JPMorgan

  • 12 Oct 2012 at 5:05 PM
  • Banks

London Whale Swims Off Into The Sunset

Hi Whale! I told you you were not forgotten. Not understood, either, but not forgotten.

The London Whale now goes by the less adorable name “synthetic credit portfolio,” since all mammalian representatives of that portfolio have left for non-extradition countries. That is descriptive enough, or so I would have thought; my rough model of the London Whale position was a combination of basically long IG index synthetic credit by selling protection on 10-year CDX.NA.IG.9, untranched or senior tranches, and short higher-beta synthetic credit bits by buying protection on high-yield indices, junior tranches, something like that.

But it’s also possible that the London Whale position is basically a blob of green glowing radioactive material that just deals indiscriminate pain everywhere it goes. So, for instance, this quarter, after causing massive and time-traveling losses last quarter and being mostly unwound and/or moved from the Chief Investment Office to the investment bank, it still managed to lose money in not one but two places – the investment bank, where the bulk of its ominously pulsing self “experienced a modest loss,”1 but also the CIO, where its mangled remnants lost $449 million on about a $12bn notional remaining position, or about 3.75% of quarter-initial notional.2

You can think a range of cynical things here. The most supportable, perhaps, is that CIO’s daily VaR was $54mm last quarter3, meaning that the CIO’s loss this quarter was a little over 8x its daily VaR, which is, um, high? A quarter is 65ish trading days; if you assume VaR goes with the square root of time then CIO’s quarterly 95%-confidence-interval VaR was about, oh call it $449 million, meaning roughly that 95% of the time it would have lost less than it did, yet here we are. Of course there’s the other 5% of the time, where the whale seems to live, but … I mean, that is an odd number and might make you quietly ponder JPMorgan’s new VaR model.4 BONUS FOOTNOTE!5 Read more »

  • 12 Oct 2012 at 11:18 AM
  • Banks

JPMorgan CFO Handsome

JPMorgan did its third-quarter earnings call this morning, and even though the London Whale was a pretty minor presence on the call I was still going to throw up a picture of a whale here because (1) why stoke Jamie’s ego further and (2) who doesn’t like whales, but then the operator asked for closing remarks, and Jamie Dimon closed the call by saying “I’m just surprised no one mentioned how handsome Doug Braunstein looked in that article in the Wall Street Journal,”1 and, well, that happened, and we’re each going to have to deal with it in our own way, but in any case, Doug Braunstein, ladies and gentlemen.

I HAVE NOT FORSAKEN YOU WHALEDEMORT and we’ll talk about him in a bit when I can get my emotions in check but for now I guess we owe it to that handsome cherub to your left to talk about JPMorgan’s business a bit so let’s do that.

JPMorgan’s business: It is good! Records were set, expectations exceeded, the stock … um, opened down, but got better. (Then got worse again! I don’t know.) The other day I suggested that underwriting 30-year investment-grade bonds is sort of a bad business because you make 87.5bps now, but then your client is all set for 30 years, so it’s really only 3bps a year, which is not much compared to basically any other method of providing money to companies, except ironically actually lending them money (if they are high investment grade), which is just a pure loser. I more or less stand by that in a big-picture sense, but of course 30 years is well into IBGYBG territory and it feels great to make 87.5bps now, so now you’re happy. JPMorgan is I guess underwriting a lot of 30-year bonds; more to the point it’s underwriting a lot of 30-year mortgages.

A toy model you could have of the mortgage market is: Read more »

There are many great businesses in the world but surely none is as great as being paid money not to do stuff. I was in that line of work for two glorious months in the summer of 2011 and I’m pretty sure it was the peak of my career. Counterintuitively this business is not always massively scaleable,1 but there are some examples. My favorite is that in the 1980s companies would pay Skadden Arps a retainer fee to prevent Skadden from representing a hostile acquirer; I have idly suggested that David Einhorn look into charging similar fees to direct-marketing companies who want peaceful earnings calls.

If I were Moody’s I’d have a sliding scale of CMBS fees that goes like:

J.P. Morgan seems to have opted for false economy: Read more »

A core belief here at Dealbreaker HQ is that we’d be really good rich people.1 No conservative 401(k)s and unborn-children-college-funds for us; we’d dedicate ourselves to lives of sybaritic excess. For me, that means that if someone wants to die and leave me an oil fortune, I’ll be putting Morandis on the wall, DRCs in the cellar, and variable prepaid forwards in the trust fund. Everyone needs a little beauty in their life, and also in their trust fund.

That must have been what motivated JPMorgan to pitch Skelly oil heiress and “acute stress syndrome” sufferer2 Ann Fletcher to enter into variable prepaid forwards on the Exxon Mobil stock in her trust. That or:

The value of the Trust prior to entering into the May 2000 VPF was $14,392,000. As of June 30, 2003, the sum of the Trust’s repayment obligations under the three VPFs had grown to $10,336,050. The value of the Trust at the time the Bank resigned as co-trustee [in March 2006] was $12,515,085.57. The Trust’s associated decline in principal was $1.88 million.

The Bank produced emails and spreadsheets to show that the Bank earned $1,127,189 from the VPFs. Expert testimony indicates that the Bank earned as much as $2,000,000 in profit.

So, I dunno, I feel like 7.8% in profits over 6 years is a not bad result on a pretty vanilla equity financing trade?

You can read the opinion, some of which strikes me as being pretty clearly wrong but hey I am not an Oklahoma trusts lawyer,3 here. Baaaaaasically there was a trust, and it had stock, and the idea was to pay the dividends of the stock to Fletcher during her lifetime and then, when she died, to give half the stock to her children and the other half to charity. At some point someone – JPMorgan? Fletcher? – conceived the idea that Fletcher should get much more money during her lifetime, basically by selling stock and pocketing the proceeds, leaving of course much less stock for the children and charity. So that happened. Read more »

JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Jamie Dimon said his company has lost up to $10 billion as a result of the government asking him to buy teetering Wall Street firm Bear Stearns during the financial crisis. “Someone said the Fed did us a favor to finance some of this or something like that. No no no. We did them a favor,” Dimon said, speaking at a Council on Foreign Relations event. “I’m going to say we’ve lost $5 billion to $10 billion on various things related to Bear Stearns now. And yes, I put it in the unfair category,” the CEO added. [CNBC]

Dimon recalls that when he e-mailed his senior executives, back in 2010, first proposing the JPMorgan Chase bus tour, which is designed to demonstrate to clients, employees, and important people around the country that the bank is a force for good in the world. But, as in almost everything related to JPMorgan, Dimon prevailed. “That’s bullshit. We have to live our lives and do the right thing,” he told them…At stop after stop, the executives emerged from their bus cocoon into what they called “the Tunnel of Love,” where employees surrounded them for hugs, fist pumps, and high fives. [VF]

You’ve all peered into Ina Drew’s soul by now, right? My basic reaction was, “she kicks it old school.” This is obvious from the way that she stayed in Short Hills after getting rich, instead of decamping to, like, the moon, I guess? More telling, perhaps, is the fact that she seems to have been present at the creation of the idea of buying and selling financial instruments to hedge a bank’s credit risk:

By the mid-1980s, Drew was working directly under an economist named Petros K. Sabatacakis, the head of Chemical Bank’s global treasury department. Among the department’s tasks was managing interest-rate risk … Still, the group was considered a sleepy backwater until Sabatacakis turned their attention a few years later to banking’s other major risk: credit default. The bank was most vulnerable to its lenders1 defaulting in a recession; in a recession, the Federal Reserve generally lowers interest rates to increase borrowing and spending. Sabatacakis determined they should continue to buy those securities whose value would rise in a recessionary environment. “It was a trader’s mentality,” says Glenn Havlicek, a trader who worked under Drew for 22 years. “It may seem elemental, but at the time, the idea of mixing a trading solution and a credit-crisis solution — it was in its awkward infancy.”

That was an awkward infancy! Basically you notice that there’s a correlation between (1) spreads widening and (2) rates tightening, so you get long rate product to hedge your spread product? That’s a pretty blunt instrument: Read more »

Drew was something of an unusual figure on Wall Street and not easily categorized. She was known for her small, girlish voice but could let loose with profanity when angered. She was the daughter of a Newark lawyer and had a reputation as a tough adversary but practically blushed whenever she spoke about her husband, a periodontist who was her high-school sweetheart and played on the Johns Hopkins basketball team. Tall, with expensive blond hair, she dressed impeccably for the office, favoring classic Chanel suits and Manolo Blahnik shoes, as well as a blinding emerald-cut diamond ring; but she and her husband never left the affluent but unremarkable suburban neighborhood in Short Hills, N.J., where they settled more than 20 years ago. [NYT]