Thanks to bank misconduct, odds are that trouble will present itself again soon. And this is what it will look like
© Reuters/Brendan Mcdermid
Bloomberg financial reporter Bob Ivry has written an entertaining new book, The Seven Sins of Wall Street
, which, instead of rehashing the various illegal activities that triggered the financial meltdown, focuses on what the banks have been up to since
the crisis. Much of it would be familiar to readers of this space: the Bank of America whistle-blowers
who were instructed to lie to homeowners, and received gift card bonuses for pushing them into foreclosure; the London Whale derivatives trade
that lost JPMorgan Chase more than $6 billion; the investment banks who traded commodities while also operating physical commodity warehouses
and facilities; and more. All the while, megabanks continue to enjoy subsidies
on their borrowing costs because of the (accurate) perception that they will get bailed out in the event of any trouble.
The odds are that trouble will present itself soon.
Ivry's opening quote in the book comes from Jamie Dimon, whose daughter asked him, "'Dad, what's a financial crisis?' Without trying to be funny, I said, 'It's something that happens every five to seven years.'" A quick check of the calendar reveals that we're almost six years out from the bursting of the housing bubble and the fall of Lehman Brothers.
So are we on the precipice of another financial crisis, and what will it look like?
To be sure, danger still lurks in the mortgage market. The latest get-rich-quick scheme
, with private equity firms buying up foreclosed properties and renting them out, then selling bonds backed by the rental revenue streams (which look suspiciously like the bonds backed by mortgage payments that were a proximate cause of the last crisis
), has the potential to blow up. And continued shenanigans with mortgage documents could lead to major headaches. A new court case against Wells Fargo uncovered a bombshell
, a step-by-step manual
telling attorneys how they can fake foreclosure papers on demand; the fallout could throw into question the true ownership of millions of homes. Even subprime mortgages are in the midst of a comeback
, because what could go wrong?