Archive for February 17th, 2009

Inside the Meltdown: Who Was Withdrawing From Money Market Funds On September 16-18, 2008 and Why?

Posted on February 17, 2009. Filed under: Blogroll, Economics, Investments, Law, Links, People, Politics, Quotations, Rants, Raves, Regulations, Security, Technology, Video | Tags: , , , , |


“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and the corporations that will grow up around them, will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”

~Thomas Jefferson 




The short answer is financial institutions to avoid possible losses on their most liquid and supposively safe assets, their money market funds.

But was something else going on and if so who really was behind the run on the money market funds.

Watch the Front Line Documentary Inside the Meltdown on February 17, 2009 or online:

Some preview clips are provided below together with background videos:


FRONTLINE investigates the causes of the worst economic crisis in 70 years on WMFE TV!


Front Line Documentary Inside the Meltdown


FRONTLINE | Inside the Meltdown | Sneak Peek 1 | PBS


FRONTLINE | Inside the Meltdown | Sneak Peek 2 | PBS


Money Market Funds In Jeopardy



In-Depth Look: Money Market Funds


In-Depth Look: Money-Market Funds


Congressman: US came within hours of economic collapse; Banks saw $550 billion withdrawn in 2 hours


1/3) Tom Woods: Meltdown (Lew Rockwell Show 2/11/09)


2/3) Tom Woods: Meltdown (Lew Rockwell Show 2/11/09)


3/3) Tom Woods: Meltdown (Lew Rockwell Show 2/11/09)


Turmoil in the Cash Markets: Did Enhanced Cash and Money Market Strategies Overdo Risk?

“…The recent event that had the greatest impact was the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy on September 15. Most financial markets experienced a tremendous shock and it had a profound ripple effect on money markets as well: it indirectly drove a very large money market fund to “break the buck.” The Reserve Primary Fund held over one percent in Lehman commercial paper and when investors got wind of it, they decided to redeem en masse. That same week, AIG, a major international insurance company, ran into trouble and was bailed out by the government.  

Following these historic events, corporate spreads widened dramatically, especially in the financial and banking sector. The commercial paper issued by many large, high-quality issuers traded as though every financial was going out of business. Banks stopped lending to each other and the cash markets were frozen. Before this crisis, prime money market funds, which held mostly commercial paper, were thought to be just about the safest investments in the market. But investors quickly understood that prime funds were no longer immune to the credit crunch because of their corporate exposure, and they fled to only the safest assets – Treasuries. 

Government Takes Action to Assist Money Markets
The U.S. government had to take dramatic steps to address the problems in the money market arena:

  • First, they needed to stop the run on the bank. Too many redemptions in prime money market funds would cause a feedback loop and more prime funds might break the buck. Therefore, the Treasury established a temporary money market guaranty program recently extended until April 30, 2009, and eligible to holdings held as of September 19 to stop the run. This program insures money market assets of those funds that enroll and pay a small premium of assets.
  • The next step was to create liquidity in the commercial paper markets: the Federal Reserve established the AMLF, or Asset-Backed Commercial Paper Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility, which gives banks financing to buy high-quality ABCP from money market funds through January 2009.
  • Another step was needed to create liquidity in the unsecured commercial paper market. The New York Fed launched the Commercial Paper Funding Facility (CPFF), a special purpose vehicle funded by the Fed which will buy highly rated asset-backed and unsecured commercial paper directly from U.S. issuers. So far, this facility has helped add liquidity for direct issuers and reduce the LIBOR-OIS spread.
  • These steps still hadn’t addressed the sale of commercial paper in the secondary market, so the Fed also agreed to provide up to $540 billion in loans to money market funds beset by redemptions. This program, the Money Market Investor Funding Facility (MMIFF), launched in late November and helps mutual funds sell term commercial paper on the secondary market. We expect this to free up more liquidity.

Money Market Funds

Money funds (or money market funds, money market mutual funds) are mutual funds that invest in short-term debt instruments.



Money market funds, also known as principal stability funds, seek to limit exposure to losses due to credit, market and liquidity risks.[clarification needed] Money market funds, in the United States, are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Investment Company Act of 1940. Rule 2a-7 of the act restricts investments in money market funds by quality, maturity and diversity. Under this act, a money fund mainly buys the highest rated debt, which matures in under 13 months. The portfolio must maintain a Weighted Average Maturity (WAM) of 90 days or less and not invest more than 5% in any one issuer, except for government securities and repurchase agreements.

Eligible money market securities include commercial paper, repurchase agreements, short-term bonds or other money funds. Money market securities must be highly liquid and have a stable value.

Breaking the buck

“…Money market funds seek a stable $1.00 net asset value (NAV); they aim to never lose money. If a fund’s NAV drops below $1.00, one says that the fund “broke the buck”.

This has rarely happened; however, as of 16 September 2008, two money funds have broken the buck (in the 37 year history of money funds) and from 1971 to 15 September 2008, there was only one failure.

The Community Bankers US Government Fund broke the buck in 1994, paying investors 96 cents per share. This was the first failure in the then 23 year history of money funds and there were no further failures for 14 years. The fund had invested a large percentage of its assets into adjustable rate securities. As interest rates increased, these floating rate securities lost value. This fund was an institutional money fund, not a retail money fund, thus individuals were not directly affected.

No further failures occurred until September 2008, a month that saw tumultuous events for money funds.

September 2008

See also: Financial crisis of 2007-2008

The week of 15 September 2008 to 19 September 2008 was very turbulent for money funds and a key part of financial markets seizing up.[1]


On Monday, 15 September 2008, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for bankruptcy.

On Tuesday, 16 September 2008, Reserve Primary Fund, the oldest money fund, broke the buck when its shares fell to 97 cents, after writing off debt issued by Lehman Brothers.[2]

On the same day, BNY Institutional Cash Reserves, which was not a money fund, but a securities lending fund run by BNY Mellon, also broke the buck – its NAV fell to 99.1.cents – also due to Lehman holdings.[3]

The resulting investor anxiety almost caused a run on the bank for money funds, as investors redeemed their holdings and funds were forced to liquidate assets or impose limits on redemptions: through Wednesday, institutional funds saw net outflows of $173 billion to $2.17 trillion, a withdrawal of over 7%.[4][5] Retail funds saw net inflows of $4 billion, for a net capital outflow from all funds of $169 billion to $3.4 trillion (5%).[4] The lack of retail outflows is attributed to the lag required for individuals to open a new account, to transfer their funds out and retail funds expected significant withdrawals the following week.[citation needed]

On Thursday, 18 September 2008, Putnam Investments’ Prime Money Market Fund, a $15 billion institutional fund, announced that it was liquidating, due to redemption pressures.[6]

In response, on Friday, 19 September 2008, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced an optional program to “insure the holdings of any publicly offered eligible money market mutual fund — both retail and institutional — that pays a fee to participate in the program.” The insurance will guarantee that if a covered fund breaks the buck, it will be restored to $1 NAV.[5][7] This program is similar to the FDIC, in that it insures deposit-like holdings and seeks to prevent runs on the bank.[1][8] The guarantee is backed by assets of the Treasury Department’s Exchange Stabilization Fund, up to a maximum of $50 billion. It is very important to realize that this program only covers assets invested in funds before 19 September 2008 and those who sold equities, for example, during the recent market crash and parked their assets in money funds, are at risk.

The program immediately stabilized the system and stanched the outflows, but drew criticism from banking organizations, including the Independent Community Bankers of America and American Bankers Association, who expected funds to drain out of bank deposits and into newly insured money funds, as these latter would combine higher yields with insurance.[1][8]



The crisis almost developed into a run on the shadow banking system: the redemptions caused a drop in demand for commercial paper,[1] preventing companies from rolling over their short-term debt, potentially causing an acute liquidity crisis: if companies cannot issue new debt to repay maturing debt, and do not have cash on hand to pay it back, they will default on their obligations, and may have to file for bankruptcy. Thus there was concern that the run could cause extensive bankruptcies, a debt deflation spiral, and serious damage to the real economy, as in the Great Depression.[citation needed]

The drop in demand resulted in a “buyers strike”, as money funds could not (because of redemptions) or would not (because of fear of redemptions) buy commercial paper, driving yields up dramatically: from around 2% the previous week to 8%,[1] and funds put their money in Treasuries, driving their yields close to 0%.

This is a bank run in the sense that there is a mismatch in maturities, and thus a money fund is a “virtual bank”: the assets of money funds, while short term, nonetheless typically have maturities of several months, while investors can request redemption at any time, without waiting for obligations to come due. Thus if there is a sudden demand for redemptions, the assets may be liquidated in a fire sale, depressing their sale price.

An earlier crisis occurred in 2007–2008, where the demand for asset-backed commercial paper dropped, causing the collapse of some structured investment vehicles. …”


Recent Money market collapse almost drove the world into another great depression


This development could have significant ramifications for the entire money market mutual fund industry, which is based on confidence in the complete safety of the “buck.” Jeff Bobroff, mutual-fund consultant in Rhode Island, stated, “This is going to unsettle investors and probably create further runs on other money funds.” Experts fear that investors’ concern about the sanctity of money market funds could result in widespread withdrawals that would further aggravate the global credit crisis. Money market funds are major buyers of short-term debt issued by corporations and financial companies and significant withdrawals from money market funds could severely disrupt that market.

Over the past year, various money market funds have actually seen their assets’ value fall below $1/share but money market fund sponsors have provided capital infusions to avoid the money market funds’ “breaking the buck.” Legg Mason, SunTrust, Morgan Stanley, Charles Schwab, Wachovia, Bank of America, and Credit Suisse are among the firms that have supported their money market funds in this manner.


Background Articles and Videos

Money Market Funds Enter a World of Risk

“…On Tuesday, the Reserve Primary Fund, a giant money market fund whose parent helped invent that investment, said its customers would lose money. Instead of each share being worth a dollar for every dollar invested, it said its customers’ shares were worth only 97 cents. In Wall Street parlance, it “broke the buck,” a rare occurrence.

So far, it appears that no other money market funds have fallen below a dollar a share. And other money market managers have hastened to reassure investors that their money is safe. But the Primary Fund’s announcement did raise this question: What, in today’s world, is truly safe?

After all, the Primary Fund’s troubles did not occur in isolation. They followed the disappearance of both Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, not to mention the government bailouts of the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the insurance company American International Group. And if you haven’t already forgotten, there was the failure of the California thrift IndyMac in July.

And that’s why, in this market, financial advisers agreed on Wednesday, consumers need to become their own chief investment officers, even when it comes to something as simple as finding a place to put their cash. …” 


The End

The arrangement bore the same relation to actual finance as fantasy football bears to the N.F.L. Eisman was perplexed in particular about why Wall Street firms would be coming to him and asking him to sell short. “What Lippman did, to his credit, was he came around several times to me and said, ‘Short this market,’ ” Eisman says. “In my entire life, I never saw a sell-side guy come in and say, ‘Short my market.’”

And short Eisman did—then he tried to get his mind around what he’d just done so he could do it better. He’d call over to a big firm and ask for a list of mortgage bonds from all over the country. The juiciest shorts—the bonds ultimately backed by the mortgages most likely to default—had several characteristics. They’d be in what Wall Street people were now calling the sand states: Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada. The loans would have been made by one of the more dubious mortgage lenders; Long Beach Financial, wholly owned by Washington Mutual, was a great example. Long Beach Financial was moving money out the door as fast as it could, few questions asked, in loans built to self-destruct. It specialized in asking home­owners with bad credit and no proof of income to put no money down and defer interest payments for as long as possible. In Bakersfield, California, a Mexican strawberry picker with an income of $14,000 and no English was lent every penny he needed to buy a house for $720,000. …”  


Peter Schiff The Henry Hazlitt Memorial Lecture 13th March 2009 1 of 2


Peter Schiff The Henry Hazlitt Memorial Lecture 13th March 2009 2 of 2


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George C. Marshall–An American Hero and Leader

Posted on February 17, 2009. Filed under: Blogroll, Economics, People, Politics, Quotations, Raves, Technology, Video, War | Tags: , , , , |


“I don’t think I could sleep at night knowing you were not in Washington.”

~Franklin D Roosevelt

“His standards of character, conduct, and efficiency inspired the entire Army, the nation, and the world. To him, as much as to any individual, the United States owes its future. He takes his place at the head of the great commanders of history…The more I see and talk to him the more certain I am he’s the great one of the age. I am surely lucky to have his friendship and support.”

~Harry Truman

“…what a joy it must be to [Marshall] to see how the armies he called into being by his own genius have won immortal renown. He is the true ‘organizer of victory.’”

“In war he was as wise and understanding in counsel as he was resolute in action. In peace he was the architect who planned the restoration of our battered European economy and, at the same time, laboured tirelessly to establish a system of Western Defense. He has always fought victoriously against defeatism, discouragement, and disillusion. Succeeding generation must not be allowed to forget his achievements and his example.”

~Winston Churchill

“Americans have never been so deeply indebted to any other soldier.”

~Dwight Eisenhower

I have very few heroes.

George C. Marshall is one of the few.

Unfortunately, very few Americans under forty know who George Catlett Marshall was.

A college student just asked me a question about web site optimization and search engines.

This lead to a discussion of keywords or search terms.

I mentioned that for the last several months, George C. Marshall keeps popping up as one of the top search terms on my blog site.

Usually that means that the name was mentioned either on television, talk radio, newspapers, magazines, a recent book or article, or on the web and YouTube.

I asked the student did he know who George Marshall was?

No, never heard of him.

I told him he was General of the Army, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

I brought up my blog site and looked at todays search terms.

Right at the top was–George C. Marshall.

While I have in the past blogged about him, I believe a updated post on him is in order and timely.

The George C. Marshall Foundation has a series of short videos on George C Marshall that are on YouTube:


Soldier and Statesman (Part 1)

Soldier and Statesman (Part 2)

George C. Marshall: Legacy of Leadership, Chapter 1: Questions

“…Historical re-enactment films commissioned by the George C. Marshall Foundation. In Chapter 1, George Marshall has just received the Nobel Prize for Peace. A reporter accosts him with questions, asking how a five-star general could possibly deserve a peace citation. These films were part of a seminar on corporate ethics offered by the Marshall Foundation. John Scott Gunnoe as George Marshall, David Colatosti as the reporter. …”

George C. Marshall: Legacy of Leadership, Chapter 2: Candor

“…Historical re-enactment films commissioned by the George C. Marshall Foundation. In Chapter 2, Captain George Marshall must decide whether to speak the truth to General Pershing during a crucial moment in World War I. These films were part of a seminar on corporate ethics offered by the Marshall Foundation. John Scott Gunnoe as George Marshall, James Galloway as Pershing, Michael Ridenhour as Gen. Sibert. …”

George C. Marshall: Legacy of Leadership, Chapter 3: Selflessness

“…Historical re-enactment films commissioned by the George C. Marshall Foundation. In Chapter 3, Marshall meets with FDR and outlines his readiness plan for the coming war — a plan that includes his resignation. These films were part of a seminar on corporate ethics offered by the Marshall Foundation. John Scott Gunnoe as George Marshall, Paul Stober as FDR, James Honaker, Jr., as Harry Hopkins. …”

George C. Marshall: Legacy of Leadership, Chapter 4: Commitment

“…Historical re-enactment films commissioned by the George C. Marshall Foundation. In Chapter 4, Marshall proposes mobilizing African-American, Japanese-American and women troops to the front lines. Despite a wartime need, Congressman Carl Vinson opposes the plan. Marshall sticks to his guns, with help from the leader of the Tuskegee Airmen. These films were part of a seminar on corporate ethics offered by the Marshall Foundation. John Scott Gunnoe as George Marshall, Ed Easterling as Carl Vinson, James Wise, Jr., as Benjamin Davis, Jr., Fred Anderson as Gen. Thomas Handy. …”

George C. Marshall: Legacy of Leadership, Chapter 5: Integrity

“…Historical re-enactment films commissioned by the George C. Marshall Foundation. In Chapter 5, three Republican senators discuss the Marshall Plan and its $17 billion price tag. Only Marshall’s reputation for honesty can sway them. These films were part of a seminar on corporate ethics offered by the Marshall Foundation. Charlie Boswell, Dan Naff, Ross Laguzza as the senators. …”

George C. Marshall: Legacy of Leadership, Chapter 6: Courage

“…Historical re-enactment films commissioned by the George C. Marshall Foundation. In Chapter 6, Joseph McCarthy attacks Marshall, now Secretary of Defense, for unAmerican activities. A conversation with his wife provides the support Marshall needs to answer (or not) the smear campaign. John Scott Gunnoe as Marshall, Ron Stone as McCarthy, Anne Cooney as Katherine Marshall. …”

George C. Marshall: Legacy of Leadership, Chapter 7: Answers

“…Historical re-enactment films commissioned by the George C. Marshall Foundation. In the final chapter, Marshall answers all the reporter’s questions. John Scott Gunnoe as Marshall, David Colatosti as the reporter. …”

Audio George C. Marshall–The Marshall Plan-Part 1

Audio George C. Marshall–The Marshall Plan-Part 2

Audio George C. Marshall–The Marshall Plan-Part 3





“It is not enough to fight. It is the spirit which we bring to the fight that decides the issue.  It’s morale that wins the victory.”

“I don’t want you fellows sitting around asking me what to do. I want you to tell me what to do.”

“Don’t fight the problem, decide it.”

~George C. Marshall


“In a war unparalleled in magnitude and horror, millions of Americans gave their country outstanding service;

General of The Army George C. Marshall gave it victory.”

~President Harry S Truman

Background Articles and Videos

George Catlett Marshall

“…George Catlett Marshall (December 31, 1880 – October 16, 1959) was an American military leader, Chief of Staff of the Army, Secretary of State, and the third Secretary of Defense. Once noted as the “organizer of victory” by Winston Churchill for his leadership of the Allied victory in World War II,[1] Marshall served as the U.S. Army Chief of Staff during the war and as the chief military adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As Secretary of State his name was given to the Marshall Plan, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.[2]


Roosevelt, Winston Churchill speeches – Andrew Roberts – Waterstone’s

George C. Marshall

The Nobel Peace Prize 1953

“…In his position as chief of staff, Marshall urged military readiness prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, later became responsible for the building, supplying, and, in part, the deploying of over eight million soldiers. From 1941 he was a member of the policy committee that supervised the atomic studies engaged in by American and British scientists. The war over, Marshall resigned in November, 1945.

But Marshall could not resign from public service; his military career ended, he took up a diplomatic career. He had been associated with diplomatic events while chief of staff, for he participated in the conference on the Atlantic Charter (1941-1942), and in those at Casablanca (1943), Quebec (1943), Cairo-Teheran (1943), Yalta (1945), Potsdam (1945), and in many others of lesser import. In late 1945 and in 1946, he represented President Truman on a special mission to China, then torn by civil war; in January, 1947, he accepted the Cabinet position of secretary of state, holding it for two years. In the spring of 1947 he outlined in a speech at Harvard University the plan of economic aid which history has named the “Marshall Plan”.

For one year during the Korean War General Marshall was secretary of defence, a civilian post in the U. S. Cabinet. Having resigned from this post in September, 1951, three months before his seventy-first birthday, he retired from public service, thereafter performing those ceremonial duties the public comes to expect of its famous men. …”

Marshall Plan 60th Anniversary – VOA Story

What was the European Marshall Plan? 1

The Marshall Plan

Truman Doctrine

George C. Marshall’s Dodona Manor, Leesburg, VA Loudoun

Arlington National Cemetery Website

George Catlett Marshall

General of the Army

“…George Catlett Marshall was one of the great American statesmen of the century. He played a crucial role in international affairs from 1939 to 1951 — the years that shaped the second half of the century. Until 1945, he was in the military service of the United States. As Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from 1939 to 1945 he was, in the words of Winston Churchill, the “true architect of victory” in the West European arena of World War II.

Marshall was born on December 31, 1880, in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1901; afterwards, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. On September 1, 1939, he was promoted to Chief of Staff with the rank of General. Marshall was named General of the Army on December 16, 1944.

In a succession of positions of great responsibility between 1945 and 1951, Marshall devoted his efforts to the cause of international peace and security. He spent a year in China in 1945-46 as President Truman’s representative, attempting — without success — to bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict between the nationalists and the communists. As Secretary of State from 1947 to 1949, he developed an economic program, the Marshall Plan, that turned the tide of Communism in war-ravaged Western Europe.

As Europeans endured unemployment, dislocation, and starvation in the wake of World War II’s devastation, the Marshall Plan embodied Marshall’s conviction that economic recovery and stability were vital underpinnings to the successful rebuilding of a democratic Europe. Marshall’s belief that America’s security and continued economic growth were inextricably linked to Europe’s well-being, which formed the cornerstone of his Plan.  With the assistance of the Marshall Plan, Western Europe began to recover from the ravages of war. Marshall’s effort to include the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in this grand design was rejected by Moscow. As Western Europe rebuilt, Europe was divided both economically and ideologically, and conflicting politics soon laid the ground for another war — The Cold War.

When it became evident that the gap between Eastern and Western Europe would not be bridged, and that the Western European states feared for their safety, Marshall was one of the leaders who created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization which would ensure the security of the West. The establishment of NATO in 1949 achieved a balance of power in Europe that endured until the end of the Cold War.

In the last official position as Secretary of Defense during 1950-51, Marshall oversaw the formation of an international force, under the United Nations, that turned back the North Korean invasion of South Korea.

Although he spent most of his life in the U.S. military, Marshall is best remembered as a true internationalist who sought peace for the world through cooperation and understanding among nations. It was a fitting tribute to a splendid career spent pursuing this ideal that Marshall received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1953.

George Catlett Marshall died on October 16, 1959, and he was buried in Section 7 of Arlington National Cemetery.

On March 15, 1960, President Eisenhower announced that the space complex within the borders of Redstone Arsenal would become known as George C. Marshall Space Flight Center. As part of the formal dedication ceremony, held on September 8, 1960, for the new Marshall Center, a bust of General Marshall was unveiled by Mrs. Marshall and President Eisenhower. Today, the bust is still on display at the space center.

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