Soros the ‘Recapitalist’
Posted on Oct 1, 2008
Private investor/capitalist extraordinaire George Soros has a suggestion for the Treasury Department and Congress—think before you act. Soros goes on to propose an alternative to the existing discretionary bailout plan: a recapitalization of the banking system, injecting “high-powered” equity capital into banks—not a blank check for the culprits.
Dig out Wikipedia, it’s Econ-101 time.
George Soros in the Financial Times:
The emergency legislation currently before Congress was ill-conceived – or more accurately, not conceived at all. As Congress tried to improve what Treasury originally requested, an amalgam plan has emerged that consists of Treasury’s original Troubled Asset Relief Programme (Tarp) and a quite different capital infusion programme in which the government invests and stabilises weakened banks and profits from the economy’s eventual improvement. The capital infusion approach will cost tax payers less in future years, and may even make money for them.
Two weeks ago the Treasury did not have a plan ready – that is why it had to ask for total discretion in spending the money. But the general idea was to bring relief to the banking system by relieving banks of their toxic securities and parking them in a government-owned fund so that they would not be dumped on the market at distressed prices. With the value of their investments stabilised, banks would then be able to raise equity capital.
The idea was fraught with difficulties. The toxic securities in question are not homogenous and in any auction process the sellers are liable to dump the dregs on to the government fund. Moreover, the scheme addresses only one half of the underlying problem – the lack of credit availability. It does very little to enable house owners to meet their mortgage obligations and it does not address the foreclosure problem. With house prices not yet at the bottom, if the government bids up the price of mortgage backed securities, the taxpayers are liable to loose; but if the government does not pay up, the banking system does not experience much relief and cannot attract equity capital from the private sector.
George Soros, a billionaire who made much of his fortune trading on the currency market, proposes a “recapitalization” of the credit market.