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Posts Tagged ‘SecondMarket Kevin O’Connor’

Wall Street ARS Betrayal Brings Losses and Sleepless Nights

Posted by Larry Doyle on August 28th, 2009 9:19 AM |

Those who would betray the trust and integrity of a market and investment must be held to account.

Such is the current dynamic within Wall Street’s greatest fraud that encompasses Auction-Rate Securities.

At times, I wonder if I focus too much on the ARS debacle. Then, when I read of the depths of despair experienced by ARS investors, both institutions and individuals, I personally seethe at the injustice of it all.

Bloomberg provides a wide ranging review of institutional investors who were defrauded by Wall Street in purchasing auction-rate securities. Bloomberg writes Wall Street Betrayal Seen in $4.8 Billion Company Debt Losses. The highlights in this article are almost too numerous to single out, but suffice it to say this fraud has likely touched almost every investor in either a direct or indirect fashion.

I am heartened that the fraud is finally receiving significant focus. That said, how will Wall Street be held accountable and how will investors be made whole? Let’s address some specific details as highlighted by Bloomberg:

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. the New York-based pharmaceutical company, took an 82 percent loss in 2008 when it sold a portion of its auction-rate debt with a $642 million face value.

The maker of Plavix, the world’s second best-selling medicine behind Pfizer Inc.’s Lipitor, continues to hold $169 million worth of auction-rate bonds. It wrote them down by $75 million in the second quarter, according to regulatory filings.

An 82% loss on a supposed cash surrogate! A 44% writedown on cash! (more…)

Municipal Finance: Will Uncle Sam Post Bail?

Posted by Larry Doyle on May 26th, 2009 3:09 PM |

Is every village, town, city, and state in our country poised to receive a “get out of jail” free card from Uncle Sam? I linked to The New York Times article, Localities Want U.S. to Support Muni Bonds, in the Newsworthy section of Sense on Cents. Upon further review, it deserves comment.

In my opinion, this support of the municipal market may very well represent the greatest violation of a moral hazard to date. Why? Municipalities are by edict required to balance their budgets. A municipal budget which is able to obviate the tough decisions and choices in the budgetary process will lose that rigor.

Politicians of all stripes will make the case that the municipal default rate is extremely low and, as such, a federal backstop in the form of bond insurance is truly a very low risk proposition. Please allow me to opine that the same argument was made in the quasi-guarantee provided to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Those two giants are now wards of the state having been utilized by politicians from both sides of the aisle as campaign “piggy banks” for the better part of twenty years.

The New York Times highlights that the federal guarantee of municipal debt is not all that Uncle Sam may be asked to bail:

“All kinds of municipal borrowers are facing revenue shortfalls,” said Mr. Decker. “California is the largest example. Some states are better off than others. But all outstanding debt is backed by tax revenues. And municipalities are facing a greater or lesser level of distress.”

Also clamoring for help is a group of municipalities that purchased Lehman debt, which is now nearly worthless. Legislation authorizing the use of relief money to make these purchases was introduced by two California Democratic representatives, Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo. If approved, this would be more like a bailout than a guarantee, because the federal government would be paying face value for debt that otherwise has little value.

The price tag on that proposal is around $1.6 billion. The argument promoted by the two congresswomen is that the Treasury and Fed allowed Lehman to fail, causing governmental bodies to lose money.

Whether a price tag is $1.6 billion, $1.6 million or $1.6 trillion a potential federal bailout of a poor investment decision is the antithesis of free market capitalism. Where does it end? (more…)






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