Credit Default Swaps
The three "de's:" deregulation, desupervision, and de facto decriminalization.
Too Big Leads To Destruction of the Rule of Law
Economists, Military Strategists and Others Warned Us … Long Ago
Peugeot, Its Record High Default Probability, And A Brief Primer On Corporate Viability Under SocialismSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/17/2012 12:41 -0500
With central bankers dominating the airwaves, and the only thing that matters is who prints where and how much, most can be forgiven to have missed one of the more important micro developments in the past few weeks: namely the case study of emblematic French automaker Peugeot, which just happens to be Europe's second largest, and its Credit Default Swaps, which have doubled in the past 4 months, to a record high spread of 813 bps, which means the probability of default for the company has nearly doubled from 29% to 52% in a few short months. Yet what is it about Peugeot that is interesting - well the fact that the biggest spike in its default risk has taken place in the last few days, which have seen a nearly 100 basis point spike. The catalyst: "French President Francois Hollande, elected in May after pledging to block a “parade of firings,” said July 14 he would lean on Peugeot to rework the plan intended to stem losses and trim production capacity. The government will report the findings of a review later this month, as well as measures to prop up the French auto sector." The problem is that this type of state intervention into corporate viability and profitability is precisely what precipitates wholesale bankruptcy. And this is precisely what the bond market has reacted to. Because while Hollande is doing all he can to pander to populism, and to recreate America's epic failure involving GM, the reality is that by enforcing what he thinks is "right" and "fair" dooms not only Peugeot and its 200,000 employees, but millions of upstream and downstream workers.
There are various reasons why not only we at Zero Hedge are big fans of Hugh Hendry. One of them of course is his uncanny ability to not only tell the truth, but to bash his competitors faces into it (as Joseph Stiglitz so vividly recalls), even if it means running squarely against the consensus. The other reason are self-aware statements such as this one via the FT today: "What I found was that when I speak in person, and especially when it’s television and timing is so acute, it gives the impression that I am cavalier and, if you will, full of myself,” says Mr Hendry, speaking by phone from his office in Bayswater, central London." Hendry was obviously discussing his self-imposed media blackout which unlike other prominent financiers is not being used for book sales promotion purposes but appears quite genuine. It also means he won't get to collect $200/appearance fees as a guest contributor on CNBC but we digress. "The danger when people look at that from a distance is that they try to align that with the guy that they’ve just given $50m or $75m to and it’s not the same person." iI is sad that none of the other talking muppet heads and "daily pundits" who appear on financial comedy TV to merely blow smoke up assorted holes and talk their books, don't share Hendry's revelations a little more often.
And so it begins...Last Friday the Spanish government published a proposal to cut government expenditure and raise taxes to reduce the fiscal deficit by 56.4billion euros by 2015. I have outlined why austerity will not work in Europe, but it looks like this is a lesson Europeans will have to learn for themselves--for a second time. The writing is on the wall in Ireland, who ailed in the same ways that Spain is currently ailing, but what Lord Merkel wants, Lord Merkel gets. The immediate malaise from these austerity measures will be large-scale social unrest, which is already being planned by many of the 50% of the country's unemployed young people. Regardless of one's stance on the economic merit of austerity, what is indisputable is that riots are real and riots do not end well. With nothing to lose, this round of Spanish austerity protesting has the potential to end in catastrophe.
Criminal Inquiry Shifts To JPMorgan's Mispricing Of Hundreds Of Billions In CDS: Is Dimon The Next Diamond?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 07/16/2012 19:09 -0500
On the last day of May, when we first learned via Bloomberg that there was even the scantest likelihood that JPM may have been massaging its CDS marks within the (London-based of course) CIO organization - the backbone of hundreds of billions in notional exposure, and thus a huge counterfeited benefit to trader bonuses and corporate earnings - we wrote, "The Second Act Of The JPM CIO Fiasco Has Arrived - Mismarking Hundreds Of Billions In Credit Default Swaps" in which we explained precisely how this activity would and did take place, precisely why other traders caught doing the same are on the verge of being thrown in jail, precisely why everyone else does it, and precisely why the biggest CDS self-reporting and client/banker owned-organization (this is where images of Libor should appear), MarkIt, may well be implicated in everything - very much in the same way that the BBA is the heart of Lie-borgate. Because unlike all other allegations of impropriety, most of which rely on Level 2 and Level 3 assets whose valuations are in the eye of the oh so very sophisticated beholder (in this case JPM) who has complex DCFs and speaks confidently when explaining marks to naive, stupid outsiders (in other words baffles with bullshit), when it comes to one of the last places where Mark to Market is still applicable and used: the OTC CDS market, and where daily P&L records are kept, it will take any regulator, enforcer, or criminal investigator precisely 1 minute to find out if there was fraud, or gambling, going on here. Most importantly, it opened up the firm to a criminal investigation. Which as Reuters reports, is precisely what has now happened.
Just because the market is so stupid it completely ignores what the news of the day is: namely that JPM engaged in what Jacob Zemansky on TV just called criminal behavior when it consistently mismarked its CDS book, as it itself admitted 10 minutes before releasing its earnings today, an act that in itself is nothing short of what Barclays is in the 10th circle of hell for due to blowing up Lieborgate sky high, here is a stark reminder of what happened the last time a trader was caught fudging his CDS book...
JPM Admits CIO Group Consistently Mismarked Hundreds Of Billions In CDS In Effort To Artificially Boost ProfitsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/13/2012 05:52 -0500
Back on May 30 we wrote "The Second Act Of The JPM CIO Fiasco Has Arrived - Mismarking Hundreds Of Billions In Credit Default Swaps" in which we made it abundantly clear that due to the Over The Counter nature of CDS one can easily make up whatever marks one wants in order to boost the P&L impact of a given position, this is precisely what JPM was doing in order to boost its P&L? As of moments ago this too has been proven to be the case. From a just filed very shocking 8K which takes the "Whale" saga to a whole new level. To wit: 'the recently discovered information raises questions about the integrity of the trader marks, and suggests that certain individuals may have been seeking to avoid showing the full amount of the losses being incurred in the portfolio during the first quarter. As a result, the Firm is no longer confident that the trader marks used to prepare the Firm's reported first quarter results (although within the established thresholds) reflect good faith estimates of fair value at quarter end."
Back in January, an article by Reuters' head financial blogger on the topic of the Greek bond restructuring, which effectively said that Greeks have all the leverage, prompted us to pen Subordination 101 (one of the year's most read posts on Zero Hedge), in which we patiently explained why his proposed blanket generalization was completely wrong, and why litigation arbitrage in covenant heavy UK-law bonds would be precisely the way to go into the Greek restructuring. 4 months later, those who listened to us made a 135% annualized return by getting taken out in Greek UK-law bonds at par, whereas those who listened to Reuters made, well nothing. What is amusing, is that such examples of pseudo-contrarian sophistry for the sake of making a statement, any statement, or better known in the media world as generating "page views", no matter how ungrounded in financial fact, especially from recent Loeb award winners, is nothing new. To wit, we go back to May 29, 2008 where courtesy of the same author, in collaboration with another self-proclaimed Twitter pundit, we read "Defending Libor" in which the now Reutersian and his shoulder-chipped UK-based academic sidekick decide that, no Carrick Mollenkamp and Mark Whitehouse's then stunning and quite incendiary discoveries on Liebor are actually quite irrelevant, and are, to use the parlance of our times, a tempest in a teapot. His conclusion: "What the WSJ has done is come up with a marginally interesting intellectual conundrum: why is there a disconnect between CDS premia, on the one hand, and Libor spreads, on the other? But the way that the WSJ is reporting its findings they seem to think they’re uncovering a major scandal. They’re not." Actually, in retrospect, they are.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that major commercial banks manipulate Libor submissions for their own benefit. As Jefferies David Zervos writes this weekend, money-center commercial banks did not want the “truth” of market prices to determine their loan rates. Rather, they wanted an oligopolistically controlled subjective survey rate to be the basis for their lending businesses. When there are only 16 players – a “gentlemen’s agreement” is relatively easy to formulate. That is the way business has been transacted in the broader OTC lending markets for nearly 30 years. The most bizarre thing to come out of the Barclays scandal, Zervos goes on to say, is the attack on the Bank of England and Paul Tucker. Is it really a scandal that central bank officials tried to affect interest rates? Absolutely NOT! That’s what they do for a living. Central bankers try to influence rates directly and indirectly EVERY day. That is their job. Congresses and Parliaments have given central banks monopoly power in the printing of money and the management of interest rate policy. These same law makers did not endow 16 commercial banks with oligopoly power to collude on the rate setting process in their privately created, over the counter, publicly backstopped marketplaces.
The FDIC decided to wait with its dose of pre-holiday humor until after the Barclays fixing for today's market close turned out to be spot on. And by that we mean that official release of the US banks' "living will" statements, which as far as we know is about the most worthless exercise ever conducted, and about the dumbest thing to be conceived by that very undynamic duo of Barney Frank and Chris Dodd. Because last we checked, the treatment of living wills in bankruptcy court, where all these firms will end up eventually anyway, is... non-existent. But the real fun is when one actually reads this indicative statement from Citigroup: "Citi is today a fundamentally different institution than it was before the crisis." And that's where we stopped. Because it is banks wasting their time (and taxpayer bailout money) on gibberish like this instead of analyzing the risk inherent in their prop positions that guarantees the next CIO-like blow up will not be just $5 billion but far, far more, and will certainly prove that living wills when one has to equitize tens of billions in unsecured debt are worth exactly didely squat.
With Europe, the BBA, and virtually everyone shocked, shocked, that the global bank cabal schemed and colluded for years to manipulate interest rates, so far only America appears relatively blase, and totally ignorant, about the issue. Perhaps it is because the first bank exposed in the manipulation scheme so far is European, perhaps because it is just tired of all the endless crime coming out of the criminal complex known as Wall Street. It is unclear. Then again, America will soon have its own manipulation scandals to deal with: and if it is not the US BBA member banks, all of whom were just as guilty as Barclays, and the only question is which bank will be the sacrificial scapegoat whose CEO will have to demonstratively depart (to warmer, non-extradition climes), it will be the following story from Bloomberg which will likely pick up much more steam over the next weeks and months, detailing how the bank which just barely avoided a triple notch downgrade (wink wink) has had previous dealings with the very same rating agencies seeking to, picture this, artificially inflate ratings! So to summarize: Fed manipulates capital markets, HFT manipulates bid ask spreads, "self-policing" CDS pricing market groups fudge the prices on trillions in Credit Default Swaps, bank cabals collude and manipulate short-term interest rates, and now banks are confirmed to have manipulated the ratings on tens of billions of bonds using monetary incentives and threats. Is there anything in this "market" that was fair over the past several decades, and was actual price discovery ever actually possible? Because by now it should be very clear going forward all the things that actually make a free and fair market are forever gone, and that without endless fraud and manipulation by all the market participants who realize that anyone defecting the ponzi group means immediate and terminal losses for all, and all those calls for an S&P 400 would actually prove to be overly optimistic.
"I wish I could say that this was an isolated case... You will hear more on this in due course" is how the UK FSE's Director of enforcement described Lie-borgate to Reuters this weekend. It seems incredibly that the US regulators and investing public alike are shunning this interest rate rigging scandal as the UK goes to DEFCON 1 with more than a dozen other banks being investigated in the long-running global probe. The Barclays Chairman quit over the weekend (and we assume will not be the last casualty) as The Telegraph notes the 'dislocation of libor from itself' - since banks could not be seen borrowing at higher rates for fear of liquidity repercussions, as widespread. According to the trader the BBA asked for a rate submission but there were no checks and "everyone knew" and "everyone was doing it". What is incredible is the level of nonchalance that this illegal act had taken on with entire teams of people well aware as open discussion occurred (not clandestine blue-horseshoe-likes-low-libor-style). Indeed this widespread and well-known action of dislocating libor from itself (since in a trader's words "everyone knew we couldn't borrow at Libor, you only needed to look at CDS to see that... with real Libor rates 3 to 4 per cent higher than the BBA's submitted Lie-bor") has now led George Osbourne, as per the FT, to launch a 'Leveson-style' probe into standards in the banking industry - a full, public independent inquiry into the $504 Trillion market's underlying integrity. Libor had dislocated with itself for a very good reason – to hide the true issues within the bank.
Spain is toast. I’ve already assessed that none of the key players (the IMF, the ECB, the EFSF, or the ESM) has the firepower to prop up Spain whose real capital needs are more in the ballpark of €300 billion -€500 billion. Thus, it’s GAME OVER for the EU. Sure it may take a while for this to manifest as politicians offer various hair-brained schemes to attempt to put off the inevitable debt collapse, but that debt collapse is coming and it will hit before the end of 2012.