscomplianceBanksbanking reform

Ron F

With Congress expected to debate financial regulatory reform until the cows come home, lots of commentators are weighing in on what it must do to inhibit, if not prevent, an even worse financial meltdown. (And no, we aren't out of the woods, not by a long shot.)

Our own Marine Cole ventured into these waters last week with a piece on to what degree legislation as currently formulated would require bank regulators to toughen their capital reserve requirements. But there's a lot more to say about that, too much.

Apr 01
2010

Tempest in a health-care teapot

Posted by Ron F in Tax, legislation, health carefinanacial reportingFASBemployeesCongresscomplianceCareers/ManagementAccounting

Ron F

The brouhaha over the hits to earnings from the new health-care law that companies are announcing is much ado about very little.

First of all, the charge is an estimate of future costs and will have no immediate impact on cash flow. And the estimate is unusually large because the accounting rules require costs that would otherwise be reported in the future to be reported now, simply because they are the result of a change in tax treatment.

Apr 01
2010

Financial reform going nowhere fast

Posted by Ron F in Senate Banking CommitteeRiskRegulationPaul VolckerFederal ReserveConsumer Financial Protection AgencyCongressoinal Oversight PanelCongresscomplianceChris Doddbanking reformBankingbank failuresbailouts

Ron F

I see that the slow boat to financial reform continues to drift sideways, as Senate Banking Committee member Bob Corker followed Paul Volcker's call for action yesterday with a sorry-no-can-do.

Unlike health-care reform, Democrats will need the support of a Republican like Corker to get a bill containing resolution authority for big banks, derivatives regulation, and consumer protection enacted this year. Only one piece of legislation can be passed through the budget reconciliation process in any one year, and now that the process was used for health-care reform, everything else will require a filibuster-proof majority that the Democrats no longer have.

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