Bear Stearns Bailout: It’s Not Who You Think

The quick read from the press is that the purchase of Bear Stearns by JPMorgan Chase was a "bailout."

Jim Hamilton over at EconBrowser doesn’t buy that story.  He says, "$2 a share is no bailout, but instead represents a fire sale price."

I buy that, because Bear had been selling for $57 a share two trading days before the buyout.

But there’s more to the story from the New York Times (hat tip to Barry Ritholtz):

Holders of the more than $300 billion in Bear Stearns bonds, in the
meantime, are purchasing Bear stock to strengthen their hand in voting
for the deal, thus guaranteeing that their bond investments will retain
the backing of JPMorgan and its guarantor, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

That’s who is getting bailed out: Bear’s creditors, clients, and counter-parties.  The people whose due diligence was not very diligent.  The people who could help us avoid another debacle by being very, very careful in their credit analysis.

But no, care need not be taken.  If you are doing business with a large investment bank, don’t worry. The Fed will bail you out if you are stupid enough to lend credit to an insolvent institution, or if you ask an insolvent institution to hold your securities, or if you pick an insolvent institution to be your counterparty in a derivatives contract.

Dr. Ben rode to the fire in a big red truck.  But his truck was leaking gasoline all over town, setting up the street for another major conflagration that could be far worse than the Bear Stearns fire.

Someone should have pulled Bernanke aside and told him to chill.  The economy is pretty resilient.  It can withstand a lot of turmoil.   Instead, the chairman is too afraid of financial turmoil, and as a result, he’s going to get more of it.