So says the Wall Street Journal, in a scathing editorial about bailout skullduggery:
The cavalier use of brute government force has become routine, but the emerging story of how Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke forced CEO Ken Lewis to blow up Bank of America is still shocking. It's a case study in the ways that panicky regulators have so often botched the bailout and made the financial crisis worse.
In the name of containing "systemic risk," our regulators spread it. In order to keep Mr. Lewis quiet, they all but ordered him to deceive his own shareholders. And in the name of restoring financial confidence, they have so mistreated Bank of America that bank executives everywhere have concluded that neither Treasury nor the Federal Reserve can be trusted. [...]
Evaluating the policy of Messrs. Bernanke and Paulson on their own terms, this transaction fundamentally increased systemic risk. In order to save a Wall Street brokerage, the feds spread the risk to one of the country's largest deposit-taking banks. If they were convinced that Merrill [Lynch] had to be saved, then they should have made the public case for it. And the first obligation of due diligence is to make sure that their Merrill "rescuer" of choice -- BofA -- had the capacity to bear the losses. Instead they transplanted the Merrill risk to BofA shareholders, the bank's depositors and the taxpayers who ensure those deposits. And then they had to bail out BofA too.
The political class has spent the last few months blaming bankers for everything that has gone wrong in the financial system, and no doubt many banks have earned public scorn. But Washington has been complicit every step of the way, from the Fed's easy money to the nurturing of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and since last autumn with regulatory and Congressional panic that is making financial repair that much harder. The men who nearly ruined Bank of America have some explaining to do.
Whole thing here.
Glad to see the Journal inveighing against the
"regulatory and Congressional panic" that has consumed
policy-making "since last autumn," though it would have been nice
if the paper would have s
aung that same
tune, er, last autumn. Instead, the nation's leading financial
the bailout with a hundred-dollar sneer toward those who did
Safe in their think-tanks, some of our friends have claimed that talk of a financial crash is merely a political invention. Perhaps we'll now test their theory. A financial panic isn't an academic seminar, and a flight from all risk isn't something any free-marketeer should want. A recession now seems certain, as falling commodity prices are telling us, but the point is to prevent systemic financial collapse. Maybe the Members who voted "no" figure at least they'd still have jobs.
Reason on bailouts here.