In other corporate-investigation news, the WSJ reports on C1 that the Securities and Exchange Commission is widening its probe of the credit-ratings firms and that Moody’s is taking a harsher tone toward itself in its investigation of ratings errors it appears to have covered up.
In an interview, one person familiar with Moody’s structured-finance ratings said data errors had occurred in numerous deals over the past 10 years. In some cases, the error was corrected by taking the problem to the issuers so that the deals could be restructured, but in the case of some lower-rated issues, the error went uncorrected, this person said.
Regulators, mount up
The FT on page one says investment banks are “split” on whether they should continue to take Fed cash and risk new regulation or whether it’s not worth it. Not surprisingly, those more in need of the cash are more inclined to take it. The paper also reports that the Fed is going to limit how much they can borrow from it by September, though it says that’s expected to be pushed back.
The Fed initiative, spurred by the collapse of Bear Stearns, allows investment banks to pledge investment-grade securities, including mortgage-backed securities, in return for low-interest cash loans. The rationale for the facility was to ensure that none of the other banks would suffer the same kind of evaporation of short-term liquidity that sank Bear Stearns…
Such direct borrowing from the Fed has typically been reserved for commercial banks. The trade-off has been that those banks must operate with stricter risk controls.
The paper doesn’t say the obvious, though: Regulation is coming whether Wall Street likes it or not. They can’t threaten to bring down the global economy in a reckless pursuit of profits (and bonuses) and not expect to be hit with new regulation.
CEO pay to stall until nobody’s looking
The Chicago Tribune reports that the movement to rein in excessive executive pay has “stalled,” despite “rising populist sentiment and a litany of economic woes.”
Yet about halfway through the shareholder voting season, support for advisory pay resolutions is running about the same as last year, an average of about 43 percent, according to RiskMetrics Group. At 10 of 16 companies where say-on-pay proposals were considered for a second consecutive year, they received fewer votes.
The paper says that’s because people aren’t sure what’s the best way to rein them in, but it also says it’s because the outlandish increases already have effectively been reined in, at least according to some compensation measures. The Trib quotes a Mercer consulting survey that says pay for 350 CEOs in the Fortune 1000 found that pay fell 5.5 percent last year.