The clearinghouse conundrum
As the ripples of the regional banking crisis are felt across the financial sector, regulators are raising the alarm about the risks to another corner of the market: clearinghouses, the middlemen that facilitate trades and deposit billions of dollars in banks every day.
If a bank failure were to leave one of them without access to cash, widespread market instability would follow. “Why take that risk?” Summer Mersinger, a member of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, told DealBook.
Clearinghouses exist to mitigate risk, taking collateral and settling transactions between buyers and sellers in all kinds of financial markets. This means a bank’s failure could easily lead to losses for a clearinghouse that “could potentially reverberate across the financial system,” the Chicago Fed concluded in a 2020 report.
Even without a complete failure at a commercial bank, delays in access to cash could trigger liquidity issues across markets. “The Minneapolis Grain Exchange is not a systemically important entity to the U.S. financial system, but they may have billions of dollars in margin, and at the end of the day they don’t have a place to safely secure it,” Ms. Mersinger said. “That has a lot of consequences.”
Regulators say there is a simple fix: Allow more clearinghouses to deposit their cash at the Fed. Only a few have been designated “systemically important,” which means they are allowed to do so. But smaller clearinghouses rely on commercial banks, where deposit insurance covers only up to $250,000. If a bank collapses, those clearinghouses may not be covered or may have problems accessing their cash.
In March, Rostin Behnam, chair of the C.F.T.C., urged Congress to expand clearinghouse access to the central bank, but a 2021 bill that would have done this never gained traction.
Sheila Bair, a former F.D.I.C. chair, points to a related risk: There is also a “lack of good resolution planning when a clearinghouse fails,” she told DealBook. The C.F.A. Institute’s Systemic Risk Council, which she founded, has warned that clearinghouses could quickly flip from “being risk absorbers to being systemic-risk transmitters and amplifiers,” and are “one of the biggest gaps” in the system.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Janet Yellen reportedly lobbies C.E.O.s on the debt ceiling. The Treasury secretary has been calling corporate leaders to warn them about the “catastrophic” consequences of letting the U.S. default on its debt, according to Reuters. It’s the latest effort to drum up support for President Biden as he prepares to discuss the debt limit with Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other congressional leaders on Tuesday.
Chinese authorities raid another consulting firm’s offices. Capvision Partners joined the Mintz Group and Bain & Company in having its employees questioned or detained, amid what Beijing says is an effort to stop the theft of sensitive corporate information. That crackdown is further undercutting foreign companies’ willingness to do business in China, according to experts.
Concerns about money laundering reportedly led to a banking deal’s demise. American regulators refused to approve Toronto-Dominion’s $13.4 billion takeover of First Horizon over worries about how the Canadian lender handled unusual banking transactions, according to The Wall Street Journal. That leaves the future of First Horizon, a midsize lender, unclear as the outlook for regional banks remains volatile.
UBS adds Credit Suisse’s C.E.O. to its executive team. Ulrich Körner, who was named Credit Suisse’s chief last July, will oversee operational continuity and client focus at his firm’s longtime rival. It’s the latest move by UBS to prepare to absorb Credit Suisse as soon as this month. Elsewhere, Zoltan Pozsar, one of Credit Suisse’s most closely followed economists, has reportedly left the firm.
Sam Bankman-Fried pushes to dismiss charges
Sam Bankman-Fried’s legal defense is starting to crystallize ahead of his trial in October on charges that he masterminded a multibillion-dollar fraud that blew up when FTX, his cryptocurrency exchange, collapsed last year.
Mr. Bankman-Fried wants to have most of the charges against him thrown out. In a Manhattan federal court filing on Monday, lawyers for the 31-year-old FTX founder accused prosecutors of “a rush to judgment” and asked that 10 of the 13 charges against him be dismissed.
Mr. Bankman-Fried also took aim at Sullivan & Cromwell, the law firm representing FTX in bankruptcy proceedings, and John Ray, the restructuring expert who replaced him as C.E.O. The firm worked for FTX before its collapse and has been accused of having a conflict of interest in now representing the company against him. Mr. Bankman-Fried accused Mr. Ray and the firm of working “as a public mouthpiece of the government.”
Prosecutors have charged Mr. Bankman-Fried with fraud, money laundering, bribing the Chinese government and campaign finance offenses. He has pleaded not guilty to all of these, but his defense has become more challenging as prosecutors push Mr. Bankman-Fried’s inner circle to cooperate in the case against him.
Ahead of the Oct. 2 trial, Mr. Bankman-Fried’s legal team is trying to chip away at the prosecution’s case, charge by charge, The Times’s David Yaffe-Bellany and Matthew Goldstein report:
The filings argue that four of the counts — including the foreign bribery charge, the campaign finance charge and a bank fraud charge — violated elements of the extradition process between the United States and the Bahamas, where Mr. Bankman-Fried was arrested. In extradition cases, prosecutors are usually limited in bringing new charges after a defendant has been transferred. The defense lawyers argued that another six of the charges should be dismissed for being too vague or having other legal flaws. They said the prosecutors had displayed an “eagerness to run up charges against Mr. Bankman-Fried.”
Prosecutors must respond to the defense’s filing by May 29, and Judge Lewis Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan will hear arguments next month.
A $215 million end to a long-running discrimination fight
Goldman Sachs said on Monday that it would settle a lawsuit that accused the bank of systematically discriminating against thousands of female employees. Under the agreement, Goldman will pay $215 million to the plaintiffs and adopt some changes to its practices.
The payout amount itself is less than it first appears: Subtracting legal fees, it comes to roughly $47,000 per plaintiff. Still, the settlement is the latest effort to make Wall Street address years of what women say were unequal and unfair treatment of women workers.
The lawsuit accused Goldman of hindering women’s career advancement and paying them less than their male colleagues. It took particular aim at the firm’s performance review process, which they said favored male employees; that set them up for promotions and higher pay.
Filed in 2010 by three former employees, the suit was granted class-action status in 2018 and covers about 2,800 women who held associate or vice-president titles in Goldman’s investment banking, investment management and securities divisions. A trial had been scheduled for June.
“I have been proud to support this case without hesitation over the last nearly thirteen years and believe this settlement will help the women I had in mind when I filed the case,” Shanna Orlich, one of the lawsuit’s original plaintiffs, said in a statement.
Jacqueline Arthur, Goldman’s head of human capital management, said that the firm was “proud of its long record of promoting and advancing women and remains committed to ensuring a diverse and inclusive workplace for all our people.”
Wall Street has sought to address gender inequality and discrimination in recent years, after having faced a long list of claims. Salomon Smith Barney, for instance, paid $150 million in 1998 to settle a lawsuit claiming that it tolerated a hostile work environment that included derogatory language toward women and pay discrepancies.
Since becoming Goldman’s C.E.O., David Solomon has spoken of trying to increase diversity at the firm, including by setting targets for how many of its new hires should be women. Last year, the bank touted that women comprised a record 29 percent of its newest class of partner managing directors, its highest rank.
How much will things change at Goldman? Beyond the payout, the settlement stipulates that Goldman hire independent experts to study its performance review process and conduct pay-equity studies for three years, as well as change how it presents the case for career advancement with vice presidents.
That said, Goldman has conducted those kinds of reviews before. Heightened public scrutiny may be the biggest test of how the firm is keeping to its promises.
“The private market hasn’t started to heavily mark down real estate. … The equity will be first. That’s the next shoe to drop in the U.S. Like everything else, it has been priced so tightly and there hasn’t been a commercial real estate crisis in the U.S. since the ’90s.”
— Scott Kleinman, the co-president of Apollo Global Management. Fears are growing that turmoil in the banking sector, rising interest rates and office vacancies will lead to trouble in the $5.6 trillion commercial real estate market.
Who will make bank this year?
The stock market may have bounced back in 2023, but the outlook for bankers’ bonuses is looking weak, according to the latest data from Johnson Associates, a consulting firm for Wall Street compensation.
Here are its predictions:
The banking crisis will affect payouts. Bonuses at global banks will jump by 10 percent to 20 percent, while those at regional banks will fall by the same amount. Both moves can be attributed to turbulence in the regional banking sector — as major U.S. banks benefit from an inflow of deposits, and small banks are hurt by customer outflows.
It’s a mixed picture for investment banks. Johnson Associates expects advisory work at the banks to remain soft, a reflection of a sagging M.&.A market after a dreadful 2022. Underwriting activity, led largely by debt underwriting, will jump by 5 to 10 percent, improving the bonus pool. On the equity front, the I.P.O. market has shown some signs of a rebound. DealBook hears that I.P.O. activity could improve in the second half of 2023, but that many big listing candidates are waiting until next year.
Hedge funds could see little to no growth. Johnson expects macro funds to see a slight drop from 2022 bonus levels. The outlook is only a touch better for equity-focused funds.
Private equity firms will see little change from a year ago. Rising interest rates and a continued dearth of dealmaking are largely to blame, a fact underscored by Carlyle’s disappointing results last week. The firm, like many in its industry, is now skewing its fund-raising focus to credit.
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