The basic thing about investing in big banks’ unsecured debt is that once upon a time it was a pseudo-risk-free proposition because, like, it’s a bank, what could possibly go wrong,1 and now it’s like,2 hi, you are buying the mezzanine (call it 10-to-30%-loss3) tranche in an actively traded and extremely opaque CDO full of goofy stuff and, hey, put a price on that.
I don’t know who’ll be good at putting a price on that but it stands to reason that Jes Staley, the former head of JPMorgan’s investment bank who left for BlueMountain shortly after several billion dollars of JPMorgan’s money made the same voyage, would. He thinks so anyway:
On a panel at the Bloomberg Hedge Funds Summit in New York, Mr. Staley discussed what is known as resolution authority, in which regulators help wind down failing banks. The process of adapting to these new rules, he said, would give banks a “more clearly defined capital structure,” and thereby create opportunities for investors.
“There’s going to be tremendous mis-pricing between the different levels of the capital structure in these banks,” Mr. Staley, who is known as Jes, said on the panel.
One imagines that, if all goes according to plan, then at some point between now and the end of time:
- There will be some bank debt (deposits!) that is bail-outable and more or less government guaranteed;
- There will be some other bank debt (repo!) that is collateralized and more or less money-good, ish;
- There will be some other other bank debt that is bail-inable and more or less clearly mezzaniney and going to be toasted in any bank failure; and
- People will believe that.