Headlines in the New York Times, BBC and CBC News announce a crisis of confidence in the banking sector as an unintended consequence of the subprime mortgage meltdown. We are now experiencing the predicted disturbing consequences of the interconnections between banks, hedge funds, high risk mortgages and pension funds (Scott 2007) (such as the infamous collapse of two major hedge funds managed by the investment bank Bear Stearns, who purchased securities that were essentially a “repackaging of all kinds of risky mortgages” to tap into the subprime mortgage market). Borrowers defaulting on mortgages continues to increase. In 2007 Joseph Mason explained that “this isn’t just a Wall Street problem. Your 401k or pension fund may be invested in similar mortgage-related securities.” The investor-base is broad and it is difficult to know who is at risk. “Investment managers don’t have to report their holdings. And unlike stocks, these securities aren’t quoted on an open market [. . .] Those hedge fund investment managers create investments that are bought by our pension funds and mutual funds. Charitable foundations are invested in these. It’s a broad investor base, and it’s not the rich versus the poor.” Mason has been a firm proponent of more transparency in financial dealings (Scott 2007). See Democratization of Debt: Bear Stearn and Mortgage Meltdowns

Paul Desmarais, Jr., Chairman of Power Corporation of Canada warned of the structural impact on the industrialized world caused by the meteoric rise of private equity and hedge funds in the financial markets in a an article (2007) published in the Canadian Council of Chief Executives journal National and Global Perspectives. The current crisis in confidence in the banking sector is a direct result of the meteoric rise of private equity and hedge funds which transformed the mortgage market.

Is it not ironic that the principal investors in private equity and hedge funds – large institutional investors – are happy to put massive amounts of money in the hands of people who do not register with any securities commission, or have few, if any, governance regulations to adhere to and report on? (Desmarais 2007:16).

As well Mason and Rosner (2007) warned that risk continued to increase, as ratings agencies revised their loss expectations to account for the dynamics of the mortgage meltdown. “Residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) market has experienced significant changes [from 1997-2007].” [T]hey caution that “structural changes in mortgage origination and servicing have interacted with complex residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) and highly volatile CDO funding structures to place the U.S. housing market at risk. This [. . .] could lead to prolonged domestic economic implications for U.S. standing in the world economic order [. . .] The potential for prolonged economic difficulties that also interfere with home ownership in the United States raises significant public policy concerns. Already we are witnessing restructuring and layoffs at top financial institutions. More importantly, however, is the need to provide stable funding sources for economic growth. The biggest obstacle that we have identified is lack of transparency.” (Mason and Rosner 2007).

Timeline of events related to the Subprime Market

1965-2005 Between 1965 to 2005 there was no national US real-estate bust as home prices surpassed inflation by a percentage point or two on average. However local reversals have taken place and some cities have never recovered (Christie 2005).

1970s “The additional grades or risk have arisen from the willingness to underwrite mortgages for more risky borrowers, encouraged by the democratization of credit since the 1970s. Lending to more risky borrowers is, by definition, more risky. More loans to risky borrowers increases the total amount of risk to be sold in the marketplace” (Mason and Rosner 2007).

1973-5 US investors in the S&P 500 lost 14% in 1973 and 26% in 1974 but gained 37% in 1975 (Mann 2000).

1975 Foreign competition made its inroads into the North American economy. Corporations panicked with a knee-jerk reaction by implementing the first major layoffs which eventually spread and multiplied, in time destroying the notion of job security and the dignity of work in North America (Uchitelle 2006; Uchitelle 2007).

1983 Australia’s benchmark ASX 200 index experienced a long losing streak which would be unparalled until 2008-01-21 (BBC News 2008-01-21).”

1985 In Peoria, Ill. a more traditional area the average home price fell from $60,800 in 1981 to $51,400 in 1985 partially because of strikes and lay-offs at Caterpillar, the city’s biggest employer (Christie 2005).

1986 The “total pay of top managers in North America has increased from 1986 through 2006 to roughly 40 times the average and from 1966 to 110 times the average(Leary 1998:265).”

1987 Canadian families saved 20 percent of their take-home pay (Ed 2007).

1987 Oliver Stone’s and Stanley Weiser’s fascinating but soulless film entitled Wall Street about a young stockbroker, Bud Fox’s entanglement in white-collar crime through his mentor and hero, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), an extremely successful businessman and Wall Street broker. in a speech by Gekko to a Teldar Paper shareholders’ meeting, a company he planning to take over, Gekko, and by extension, the Wall Street raiders he personifies, justifies his actions. He argues that he is liberating corporate America’s from its slothfulness and waste accumulated through the postwar years. He argued, “Greed is good” a slogan which symbolised the ruthless, profit-obsessed, short-term corporate culture of the 1980s and 1990s. These values became associated with neoclassical, anti-union economic policies that made slash-and-burn capitalism possible. Wall Street refers to the symbolic and geographical location in Lower Manhattan, the first permanent home of the New York Stock Exchange, center of New York’s financial district and the financial industry.

1987 Stock market crash

1987-19-20 London’s FTSE 100 experienced one of its worst days down 10.8% (BBC News 2008-01-21).

1987-10-20 London’s FTSE 100 experienced one of its worst days down 12.2% (BBC News 2008-01-21).

1987-10-21 London’s FTSE 100 experienced one of its best days up 7.9% (BBC News 2008-01-21).

1987-10-22 London’s FTSE 100 experienced one of its worst days down 5.7% (BBC News 2008-01-21).

1987-10-26 London’s FTSE 100 experienced one of its worst days down 6.2% (BBC News 2008-01-21).

1988 In “oil patch” cities like Oklahoma City prices plummeted 26 percent from 1983 to 1988. They only returned to 1983 levels in 2003 fifteen years later. In Oklahoma City, the inflation-adjusted price in 1983 was $196,600. Today, it’s just $135,100 (Christie 2005).

1988 Houston home prices fell 22 percent from $111,000 in 1983 to $86,800 in 1988 rebounded only in 2003. Counting inflation, the average Houston home, which cost just $159,700 in 2004, is actually worth less [in 2005] than it was [in 1983]. When, adjusted for inflation, a home cost about $219,000 in 1983 (Christie 2005).

1988 – 1990s Real estate prices fell in Northern California first followed by the rest of the state “as employers fled, incomes dwindled, quakes rumbled, sales fell and prices slipped. [. . .] Silicon Valley’s housing market crashed into recession along with the state’s economy (Perkins 2001).

1980-1990 In Los Angeles real estate was turbocharged for nearly 10 years (Christie 2005).

1989-90 The notorious price bubble of 1989-90 was linked to central banks specifically the Bank of Japan. “The Japanese economy continued to suffer during the early 1990s, and remained in recession until the end of 1993. Nominal GDP growth rates, which had been around 7 percent during the bubble period, fell beginning in 1990 and by 1991-93 were close to zero. Profits in the manufacturing sector fell 24.5 percent in 1991 and 32.1 percent in 1992. Bankruptcies began to rise starting in the latter half of 1990; by 1992, bankruptcies with debt more than Y10 million totaled 14,569 cases. Failures of real estate firms or of firms engaged in “active fund management” constituted more than half the corporate bankruptcies in 1991 and 1992 (Miller 2001).”

1991 Inflation-adjusted take-home pay in Canada froze to this level (Ed. 2007).”

1992 A new car in Canada cost $20, 000.

1992 – 2000 “Japan remained pretty stagnant in the last eight years, with the majority of the loss coming in the first two, when it eventually fell by more than 60%. There was never a big drop, just a constant and inexorable drift downward. Real estate prices plummeted, almost no Japanese company ended 1992 higher than it started 1990. In the interim, banks have failed (and if it weren’t for the financial props of the Japanese government, many more would have), and companies have had to reassess some of their basic assumptions, such as lifetime employment and large benefit packages” (Mann 2000).

1992-04-10 London’s FTSE 100 experienced one of its best days up 5.6% (BBC News 2008-01-21).

1996 There was a housing market reversal in Los Angeles with average house price dropping from $222,200 in 1990 to $176,300 in 1996, a loss of 20.7 percent. “Furthermore, those are nominal prices, not real values. To calculate the loss more realistically you would have to figure in the cost of inflation: $222,200 in 1990 would have been worth $266,700 in 1996 dollars, which means the actual loss for homeowners buying in 1990 and selling in 1996 was closer to 34 percent (Christie 2005).”

1994- 1996 “In 1994, [Japanese] banks wrote off non-performing assets of Y5.7 trillion, exceeding the previous high of Y4.3 trillion in fiscal year 1993. As yet, no major bank has failed, although a number have reportedly encountered serious difficulties. In December, 1994, the Bank of Japan supervised the takeover of two credit cooperatives, the Tokyo Kyowa Credit Cooperative and the Anzen Credit Cooperative, through the creation of a bridge bank with government support. The Bank’s decision not to let these institutions fail and pay off depositors under the deposit guarantee program was based, largely, on concern for the potential systemic effects of a deposit payoff on public confidence in the banking system in general. The “jusen,” or housing finance banks, suffered the most serious problems; these institutions, which were typically organized and sponsored by major commercial banks and staffed, in part, by former officials from the Ministry of Finance, lost tens of billions of dollars as a result of the collapse of the price bubble, and became one of the most contentious political issues of the day during 1995-86 (Miller 2001)”.

1996-12-05 “How do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values, which then become subject to unexpected and prolonged contractions as they have in Japan over the past decade? And how do we factor that assessment into monetary policy? We as central bankers need not be concerned if a collapsing financial asset bubble does not threaten to impair the real economy, its production, jobs, and price stability. Indeed, the sharp stock market break of 1987 had few negative consequences for the economy. But we should not underestimate or become complacent about the complexity of the interactions of asset markets and the economy. Thus, evaluating shifts in balance sheets generally, and in asset prices particularly, must be an integral part of the development of monetary policy.” Alan Greenspan (December 5, 1996)**

1998 There was a market correction in the United States in October of 1998.

2000 In Tampa Bay Florida, high risk adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) made homes “seem affordable when wages stagnated as prices soared. They were just the ticket for cash-out refinancings and home equity credit lines that bought cars and swimming pools and paid off credit card debt. “What happened in a lot of expensive real estate markets is that first-time home buyers who felt they could not afford a home otherwise, took on a loan that had lower monthly payments than a traditional mortgage would have,” said Allen Fishbein, director of housing policy for the Consumer Federation of America. “They weren’t being underwritten on the basis of the borrower’s reasonable capacity to handle these loans.” The payments started out manageable, especially since many loans offered teaser rates. But borrowers are getting a lesson in what the word “adjustable” means. More than $130-billion in mortgages payments were reset in 2006″ In 2006 nearly a third of Tampa Bay mortgages were the high-risk varieties, up from 10 percent in 2003 (Huntley 2006).1992 – 2000 “Japan remained pretty stagnant in the last eight years, with the majority of the loss coming in the first two, when it eventually fell by more than 60%. There was never a big drop, just a constant and inexorable drift downward. Real estate prices plummeted, almost no Japanese company ended 1992 higher than it started 1990. In the interim, banks have failed (and if it weren’t for the financial props of the Japanese government, many more would have), and companies have had to reassess some of their basic assumptions, such as lifetime employment and large benefit packages” (Mann 2000).

2001-09-11 London’s FTSE 100 experienced one of its worst days down 5.7% (BBC News 2008-01-21).

2002-10-15 London’s FTSE 100 experienced one of its best days up 5.1% (BBC News 2008-01-21).

2002-07-02 London’s FTSE 100 experienced one of its best days up 5.0% (BBC News 2008-01-21).

2003-03-13 London’s FTSE 100 experienced one of its best days up 6.1% (BBC News 2008-01-21).

2004 British Columbia graduates from university have an average debt of $20, 000.

2005 Real-estate investing spiked, pressuring prices upward. In Phoenix, according to Bill Jilbert, president and COO of the Coldwell Banker brokerage there, investors from Nevada and California have invaded the Arizona market, and “affordable housing has been pushed to extremes (Christie 2005).”

2005 Market analyst Winzer (2005 cited in Christie 2005) warned that the housing market was high-risk as the boom has already gone on longer than expected. Low interest rates which means cheap mortgage rates extended the cycle of the real estate boom artificially creating higher demand and higher prices as all market levels (Winzer cited in Christie 2005). “Winzer assesses local market risk by taking into account economic and population growth, construction costs, vacancy rates, and, especially, income. He also considers such factors as density and access to open land. Prices in densely settled New York have always been higher than those of cities with lots of space for new housing (Christie 2005).

1991- 2005 “[I]ncreased complexity from increased grading of risk can also result in increased opacity. Risk that is more difficult to see, by virtue of complexity, is risk just the same. There are plenty of reasons to believe that the amount of risk in the marketplace has increased. Figure 3 shows that defaults on ABS and residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) increased substantially between 1991 and 2005″ (Mason and Rosner 2007).

2006-06-12. “Canadian Executives Indicate Human Resources and Rising Canadian Dollar are the Major Business Challenges.” CTV. June 12, 2006.

http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/show/CTVShows/20060611/ctv_release_20060611/20060612

2006 Fitch Global Structured Finance 1991-2005 Default Study revealed that, “the overwhelming majority of global structured finance defaults over the 1991-2005 period were from the U.S., accounting for more than 97 percent of the total. While the 1,000 U.S. defaults were mainly concentrated in the Asset-Backed Securities._ (ABS) sector, the 27 international defaults were primarily from the collateralized debt obligations (CDO) sector.” See Mason and Rosner (2007) warn that risk continues to increase, as ratings agencies revise their loss expectations to account for the dynamics of the mortgage meltdown. For instance, on March 27, Standard & Poor’s raised its expectation for losses on 1.

2006 In Florida millions of homeowners were warned of the mortgage meltdown in which they will “face a financial nightmare brought on by a combination of higher interest rates, risky mortgages and a housing market gone cold (Huntley 2006).

2007-05-10 Desmarais, Paul Jr. 2007. “Private equity, public interest.” National and Global Perspectives . May 10, 2007. p. 16.

2007-05-10 Desmarais, Paul Jr. 2007a. “Chairman’s Address to Shareholders.” Power Corporation of Canada. May 10, 2007.

2007-06-14 Gandalf Group. 2007. “C-Suite Survey On The Role of Private Equity.” Report on Business. Globe and Mail. June 14, 2007. http://www.dwpv.com/images/C-Suite_June_2007.pdf In May and June, 2007 the 150 C-Suite executives from the top 1000 corporations interviewed by the Gandalf Group were generally optimistic about the Canadian economy (Gandalf Group 2007:4). Some expressed concerns about the increasing levels of foreign ownership in key sectors and about private equity firms hollowing out corporate Canada. 23% have concerns that private equity firms engage in too much short-term thinking (Gandalf Group 2007:32). Most executives now favour restrictions in strategic industries. “The strongest areas of consensus about the negative impacts of private equity relate to keeping the company Canadian owned and about the debt burden of the company. A substantial percentage of executives believe that private equity also has a negative impact on the economic contribution the company will make to Canada and to the community it operates in, on the labour relations of the company and on the governance of the company (Gandalf Group 2007:28).”

2007. “C-Suite Survey.” Globe and Mail, Report on Business. 18 June 2007: B5.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/Page/document/video/vs?id=RTGAM.20070619.wvcsuite0619&ids=RTGAM.20070619.wvcsuite0619&hub=search

2007 Mason and Rosner (2007) warn that risk continues to increase, as ratings agencies revise their loss expectations to account for the dynamics of the mortgage meltdown. “Residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) market has experienced significant changes [from 1997-2007].” [T]hey caution that “structural changes in mortgage origination and servicing have interacted with complex residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) and highly volatile CDO funding structures to place the U.S. housing market at risk. This [. . .] could lead to prolonged domestic economic implications for U.S. standing in the world economic order [. . .] The potential for prolonged economic difficulties that also interfere with home ownership in the United States raises significant public policy concerns. Already we are witnessing restructuring and layoffs at top financial institutions. More importantly, however, is the need to provide stable funding sources for economic growth. The biggest obstacle that we have identified is lack of transparency.” (Mason and Rosner 2007).

2007-06-27 “In a Marketplace interview Amy Scott asked interviewees about the disturbing consequences of the interconnections between banks, hedge funds, high risk mortgages and pension funds. In June, 2007 two major hedge funds managed by the investment bank Bear Stearns, who purchased securities that were essentially a “repackaging of all kinds of risky mortgages” to tap into the subprime mortgage market are now verging on collapse as the number of borrowers defaulting on these mortgages increases. Joseph Mason explained that “this isn’t just a Wall Street problem. Your 401k or pension fund may be invested in similar mortgage-related securities.” The investor-base is broad and it is difficult to know who is at risk. “Investment managers don’t have to report their holdings. And unlike stocks, these securities aren’t quoted on an open market [. . .] Those hedge fund investment managers create investments that are bought by our pension funds and mutual funds. Charitable foundations are invested in these. It’s a broad investor base, and it’s not the rich versus the poor.” Mason has been a firm proponent of more transparency in financial dealings (Scott 2007).” See Democratization of Debt: Bear Stearn and Mortgage Meltdowns

2007-09-06 The U.S. subprime mortgage meltdown “Only 5% of mortgages in Canada are subprime compared to 20% in the US. And Canadian financial institutions are more prudent than their American counterparts insisting on mortgage insurance when appropriate and separate appraisals of a home’s purchase price to ensure they are not financing more than 100 per cent of a home’s value. In the US by late 2006 subprime lenders were going bankrupt and as many as 1.5 million Americans could lose their homes before the panic is over. In this under-regulated US industry, lenders partnered with hedge funds to make quick returns on investments then called in debts to avoid losses. Since we are all in some way linked to these investment portfolios, either through mortgages, pensions or insurance, we end up contributing to processes that are fuelled by high-risk, short-term, fast-profits thinking that enriches a few while causing havoc for most of us. See also http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/personalfinance/mortgage-meltdown.html

2007-11-27Staggering poverty report has province listening: A United Way report Losing Ground: The Persistent Growth of Family Poverty in Canada’s Largest City claims almost 93,000 Toronto, Canada households are raising children in poverty. That’s 30% compared with 16 per cent in 1990.” OECD, Policy Development, Public Policy, child poverty, del.icio.us, digg story, digg.com, economic efficiency model, how to be poor in a rich country, policy research, social exclusion, vulnerability to social exclusion

2007 Since 1991 inflation-adjusted hourly wages rose only 10 cents (Ed. 2007).”

2007 A new car in Canada cost $32,000 a 60 percent increase from 1992 (Ed. 2007).”

2007 Canadians collectively owe three quarters of a trillion dollars in personal debt. Canadian families not only have no savings, they draw on pension savings to make ends meet.

“The result of the easy credit is that an average family now owes far more than it takes in. That means we remain solvent only so long as the book value of our assets — things like our home, pension funds or investments — continue to increase (Ed. 2007).”

2007 British Columbia graduates from university have an average debt of $27, 000.

2007 It is now acceptable for Canadian families to pay 60 percent of income to pay monthly payments of their home mortgages (Ed. 2007).

2007 The British Columbia government will allow home owners who are over 55 to defer property tax payments for as long as they live. The government will claim unpaid taxes after you die or sell effectively placing the tax burden on the children (Ed. 2007).

2007 “The number of corporate failures in Japan rose for the third month in a row totaling 896 cases in December up 18.2%. November flops were up 6.5% and the number of companies going belly up in October were up 7.8%. The amount of debts the insolvent companies left behind were up 30.6% to 463.09 billion yen (Belew 2007).

2007 In March Bob Lawless reported in his blog that, “The folks at Automated Access to Court Electronic Records or AACER regularly collect data from all the bankruptcy courts for creditors and attorneys. They have a wealth of information that does not show up in the mainstream media. Most recently, they tell me that there were 58,640 total U.S. bankruptcy filings in February 2007 as compared to 55,088 total U.S. bankruptcy filings in January 2007. OK, that looks like a slight increase, but looks are deceiving. It’s actually a fairly hefty increase. The February filings were spread over only nineteen business days while the January filings were spread over twenty-one days. On a daily basis, the February filings were up 17.7% as compared to January (Lawless 2007).”
2007 Jayson Seth analysed data in National Association of Realtors (NAR) June 24, 2007 report. Seth argues that “America’s easy-credit, quick-flipping, borrow-now-and-forget-the-consequences lifestyle is coming to an increasingly painful, grinding halt” and the “confidence of homebuilders is at a 16-year low (Seth 2007).”

2007 Lawrence Yun, National Association of Realtors announced that the real estate market is softening due to psychological factors, tighter credit for subprime borrowers. NAR’s Lawrence Yun explained that since late 2006 housing sales have slowed as buyers double up with family, friends or just mortgage helper units in their homes to be able to pay for higher-priced homes.

2007 Mason and Rosner (2007) warn that risk continues to increase, as ratings agencies revise their loss expectations to account for the dynamics of the mortgage meltdown. For instance, on March 27, Standard & Poor’s raised its expectation for losses on 1. “Residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) market has experienced significant changes [from 1997-2007]” Furthermore they caution that “structural changes in mortgage origination and servicing have interacted with complex RMBS and highly volatile CDO funding structures to place the U.S. housing market at risk. Equally as important, however, is that housing market weaknesses feed back through financial markets to further weaken financial instruments backing today’s CDOs. Decreased housing starts that will result from lower liquidity in the MBS sector will further weaken credit spreads and depress CDO and MBS issuance. This feedback mechanism can create imbalances in the U.S. economy that, if left unchecked, could lead to prolonged domestic economic implications for U.S. standing in the world economic order [. . .] The potential for prolonged economic difficulties that also interfere with home ownership in the United States raises significant public policy concerns. Already we are witnessing restructurings and layoffs at top financial institutions. More importantly, however, is the need to provide stable funding sources for economic growth. The biggest obstacle that we have identified is lack of transparency.” (Mason and Rosner 2007).

2007 In a Marketplace interview Amy Scott asked interviewees about the disturbing consequences of the interconnections between banks, hedge funds, high risk mortgages and pension funds. In June two major hedge funds managed by the investment bank Bear Stearns, who purchased securities that were essentially a “repackaging of all kinds of risky mortgages” to tap into the subprime mortgage market are now verging on collapse as the number of borrowers defaulting on these mortgages increases. Joseph Mason explained that “this isn’t just a Wall Street problem. Your 401k or pension fund may be invested in similar mortgage-related securities.” The investor-base is broad and it is difficult to know who is at risk. “Investment managers don’t have to report their holdings. And unlike stocks, these securities aren’t quoted on an open market.” Mason has been a firm proponent of more transparency in financial dealings (Scott 2007).

2008-01-12 Should banks avoid investing in carbon-intensive projects? “Ceres is composed of and works with investors ($4 trillion) and environmental groups to address sustainability challenges. In their report Corporate Governance and Climate Change (2008) they argue that the banking sector needs to become aligned with GHG reductions.” read more | digg story

2007-01-20Globalization and the Rise of Inequality: The extremes of wealth and poverty threaten globalisation. North American companies lose jobs to the Chinese Special Economic Zone (SEZ) where factories often employ rural women to work in 19th century conditions to keep their costs low. Meanwhile the total pay of top managers in North America has increased from 1986 through 2006 to roughly 40 times the average and from 1966 to 110 times the average. Globalization “refers to the current transformation of the world economy the reduction of national barriers to trade and investment, the expansion of telecommunications and information systems, the growth of off-shore financial markets, the increasing role of multinational enterprises, the explosion of mergers and acquisitions, global inter-firm networking arrangements and alliances, regional economic integration and the development of a single unified global market. The phenomenon of globalization is accompanied by increasing international mobility, the migration of workers, the growth of tourism and the increasing ease of international travel (Leary 1998:265).”

2008-01-19 The Bush administration announce they are seeking “a stimulus package of as much as $145 billion”. However the stock market did not respond positively as investors were concerned that the looming American recession would trigger economic crisis that will span the globe. See (Jolly and Timmons 2008-01-21).

2008-01-21 “Global stock markets have tumbled, with European indexes set for some of their biggest losses in recent years, amid growing fears of a recession in the US (BBC News 2008-01-21).”

2008-01-20 “Global stock markets plunged on Monday as fears spread that the turmoil in United States mortgage markets is spreading. Indexes in Europe fell as much as 7 percent after a huge sell-off in Asia. “There’s something approaching panic in the market,” Holger Schmieding, the chief European economist at Bank of America in London, said by telephone. “There’s been a reassessment in the market of the U.S. economic outlook, with most people now thinking that there will be a recession,” and investors are starting to reconsider the idea that the rest of the world “will remain aloof from U.S. problems [. . .] The selling began in Sydney, with Australian stocks falling nearly 3 percent for an 11th consecutive decline. Major markets in Asia followed suit, with the benchmark Nikkei 225-stock average in Tokyo falling 3.9 percent, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong falling 5.5 percent and the benchmark mainland Chinese index falling more than 5 percent (Jolly and Timmons 2008-01-21).”

2008-01-21 London’s FTSE 100 index fell 4.5% to 5,637.3 (BBC News 2008-01-21).

2008-01-21 Hugues Rialan of Robeco France says we are in a panic mode and a crisis in consumer confidence as the banking sector’s reassurances that they were not overexposed to US mortgage-related investments, prove to ring hollow and false. The banking sector lost consumer trust when they lost of “billions of pounds on investments linked to the US housing and mortgage markets (BBC News 2008-01-21).”

2008-01-21 “Australia’s benchmark ASX 200 index closed down 2.9%, or 166.9, points at 5,580.4″, amid growing fears of a recession in the US. This is ASX 200 index’s “lowest level for a year. It was also the 11th consecutive negative day for the index, the longest losing streak in more than 25 years (BBC News 2008-01-21).”

2008-01-21 “There may be more downturns in store for Asia, particularly as banks report the fallout from their investments in the United States mortgage market. Companies “have not announced their year-end numbers yet,” Schuller, of Moody’s, said, and if they are holding subprime assets, they may need to write-off their value, she said. “They are going to be taking these 25 to 30 percent haircuts we’re seeing on Wall Street,” she said. “I think it is going to shock people.” [This article which appeared in the New York Times was written by David Jolly reporting from Paris and Heather Timmons from New Delhi. Tim Johnston contributed reporting from Sydney, and Martin Foster from Tokyo (Jolly and Timmons 2008-01-21).”

2009-01-21 Analyst Mike Lenhoff at Brewin Dolphin Securities predicts that the prospect of falling US interest rates announced by the US administration will have a positive effect on the market by January 2009 and the crisis mode of January 2008 and the drop in global indexes based on fears of a US recession will be proven to be a panicked knee-jerk reaction (BBC News 2008-01-21).”

Bibliography and Webliography

BBC. 2008-01-21. “Global shares tumble on US fears.” BBC News on-line. Uploaded 2008/01/21 16:10:48 GMT. Accessed 2008-21. http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/business/7199552.stm http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7199552.stm

CBC News. 2008. “TSX plunges 500 points.” Last Updated: 2008-01-21:13:26 ET.

Jolly, David; Timmons, Heather. 2008-01-21. “Stocks Plunge in Europe and Asia on U.S. Recession Fear.” New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/21/business/22stox-web.html?_r=1&ei=5088&en=f84e22b0fa01257e&ex=1358658000&oref=slogin&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&pagewanted=print

Selected Bibliography and Webliography: Leary, Virginia A. 1998. “Globalization and Human Rights.” In Symonides, Janusz (Ed.) Human Rights: New Dimensions and Challenges: Manual on Human Rights. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Dartmouth Publishing Company Ltd. / UNESCO Publishing. pp. 265-276. 2007. “Rich man, poor man.” The Economist. Jan 18th 2007. Accessed January 18, 2007

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2008. “Risk Society: Unintended Consequences of Subprime Market.” >> Google docs. January 21. http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddp3qxmz_505grfcrtgj


In his May 10, 2007 Address to Shareholders, Paul Desmarais Jr. CEO of the Power Corporation of Canada compared and contrasted his corporation with private equity and hedge funds.

In recent years private equity funds have grown at a phenomenal pace. Collectively they have brought about the privatization of public companies worldwide worth $900 billion! In 2006 alone, the 10 largest private equity funds raised $120 billion in new money destined for privatizations. At first an American phenomenon, private equity funds spread to Canada, the U.K., continental Europe and even Japan. Today in the U.K., 19% of private sector employees, or 3.3 million people, work for businesses owned by private equity firms. In Germany the number is 800,000.

In their early years, private equity funds often brought an added value and better governance to the companies they privatized by replacing ineffective and complacent boards of directors. While they were then generally met by fiercely resistant business managers opposed to privatization, nowadays their job is made easier by the growing number of public company executives who, frustrated by the tedious, distracting and costly compliance to modern-day governance rules and regulations, are more receptive to the idea of private equity funds taking them private. And, let’s not forget that, in today’s world, managers are more mobile and can gravitate to the numerous opportunities offered by private equity funds, where they can receive considerable compensation over a relatively short period of time, while being sheltered from public scrutiny and sensational headlines.

Meanwhile hedge funds, which by nature have a shorter time horizon, now number 9,000 and manage in excess of $1 trillion (that’s right, one thousand billions!). In 2006 alone, $126 billion of new money flowed into U.S. hedge funds. Their presence in the financial markets is substantial: for example, they account for between 30% and 50% of transactions on the New York and London stock exchanges! These funds are lightly regulated private investment pools which initially attracted endowment funds and wealthy individuals, but which today also have pension funds and insurance companies as investors.

While many hedge funds are devoted to generating short-term returns by leveraging financial instruments, I would like to focus on those funds which take positions in widely held public companies and become “activist shareholders” with the view of pressuring those companies into actions which, in turn, will quickly result in added value for shareholders, including themselves. Once they become shareholders, they will often align with other institutional investors who are shareholders of the company, and promote whatever initiatives could quickly generate added value: sale or spinoff s of divisions, cash dividends or repurchase of shares, and cuts in operating costs, are a few examples of what can be on their agenda, in addition to their ultimate goal of an outright sale of the company, which would fetch a premium for control (Desmarais 2007a:3.)

In the same month in an article published in the Canadian Council of Chief Executives journal National and Global Perspectives Desmarais warned of the structural impact on the industrialized world caused by the meteoric rise of private equity and hedge funds in the financial markets.

Is it not ironic that the principal investors in private equity and hedge funds – large institutional investors – are happy to put massive amounts of money in the hands of people who do not register with any securities commission, or have few, if any, governance regulations to adhere to and report on? (Desmarais 2007:16).

In the same edition both Gordon Nixon and Dominic D’Alessandro echoed their concerns.

In 2006, more than 100 of Canada’s public companies were acquired by foreign interests. The list includes some of the oldest and most well-established companies across a broad spectrum of industries – everything from hotels to retailing, to metals and mining [. . .] My concern stems from the fact that the world is awash with capital and that the consolidation trend in many industries will inevitably continue. We are a small country with a relatively small population. Canadian companies typically are not of a size to be global players. All too often, decisions affecting the future of important firms and the communities that they sustain are made solely with a view to the short-term financial consequences. I find it particularly bothersome that so many of our natural resource companies – which I would argue represent unique and irreplaceable assets – are now owned elsewhere (D’Alessandro 2007).

Over the past year, 116 Canadian public companies were acquired by foreign interests, more than any other major country including much bigger economies such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France and all the Nordic countries combined. We have not only seen the disappearance of major Canadian household names, but the loss of Canadian presence in industries where we have long had traditional strengths (Nixon 2007:5).

In May and June, 2007 the 150 C-Suite executives from the top 1000 corporations interviewed by the Gandalf Group were generally optimistic about the Canadian economy (Gandalf Group 2007:4). Some expressed concerns about the increasing levels of foreign ownership in key sectors and about private equity firms hollowing out corporate Canada. 23% have concerns that private equity firms engage in too much short-term thinking (Gandalf Group 2007:32). Most executives now favour restrictions in strategic industries.

The strongest areas of consensus about the negative impacts of private equity relate to keeping the company Canadian owned and about the debt burden of the company. A substantial percentage of executives believe that private equity also has a negative impact on the economic contribution the company will make to Canada and to the community it operates in, on the labour relations of the company and on the governance of the company (Gandalf Group 2007:28).

Bibliography

2006. “Canadian Executives Indicate Human Resources and Rising Canadian Dollar are the Major Business Challenges.” CTV. June 12, 2006.

http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/show/CTVShows/20060611/ctv_release_20060611/20060612

2007. “C-Suite Survey.” Globe and Mail, Report on Business. 18 June 2007: B5.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/Page/document/video/vs?id=RTGAM.20070619.wvcsuite0619&ids=RTGAM.20070619.wvcsuite0619&hub=search

D’Alessandro, Dominic. 2007. “How Can We Conserve Canadian Ownership?” National and Global Perspectives . May 3, 2007. p. 23.

Desmarais, Paul Jr. 2007. “Private equity, public interest.” National and Global Perspectives . May 10, 2007. p. 16.

Desmarais, Paul Jr. 2007a. “Chairman’s Address to Shareholders.” Power Corporation of Canada. May 10, 2007.

http://www.powercorporation.com/powercorp/webcast/2007/PCC_Eng_Discours_P_Desmarais_jr_2007_May11_FINAL.pdf

Gandalf Group. 2007. “C-Suite Survey On The Role of Private Equity.” Report on Business. Globe and Mail. June 14, 2007. http://www.dwpv.com/images/C-Suite_June_2007.pdf

Nixon, Gordon M. 2007. “As the world changes, Canada must adapt.” National and Global Perspectives . March 2, 2007.

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Meteoric Rise of Private Equity and Hedge Funds.” >> speechless. September 2007. http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddp3qxmz_355dbbcxv


The Canadian business community has taken the most active interest in politics at the CEO level than any other business community in in the world (d’Acquino cited in Brownlee 2005: 9 Newman 1998:159-160). And this interest and influence has been on the rise in the last decades. Canada’s business community has had more influence on Canadian public policy in the years 1995-2005 then in any other period since 1900.

Look at what we stand for and look at what all the governments, all the major parties . . . have done, and what they want to do. They have adopted the agendas we’ve been fighting for the in the past few decades (cited in Brownlee 2005: 12 Newman 1998:151).

Tom D’Acquino should know as he is the CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.

While the average North American is becoming increasingly concerned by climate change, a recent report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers has found that fewer than a fifth – 18 per cent – of North American chief executives are concerned about climate change putting them increasingly out of step with their colleagues in Europe and Asia Pacific.

This a current list of the Chief Executive Officers of the Officers of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives:

  • Dominic D’Alessandro, Vice Chair Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and President and CEO Manulife Financial
  • Thomas d’Aquino, Chief Executive Officer and President of Canadian Council of Chief Executives
  • Paul Desmarais. Jr. Vice Chair President of Canadian Council of Chief Executives and Chairman and C0-Chief Executive Officer of Power Corporation of Canada
  • Richard L. George, Honorary Chair Canadian Council of Chief Executives and President and CEO of Suncor Energy Inc.
  • Jacques Lamarre, Vice Chair of Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and President and CEO SNC-Lavalin Group, Inc.
  • Gordon M. Nixon, Chair of Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and President and CEO of Royal Bank of Canada
  • Hartley T. Richardson Vice Chair of Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and President and CEO of James Richardson and Sons, Ltd.
  • Annette Verschuren Vice Chair of Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) and President of The Home Depot Canada

Selected bibliography

  • Brownlee, Jamie. 2005. Ruling Canada: Corporate Cohesion and Democracy. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.
  • Brownlee’s (2005) publication stems from his MA thesis supervised by University of Manitoba Sociology Professor Greg Olsen. It builds on the work of William Carroll, Wallace Clement and Murray Dobbin. I highly recommend this book for teaching, learning and research on how Ottawa really works. Some of the well-constructed arguments are located in sections entitled: economic cohesion and the structure of corporate capital, mergers and acquisitions, interlocking directorates, a class conscious business elite, public policy formation network, Canadian Council of Chief Executives, Global policy organizations, advocacy think tanks and economic elite, corporate social responsibility and the role of states in the era of globalization. The bibliography is a book in itself. The appendices, Media-Corporate Director Board Interlocks and Think Tanks – Corporate Director Board Interlocks for 2003 provide missing pieces to a puzzle.

  • Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2006.Media and Objectivity: a Selected Timeline of Events
  • Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2005. Interview with Jamie Brownlee in response to Globe and Mail article “Canada’s top 10% pay 52% of total tax bill.”
  • Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “King of Canada: Tom d’Acquino CEO of CEO’s” Google Docs and Spreadsheet. mirror
  • “The Globe and Mail Weekly Appointment Review.” Globe and Mail. January 22, 2007. p. B6
  • Hackett, Robert A. and Gruneau, Richard. 2000. The Missing News: Filters and Blind Spots in Canada. Ottawa: Centre for Policy Alternatives/Garamond Press Inc.
  • Hackett, Robert A. and Zhao, Yuezhi. 1998. Sustaining Democracy? Journalism and the Politics of Objectivity. Toronto: Garamond Press Inc.
  • I first read this book while preparing to teach a Northern-centred introductory human rights course in Iqaluit, Nunavut. My students were often employees of the Nunavut Government involved in making history as they introduced their own human rights bill. I wanted the inconvenient truth claims in Hackett and Zhao to be illegitimate but their research was unfortunately very robust. I thought I lived in a country whose forms of democratic governance were maturing until I read how we were actually going backwards not forwards in terms of objectivity and mass media.

    These recent shifts in media ownership and policy might be seen as the equivalent of a non-violent coup d’etat, a metaphor evoking the inherent link between media power and state power — between the colonization of the popular imagination and the allocation of social resources through public policy and market relations. Communications scholar Herbert Schiller suggests that what is at stake is “packaged consciousness”: the intensified appropriation of the national symbolic environment by a “few corporate juggernauts in the consciousness business (Hackett and Zhao 1998:5)

  • N/A. 2007. “U.S bosses out of step on climate change.” Management-Issues
  • Newman, Peter. 1975. The Canadian Establishment. Toronto: Mclelland and Stewart.
  • Newman, Peter. 1975. The Canadian Establishment. Toronto: Mclelland and Stewart.
  • Newman, Peter. 1981. The Acquisitors.. Toronto: Mclelland and Stewart.
  • Newman, Peter. 1998. Titans: How the New Establishment Seized Power. Toronto: Penguin Books.
  • Olsen, Gregg. 1991. “Labour Mobilization and the Strength of Capital: The Rise and Stall of Economic Democracy in Sweden.” Studies in Political Economy. 34.
  • Olsen, Gregg. 2002. The Politics of the Welfare State: Canada, Sweden and the United States.. Toronto: Oxford University Press.
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