Friday, May 15, 2009

Why Are We Bailing Out Insurers?

A fair question, posed by Barry Ritholtz.
Some of the sharpest criticism of the administration's approach is coming from market pros.
Folks who rose through the ranks with the "...pays your money...takes your chances" worldview.

Among the egregious perversions of President Bush was opening the door to the idea of bailing out failures.
The Obama team has taken that perversion and dressed it in assless chaps and similar couture.
From Rahm Emanuel's "Never allow a crisis to go to waste" to Hillary's "Never waste a good crisis", these folks are playing power politics with the taxpayer's money.
And trying to strap the gimp hood on as much of the economy as they can.

From The Big Picture:
“The Treasury Department will make federal bailout funds available to a number of U.S. life insurers, acting on the embattled sector’s long-running effort to get government help. The Treasury is prepared to inject up to $22 billion into the insurers under the rescue plan launched last fall as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, said a person familiar with the matter....

Why do insurers, who have fiduciary obligations to manage their assets prudently, require taxpayer largesse?

Yet even more moral hazard is being heaped upon us.

This is totally unacceptable. If you did not manage your assets prudently, if you failed to employ appropriate risk management procedures, and if you come to the government teat for aid, there must be a heavy cost and major strings attached:

  1. Bailout Monies need to be eventually repaid;
  2. Entrenched management needs to be fired;
  3. Excess bonuses must be clawed back;
  4. Shareholders (both public and mutual) need to suffer for their bad investment;
  5. Competitive firms that ran their business properly should not be disadvantaged.

Why would we give money managers with a demonstrated inability to manage it properly? Why would we reward shareholders who made losing bets? Why are we punishing well managed, prudent funds? THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS.

These are independent companies who should be able to raise capital on their own....MORE
It helps if you understand the psychology of power relationships and, as Barry might say, look at the big picture.