Wednesday, October 01, 2008

'Mark to Market' and What It Means for You

Josh Marshall late yesterday drew attention to a seminar speech early this year by former FED deputy chief and Princeton economics professor Alan Binder on the Mark-to-Market accounting rule. The "Mark to Market" rule basically requires that banks and other financial institutions carry assets such as commercial paper (including mortgages and mortgage derivatives) on their books at market value.

Republican free marketeers in Congress have been using the current credit crisis to push for abolishing "Mark to Market" altogether. In substitution, they would like to see "Mark to Value" rule -- or "Mark to Myth", as Warren Buffett calls it. That's a highly subjective approach to valuation that directly enabled the Enron Corp. debacle.

The video Josh used is nearly an hour and a half long. We extracted from that video a more digestible snippet -- under two minutes. If you're on main street and don't quite get why all this applies to you, give a listen to Binder and what he thinks about Republican proposals to abolish Mark-to-Market:

Shorter Binder: "It's the worst form of accounting rule until you start thinking about the alternatives. So, that's one of those things [amending the mark to market rule] I think we don't want."

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