Why didn’t the Bank of America know?

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The FT has reported:

Bank of America will on Friday receive $20bn in fresh capital from the US government and a guarantee on most of a further $118bn of potential losses on toxic assets.

The emergency bail-out will help to cushion the blow from a deteriorating balance sheet at Merrill Lynch, the brokerage BofA acquired earlier this month.

So why didn't the B of A know what Merrill's position was?

1) Accounting rules were designed to disguise it - don't doubt the complicity of the accounting firms in this

2) The losses haven't been suffered since it acquired Merrill - they were there all along hidden in its tax havens and SPVs - complexity and obfuscation designed to undermine regulators and which conned the bankers themselves.

We cannot make progress until:

1) We have new banking regulation

2) Banks have new ownership structures (state and mutual being most likely as the concept of equity in these organisations has gone right now)

3) All cards are put face up on the table

4) The tax haven 'get out of regulation free' card is removed from the game that bankers play.

All are needed - but the last is a prerequisite of focusing attention on the rest.

Do it now, please. Let's cut the crap, the cost has already been too high and we can't afford it to carry on.