Two weeks ago we first pointed out that as a result of the quiet creep in high grade leverage to fresh record high levels, the resurgence in PIK Toggle debt for LBOs and otherwise, means that the credit bubble is now worse than ever and that the next credit crisis will make 2007 seem like one big joke. Recall that nearly 80% of PIK issuers made a PIK election during the last downturn, "paying" by incurring even more debt and in the process resulting in huge impairments to those yield chasing "investors" who knew they were going to lose money but had no choice - after all, the "career risk." Subsequently, we quantified the explosion in covenant-lite loans - another indicator of a peak credit bubble market - as nearly double when compared to the last credit bubble of 2007 (whose aftermath the Fed, with a $3 trillion larger balance sheet, is still struggling to contain).
Thought you could shut up Egan-Jones? Sure, you could... as a NRSRO: the same worthless designation that is carried by Moodys and S&P. However, that does not prevent them to act, and provide their ratings opinion, as a non-NRSRO. Which is exactly in what capacity the infamous firm, which was targeted by the SEC for daring to downgrade the US (the same reason S&P was sued by the DOJ later), just downgraded the UK from AA- to A+.
Egan-Jones may have been barred from rating sovereigns for 18 months due to missing a comma here or there in its NRSRO application (when everyone knows this was merely retribution for downgrading the US ahead of all the other rating agencies), but now the time has come for that other rating agency which dared to follow in EJ's footsteps and downgrade the US of AmericaAA+ in August 2011 to be punished: Standard & Poors. Moments ago we learned that federal and state prosecutors will five civil charges against S&P for its mortgage bond ratings during the housing crisis.
It is refreshing to see that the SEC has taken a much needed break from its daily escapades into midgetporn.xxx and is focusing on what is truly important, such as barring outspoken rating agency Egan-Jones from rating the US and other governments. From the SEC: "EJR and Egan made a settlement offer that the Commission determined to accept. Under the settlement, EJR and Egan agreed to be barred for at least 18 months from rating asset-backed and government securities issuers as an NRSRO. EJR and Egan also agreed to correct the deficiencies found by SEC examiners in 2012, and submit a report – signed by Egan under penalty of perjury — detailing steps the firm has taken." Hopefully the world is no longer insolvent in July of 2014 when this ban runs out.
Egan Jones may be a registered NRSRO, but that doesn't matter to the global status quo perpetuation syndicate ("SQPS" or "the syndicate"). Why? Because the small rating agency misplaced a comma when it was filing its NRSRO application with the SEC and has infuriated the same clueless and corrupt SEC, which 2 years after the flash crash still allows the high freqs to make a total mockery of the market (as seen here). Another reason: it recently downgraded Spain to a CC rating, the lowest and thus most accurate of all rating agencies, with a C rating projected, which means if its rating were to be taken into account by the ECB, the result would be massive margin calls amount to 10% or higher of all the Spanish bonds repoed at the ECB. Instead, the SQPS is delighted to have Canadian-based DBRS on its side. Why? Because the tiny firm's A-rating obviates all others' sub-A ratings, this includes Moodys, S&P and Fitch, at least in the eyes of the ECB and thus Mario Draghi has an alibi to not demand an additional €17 billion collateral call from Spain, which would send its banking system on full tilt (this is money neither Spain, nor its banks has to spare). Which is why we wish to present to our readers the man behind the Spanish A-rated myth: Fergus McCormick (Reed College; BA, with honors, French), formerly of Spanish bank BBVA (surely BBVA is not calling in any favors from its former employee currently head of sovereign ratings at DBRS; none at all).
A month and a half after the SEC took a much-deserved break from watching taxpayer-funded pornography, and stumbled on the scene with its latest pathetic attempt to scapegoat someone, anyone, for its years of gross incompetence, corruption, and inability to prosecute any of the true perpetrators for an event that wiped out tens of trillions in US wealth, by suing Egan-Jones for "improperly" filing their NRSRO application in what was a glaring attempt to shut them up, the only rating agency with any credibility has done what nobody else in the history of modern crony capitalist-cum-socialist America has dared to do: fight back. We have only three words for Sean Egan: For. The. Win.
When one is expected to go down for missing a comma in their NRSRO application, one at least should go down swinging. Sure enough, Egan-Jones, the only rating agency with any credibility left, is at it again, this time cutting the big momma itself - the UK - from AA to AA-.
The little rating agency (or is that former, now that it is public knowledge that Egan-Jones missed a comma in their NRSRO application?) that just refuses to go away, has done it again, and downgraded Spain from BB- to B (negative outlook of course), and on the edge of the dreaded triple hooks, mere days after it cut it from BB+ to BB-.
Update: now S&P is also one month behind Egan Jones: JPMorgan Chase & Co. Outlook to Negative From Stable by S&P. Only NRSRO in pristinely good standing is Moodys, and then the $2.1 billion margin call will be complete.
So it begins, even as it explains why the Dimon announcement was on Thursday - why to give the rating agencies the benefit of the Friday 5 o'clock bomb of course:
- JPMorgan Cut by Fitch to A+/F1; L-T IDR on Watch Negative
What was the one notch collateral call again? And when is the Morgan Stanley 3 notch cut coming? Ah yes:
So... another $2.1 billion just got Corzined? Little by little, these are adding up.
Even as the SEC is hell bent on destroying Egan Jones as a rating agency, in the process cementing its status as an objective, independent, and honest third party research entity, the firm is just as hell bent on milking its still existing NRSRO status for all it's worth. Because while Egan Jones was the first entity to cut Spain two weeks ago, only to be followed by Spain, it just did so again minutes ago.
UPDATE: *S&P TO ASSESS EFFECTS OF SPAIN DOWNGRADE ON SPANISH ISSUERS
Adding insult to Bayern Munich injury, we just got S&P which did the impossible and cut Spain to BBB+ from A (outlook negative) not on Friday after hours. Kneejerk reaction is a 30 pip drop in EURUSD. Oh, and most amusing, those witches among men, Egan Jones, downgraded Spain from BBB to BBB-.... a week ago. Crush them, destroy them... How dare they be ahead of the pack as usual: after all their NRSRO application was missing a god damn comma.
Just in case one is wondering what is a greater crime in America: vaporizing $1.5 billion in client money or having the temerity to downgrade the US (twice), JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley, here is the SEC with the answer:
- SEC SUES EGAN-JONES, SEAN EGAN ON ALLEGED MISREPRESENTATIONS
Somewhere Jon Corzine is cackling like a mad cow.
The iconoclastic rating agency, and fully recognized NRSRO to the dismay of some tabloids, which just refuses to play by the status quo rules, and which downgraded the US for the second time last Friday, to be followed soon by other rating agencies as soon as US debt crosses the $16.4 trillion threshold in a few short months, has just done the even more unthinkable and downgraded Fed boss JPMorgan from AA- to A+.
Michael Lewis’ latest piece in Vanity Fair, “California and Bust,” begins with a lengthy defense of Meredith Whitney’s prediction that there would be a wave of defaults in the municipal bond market. I was not planning on writing a response to his article – frankly, defending Whitney’s call at this point is very much like defending Harold Camping’s prophesy on May 22nd, after even the most gullible people have realized that they euthanized their pets for nothing. Who really cares about the intransigent believers that remain, for whom a forceful narrative has always been more relevant than facts?
In what is perhaps the biggest face-palm moment of the day, the SEC's summary report on credit raters found 22 pages worth of supervisory failure and conflicts of interest concerns at each and every one of our NRSROs. However, perhaps the most notable headline, via Bloomberg was potentially much more litigiously serious:
*SEC SAYS `LARGE' CREDIT RATER APPEARED TO LEAK PENDING RATING
*SEC DECLINED TO IDENTIFY WHICH RATER MAY HAVE LEAKED DECISION
Now who could it be?