Saturday, October 11, 2008

A REAL and PROVEN Solution to The Crisis

The following article was posted by Karl Denninger on his Martket-ticker blog.

This is a very insightful look into the current financial crisis and what can be done to solve the root problems associated with the crash.

Please read this and forward this information to EVERYONE YOU KNOW.


The Genesis Plan is Now Known Workable

We learned a number of things today - important things.

First - Lehman's CDS and bond auction process told us two things:

Even though they were dirtier than a hobo who hadn't had a bath in a month, they had enough value left in their bonds to wind up positive. Yes, it was less than a dime on the dollar. But it was a positive number. That's all that matters.
There were no fails on the posting of collateral against settlement.
Now for the last year we have been told that:

You can't trigger the CDS, it will cause a systemic, chain-reaction style nuclear meltdown.
These firms are so broke that there is no value left in them.
Both are now known to be false.

This gives us hope - and a path out of the darkness.

Its called "The Genesis Plan" and is what I have proposed.

The question raised about this plan is whether the "cramdown" provisions could possibly work - that is, if put through them, would the firm come out the other end, or be squashed like a bug as there was insufficient equity left in the bonds.

We now know the answer for one of the worst of the ugly - the equity is there, even if only by a scrape, to clear the firm's balance sheet and spit it out on the other side.

Folks, if there was a time to absolutely flood your Congressmen, the media, and every pundit and wonk you can find, this is it.

The short version of The Genesis Plan is:

Everyone must expose their balance sheet; all Level 2 and 3 assets must be declared and all models disclosed in full immediately and every quarter hereafter.
The CDS monster must be caged by forcing it onto an exchange where O/I and margin supervision can be maintained. This is already in process and must be completed.
Leverage must be returned to no more than 12:1 across the system - no exceptions.
The last point is obvious - every firm that has detonated has had leverage well beyond 12:1. None that have had less leverage have blown up. Game, set, match.

#2 is obvious and in process.

This leaves #1.

Now doing #1 will cause some insolvencies to be uncovered. Maybe a lot of them.

For each of those firms perform a "cramdown" of the debt to equity, using the retained value in the bonds to cover the liabilities that rendered the firm insolvent.

If there is recovery value (in most cases there will be, as we saw with Lehman) then the bondholders get newly-issued equity in ratable proportion to their (former) ownership of the bonds. The existing equity is wiped out. The firm, having no balance sheet debt whatsoever, can then immediately raise capital in the market to recapitalize itself (having a clean balance sheet this is a trivial task)

For those firms that have zero equity remaining, the government can step in and inject capital via a super-senior tranche as necessary to establish a working capital base. Remember, with a 6% Tier 1 capital requirement a little goes a long way - $10 billion injected results in over $160 billion of available gearing! Bingo - the firm is back on its feet. Protect the taxpayer in these transactions by attaching an onerous coupon to the issue so that it will be rapidly repaid (e.g. 3mo LIBOR + 600 bips) and cleared.

The objection to this plan will be that existing equity holders will be wiped out and bondholders will take a haircut.

Well, bond holders are no worse off than if the firm went under. They would get their recovery value anyway, and they still do - its just in the form of equity instead of cash.

As for equity holders, they're wiped out in a bankruptcy too.

The real objection to this is going to come from the executives, who will see their stock options rendered worthless along with their restricted shares. However, they remain in place (if the shareholders will have 'em) and as a consequence can rebuild their equity over time.

I have a solution for that problem too - make clear that any firm that turns down this demand is free to do so, but they will receive exactly zero access to the discount window or any other Fed or government borrowing facility, and if they go down, that's too bad - no help. We let Mr. Market take care of 'ya. Either take this deal now, or take your chances.

The Genesis Plan is demonstrably superior to the TARP/EESA for the following reasons:

The Genesis Plan immediately restores trust to the credit markets as balance sheets are instantaneously exposed and remain able to be evaluated by the marketplace. EESA does nothing to guarantee the return of trust to the credit markets as it does not deal with the underlying issue at all - the lies told by executives and firms in terms of their exposure to credit risk of all types.
The Genesis Plan addresses the root cause of all of the large-firm failures since the first of 2008 - excessive leverage. TARP/EESA is silent on the root cause of these business failures.
The Genesis Plan can be represented in a half-dozen pages of legislation. The EESA required over 100 to put in proper oversight. Since there is nothing other than ministerial activity required under The Genesis Plan and no discretion to abuse, such oversight is not necessary as with the EESA.
The Genesis Plan uses no taxpayer money at all for most institutions, and where taxpayer money is required it is intrinsically protected since it will sit at the top of a (new and clean) capital structure. The TARP/EESA uses all taxpayer and no private funds.
The Genesis Plan, when taxpayer money is used, goes directly to Tier 1 capital and thus is "high power" money; that is, it supports lending of $10-12 for every dollar put in. TARP/EESA is twelve times less efficient in the use of funds in that by purchasing assets zero leverage is obtained for each taxpayer dollar deployed.
The Genesis Plan promotes restoration of normal lending activity as it clears the impaired firm's balance sheet debt and immediately eliminates the issue of counterparty trust. TARP/EESA does not clear (although it does help remove items from) the firm's balance sheets and does nothing to address counterparty trust.
The Genesis Plan requires no lengthy administrative or "start up" time. It can literally be "up and running" immediately, with the exception of the CDS exchange, which is already under way. TARP/EESA was claimed to be required "immediately" but now is said to not be likely to actually go into effect until November at the earliest.
The Genesis Plan uses existing agencies who are already tasked with the required functions - auditing and reporting (OTS, OCC and the FDIC) and thus has very low "parasitic" costs. TARP/EESA establishes a new government agency and thus has a high parasitic cost requirement.
The Genesis Plan exposes the taxpayer to no credit risk. EESA/TARP exposes the taxpayer to $700 billion in taxpayer risk - or more.
While there were a few signs of credit market stress easing (a bit) today, there were also more anecdotes of things getting much worse. I see nothing to suggest that short-term lending has returned to normal, and until I do, I remain on high alert for the sort of disruptive events that can impact your life in very undesirable ways.

Yes, the market bounced hard today. Twice. Artificial? Maybe. Inside knowledge? More probably. Will whatever the "crackberry network" was buzzing about work? Likely not for more than a few days, but with the market this jittery, it doesn't matter - when the VIX is this high anything that makes people jump causes this sort of reaction - in either direction.

Get on it folks - plaster the media and your elected officials with the fact that we now have hard evidence that this path forward will not only work on a technical basis, but if it is adopted it will clear the credit markets almost immediately, which is the key element of this mess that must be resolved.

Any public official or media that wants to get ahold of me - the contact link works, and you're invited to use it.

We must fix this mess and we must do it now!