Here are two items to make your blood boil…
First, back in February, Attorney General Eric Holder christened the unofficial official doctrine of “Too Big to Jail.”
He told Congress, “The size of some of these institutions [TBTF banks] becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if we do prosecute – if we do bring a criminal charge – it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.”
Of course, it was only the christening of another neat little name.
The actual doctrine has been official policy of America’s Congress, successive presidents and their administrations, and the alphabet soup of regulatory bodies for as long as anyone can remember.
But a funny thing happened on Tuesday.
Someone pushed back…
It all starts with the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74.
The Arab members of OPEC proclaimed an oil embargo to punish the U.S. for aiding Israel. This action quadrupled the price of oil, roiling commodity markets, equities, bonds, and foreign exchange markets.
Energy prices soared. Speculation in oil exploration and production became feverish.
There was money everywhere.
Oil exporters in the Arab states were depositing their windfall “petrodollars” into big U.S. banks, who were in turn lending the money out as fast as they could.
By far, the largest recipients of the flood of money looking to be lent out were Latin American and South American countries. Thus, the new tens of billions of dollars banks had to lend were showered on sovereign states with glaring credit quality blemishes.
In the meantime, banks were lending hand over fist to the energy patch. Small banks were getting into the oil lending game, too – sometimes in spectacular ways.
That’s how the very first “too big to fail” bank came about…