Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.RED ALERT: Paris Terror Attacks - What to Expect Next - STRATFOR
2.Paris Terror Attacks, Death Pangs of a Dying Religion, and Impact on BrExit EU Referendum - Nadeem_Walayat
3.Paris Terror Attacks, Islamic State Attempting to Spark Civil War in France - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Three Shocking Charts That Prove Gold Price Rally Is Coming - Sean Brodrick
5.Stock Market Nifty-Fifty Becomes Fab-Five; Return of the 'Four Horseman' - Mike_Shedlock
6.Africa Population Explosion - Why Europe's Migrant Crisis is Going to Get A Lot Worse - Video - Nadeem_Walayat
7.Gold Mining Stocks May Be The Buy Of The Century - Jeff_Berwick
8.Grandmaster Putin Beats Uncle Sam at His Own Game - Mike_Whitney
9.BRICS? No, CRISIS - Raymond_Matison
10.UK Housing Market Affordability, House Prices Momentum and Trend Forecast - Nadeem_Walayat
Last 5 days
Will Turkey Drag NATO into War With Russia in Syria? - 25th Nov 15
George Osborne’s Autumn Statement and Spending Review Full Text - 25th Nov 15
Will Fresh QE From ECB Boost Gold? - 25th Nov 15
Sheffield, Yorkshire and Humberside House Prices Forecast 2016-2018 - 25th Nov 15
Investors Watch Out For The Auto Industry… - 24th Nov 15
BEA Revises 3rd Quarter 2015 US GDP Economic Growth Upward to 2.07% - 24th Nov 15
Stock Market Supports Are Being Broken - 24th Nov 15
Is Gold Price on the Verge of a Breakout? - 24th Nov 15
Fed’s Tarullo: U.S. Interest Rates Liftoff Should Wait for Signs of Inflation - 24th Nov 15
Silver Price, COT, US Dollar Updates and More - 24th Nov 15
UK Regional House Prices Analysis - Video - 23rd Nov 15
Crude Oil Swinging For The Fences - A 20 to 1 Option Play - 23rd Nov 15
US Dollar, CRB, Oil, Gas, Copper and Gold - The Chartology of Deflation - 23rd Nov 15
UK Regional House Prices, Cheapest and Most Expensive Property Markets - 23rd Nov 15
Stock Market Rally Losing Momentum? - 23rd Nov 15
Will Gold Price Drop Below $1000 Soon? - 23rd Nov 15
Gold and Silver Sector Big Green Light and Low Risk Entry Setup... - 23rd Nov 15
Limits to Economic Growth - Challenge and Choices - 22nd Nov 15
Long Dollar Trade and Current Copper Price Below Cost of Production - 22nd Nov 15
UK Housing Market House Prices Affordability Crisis - Video - 21st Nov 15
The Fed Has Set the Stage for a Stock Market Crash - 21st Nov 15
Stock Market Primary V Wave Continues - 21st Nov 15
Gold And Silver - Value Of Knowing The Trend - 21st Nov 15
UK Footsie Bulls Set To Foot The Bill - 21st Nov 15
UK Housing Market Affordability, House Prices Momentum and Trend Forecast - 21st Nov 15
GDX Gold Miners’ Strong Q3 Results - 20th Nov 15
End of Schengen, Stock Market’s Technical Strength Grows - 20th Nov 15
Justice for All and The Curious Case of Zambia - 20th Nov 15
Paris, Sharm el-Sheikh, and the Resurrection of Old Europe - 20th Nov 15
Silver Prices and The Management of Perception - 20th Nov 15
Stock Market Nifty-Fifty Becomes Fab-Five; Return of the 'Four Horseman' - 20th Nov 15
Waiting for Goldot Again - 20th Nov 15
Michael Curran Goes Down-Market Shopping for Gold Stock Winners - 20th Nov 15
Why Isn’t This Incredibly Bearish Bond Market Development Making the News? - 19th Nov 15
SPX Appears to have Stopped its Rally - 19th Nov 15
The Great Fall Of China Started At Least 4 Years Ago - 19th Nov 15
Using Elliott Waves: As Simple As A-B-C - 19th Nov 15
Has Deflation Been Ddefeated? - 19th Nov 15
Dow Jones Stock Market Index is Not Going to Crash - 19th Nov 15

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Reasons to Get Excited About Japanese Stocks

Should Larry Summers Replace Bernanke at the Fed?

Politics / US Federal Reserve Bank Jul 11, 2013 - 09:59 AM GMT

By: Money_Morning


Garrett Baldwin writes:Just this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that former Treasury Secretary and Harvard President Larry Summers is "hell-bent" on becoming the next U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman.

The more important issue, however, is whether Americans should want Summers involved in such a prominent role in the global economy.

Arguments that favor Summers center on the fact that when the building clears out in 2014, Summers will be one of the few individuals left with significant experience in the international financial system. With Timothy Geithner gone, Ben Bernanke leaving in 2014, and departures of David Lipton at the IMF Michael Froman at USTR, Summers is considered one of the last "battle tested" individuals left. He has significant experience following the 1994 Russian crisis, the 1997 Asian Crisis and the 2008 Great Recession.

But while experience in necessary, so is the importance of accomplishments.

Critics have argued that handing the keys of the U.S. economy to Larry Summers would be equivalent to allowing a blind sheepdog to protect Americans from wolves. Summers' past 25 years of experience is riddled with questions about his ability to understand crisis, his commitment to corporate influence, and his irrational pledge to illogical academic arguments.

Given that few in Washington seem to vet political appointees of this administration, we decided to explore several important questions about Summers' potential candidacy and past understanding of the Federal Reserve's role in the global economy.

Up First, The Destruction of Brooksley Born

Perhaps the most damning case against Summers came during his role in deregulating the economy during his time as Assistant Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton. Summers helped champion controversial legislation to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, a Depression Era law that protected the economy by separating commercial banks from investment banks. Many people believe this repeal to be the most important underlying cause of the financial crisis.

But it was what happened just during the collapse of Long Term Capital Management in 1997 that should draw the most concern about his ability to foresee the consequences of policy. At the time, Brooksley Born, the director of the CFTC, argued that the government should provide greater regulation over OTC derivatives, the "financial weapons of mass destruction" that sank the U.S. economy in 2008. Born was a staunch advocate of increasing oversight to prevent Americans from the economic calamity they would ultimately experience.

Summers, with the help of Alan Greenspan and then Secretary Robert Rubin, dismissed her concerns and accused her of trying to cause a massive liquidity crisis just for releasing a "concept paper" about regulating derivatives. Summers argued that Born would facilitate "the worst financial crisis since the end of World War II" and that leading bankers were very upset about this potential oversight.

But we came to find out that if that were so, one should have concluded that even back in 1997, the banks were already doing something incredibly unreasonable with their derivative positions - after all Long Term Capital Management failed from improper oversight of off-balance sheet positions - the same positions Born wanted to regulate. Summers also called Born and told her regulation would reduce American competitiveness and that he was taking extensive heat from lobbyists... In the end, the story goes that Born was run out of town on a rail, and the U.S. still doesn't have strong regulation of the $1.2 quadrillion derivatives market.

Corporate Interests at Heart

The banks were not the only ones who benefited from Summers inability to grasp the concept that the derivatives markets were toxic.

At the beginning of the Enron debacle in California, Summers, Greenspan, and the disgraced Kenneth Lay were fervently arguing against then Governor Grey Davis that regulation in the state power sector were causing the significant blackouts from San Diego to Sacramento. Davis argued it was corporate tampering, but was convinced to limit environmental standards in order to "reassure the markets."

Much later, the U.S. would hear the audio tapes of Enron traders laughing as fires burned across the state and rolling blackouts continued. Of course, Summers was not involved in that, but we know now that Enron was in fact tampering with the state power sector. Enron was a major player in the derivatives markets in the late 1990s and early 2000s, leading up to their epic off-balance sheet liabilities that facilitated their collapse and doom. At best, Summers was duped by Lay, who died of a heart attack before serving what would have been a lengthy prison sentence, to assist in deregulating the California energy sector for Enron's own benefits.

Summers is a pure academic who seems to believe that markets are perfectly rational. His behavior and contempt for any form of financial oversight is ignorant to imperfections and human behavior. And that is the danger of his ideology, for he seems to believe that everyone in the sandbox is rational, when in reality, they are not. Summers frequently argued that government intervention causes "market distortions" which is entirely true. But market distortions are also caused by irrational actors like insider traders, rogue traders, or lobbyists who facilitate laws that raise leverage and thus market risk, or CEOs like Kenneth Lay.

The Stimulus Failed, But Let's Keep Spending

Summers was a Chief Economic Adviser of the Obama administration, but never seemed to understand that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. The 2009 stimulus has failed to bring the promised unemployment rates down, but Summers will be a big spender in the Chairman role, highlighted by this very statement:

"The central irony of financial crisis is that while it is caused by too much confidence, too much borrowing and lending and too much spending, it can only be resolved with more confidence, more borrowing and lending, and more spending."

Translation: We need to continue the same insane economic policies in order to keep the music playing while the banks are able to keep this mirage of economic growth going. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain... That's likely good news for the markets... until the country runs out of other people's money.

The reality is that Summers doesn't understand that this crisis was caused by irrational government policies that facilitated banks being able to act irrationally in the markets. Eventually the massive bubble, caused by the same forces that caused every other bubble, popped; yet men like Summers remain ignorant to global economic history.

Finally, about that Harvard Endowment...

During his time at Harvard, in the years preceding the financial crisis, the school had derivative positions of more than $3.52 billion of its endowment funding. Attributed to Summers, the school would pay nearly $500 million in termination fees to investment banks to exit these position and another nearly $500 million over 30 years. In the end, Summers lost the school about $1.8 billion, according to reports. How does one get this many chances and still be considered a genius by the people in power in Washington?

Again, his commitment to derivatives and misunderstanding of market forces seems to be concerning.

Some have argued that Summers is battle tested because he has worked in post-crisis environments before. The Obama administration is certainly wary that crisis could hit the European market, the Asian market, and the U.S. market at any time in the next three years.

But Larry Summers only reacts to crisis. He isn't capable of lifting his chin from his academic papers, and foreseeing storm clouds on the horizon.

Perhaps there are better candidates out there.

Source :

Money Morning/The Money Map Report

©2013 Monument Street Publishing. All Rights Reserved. Protected by copyright laws of the United States and international treaties. Any reproduction, copying, or redistribution (electronic or otherwise, including on the world wide web), of content from this website, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of Monument Street Publishing. 105 West Monument Street, Baltimore MD 21201, Email:

Disclaimer: Nothing published by Money Morning should be considered personalized investment advice. Although our employees may answer your general customer service questions, they are not licensed under securities laws to address your particular investment situation. No communication by our employees to you should be deemed as personalized investent advice. We expressly forbid our writers from having a financial interest in any security recommended to our readers. All of our employees and agents must wait 24 hours after on-line publication, or after the mailing of printed-only publication prior to following an initial recommendation. Any investments recommended by Money Morning should be made only after consulting with your investment advisor and only after reviewing the prospectus or financial statements of the company.

Money Morning Archive

© 2005-2015 - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.

Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Biggest Debt Bomb in History