Monday, May 04, 2009

Kansas Fed President Hoenig: Let Troubled Banks Fail

by Calculated Risk on 5/04/2009 11:51:00 AM

Dr. Thomas Hoenig, President of Federal Reserve of Kansas City speaks today in New York at Demos: A Better Way To Restore The Banking System

Yesterday Hoenig wrote in the Financial Times: Troubled banks must be allowed a way to fail. Excerpts below the video.

Here is a live webcast of Hoenig's speech (starts at 12:30PM ET):

Excerpts from Hoenig's opinion piece:
... I believe there is an alternative method for addressing this crisis that deals more effectively with the issues we currently face while also considering the long-run consequences of those actions: the implementation of a systematic plan to resolve large, problem financial institutions.

... Boiled down to its simplest elements, the plan would require those firms seeking government assistance to make the taxpayer senior to all shareholders, with the government determining the circumstances for managers and directors. ...

Non-viable institutions would be allowed to fail and be placed into a negotiated conservatorship or a bridge institution, with the bad assets liquidated while the remainder of the firm is operated under new management and re-privatised as soon as is feasible. This plan is similar to what was done in Sweden in the 1990s and in the US with the failure of Continental Illinois in the 1980s.

This plan has many advantages, including that management and shareholders bear the costs for their actions before taxpayer funds are committed. This process also is equitable across all firms; is similar to what is currently done with smaller banks; and provides a definitive process that should reduce market uncertainty. These are important reasons to implement this kind of resolution process.
Certainly, the approach I suggest for resolving these large firms also is not without substantial cost, but it looks to both the short and long run.

A systematic approach would reduce the uncertainty that has paralysed financial markets; the cost is more measurable and therefre manageable; and there will be fewer adverse consequences compared to the path we are on now.

Because we still have far to go in this crisis, there remains time to define a clear process for resolving large institutional failure. Without one, the consequences will involve a series of short-term events and far more uncertainty for the global economy in the long run.

While I agree that central banks must sometimes take actions affecting the short run, they must keep the long run in focus or risk failing their mission.