As we look forward, we ask, who now determines the variation margin on Greek CDS (and Portugal, and Dubai, and Spain, and, pretty soon, Japan and the US), the associated recovery rate, and how much collateral should be posted by sellers of Greek protection? If Greek banks, as the rumors goes, indeed sold Greek protection, and, as the rumor also goes, Goldman was the bulk buyer, either in prop or flow capacity, it is precisely Goldman, just like in the AIG case, that can now dictate what the collateral margin that Greek counterparties, and by extension the very nation of Greece, have to post on billions of dollars of Greek insurance. Let's say Goldman thinks Greece's debt recovery is 75 cents and the CDS should be trading at 700 bps, instead of the "prevailing" consensus of a 90 recovery and 450 spread, then it will very likely get its way when demanding extra capital to cover potential shortfalls, since Goldman itself has been instrumental in covering up Greece's catastrophic financial state and continues to be a critical factor in any future refinancing efforts on behalf of Greece. Obviously this incremental margin, which only Goldman will ever see, even if the CDS was purchased on a flow basis, will never be downstreamed on behalf of its clients, and instead will be used to [buy futures|buy steepeners|prepay 2011 bonuses|buy more treasuries for the BONY $60 billion Treasury rainy day fund].
In essence, through its conflict of interest, its unshakable negotiating position, and its facility to determine collateral requirements and variation margin, Goldman can expand its previous position of strength from dictating merely AIG and Federal Reserve decision making, to one which determines sovereign policy! This is unmitigated lunacy and a recipe for financial collapse at the global level.
Whether or not large nations actually go bankrupt, one thing is clear . . . Larry Summers, Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner and their foreign counterparts have failed ...
Spreads were mixed in the US with IG worse, HVOL improving, ExHVOL weaker, and HY selling off. IG trades 9.1bps wide (cheap) to its 50d moving average, which is a Z-Score of 1.1s.d.. At 99.75bps, IG has closed tighter on 72 days in the last 283 trading days (JAN09). The last five days have seen IG flat to its 50d moving average. Indices typically underperformed single-names with skews widening in general as IG's skew widened as it underperformed, HVOL outperformed but widened the skew, ExHVOL's skew widened as it underperformed, HY's skew widened as it underperformed. 50.4% of names in IG moved more than their historical vol would imply as higher vol names underperformed lower vol names by 6.01% to 4.74%. IG's vol is around 4.38% per 1 day period, which leaves 97 names higher vol and 28 lower vol than the index.
Charlie Gasparino over at the Daily Beast points out a new development in the neverending Ken Lewis saga, which if true, may mark the beginning of the end of the pristine image of Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson: "In defending former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis against charges that he misled investors, his lawyers will call as witnesses former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and the current Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, according to people close to the matter." We hope the AG will take advantage of this opportunity to pursue justice, and expose the former Treasury Secretary and the just reconfirmed Fed Chairman who will under oath, be revealed as the true masterminds in this illegal operation.
The Syndicate Encouraging Corruption lately has been far more busy begging for money from the Tim Geithner's gargantuan budget than performing any enforcement, analysis, or regulation, case in point today's second attempt to kill any investigation into the ML/BAC merger. We hope some Congressional or Senate committee will finally find the guts to subpoena any and all communication between BACML, or any other banks, and the SEC related to this proposed settlement, to uncover just what the SEC's motives are to fast-lane yet another case involving the endless corruption on Wall Street. Luckily Cuomo is still there to pursue the punishment of real wrongdoing, since America is now completely unable to rely on the $1 billion publicly funded organization, which, at least on paper, "works in American investors' interest"... and by American investors we assume the agency does not refer to Goldman Sachs or Bank Of America. Yet judgment day for Mary Schapiro may soon be coming. Larry Doyle at Sense on Cents notes that next week FINRA's board of directors will finally address alleged wrongdoings by Schapiro. We join Larry in asking: "Will the Board realize it ultimately needs to be accountable to ALL its member firms and, by extension, to the American public at large? Will the Obama administration compel the Board to provide the transparency America so badly wants?"
In short, in the process of acquiring Merrill, the Bank’s management misled its shareholders, the public, its board and its lawyers by concealing Merrill’s disastrous fourth quarter financial results in order to secure the shareholders’ uninformed approval of the deal. The Bank’s management then salvaged this potentially crippling situation by extracting billions in taxpayer bailouts by misleading the federal government. They did this, in part, by threatening federal officials that they would terminate the Merger Agreement based on a material adverse change—virtually the same material change they failed to disclosed to their shareholders prior to the vote. This action seeks redress under New York’s Martin Act for this conduct. - Andrew Cuomo
Andrew Cuomo To File Civil Securities Fraud Charges Against Ken Lewis and BofA CFO Joe Price Even As The SEC Proves Its Incompetence Yet AgainSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/04/2010 12:22 -0400
NY AG Andrew Cuomo just announced he would file civil securities fraud charges against BofA ex-CEO Ken Lewis and CFO Joe Price under New York's Martin Act. This blow to Ken Lewis follows hot on the heels of yet another attempt by the ever pathetic and worthless SEC to cover up the whole Merrill mess, this time by proposing yet another settlement with BofA, however instead $30 million this time taxpayers will pay BofA investors $150 million. The fact that there is no change in the SEC's M.O. from before, but merely an increase in the "booty", is sure to anger Judge Rakoff even more. The need for a referendum over the fitness of Mary Schapiro to serve her job as head of the SEC in light of these two diametrically opposing actions is now greater than ever.
Did Societe Generale ever view its $1.2 billion investment in Adirondack 2005-2 as a buy-and-hold proposition? Or was the bank's original intention to offload the risk on to AIG? The answer is central to our understanding of the portfolio of collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, that wiped out the insurance behemoth. The circumstances of SG's, and other banks', holdings, suggest that CDO market was a Potemkin's Village, a facade constructed to give the illusion of economic substance to a series of sham transactions.
In the past Zero Hedge had respect for Ten. Senator Bob Corker due to his opposition to the nationalization of the bankrupt automakers and making them yet another ward of the ever larger central-planning state. However, after today's hearing with Paul Volcker on the Prop trading ban, any respect we may have had for the Senator has promptly dissipated. While we understand that the pointless bashing of Volcker's proposal by Corker was predicated by his sizable lobby interest (over $21 million raised in the course of his career) and his talking points were undoubtedly a transliteration of a memorandum submitted by one of the Too Big To Fail banks that stand to experience substantial losses should the Volcker proposal pass, one line of argument in Corker's speech that is flagrantly flawed was Corker's naive rhetorical question whether there has been a single instance during the financial crisis where a commercial bank engaging in proprietary trading led directly to that institution failing or having to be bailed out by the taxpayer. Corker assumed the answer is no and kept pouncing on that answer. Well, Senator, you are wrong - meet Merrill Lynch, incidentally one of your biggest financial backers. Also, please meet Merrill's prop basis trade and its prop HVOL4 trade, which combined were the primary reason for the firm's $15 billion writedown in Q4 of 2008 and the subsequent bail out of the firm by Bank of America.
Senator Corker challenged Mr. Volcker's stance in today's congressional hearings on the Volker Rule by saying that no financial holding company that had a commercial bank failed while performing proprietary trading. It appears as if Mr. Corker may have received his information from the banking lobby, and did not do his own homework.
Let's reference the largest commercial bank/thrift failure of all...
Kanjorski Admits There Is A "Growing Bubble In Commercial Real Estate" As S&P Observes Recognition Of CRE Losses Could Wipe Out Banking SystemSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/01/2010 17:49 -0400
Even as ever more Congressmen express concern about the implications of the ongoing CRE "bubble" (yes, this is a quote), S&P comes out with a report noting that should the banking system be forced to take all appropriate CRE-associated writedowns, it likely would not survive. And all this is occurring as REITs probe new 52 week highs. Welcome to the new economy.
The SIGTARP has been busy - a 224 page report just released provides an update of his activity to date, and covers everything from the ongoing investigation into whether the closure of Chrysler dealers was politically motivated, to the SEC's complete humiliation in regard to the BofA-ML settlement, to the dismal permanent modification rate in the HAMP program, to the firing of alleged sex-tape fiend Jeff Gundlach, to how the Fed is the New Century of the new decade.
The idea of secret banking cabals that control the country and global economy are a given among conspiracy theorists who stockpile ammo, bottled water and peanut butter. After this week’s congressional hearing into the bailout of American International Group Inc., you have to wonder if those folks are crazy after all. - David Reilly
While Tim Geithner may hope the AIG situation is now dead and buried, it is likely anything but, with the recently launched investigation into disclosure fraud by the SIGTARP, and the relentless efforts by Darrell Issa to metaphorically crucify the tax-challenged treasury secretary currently ongoing. As these noble pursuits continue, we ask two simple questions.
It appears America's taxpayers are finally about to find out just what worthless securities they received in exchange for 100 cents on the dollar, courtesy of Goldman, Soc Gen, ML et al. when Bernanke and Gaithner, or whoever, decided to pay the banks in full for multi-billion dollar portfolio. As a reminder, the list in question is the now infamous Schedule A, which was redacted across the board, and which the SEC gave its blessing for secret treatment well into 2018.