Displaying items by tag: Investment Banks

Wednesday, 30 April 2008 05:00

Leveraged loan CLOs next on the chopping block

As usual, it is Fitch leading the way. From Bloomberg :

market for collateralized debt obligations faces more downgrades as
losses on mortgage-backed securities prompt Fitch Ratings to overhaul
the way it assesses the risk of CDOs based on company debt.

will begin next month to affirm or assign new ratings for about 500
CDOs, the New York-based company said in a statement today.

Fitch expects many ratings to be affirmed, downgrades are also
expected, in some cases by several rating notches,'' Fitch said in the

Rating firms are responding to criticism from
lawmakers and investors for assigning their highest ratings to some
CDOs backed by subprime mortgages
before the market collapsed last year. Moody's Investors Service,
Standard & Poor's and Fitch have cut ratings on portions of CDOs
packaging $482 billion of assets since July, Wachovia Corp. analysts
wrote last week.

Published in BoomBustBlog

I am in the process of creating a macro picture of the banking industry to assist me in consolidating and crystallizing my perspective of the near to moderate term. I will loosely follow the outline below and end up with a list of my personal bearish positions. My analysts initially coined this "Comparison of the S&L and Subprime Crises", but I was quick to remind them that the current crisis is subprime in the media's eyes only. This is, by far, a crisis of the asset securitization system and as I have harped since the beginning of this blog last September, it is the use of other people's money and off balance sheet vehicles that have prompted the abuses that we see today. Even with extremely low interest rates, we would not have seen the carnage that we have witnessed recently if those who originated the mortgages were to be held ultimately responsible for their performance. The first section of the report is historical and plain vanilla. Most who have perused this blog for a while should be quite familiar with it, but I feel it makes plenty of sense to review it in order to remain grounded in factual reality in lieu of what we have seen in the media. See the outline below and the first chapter of the report aftwerwards.

The Asset Securitization Crisis – Why using other people’s money has wrecked the banking system and similarities to the S&L crisis of 80s and 90s

The US Credit Crisis: What went wrong?

  1. The great housing bull run – creation of asset bubble
  2. Declining lending standards, lax underwriting activities increased the bubble – A comparison with the same during the S&L crisis
  3. To be Published: Securitization – dissimilarity between the S&L and the Subprime Mortgage crises
  4. To be Published: The bursting of housing bubble – declining home prices and rising foreclosure
  5. To be Published: Credit rating agencies – an overhaul of the rating mechanism
  6. To be Published: US Federal reserve to the rescue
  7. To be Published: The counterparty risk analyses – the counterparty failure will open up another Pandora’s box

Now, on to part one of the report...

Published in BoomBustBlog

The spillover from the financial world to the real economic world happened as a result of tightened credit. The banks are not very generous with credit, despite a lower fed funds rate and access to the discount window. Credit availability is what drives business (and consumer) investment, as it has done in excess during the recent boom, and the lack of which will will cause a dearth of business and consumer activity that will prolong the recession.

In addition, the very real threat of higher rates, real or nominal, could very well damage banks even more. It was interest rate volatility that pushed lenders over the edge in the S&L crisis, and the extreme inflation that we are witnessing now could very well force the Feds hand in regards to rates. Volcker's predecessor was forced to push rates to 20% during a slow economy after dropping them too much in an attempt to stave off recession, but instead causing a worse one due to highly inflated prices which Volcker inherited. We shall see what Bernanke does. He surely knows that an increase in rates will quicken many insolvent bank's demise. In the following excerpts, all red font comments and graphics are mine.

From the lastest Federal Reserve Board Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices: [We] queried banks about changes in terms on commercial real estate loans during 2007, expected changes in asset quality in 2008, and loss-mitigation strategies on residential mortgage loans. In addition, the survey included a new set of recurring questions regarding revolving home equity lines of credit. This article is based on responses from fifty-six domestic banks and twenty-three foreign banking institutions. In the January survey, domestic and foreign institutions reported having tightened their lending standards and terms for a broad range of loan types over the past three months. Demand for bank loans reportedly had weakened, on net, for both businesses and households over the same period. This tightening covers price and non-price characteristics for commercial and consumer loans over real estate, secured and unsecured lending and credit lines. A very broad spectrum tightening at a time when demand is weakening.

From Wolfgang Münchau at FT.com: "So this crisis is about to end, right? There are two failsafe ways to justify a solid dose of optimism: define the crisis in a sufficiently narrow way; and, even better, look at the wrong crisis. In that spirit I am happy to state my optimism about the prospective end of the subprime crisis. But this would be disingenuous. It is no accident that our multiple crises – property, credit, banking, food and commodities – have been happening at the same time. The simple reason is that they are all part of same overriding narrative. The mother of all these crises is global macroeconomic adjustment – a rare case, incidentally, where the word “crisis” can be used in its Greek meaning of “turning point”.

It is a huge global macroeconomic shock. How long the financial part of the crisis will go on will depend to a large extent on how bad the economic part of the crisis gets. The economic part of the story started more than a decade ago with a liquidity-driven global boom. Property, credit and equity bubbles were all part of this.

If excess liquidity was the ultimate cause of this crisis, the real estate sector was its most important driver. Experience shows that housing cycles are long and symmetrical: downturns last as long as upturns. We also know from the past that house prices undershoot the long-term trend on the way down, just as they overshoot it on the way up. You can see this quite easily when you look at long-run time series of inflation-adjusted house prices for several countries.

The last property downturn in the US and the UK lasted some six years. This is not a prediction of what will happen this time, more like a best-case scenario – because this bubble has not only been more intense than previous ones; it has also bubbled on for longer.

But even if we take six years as an estimate of the peak-to-trough period, that means the housing downturn will last until 2012 in the US and a couple of years longer in the UK. It is difficult to see how either of these countries could grow close to trend as long as the housing market is in recession.

When you look at the global macro side, you are looking at similar timescales of adjustment. An important part of the adjustment will be a rise in the US and UK household savings rates. That, too, might take several years to accomplish, during which period economic growth could be below trend.

The really important question about the US economy is not whether the official recession starts in the first or second quarter, but how long this period of economic weakness will last overall. In Japan and Germany macroeconomic adjustment of similar scale took more than 10 years, starting in the 1990s. Even if you believe that the US is structurally stronger, the country will probably not replenish its savings in a couple years.

If global inflation rises, as I expect, this process will become even more difficult. The central banks will have less room for manoeuvre. Fiscal policy is constrained, which leaves the exchange rate as the main tool of adjustment. This would necessitate a weak real exchange rate during the entire period of adjustment.

Obviously inflation would make everything worse, and our future scenarios will depend critically on the inflation outlook. A rise in inflation might alleviate the pressure on some mortgage holders, but is not a good environment for a country to build up savings. If higher inflation were tolerated by the central bank, it would clearly prolong the macroeconomic adjustment process. If it were not tolerated, interest rates would go up and we might experience a re-run of the 1980s. It would get a lot worse before it got better.

Either way, adjustment would take time. Would you really want to predict that under any of those scenarios, the worst was already over for a fragile financial sector? There may be no global financial meltdown. But our multiple crises could easily return with a vengeance, like one of those bloodstained image001.gifvillains in a horror movie who rises to fight his last battle.

It will end at some point, but several pockets of the financial market remain vulnerable in the meantime: US government bonds (under an inflation scenario); US municipal bonds (if the downturn is severe and long); several categories of credit default swap; credit card debt securities among others.

Our macroeconomic adjustment is not going to be as terrible as the Great Depression. But it might last longer. There will be time for optimism, but not just yet.

I had an email discussion with an analyst and blog regular who brought up the topic of inflation and real estate. Academically, inflation is supposed to be good for real estate prices and can actually drive up the price of real estate without driving up the cost of debt, thus allowing the Fed to "infate" certain insolvents out of insolvency. The problem is, too often reality hits. When inflation is rapid and extreme, it actually hurts holders of real estate. For those who hold income producing properties, it drives up the cost of owning and/or maintaining the property faster than rents can be increased, thus puts significant stress on the property holder (think of leases with provisions for 2 and 3 percent annual rent increases while inflation is runnin at that much per month - ala oil and gas prices). This can also work against homeowners who can't keep pace with the inflated costs of homeowner ship, ex. property taxes, heating fuel and other energy (electricity), etc.

From a J P Morgan Research Note: US banks face threat of capital Punishment - The current problem for US banks starts, naturally enough, with a deterioration in loan performance. Noncurrent loans—those delinquent for 90 days or longer—rose to 1.39% of all loans in the fourth quarter of 2007, an increase of 31 basis points from the previous quarter. (All figures cited in this note refer to the universe of all federally guaranteed depository institutions: including banks, thrifts, and credit unions). In historical perspective, the amount of noncurrent loans does not look particularly onerous. However, this conclusion is likely too sanguine for two reasons:

 • The increase in delinquencies on real estate loans is probably just getting started. Noncurrent real estate loans were 1.71% of real estate loans last quarter, more than double the figure one year earlier. Given that the decline in real estate prices accelerated into year end, delinquency rates are set to move higher.

• The banking system entered the current episode with a relatively slim cushion of loan loss allowances. In 4Q06, loan loss allowances—a balance sheet item set aside for bad loans—reached a low of 1.07% of loans outstanding, down from over 2% in the mid-1990s. The interaction of these two factors means that banks have been, at best, running to stand still. Even though credit loss provisions—the addition to loan loss allowances—were set aside at the highest pace (relative to assets) since the 1980s, that provisioning did not keep pace with the deterioration in loan quality. The aggregate coverage ratio—the stock of loan loss allowances relative to noncurrent loans—slipped below 100% last quarter for the first time since early in the1990s, meaning that banks have less than $1 in loan loss allowances for every dollar of noncurrent loans.

Capital ratios under stress - As banks realize losses on their assets, capitalization continues to come under pressure. In our GDW Research note of Nov 30, 2007 (“New data intensify spotlight on US banking sector”), we observed that banks can respond to deteriorating capital in three ways: allow capital ratios to drift lower, raise or retain more equity capital, and shed or slow the growth of assets. To varying degrees, the data show all three responses in play.
 • Bank capital ratios generally drifted lower last quarter. Of the four capital ratios that regulators use to determine capital adequacy, three declined last quarter. The fourth, total risk-based capital, increased a touch because some banks issued more subordinated debt. The lower capital ratios fall, the more banks will feel compelled to arrest the decline by raising capital or slowing asset growth. Although most banks are a long way from triggering
regulatory action, they would like to keep it that way.
• Banks have been increasing equity capital. The most visible equity infusions in recent months have been through investments by sovereign wealth funds in US banks. However, banks have also been replenishing capital through more mundane means. Dividend payments (to both individuals and bank holding companies) have fallen sharply. Share buybacks—to be reported in next week’s Flow of Funds report—likely also slowed in 4Q.
• Banks will likely slow asset growth. Data through 4Q show bank balance sheets expanding rapidly. However, much of the acceleration in lending likely reflected prior commitments, such as asset-backed commercial paper, coming back onto balance sheets. Indeed, for commercial and industrial loans (to take one well documented category of lending), around 80% of lending is done under prearranged credit lines. Moreover, an average of about
nine months elapse between the time when contract terms for these loans are set and their actual disbursement. This lag suggests that C&I lending should begin to slow as the tightening of lending standards over the past six months begins to be realized in the data. This will put a significant drag on the real economy as working capital is dried up.

In the published Remarks by John C. Dugan, Comptroller of the Currency, before the Florida Bankers Association in Miami, Florida on
January 31, 2008, I excerpt
: "I’m referring to the challenges we face – both community banks and the OCC – from the intersection of two inescapable facts: significant community bank concentrations in commercial real estate loans, and the declining quality of a number of these loans, especially those related to residential construction and development. Today, I’d like to talk briefly about both of these facts, and then turn to our supervisory perspective and expectations.

Published in BoomBustBlog

Looking back to October of last year, I warned of the banks and REOs competing with homebuilders and existing homeowners in pushing housing inventory onto the sales market at highly discounted prices. From my post on

Bubble, Banks and Builders:

Below is a
list of bank REOs. A REO (Real Estate Owned) is property that a banking
(or banking related) institution is forced to hold when a loan that
they either issued, purchased, or became legally responsible for was
foreclosed on and the property held for collateral was taken back .
Generally speaking, an increasing REO inventory indicates increasing
foreclosure activity. Foreclosures are very bad for bank balance sheets
and performance. REOs are worst. If the bank cannot reclaim its full
principle, back interest, and expenses from the sale of the REO, the
amount not reclaimed is a complete loss. In order to move REOs quickly,
banks are willing to take a loss by:

  • reducing the price of the REO below that of the P&I outstanding,
  • offer
    preferental (below market or flexible term) pricing on loans to the
    buyer of the REO, usually profesional investors or first time
  • and other such concessions.

If a
significant amount of REOs hits the market, they will compete directly
with other sources of housing supply, namely homebuilders and existing
homeowners looking to sell. REO can very deeply discounted, which makes
them difficult to compete with on a pricing basis, and since they come
with the blessing of a bank, tend to have a "deal you can't refuse"
financing arrangement as well. Banks are willing to get these blights
off of their balance sheets by any means necessary!

The list of
institutions here is far from complete and is meant to represent only
the REO and foreclosure inventory trend for a metropolitan area, not
the absolute REO or foreclosure inventory in a market. Graphs are used
to infer trends*.

Monthly Averages of REOs for Riverside, CA show a 2 and 1/2 times increase in REOs in just five
months. Still not convinced of a problem? To give you an even clearer
picture, here are the numbers for the last 10 weeks.


you see how steep this incline is, and how much it is increasing week
by week? REOs have nearly doubled in the past 10 weeks. This is not an
anecdotal blurb, look at the longer trend captured above. Things are
getting very bad, very fast. Yet, banks like Citi, Washington Mutual,
et. al. say that the worst is behind them. Someone should email them a
copy of this blog.

Now its Bank vs. Builder vs. Homeowners - Who will win the race to the bottom of the profit ladder?

and from part two of that series in October of last year -

Bubbles, Banks, and Builders, Pt. Deux:

Reprinted from 10/8/07 - In part two of my tabloid series, I will
take a look at the major profit centers of the builders, and take a
look at how the banks (who say the malaise is now behind them) [This post was written 7 months ago, and notice the similarity in the bank's matra "the worst is now behind us" - it wasn't true then and its not true now. The worst will be behind us when real asset prices reach equilibrium and banks come clean with all inventory, marked to market and sold into a liquid and receptive market. That just 'ain't the case' right now, and it looks like it will not be the case any time soon!] that
loaned them money are fairing in those areas. Remember, if home
builders bought their land before the boom, their cost basis will tend
to be relatively low. This is of little consolation to many builders
since the fever hit nearly everybody during the boom, recognized by me
as being from the 2nd half of '00 to '06.

Well, let's jump
straight to the gist of the matter. The biggest money makers for the
builders have now become the biggest busts. Funny, how bubbles work
like that. If I am not mistaken, all of the big public guys bought a
lot of land and developed hard in Las Vegas. How are the banks that
lent to them and their clients fairing? Remember, these numbers are
just for the last 10 weeks. I want to be clear to all how quickly I
perceive things deteriorating. This is not just a short term trend,
either. Look at the 5 month trend in part I of this series.
The next reporting period, assuming we are all honest (which is not
happening all that often these days), should be most revealing.

Builder Profit Center - Las Vegas

Hey, those who are long Countrywide, watch out below!!!

Published in BoomBustBlog

This article completely captures my take on the brokerage industry - very well done. From Bloomberg , excerpted...

Danger Ahead: Fixing Wall Street Hazardous to Earnings Growth

Wall Street's money-making machine is broken, and efforts to repair it after the biggest losses in history are likely to undermine profits for years to come.

Citigroup Inc., UBS AG and Merrill Lynch & Co. are among the banks and securities firms that have posted $310 billion of writedowns and credit losses from the collapse of the subprime mortgage market. They've cut 48,000 jobs and ousted four chief executive officers. The top five U.S. securities firms saw $110 billion of market value evaporate in the past 12 months.

No one is sure the model works anymore. While Wall Street executives and regulators study what went wrong, there is no consensus solution for restoring confidence. Under review are some of the motors that powered record earnings this decade -- leverage, off-balance-sheet investments, the business of repackaging assets into bonds through securitization, and over- the-counter trading of credit derivatives. Without them, it will be difficult to generate growth.

``Brokerages will have a tough time for a while,'' said Todd McCallister, a managing director at St. Petersburg, Florida-based Eagle Asset Management Inc., which oversees $14 billion. ``The main engine of its recent growth, securitization, will be curtailed. Regulation will be cranked up. Everything is stacked against them.''

Published in BoomBustBlog
Sunday, 27 April 2008 05:00

The bloody knife used to gut Bear Stearns???

In the vein of any good mystery (or conspiracy theory), here are some charts and stats to go with the Bear Stearns' conspiracy post that I made a few days ago - Hat tip to Chris Alleva for the heads up.

JP Morgan had a credit exposure/capital ratio of 419% as of 12/07. Click here to download the original chart:

pdf Comptroller_currency_report_exposure_capital_ratio 27/04/2008 32.28 Kb


The average ratio is 83%, excluding JPM it is 49%. HSBC is the only bank with the level of exposure and they have had some of largest writedowns.

But there are more than a few crackpots making this assertion. Professor Solomon from NYU is one of those making the charge.

Specifically, I believe that JP Morgan acquired Bear because they stood to lose the most from a Bear Stearns bankruptcy. For example, as Barry Ritholtz of the Big Picture points out (see here), JP Morgan has the greatest derivative exposure of any of the I-Banks. Now, I do not know how much of that exposure was to Bear Stearns as the counterparty, but I bet it was a fair amount (in fact, see Jesse’s Cafe Americain for information on Bear’s credit derivative exposure).

If Bear were the counterparty (insurer) to JP Morgan on much of its mortgage-backed security portfolio, it then becomes transparent why JP Morgan had to step in. They would have had to step in to avoid a Bear bankruptcy so that they would not be forced to take toxic assets back onto their own balance sheet and avoid massive write-downs. Were JP’s exposure to Bear large enough, then JP Morgan itself could have been left significantly impaired.

This might also explain the Fed’s interest in Bear. For example, if it were only Bear at risk and their exposure was spread relatively evenly across counterparties such that many of the big, primary banks were not at risk as a result, the Fed would have had no interest in this event. Instead, it would have just let Bear fail. But the Fed could not let Bear bring down JP Morgan with it. So it stepped in to orchestrate an orderly wind-down of Bear while facilitating its acquisition by JP Morgan.

But this still doesn’t explain why JP Morgan ended up with a relatively “cheap” price for Bear. Here is the second part of my theory. Namely, that Bear was into JP Morgan so deep (on the bad side of so many counterparty trades with them), that the Fed effectively negotiated a price that would have made Bear more or less whole on its obligations to JP Morgan. This too could explain why many other suitors dropped out so early in the process - because the Fed was not prepared to offer the same deal to those other “interested” buyers.

Published in BoomBustBlog
Friday, 25 April 2008 05:00

Banks, Brokers & Bullsh1t - v.3.1

This is part of my continuing diatribe on the state of the US and global banking system. As a backgrounder, and to get caught up on where I am coming from, see:

In my most recent post, I admitted to being disappointed in myself for allowing volatility drop my personal investment results below my internal 110% annualized return goal. This volatility stemmed from financials and the broad market rallying due to the "alleged and percieved mollification of systemic financial system failure". Now, I never believed we were at risk of systemic failure. That was just the fodder of tabloidal media outlets. Asset securitization and OTC counterparty credit risk management is on the verge of systemic failure, though, and these are significant portions of our financial system. I don't think these failures will bring the whole financial system down, just the portions that need it. We were, and still are, at risk of a correction where the excesses of the past will be shaken out and weaknesses in our system will break and then be eliminated, bringing down the players that were overly reliant on those weaknesses. Examples of these weak points are:

  • the lack of propert due diligence and credit risk management in the credit default swap markets,
  • the monoline cum multiline industry,
  • excessively leveraged structured products written on top of a real asset bubble,
  • poorly underwritten, covenant none leveraged and high yield loans,
  • poorly underwritten consumer debt,
  • the peak passing and return to the trough of the most recent business profit cycle (banks and financial institutions in particular),
  • the return to mean of real asset prices.

A quick perusal of this weeks news and analysis pretty much reveals what I thought to be the case - this bear market sucker's rally will probably end in a deep downturn and entrance (continuation of) a prolonged bear market. These wide swings are the cause and source of the volatility that has now forced me to implement return robbing dampeners to quell these wide swings. I am also in a quandary. Should I allow the volatility to persist, for the aggregate risk adjusted return is still way above most other's efforts and alpha is being generated over both broad market and hedge fund indices, or should I spend the time and money to dampen both volatility and return to make everything look pretty and ease my own stomach? The answer really relies on who sees my returns and what kind of observers they happen to be. I think that too many investors are trying to mimic the steady fixed income-like and large cap returns that are the bread and butter of many institutions. The problem with that is that it actually reduces returns over the long run and introduces risk. I don't have time to get into this now, but it will definitely be on the table for a future blog posting.

Now, back to this week's events:

Published in BoomBustBlog
Friday, 25 April 2008 05:00

Japan joins the fray

Bloomberg reports: Nomura Posts Record Loss on Bond-Insurance Provisions

Nomura Holdings Inc., Japan's largest securities firm, reported a record quarterly loss after $1.26 billion of provisions for charges related to bond insurers.

The net loss of 153.9 billion yen ($1.5 billion) in the three months ended March 31 compared with profit of 33.1 billion yen a year earlier, the Tokyo-based firm said in a statement today. The loss was 15 times larger than the most pessimistic estimate among six analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Nomura fell 5 percent to 1582.21 yen in German trading after the announcement.

Published in BoomBustBlog
Friday, 25 April 2008 05:00

Banks, Brokers & Bullsh1t: market update

  • From FT.com: Summarized by RGEMonitor.com - Citigroup is allowing
    private equity groups bidding for up to $12bn of its leveraged loans to
    cherry-pick from a wide range of assets with different prices and
    credit ratings. Deutsche Bank has been trying to sell parts of its
    €36bn ($56bn) portfolio in leveraged loans to private equity groups
    since August. Same for Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs. But wait, it gets worse -the I banks provide vulture funds with financing to buy
    banks' distressed debt-->
    In its first leveraged loan sale, Deutsche lent the buyers $3 to $4
    – at below market rates – for every $1 of credits they bought. The
    buyers paid full prices for the loan themselves, one buyer says.

    selling the loans at full prices, Deutsche was able to avoid marking
    down its positions. The deal offers Deutsche additional protection
    because if the price of the loans drops, the buyers would have to put
    up more collateral, the loan buyer says. For the private equity
    firms, the key to the deal is the low-cost leverage, which gives them a
    chance to boost potential profits even though they paid a full price
    for the loans themselves. May I comment. The banks are trying to get $50 B of bad loans off of its balance sheet. So it makes $40 B of loans (under priced which should be market do market) to move these other bad loans that are guaranteed to drop in price. Are we supposed to believe that Deutsche Bank truly transferred risk from the balance sheet, or just transferred the assets? OK, I guess I'm just stupid and don't get it.

  • European banks biding time, mark to market losses will soon convert to operating and credit losses. Fitch sugar coats it: The issue of credit performance now becomes central to the outlook for leveraged credit as medium‐term refinancing risk remains pervasive throughout the market. With banks arguing that any recovery in the primary market remains dependent on recovery in the secondary market, constituents have no choice other than to anxiously bide their time as financial system stresses continu to be worked out and the inevitable contagion to the broader European economy approaches. Indeed, leveraged credit market constituents are left with little more than hope that outstanding credits continue to perform in time for an economic and credit market recovery that will provide the refinancing and exit options necessary to avoid widespread defaults. That hope may be justified as, ironically, the excess that accompanied the wind‐up in financial system leverage, particularly in regard to loose covenants and back‐ended debt maturity profiles, has insulated the leveraged credit market from the spike in defaults normally associated with a credit crisis.
  • Altman, whose Z score analysis I have used in this blog for the homebuilding industry chimes in on what happens when the excess liquidity from the non-traditional lenders dries up. I have state repeatedely that the historically low default rates will soon skyrocket, further distressing banks and the economy. Well,,, according to S&P/Res.recap blog: U.S. distressed debt ratio up sharply from
    less than 1% during past five months to 3% in August. The first sectors to succumb are the usual suspects:
    consumer products, retail/restaurants, and finance companies. Covenant "none" debt delay the inevitable defaulting through avoidance of technical triggers.
  • FT:
    Expect legal arbitrage rather than distress renegotiations with
    short-term oriented hedge funds; Geithner: Untangling complex web of
    OTC contracts in case of default like "unscrambling eggs"
  • Hu/Black;
    BofA: Distress renegotiations less likely with HF than with PE due to
    short-term focus. Also: these who buy credit protection in general bet
    on default, not restructuring. However: Physical bond settlement favors
    default because protection buyer receives face value (i.e. the
    underlying bond); cash settlement on the other hand includes
    substantial hair cut and protection buyer might be better off
Published in BoomBustBlog
Wednesday, 23 April 2008 05:00

Bear Stearns conspiracy theories

This came across my email inbox and I though I would share it with the blog.

A National Disaster

Rob Kirby

I was made aware of the existence of this article this evening. The author’s name is John Olagues. Here is his bio:

John Olagues is the owner and principal consultant for Truth IN Options and a recognized authority on listed and employee stock options.

After graduating from Tulane University (where he captained the baseball team and set many of Tulane's pitching records), John applied his B.A. in mathematics and his competitive spirit to the real world of stock options.

In 1976, John became a member of the Pacific Stock Exchange in San Francisco trading and managing options positions in scores of different stocks. John joined with Blair Hull to create Options Research, the first service to provide theoretical options values to market-makers and to the general public. In 1980, he became a member of the CBOE, where he personally traded more options in more diverse situations than any other trader.

After reading the piece, I contacted Mr. Olagues and asked for permission to repost his article with his bio. Additionally, I was curious, so I asked whether or not anyone from the mainstream financial press had contacted him regarding an interview or giving his article greater exposure?

His reply to me:

You can do with it what you wish. I have not had any calls or emails from the main stream media as they will not criticize the FED or J.P. Morgan. I am saying the J.P. Morgan essentially stole $30 billion from the tax payers through the FED and did a big favor for the short sellers, who probably made a few billion. From Cox to Bernanke, to Dimon and Cramer, they all played their roles.

This article is about how Bear Stearns stock was artificially collapsed so that illegal insider traders would make billions and J.P. Morgan would be paid $55 billion of US tax payer money to shore themselves up - and buy Bear Stearns at bankruptcy prices.

Massive buying of puts and shorting stock in Bear Stearns

On March 10, 2008, the closing price of Bear Stearns was 70. The stock had traded at 70 eight weeks earlier. On or prior to March 10, 2008 requests were made to the options exchanges to open new April series of puts with exercise prices of 20, and 22.5, and a new March series with an exercise price of 25.

Their requests were accommodated and new series were opened for trading March 11, 2008. Since there was very little subsequent trading in the call with exercise prices of 20, 22.5 or 25, it is certain that the requests were made with the intentions of buying substantial amounts of the puts.

There was in fact massive volumes of puts purchased in those series which opened on March 11, 2008.

For example: between March 11-14 inclusive, there were 20,000 contracts traded in the April 20s, 3700 contracts traded in the April 22.5s, and 8000 contracts traded in the April 25s. In the March 25s, there were 79,000 contracts traded between March 11-14, 2008.

Question: Why did the options exchanges not open the far out of the money puts for trading the first time that Bear Stearns stock hit 70, when the April and March options had far more time to expiration?

Certainly if the requesters were legitimate hedgers or speculators, their buying the March and April puts with 2 and 3 months to expiration was more reasonable.

Answer: The insiders were not ready to collapse the stock and did not request the exchanges to open the new series when Bear Stearns first hit 70.

Published in BoomBustBlog
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