The Depository Trust & Clearing Corp
(DTCC) holds trillions of dollars of stock certificates in trust for their owners, through its subsidiary Cede & Co
DTCC subsidiary Deriv/SERV
also clears substantial volumes of derivatives such as credit default swaps.
The international headquarters for DTCC and its Cede & Co. and Deriv/SERV subsidiaries is located at 55 Water Street in Manhattan, and the vault storing trillions in stock certificates and other instruments was apparently flooded by Hurricane Sandy.
Trillions of dollars worth of stock certificates and other paper securities that were stored in a vault in lower Manhattan may have suffered water damage from Superstorm Sandy.
The vault contains certificates registered to Cede & Co., a subsidiary of DTCC, as well as “custody certificates” in sealed envelopes that belong to clients.
The DTCC provides “custody and asset servicing” for more than 3.6 million securities worth an estimated $36.5 trillion, according to its website.
The building remains inaccessible, but the lower floors are believed to be flooded. The full extent of the damage cannot be assessed until power is restored and the building is deemed safe to enter.
The information is not lost, since it is stored on computer systems. CNN notes:
DTCC Chief Executive Michael Bodson … said the DTCC’s computer records are intact and that the corporation has “detailed inventory files of the contents of the vault.”
But – as the Financial Times points out
– there could be a hefty price tag associated with the damage:
As businesses in the affected areas continued efforts to pump out flooded basements, the DTCC admitted on Thursday that its vault remained underwater and officials had still not been able to assess the damage.
“Hindsight is 20/20. We have taken a lot of precautions, in terms of protection both for the security of our systems and of our records, and we have a full inventory of the certificates, as well as a robust recovery plan.”
In a white paper earlier this year, it said that it cost the financial industry almost $300m to replace $16 billion of certificates that disappeared in the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001.
If it cost $300 million to replace $16 billion of certificates destroyed on September 11th, then – in a worst-case scenario of extensive damage to the paper held in DTCC’s 55 Water Street vault – it could cost many billions of dollars
to replace the paper certificates.
Postscript 1: Given that the U.S. government is backstopping a good chunk of the derivatives market, including the credit default swap clearing operations of of DTCC subsidiary Trade Information Warehouse, I wonder if the taxpayer may end up paying for some of the replacement costs.
Postscript 2: In a world of potentially infinite rehypothecation of shares, how much do the physical certificates even matter?