Weil on Finance: Fed, Dimon and Outer Space
We meet again, Viewfinders. What has it been, a half-day since our last round together? Anyway, time for your morning links.
Christopher Whalen in a commentary for Breitbart writes that “the real enabler of gridlock in Washington is not the Republicans or the Democrats, but the Federal Open Market Committee. The U.S. central bank has enabled Congress to ignore festering political issues for decades, really going back to the 1990s. It has been a quarter century, let us recall, since we had anything like full employment in the U.S. By using low interest rates to paper over the federal debt and excessive spending that continues even today, the Fed created a fantasy land atmosphere in Washington where neither party feels any pressure to compromise.” He makes a good point. For example, Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota has argued that quantitative easing helped buffer the U.S. economy during the partial government shutdown. (See the second link.) It’s also possible that the Fed’s easy-money policies helped enable the shutdown. As long as Congress knows the Fed will bail it out, we should expect lawmakers to continue behaving irresponsibly.
A nonsensical Financial Times editorial on JPMorgan Chase & Co.
First there’s the headline: “There is no case for Washington humiliating JPMorgan.” Nor is there any indication that Washington has done such a thing to JPMorgan, which will survive its $13 billion settlement with various government agencies just fine. Next there’s this paragraph: “The putative settlement is a personal slap in the face for Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s chief executive. It also reflects a far harsher regulatory landscape. This year has seen the Securities and Exchange Commission mount its first criminal prosecution of a Wall Street firm in more than a decade.” Per that last sentence, no it hasn’t. The SEC doesn’t have authority to bring criminal prosecutions.
A smarter take on the JPMorgan settlement
Peter Eavis and Ben Protess of the New York Times examine the JPMorgan deal and conclude that “Wall Street’s fears of a largely punitive settlement may not add up.” They note that “in some ways, the compensation element of the deal allows JPMorgan to resolve actions that it might have been expected to settle in any case.”
Why read Bank of America’s SEC filings when we have journalists to tell us what’s going on?
From Keri Geiger and Hugh Son of Bloomberg News: “Bank of America Corp., sued by U.S. attorneys in August over an $850 million mortgage bond, faces three additional Justice Department civil probes over mortgage-backed securities, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation.” Two of the inquiries relate to Countrywide Financial, which was bought in 2008, while the other involves Merrill Lynch, purchased in 2009.
A gift idea for adventurers with money to burn
How about a $75,000 balloon trip to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere? From Andy Pasztor of the Wall Street Journal: “Closely held Paragon Space Development Corp. of Tucson, Ariz., intends to build a helium-filled balloon, with a diameter as long as a football field, able to transport up to eight passengers to an altitude of about 100,000 feet. The aerospace contractor joins a handful of other companies that are trying to develop ways for people without extensive astronaut training to reach or at least get close to outer space. With a projected ticket price of $75,000, the goal is `bringing space to the masses as much as we can,’ said Taber MacCallum, Paragon's chief executive and co-founder.”
(Jonathan Weil is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)