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Mark-to-Market Isn't the Problem

Politics / Credit Crisis 2009 Mar 18, 2009 - 08:13 AM GMT

By: Mike_Stathis

Politics Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleIt seems as if many have been fooled by those supporting the banks. The general argument that has been made is that mark-to-market accounting has been largely responsible for the banking mess since it creates price transparency for assets held on the books daily. Given the problems in real estate, mark-to-market has been particularly harmful to mortgage-backed securities. Therefore, as the argument continues, we should eliminate, suspend or revise mark-to-market rules because the price transparency it offers is not necessarily indicative of asset values. Finally, removing mark-to-market would help rescue the banks. I challenge these views.


The fact is that mark-to-market accounting provides a vital function. It allows investors to know what the assets would sell for currently. Thus, this price transparency implies asset valuation. What is valuation? You can use any traditional method you want, from discounting cash flows to the options pricing method. At the end of the day, valuation ultimately relies upon a large market of buyers and sellers of securities. They are the ones who determine pricing. Hence, they are the ones who determine valuation. Valuation ultimately relies on what someone is willing to pay for a security. And mark-to-market better estimates valuation according to this definition.

We should not blame this prudent accounting regulation on banks that acted irresponsibly. Are we supposed to design rules around banks so they can continue their Ponzi schemes? I think not. The fact is that if banks had practiced real risk management instead of using highly flawed methods to model risk (like VaR), they would have contained and priced risk much better. This would have restricted the amount of leverage they used, and we would not be in this mess.

But they chose the path of optimal short-term profits instead, because they were focused on their Christmas bonuses. Greed, incompetence, and fraud. These three words sum up the reasons why the banks are in this predicament today. And unfortunately, virtually everyone around the globe is paying a heavy price for their mistakes. So don't blame a responsible and beneficial accounting rule for the problems. Anyone who believes a removal of mark-to-market guidelines would be prudent simply isn't thinking straight.

That said, I do believe a temporary revision to mark-to-market guidelines would add a large amount of intermediate-term stability to the banking system. But these effects would not necessarily be permanent. Such a change could actually create a larger problem down the road.

I might have been in favor of a change or halt in market-to-market accounting guidelines PRIOR to the banking bailouts, but not now. Revision or removal of mark-to-market would add more to the bailout precedent, further strengthening the moral hazard that has been created. As well, any such revisions intended to be short-term would most likely be drafted into permanent accounting rules. That would definitely create some very big problems down the road.

In conclusion, mark-to-market serves a vital function. We should not blame it for the banking problems. The bankers are to blame. We should never create rules to suit criminals, nor should we blame the law when criminals break it.

I want to encourage all who seek the truth and valuable guidance to follow me to my new site www.avaresearch.com (coming in a few days). You won't see me pitching gold or investments to you like others. You will continue to receive nothing but unbiased top-tier insight, education and commentaries.

2

By Mike Stathis
mike@apexva.com

Copyright © 2009. All Rights Reserved. Mike Stathis.

Mike Stathis is the Managing Principal of Apex Venture Advisors , a business and investment intelligence firm serving the needs of venture firms, corporations and hedge funds on a variety of projects. Mike's work in the private markets includes valuation analysis, deal structuring, and business strategy. In the public markets he has assisted hedge funds with investment strategy, valuation analysis, market forecasting, risk management, and distressed securities analysis. Prior to Apex Advisors, Mike worked at UBS and Bear Stearns, focusing on asset management and merchant banking.

The accuracy of his predictions and insights detailed in the 2006 release of America's Financial Apocalypse and Cashing in on the Real Estate Bubble have positioned him as one of America's most insightful and creative financial minds. These books serve as proof that he remains well ahead of the curve, as he continues to position his clients with a unique competitive advantage. His first book, The Startup Company Bible for Entrepreneurs has become required reading for high-tech entrepreneurs, and is used in several business schools as a required text for completion of the MBA program.

Restrictions Against Reproduction: No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner and the Publisher. These articles and commentaries cannot be reposted or used in any publications for which there is any revenue generated directly or indirectly. These articles cannot be used to enhance the viewer appeal of any website, including any ad revenue on the website, other than those sites for which specific written permission has been granted. Any such violations are unlawful and violators will be prosecuted in accordance with these laws.

Requests to the Publisher for permission or further information should be sent to info@apexva.com

Books Published
"America's Financial Apocalypse" (Condensed Version)  http://www.amazon.com/...

"Cashing in on the Real Estate Bubble"  http://www.amazon.com/...

"The Startup Company Bible for Entrepreneurs"   http://www.amazon.com...

Disclaimer: All investment commentaries and recommendations herein have been presented for educational purposes, are generic and not meant to serve as individual investment advice, and should not be taken as such. Readers should consult their registered financial representative to determine the suitability of all investment strategies discussed. Without a consideration of each investor's financial profile. The investment strategies herein do not apply to 401(k), IRA or any other tax-deferred retirement accounts due to the limitations of these investment vehicles.

Mike Stathis Archive

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