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As panicked depositors lined up in sweltering heat out West to bang on the doors of the shuttered IndyMac banking giant, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission emerged over the weekend to announce a major crackdown.
The SEC usually doesn’t work on weekends, because they are so tired from doing almost nothing during the work week, at least for the past seven years. So this figured to be a momentous announcement. We envisioned a line of Armani-clad bank presidents and hedge-fund managers chained together, perp-marching into Guantanemo.
We picked up the remote and clicked away from live coverage of the Tour de France, where the pelaton was maneuvering en masse around some dog droppings, switching to our favorite 24-hour news channel.
”This just in,” the news presenter breathlessly told us, ”The SEC has announced an immediate and massive crackdown on………..rumors.”
Rumors. So the catastrophic implosion of the global financial system in the wake of an unregulated, decade-long orgy of speculation isn’t the real problem, after all. The problem is all the insidious characters whispering about the catastrophic implosion of the global financial system.
What a relief! Now we can stop making all those trips ferrying cash from the local ATM to the mattress in the upstairs bedroom.
We were about to break open a bottle of flat ginger ale and celebrate, when those spoilsports at ABC News rained on our parade.
In a shocking display of defiance of the new government edict banning rumors, ABC revealed that it has obtained a privately-prepared list of the most troubled banks in the United States. The list apparently has been circulating on Wall Street and in Washington.
According to ABC, the list was formulated using the so-called ”Texas ratio,” which compares a bank’s assets and reserves to its non-performing loans, based on financial data made public by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) in March. Banks with a ratio over 100 percent would be most likely to fail, based on what happened to Texas savings and loan outfits in the 1980s.
The rumormongers at ABC weren’t content just to tell us they had this private list. No, they had to go and tell us that a whole slew of banks in Colorado, Maryland, Georgia and California are about as stable as the average protruding Arctic ice shelf.
Then they started naming names. We won’t repeat that information here, because the SEC warned us that they’re not going to tolerate that kind of stuff. But if you go to ABC’s web site, you can read about the Arkansas bank with a 344 ratio, the Colorado bank with a 245 ratio, and the Maryland bank with a 223 ratio.
You can also find out from ABC that the FDIC has its own ”secret” list of at least 90 troubled U.S. banks.
But we’re not going to tell you anything about that. No sir. Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent. Nobody is going to accuse us of spreading insidious gossip!
In fact, we just showed the door to some joker who told us that Budweiser is now Belgian beer. Do you believe that nonsense? Rumormongers!