Tag Archives: finance

What did they know?

Finger-pointing about the economic crisis won’t get us out of it, but Congressional hearings aim to provide some clarity around the latest analysis of the Lehman Brothers collapse and the SEC fraud charges against Goldman Sachs.

The NewsHour’s Rundown blog polled leading economists on what they would ask Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke ahead of the hearings.

Some of their responses:

Mark Calabria – director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute
Chairman Bernanke: If Lehman had been rescued what would be different today? Would employment be any higher or credit more widely available?
Russ Roberts – J. Fish and Lillian F. Smith Professor of Economics Chair, Mercatus Center, George Mason University
I would ask Ben Bernanke: What would have happened had you let Bear Stearns go bankrupt? How would that have changed Lehman’s behavior between March and September of 2008? What evidence is there that the bankruptcy of Bear Stearns would have had systemic effects?

WNYC’s The Takeaway had New York Times reporter Louise Story explain the Goldman Sachs fraud suit.

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In December, Story reported on how Goldman and other banks bet against collateralized debt organizations (CDOs), which may have worsened the housing crisis.

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What questions would you ask the Geithner and Bernanke about the financial crisis and bank regulation?

Book club

This is hardly the first financial crisis the world has faced. What kinds of books were coming out fifty or even a hundred years ago to help people get a grasp on economic concepts during times of uncertainty?

There are thousands of titles, and you can find the names of many at The Wall Street Curmudgeon. The site has listed over 400 books about the U.S. market. Some of my favorite titles range from the alliterative (Fads, Fakes, Freaks, Frauds and Fools, published: 1923) to the ingenious (Where are the Customers’ Yachts?, published: 1940).

A few other gems from the list:
My Adventures with Your Money (Author: George Graham Rice, 1911)
My Stockbroker is a Bum (Author: Anonymous. Published: 1971)
Laugh With Your Investments (Author: Regina Barnes. Published: 1960)
Little Bits About Big Men (Author: B.C. Forbes. Published: 1941)

Today, the Pulitzer Prizes were announced, honoring the best journalism and writing of the year. Among them was biography winner T.J. Stiles, who wrote The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. NewsHour’s ArtBeat blog spoke with Stiles after he won the National Book Award in November.

A few weeks ago, we looked at the best books that have come out on finance during the recent crisis. NewsHour’s Paul Solman had some big-time economists suggest their favorites.

Have you read anything worthwhile about the markets lately? Or have ideas of a title that’s not yet been written? Suggest names of books (real or imagined!) below.

Shorting out

This month’s Vanity Fair magazine was devoted to money – specifically those who benefited from the financial fallout and where they are now. How’s all that financial reform coming?

WAMU’s Diane Rehm spoke with journalist Michael Lewis, author of The Big Short and a Vanity Fair contributor, who wrote about bankers who earned huge windfalls from lofty investments during the recession.

Lewis told an audience last week:

“I was walking into a story that was very heavy, and in explaining the financial crisis, I was going to have readers wading through stuff that they wouldn’t really understand,” Lewis said. “There were a handful of people who had foreseen the crisis coming. It was a very small universe. They didn’t know each other. I tried to meet every one of them … Then I picked people from this universe who could tell the story.

At the major banks, cutting salaries was the public-facing way of showing that living off the financial woes of the rest of the country was going to have to change. Marketplace reports that while executive salaries at the major banks were cut by about 15 percent this year, that hasn’t been steep enough to force the people who were benefiting the most from shady deals out of those jobs.

Namely that about 85 percent of the individuals who had their pay set are still at their desk working for these very five same companies. This is strong evidence that the pay determinations are not resulting in some sort of brain drain from these companies.

To Wall Street’s chagrin, the Obama administration is looking at Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard bankruptcy expert and critic of the financial industry to head a new consumer protection agency.

The Senate Finance Committee is also responding to fears about soaring executive pay and irresponsible lending (by analyzing how banks and the risk they assume are regulated. NewsHour reports on the GOP side of that debate.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala: “…we’re all consumers. We don’t want anybody exploited in this country. Some — the states regulate a lot of things today. Will the federal government regulate them in the future? We’re not sure yet. But the main thing is to create a level playing field for all consumers.”

Despite regulation efforts, there’s still a lot of resentment out there. EconomyBeat.org shares a messy sentiment – literally a pile of dirt left in the lobby of major bank JP Morgan Chase – from the blog I Ought to be Working.

Who are you calling Shorty?

It’s Oscar weekend, but in the world of social media, a set of honors for a more prolific crowd went out this week – the Shorty Awards, which praise the best Twitterers on the planet. Some of the most impressive are from the world of finance, who’ve had some success in explaining the economic crisis in 140 characters or less.

The top six finance Twitterers include personal finance guru Suze Orman (@SuzeOrmanShow), debt help radio program The Dave Ramsey Show (@RamseyShow), finance blog site Mint.com (@mint), UK markets strategist Ashraf Laidi (@alaidi), LendingClub founder Rob Garcia (@robgarciasj), and finance site Bulls on Wall Street (@BullsOnWallSt).

How much of a difference can you make in 140 characters? The David Ramsey Show, which claimed second place in the awards reports on how listeners can learn to be debt-free and shares their stories on Twitter:

Blake: Total debt paid off by just those who got thru on the phones today on #TDRS = $876,000. Year to Date = $9,149,900

The popular personal finance blog Mint shares links to content on their main site over Twitter, like the pros and cons of offshore banking and the urban legends surrounding credit scores. But Mint also provides real-time news and advice solely on Twitter, like today’s project where they are retweeting savings tips from readers:

RT @ekmurphy: automatic savings plan helps build savings every time I get paid, not just at the end of the month when I look at what’s left

Outside of finance, but still in the realm of news in the public interest, The Diane Rehm Show @DRShow and Matt Laslo @MattLaslo of Capitol News Connection were both finalists in the news category. Washington, D.C. radio legend Diane Rehm shares inside views of her guests, like health care expert and NIH director Francis Collins, and asks listeners to answer questions on relevant news topics.

Matt Laslo at Capitol News Connection gives real-time updates from his reporting escapades on Capitol Hill. A recent adventure found him hearing about Texas Independence Day:

Did you know it’s Texas Independence Day? Me neither, until Cornyn (R-TX) started talking about it on the Senate floor.

Who are your favorite economics and news experts on Twitter? My favorites are listed here, on the @economystory bloggers list.