One of Zero Hedge's all time favorite charts is the following, which demonstrates the full breadth of Wall Street "complexity" ingenuity, and highlights the incremental layering upon layering of hollow synthetic securities in the form of "leverage" that allowed the housing boom to explode to unprecedented levels, and to create artificial money flooding the shadow banking system which among other things was used to pad ridiculous banker bonuses over the past decade. Today, Citi's Matt King has taken a humorous approach on this topic, and has concluded that in order for investors in a CDO2 to have a complete understanding of all the nuances in their investment (based on filed information), they would need to read precisely 1,125,000,300 pages worth of information for every CDO2 purchased to be aware of everything that was being acquired. And this even ignores the fact that recent robosigning revelations may have rendered the entire reading process moot as the entire RMBS foundation may have been built upon a complete sham.
BN *LANDESBANK ALLEGES FRAUD OVER GOLDMAN'S DAVIS SQUARE VI CDOS
BN *LANDESBANK BADEN-WUERTTEMBERG SUES GOLDMAN SACHS OVER CDOS
BN *LBBW IS GERMANY’S BIGGEST STATE-OWNED LENDER :2525Z GR, GS US
So... now what?
Miss out on ProPublica's must read piece on self dealing in CDOs (which is currently translating to comparable practices in stocks, and virtually all risky assets, now that retail investors want out)? Here is your chance to catch up, courtesy of a few simple to understand cartoons. While not news to anyone who lived through the crazy days of 2006-2007, this simple visual should be archived and recreated in when alien historians try to explain why the world ended and the Dow was at 36,000,000 and going up, as it explains precisely what is happening in the stock market today.
Hinde Capital has expanded on an idea we have been toying around with and wish to follow up on soon (that ETFs are de facto the new CDOs, as the most actively traded products (SPY, GLD, etc) are now merely synthetic representations of underlying securities, as the actual securities are increasingly more thinly traded, thus creating a huge "tail wags the dog" paradox), by penning a presentation calling GLD "the new CDO in disguise." We don't think it is disguised - after all the two products share far too many characteristics, although having CDO-like features does not make something evil per se. The reason why implied correlation hit 0.8 yesterday as we first pointed out, is precisely due to the aggregation of products into such synthetic aggregators as ETFs, of which GLD is merely one of many. Yet Hinde's opinion focuses precisely on the disconnect between the "idea" of owning a hard asset, and the reality of merely having claims to a Cede & Co stock certificate which in turn has no liquid and direct physical collateral, in essence condemning GLD and all non-physical ETFs, by saying "we believe ETFs are a risky way to express a gold view." All this and much more on why GLD has more risks than are acceptable for any sophisticated investor in the attached Hinde Capital presentation.
Abacus, Timberwolf, and now Hudson, pretty soon there won't be a CDO underwritten by Goldman that is not the object of some civil or criminal legal battle. The FT is reports that the SEC has launched a brand new investigation into Goldman Sachs, this time into its $2 billion Hudson Mezzanine Funding CDO. According to the FT: "People familiar with the matter said that in recent weeks the SEC had been gathering information on Hudson Mezzanine, which featured prominently in an 11-hour grilling of Goldman’s executives in the US Senate in April. The SEC and Goldman declined to comment." It is unclear if Goldman has received a separate Wells Notice for this second probing iteration, but since as Goldman notified its shareholders, these things are immaterial, we won't hold our breath to find out. As was repeatedly hammered during the Congressional grilling of Blankfein and his henchmen two months ago, Hudson is precisely the "junk" deal that AIB was “too smart to buy"which in turn forced Tourre and the other salespeople to keep pushing Eastward to Taiwan and Korea (Marc Faber beware).
From the lawsuit: "Goldman intentionally failed to provide correct information regarding the state of the market in Timberwolf and/or intentionally failed to provide correct information concerning Goldman's actual opinion concerning the state of the market for the Timberwolf security and its quality and value. At the time Goldman made these statements to BYAFM, Goldman was actively shorting both Timberwolf and comparable securities because Goldman's internal assessment of the market for such securities was that their value would drop. In order to reduce Goldman's exposure to CDOs, Goldman personnel made false and misleading statements of material fact, knowing such statements were false and misleading... and with knowledge that BYAFM would rely on them in making the decision to purchase an interest in Timberwolf. Moreover, Goldman personnel failed to disclose material information knowing that, by this omission, information that they did disclose was rendered misleading, or they acted with reckless disregard as to whether the omission of the information rendered other disclosures misleading."
Gasparino has broken news which everyone knew was pending, namely that Deutsche Bank's Greg "I am short your house" Lippmann, who abruptly left the firm a few days after the SEC complaing against Goldman was made public, is about to get the probe. In other words, the toxic CDO sale probe is escalating, and the latest lucky contestants are Citi and Deutsche Bank, which according to Fox Biz' Charlie Gasparino have been subpoenaed for further documentation after a preliminary investigation left far too many questions open.
The WSJ reports that "Federal prosecutors are investigating whether Morgan Stanley misled investors about mortgage-derivatives deals it helped design and sometimes bet against, people familiar with the matter say, in a step that intensifies Washington's scrutiny of Wall Street in the wake of the financial crisis." In essence, Abacus comes to Times Square. And the latest soundbite for today's media feeding frenzy: the "Dead Presidents." So going down the list: Goldman - check, Morgan Stanley -check, Merrill, Deutsche and UBS - to come, especially once Khuzami finds a replacement to fill his recused status when investigating the German bank.
Did John Perry Take The "Perceived" Paulson CDO Cap Structure Arbitrage To A Whole New Level In 2007?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/27/2010 15:05 -0400
One of the critical observations that have emerged as a result of the
SEC action into Goldman is the realization that
various investors would take full advantage of perceived capital
structure arbitrage, not directly, but by implication: if fund X was
seen as an equity investor in a given product, be it structured in the
form of a CDO, or a boring corporation, with publicly traded
equity,that would imply to everyone else curious, that fund X was implicitly comfortable with every tranche in the balance sheet above the equity:
whether the mezz tranche, the deeply subordinated debt, and obviously
the very top or the supersenior debt tranche (secured or otherwise).
The ruse, the SEC claims, is that said Fund X would invest a token equity amount, and make it plain for all to see, all the while shorting the bejeezus out of securities above the equity tranche, knowing full well that the equity would be wiped out, yet with partial or full losses on the debt above, the shorts would end up making a profit multiples of times larger than the equity tranche loss. This is among the key points in the SEC complaint - we will not discuss it much, suffice
to say that it is more than obvious that when dealing with other (not
all that sophisticated) investors, this ruse would certainly work, as
the rest of the world would be logically satisfied that investor X
would not assume there would be impairments above the equity tranche, absent further disclosure. Yet what is interesting, and what we would like to touch upon, is a curious tangent of this "ruse" - as blog LittleSis points out, one
entity that could have taken the "Fund X" scheme to a whole new level
may be the hedge fund run by former Goldman Robert Rubin arb desk
protege Richard Perry. Perry, who made billions in 2007 by shorting
subprime, and most likely was involved in shorting CDOs (Goldman
underwritten or otherwise) in the same vein that Paulson and others
were doing,did not buy equity stakes in CDOs (that we know of).
Instead what he did was amass an equity stake directly in the CDO
wraparound company du jour: ACA Capital. Should Perry have wanted to convey an impression
to everyone else that ACA (and its holdings) were safe (and his
anonymous and Goldman conveyed bids on ACA CDO protection were
sufficiently low) what better way than to telegraph to the world in his
most recent 13F that he was building up a stake in ACA? Which as we
disclose below, between December 31 2006 and September 2007, is precisely what he was doing.
Circle Jerk 101: The SEC's Robert Khuzami Oversaw Deutsche Bank's CDO, Has Recused Himself Of DB-Related MattersSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/24/2010 13:08 -0400
The incest continues: the WSJ has informed that the SEC's chief investigator, Robert Khuzami, used to be general counsel for Deutsche Bank, and presumably reviewed numerous CDO-related transaction, while on the "other side" of the wall. "As part of that job, he worked with lawyers who advised on the CDOs
issued by the German bank and how details about them should be
disclosed to investors. The group included more than 100 lawyers who
also defended the bank against lawsuits and vetted other financial
products, these people said." The good: he probably knows more about CDOs than any other person in government administration history, and thus would not have brought on the Goldman case without being aware of all the potential tripwire nuances (and yes, if the Goldman case gets to the discovery stage, which it will, it is game over for Goldman's defense strategy, which means settlement and/or much worse). The bad: who knows how many Deustche Bank CDO's of comparable or worse nature he allowed to see the light of day. The most interesting: "Because of Mr. Khuzami's old job and his financial interest in the
company, he has recused himself from any matters related to Deutsche
Bank, according to an SEC spokesman." With Greg Lippmann's (legendary head of CDO trading at the German firm whose assets are greater than all of Germany's GDP) recent sudden departure, and the SEC being prevented from bringing CDO-related charges against the bank (for the time being), is DB currently actively cleaning up its tracks? After all the firm was one of the top 3 CDO issuers in the period under consideration.
The (in)famous Greg Lippmann is gone. The question is why? Is Deustche Bank about to report the next Wells receipt? Of course not: Goldman did not do so even though it held it for 9 months.
Now that the attention of the investment community once again turns to regulatory risk, analysts will instead focus on who may be most at risk for comparable CDO-related overtures by the SEC. The table below presents CDO league tables for top CDO underwriters in the 2006 and 2007 period. By and far Merrill Lynch and Citi appear to be most at risk (from Credit Suisse). In a separate report Credit Suisse confirmed that based on deals with "salient" characteristics to Abacus, the firm once again sees Merrill/BofA as the most likely to suffer the wrath of the SEC. The other two firms that fill out the top three list for the 2005-2008 period with "comparable deals" are UBS AG which ranked second with $15.8 billion, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. was third with $9.9 billion, primarily due to its purchase of Bear which despite being one of the biggest underwriters of CDO, passed on the Paulson proposed deal structure citing "ethical concerns", as we reported yesterday.
- ABACUS 2007-AC1 is a $2 billion notional synthetic CDO (the “Transaction”) referencing a portfolio (the “Reference Portfolio”) consisting of RMBS obligations.
- ACA Management, LLC (“ACA”) will be acting as Portfolio Selection Agent in this Transaction.
- ACA currently manages 22 outstanding CDOs with underlying portfolios consisting of $15.7 billion of assets
- The 360 WARF target Reference Portfolio selected by ACA consists of 90 Baa2-rated mid-prime and subprime RMBS bonds issued over the past 18 months.
- The CDO tranches amortize principal using a full sequential amortization sequence, avoiding any reduction in the relative subordination of the CDO tranches.
- The CDO tranches will have a projected average life(2) of 3.9 to 4.9 years, which is shorter than the average life of most traditional ABS CDOs executed in the current market environment.
- The CDO tranches do not bear any available funds cap risk and other related interest shortfall risks.
- Goldman Sachs’ market-leading ABACUS program currently has $5.1 billion in outstanding CLNs with strong secondary trading desk support.
In a surprising move, the FRBNY has just released the holdings of Maiden Lane I, II and III. Some preliminary observations: ML 1, in addition to holding a boatload of CDOs, has quite a few Residential whole loans, a variety of single names CDS, of which the bulk is CMBX, AMBAC, MBIA, PMI, CDS on Commercial Real Estate, CDS on Munis, CDS on non-agency RMBS, CDS on Non-residential ABS, some treasuries, and just under $3 billion in Interest Rate Swaps. ML 2, as noted, contains $35 billion of Non-Agency MBS. It also contains $280 million in cash, held with a Goldman Sachs account. (GOLDMAN SACHS FIN SQ GOVT FS). ML 3 consists of a variety of CDOs whose notional value is given as $56 billion. Once again, the Fed parks its cash of $383 million in this account with Goldman Sachs.