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The Daily Beast has an excellent report on our banking sector’s new financial practices, which – surprise! – are inscrutable to the inquiring journalist. That the late financial crisis bears remarkable resemblance to the Enron scandal 9 years ago has apparently occurred to few, though it should be obvious. Nomi Prins traces the same shadow accounting in three major banks that brought Enron down.

As she says:

While Washington ponders what to do, or not do, about reforming Wall Street, the nation’s biggest banks, plumped up on government capital and risk-infused trading profits, have been moving stuff around their balance sheets like a multi-billion dollar musical chairs game.I was trying to answer the simple question that you’d think regulators should want to know: how much of each bank’s revenue is derived from trading (taking risk) vs. other businesses? And how can you compare it across the industry—so you can contain all that systemic risk? Only, there’s no uniformity across books. And, given the complexity of these mega-merged firms, those questions aren’t easy to answer.

While we continue to argue over whether or not our banks deserve regulation, their accounting practices are transforming beyond all recognition. Whoever we hire to audit our banks – if, indeed, we ever do so – will face an impenetrable morass.

Written by pavanvan

December 6, 2009 at 7:21 pm

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