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StrategyDriven Editorial Perspective – The Government has Created a Monster

The Government Has Created a MonsterThe Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has served as an integral part of the nation’s financial system since its inception in 1933. Our trust in this institution is so strong that it is rare to find someone with a checking account in a bank that lacks an FDIC placard in the window. Nonetheless, the failure and resolution of Texas-based First RepublicBank, reminds us that the hand of government can harm as well as help when it wrestles the invisible hand of the market.

More than an insurer of accounts up to $250,000, the FDIC also regulates financial institutions and serves as a receiver in bankruptcy. The latter role was codified in the Federal Deposit Insurance Act of 1950, which provided the FDIC “additional powers to both expedite the liquidation process for banks and thrifts in order to maintain confidence in the nation’s banking system,” the FDIC’s Resolution Handbook explains.

RepublicBank merged with InterFirst Corporation in June 1986, and formed First RepublicBank Corporation, the largest bank holding company in the Southwest at the time. Then FDIC Chairman William Seidman expressed concern about the merger of two weak banks, “however, without the merger, both banks were more likely to fail, and they would cost even more [apart] than if they failed together,” Seidman recalled in his memoir Full Faith and Credit1.

Seidman’s concerns were warranted. With both banks highly concentrated in the weak Texas real estate market, the deal ended up helping neither bank. As the bank’s losses mounted, depositors fled. Just nine months after the merger was completed, the FDIC had to step in to resolve the failing institution, and at $3.9 billion, it was the most costly bank failure in FDIC history.

Though much can be blamed on the poor condition of the bank’s assets, some of the government’s deal-making “proved to have some room for improvement,” according to the FDIC’s review2.

Included in the resolution was a servicing agreement between the FDIC and NCNB Corporation of Charlotte, NC, the acquiring bank of First Republic’s assets, which required the FDIC to cover costs associated with managing the troubled asset pool. This agreement turned out to be a major source of income for NCNB, and gave them an incentive to hold on to the assets rather than liquidate when the market strengthened. All told, the FDIC paid $1.9 billion in management fees to NCNB.

Another issue was taxes. The IRS had negotiated with NCNB (and no other bidders) $700 million in tax savings with the acquisition. A letter from the IRS allowed the acquirer to treat the deal as a “tax-free reorganization and to carry forward losses from the failed banks to offset future income,” according to the FDIC’s analysis3. These tax savings allowed NCNB to compete aggressively in the Texas market, offering above-market deposit rates and below-market loan rates.

“The government has created a monster,” Chris Williston, the president of the Texas Independent Bankers Association, told American Banker in 19904.

In stepping up when banks fail, the FDIC provides “an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in 1933. But the example of First RepublicBank reminds us that infusing government into any market-based transactions can change the outcome for better and for worse. In restoring public confidence, the more invisible our government can be, perhaps the better.


About the Author

Cara WickCara Wick writes about American financial and political history at www.bankersnotes.com. She holds a BA from Williams College and an MBA from the University of Iowa. Cara can be reached at [email protected].


References

  1. Full Faith and Credit, William Seidman, p. 147
  2. Managing the Crises, p. 612
  3. ibid., p. 596
  4. ibid., p. 605
StrategyDriven Podcast Series

StrategyDriven Editorial Perspective – Gather Ye Sugar Plums While Ye May; Your Personal Discretionary Budget will be Impacted by Washington

Spend well this Christmas/Holiday Season and be merry. But ‘tis the season for budgeting for the New Year as well. Unless otherwise averted, your Christmas/Holiday or otherwise discretionary budget will fade next year to infinity and beyond. The trend is that American holiday spending has diminished over the past 10 years from $1,037.00 in 2002 to $854.00 in 2012.).1 This latest statistic compares to pre-recession spending. Throw a travel budget into the mix (average of $1,200)2 and double your expenses for gas, and there you’ve got it, your discretionary budget is going, then gone to pay your new tax obligations.

The Grinch could no more create this story; it is reality.

Reality be damned, according to the bi-partisan Tax Policy Center, the average American family is expected to pay $3,500 more in taxes annually.3 This is the average for families, not millionaires or the nouveau riche defined $250,000 earners. This will affect us all, in a ho ho sized way, and I don’t mean Hostess. Take this seriously; your wallets will be lighter.

What is a family to do? Perhaps hunker down and bake gingerbread men, call your congressional representative. Now we are talking about real impact. Let us not forget, this will not only affect the ‘rich’ Americans. This is planned to hit us all in the pocketbook.

We also need to plan for Obamacare. Many of us think that this tax, as defined by the Supreme Court, won’t affect our spending and expenses; Think again. Families will need to maintain their insurance at their employer, buy insurance or pay the tax penalty, estimated at $2,085 for a family in 2016 (average consistent with income level scales).4

If employers, no, WHEN employers stop their insurance benefits, this will become more real. We have been told if you like your doctor, you would be able to keep your doctor; if you like your plan, no one will take it away. President Obama indicates that 98 percent of Americans will be unaffected by the tax penalty and suggested that those who will be, should face up to their civic responsibilities. But a more recent estimate is that more than 6 million uninsured people will pay the tax penalty, largely middle class workers including approximately 10 percent at or below the poverty level.5 Someone has to pay the piper. (With the exception of Indian tribes, Amish, wage earners of under $9,500 annually, or qualified hardships) But remember, there is no governmental control on businesses to maintain your level of benefits, period.

More than 80 percent of employers provide health care insurance to employees but this will drop considerably, if not by 50 percent. According to Price Waterhouse, at least 84 percent of employers are considering changes to health care plans to offset costs of taxes and regulations.6 Further, 50 percent are considering the elimination of health care plans presumably paying the expected penalty of $2,000 per employee to the IRS. Realizing the cost implications, this penalty is less costly than health care contributions.

Many employees, who have counted on total compensation packages including health care, will see an end to their options for benefits. But, if you have unlimited, pre-tax flexible spending accounts for medical expenses, anything over $2,500 will be taxed starting in 2013. There will be a 2.3% excise tax on medical devices and equipment that will be passed on to the patients. And starting in 2018, for employers that retain ‘Cadillac’ premium health plans, you will be taxed 40 percent for the privilege. It cuts both ways.

Call it fate, call it karma. More people to be covered, more expenses to recoup, more businesses to tax. So gather ye sugarplums while ye may. You are about to experience a change to your budget that will affect your lifestyle. This will not only affect the top one, two, or five percent. The average American family will see dramatic increases that will limit your spending ability. Perhaps there will be an eleventh hour rescue to avoid your portion of the fiscal cliff. Asking for a Congressional miracle, you may have to tug on Santa’s beard to see if it’s real.

Final Request…

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About the Author

Wendy Powell is the author of Management Experience Acquired. With more than twenty-five years of human resource and management consulting experience, Wendy has spent most of her career at the University of Michigan. She is currently on the business faculty at both Palm Beach State College and the University of Phoenix. A member of the Society of Human Resource Management, she received a leadership award in 2002 from the Midwest College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. She is routinely featured on The Huffington Post and has appeared on Fox Business’s The Strategy Room. Wendy holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business management and a Master of Arts degree in organizational management.


References

  1. http://americanresearchgroup.com/holiday/
  2. http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/vacation-1180-buy-bargain-vacations-american-average-cost/story?id=16509865
  3. http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/UploadedPDF/412666-toppling-off-the-fiscal-cliff.pdf
  4. http://www.forbes.com/sites/gracemarieturner/2012/07/24/how-much-is-the-obamacare-mandate-going-to-cost-you/
  5. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/us/more-expected-to-face-penalty-under-health-law.html?_r=0
  6. http://www.pwc.com/us/en/press-releases/2011/employer-medical-costs-expected-to-increase.jhtml
StrategyDriven Podcast Series

StrategyDriven Editorial Perspective – Here we go again… more government created uncertainty

As we enter this last week of September, America faces another looming government shutdown. The continuing resolution that currently funds the Federal government’s activities expires at 11:59 pm the evening of September 30 – the end of the last day of the government’s fiscal year. Republicans and Democrats have once again dug in to their partisan positions; creating an uncertainty regarding the operation of our government institutions, the funding of programs, and the paying of social security, veteran benefits and military salaries.

StrategyDriven has long maintained that politicians are primarily responsible for the great uncertainty hindering economic expansion and prosperity – and we believe history supports our assertion. The following video is that of a lecture made by Nobel Laureate and Economist Milton Friedman. In his discussion, Dr. Friedman reveals how the government, and in particular the Federal Reserve, was largely responsible for the Great Depression. He goes on to illustrate how Federal Reserve actions also caused the hyper inflation experienced in the late 1970s.

The purpose of this editorial is not to suggest a specific course of action. Instead it’s purpose is to suggest a need to closely monitor the government’s fiscal policies and to draw from historical perspectives how those policies may impact our economy and your business’s future.