September, 2008 will eventually get a nickname.
- Monday, October 19, 1987 was “Black Monday.”
- October, 1929 was “The Crash.”
I would love to see your suggested nicknames for September 2008 in the comments.
Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the last big independent investment banks on Wall Street, will transform themselves into bank holding companies subject to far greater regulation, the Federal Reserve said Sunday night, a move that fundamentally reshapes an era of high finance that defined the modern Gilded Age.
The firms requested the change themselves, even as Congress and the Bush administration rushed to pass a $700 billion rescue of financial firms. It was a blunt acknowledgment that their model of finance and investing had become too risky and that they needed the cushion of bank deposits that had kept big commercial banks like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase relatively safe amid the recent turmoil.
It also is a turning point for the high-rolling culture of Wall Street, with its seven-figure bonuses and lavish perks for even midlevel executives. It effectively returns Wall Street to the way it was structured before Congress passed a law during the Great Depression separating investment banking from commercial banking, known as the Glass-Steagall Act.
By becoming bank holding companies, the firms are agreeing to significantly tighter regulations and much closer supervision by bank examiners from several government agencies rather than only the Securities and Exchange Commission. Now, the firms will look more like commercial banks, with more disclosure, higher capital reserves and less risk-taking.
In exchange for subjecting themselves to more regulation, the companies will have access to the full array of the Federal Reserve’s lending facilities. It should help them avoid the fate of Lehman Brothers, which filed for bankruptcy last week, and Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch “” both of which agreed to be acquired by big bank holding companies.
Today, Goldman Sachs has $1 of capital for every $22 of assets; Morgan Stanley has $1 for every $30. By contrast, Bank of America’s has less than $11 for every $1 of capital.
JPMorgan Chase acquired Bear Stearns this spring in a fire sale brokered by the federal government, while Bank of America has agreed to buy Merrill Lynch for $50 billion.
I imagine the New York luxury real estate market will tank along with the enormous bonuses that those investment bankers were so famous for.