Timothy S. Durham, the onetime chief executive officer of National Lampoon Inc., was sentenced to 50 years in prison for defrauding investors in an unrelated company he partly controlled. Durham, who was also the CEO of Indianapolis-based buyout firm Obsidian Enterprises Inc., and an accomplice, James Cochran, 57, were convicted in June of taking money raised from Fair Finance investors, spending it on themselves and lending it to other entities they controlled. A third man, Rick Snow, 49, was convicted of helping to deceive investors about the company’s financial condition. The three squandered $208 million of investors’ money, according to U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett in Indianapolis […] “I feel badly about all this,” Durham told Magnus- Stinson. He said he was surprised at the amount of money lost by four victims who also spoke in court today. “I wish I had tried harder to make things clearer for them,” he said of Fair Finance’s public disclosures. [Bloomberg]
Here are two tiny little puzzles about Moody’s’s’s downgrade of the European Financial Stability Facility from Aaa to Aa1 just now. But first, here is some math on EFSF guarantees; basically every €100 of EFSF bonds has €165 of member guarantees, of which €103ish were Aaa-rated and €62ish were not. Until Moody’s downgraded France last week. Now it appears that each €100 EFSF bond has only €67 of Aaa guarantees, €36 of Aa1, and €62 of … various lesser things.
So the puzzles: first, this thing – the EFSF – is basically a structured credit product that is roughly two-thirds guaranteed by a Aaa thing, one-third guaranteed by an Aa1 thing, and roughly another two-thirds guaranteed by an assorted lower-rated miscellany that you can safely ignore. Should that make it (1) Aaa, (2) Aa1, or (4) other? S&P, as it happens, has a mechanism to sort of solve this, which is to say that a bond is rated by its probability of defaulting. Discarding the cats and dogs (and ignoring correlation questions), something that is 1/3 AA+ and 2/3 AAA has about an AA+ chance of defaulting: even if those AAAs are rock-solid, a default by that AA+ counts 100% as a default. Moody’s doesn’t have that – they, in theory, rate structured products1 based on expected loss, not just chances that there will be a default. So something that is two-thirds Aaa and one-third Aa1 is … at least arithmetically closer to Aaa than Aa1, is it not? (Especially if you assume the cats and dogs add a little bit of recovery.) But here you are stuck in a granular world: a thing that is two-thirds Germany and one-third France may be better than France, but I guess it’s also worse than Germany, so you gotta pick one or the other and I suppose pessimism is always a good look.
But a second and possibly related puzzle: if you were the EFSF, would you be bummed about being downgraded? Here is a weird fact2 (via Alea): Read more »
I feel like if I were the Financial Services Roundtable and I wanted to send a letter to Congress telling them to get rid of a rule that gives lashings of government support to little banks at the arguable expense of, um, this cast of ne’er-do-wells, I would do it anonymously. Or, like, I’d try to trick Matt Taibbi into writing it. Because it’s government support of banks. Banks!We hates banks:
This past week, Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, said the program shouldn’t be extended. “The program’s benefit to the community banking system is, at best, unclear,” he said. “It’s time to move beyond this period of unprecedented government support of the banking industry.”
The program is the FDIC’s transaction account guarantee program, which basically guarantees transaction accounts above the normal $250,000 FDIC limit, meaning that corporate and municipal treasurers can confidently keep their checking accounts at tiny little (but government guaranteed) General Universal Nationwide Bank of America1 instead of opening a money-market checking account at, like, Reserve Primary. Read more »
In 2006, one unnamed US finance firm was said to have held its London Christmas party at Madame Tussauds. Following the event, it was found that two of the waxworks had lost their heads and Jennifer Aniston was missing a finger. [eF]
There is no denying that Jeffrey Gundlach is a hugely talented man whose IQ would rank among the highest in the world if he ever had it tested. “What’s it like having lunch with a genius,” he once asked a colleague, who presumably answered, “To be honest, it’s giving me an inferiority complex just breathing the same air as you, knowing that your brain is the standard for how intelligence will be measured from now until the end of eternity.” Until recently, however, the application of Gundlach’s brilliance was largely confined to bond management. According to a new profile by Bloomberg Markets, though, Gundlach’s intellectual prowess is just as if not more impressive when it comes to crime solving. Read more »
If you’re looking for a cheerleader, go bark up another tree.
“Say you want to be out ahead of it and give a lot of speeches and talk about all the good we’re doing,” Gorman said today at an industry conference in New York. “And then some trader does some stupid thing like this guy at UBS did and he’s in jail and all bets are off,” Gorman said. He was referring to Kweku Adoboli, the UBS AG trader convicted of fraud this month in the largest unauthorized trading loss in British history…Traders at New York-based Morgan Stanley had too much latitude in the past, “what I call having an outsized sandbox,” Gorman, 54, said at the conference, which was sponsored by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. “Until we can be really confident we’ve got discipline around the sandboxes, I think you have to be really careful not to be holier than thou,” Gorman said. “We’re going to be in the doghouse for a while.”
Incidentally, this would a good time to mention that Gorman’s bonus policy instituted last January– STFU or GTFO– still stands. Read more »
As you may have heard, things have not been going tremendously well for Steve Cohen of late. Two days before Thanksgiving, the government went public with its case against a former SAC Capital employee, Mathew Martoma, who it accused of masterminding the largest insider trading scheme ever. Cohen was neither charged nor mentioned by name in the criminal complaint, but he did make an appearance playing the role of “Portfolio Manager A,” a part we have previously mentioned one does not want to portray, if it can be avoided. Then on Wednesday, it was disclosed that SAC had received a Wells notice, indicative of the SEC’s plan to sue the fund and if that wasn’t enough, sources also claimed investigators are considering naming Cohen personally in the suit, to boot. So things are not exactly going his way right now and what he could really use is a break. The government dropping all charges against Martoma and publicly stating it will stay out of the Big Guy’s business forever starting right this second seems out of the question but even some small act of kindness would probably help. Allowing him to pass you on 95. Telling him he looks nice today. Asking, “Have you been working out?” Sending him humorous YouTube videos with a sweet note like, “Hang in there, bud. You’re in my thoughts…”
On the flip side, you know what he doesn’t need? Wildly libelous claims that it’s going to take a lot more than a “Correction” to forgive. Read more »