Debt forgiveness & Writedowns, one in the same?

Below is a comment made by the Regulator at UCC while talking to a group of compliance officers.

“Reform of the bankruptcy regime could allow borrowers to earn a fresh start by discharging their debt over a reasonable period of time, Mr Elderfield said. However, he cautioned against debt forgiveness for the thousands of mortgage holders currently behind with payments on their loans.

Addressing compliance officers in Cork, he said it was understandable that some people wanted to go beyond rescheduling debt to consider some form of debt forgiveness.

“However, the cost of any support will need to be borne by the taxpayers or by the banks and therefore, in many cases, effectively the taxpayer as well, and this raises questions of fairness for taxpayers who are not in debt and, at a time of immense budgetary pressure, affordability for government finances.

“There is also the risk that any scheme would create perverse incentives and in fact make …

Read More

Why a borrower bailout is not likely

The EBS is on the block and there have been countless headlines regarding the idea that debts might get written down by Wilbur Ross if the Cardinal Capital group (who he is backing) are the successful bidder. I have said that I doubt this will happen and will set out why in this post.

EBS carried out a PCAR (prudential capital assessment requirement) test in March 2010, it showed that they required €875 million in funding to come up to scratch. Thus far they received €100m in cash from the state and a further €250m in a promissory note leaving a gap of €525m to fill. The bids being touted are in the region of €550m meaning that whoever buys in is effectively bridging the gap and paying a small premium as well.

Take a look at a balance sheet and you’ll see that no matter what happens, that in the end assets=liabilities. That is an accounting identity, in our example we have a hypothetical bank which has assets and liabilities worth (for example sake) €100 million Euro.

Read More

Central Bank Reform Bill 2010

We all want ‘tough regulation’, I would argue it doesn’t need to be tougher, rather it needs to be more pragmatic and enforced, and of those two criteria enforcement being the greater.

The Central Bank Reform Bill 2010 is going to give God powers to the Central Bank/Financial Services Authority of Ireland. Essentially it sets out a framework whereby they can call all of the shots, right down to how companies promote people.

In Part 3 s20(2) they can determine either by their interpretation of title or their interpretation of a persons role, whether they have any controlling function, and if so they require CB/FSAI authority in order to do their job, this is an additional layer of HR activity that will be injected into financial services companies.

Part 3 s35(i) states that a function requires pre-approval if the CB/FSAI deem it to be so on grounds of ‘size or complexity’, yet they don’t state any parameters for same, meaning a mom & pop shop could fall under these rigours based upon the …

Read More

Why banks support bangers

There have been headlines about the way that AIB underwrote certain loans to Liam Carroll, judge Peter Kelly is of the belief that the security may not be correct because AIB essentially gave him the money in early 2009 on the back of a personal guarantee and some other minor security.

Why would a bank do this? Especially as they were curtailing lending to every other sector of the market? Especially when they were being saved by the taxpayer and had just been bailed out? This isn’t to defend the banks, but to explain the reason why they acted in such a counter intuitive way, any right thinking person would be correct in assuming that they should have been trying to rein in developers, but that is the reverse of what they did, rather they extended more credit to the developer.

Explanation for this is simple, Carroll had brought AIB too far down the rabbit hole for them to turn around and pull the plug, a bank gets to a certain point with a …

Read More

Who is really to blame for the crisis?

Today, buried on the inner page of the Independent Business section there was an article stating that an Oireachtas committee found that the responsibility for the financial crisis in Ireland was largely down to regulators and ratings agencies (the same agencies who down-graded Irish debt in 09′).

Sadly, it didn’t make massive headlines, nor will it… If you could get a picture of Sean Fitz, or some scandal element to tag on then it would be everywhere, but the humble work of one of the few independent studies done on the matter, lacking sex-appeal & scandal will be widely ignored by the public, meaning everybody will still only see ‘banks’ as the source of the problem rather than as the conduit, when in fact the source of the problem was the gatekeeper, the person with their hand on the tap of the conduit, who allowed credit to flow too quickly for too long.

I had coffee with a well known economist last April and we spoke about this matter, he felt that it was …

Read More

The Criminal Justice (Money Laundering & Terrorist Financing) Bill 2009

The Main Purpose of the Bill is to:

•Identify and verify the identity of their customer and of any assets ultimate beneficial owner, and to monitor their business relationship with the customer; •Report suspicions of money laundering or terrorist financing to the public authorities, usually, the national financial intelligence unit; •Take supporting measures, such as ensuring proper training of the personnel and the establishment of appropriate internal preventive policies and procedures.

The 2009/Bill/Act will be applicable to Intermediaries – investment, mortgage and insurance and other investment/insurance businesses which are regulated by the Financial Regulator.  Going forward the term “Designated Body” will be replaced by the term “Designated persons”

The changes which the new Act will bring are:

•“Designated Persons” will be required to perform customer due diligence on a risk based approach. There will be 3 types of customer due diligence depending on the circumstances, (1) Simplified (2) Standard (3) Enhanced identification

•The following products are exempted from the requirements in relation to Customer Due Diligence: – Life Assurance policies with an Annual premium of not more than € 1000 …

Read More

Financial Fragility and Corporate Governance in Ireland today

This is footage of a talk given by Prof. Stephen Kinsella of the Kemmy Business School in University of Limerick, about his thoughts on regulation, corporate governance, and the Minsky Hypothesis.

You can watch the whole playlist here. Or go to the Irish CFA channel on youtube and check out the follow on videos, there are six in total, the questions and answer section is particularly interesting to anybody who may have an interest in financial regulation and some of the pitfalls of it, Stephens thoughts are quite refreshing to the normal solutions you’ll hear (although I don’t agree with them all!).

Read More

Beware of Expert Opinion from Promoters.

Lately we have been witnessing a resurfacing of property promoters in the press after a long period of silence. We want to reassert our advice that people should do their own homework before embarking on a large asset purchase be it property or otherwise.

How can you tell if it makes sense to buy a property? Our suggestion, as a financial firm, is that you talk to a financial adviser, you determine your own circumstances, you look at your own unique situation, and that you don’t base your opinion on what you hear on the radio or TV from people in the property business. The people who are restarting to champion property now are doing so under the banner that ‘it is cheap to buy’, part of the ‘cheap’ is due to exceptionally low interest rates, which invariably will go up some day.

That is not to say ‘don’t buy property‘, far from it, what we are trying to tell people is ‘make prudent decisions’, don’t buy any asset you can’t afford …

Read More

Will Specialist or Sub-Prime lenders be better off?

With the news coming out daily about prime lenders facing higher and higher impairment charges it begs the question of who will do better during a downturn, specialist/sub prime lenders or prime high street banks?

Banks stated that they feel impairments of up to 90 basis points were likely, some have revised this figure higher several times with NIB predicting impairment of upwards of 300 basis points. Sub-prime lenders on the other hand start off with predictions of high impairment and they price and gauge the risk accordingly from the outset. Given that starting point, could it be a case that Irish specialist lenders may come out the other side of the liquidity crisis with an overall book that fares proportionately on margins than other prime lenders?

To answer this question we must first consider margins, with many banks typical margin is from 1% to 1.5% on average, however, with many prime lenders this margin is  lower because of low margin trackers that were a point of heavy competition between …

Read More