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Posts Tagged ‘Bear Stearns’

Bear Stearns Hedge Fund Managers ‘Facing the Music’

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 12th, 2009 12:29 PM |

Is it possible for an industry to accrue trillions in losses and nary an individual forced to truly ‘face the music?’ That reality, perhaps more than any other, is the greatest indictment of the incestuous relationship between Wall Street and its regulatory oversight in the form of the SEC and FINRA.

The music is about to start playing as Bear Stearns hedge fund managers Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin enter court this week for the start of their trial in which they are accused of misrepresenting the health of their two hedge funds at Bear Stearns.

This trial will attract a tremendous amount of attention. Why? The very fact that it is truly the first legitimate legal proceeding linked to the meltdown of our financial crisis. The trial will highlight incriminating statements and e-mails written by both Cioffi and Tannin. Additionally, we should expect the prosecution to present material which highlights the fact that Cioffi and Tannin seemed to intentionally misrepresent the very nature of their investment holdings.

The Wall Street Journal provides further color on this case in writing, A Case Pitting Spin Against Fraud:

A criminal trial involving two former Bear Stearns executives could help answer a key question stemming from the financial crisis: How far can Wall Street firms go to put a positive spin on bad news?

Ralph Cioffi, a former money manager at Bear Stearns, is escorted by officials to a waiting vehicle in Manhattan on June 19, 2008.

(Ralph Cioffi, a former money manager at Bear Stearns, is escorted by officials to a waiting vehicle in Manhattan on June 19, 2008.)

The two executives, Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin, will fight securities-fraud charges in a widely anticipated trial beginning on Tuesday in a Brooklyn, N.Y., federal court. The money managers unsuccessfully scrambled to keep two mortgage-heavy Bear Stearns hedge funds afloat in 2007 amid sinking mortgage-market prices, the first of several blows that eventually felled Bear Stearns and marked the start of the credit crisis. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. bought the firm in a March 2008 fire sale.

Prosecutors accused Messrs. Cioffi and Tannin of misleading investors about the health of the two funds, testing the degree to which Wall Street should disclose bad news to investors. (more…)

Real-Time Information Is “Everything” on Wall Street

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 7th, 2009 3:45 PM |

One of the overriding reasons why I left First Boston in 1990 to join Bear Stearns was Bear’s advanced real-time risk management system. This system allowed me the ability to more proactively manage my trading risk. In the process, I was able to take more risk in the pursuit of greater profit. I became familiar with Bear’s system during the recruiting and interviewing process and was flabbergasted to realize how far behind First Boston was in its capabilities.

Real-time risk management and real-time data processing are critically important for thorough and proper oversight of any financial enterprise. A regulator will be lost in an attempt to maintain market oversight without the proper systems and access to real-time data.

Having heard and read of the systems deficiencies at both the SEC and FINRA, I am concerned at how far behind the curve these regulators are right now and how long it will take for them to recover.

While pondering this topic, I read in Securities Industry News that the SEC is looking to capture real-time data on derivatives transactions. This commentary, SEC Wants to Gather Real-Time Data on Swaps, addresses the exact topic I broached on July 17th in writing, “Can We ‘TRACE’ JP Morgan’s Business?” I wrote:

There is little to no transparency in the world of customized derivatives and as a result the bid-ask spreads are very wide. Cha-ching, cha-ching. Jamie (Dimon) and his friends on Wall Street are working extremely hard to keep it this way.

In their defense, it is likely not functionally feasible to move many customized derivatives to an exchange. What should regulators compel them to do? JP Morgan and every other financial firm on Wall Street should have to report every derivatives transaction to a system known as TRACE, which stands for Trade Reporting and Compliance Engine.  This system currently only covers transactions within the cash markets and not derivatives.  What does that mean for investors? No transparency and price discovery for investors in the customized derivatives space. As such, Jamie and friends can keep those bid-ask spreads nice and wide and ring up huge profits in the process.

Securities Industry News writes:

The Securities and Exchange Commission told Congress today to grant regulators “direct access to real-time data” on credit default swaps (CDS) and other derivatives.

The request comes, the agency said, because the lack of such information hampered its efforts to investigate potential fraud and market manipulation in the over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives markets during last fall’s financial crisis.

The SEC’s enforcement actions in investigating market manipulation in OTC derivatives “were seriously complicated by the lack of a mechanism for promptly obtaining critical information – who traded, how much, and when – that is complete and accurate,” said Henry Hu, the director of the SEC’s new division of risk, strategy and financial innovation, in written testimony to the House Financial Services Committee.

Hu testified that “data on securities-related OTC derivative transactions were not readily available, and needed to be reconstructed manually.” He asked Congress to expand the SEC’s inspection authority over trade data repositories and clearinghouses for derivatives.

The comments represented a rebuke to industry efforts aimed thus far at making more information on CDS and other OTC derivatives data more readily available.

What do we learn here? Information is EVERYTHING!! Wall Street is fighting tooth and nail to protect its golden goose within the derivatives space by hoarding this information.

Why is the SEC even asking for the information? If anybody in Washington truly had a set of cojones, they would merely TELL Wall Street how it is going to work going forward . . . take the information, and fulfill their responsibility to protect the public interest.

LD

Lessons from Bear Stearns

Posted by Larry Doyle on March 16th, 2009 10:37 AM |

It was one year ago that the Federal Reserve and Treasury delivered Bear Stearns into the hands of JP Morgan for $2 a share. Bear Stearns stock had traded above $170 a share in 2006. With the passage of time, what are some of the lessons learned and what questions remain unanswered.

1. Although Bear Stearns employees and shareholders may not qualify a price of $2 a share (revised to $10 a few weeks later) as being saved, would the financial system have been better off letting Bear totally fail? Why? If Bear had failed, many people do not believe we would have had the breakdowns in our financial systems that occurred because of Lehman’s failure.

2. Did Dick Fuld, CEO of Lehman, assume that the Fed and Treasury would save Lehman much as they did Bear? Was he less aggressive in pursuing increased capital injections during the Summer 2008 as a result? Many people believe this to be the case. (more…)

FROM THE ARCHIVES: The Wall Street Model Is Broken…and Won’t Soon Be Fixed!!

Posted by Larry Doyle on March 5th, 2009 6:37 PM |

Some of my favorite movies are The Sting, Rocky, and Papillon.  I could watch those films a few times a year and appreciate the plot, character development, and climax.

In that same vein, for newer readers here at Sense on Cents, I want to highlight a piece I wrote on November 12, 2008.  I believe this piece is as clear cut an historical explanation as I have seen to highlight the background of the debacle on Wall Street which precipitated this economic disaster. I also find it interesting as to my comments about potential market reaction to an aggressive tax/spend program under President Obama and a Democratic Congress. 

I hope you find this article informative and enlightening: (more…)

The Wall St. Model is Broken . . . and Won’t Soon be Fixed!!

Posted by Larry Doyle on November 12th, 2008 12:15 PM |

Despite billions and now trillions of dollars in capital injections and equity investments made by our government, private equity, and sovereign wealth funds, our economic turmoil is a long way from being over. I do find it interesting that despite numerous Wall Street titans having indicated to us at different points over the last year that we were in the 7th inning of this fiasco, now a recurring theme is that we should not expect any real economic recovery until 2010. Actually, maybe we were in the 7th inning but it was the 7th inning of the first game of a 4 game series.

Well, if we want to figure out where and when we are moving forward, I think it would be beneficial to know from where and when we came.

For those over 50 years of age, perhaps you remember when mortgage money dried up. Perhaps you also recall the days of putting down 20% before you even thought of buying a home. In any event, the growth of the secondary mortgage market in the mid 1980s was a result of some very sharp financial minds on Wall St. who engineered a product called a Collateralized Mortgage Obligation (CMO). (more…)






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