Monday, March 24, 2008

Grand Theft Investment Bank

J.P. Morgan's acquisition of Bear Stearns is starting to look more and more like a crime with the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department guilty of aiding and abetting. Government officials orchestrated grand theft investment bank.

As of yet, of course, there is no definitive deal. Yet Morgan almost got away with "buying" Bear for just $2 per share. The government, it seems, was desperate to close a deal and just as desperate to punish Bear's shareholders. Morgan was smart enough to realize they were the only bidder in the game. They could name any price they liked and that's exactly what they did.

But shares of Bear immediately started trading well above the offer price. And now, after only one week, Morgan decided it needed to allay some of the ill will it's initial offer created. So it decided to increase its offer--by five times! If this does not confirm that Morgan's initial offer amounted to highway robbery, I don't know what does.

With Morgan's new offer the government is still assuming most of the risk by guaranteeing Bear's toxic mortgages. But instead of doing this through Morgan, it could have done the same thing directly through Bear. Either way, the burden to taxpayers is the same. By working through Morgan, however, the government can be sure that Bear's employees and shareholders get absolutely pummeled.

One day a lot of hard questions will be asked about exactly what went on. Harvard professors are probably already working on a case study. Dozens of books will eventually be written on the subject. In the final analysis, it will become evident that, with the government's help, J.P. Morgan almost stole Bear Stearns.