As we noted last week, much of the Brokers’ gains were fictitious.
It turned out that a decrease in the value of the B/D’s own debt was offset with a phantom accounting entry. These are presented in the earnings as if they are actual gains, not accounting phantasms.
But don’t think its just the big Brokers. The Banks are now getting in on the
"Now some banks may be set to similarly benefit from their own misfortune. Financial titans such as Citigroup Inc., Bank of America
Corp., and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., which will report third-quarter
results next month, all opted earlier this year to start applying
market values to some of their own liabilities, according to the
research service the Analyst’s Accounting Observer.
This means they, too, might see a boost to profit from
declines in the value of their debts during the summer credit crunch.
"It might not be unusual at all to be seeing gains on debt issued
hitting earnings in the third quarter," the Analyst’s Accounting
Officials at Citigroup, J.P. Morgan and Bank of America declined to comment.
and banks are doing nothing wrong or improper in booking such gains.
The accounting rules as they stand allow the practice. But some
investors are crying foul, saying the rules shouldn’t have been changed
to allow for such gains . . ."
So much for gains in earnings quality . . .
The Gold at Crunch’s End
How Banks May Benefit From Their Debt Values; ‘The Gains Were Real’
WSJ, September 28, 2007; Page C1