Bill Black on 'Stress Tests' (Yves Smith)

by Chris Sturr | February 17, 2009

Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism interviews Bill Black, who wrote this article for Dollars & Sense for our Nov/Dec 2007 issue (we’ve posted about him frequently on the blog; he’s been quoted frequently in the NYT and elsewhere since the credit crisis really started getting bad, and also on topics like John McCain’s role in the S&L crisis). Hat-tip to LP.

By way of background, William Black is a former senior bank regulator, best known for his thwarted but later vindicated efforts to prosecute S&L crisis fraudster Charles Keating. He is currently an Associate Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri—Kansas City.

More germane for the purpose of this post, Black held a variety of senior regulatory positions during the S&L crisis.He managed investigations with teams of examiners reporting to him, redesigned how exams were conducted, and trained examiners.

Via e-mail, he has confirmed our suspicions about the bank stress tests announced by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner: they simply cannot be adequate, given the number and experience of the staff, and perhaps as important, their relationship with the banks (see detailed comments below).

I also asked him about the fact that bank examiners examine banks (duh) and would not have much (any?) experience in the capital markets operations or sophisticated products that the big investment bank, now banks, participated in. Goldman and Morgan Stanley ought to be subject to these exams; Citi, JP Morgan, and Bank of America have large capital markets operations. These firms are where the biggest risks and exposures lie. Do the examiners what to look for in a even the low-risk operations, like repo desks, much the less derivatives and proprietary trading books? He agreed (as presented below) that it was a near certainty that this was beyond their skill level.

Read the rest of the post.

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