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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Great Recession Roundup — April 8, 2009

Items of Interest:

Bailout for Life Insurers?

Grim Times for Insurance Companies: U.S. to Offer Aid to Life InsurersWall Street Journal:
U.S. to Offer Aid to Life Insurers -- The Treasury Department has decided to extend bailout funds to a number of struggling life-insurance companies, helping an industry that is a linchpin of the U.S. financial system, people familiar with the matter said.

The department is expected to announce the expansion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program to aid the ailing industry within the next several days, these people said.

The news will come as a relief to a number of iconic American companies that have suffered big losses made worse by generous promises to buyers of some investment products. Shares of life insurers have fallen more than 40% this year...

discussion:
Nick Gillespie / Reason: You'd Think That Increasing Lifespans Would Be All The Bailout …
Megan McArdle: US to Bail Out Life Insurers

David Goldman / Inner Workings:
It’s the insurers, stupid --The insurers own the capital structure of the banks, and you can’t haircut the banks’ capital securities without beheading the insurers...

Let folks know that even their insurance policy and their annuity isn’t safe, and you will see a degree of panic that would make the consumer slump of the past six months seem like boom times by comparison.

Larry Kudlow:
TARP the Life Insurers? This Is Nuts -- We are already on the hook for banks, GM and Chrysler, and lube jobs for guaranteed government-backed GM warranties. And now comes life insurance. When will this country stop saving losers and start rewarding winners? ...

related:
Bloomberg: TARP Panel Suggests Firing Managers & Liquidating Banks
----
Bloomberg:
Roubini Says Bank Takeovers Deepened Financial Market Crisis -- Bank takeovers worsened the financial crisis by making firms that were already too big even bigger, said Nouriel Roubini, the New York University professor who predicted the financial crisis.

“The institutions are insolvent,” Roubini said in a Bloomberg Radio interview. “You have to take them over and you have to split them up into three or four national banks, rather than having a humongous monster that is too big to fail.” ...
related:
Rob Gillies / Globe and Mail: Dr. Doom Lashes Out at CNBC's Jim Cramer
----
Bloomberg:
GM Pensions May Be ‘Garbage’ With $16 Billion at Risk -- Den Black, a retired General Motors Corp. engineering executive, says he’s worried and angry. The government-supported automaker is going bankrupt, he says, and he’s sure some of his retirement pay will go down with it.

“This is going to wreck us,” said Black, 62, speaking of GM retirees. “These pledges from our companies are now garbage.”

As the biggest U.S. automaker teeters near bankruptcy, workers and retirees like Black are bracing for what may be $16 billion in pension losses if the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. has to take over the plans, according to the agency. As many as half of GM’s 670,000 pension-plan participants might see their benefits trimmed if that happened, an actuary familiar with the company’s retirement programs estimates...
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Nassim Nicholas Taleb / Financial Times:
Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world — 1. What is fragile should break early while it is still small. Nothing should ever become too big to fail. Evolution in economic life helps those with the maximum amount of hidden risks - and hence the most fragile - become the biggest...
discussion:
Charles Davi / The Atlantic Business Channel: The Unbearable Lightness of Nassim Taleb
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Wall Street Journal:
Electricity Grid in U.S. Penetrated By Spies -- Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials.

The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, these officials said, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls. The intruders haven't sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure, but officials warned they could try during a crisis or war.

"The Chinese have attempted to map our infrastructure, such as the electrical grid," said a senior intelligence official. "So have the Russians."

The espionage appeared pervasive across the U.S. and doesn't target a particular company or region, said a former Department of Homeland Security official. "There are intrusions, and they are growing," the former official said, referring to electrical systems. "There were a lot last year." ...
discussion:
Pat / Tammy Bruce: Cyber Attacks Call for Cyber Security But Not S. 773
Capt. Fogg / The Reaction: One if by land, two if by the internet
David Betz / Kings of War: The strategy of cyber attack
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Calculated Risk

MishTalk - Mike Shedlock

Paul Krugman - NY Times

The Big Picture - Barry Ritholtz

naked capitalism - Yves Smith

Pragmatic Capitalism

Washington's Blog

Safe Haven

Paper Economy

The Daily Reckoning - Australia