FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

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FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by Call_Me_Op » Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:03 am

I am of the understanding that the FDIC is not supported [in statute} by the full faith and credit [FF&C] of the United States Government. I have heard Larry Swedroe say that there is no difference in safety between treasuries and CD's - but how can this be true when one is backed by FF&C and the other is not?
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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by nisiprius » Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:28 am

I'm guessing that it will transpire that Larry does not have the same "understanding" that you have. This has been discussed at length in the forum and the situation is not clear enough for anyone to claim a clear and accurate "understanding."

I am of the opinion that discussions of whether FDIC is backed by the "full faith and credit" of the United States Government are basically meaningless. Nobody will know the truth until the the crisis occurs, and what actually happens will depend on the specific details of the specific crisis. It will only be loosely influenced by any legalisms. what happens will be governed not by existing words, but whether or not Congress decides, at that time, to throw a hundred million of savers under the bus and destroy public confidence in banks for half a century. All that the words and the lawyers will do is to determine how much action Congress would need to take in order to rescue the savers.

The model for this is the Savings & Loan crisis. FSLIC was clearly held to a lower standard than "full faith and credit," but in the event, it turned out that true intent of the government was that the public be protected and the public was protected. There was no way to know this for certain in advance.

The idea that "the government" wants us to think they stand behind FDIC, but has their fingers crossed behind their back and really is planning to throw us under the bus seems paranoid to me. But even if it is correct, they could change their mind.

Guessing what will happen involves predicting a storyline with half-a-dozen plot twists in it, and it can't be done.
Last edited by nisiprius on Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:34 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by Eric » Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:29 am

For reference, here is a prior thread hashing out this issue.

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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by Don Christy » Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:34 am

Edit:

I see the prior thread linked just above includes information I post below plus much discussion of same.

According to FDIC.gov,
Full Faith and Credit of U.S. Government
FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Fund
The FDIC is funded by its member institutions through premiums and assessments paid on deposits. And, if ever needed, the FDIC can draw on a line of credit with the U.S. Treasury.

Full Faith and Credit of U.S. Government
FDIC deposit insurance is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government. This means that the resources of the United States government stand behind FDIC-insured depositors.
Last edited by Don Christy on Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by Sam I Am » Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:40 am

The FDIC's website states the following:

Full Faith and Credit of U.S. Government
FDIC deposit insurance is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government. This means that the resources of the United States government stand behind FDIC-insured depositors.


http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/banking/c ... ymbol.html

But, those are only words. Words do not always indicate what WILL happen, but what SHOULD happen.

For the present, FDIC boasts of their record: In the FDIC’s history, no customer has ever lost a single penny of insured deposits.

So, the only takeaways I can see are the statements FDIC has made. For now, they are apparently 100% true.

There might come a time when their statements aren't true, but for now I would say take them at their word. But, NEVER exceed their insurance limits!

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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by nisiprius » Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:45 am

The President of the United States, Cabinet, House, Senate and the Supreme Court could assemble jointly at FedEx Field at high noon and sing in chorus, in four-part harmony, "The FDIC is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Government," and someone would say "It isn't legally binding because Alito wasn't singing in key."
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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by Call_Me_Op » Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:49 am

The point remains that the full faith and credit statements are not backed-up by statute. In fact, Congress has specifically hedged their bets in any wording in law, remaining non-committal with respect to providing a blanket guarantee to FDIC (within insurance limits).
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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by Doc » Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:55 am

Call_Me_Op wrote:I am of the understanding that the FDIC is not supported [in statute} by the full faith and credit [FF&C] of the United States Government.
It is my understanding that FDIC guarantees principle and accrued interest but not future interest. The full faith and credit guarantees future promised interest also.
FDIC insurance covers depositors’ accounts at each insured bank, dollar-for-dollar, including principal and any accrued interest through the date of the insured bank’s closing, up to the insurance limit.
http://www.fdic.gov/deposit/deposits/in ... asics.html
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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by larryswedroe » Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:27 am

FWIW
Doc has it right. If your bank goes under a new institutional will take over and they have the right to alter the interest rate, which then gives you the right to take your money.
Whatever the technical language, if the FDIC has a line of credit to the Treasury then it will use it to borrow to pay off the CDs and now the FDIC owes the Treasury.
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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by Call_Me_Op » Tue Feb 26, 2013 8:33 am

I believe that DOC is saying that the guarantee is iron-clad because the FDIC website today uses the words "full- faith and credit." My understanding is that if it's not written into law, it cannot be counted upon.
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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by rkhusky » Tue Feb 26, 2013 9:12 am

Call_Me_Op wrote:I believe that DOC is saying that the guarantee is iron-clad because the FDIC website today uses the words "full- faith and credit." My understanding is that if it's not written into law, it cannot be counted upon.
Even if it is currently written in law, Congress can always change the law. In the end, you just have to trust that people will do the right thing, either because it is the right thing or because they fear the voters' wrath.

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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by Doc » Tue Feb 26, 2013 9:43 am

Call_Me_Op wrote:I believe that DOC is saying that the guarantee is iron-clad because the FDIC website today uses the words "full- faith and credit." My understanding is that if it's not written into law, it cannot be counted upon.
I didn't mean to imply that. FDIC does not guarantee future interest that is specified in the CD contract. Treasury bills/notes/bond do have a guarantee on that future as yet unearned interest. As far as the assets behind the guarantee for FIDC is concerned it is probably less than the "full faith and credit" of the US Government but as others have said this is likely a distinction without difference in that the congress is not going to let the banking system fail.

My guess is that with FDIC the Government would bail out the banks and try to get the money back from the banks in the future and likewise the Government will bail out the Treasury and get the money back from the people in the future in the way of taxes. Since if this happens the banks will just raise fees it comes down to "we the people" who gets the bill. After all there ain't no one else.
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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by dm200 » Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:04 am

These same backing by the full aith and credit of the US Government also applies to the National Credit Union Insurance Fund run by NCUA. Every federally insured bank (FDIC) and credit union (NCUA) must, by statute, display/advertise the "backed by the full faith and credit of the US Government (or similar wording). A federally insured bank or credit union may not choose, for whatever reason, to not display such signs.

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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by nisiprius » Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:19 am

1) In absolute terms, you can't count on anything.

2) There are things that are not written into law that are very dependable. The law of gravity, for one. FSLIC deposit insurance, which was explicitly not backed by full faith and credit, for another.

3) Nobody knows what's "written into law" because nobody knows what the words mean, until the point when there's an actual court case and a judge decides. Until then, lawyers are just guessing. If push came to shove, lawyers would argue both sides, no doubt convincingly, but I just don't believe that a judge would regard the explicitly stated intention of Congress as irrelevant. I have to think it would weigh pretty heavily on the side of "government, you've gotta pay, even if you had your fingers crossed behind your back."

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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by Call_Me_Op » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:47 pm

It's that "SENSE" word that troubles me.
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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by dm200 » Tue Feb 26, 2013 2:30 pm

FSLIC deposit insurance, which was explicitly not backed by full faith and credit, for another.
Deposits, up to the disclosed maximum per account, were fully covered by the FSLIC backing.Nobody lost a nickel from deposits in an FSLIC institution (up to the disclosed maximum). The FSLIC was VERY safe.

In the S&L meltdown, folks with deposits in non-FSLIC institutions may not have fared so well.

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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by nisiprius » Tue Feb 26, 2013 2:38 pm

Which is more durable, the Rock of Gibraltar or the Great Pyramid of Egypt? We can argue all we like but we won't know the answer until a meteor actually hits one or the other.
dm200 wrote:
FSLIC deposit insurance, which was explicitly not backed by full faith and credit, for another.
Deposits, up to the disclosed maximum per account, were fully covered by the FSLIC backing.Nobody lost a nickel from deposits in an FSLIC institution (up to the disclosed maximum). The FSLIC was VERY safe....
That's my point, dm. I must not have expressed myself clearly. I was giving the law of gravity and the safety of FSLIC deposit insurance as examples of things that were "very dependable."

As the S&L crisis loomed, there was a certain amount of similar hair-splitting about the difference in language between FSLIC's backing and FDIC's. But in the crunch FSLIC-insured deposits turned out to be safe.

The government did not run around and hide behind some technicality in the legal language, chanting "neener, neener." The reality of the situation prevailed.

The reality of the situation was that the government had gone to a considerable amount of effort to make people think that money in an S&L was safe, and when push came to shove it was clear that the government's best course of action was to have people continuing to think that--that is, to honor the deposit insurance and preserve our current cultural understanding that "money in the bank is safe."

The same thing is true of FDIC deposit insurance now. Money in the bank is safe. Regardless of whether the legal structure behind it is the equivalent of a stone tablet or a handshake, it is in the government's best interests for people to think that money in the bank is safe.
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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by dm200 » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:24 pm

nisiprius wrote:Which is more durable, the Rock of Gibraltar or the Great Pyramid of Egypt? We can argue all we like but we won't know the answer until a meteor actually hits one or the other.
dm200 wrote:
FSLIC deposit insurance, which was explicitly not backed by full faith and credit, for another.
Deposits, up to the disclosed maximum per account, were fully covered by the FSLIC backing.Nobody lost a nickel from deposits in an FSLIC institution (up to the disclosed maximum). The FSLIC was VERY safe....
That's my point, dm. I must not have expressed myself clearly. I was giving the law of gravity and the safety of FSLIC deposit insurance as examples of things that were "very dependable."

As the S&L crisis loomed, there was a certain amount of similar hair-splitting about the difference in language between FSLIC's backing and FDIC's. But in the crunch FSLIC-insured deposits turned out to be safe.

The government did not run around and hide behind some technicality in the legal language, chanting "neener, neener." The reality of the situation prevailed.

The reality of the situation was that the government had gone to a considerable amount of effort to make people think that money in an S&L was safe, and when push came to shove it was clear that the government's best course of action was to have people continuing to think that--that is, to honor the deposit insurance and preserve our current cultural understanding that "money in the bank is safe."

The same thing is true of FDIC deposit insurance now. Money in the bank is safe. Regardless of whether the legal structure behind it is the equivalent of a stone tablet or a handshake, it is in the government's best interests for people to think that money in the bank is safe.
Thanks for the clarification. Sorry I didn't get the point you were making.

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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by john94549 » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:44 pm

Either you believe or you don't. If you feel your money is safer with ASI, then, by all means, go for it. Or change your money and plop it all in an Argentinian bank.

Esoteric discussions about promissory estoppel, implied contract and their ilk as applied to a Sense of Congress Resolution are best reserved for late-night L1 dorms. Q: "Is the King's promise binding? Discuss."

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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by bberris » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:01 am

Call_Me_Op wrote:It's that "SENSE" word that troubles me.
I think Alioto just hit a sour note.
"The President of the United States, Cabinet, House, Senate and the Supreme Court could assemble jointly at FedEx Field at high noon and sing in chorus, in four-part harmony, "The FDIC is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Government," and someone would say "It isn't legally binding because Alito wasn't singing in key."

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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by richard » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:43 am

Call_Me_Op wrote:It's that "SENSE" word that troubles me.
If you're being technical, the word "should" should also trouble you. Congress could easily have said that the FDIC is backed by the full faith and credit of the US, rather than saying it was their impression that it is a good idea for the FDIC to be backed by the full faith and credit. You should also be troubled by the fact that the FDIC cannot bind the US no matter what it says. A court that wanted to conclude that the FDIC is not backed by the full faith and credit could easily do so.

On the other hand, as a matter of reality, there is no more meaningful chance the FDIC would not be backed by the full faith and credit of the US than that the US would default on treasuries.

"The President of the United States, Cabinet, House, Senate and the Supreme Court could assemble jointly at FedEx Field at high noon and sing in chorus, in four-part harmony, "The FDIC is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Government," and someone would say "It isn't legally binding because Alito wasn't singing in key."

It wouldn't be legally binding because singing in four-part harmony is not the way we pass laws. http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution ... i#section7 :P

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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by rkhusky » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:50 am

One has to consider the probabilities for certain unlikely events and under what conditions they might occur. One of my physics instructors used to say that anything is possible with a given probability. For example, it is possible that the US Government could default on its debts, fail to protect accounts that are FDIC insured, or tax Roth IRA withdrawals. So, what are the probabilities that any of these might occur? Under what circumstances might they occur and are we at all close to those circumstances? Are any less or more probable than the others? Or if one occurred, would it be likely that all three would occur?

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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by chicagobear » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:57 am

I think that if push ever came to shove, the FDIC would default before Treasury bills since it is an indirect obligation of the Federal government. The fund doesn't have enough money to pay off off the bank deposits in a crisis and I think the Federal government would pay its own direct obligations first since they need to be able to keep issuing Treasury bills. However, I think as a practical matter, FDIC insured deposits are close enough to Treasuries that I am willing to put my money in a savings account within insured limits rather than only buy Treasury bills. The same printing press backs both. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac obligations were explicitly not guaranteed by the Federal government but they covered them anyway. My understanding is that the Chinese told Paulson that if the agencies were allowed to default, the Chinese government would sell their Treasury obligations.

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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by dm200 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:16 am

The two insurance funds (NCUA and FDIC) both have a certain amount of "reserves".NCUA has about 1.30% of insured deposits and FDIC considerably less. The funding and replenishment of the two funds is very different and it would be too long a discussion to debate/discuss the differences. These funds are paid and replenished by premiums/assessments of their insured financial institutions.

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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by rkhusky » Wed Feb 27, 2013 10:45 am

chicagobear wrote:I think that if push ever came to shove, the FDIC would default before Treasury bills since it is an indirect obligation of the Federal government. The fund doesn't have enough money to pay off off the bank deposits in a crisis and I think the Federal government would pay its own direct obligations first since they need to be able to keep issuing Treasury bills. However, I think as a practical matter, FDIC insured deposits are close enough to Treasuries that I am willing to put my money in a savings account within insured limits rather than only buy Treasury bills. The same printing press backs both. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac obligations were explicitly not guaranteed by the Federal government but they covered them anyway. My understanding is that the Chinese told Paulson that if the agencies were allowed to default, the Chinese government would sell their Treasury obligations.
In the event of a crisis, would the U.S. government pay off foreign creditors before U.S. bank account holders?

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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by jeffyscott » Wed Feb 27, 2013 6:20 pm

chicagobear wrote:The same printing press backs both.
Yes and in the end it would be a choice of printing the money or not printing it. The choice to not print it would destroy the economy, while the choice to print would have a lesser impact. There would be absolutely no logical reason for the government to choose to not make good on the FDIC guarantee.

While there may be some politicians willing to embrace defaulting on the FDIC guarantee or other promises the government has made, they are unlikely to form a majority. If by some chance they did form a majority, they would cease to do so after the subsequent election.
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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by chicagobear » Mon Mar 25, 2013 2:52 pm

rkhusky wrote:
chicagobear wrote:I think that if push ever came to shove, the FDIC would default before Treasury bills since it is an indirect obligation of the Federal government. The fund doesn't have enough money to pay off off the bank deposits in a crisis and I think the Federal government would pay its own direct obligations first since they need to be able to keep issuing Treasury bills. However, I think as a practical matter, FDIC insured deposits are close enough to Treasuries that I am willing to put my money in a savings account within insured limits rather than only buy Treasury bills. The same printing press backs both. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac obligations were explicitly not guaranteed by the Federal government but they covered them anyway. My understanding is that the Chinese told Paulson that if the agencies were allowed to default, the Chinese government would sell their Treasury obligations.
In the event of a crisis, would the U.S. government pay off foreign creditors before U.S. bank account holders?
Yes, I think the US government would honor its own direct Treasury obligations first (even if owned by foreigners) if it had to choose between that and the FDIC. Failing to do so would mean that they wouldn't be able to issue new Treasuries which would put the govenment in a very tough position.

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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by Phineas J. Whoopee » Tue Mar 26, 2013 8:46 pm

chicagobear wrote:... My understanding is that the Chinese told Paulson that if the agencies were allowed to default, the Chinese government would sell their Treasury obligations.
I've looked before for the TIPS version of this story, and as then I can only find the agency default China/Paulson claim on politically-motivated websites. Can somebody please provide a neutral reference, preferably from a well-known news source?

PJW

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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

Post by Atilla » Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:09 pm

Things are guaranteed...right up to the point when they suddenly aren't. Ain't nothing you can do but trust the system while hedging your bets a little bit against the hopefully rare event of significant disaster.

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Re: FDIC - Full Faith and Credit - Larry?

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