Technology workers are nervous enough without worrying about the health and safety of their investment deposits. While I think what I'm bringing to you now is nine parts hyperbole and one part reality, it makes for an interesting and even frightening discussion.
Specifically, are your bank and investment deposits safe? Today's Tech Ticker has an economist who thinks there might be justified cause for concern. Before I get into that, note that the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission (FDIC) insures individual bank accounts for up to $100,000, although if you have more money than that in the bank and your bank goes under, you're under your own.
Also note that the fundamental health of the economy is good. Right now, I'd like to see the evidence that the virus coursing through the finance and housing sectors - and it's a bad one - is coursing just as harshly through other sectors, even technology. As Tech Ticker points out, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has said as much. "The banking system is safe and sound," Paulson declared at a mid-afternoon press conference Monday, seeking to ameliorate such concerns. "Nothing is more important than the stability and orderliness of our financial markets [and] regulators remain vigilant," Paulson added. "We're working through a difficult period in our financial markets right now as we work of some of the past excesses, but the American people can remain confident in the soundness and resilience of our financial system."
To counter that argument, Tech Ticker had Nouriel Roubini, of New York University's Stern School who told interviewers that there already is a "slow-motion run on retail banks" occurring nationwide.
Reports Tech Ticker . . . That "run" could accelerate as people realize the FDIC fund has about $50 billion to "insure" about $1 trillion in assets at the nation's financial institutions, says Roubini. "They're going to run out of money" unless Congress acts soon to recapitalize the FDIC. Also, the FDIC has yet to update its list of what it refers to as troubled banks - right now that list is current only through June, 2008.
What to do? Roubini, who has been a financial market bear for two years now, says the key to surviving a potential bank run for American workers is to diversify. "The intent here isn't to add to people's anxieties, but Roubini is one of the few market watchers to correctly predict the severity of this ongoing credit crisis," says Tech Ticker. "If nothing else, he says people with accounts exceeding $100,000 in value should spread their money - and the risk - among different firms."
Again, few economists and/or financial analysts are backing that assessment of U.S. banking conditions. But the fact that we're having this kind of conversation at all is scary.