[Updated with statement from Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott] Reports are hitting the interwebs this afternoon that a federal judge has ordered PwC to pay the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. $625 million in damages for failing to uncover a long-running fraud scheme between its client Colonial Bank and the now-defunct mortgage lender Taylor, Bean & […]
Francine McKenna reports on MarketWatch that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. stands to collect a pret-tay pret-tay pret-tay big chunk of change from PwC for the losses from the bankruptcy of Colonial Bank. The FDIC, acting as receiver for the failed Colonial Bank Group that collapsed in 2009, has asked Judge Barbara Rothstein to award […]
In the waning days of 2017, a judge in Alabama found PwC was negligent in its audit of Colonial Bank. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation had sued the firm for failing to detect the fraud at the root of Colonial’s 2009 failure. Although Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein denied other claims brought by FDIC and the […]
Yeah so first this happened: On Wednesday the FDIC, as receiver for the Colonial Bank of Montgomery, Alabama, sued PricewaterhouseCoopers and Crowe Horwath in federal court in Montgomery, claiming that they committed professional malpractice and breach of contract by failing to detect that two Colonial employees helped the notorious (and defunct) mortgage lender Taylor Bean […]
John Carney comments on Sheila Bair’s bellyaching about mark-to-market today by simply wondering why there has to be a debate at all. That is, couldn’t accounting rules just be served up – presumably buffet style – and the banks would choose which treatment they like best and then regulators could judge their health based on their choices:
Here’s what I don’t get: why do we need one set of accounting standards at all? To put it differently, why should banking regulators feel obliged to judge the safety and soundness of financial institutions according to any measure that they do not like? If Bair doesn’t think fair value is appropriate to the banking sector, can’t she just ignore fair value when judging whether banks satisfy regulatory requirements?
It’s an interesting question. Why does the FDIC care what fair value says when determining bank health? Analysts use and refer to non-GAAP data all the time, so what difference does it make if regulators rationalize their analysis on similar non-GAAP measures?
After explaining that, despite the complaints of a certain billionaire (among others), transparency is actually a good thing, Carney floats an idea:
My truly radical proposal is that we should probably do away with this argument altogether by allowing banks—and every other company for that matter—to choose which accounting standards they want to use. If amortized cost is truly a better standard, banks using that will surely be rewarded by higher stock prices and cheaper access to credit. On the other hand, if fair value is appropriate, the market will reward that. Why not let banks choose and bear the costs of their choice?
While we’re with John in spirit (especially for the banks, they run things after all), the BSDs in the accounting will never let this fly. The idea of letting individual companies determine what accounting rules to follow is enough to cause Big 4 partners to set themselves on fire in the middle of Union Square in protest.
However, if you’ve got thoughts on we could put this thing in motion, it might be kind of fun to see how it works out.
JetBlue CFO Flies Cross-Country, Collects Garbage [NYM]
JetBlue CFO Ed Barnes and VP Robin Hayes reportedly did their best to show up Steven Slater on a recent flight from New York to Long Beach. Apparently it is not uncommon for JetBlue execs to help out during the flight, however passengers can spot an amateur/numbers person when they see one:
“Barnes took one of the most challenging of the flight attendant’s duties upon himself: He gathered trash. ‘He never served anything, but he was the trash guy. He must have gone by eight times,’ our source said. ‘And he was kind of bad at it. He was really tall. There’s an art to reaching over people’s heads and h and not spilling it.’ Apparently both men were very nice, especially considering that the CFO was ‘clearly a guy who is used to doing spreadsheets and is now gathering trash.’ ”
Leverage FASB Tools to Catch Up on New Accounting [Compliance Week]
“Although the FASB is a on a fast track to issue a host of major new accounting standards as part of its effort with the IASB to converge U.S. and international rules, the board has coupled that with an effort to get resources out that can help key stakeholders grasp the new era of accounting that is just dawning. In addition to the usual discussion papers and exposure documents laying out the full technical detail of its plans, the board also is publishing user-friendly summaries and producing podcasts and webinars that explain the major new initiatives as they are proposed.”
How to Deal With Your New Boss [FINS]
“You will have to prove yourself all over again. The work culture of the past will change, and the expectations will be intensified, at least in the beginning. Experts agree there are specific ways to respond that will maximize your chances of surviving, and even thriving. For finance professionals, managing a new boss comes with some added stressors that professionals in other fields may not experience.”
H-P Board Sued on Hurd Exit [WSJ]
“Hewlett-Packard Co.’s directors got slapped with a lawsuit over the departure of Mark Hurd—the same chief executive who handpicked most of the board’s members—even as they face the task of finding a replacement for the former CEO.
A Connecticut-based law firm filed a shareholder derivative suit in Santa Clara County Superior Court in California on Tuesday against H-P’s board, alleging directors violated their fiduciary duties in connection with the events surrounding the resignation on Friday of Mr. Hurd.”
FDIC opens its doors to carry out financial reform [Reuters]
“Bank regulators on Thursday pledged an ‘open door’ policy for carrying out financial reform, also saying they will inform the public of meetings between senior officials and private sector individuals.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp said it will release every two weeks the names and affiliations of people outside of the government who meet with agency officials to discuss implementing the Dodd-Frank law. The subjects that are discussed will also be made public.”
IRS Prepares Preparers for Preparer Requirements [Web CPA]
“An IRS official repeatedly reassured an audience of tax preparers that the agency isn’t aiming to take away their livelihoods or weed out people when its new registration, testing, education and e-file requirements take effect next tax season.”
Community banks are gaining ground in the banking sector, scooping up small business customers that are feeling underserved by bigger institutions.
The four largest US banks – Bank of America, Citibank, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo/Wachovia – currently hold the greatest share of small-business customers, according to a report from Aite Group released Thursday. But community banks are growing their share at the fastest rate, often at the expense of large banks.
Roughly 35 percent of US small businesses consider a community bank to be their primary financial institution, up from 24 percent in 2006.
The report revealed that large banks are failing to connect with small businesses. One of the reasons is that they struggle to understand their needs.
“Large banks are missing the boat when it comes to effectively serving and cross-selling to small-business customers,” said Christine Barry, research director with Aite Group, in a press release. “This is evidenced by the declining satisfaction rates of their customers and their failure to meet cross-selling needs.”
Such a customer base is crucial, even for large banks, at a time when deposits are precious commodities.
Small banks have been able to make headway by purchasing failed community banks, as reported by The Big Money this week.
“As the continuing real-estate crisis pushes more tiny banks into failure, the most common saviors have been other small banks, community banks, small thrifts, and modestly sized lenders,” Heidi Moore wrote.
But small banks aren’t necessarily a safe haven from troubles ailing their bigger competitors.
Although banks with over $10 billion in assets hold over half of commercial banks’ total commercial real estate whole loans, smaller banks have an overall greater exposure to commercial real estate, according to a report from the Congressional Oversight Panel.
Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, recently voiced concerns about the risk that commercial real estate poses to community banks, noting that commercial real estate comprised more than 43 percent of the portfolios of community banks.
Those concerns are well founded, as commercial real estate has played an increasingly large role in bank failures. For the 205 banks that have failed since 2007, a third of their loan portfolio has been made up of commercial real estate loans, compared to an industry average of 26.9 percent, according to investment bank KBW. The seven banks seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation last Friday had an even higher concentration with almost 40 percent of their loans tied up in commercial real estate.
If write downs increase as expected, it could ultimately create capital problems for community banks, which could in turn curb lending to small businesses.
“The current distribution of commercial real estate loans may be particularly problematic for the small business community because smaller regional and community banks with substantial commercial real estate exposure account for almost half of small business loans,” the COP report published in February said. For example, smaller banks with the highest exposure to commercial real estate provide around 40 percent of all small business loans.
Not exactly shocking news but one of the mysteries of the financial crisis is how it came to be that banks ended up with r transferred to investors.
Sure, it’s well known that the assets banks removed from their balance sheets did not shift much risk to investors after all, thanks to liquidity guarantees they supplied to investors. But that even took former Citigroup vice chairman and Treasury secretary Robert Rubin by surprise, as Rubin said he didn’t know such guarantees existed until after the bank was forced to increase its capital reserves because it had to make good on them.
Now research that came out a year ago but was revised late last month helps clarify what went awry.
It turns out that a conflict between the Financial Accounting Standards Board and federal bank regulators was even more critical than I thought it was when I reported it in 2004. The conflict arose after FASB voted to require commercial banks to consolidate such vehicles after such financing arrangements caused energy trading firm Enron Corp. to fail.
I was aware that the regulators asked the FASB to delay the new accounting rule and that the board eventually provided an exemption for so-called “qualified” special purpose entities, which provided a loophole from consolidation so long as they vehicles weren’t actively managed.
But the full significance of that escaped me until I saw the research, which shows that securitization along the lines of Enron’s — guarantees that limited or even eliminated investor risk — exploded after bank regulators codified the exemption in their capital requirements. Indeed, the exemption essentially paved the way for banks to use more off-balance-sheet financing vehicles that masked their true risk.
How exactly? In late 2004, the Federal Reserve Board, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of Thrift Supervision decided that asset-backed commercial paper put into special purpose vehicles known as conduits would not have to be consolidated for purposes of calculating capital requirements. And the regulators decided that banks need only reserve against 10 percent of the amounts put into conduits even when they guaranteed that investors would be repaid if there were a run on the conduits. Previously, securitizations typically put investors on the hook for that risk.
The research, originally published in May 2009 but revised in late January and entitled “Securitization without Risk Transfer,” found that the amount of subprime assets securitized through such vehicles soared in the wake of the exemption, even though the liquidity guarantees extended to investors meant that little or no risk had been transferred to them.
“Regulation should either treat off-balance-sheet activities with recourse as on-balance sheet for capital requirement and accounting disclosure purposes, or, require that off-balance sheet activities do not have recourse to bank balance sheets,” the authors, Viral V. Acharya and Philipp Schnabl of New York University and Gustavo Suarez of the Federal Reserve, conclude. “The current treatment appears to be a recipe for disaster, from the standpoint of transparency as well as capital adequacy of the financial intermediation sector as a whole.”
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and Office of Thrift Supervision released their long-awaited final word on new rules for securitized assets, specifically for bank balance sheets:
The federal banking and thrift regulatory agencies today announced the final risk-based capital rule related to the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s adoption of Statements of Financial Accounting Standards Nos. 166 and 167. These new accounting standards make substantive changes to how banking organizations account for many items, including securitized assets, that had been previously excluded from these organizations’ balance sheets.
What does this mean for banks? In simple terms, they’re no longer going to be allowed to hide massive amounts of SPEs and derivative exposure off their balance sheets. Hit the deck!
Banking organizations affected by the new accounting standards generally will be subject to higher risk-based regulatory capital requirements. The rule better aligns risk-based capital requirements with the actual risks of certain exposures. It also provides an optional phase-in for four quarters of the impact on risk-weighted assets and tier 2 capital resulting from a banking organization’s implementation of the new accounting standards.
In case your ass has been under a rock for the last year, FASB came after banks’ asses over the summer. Miraculously, the Fed encouraged this switch, leading me to believe they’re just trying to cover their tracks.
Quadruple Whammy: Regulatory Agencies’ Final Rule on FAS 166/167 [JDA]
FASB Changes, Toxic Asset Shuffle