Lehman Brothers

Presenting Steve Cohen's Complete Unsealed Confidential Deposition Transcript

Over the past two days, Reuter's Matt Goldstein and Jennifer Ablan have been poring over a formerly confidential transcript of one Stevie (but don't call him that) Cohen, better known as the man who created "information arbitrage", the investor's "edge" and made expert networks very rich, if only briefly. For their extended series on the topic read here, here and here. And while they have done an admirable job of compiling the tasty morsels so far, there is far more here than meets the eye so we open it up to our extended and very much erudite financial audience to find that one slip which the various AGs and DAs have been unable to isolate in years of alleged 'investigatoring'. As Goldstein says: "there is plenty of great and illuminating stuff in the 242 pages of deposition testimony Reuters obtained through a court motion to unseal documents in the civil lawsuit. As we noted in our story, Cohen is pressed at great length for his views on insider trading—he thinks the laws are “vague”. And as we highlighted in our blog, there’s even an amusing little feud between the lawyers over how the SAC Capital founder should addressed. Still, it makes you wonder what was said by Cohen in the more than 400 pages of deposition transcript that wasn’t unsealed. And we’d love to see Cohen on videotape as sometimes body language can be revealing." Perhaps a key point of focus is whether Stevie has himself received tips from the likes of Hank Paulson in the past about future government policy - something we know has already happened albeit with people closer to his Goldman Diaspora, a ring the former Gruntal trader never felt too comfortable with. Because it appears there certainly are hints in that regard, and if indeed proven that SAC was among the "preferential" funds of the administration in its market moving ways, then there would be no surprise why any attempts to find wrongdoing at SAC have so far been duds.

Euro Fudge Distracts From Global Debt Titanic; Intervention in Gold Market?

Gold traded higher after the ECB interest rate cut yesterday, prior to sharp selling that came into the market at 1335 GMT. This led to gold falling 2% on the day and it is now down 1.3% on the week – again outperforming many equity indices. Market News International (MNI) reported that market sources said that the Bank for International Settlements, the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve have been “good sellers of gold” after it had popped to a fresh session high of $1,755.90/oz. The MNI report has not been explored and there have not been any official denials of official selling. From a trading perspective there is at least a ring of truth to the MNI report as the sharp fall in the gold price was counterintuitive given there was no negative gold news and indeed the news was bullish with significant risk ahead of the EU summit and continued ultra loose monetary policies and negative real interest rates. Given the scale of the coordinated intervention in markets by central banks recently one would have to be completely naïve to dismiss the report out of hand. There is of course the historical precedent of the London Gold Pool which ended in failure. However, before jumping to conclusions it would be good if the MNI report was looked at and some questions asked - in the finest traditions of journalism.

Previewing The ECB's 7:45 AM Interest Rate Decision

Given pressure on the central bank continues to build, today the ECB is widely expected to cut the benchmark borrowing rate by another 25bps, with an outside chance that members will push for a 50bps cut. Apart from cutting the interest rate, press reports indicated that some members of the ECB governing council have been debating on providing bank loans lasting up to two or three years. An alternative solution would be to broaden the range of assets banks can use as collateral to obtain funds from the central bank. Highlighting deteriorating condition in money markets in Europe is the last data from the Bank of Italy, which showed that funding from the ECB to Italian banks rose sharply to EUR 153.2bln in November from EUR 111.3bln in October. In addition to that, the head of UniCredit has urged the ECB to increase access to ECB borrowing for Italian banks, while the Bank of Italy launched twice-daily overnight liquidity auctions to boost access to capital. Still, despite the persistent widening in the 3-month Euribor-OIS spread and the TED spread, the 3-month EUR/USD cross-currency basis swap has edge back towards -100bps mark, that’s after trading -152bps only few weeks ago (Note: post Lehman Brothers collapse in October 2008 saw 3-month EUR/USD cross-currency basis swap trade at -215bps).

Why The UK Trail Of The MF Global Collapse May Have "Apocalyptic" Consequences For The Eurozone, Canadian Banks, Jefferies And Everyone Else

Reposting by popular demand, and because everyone has to understand the embedded risks in this market, courtesy of the shadow banking system.

In an oddly prescient turn of events, yesterday we penned a post titled "Has The Imploding European Shadow Banking System Forced The Bundesbank To Prepare For Plan B?" in which we explained how it was not only the repo market, but the far broader and massively unregulated shadow banking system in Europe that was becoming thoroughly unhinged, and was manifesting itself in a complete "lock up in interbank liquidity" and which, we speculated, is pressuring the Bundesbank, which is well aware of what is going on behind the scenes, to slowly back away from what will soon be an "apocalyptic" event (not our words... read on). Why was this prescient? Because today, Reuters' Christopher Elias has written the logical follow up analysis to our post, in which he explains in layman's terms not only how but why the lock up has occurred and will get far more acute, but also why the MF Global bankruptcy, much more than merely a one-off instance of "repo-to-maturity" of sovereign bonds gone horribly wrong is a symptom of two things: i) the lax London-based unregulated and unsupervised system which has allowed such unprecedented, leveraged monsters as AIG, Lehman and now as it turns out MF Global, to flourish until they end up imploding and threatening the world's entire financial system, and ii) an implicit construct embedded within the shadow banking model which permitted the heaping of leverage upon leverage upon leverage, probably more so than any structured finance product in the past (up to and including synthetic CDO cubeds), and certainly on par with the AIG cataclysm which saw $2.7 trillion of CDS notional sold with virtually zero margin. Simply said: when one truly digs in, MF Global exposes the 2011 equivalent of the 2008 AIG: virtually unlimited leverage via the shadow banking system, in which there are practically no hard assets backing the infinite layers of debt created above, and which when finally unwound, will create a cataclysmic collapse of all financial institutions, where every bank is daisy-chained to each other courtesy of multiple layers of "hypothecation, and re-hypothecation." In fact, it is a link so sinister it touches every corner of modern finance up to and including such supposedly "stable" institutions as Jefferies, which as it turns out has spent weeks defending itself, however against all the wrong things,  and Canadian banks, which as it also turns out, defended themselves against Zero Hedge allegations they may well be the next shoes to drop, as being strong and vibrant (and in fact just announced soaring profits and bonuses), yet which have all the same if not far greater risk factors as MF Global. Yet nobody has called them out on it. Until now.

Second Biggest Dow Points Week Ever Ends On Weak Note

A 787 point gain on the Dow this week, second only ever in absolute points gained to w/e 10/31/08, ended on a disappointing note as equities gave back significant early gains around the NFP print to end the day practically unch (128pts off the highs). Equities underperformed credit on the day with another strangely impressive (given NAV and HY spread differentials) outperformance by HYG. On a medium-term basis, equities began to revert back to where broad risk assets are more supportive but on a short-term intraday basis, risk assets (most notably EURJPY, AUDJPY, and TSY levels and curves) were in a more aggressive derisking mode. ES definitely maintained strength for longer than many expected today before giving it all back into the close, but financials (especially the majors) were surprisingly positive today even after such a good week - quite a squeeze.

Did A Large European Bank Almost Fail Last Night?

Need a reason to explain the massive central bank intervention from China, to Japan, Switzerland, the ECB, England and all the way to the US? Forbes may have one explanation: "It appears that a big European bank got close to failure last night.  European banks, especially French banks, rely heavily on funding in the wholesale money markets.  It appears that a major bank was having difficulty funding its immediate liquidity needs. The cavalry was called in and has come to the successful rescue." Granted the post is rather weak on factual backing and is mostly  speculative, but it would certainly make sense. That said, it harkens back to our original question: just how bad was the situation if the global central banking cabal had to intervene all over again, and just what was not being told to the general public? Lastly, and most important, slapping liquidity bandaids on solvency gangrenes does nothing but buy a few days at most. Furthermore, we now expect the stigmata associated with borrowing from the Fed to haunt each and every European bank as vigilantes will now use the weekly ECB update on borrowings from the Fed as a signal to hone in on this and that weak Italian and French, pardon, European bank.