Crowdsourcing the Bank Recovery
by Douglas Rushkoff

March 27, 2009

I don’t believe Tim Geithner’s toxic asset auction plan will work to change the basic problem of bank insolvency, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating the sheer brilliance and post-partisan nature of the approach.

Most commentators and economists are focusing on the way the plan distributes risk, perhaps unfairly—with the government guaranteeing most losses while giving hedge funds and investors half of the gains. But that misses the point of the whole thing.

The underlying problem with the toxic assets currently on the books of most banks is that no one knows quite how to value them. (Their market value is very low right now—lower than most believe it should be. This is what is meant by “mark to market.” In time, when things are better and the world is generally less risk-averse, they should be worth more. Most banks need their balance sheets to look better now, and they can’t while they have these—perhaps artificially—deflated securities on their books).

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