Bank CEOs: Sorry For Risky Behaviour, Bad Decisions
Wall Street executives said Wednesday they underestimated the severity of the 2008 financial crisis and apologised for risky behaviour and poor decisions. They also defended their bonus and compensation practices to a skeptical commission investigating what caused the collapse.
Americans are furious and “have a right to be” about the hefty bonuses banks paid out after getting billions of dollars in federal help, the commission’s chairman told chief executives of four major banks, all survivors of the deepest and longest recession since the Depression.
As the hearings opened before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, chairman Phil Angelides pledged “a full and fair inquiry into what brought our financial system to its knees.”
The panel began its yearlong inquiry amid rising public fury over bailouts and bankers’ pay.
“We understand the anger felt by many citizens,” said Brian Moynihan, chief executive and president of Bank of America. “We are grateful for the taxpayer assistance we have received.”
“Over the course of the crisis, we as an industry caused a lot of damage,” Moynihan said.
With Bank of America having repaid its bailout money, he said “the vast majority of our employees played no role in the economic crisis” and do not deserve to be penalised with lower compensation. Moynihan said compensation levels will be higher next year than they were in 2008 but not at levels reached before the financial meltdown.
Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co., said most of his employees took “significant cuts in compensation” in 2008. He said his company would continue to pay people in a “responsible and disciplined manner” to attract and retain top talent.
Still, Dimon said, “We did make mistakes and there were things we could have done better.”
John Mack, chairman of Morgan Stanley, said the crisis was “a powerful wake-up call for this firm.” He said he didn’t take a bonus in 2009 and that his bank has overhauled its compensation practices to discourage “excessive risk-taking.”
The other executives also said their companies had tightened bonus policies, including provisions to “claw back” some of the money when performance faltered.
Angelides, a former Democratic state treasurer of California, questioned Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein about packaging soured assets into bond-like securities and selling them to investors, even as Goldman Sachs was “shorting” the same securities, or making inside bets they would fail. These included risky mortgages that were extended to borrowers with poor credit records and helped cause the home-loan bust.
“It sounds like selling a car with faulty brakes and then buying an insurance policy” on the driver, Angelides said in an animated exchange with the Goldman Sachs executive.
Responded Blankfein: “I do think the behavior is improper. We regret the consequence that people have lost money in it.”
Like the other witnesses, Blankfein acknowledged lapses in judgment in some practices leading up to the crisis.
“Whatever we did, it didn’t work out well,” he said. “We were going to bed every night with more risk than any responsible manager would want to have.”
The four bankers represent institutions that collectively received more than $90 billion in direct government assistance from the $700 billion federal bank bailout and availed themselves of billions from the Federal Reserve. Goldman Sachs received an additional $12.9 billion in bailout money that had gone to AIG.
Angelides suggested that blame for the crisis was widespread among the nation’s largest financial institutions. “Maybe this is like `Murder on the Orient Express’ — Everybody did it,” he said, referring to the Agatha Christie murder mystery. The four bankers appeared before the panel for just over three hours before it turned to other witnesses.
At the White House, presidential press secretary Robert Gibbs said that President Obama on Thursday will outline his plan to make sure taxpayers are able to recoup the money they are owed in the bailouts. The president is expected to announce a new fee on the country’s biggest financial firms to recover up to $120 billion.
Of the bankers’ testimony, Gibbs said, “It would seem to me that apology would be the least of what anybody could expect.” He said Wall Street officials need to show common sense.
The witnesses said they supported tighter oversight, but warned against going too far. Congress is considering limiting the size of financial companies or breaking up companies whose failure could collapse the whole financial system.
“The solution is not to cap the size of financial firms. … We need a regulatory system that provides for even the biggest banks to be allowed to fail, but in a way that does not put taxpayers or the broader economy at risk,” Dimon said.
The commission’s vice chairman, former Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., said the inquiry would try “to get to the bottom of what happened and explain it in a way that the American people can understand.”
Thomas, a former chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said one important question is, “If you knew then what you do now, what would you have done differently?”
Dimon said a crucial blunder was “how we just missed that housing prices don’t go up forever.” Added Mack: “We did eat our cooking and we choked on it.”
The bipartisan, 10-member commission was handed the job of writing the official narrative of what went wrong before the financial system nearly collapsed in the fall of 2008.
The commission is modeled on the panel that examined the causes of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But the prototype could be the Pecora Commission, the Senate committee that investigated Wall Street abuses in 1933-34. It was named after Ferdinand Pecora, the committee’s chief lawyer.
Congress has instructed the current commission to explore 22 issues, from the effect of monetary policy on terms of credit to bank compensation structures.
Infrastructure Deficit, Insecurity, Limit Maritime Contribution To GDP – Expert
A Maritime stake holder, and Chairman of Sifax Group, Taiwo Afolabi, has attributed maritime industry’s minimal contribution to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to infrastructure deficit, insecurity on the nation’s waterways, low level of technology adoption, and deployment in the sector.
Afolabi made this known at the 5th Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime (TAAM) conference organised by the Maritime Forum of the faculty of law, University of Lagos.
Afolabi noted that other hindrances are foreign exchange bottleneck and inconsistent policies.
“These have limited the ability of the sector to contribute significantly to the country’s Gross Domestic Product GDP.
“If well harnessed, the maritime industry has the potential to become a major revenue earner for the country, particularly with the declining oil revenue.
“The lessons of the last few years as a nation should not be lost on us. The non-oil sector is increasingly becoming the mainstay of the country’s economy. We have funded our national budget in the last few years majorly without proceeds from oil but from other sectors.
“The days of our over reliance on oil is behind us now and it’s about time we focused on transitioning from an oil-dependent economy to non-oil reliance.
“The maritime sector, I can say without any fear of contradiction, will play a crucial role in this economic transitioning if more attention is committed to the industry.
“Judging by the potentials of the industry, we are of the opinion and belief that Nigeria’s maritime industry can rank among the best in the world.
“It will only take careful planning, progressive policies, generous funding, enabling environment, friendly economic policies, manpower development and massive infrastructural development”, he noted.
Loans Repayment Default: DMO Exonerates Nigeria
The Debt Management Office (DMO) has refuted the claim by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) that Nigeria has defaulted in repaying its Chinese loans.
SERAP had in an earlier statement hailed the judgement that ordered the present regime led by President Muhammadu Buhari to account for how it spent $460 million obtained from China to fund the Abuja Closed-Circuit Television project which later was not implemented.
The NGO also quoted a report in its statement saying “Nigeria has failed to repay loans for which penalties stand at N41.31bn”.
But DMO in its refuttal said the statement is ‘false’ as Nigeria has not defaulted in its loan repayment.
It said, “Nigeria is fully committed to housing its debt obligations and has not defaulted on any of its debt service obligations”, DMO said on Monday.
SERAP had sued the Federal Government following a 2019 disclosure by the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed that “Nigeria was servicing the loan”, adding that she had “no explanations on the status of the project”.
She reportedly said, “We are servicing the loan. I have no information on the status of the CCTV project”.
Giving his judgement, Justice Nwite agreed with SERAP that “there is a reasonable cause of action against the government. Accounting for the spending of the $460 million Chinese loan is in the interest of the public. It will be inimical for the court to refuse SERAP’s application for judicial review of the government’s action”.
The presiding justice also said the Minister of Finance is in charge of the finance of the country and “cannot by any stretch of imagination be oblivious of the amount of money paid to the contractors for the Abuja CCTV contract and the money meant for the construction of the headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB)”, SERAP said.
CBN Names Four Firms To Print Cheques
Nigeria’s apex banking institution, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has named four local firms for the printing of cheques, excluding the Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company (NPSMC) PLC.
The list of the approved firms for the printing of cheques was contained in a circular issued by CBN.
The circular, which was signed by the Director of Banking Services, Sam Okojere, said the approved firms include Superflux International Limited, Tripple Gee and Company, Yaliam Press Limited, and Marvelous Mike Press.
“The re-accreditation of Cheques Printers and Cheque Personalisers is in line with the relevant qualification criteria”, CBN stated.
The circular also revealed that seven banks were approved as personalisers of cheques: they are Zenith Bank Plc, Ecobank Plc, First Bank Ltd, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Keystone Bank Ltd, Providus Bank Ltd and Wema Bank Plc.
It further disclosed that all accredited printers and personalisers had been duly notified and certificates issued.
The Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company Plc is the sole printer of N200, N500, and N1000 new notes.
Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company Plc and Euphoria Group Limited were accredited and approved on Thursday, 04 December 2014, in a letter REF: BPS/DIR/GEN/CIR/02/033.
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