Trader says bank framed him; Government big on housing

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Early departure

Shares of Metro Bank jumped 27% on Wednesday after its founder, Vernon W. Hill II, said he would step down as chairman by the end of the year. At the same time, the U.K. bank said it received orders for more than £550 million for a planned £300 million bond issue that it pulled last week due to weak demand. The bank’s stock had been down as much as 90% this year — including a 35% drop after the bond issue was postponed — after it miscategorized the risk on some of its commercial loans.

“The board shares Vernon’s view that Metro Bank has now reached a point where an independent chairperson is appropriate to oversee the next stage of our journey,” the bank said.

Hill, who was once dubbed the “P.T. Barnum of banking” by Fortune magazine, was creating a “roadblock” by refusing to leave, the Financial Times says. “Evidently, it was those debt and equity investors who made Metro’s board realize how dated Mr. Hill’s circus act had become. It might have played brilliantly in the 1970s when he built Commerce Bank into the fastest-growing name in U.S. savings. It might have brought fans across the Atlantic when Metro opened in the West End almost a decade ago. However, recent events show that it just does not play to a 2019 audience — which is now made up of regulators and less happy-clappy backers.” Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, American Banker

Wall Street Journal

A good place

Federal Reserve Bank of New York President John Williams applauded his bank’s performance over the past two weeks following an “unexpected surge in short-term borrowing rates,” saying the bank's actions “helped tame” the turmoil. “Williams offered no hint of a broad fix to ensure the volatility doesn’t return, but he did say large-scale temporary market interventions are ‘always there as needed, as they were in the last couple of weeks.’” he also touted the strong economy, and added, "we’ve got monetary policy in the right place."

Smaller circle

Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam, who “established a tight inner circle of trusted lieutenants as he set about trying to revive the ailing Swiss lender,” now finds himself without two of them, after COO Pierre-Olivier Bouée, “one of Mr. Thiam’s closest confidants and longest-serving advisers,” resigned for spying on former wealth management head Iqbal Khan, who recently defected to UBS. “Mr. Bouée was among a small group of executives Mr. Thiam relied on, sometimes angering Credit Suisse veterans who felt isolated from decision-making.”

“The episode has bruised Switzerland’s second-biggest bank and the chief executive who still has his hands full battling share-price declines and competitive headwinds. It also raised questions about how Mr. Thiam could have been sidestepped in the ultrasensitive decision to surveil a high-profile executive.”

Financial Times

Claim of frame

A former Citigroup currencies trader is asserting the bank “framed him to protect itself in the throes of a market manipulation scandal that eventually led to him facing the possibility of a decade in jail.” The trader, Rohan Ramchandani, who was acquitted over the matter late last year, is seeking $112 million in damages, claiming that Citi “singled him out for intense scrutiny from U.K. and U.S. regulators in a ‘secret scheme’ to ‘dirty up’ his name.”

The suit has “potentially profound implications for the way banks and regulators treat individuals connected to allegations of industry-wide wrongdoing.”

Washington Post

Exposed

The federal government — through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration — “has dramatically expanded its exposure to risky mortgages, as federal officials over the past four years took steps that cleared the way for companies to issue loans that many borrowers might not be able to repay. This risk is the direct result of pressure from the lending industry, consumer groups and political appointees, who clamored for the government to intervene when homeownership rates fell several years ago. Starting in the Obama administration, numerous government officials obliged, mistakenly expecting that the private market ultimately would take over.”

The three agencies now guarantee almost $7 trillion in mortgage debt, “33% more than before the housing crisis. Because these entities are run or backstopped by the U.S. government, a large increase in loan defaults could cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.”

Quotable

“We are in a very favorable place. The economy is strong. I think we are basically close to our maximum employment goal. Inflation is little below 2% but pretty close. My view is that we’ve got to keep the economy roughly where it is.” — New York Fed President John Williams

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