Monday, March 23, 2009

Should the FDIC Guarantee Anything Other Than Bank Deposits?

I've ruminated a bit more about the toxic asset plan unveiled by the Treasury Department this morning and read many interesting comments on other blogs.  I have finally honed in on the one point that irritates me the most about the plan: the FDIC's promise to guarantee debt issued by the entities that are purchasing loans under the legacy loans program.  The FDIC is already guaranteeing debt issued by many of our banking institutions.  However, the FDIC's primary purpose is to guarantee bank deposits.  This is what I want my FDIC to do for me.  This is ALL I want my FDIC to do for me.  The FDIC is very good at seizing failed banking institutions, disposing of any salable assets, and making certain that insured depositors are made whole.  The FDIC eats any ensuing losses through its insurance fund.  I like this system as it keeps depositors from panicking and withdrawing their funds from our nation's banks.  Given all of the stress in the financial system, the fundamental belief in the FDIC's ability to guarantee bank deposits has alleviated this type of panic for the most part (IndyMac and Wa Mu to a certain extent excepted.)

As a depositor, I'm a little pissed off that my claim on the FDIC's insurance fund is being diluted and shared with bond investors who are free-riding off of the FDIC's guarantee of bank debt, and now the FDIC's guarantee of the Legacy Loans program debt.  If there ever is a massive run on the US banking system, am I going to be standing in line with PIMCO's Bill Gross, waiting to withdraw my funds from the FDIC?  I fully understand that the FDIC can borrow from the Fed and the Fed can borrow from the Treasury and we can just keep printing an unlimited supply of money.  At some point, however, shouldn't the US government come up with its own capital structure, given how much every government organization is borrowing and is up to its eyeballs in private sector guarantees?  Is FDIC debt senior to the Fed's?  What about Fannie and Freddie's?  How about Treasuries?  When does it all get to be too much?  How can I be certain that I'm holding the senior debt of the US government?   

1 comment:

Joshua said...

Capital structure to US government debt? I hear your point but asking questions like this is like wondering what's on the other side of the universe. Sometimes it's best to just not think these things...