Seymour Zises, President and co-founder of Family Management, writes bi-monthly opinions on issues and observations of relevance to clients and investors.

The Truth

It was the spring of1994 and President Clinton decided to introduce an enormous “home ownership initiative” that would eventually loan over one trillion dollars to people who did not qualify for a mortgage. Thus, $200 billion a year for five years was pumped into the banking system with a directive to provide mortgages to those who were previously unqualified. So heavy handed was that initiative that the government was prepared to penalize banks (“The Community Reinvestment Act”) that did not lend to sub-prime candidates.

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It’s A Small World

After All! What happens here affects there. But where is there? There is everywhere. They (whomever they are) use to say that if America catches a cold, the rest of the world gets pneumonia. Then there were the “new age” economists who said “America’s days are over”. We say Humbug! Without America buying goods from around the world, where would “they” be? Without American ingenuity? Capitalism? Deficits?!!!

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Hedge Fun

The top 29 hedge fund managers made $29 billion in 2007 according to The New York Times. No wonder every kid wants to be a “hedge fund manager!” What about doctors and teachers…….my guess is that the top 50 teachers made about $5 million…

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Approximately 8 million homeowners have negative equity – that means they would owe the bank money if they sold their homes! If home prices decline another 10%, the number would double to nearly 16 million homeowners. The events that have transpired in the financial world over the last few weeks are unprecedented, and ultimately raise the question, “Was the repeal of The Glass-Steagall Act really in the best interest of the nation?”

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Party Pooper

$7 billion here, $7 billion there. Sooner or later, it adds up to real money. Societe Generale’s rogue trader was only 31 years old. It took many older and wiser American Wall Streeters to lose that kind of money. Scary, isn’t it? What is most concerning about the current mortgage securities meltdown is not that credit was extended to many who did not deserve it – it’s that there was the lack of checks and balances in the system that permitted it to happen.

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