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Archive for the ‘TALF’ Category

Putting “The Fix” in the PPIP

Posted by Larry Doyle on May 27th, 2009 7:03 AM |

Is the Obama administration once again going to be party to “underworld” business principles in an attempt to promote the success of a program to clean up the banks? Let’s go down into ‘the street.’

The TALF (Term Asset Based Lending Facility) so far has had middling success. The PPIP (Public-Private Investment Partnership) is yet to be rolled out. Investors have been reluctant to participate in these programs, despite attractive financing terms, because of concerns in partnering with a capricious and at times vindictive Uncle Sam. These programs, as with any transactional program, have one major potential flaw: self-dealing. I highlighted this point on April 7th in my post Games of Chance: TALF, PPIP, TARP, FDIC, FASB. I wrote:

In a slightly different version of the game – and in attempt to attract more players, if not necessarily truly new money – the government is considering allowing the sellers of toxic assets to also be buyers. How does that version of the game work? The sellers (Citi, BofA, JP Morgan, et al):

. . . can put up a few percent of their own money, and swap each other’s toxic assets financed by a bewildered public suddenly bearing more than 90% of the downside risk. The “investors” in this happy “public-private partnership” keep half the upside while ordinary Americans take the downside off of their hands. Some partnership. [From John Hussman at John Mauldin’s Outside the Box

Fast forward to May 27th and this version of the “game” is being proposed by the dealers. The Wall Street Journal highlights, Banks Aiming to Play Both Sides of Coin:

Some banks are prodding the government to let them use public money to help buy troubled assets from the banks themselves.

Banking trade groups are lobbying the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for permission to bid on the same assets that the banks would put up for sale as part of the government’s Public Private Investment Program.

PPIP was hatched by the Obama administration as a way for banks to sell hard-to-value loans and securities to private investors, who would get financial aid as an enticement to help them unclog bank balance sheets. The program, expected to start this summer, will get as much as $100 billion in taxpayer-funded capital. That could increase to more than $500 billion in purchasing power with participation from private investors and FDIC financing.

The lobbying push is aimed at the Legacy Loans Program, which will use about half of the government’s overall PPIP infusion to facilitate the sale of whole loans such as residential and commercial mortgages.

I can already hear the pontificating on how rigorous the oversight of this program will be. Geithner and team will produce a set of selling points to “make the case.” All that said, games of chance are actually exceedingly simple. The dealer and another player or two fabricate a reasonable chance for success for new participants (taxpayers) while knowing full well the table is tilted, the “fix” is baked in, and the “dough” is going home with them. The WSJ highlights these concerns:

“To allow the government to finance an off-balance-sheet maneuver that claims to shift risk off the parent firm’s books but really doesn’t offload it is highly problematic,” said Arthur Levitt, a former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman who is an adviser to private-equity firm Carlyle Group LLC.

“The notion of banks doing this is incongruent with the original purpose of the PPIP and wrought with major conflicts,” said Thomas Priore, president of ICP Capital, a New York fixed-income investment firm overseeing about $16 billion in assets.

One risk is that certain hard-to-value assets mightn’t be fairly priced if banks are essentially negotiating with themselves. Inflated prices could result in the government overpaying. Recipients of taxpayer-funded capital infusions under the Troubled Asset Relief Program also could use those funds to buy their own loans.

The fact that banks want to “play the game” again truly indicates the character and integrity of this crowd. Self-dealing is common practice in the underworld. We have witnessed the violation of private contracts in the housing and automotive sectors.

Will Geithner and team allow taxpayers to be run over once again via self-dealing within the PPIP?

LD

All The King’s Horses and All The King’s Men . . .

Posted by Larry Doyle on May 6th, 2009 11:37 AM |

Can Barack Obama’s horses and men in the persons of Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner, Larry Summers, Paul Volcker, Rham Emanuel, Sheila Bair, and their minions put Wall Street together again? The glue and putty in the form of trillions of dollars of taxpayer funds and commitments is still wet. Mr. “Humpty Dumpty” Wall Street is still on the ground.

Humpty’s most severe injury is the breakdown of the securitization process in which Wall Street promoted a pure “originate to distribute” model. Obama himself offered in the May 3rd Sunday New York Times Magazine:

. . . we’re going to have to figure out what we do with the nonbanking sector that was providing almost half of our credit out there. And we’re going to have to determine whether or not as a consequence of some of the steps that the Fed has been taking, the Treasury has been taking, that we see the market for securitized products restored.

I’m optimistic that ultimately we’re going to be able to get that part of the financial sector going again, but it could take some time to regain confidence and trust.

Time for the cement to harden and for Humpty to get back on his feet. Why will it take so much time? Very simply, Humpty was not an honest broker in the process of originating, securitizing, and distributing poorly written – if not fraudulently written – loans over the last 5 to 7 years. The Financial Times highlights this fact this morning in Securitization Is Crucial for Revitalizing Lending.” The FT reports:

Securitisation is a way to raise money by repackaging securities based upon underlying assets such as mortgages.

The US government is seeking to restart this market with up to $1,000bn of funding for purchases of securitised debt. But the complexity and risks involved mean it remains difficult to replicate the scale of the market that collapsed under the weight of losses and the departure of leveraged investors.

Meredith Whitney, of Meredith Whitney Advisory Group, says about $2,200bn less in funds has been raised by means of the US capital markets since the start of the credit crunch in July 2007, with $2,700bn less money raised globally.

She said: “With debt issuance to date seeing year-on-year gains, it is suggestive to say that things aren’t getting much worse. They just aren’t getting any better.”

The US government’s programme to revive securitisation – the Term asset-backed securities loan facility (Talf) – has made some funds available and it has also led spreads on some asset classes to narrow, reducing the potential funding costs. The programme works by lending money to hedge funds, which can increase the returns on triple A rated securities by means of the cheap loans.

In a sign of a big pick-up in demand, the Federal Reserve said late yesterday that investors requested $10.6bn worth of loans in its most recent round of the programme. This included $2.2bn worth of requests for auto loan bonds and $5.5bn for bonds backed by credit card loans.

If we review those statistics, the government’s TALF (Term Asset-Backed Lending Facility) has facilitated $18.5 billion in sales since its launch in March. While the Fed views the demand as picking up, be mindful that the $18.5 billion figure represents approximately .008 of the total credit that has evaporated from the economy via the shadow banking system. In layman’s terms, we just gave Humpty a swab with a warm cloth while his limb is holding on by a thread.

My concern with the TALF is that the buyers will cherry pick bank assets and simply purchase those which have the most rigorous underwriting. The dregs will be left for the banks and taxpayers to absorb.

If Uncle Sam does get Humpty somewhat propped back up against the wall (note that I’m not even hinting at Humpty getting “on the wall”), how do we make sure Humpty does not once again fall down and take us all with him?

We need to make sure Humpty plays by strict rules and regulations, both in terms of underwriting and business engagement. The FT addresses proposed underwriting rules in “Watchdog Proposes Strict Rules.”  The FT reports,

Yesterday’s Iosco (International Organization of Securities Commissions) report called for minimum levels of due diligence by the originators and suggested mandating far greater disclosure to investors of what checks had been carried out. It also called for ongoing disclosure to investors of the performance of the underlying assets and for originators to be forced to hold on to some tranches of each deal.

Other proposals included imposing standards forcing originators to check that products were suitable for each investor and looking into developing alternative measures of assessing risk other than the credit ratings agencies that were relied on by investors previously.

Wow, you mean Humpty actually has to display a measure of integrity in his operations?  What a novel idea!  Who may be keeping an eye on Humpty to make sure he plays by the rules going forward? The SEC and FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority).

Hey, wait a second. When Humpty fell off the wall, we have very credible evidence that FINRA was actually one of his playmates. None other than Harry Markopolos said that FINRA was on the wall (“in bed”) with Humpty. I have highlighted issues within FINRA that still need to be addressed: FINRA Is Supposed To Police The Market.

President Obama, what do you prescribe for Humpty given his relationship with FINRA? Obama told the Times,

. . . the fact that we had such poor regulation means — in some of these markets, particularly around the securitized mortgages — means that the pain has been democratized as well. And that’s a problem. But I think that overall there are ways in which people have been able to participate in our stock markets and our financial markets that are potentially healthy. Again, what you have to have, though, is an updating of the regulatory regimes comparable to what we did in the 1930s, when there were rules that were put in place that gave investors a little more assurance that they knew what they were buying.

Putting Humpty back together is going to be very challenging. Sense on Cents will be monitoring the operation very closely.

LD

For newer readers who may want to more fully understand how Humpty “had a great fall,” I strongly recommend The Wall Street Model Is Broken….and Won’t Soon Be Fixed.

Repaying TARP Funds: Playing Ball With Uncle Sam

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 20th, 2009 10:27 AM |

Last evening on NQR’s Sense on Cents with LD (note: you can listen to audio recording of the show from the BlogTalkRadio player in the right sidebar), I proposed that the Obama administration would not release individual results of the Bank Stress Tests. I further added that I thought the administration may encourage stronger banking institutions to channel funds to weaker institutions. In so doing, these stronger banks – such as JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs – may actually take equity stakes in the weaker banks. Will JP Morgan and Goldman bear the entire risk of those equity stakes? Doubtful. Uncle Sam will likely negotiate terms along the lines of other bank bailouts in which a strong bank provides capital but the government bears the brunt of the losses.

As I write this, Bloomberg reports Bank of America is speculated to need another $10-20 billion in equity capital. BofA’s earnings were reported this morning at .44 earnings per share versus an expectation of approximately .03 earnings per share. Analysts are panning the earnings due to the propsects for ongoing increases in credit losses within BofA’s loan portfolio. BofA’s stock is down approximately 8% in early trading.

If BofA does need another $10-$20 billion in equity capital, where might it come from? In my opinion, in a non-public transferral of capital, those funds may come from JP Morgan and/or Goldman Sachs, and would actually be recycled TARP funds.  Effectively, JPM and GS will merely be a conduit for increased government funds injected into BofA and Citigroup, as well. Remember JPM has $25 billion in TARP funds, Goldman has $10 billion.  If BofA took $15 billion of these funds then Citi could receive $20 billion. What would JPM and GS receive in return? I would think these negotiations would be private and not released, although given that the capital provided is public money all information should be released.  (more…)

That’s Where the Money Is

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 13th, 2009 6:47 AM |

On the heels of the fraud known as Enron, Congress passed legislation requiring CEOs to validate the integrity of their financial reporting. This legislation, Sarbanes-Oxley, and its effectiveness are still hotly contested. Is it universally accepted? Does it truly promote best practices within companies and across industries? Does it produce results? Well, the fact of the matter is that it is the law of the land. However, what good is a law if it isn’t applied? I can count on one hand, without need of my thumb, claims by law enforcement authorities of companies’ violating Sarbanes-Oxley.

Will Sarbanes-Oxley be dusted off and put to use now? The Financial Times reports that it will not be for lack of opportunity that Sarbanes-Oxley is not used. In regard to bank earnings, TARP investigator Neil Barofsky offers:

“I hope we don’t find a single bank that’s cooked their books to try to get money but I don’t think that’s going to be the case,” said Mr Barofsky, who has been dubbed the “Tarp cop”.

If this is in fact the case, what about some perp walks? Is white collar crime still an activity tolerated by the system? Who is providing the cover? Are the perpetrators in bed with the legislators? Don’t tell me that cooking the books is a victimless crime. Every taxpayer is being victimized in terms of lessened credit, higher taxes, a growing deficit, and outrageous fees. Victimless? I don’t think so. (more…)






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