thumb Fortune Front Cover 

A few days ago I was waxing poetic over the abilty of David Z. Morris' ability to grasp rather complex, intangible concepts and loquaciously lay them forth in the written word via the pages of Fortune magazine. After all, what creative destruction advocate wouldn't get all mushy after reading "Reggie Middleton, currently building a client called BTC Swap. Middleton, gravelly voiced, dapper, and businesslike, doesn't fit the stereotype of woolly young bitcoin developers. But he slyly describes himself as "not quite an anarchist," and BTC Swap is a shot directly across the bow of the financial industry"...

Or "Middleton sounds a bit like an 18th-century pirate striking back against the Empire when he declares that "what I'm doing right now is a direct threat to fiat merchant banking." For him, excitement over value fluctuations in the bitcoin currency is missing the point: "It's not a threat as people sit there and ponder whether bitcoin is a bubble or not. But if people go through the protocol and use their imagination, the existing system is threatened."

Alas, nothing lasts forever. Fastforward 72 hours and Fortune publishes... 

thumb Icahn on PayPal

As exerpted:

FORTUNE -- Carl Icahn, the billionaire activist investor, has been interested in technology lately. Wednesday, he made several TV appearances to reiterate his call for tech giant Apple (AAPL) to engage in a massive $150 billion share buyback. As usual, he demonstrated that he was willing to put his money where his mouth was, revealing that he had upped his stake in the company by $500 million to $3 billion, causing Apple's stock to jump 1%.

Well, my subscribers (click here to subscribeknow where I stand on Apple, reference:

Then, after the bell, eBay (EBAY) revealed that Icahn had built up a stake in the online auction retailer and was pushing for some radical changes. But in this case, though, Icahn wasn't interested in buybacks -- he was looking for a breakup. Ebay said Icahn wanted the company to spin off its online payment arm, Paypal, and had requested two seats on eBay's board. eBay rejected both of Mr. Icahn's proposals.

... Paypal has grown from its roots as a small payment processor helping buyers and sellers of Beanie Babies feel safe to do business on eBay, to a full-on payment alternative for thousands of merchants with millions of members. Its advantage in many cases is simply speed and convenience -- how many times have you clicked the Paypal button while checking out of an e-commerce store just because you didn't want to get off the couch to grab your credit card?

Does the author mean like this?

thumb bitpay website

...eBay is also lagging when it comes to valuation. The company as a whole trades on a multiple of nine times next year's enterprise value divided by earnings (or ev/ebitida), which measures a company's return on investment. Meanwhile, the payment operators, like Visa and Mastercard (MA), trade roughly at 15 to 17 times next year's ev/ebitda, or around 40% higher than eBay. E-commerce sites also trump eBay's numbers with Amazon trading at around 33 times next year's ev/ebitida and Groupon (GRPN) trading at around 17 times.

But Visa and Mastercard are about to face the same double whammy that PayPal is staying at. Let me show you with video...

or pretty pictures...

You see, the payment processors are very soon to be subject to...

Disintermediation 

Why? Because P2P solutions such as UltraCoin easily allow for such, and at dramatically lower prices to boot...

  send payment costs 

If we were to look at this graphically, it would be comical to compare...

  send payment costs visual

On the commercial macro payments side...

macropayments

So, what happens when your competitors offer a competitive product for between 1/1000th and 1/3rd the price? 

margin compression

Now, back to the Fortune article and the apparent strawman argument...

... As a part of eBay, Paypal is run by people who know tech and know retail, not by people who necessarily know payment networks. As such, Paypal's growth beyond the web may not be as successful as it could be if it was led by people who worked at a credit card company like American Express (AXP) or a global payment provider like First Data Resources.

Again this seems to ignore the coming wave, alas... I digress...

... eBay's aggressive international expansion is helping to grow PayPal's global presence, especially in countries like Brazil and Russia, where eBay is taking off. If the cord is cut too early the fear is that PayPal's international growth may stall.

Stall or stagnate? 

As my readers recall, I've developed a cross currency swap system that allows holders of BTC to dance around two dozen or so sovereign fiat currencies with ease. Combine this with dramatically lower costs and ease of transmission and I see either a material change in business model or... Margin Compression!!!

 This really makes one think... Is eBay a short play in and of itself? I know Carl Icahn would likely get a large bang for his investment buck backing UltraCoin than he would calling for a PayPal spinoff. Then again, what do I know? Those who wish to discuss the merits of an UltraCoin investment by Icahn can feel free to ping me at reggie at ultra-coin.com. 

Published in BoomBustBlog

Last month I posted updates of my search and studies of distressed European assets stemming from the banking crisis to be had at prime risk adjusted returns, see Preparing Resources To Shop For Distressed Assets As Banks Refuse To Come Clean On Near Fraudulent Reporting  and Which Banks Are We Looking At To Shop For Assets?. Well, a month later, the Economist economist jumps into the fray with the article "Till default do us part, A half-hearted banking union raises more risks than it solves". To wit:

Almost a year ago, as the euro crisis raged, Europe’s leaders boldly pledged a union to break the dangerous link between indebted governments and ailing banking systems, where the troubles of one threatened to pull down the other. Yet the agreement that seems likely to emerge from a summit later this month will be one that does little to weaken this vicious link. If anything it may increase risks to stability instead of reducing them.

Almost everyone involved agrees that in theory a banking union ought to have three legs. The first is a single supervisor to write common rules and to enforce them uniformly. Next are the powers to “resolve” failed banks, which is a polite term for deciding who takes a hit; these powers also require a pot of money (or at least a promise to pay) to clean up the mess left by bust lenders and to inject capital into those that can get back on their feet. The third leg is a credible euro-wide guarantee on deposits to reassure savers that a euro in an Italian or Spanish bank is just as safe as one in a German or Dutch bank. National insurance schemes offer scant reassurance to savers when sovereigns are wobbly and insured deposits make up a big chunk of annual GDP (see chart).


The logic behind this chart has been the engine behind out contagion model, the core thesis behind the short on continental Europe in general (see Overbanked, Underfunded, and Overly Optimistic: The New Face of Sovereign Europe) and our hypothesis against the French banks - reference "On Your Mark, Get Set, Bank Run".

There's much more to this bank run, capital flight thingy in Europe. I explained it in detail over two years ago:

First, the European banks are just too big in relation to Europe, herself!

Sovereign Risk Alpha: The Banks Are Bigger Than Many of the Sovereigns

image015.png

Second, as stated in the Economist, we have a liquidity time bomb! 

As excerpted from our professional series File Icon Bank Run Liquidity Candidate Forensic Opinion:

BNP_Paribus_First_Thoughts_4_Page_01BNP_Paribus_First_Thoughts_4_Page_01BNP_Paribus_First_Thoughts_4_Page_01

This is how that document started off. Even if we were to disregard BNP's most serious liquidity and ALM mismatch issues, we still need to address the topic above. Now, if you were to employ the free BNP bank run models that I made available in the post "The BoomBustBlog BNP Paribas "Run On The Bank" Model Available for Download"" (click the link to download your own copy of the bank run model, whether your a simple BoomBustBlog follower or a paid subscriber) you would know that the odds are that BNP's bond portfolio would probably take a much bigger hit than that conservatively quoted above.  Here I demonstrated what more realistic numbers would look like in said model... image008image008image008

To note page 9 of that very same document addresses how this train of thought can not only be accelerated, but taken much further...

BNP_Paribus_First_Thoughts_4_Page_09BNP_Paribus_First_Thoughts_4_Page_09BNP_Paribus_First_Thoughts_4_Page_09

So, how bad could this faux accounting thing be? You know, there were two American banks that abused this FAS 157 cum Topic 820 loophole as well. There names were Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. I warned my readers well ahead of time with them as well - well before anybody else apparently had a clue (Is this the Breaking of the Bear? and Is Lehman really a lemming in disguise?). Well, at least in the case of BNP, it's a potential tangible equity wipe out, or is it? On to page 10 of said subscription document...

BNP_Paribus_First_Thoughts_4_Page_10BNP_Paribus_First_Thoughts_4_Page_10BNP_Paribus_First_Thoughts_4_Page_10

Yo, watch those level 2s! Of course there is more to BNP besides overpriced, over leveraged sovereign debt, liquidity issues and ALM mismatch, and lying about stretching Topic 820 rules, but I think that's enough for right now. Is all of this already priced into the free falling stock? Are these the ingredients for a European bank run? I'll let you decide, but BoomBustBloggers Saw this coming midsummer when this stock was at $50. Those who wish to subscribe to my research and services should click here. Those who don't subscribe can still benefit from the chronology that led up to the BIG BNP short (at least those who have come across my research for the first time)...

Thursday, 28 July 2011  The Mechanics Behind Setting Up A Potential European Bank Run Trade and European Bank Run Trading Supplement

Lastly... When everybody's lying, no one is trusted with telling the truth! There's the sovereigns themselves lying through their collective teeth, reference Smoking Swap Guns Are Beginning to Litter EuroLand, Sovereign Debt Buyer Beware! There's the so-called "Troika", reference Lies, Damn Lies, and Sovereign Truths: Why the Euro is Destined to Collapse!. Then there's these banks and those damn stressless stress tests... Again, as excerpted from French Banks Can Set Off Contagion That Will Make Central Bankers Long For The Good 'Ole Lehman Collapse Days!:

On that note, ZeroHedge has come out with a blockbuster explanatory article: Credit Suisse Buries European Banks, Sees Deutsche Bank And 65 Other Bank Failing Latest Stress Test, €400 Billion Capital Shortfall

A day after Credit Suisse killed the Chinese bank sector saying that the equity of virtually the entire space may be worthless if NPLs double, as they expect they will to about 10%, the Swiss bank proceeds to kill European banks next. Based on the latest farce out of Europe in the form of the third stress test, which is supposed to restore some confidence, it appears that what it will do is simply accelerate the flight out of everything bank related, but certainly out of anything RBS, Deutsche Bank, BNP, SocGen and Barclays related.

I'd like to add that I've ridiculed all of these stress tests, US and European, although the European stress tests were by far the biggest joke. Dexia passed with a grade of A (or so), and will be nationalized momentarily. 'Nuff said!

To wit: "In our estimation of what could be the “new EBA stress test” there would be 66 failures, with RBS, Deutsche Bank, and BNP needing the most capital – at €19bn, €14bn and €14bn respectively. Among the banks with the highest capital shortfalls,SocGen and Barclays would need roughly €13bn with Unicredit and Commerzbank respectively at €12bn and €11bn. In the figure below we present the stated results. We note RBS appears to be the most vulnerable although the company has said that the methodology, especially the calculation of trading income, is especially harsh for them, negatively impacting the results by c.80bps." Oops. Perhaps it is not too late for the EBA to back out of this latest process and say they were only kidding. And it gets even worse: "We present in this section an overview of the analysis which we published in our report ‘The lost decade’ – 15-Sep 2011. One of our conclusions was that the overall European banking sector is facing a €400bn capital shortfall which compares to a current market cap of €541bn." Said otherwise, we can now see why the FT reported yesterday that banks will be forced to go ahead and proceed with asset firesales: the mere thought of European banks raising new cash amounting to 75% of the entire industry's market cap, is beyond ridiculous. So good luck with those sales: just remember - he who sells first, sells best.

And the scary charts:

1. Capital Shortfalls under Stress Test part Trois (9% min. CET1 ratio)

 

Judged against these three requirements, Europe’s new plan is a miserly one. Its outlines emerged in a joint paper released on May 30th by France and Germany. The minimalism of the paper suggests the summit will offer little more than the establishment of single supervisor and a promise to set up a vaguely defined “resolution mechanism”.


Those who follow me know that I'm medium term bearish on both any sovereign nations and their out-sized, profligate, insolvent banking systems which they support. Ireland makes a good  example - If I Provide Proof That The Entire Irish Banking System Is A Sham, Does It Set Up A Much Needed System Reboot? Let's Go For It... and The Beginning Of The Great Irish Unwind?!?!?!.

Back to that Economist article:

If a pot of money is pledged it will probably be a small fund raised through a tax on banks and without the backing of governments. If Europe’s bail-out fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), is referred to it is likely to be only as a last resort to recapitalise lenders after ailing countries have already bankrupted themselves standing behind their banks. A euro-wide deposit insurance fund is so controversial it isn’t polite to mention it.

...The legal challenges are also enormous. Each country in the euro has its own bankruptcy code. A change in the treaties governing the European Union would probably be needed to give a new resolution authority the power to seize bank assets and impose losses on creditors.

 Events outside the negotiating room have also reshaped the scope of a banking union. The “bail-in” of Cypriot banks earlier this year dipped into the savings of uninsured depositors in order to recapitalise lenders. Repeating that tactic would risk deposit flight from peripheral banks and a sharp increase in banks’ funding costs. But rather than committing public funds to shore up banks elsewhere, some politicians would doubtless prefer to hit uninsured depositors again.

But,,,, but,,,, without a definitive source of "rescue" capital, a bail-in is all but guaranteed, right Ireland???!!! I hate to pick on them, but the Irish make a good  example - If I Provide Proof That The Entire Irish Banking System Is A Sham, Does It Set Up A Much Needed System Reboot? Let's Go For It... and The Beginning Of The Great Irish Unwind?!?!?!

A strategy of incrementally moving towards a full banking union might have worked in normal times. Doing so in the middle of a crisis is risky. Over the coming year the ECB will have the unenviable task of assessing the health of the banks it is about to supervise. Its root-and-branch examination may well reveal gaping holes at a number of big banks. Yet without ready access to a pot of money to fill these holes, the ECB could be reluctant to force banks to come clean. “It is madness to expose capital shortfalls if you don’t know where new capital is going to come from,” says one bank supervisor.

Oh, I see. This must explain the blatantly fraudulent-esque goings on I uncovered in the Irish banking system. In case you haven't heard, I issued a Direct Challenge To Federal Reserve & Irish Central Bank Bubble Blowers. When I did Provide Proof That The Entire Irish Banking System Is A Sham, the ECB did absolutely nothing! No phone calls! No meetings! No emails! Makes you wonder why, eh? 

 "Over the coming year the ECB will have the unenviable task of assessing the health of the banks it is about to supervise. Its root-and-branch examination may well reveal gaping holes at a number of big banks. Yet without ready access to a pot of money to fill these holes, the ECB could be reluctant to force banks to come clean."

Madness, I tell you! Madness!!!

Published in BoomBustBlog

 I participated in a very interesting debate in the NY Times regarding how to fix the rating agencies

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I end my contribution to the debate as follows:

How do you fix this (if it’s not obvious already)?

Eliminate perverse incentives. Whoever wants to buy an asset should have to pay to have it rated. Credit agencies shouldn’t be paid by the same entities they might have to chastise.

It would also help if agencies could no longer hide behind the excuse that their rating was only an opinion, rather than empirical research they must stand behind. There's no need to do a reliable job if you face no credible legal liability, and the government essentially limits the competition you face.

For six years, I have run circles around the three major agencies with timely and accurate predictions of where regional banks, commercial/investment banks (Bear Stearns collapseLehman Brothers), insurerscommercial real estateresidential real estate, US home builders (Lennar), and the pan-European sovereign debt crisis participants were heading. If I can do it, the agencies can too.

One thing many commenters seem to be confused about is the ability for investors to pay for ratings. You don't get anything for free. Never does something emanate from nothing. Any credible advice HAS to be paid for, period! S&P actually sells equity research to the end user, yet gives away fixed income research. Which do you think is the most credible? Most fized income investors are institutions, who are more than capable of paying for advice, and regularly do so anyway. 

We can fix the problems we have with rating agencies as end users, but you have to realize that the agencies themselves are not broken. It appears as if the agencies are broken only if you don't understand their business model...

This clip is an excerpt from the VPRO documentary on rating agencies, a worthwhile view. In the meantime, let's revisit my historical viewpoints on the topic:

The Embarrassingly Ugly Truth About Spain: The IMF, EC and ALL Major Rating Agencies Are LYING!!!

Rating Agencies vs Reggie Middleton, Part 3

Published in BoomBustBlog

Maurice Greenberg, the ousted CEO, Chairman, and founder of AIG who remains a major investor in the company, filed suit in 2011 on behalf of fellow shareholders against the government. He has urged A.I.G. to enjoin which should pressure the government into settlement talks - that is if the powers that be don't start distending the law. NY Times Dealbook looks at it this way:

Should Mr. Greenberg snare a major settlement without A.I.G., the company could face additional lawsuits from other shareholders. Suing the government would not only placate the 87-year-old former chief, but would put A.I.G. in line for a potential payout.

Yet such a move would almost certainly be widely seen as an audacious display of ingratitude. The action would also threaten to inflame tensions in Washington, where the company has become a byword for excessive risk-taking on Wall Street.

Some government officials are already upset with the company for even seriously entertaining the lawsuit, people briefed on the matter said. The people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted that without the bailout, A.I.G. shareholders would have fared far worse in bankruptcy.

“On the one hand, from a corporate governance perspective, it appears they’re being extra cautious and careful,” said Frank Partnoy, a former banker who is now a professor of law and finance at the University of San Diego School of Law. “On the other hand, it’s a slap in the face to the taxpayer and the government.”

AIG has every right and responsibility to sue the US for excessive interest payments on it's bailout! Yes, the company failed in execution. Yes, the company would have went bust if the government didn't rescue it. But that is besides the point. If the government wanted market forces to reign supreme they would have let AIG collapse. The fact is they didn't. The reason is because the government was bailing out the banks, namely the most politically connected publicly traded entity in the entire world. The Vampire Squid! Goldman Sachs! As excerpted from the NY Times:

At the end of the American International Group’s annual meeting last month, a shareholder approached the microphone with a question for Robert Benmosche, the insurer’s chief executive. “I’d like to know, what does A.I.G. plan to do with Goldman Sachs?” he asked. “Are you going to get — recoup — some of our money that was given to them?

As a condition of AIG's bailout, the government "insisted" on paying Goldman et. al. 100 cents on the dollar of its CDS written with AIG, something that wouldn't have been necessary if Goldman had prudently underwritten counterparty and credit risks that it was taking. Apparently, the US government believes that it didn't. In addition, it's somethng that wouldn't have been possible if the government didn't intervene on behalf of the banks, forcing the AIG shareholders to take a hit, but shielding the Goldman, et. al. shareholders. As my grandma used to tell me, what's good for the goose is good for the gander! It's not as if these credit/counterparty risks were invisible, I saw them as far back as early 2008 - reference I won't say I told you so, again. This page also happened to of shown the credit risk concentration of every bank granted a reprieve by the government after the fact. As a matter of fact, there's still more than a modicum of risk present, as clearly illustrated in...

Hunting the Squid, Part2: Since When Is Enough Derivative Exposure To Blow Up The World Something To Be Ignored?Hunting the Squid, Part2: Since When Is Enough Derivative Exposure To Blow Up The World Something To Be Ignored?  

Hunting the Squid, Part2: Since When Is Enough Derivative Exposure To Blow Up The World Something To Be Ignored?

Welcome to part two of my series on Hunting the Squid, the overvaluation and under-appreciation of the risks that is Goldman Sachs. Since this highly analytical, but poignant diatribe covers a lot of material, it's imperative that those who have not done so review part 1 of this series, I'm Hunting Big Game Today:The Squid On The Spear Tip, Part...

 

Hunting the Squid, part 4: So, What Else Can Go Wrong With The Squid? Plenty!!!Hunting the Squid, part 4: So, What Else Can Go Wrong With The Squid? Plenty!!!  

Hunting the Squid, part 4: So, What Else Can Go Wrong With Goldman Sachs? Plenty!

Yes, this more of the hardest hitting investment banking research available focusing on Goldman Sachs (the Squid), but before you go on, be sure you have read parts 1.2. and 3:  I'm Hunting Big Game Today:The Squid On A Spear Tip, Part 1 & Introduction Hunting the Squid, Part2: Since When Is Enough Derivative Exposure To Blow Up The World Something To...

Now, AIG's shareholders are being forced to finance the bailout of Goldman Sachs. To not combat that should open AIG management up to shareholder lawsuits, for they are not acting as a fiduciary of the shareholder capital if they let this slide. It's one thing to pay for the AIG bailout, but its another to pay for the Goldman bailout. In addition, this forced bailout that refused to force AIG creditors not to take haircuts runs counter to the ideology the government used when it forced the Chrysler's creditor's to take massive haircuts.

When the government began rescuing it from collapse in the fall of 2008 with what has become a $182 billion lifeline, A.I.G. was required to forfeit its right to sue several banks — including Goldman, Société GénéraleDeutsche Bank and Merrill Lynch — over any irregularities with most of the mortgage securities it insured in the precrisis years.

But after the Securities and Exchange Commission’s civil fraud suit filed in April against Goldman for possibly misrepresenting a mortgage deal to investors, A.I.G. executives and shareholders are asking whether A.I.G. may have been misled by Goldman into insuring mortgage deals that the bank and others may have known were flawed.

The anger here should be directed at Goldman, et. al., and not AIG. AIG's management is doing its job, something that our government officials failed to do in making Goldman, et. al. whole during the bailout. Can anyone say regulatory capture?  Goldman et. al.'s transgressions against its clients and counterparties in terms of misrepresentation and what appears to this lay person as outright fraud have been downright egregious, as clearly articulated in Goldman Sachs Executive Director Corroborates Reggie Middleton's Stance: Business Model Designed To Walk Over Clients, it's just that this time, the US taxpayer AND the AIG shareholders are the "Muppets"! The Abacus deal was particularly atrocious, Paulson, Abacus and Goldman Sachs Lawsuit. How about Morgan Stanley's CRE deals on behalf of their so-called clients? Wall Street Real Estate Funds Lose Between 61% to 98% for Their Investors as They Rake in Fees!

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 If Goldman, et. al. were allowed to swim solely at the mercy of the free markets, it (they) would be sinking, Goldman Sachs Latest: Vindicates BoomBustBlog Research ...

... documents also indicate that regulators ignored recommendations from their own advisers to force the banks to accept losses on their A.I.G. deals and instead paid the banks in full for the contracts. That decision, say critics of the A.I.G. bailout, has cost taxpayers billions of extra dollars in payments to the banks. It also contrasts with the hard line the White House took in 2009 when it forced Chrysler’s lenders to take losses when the government bailed out the auto giant.

Regulatory capture! Banks simply lobby harder and pay more to the government than auto companies. How many auto company execs are embedded in government leadership seats worldwide?

As a Congressional commission convenes hearings Wednesday exploring the A.I.G. bailout and Goldman’s relationship with the insurer, analysts say that the documents suggest that regulators were overly punitive toward A.I.G. and overly forgiving of banks during the bailout — signified, they say, by the fact that the legal waiver undermined A.I.G. and its shareholders’ ability to recover damages.

“Even if it turns out that it would be a hard suit to win, just the gesture of requiring A.I.G. to scrap its ability to sue is outrageous,” said David Skeel, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “The defense may be that the banking system was in trouble, and we couldn’t afford to destabilize it anymore, but that just strikes me as really going overboard.”

“This really suggests they had myopia and they were looking at it entirely through the perspective of the banks,” Mr. Skeel said.

Nahh? It's called the Federal Reserve Bank, not the Federal Reserve Insurer, nor the Federal Reserve Taxpayer! Who the hell do you think they will back in a crunch?

About $46 billion of the taxpayer money in the A.I.G. bailout was used to pay to mortgage trading partners like Goldman and Société Générale, a French bank, to make good on their claims. The banks are not expected to return any of that money, leading the Congressional Research Service to say in March that much of the taxpayer money ultimately bailed out the banks, not A.I.G.

Of which the interest of about 50% of which should be refunded to AIG shareholders. Without the AIG bailout, these banks would have recieved ZILCH, NOTHING, NADA, Bull Sh1t!

Published in BoomBustBlog

While perusing the news today, I came across this most interesting article in Bloomberg, Swaps ‘Armageddon’ Lingers as New Rules Concentrate Risk'. Before we delve into it, I want to review how vehemently I've sounded the alarm on this topic over the last 6 years. Let's start with So, When Does 3+5=4? When You Aggregate A Bunch Of Risky Banks & Then Pretend That You Didn't?, where I've aggregated my warnings into a single article. In a nutshell, 5 banks bear 96% of the global derivatives risk. The argument to defend such ass backwards risk concentration is "but it's mostly hedged, offset and netted out". Right! You know that old trader's saying about liquidity? It's always available, that is until you need it!

Even though I've made this point of netting = nonsense multiple times, I must admit, ZH did a more loquacious job, as follows:

..Wrong. The problem with bilateral netting is that it is based on one massively flawed assumption, namely that in an orderly collapse all derivative contracts will be honored by the issuing bank (in this case the company that has sold the protection, and which the buyer of protection hopes will offset the protection it in turn has sold). The best example of how the flaw behind bilateral netting almost destroyed the system is AIG: the insurance company was hours away from making trillions of derivative contracts worthless if it were to implode, leaving all those who had bought protection from the firm worthless, a contingency only Goldman hedged by buying protection on AIG. And while the argument can further be extended that in bankruptcy a perfectly netted bankrupt entity would make someone else who on claims they have written, this is not true, as the bankrupt estate will pursue 100 cent recovery on its claims even under Chapter 11, while claims the estate had written end up as General Unsecured Claims which as Lehman has demonstrated will collect 20 cents on the dollar if they are lucky.

The point of this detour being that if any of these four banks fails, the repercussions would be disastrous. And no, Frank Dodd's bank "resolution" provision would do absolutely nothing to prevent an epic systemic collapse. 

Hey, there ain't no concentration risk in US banks, and any blogger with two synapses to spark together should know this... From An Independent Look into JP Morgan.

Click graph to enlarge

 image001.pngimage001.pngimage001.pngimage001.png

Cute graphic above, eh? There is plenty of this in the public preview. When considering the staggering level of derivatives employed by JPM, it is frightening to even consider the fact that the quality of JPM's derivative exposure is even worse than Bear Stearns and Lehman‘s derivative portfolio just prior to their fall. Total net derivative exposure rated below BBB and below for JP Morgan currently stands at 35.4% while the same stood at 17.0% for Bear Stearns (February 2008) and 9.2% for Lehman (May 2008). We all know what happened to Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, don't we??? I warned all about Bear Stearns (Is this the Breaking of the Bear?: On Sunday, 27 January 2008) and Lehman ("Is Lehman really a lemming in disguise?": On February 20th, 2008) months before their collapse by taking a close, unbiased look at their balance sheet. Both of these companies were rated investment grade at the time, just like "you know who".

So, the Bloomberg article that got this rant started basically says that the risk is being shifted from the banks to clearing houses, who demand above board, translucent collateral for transactions. This should solve the problem, right? Hardly! You see, the Fed and US banking regulators have made it legal and acceptable for banks to outright lie about the qualit of their collateral and the condition of their finances. It all came to light with my research on Lehman (and Bear Stearns, amonst others). These mistakes are so repetitive of the ones made in the past, I literally do not have to right any new material, let's just re-read what was written several years ago:

Lehman Brothers and Its Regulators Deal the Ultimate Blow to Mark to Market Opponents

Let's get something straight right off the bat. We all know there is a certain level of fraud sleight of hand in the financial industry. I have called many banks insolvent in the past. Some have pooh-poohed these proclamations, while others have looked in wonder, saying "How the hell did he know that?"

The list above is a small, relevant sampling of at least dozens of similar calls. Trust me, dear reader, what some may see as divine premonition is nothing of the sort. It is definitely not a sign of superior ability, insider info, or heavenly intellect. I would love to consider myself a hyper-intellectual, but alas, it just ain't so and I'm not going to lie to you. The truth of the matter is I sniffed these incongruencies out because 2+2 never did equal 46, and it probably never will either. An objective look at each and every one of these situations shows that none of them added up. In each case, there was someone (or a lot of people) trying to get you to believe that 2=2=46.xxx. They justified it with theses that they alleged were too complicated for the average man to understand (and in business, if that is true, then it is probably just too complicated to work in the long run as well). They pronounced bold new eras, stating "This time is different", "There is a new math" (as if there was something wrong with the old math), etc. and so on and associated bullshit.

So, the question remains, why is it that a lowly blogger and small time individual investor with a skeleton staff of analysts can uncover systemic risks, frauds and insolvencies at a level that it appears the SEC hasn't even gleaned as of yet? Two words, "Regulatory Capture". You see, and as I reluctantly admitted, it is not that I am so smart, it is that the regulator's goals are not the same as mine. My efforts are designed to ferret out the truth for enlightenment, profit and gain. Regulators' goals are to serve a myriad constituency that does not necessarily have the individual tax payer at the top of the hierarchical pyramid. Before we go on, let me excerpt from a piece that I wrote on the topic at hand so we are all on the same page: How Regulatory Capture Turns Doo Doo Deadly.

You see, the banking industry lobbied the regulators to allow them to lie about the value and quality of their assets and liabilities and just like that, the banking problem was solved. Literally! At least from a equity market pricing and public disinformation campaign point of view...

A picture is worth a thousand words...

fasb_mark_to_market_chart.pngfasb_mark_to_market_chart.pngfasb_mark_to_market_chart.png

So, how does this play into today's big headlines in the alternative, grass roots media? Well, on the front page of the Huffington Post and ZeroHedge, we have a damning expose of Lehman Brothers (we told you this in the first quarter of 2008, though), detailing their use of REPO 105 financing to basically lie about their
liquidity positions and solvency. The most damning and most interesting tidbit lies within a more obscure ZeroHedge article that details findings from the recently released Lehman papers, though:

On September 11, JPMorgan executives met to discuss significant valuation problems with securities that Lehman had posted as collateral over the summer. JPMorgan concluded that the collateral was not worth nearly what Lehman had claimed it was worth, and decided to request an additional $5 billion in cash collateral from Lehman that day. The request was communicated in an executive?level phone call, and Lehman posted $5 billion in cash to JPMorgan by the afternoon of Friday, September 12. Around the same time, JPMorgan learned that a security known as Fenway, which Lehman had posted to JPMorgan at a stated value of $3 billion,was actually asset?backed commercial paper credit?enhanced by Lehman (that is, it was Lehman, rather than a third party, that effectively guaranteed principal and interest payments). JPMorgan concluded that Fenway was worth practically nothing as collateral.

Well, I'm sure many are saying that this couldn't happen in this day and age, post Lehman debacle, right? Well, it happened in 2007 with GGP and I called it -  The Commercial Real Estate Crash Cometh, and I know who is leading the way! As a matter of fact, we all know it happened many times throughout that period. Wait a minute, it's now nearly 2013, and lo and behold.... When A REIT Trading Over $15 A Share Is Shown To Have Nearly All Of Its Properties UNDERWATER!!!

Paid subscribers are welcome to download the corporate level valuation of PEI as well as all of the summary stats of our findings on its various properties. The spreadsheet can be found here - File Icon Results of Properties Analysis, Valuation of PEI with Lenders' Names. In putting a realistic valuation on PEI, we independently valued a sampling of 27 of its properties. We found that many if not most of those properties were actually underwater. Most of those that weren't underwater were mortgaged under a separate credit facility.   

PEI Underwater  Overly Encumbered Properties

What are the chances that the properties, whole loans and MBS being pledged by PEI's creditors are being pledged at par? Back to the future, it's the same old thing all over again. Like those banks, PEI is trading higher with its public equity despite the fact that its private equity values are clearly underwater - all part of the perks of not having to truly mark assets to market prices.  

 From Bloomberg: Swaps ‘Armageddon’ Lingers as New Rules Concentrate Risk

Clearinghouses cut risk by collecting collateral at the start of each transaction, monitoring daily price moves and making traders put up more cash as losses occur. Traders have to deal through clearing members, typically the biggest banks and brokerages. Unlike privately traded derivatives, prices for cleared trades are set every day and publicly disclosed.

And what happens when everybody lies about said prices? Is PEI's debt really looking any better than GGP's debt of 2007?

GGP Leverage Summary 2007

Properties with negative equity and leverage >80% 32
Properties with leverage >80% 44
% of properties with negative equity (based on CFAT after debt service) 72.7%

PEI Summary 2012

PEI Underwater  Overly Encumbered Properties

Both of these companies have debt that have been pledged by banks as collateral. Would you trust either of them? The banks then use the collateral to do other deals leading to more bubbles. What's next up in bubble land? I warned of it in 2009...

Check this out, from "On Morgan Stanley's Latest Quarterly Earnings - More Than Meets the Eye???" Monday, 24 May 2010:

Those who don't subscribe should reference my warnings of the concentration and reliance on FICC revenues (foreign exchange, currencies, and fixed income trading).  Morgan Stanley's exposure to this as well as what I have illustrated in full detail via the  the Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis series, has increased materially. As excerpted from "The Next Step in the Bank Implosion Cycle???":

The amount of bubbliciousness, overvaluation and risk in the market is outrageous, particularly considering the fact that we haven't even come close to deflating the bubble from earlier this year and last year! Even more alarming is some of the largest banks in the world, and some of the most respected (and disrespected) banks are heavily leveraged into this trade one way or the other. The alleged swap hedges that these guys allegedly have will be put to the test, and put to the test relatively soon. As I have alleged in previous posts (As the markets climb on top of one big, incestuous pool of concentrated risk... ), you cannot truly hedge multi-billion risks in a closed circle of only 4 counterparties, all of whom are in the same businesses taking the same risks.

Click to expand!

bank_ficc_derivative_trading.pngbank_ficc_derivative_trading.png

So, How are Banks Entangled in the Mother of All Carry Trades?

Trading revenues for U.S Commercial banks have witnessed robust growth since 4Q08 on back of higher (although of late declining) bid-ask spreads and fewer write-downs on investment portfolios. According to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, commercial banks' reported trading revenues rose to a record $5.2 bn in 2Q09, which is extreme (to say the least) compared to $1.6 bn in 2Q08 and average of $802 mn in past 8 quarters.

bank_trading_revenue.pngbank_trading_revenue.png

High dependency on Forex and interest rate contracts

Continued growth in trading revenues on back of growth in overall derivative contracts, (especially for interest rate and foreign exchange contracts) has raised doubt on the sustainability of revenues over hear at the BoomBustBlog analyst lab. According to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, notional amount of derivatives contracts of U.S Commercial banks grew at a CAGR of 20.5% to $203 trillion by 2Q-09 from $87.9 trillion in 2004 with interest rate contracts and foreign exchange contracts comprising a substantial 84.5% and 7.5% of total notional value of derivatives, respectively. Interest rate contracts have grown at a CAGR of 20.1% to $171.9 trillion between 4Q-04 to 2Q-09 while Forex contracts have grown at a CAGR of 13.4% to $15.2 trillion between 4Q-04 to 2Q-09.

In terms of absolute dollar exposure, JP Morgan has the largest exposure towards both Interest rate and Forex contracts with notional value of interest rate contracts at $64.6 trillion and Forex contracts at $6.2 trillion exposing itself to volatile changes in both interest rates and currency movements (non-subscribers should reference An Independent Look into JP Morgan, while subscribers should referenceFile Icon JPM Report (Subscription-only) Final - Professional, and File Icon JPM Forensic Report (Subscription-only) Final- Retail). However, Goldman Sachs with interest rate contracts to total assets at 318.x and Forex contracts to total assets at 11.2x has the largest relative exposure (see Goldman Sachs Q2 2009 Pre-announcement opinion Goldman Sachs Q2 2009 Pre-announcement opinion 2009-07-13 00:08:57 920.92 Kb,  Goldman Sachs Stress Test ProfessionalGoldman Sachs Stress Test Professional 2009-04-20 10:06:45 4.04 MbGoldman Sachs Stress Test Retail Goldman Sachs Stress Test Retail 2009-04-20 10:08:06 720.25 Kb,). As subscribers can see from the afore-linked analysis, Goldman is trading at an extreme premium from a risk adjusted book value perspective.

bank_forex_exposure.pngbank_forex_exposure.png


Back to the Bloomberg article:

Disaster Scenario

The need for a Fed rescue isn’t out of the question, said Satyajit Das, a former Citicorp and Merrill Lynch & Co. executive who has written books on derivatives. Das sketched a scenario where a large trader fails to make a margin call. This kindles rumors that a bank handling the trader’s transactions -- a clearing member -- is short on cash.

Remaining clients rush to pull their trading accounts and cash, forcing the lender into bankruptcy. Questions begin to swirl about whether the remaining clearing members can absorb billions in losses, spurring more runs.

“Bank customers panic, and they start to withdraw money,” he said. “The amount of money needed starts to become problematic. None of this is quantifiable in advance.” The collateral put up by traders and default fund sizes are calculated using data that might not hold up, he said.

The collateral varies by product and clearinghouse. At CME, the collateral or “margin” for a 10-year interest-rate swap ranges between 2.89 percent and 4.06 percent of the trade’s notional value, according to Morgan Stanley. At LCH, it’s 3.2 percent to 3.41 percent, the bank said in a November note.

How Much?

The number typically is based on “value-at-risk,” and is calculated to cover the losses a trader might suffer with a 99 percent level of confidence. That means the biggest losses might not be fully covered.

It’s a formula like the one JPMorgan used and botched earlier this year in the so-called London Whale episode, when it miscalculated how much risk its chief investment office was taking and lost at least $6.2 billion on credit-default swaps. Clearinghouses may fall into a similar trap in their margin calculations, the University of Houston’s Pirrong wrote in a research paper in May 2011.

“Levels of margin that appear prudent in normal times may become severely insufficient during periods of market stress,” wrote Pirrong, whose paper was commissioned by an industry trade group.


Oh, but wait a minute? Didn't I clearly outline such a scenario in 2010 for French banks overlevered on Greek and Italian Debt (currently trading at a fractiono of par)? See The Anatomy Of A European Bank Run: Look At The Banking Situation BEFORE The Run Occurs!

The problem then is the same as the European problem now, leveraging up to buy assets that have dropped precipitously in value and then lying about it until you cannot lie anymore. You see, the lies work on everybody but your counterparties - who actually want to see cash!

 

image012image012

Using this European bank as a proxy for Bear Stearns in January of 2008, the tall stalk represents the liabilities behind Bear's illiquid level 2 and level 3 assets (including the ill fated mortgage products). Equity is destroyed as the assets leveraged through the use of these liabilities are nearly halved in value, leaving mostly liabilities. The maroon stalk represents the extreme risk displayed in the first chart in this missive, and that is the excessive reliance on very short term liabilities to fund very long term and illiquid assets that have depreciated in price. Wait, there's more!

The green represents the unseen canary in the coal mine, and the reason why Bear Stearns and Lehman ultimately collapsed. As excerpted from "The Fuel Behind Institutional “Runs on the Bank" Burns Through Europe, Lehman-Style":

The modern central banking system has proven resilient enough to fortify banks against depositor runs, as was recently exemplified in the recent depositor runs on UK, Irish, Portuguese and Greek banks – most of which received relatively little fanfare. Where the risk truly lies in today’s fiat/fractional reserve banking system is the run on counterparties. Today’s global fractional reserve bank get’s more financing from institutional counterparties than any other source save its short term depositors.  In cases of the perception of extreme risk, these counterparties are prone to pull funding are request overcollateralization for said funding. This is what precipitated the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, the pulling of liquidity by skittish counterparties, and the excessive capital/collateralization calls by other counterparties. Keep in mind that as some counterparties and/or depositors pull liquidity, covenants are tripped that often demand additional capital/collateral/ liquidity be put up by the remaining counterparties, thus daisy-chaining into a modern day run on the bank!

image006image006

I'm sure many of you may be asking yourselves, "Well, how likely is this counterparty run to happen today? You know, with the full, unbridled printing press power of the ECB, and all..." Well, don't bet the farm on overconfidence. The risk of a capital haircut for European banks with exposure to sovereign debt of fiscally challenged nations is inevitable.

You see, the risk is all about velocity and confidence. If the market moves gradually, the clearing house system is ok. If it moves violently and all participants move for cash at the same time against bogus collateral... BOOMMMM!!!!!!!

Back to the Bloomberg article...

Stress Levels

What’s more, clearinghouses can’t use their entire hoard of collateral to extinguish a crisis because it’s not a general emergency fund. The sum represents cash posted by investors to cover their own trades and can’t be used to cover defaults of other people.

Clearinghouses can turn to default funds to cover the collapse of the two largest banks or securities firms with which they do business. They have the power to assess the remaining solvent members for billions more, enough to cover the demise of their third- and fourth-largest members.

But wait a minute, the other members are only solvent because they have hedges against the insolvency of the insolvent members. If those hedges fail, then the so-called solvent members are insolvent too! Or did nobody else think of that?

After all, this circular reasoning worked out very well for Greece, didn't it? See Greece's Circular Reasoning Challenge Moves From BoomBustBlog to the Mainstream...

 

 


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WSJ.com reports: The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is investigating alleged unauthorized trading at Rochdale Securities LLC

Daniel Crowley, Rochdale's president, said Finra, a Wall Street self-regulator, was investigating trading that has put the company in a precarious financial position, adding, "The firm is recapitalizing and should be talking to the market shortly." He declined to offer more details on the trading or the investigation.

A person familiar with the thinking of Rochdale executives said a trader at the firm received an order for stock in Apple Inc. AAPL +0.63% but bought 1,000 times the number of shares requested. The trader is saying the extra shares were ordered by mistake, the person said, but the firm is alleging the actions were intentional. The company suspects the trader was working with an outside party to execute the trade and profit at the firm's expense, according to this person.

This is bullshit no matter which way you look at it. If you can mistakenly place an order for 1,000 times your intended purchases, then the risk management systems of this so-called institutional brokerage is less robust than grandma's retail web page at E-trade! If the trader did it on purpose, then he likely did it with management's consent and they didn't subscribe to BoomBustBlog - travesty within itself since all who subscribed knew it was time to short Apple! See The Blog That Could Have Saved Institutional Broker - Or - Beware Of Those Poison Apples!!

aapl research accuracy copy

Rochdale, based in Stamford, Conn., is an institutional broker and equity-research firm that employs prominent bank analyst Richard Bove. As of the end of 2011, Rochdale had $3.4 million in capital, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. On Saturday, Mr. Crowley said the errant trading had left the company with a "negative capital position."

Amazingly enough, very few (if any) queried as to why Rochdale, with a capital base of $3.4 million dollars could execute a trade worth a billion dollars. Let's take an off the cuff measure of the leverage involved here... $1,000,000,000/$3,400,000 = roughly 294x the trader levered up the firms capital base, give or take. Who was the idiot(s) on the other side of the trade and more importantly where the hell was FINRA before this tiny bank had the nerve to go against BoomBustBlog research with a 294x levered trade? Methinks FINRA was a little less than effective here, no? Dick Bove, the rosk star bank analysts paid by Rochdale Securities (and probably paid nearly as much as Rochdale's capital base), should have alerted Rochdale to the risks therein, no?

Dick seems like a nice guy, but we don't always see eye to eye, reference CNBC Favorite Dick Bove Admits To Being Wrong On Banks, But For The Right Reasons, But Those Reasons Are Still Wrong!!!:

Last week I posted a rather scathing diatribe, basically ridiculing the fact that Dick Bove get's so much MSM airtime for his virtually consistently wrong calls and analysis:, as excerpted: A BoomBustBlog Deep Dive on Dick

... Now, speaking of Europe, particular Dexia (France, Belgium Wrangle About Dexia Deal: Reports), this brings to mind another highlighted headline focusing on the oft quoted sell side banking analyst US Stress Tests Not Worrying: Bove... Dick Bove is one of the, if not most oft quoted sell side bank analyst in the mainstream media. I disagree with him, regularly. As the uber independent investor/analyst that I am, I will never be accurately accused of kissing [up to] Dick - regardless, let's grab Dick by the base [of his assumptions] and see if we can yank something usable out of it, shall we?

Okay, I admit I was a bit harsh, and it appears as if Mr. Bove may have read said diatribe and used his cache with the MSM to post a response - very professional one at that - and one to which I must give him credit - alas, he was still wrong! To wit:

Bove: Why I Was Wrong on Bank Stocks

With a month left in 2011 and—barring a miracle—bank stocks headed for a negative year, Dick Bove is admitting he was wrong.

This is both commendable and respectable. It is honorable and healthy to admit when you are wrong, and we all have the opportunity to do so since nobody is right all of the time!...

It is my belief that this country idolizes Wall Street, and does so foolishly. Attempting a trade on Apple which is obviously on decline at 294 times leverage with no apparent risk management mechanisms rivaling that of a mere eTrade account is silly, and does not connote "Masters of the Universe" status. In closing, keep in mind that as I drove from my apartment shortly after the Sandy storm, I noticed that the Goldman Sachs HQ had lights and electricity almost immediately. Why? Because it was triple sandbagged against the elements with underground vents properly sealed. Notice that the surrounding hospitals and schools failed to receive similar attention. Where exactly are our resourced flowing and for what reason. Happy voting on this historical election day.

Subscribers expect fresh research and content later this week.

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Several months ago I posted a mail from a reader's rant on FICO (see Fair  Isaac May Get Treated Unfairly When…), along with our own take on the on the situation (subscribers see FICO Note, click here to subscribe). Here's an excerpt from the said reader's take: 

Short FICO. This company engineered a stock-back program in Nov 2011. The Stock buy-back was equivalent to 20% of its market cap at the time. The three executives left the company and cash in their stock options. The company had 3 CEOs in 4 years. The Company latest quarter was slightly down, without the massive buy-back the share count would have meant that the stock had lower earnings per share YoY. What is staggering is while the company did this massive stock buy-back, some execs (including the 3 execs departing) sold at price sometimes below the price the company was buying back its stock at. If the company was doing such a good deal by buying the stock "cheap" at around 40 USD, why would the execs sell their "cheap" stock at 39 USD?

Now recently the company announced its quarterly earnings, poor data, the stock plunges by 10.5%, next thing you know SECput the Rule 201 alternative uptick rule. The next day the stock is up 10.5%, but of course nothing is done to prevent the stock to move up more than 10% a day. The same happened on the same day with Vulcan Materials which released its earnings, really crappy (a lot more than FICO), Vulcan Materials is a Einhorn short, and yet again you have the rule 201 implemented the next day....

Said BoomBustBlogger returned with some more "unfair" treatment of Fair Isaac, viewable from this link - Fair Isaac May Get Treated Unfairly When The Newest Credit Bubble Bursts. ....And here come's FCO's earnings, as reported at CNBC:

MINNEAPOLIS, Nov. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- FICO (NYSE: FICO), the leading provider of analytics and decision management technology, today announced financial results for its fourth fiscal quarter ended September 30, 2012. Fourth Quarter Fiscal 2012 Results Net income for the quarter totaled $21.2 million, or $0.60 per share, versus $24.6 million, or $0.64 per share, reported in the prior year period. The current quarter results include $3.3 million, net of tax, or $0.09 per share, in restructuring and acquisition related costs.

Well. guess what happened the following day... NYSE stocks posting largest percentage decreases 02 Nov 2012  -  The Associated Press

 
Published in BoomBustBlog

Bloomberg reports S&P Downgrades Spain, Citing Region Backtracking on Bank:

Spain’s debt rating was cut to one level above junk by Standard & Poor’s, which cited euro-region peers’ backtracking on a pledge to severe the link between the sovereign and its banks as it considers a second bailout. The country was lowered two levels to BBB- from BBB+, New York-based S&P said in a statement yesterday. S&P assigned a negative outlook to the nation’s long-term rating and lowered the short-term sovereign level to A-3 from A-2.

The downgrade comes after Spain announced a fifth austerity package in less than a year and published details about stress tests of its banks. Creditworthiness concerns have grown since the government requested as much as 100 billion euros ($129 billion) in European Union aid in June to shore up its lenders and amid signals that the deficit target is in jeopardy.

CNBC adds:

Spain’s credit rating downgrade was necessary because of a deepening recession and the uphill battle the country faces in pushing through an unpopular reform program, Moritz Kraemar, managing director for European Sovereign Ratings at Standard & Poor’s told CNBC Thursday. S&P cut Spain’s credit rating to just one notch above junk late or BBB-minus on Wednesday with a negative outlook — the third cut this year — as the embattled country tries to fight off growing calls for a bailout. Spain expressed surprise at the downgrade claiming it was “unhelpful.”“Politically and socially the reform agenda is very difficult. This recession could keepunemployment up and intensify the social discontent and friction between Madrid and the regional governments,” he said.

Query: Why has this taken so long? Let's do this by the numbers...

Monday, 08 February 2010: I warned of the undeniable storm that was the Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis, with a specific note on Spain simply being a bigger Greece!!! This was TWO AND A HALF YEARS AGO!

 spain_vs_greece.png

March 30th, 2010: I forensically explained that Spain was essentially a default waiting to happen, in explicit detail via a report for paying subscribers - File Icon Spain public finances projections_033010

April 27th, 2010: I explicitly warned on Spanish bank sovereign exposure for paying subscribers: File Icon A Review of the Spanish Banks from a Sovereign Risk Perspective – retail.pdf and File Icon A Review of the Spanish Banks from a Sovereign Risk Perspective – professional

Fast forward roughly TWO YEARS and the rating agencies jump into the mix - yes, all after the fact... I penned S&P Downgrades Spain (After I Did) Two Notches ... as a response:

Of course, we all know how reliable and timely the rating agencies are, right? See Rating Agencies vs Reggie Middleton, Part 3 and the Interesting Documentary on the Power of Rating Agencies, with Reggie Middleton Excerpts. You can see the full video here, but only about half of it is in English. I appear in the following spots: 22:30 and 40:00... You really need to see this video if you haven't for nothing like this will ever get aired in the states, particularly right before presidential elections!!!

spain vs greece

Spain public finances projections 033010 Page 01Spain public finances projections 033010 Page 02Spain public finances projections 033010 Page 03Spain public finances projections 033010 Page 04Spain public finances projections 033010 Page 05Spain public finances projections 033010 Page 06Spain public finances projections 033010 Page 07Spain public finances projections 033010 Page 08spain vs greeceI

then

made clear that You Have Not Known Pain Until You've Seen The True Borrowing Costs Of Spain... -

Yes, I got carried away with this one... The Economic Bloodstain From Spain's Pain Will Cause European Tears To Rain... 

Let's peruse the first four pages of the report from issued to BoomBustBlog subscribers two years ago to see if this last minute downgrade to effectively junk could have been expedited or foreseen...

 

To prevent this post from getting too long, I will post the rest of this nearly three year report in my next rant on this topic. Note how this aged document has been more accurate than the rating agencies reports of today... Hmmm!!!!!

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Published in BoomBustBlog

Last weak I posted a mail from a reader's rant on FICO (see Fair  Isaac May Get Treated Unfairly When…), along with our own take on the on the situation (subscribers see FICO Note). Well, said BoomBustBlogger is back with some more "unfair" treatment of Fair Isaac!

Dear Reggie,

Did you know it was Fannie who advised other banks to use FICO (back in 1995 I think)? That did not work too well.

I think that the FICO score is actually hollow somewhat, given that in 2006 the Median FICO score was 723 and deteriorating much since 2000 and not signaling an impeding crisis.

According to a Fitch study, the accuracy of FICO in predicting delinquency has diminished in recent years. In 2001 there was an average 31-point difference in the FICO score between borrowers who had defaulted and those who paid on time. By 2006 the difference was only 10 points. The bigger picture is that a massive collapse of lending can occur while all the lenders have used FICO, so what is the value proposition of using the scoring? I am known to ask annoying stupid question in my firm…

I think that FICO wasted cash on the stock buy back, it borrows at 6.1% and bought the stock at around 6 Free Cash Flow yield. Granted the cost of debt is pre-tax, but the arbitrage is poor, I think clearly it was a pump-so-the-management-can-dump scheme. This is the consumer picture in context, FICO was riding the consumer leverage bubble.

credit bubble 07

This is the revenue picture skewed since 2002 because of housing bubble. You can clearly see the take-off in revenues due to the housing bubble starting in 2002.

revenues pumped by real estate bubble

The recent beat of earnings is due the last calendar quarter of 2011 (when the stock buy-back was announced), 7 million of operating profit were due to slashing R&D, so earnings are up but if you slash R&D how do you grow? That should shield a compression of multiple not an expansion of those. Further the tools is more lumpy and not recurring, while the score business (recurring is flat).

So the latest quarter was actually showing EBIT down slightly in nominal dollars (down adjusted to inflation) YoY and EBIT margin down too YoY for same quarter, so the slashing of R&D did not result in higher margins YoY on the quarter. So you have probably 150 EBIT normalized excluding the one time R&D slashing. But the tools sales will bring volatility on teh downside in the downturn, those have been the reason for growing sales a bit, yet lower earnings, in the downturn those lumpy components should shrink. While the last 30 years was consumer leverage. Unlike 1929 where the leverage was on corporation this levered cycled falls squarely on the consumer and the Gov. The company trades at 13 Times EV/ Normalized EBIT which given the headwinds of necessary deleveraging, you might not want to pay more than 6-7 times, and the insiders know it and have sold into the share buyback giving 0 credibility to this buyback.

Now if you do not listen to the Fed which says that credit card conditions are easing (Fed is full of hot air http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-06/fed-says-banks-ease-standards-o...) and check from creditcards.com here is what they have to say. First the rate has been increasing in the last 2 years, so there is no easier credit for consumers. But then credit card companies are retrenching their offers.

If you read creditcards.com August 1st weekly report, here what they say:  (Would you send me your screen on consumer discretionary as a barter of idea?, even the abbreviate version without analysis that would be a fair trade of idea.)

Issuers also cut back on credit card mailings. The lack of movement comes at a time when issuers have also been pulling back on mailing new credit card offers to consumers. Prior to the recession, issuers flooded consumers' mailboxes with card offers and aggressively sought out new customers with a wide variety of credit scores. However, in 2009, issuers slashed the number of card offers they mailed by nearly two-thirds and primarily concentrated the offers they did send on consumers with excellent credit, say industry analysts. Since then, credit card mailings have yet to bounce back to pre-recession levels, according to data from the market research firm Mintel Comperemedia. Issuers did ramp up the number of card offers they sent in 2010 and 2011 and even began to send more offers to consumers with lower credit scores. However, issuers have since cut back significantly, say analysts at the international financial services firm Credit Suisse.
Citing research from Mintel Comperemedia, Credit Suisse analysts say that the number of credit card offers that consumers received in June is down by 43 percent, compared to the same time last year. June also marks the fourth month since January that the number of credit card mailings sent to consumers has declined.
The lower level of credit card mailings in 2012 contrasts significantly with 2011. Then, issuers sought out new customers aggressively, mailing out a total of 4.8 billion credit card offers throughout the year. By contrast, issuers have sent out just 1.5 billion offers in 2012, and analysts at Credit Suisse estimate that the total number of offers sent out by the end of the year will total just 3.5 billion.
If analysts' estimates hold out, then the number of credit card offers mailed in 2012 will be just slightly more than the number of credit card offers that were mailed in 2010. During that time, issuers were still just shaking off the effects of the recession and contending with new financial regulation, including the Credit CARD Act of 2009. Now, issuers are contending with a series of banking scandals, a financial crisis in Europe and a painfully slow U.S. economic recovery.

Sincerely,

Hope to exchange some more interesting ideas,

BoomBustBlogger!


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Published in BoomBustBlog

In continuing my rant on the state of the US consumer, I present to you this email I received from a reader...

Short FICO. This company engineered a stock-back program in Nov 2011. The Stock buy-back was equivalent to 20% of its market cap at the time. The three executives left the company and cash in their stock options. The company had 3 CEOs in 4 years. The Company latest quarter was slightly down, without the massive buy-back the share count would have meant that the stock had lower earnings per share YoY. What is staggering is while the company did this massive stock buy-back, some execs (including the 3 execs departing) sold at price sometimes below the price the company was buying back its stock at. If the company was doing such a good deal by buying the stock "cheap" at around 40 USD, why would the execs sell their "cheap" stock at 39 USD?

Now recently the company announced its quarterly earnings, poor data, the stock plunges by 10.5%, next thing you know SECput the Rule 201 alternative uptick rule. The next day the stock is up 10.5%, but of course nothing is done to prevent the stock to move up more than 10% a day. The same happened on the same day with Vulcan Materials which released its earnings, really crappy (a lot more than FICO), Vulcan Materials is a Einhorn short, and yet again you have the rule 201 implemented the next day....

Those who have been following me recently know that I have been laying the foundation for a most cogent argument against the US consumer, hence the consumer discretionary and durables sector - as articulated in BS At The BLS Leads To Profitable Short … and Is The New US Consumer Consumption Bubbl…

FICO is a credit data processor and provider. They make money when a lot of people apply for loans, and make less money when less people apply for loans. With that being said...

Credit card usage is dropping...

Mortgage applications are dropping... The two largest uses of consumer credit is falling to the wayside (save the student loans mentioned in the links above). More on FICO...

 

FICO Note Page 1.1

FICO Note Page 2

We have formed ani internal opinion on FICO that all paying subscribers are invited to download here: File Icon FICO Note.

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Published in BoomBustBlog
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