Question: “What’s inside America’s banks?” Let’s peek inside:
Bill Ackman’s journey is particularly telling. One of the nation’s highest-profile and most successful investors, Ackman went from being a skeptic of investing in big banks, to being a believer, and then back again—with a loss of hundreds of millions along the way. In 2010, Ackman bought an almost $1 billion stake in Citigroup for Pershing Square, the $11 billion fund he runs. He reasoned that in the aftermath of the crisis, the big banks had written down their bad loans and become more conservative; they were also facing less competition. That should have been a great environment for investment, he says. He had avoided investing in big banks for most of his career. But “for once,” he told us, “I thought you could trust the carrying values on bank books.”
Dang. I was hoping there was a trillion-dollar coin in there.
More seriously, pretty much the same people are running the same banks of the humongousness as in 2007. The moral hazard is more hazardous than ever. But the main difference is between then and now, thanks to Dodd-Frank, the big banks enjoy even more cuddly-kissy time with Washington. Too big to fail? More like, too big not to love! Again, big business and big government crawl into bed together — and the illegitimate offspring is a lumbering moron who can’t help but break everything in sight.
And we’re the unpaid babysitters stuck having to clean up the mess.