Bank of America, at the request of counterparties, just moved a Merrill Lynch derivatives unit to an Insured Deposits unit, under protest by the FDIC.
The FDIC does not like the move because it puts the FDIC at risk. Bernanke is fine with the move, which means the Fed and FDIC are once again in an open feud about risk management.
Bank of America Corp. (BAC), hit by a credit downgrade last month, has moved derivatives from its Merrill Lynch unit to a subsidiary flush with insured deposits, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.
The Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. disagree over the transfers, which are being requested by counterparties, said the people, who asked to remain anonymous because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. The Fed has signaled that it favors moving the derivatives to give relief to the bank holding company, while the FDIC, which would have to pay off depositors in the event of a bank failure, is objecting, said the people.
The Moody’s downgrade spurred some of Merrill’s partners to ask that contracts be moved to the retail unit, which has a higher credit rating, according to people familiar with the transactions. Transferring derivatives also can help the parent company minimize the collateral it must post on contracts and the potential costs to terminate trades after Moody’s decision, said a person familiar with the matter.
Bank of America’s holding company — the parent of both the retail bank and the Merrill Lynch securities unit — held almost $75 trillion of derivatives at the end of June, according to data compiled by the OCC. About $53 trillion, or 71 percent, were within Bank of America NA, according to the data, which represent the notional values of the trades.
That compares with JPMorgan’s deposit-taking entity, JPMorgan Chase Bank NA, which contained 99 percent of the New York-based firm’s $79 trillion of notional derivatives, the OCC data show.
Moving derivatives contracts between units of a bank holding company is limited under Section 23A of the Federal Reserve Act, which is designed to prevent a lender’s affiliates from benefiting from its federal subsidy and to protect the bank from excessive risk originating at the non-bank affiliate, said Saule T. Omarova, a law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law.
In 2009, the Fed granted Section 23A exemptions to the banking arms of Ally Financial Inc., HSBC Holdings Plc, Fifth Third Bancorp, ING Groep NV, General Electric Co., Northern Trust Corp., CIT Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., among others, according to letters posted on the Fed’s website.
The central bank terminated exemptions last year for retail-banking units of JPMorgan, Citigroup, Barclays Plc, Royal Bank of Scotland Plc and Deutsche Bank AG. The Fed also ended an exemption for Bank of America in March 2010 and in September of that year approved a new one.
This outrageous too-big-to-fail, moral-hazard behavior, approved by the Fed, is another reason in a long line of reasons it is time to get rid of Bernanke, the entire Fed with him, and end fractional reserve lending at the same time.
The harsh reality is too-big-to-fail really means too-big-to-succeed. Those protesting Wall Street ought to be protesting the Fed and Congress instead.
Aaron Krowne at Ml-Implode replies …
Interesting to note this was done under the auspices of a 23A exempt that had already expired, then which the Fed renewed to give fait accompli for such a move.
Totally demented; this is bailouts and propups exacerbating the original problem at its worst.
Obviously, BofA is now a de facto ward of the state, with the government allowing them to put deposits (and hence the public deposit insurance “fund”) at stake simply in order to keep from unwinding derivatives.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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