(Hollywood, Fla.) Clearing powerhouse Pershing, an affiliate of the Bank of New York Mellon, shared top speakers and advice with 1,600 attendees from 13 countries at the Westin Diplomat from June 3-5. "Never before have we been as enthusiastic," said Richard Brueckner, Pershing's chairman and CEO, during his opening remarks.
"Your clients have needed you more than ever before for income and results," Brueckner added. "And your clients trust you, which along with Pershing's solutions, makes for a powerful combination."
In 2008, when the S&P 500 declined 38.5 percent, assets held by clients at Pershing declined just 16.7 percent. "Your clients have outperformed the market 11 years in a row ... even in the most difficult, challenging times," said Brian Shea, president and COO.
Keynote speaker Bob Woodward of The Washington Post spoke about what President Obama has faced during his first 100-plus days in office. Woodward described meeting Obama in 2006 and watching him work a crowd effectively through intense one-on-one communications. "He makes Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton look like amateurs," the journalist said.
Woodward said that, as is the case with the current war in Iraq, it is too soon to say how history will judge the new president. And he gave the example of Ford's pardon of Nixon as a presidential gesture that has been better appreciated with the passing of time. "I later concluded that Ford did the right and necessary thing," Woodward said.
He added that he asks the following questions everyday while reporting: What do we not know? What do we know? And what do we worry about most? "I worry about secret government," Woodward said. "We cannot let democracy die in darkness."
Yale University Professor Jeffrey Garten shared his outlook on the global economy and predicted that the next recovery will not be strong. "It will not be a V-shaped one, but more of the first half of a W," he said. And it will entail limited single-digit growth in the United States but double-digit growth in China.
"The United States and China are locked in an embrace, a tight one," Garten explained. "We will depend on their investment in Treasuries and the real economy, and they'll depend on our market, not 100 percent but enough."
Michael Lewis, the former Salomon Brothers trader and author of Liar's Poker, spoke about the state of the financial industry and the government bailout, which he sees as only putting off a "day of reckoning" for Wall Street. He also believes that two principal causes of the crisis were the weak rating agencies and unregulated credit-default swaps.
Lewis also discussed his prescription for reform, which he outlined earlier this year in The New York Times with co-author David Einhorn:
o Stop making big regulatory decisions with long-term consequences based on their short-term effect on stock prices;
o End the official status of the rating agencies;
o Regulate credit-default swaps; make sure that risk sellers have capital to support their bets.
o Impose new capital requirements on banks so they hold less capital in bad times and more capital in good times; break up any institution that becomes too big to fail.
o Close the revolving door between the SEC and Wall Street.
o But keep the door open the other way; to restore the SEC's credibility, it should have experienced, respected investors as commissioners.
Wharton Professor Jeremy Siegel gave Pershing Insite attendees his views on the current crisis, which he says was caused --- not by short selling, mark-to-market accounting or government efforts to expand home ownership -- but by the "buying, holding and insuring of large quantities of real estate and risky, real-estate related securities with borrowed money."
Siegel explained that, "The stock market ended 2008 39.4 percent below trend ... the fifth-largest negative gap since 1865." And he also said that the market has rallied 24 percent in the year following the seven-largest gaps over the past 145 years, 21.4 percent per year over the next three years and 18.4 percent per year over the next five years.
"In only one year when the gap was more than 36 percent were returns negative, and that was in 1931, when the next year's return was negative 9.2 percent," he noted.
The market expert summed up what's next for Wall Street and the U.S. economy as follows:
o The recent financial crisis led to a recession of pre-1985 magnitude;
o The biggest threat to recovery is rising energy (and other commodity) prices;
o We can solve "demand side" shocks, but not those that come from the supply side;
o We have been through far worse crises; nobody has lost being bullish on America.