Tags: Bruno Iksil, Derivatives, hedging, JPMorgan, oh just 3500 words NBD, things that are too long but need to be said, Whaledemort
Hi! Would you like to talk about the London Whale? Sure you would. The amount of misunderstanding of our poor beleaguered beluga is staggering, so I figured we could try to embark on a voyage of discovery together. Maybe we’ll figure it out. Along the way we’ll talk a tiny bit about the Volcker Rule. I am going to try to talk very slowly and simplify things so if you are pretty financially sophisticated you could skip this post (I’ve linked to some better things to read at the end), or just get really angry at me in the comments. Also this post is terrifyingly long, sorry!
So. You are JPMorgan. People come to you and give you money, because you are a bank, and they want you to hold on to their money for them. You pay them interest so you need to invest their money to earn interest – ideally you earn more than you pay so you can make money and pay bonuses and stuff. You invest that money, broadly speaking, by lending it to other people who want to do things with it. Some of those people are buying houses, some of them are running businesses. Those are the main ones. (Some are buying cars, or educations; others are running countries, or municipalities. Ignore that.)
Now a tangent, which is long but important. Some of the money that you lend to people running businesses, you actually lend to people running businesses – like, they come to you and ask you for a loan and you give it to them. Some of it you don’t, because you don’t have enough good loans to make – not enough people come to you for loans because they’re not building factories because Obama or whatever, or people do come to you for loans but it’s for terrible things so you say no. So you have “excess deposits,” deposits that you haven’t loaned out, and you invest those. You invest those in securities – that is, loans that someone already made and packaged into bonds to be bought and sold on the market. Since you are by hypothesis JPMorgan, you do this investing of excess deposits through your Chief Investment Office, or CIO, which is staffed by cetaceans. You can tell how much of this investing JPMorgan does because they disclose it on page 33 of their Form 10-Q filed with the SEC yesterday: Read more »
Tags: Banks, central counterparties, Derivatives, Kazuo Okada, Mega Millions, MF Global, Morgan Stanley
One way I like to imagine the world is that there’s sort of a constant amount of financial risk and entropy tends to increase, so that as time goes by everyone increasingly ends up facing the same financial risks as everyone else (though quantities and leverage vary) and idiosyncratic risk is a rare and beautiful flower and so I dropped a good portion of my net worth on Mega Millions this morning because what else can you do? Entropy increasers could include index funds, or converging bank business models, and I guess you could profitably ponder the fact that the big banks are now living on DCM fees until M&A comes back and what that could mean for a model of “we need to split up the big banks to avoid too-big-to-fail risk.”*
One thing it could mean is get the hell away from banks. So for instance you could quite reasonably be worried about putting all of your money in collateral accounts with the banks who are your derivatives counterparties because hey MF Global just lost all the collateral you put with them, and so you are, reports the Journal based on the Fed’s Senior Credit Officer Opinion Survey on Dealer Financing Terms: Read more »
Tags: Adusbef, Derivatives, Greg Smith, Italy, Morgan Stanley
You can read the Jamie Dimon “Don’t gloat about how bad Goldman is. Did you hear me? Don’t gloat about how BAD GOLDMAN IS. The fact that GOLDMAN is BAD is of no interest to our clients. Or the press. Don’t leak this to the press!” memo two ways. One is, y’know, what it sounds like: Dimon gets to score some easy/meta points by spreading it around that his business practices are so superior that he doesn’t even need to spread it around that his business practices are superior. The other is that making money off of clients isn’t something invented at Goldman Sachs and anyone at JPMorgan who throws stones is likely to be clonked on the forehead by a ricochet. (Or possibly by a deranged fictional whistleblower!*)
The latter interpretation is probably right for James Gorman’s more full-throated defense of Goldman because whoops: Read more »
Tags: Derivatives, Greece
I can’t even comprehend Bloomberg’s story about the Greece-Goldman swap-debt-whatever kaboodle, so let’s talk about the philosophy of derivatives for a minute. First the story:
Greece’s secret loan from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) was a costly mistake from the start. On the day the 2001 deal was struck, the government owed the bank about 600 million euros ($793 million) more than the 2.8 billion euros it borrowed, said Spyros Papanicolaou, who took over the country’s debt-management agency in 2005. By then, the price of the transaction, a derivative that disguised the loan and that Goldman Sachs persuaded Greece not to test with competitors, had almost doubled to 5.1 billion euros, he said.
There are at least three reasons to use derivatives. First you could be into some actual informed shifting of risks from those who want to pay to get rid of them to those willing to be paid to bear them, or from those who have Risk X and want Risk Y to those who etc. Boy are there a lot of textbooks that talk about this. And I suppose it even happens sometimes. You could imagine that a vanilla interest rate swap entered into by a corporation on its bonds or credit facility could qualify as this. I guess people who trade listed options to do covered-write strategies or speculate on takeovers or whatever fall in this category, maybe modulo the “informed.” (Sometimes!)
Then there’s tax and regulatory arbitrage. This is time-honored and much of it, particularly the stuff with the best names, is focused on tax dodging, but there are also various other regimes – securities laws, accounting, whatever – that you might want to get around with derivatives. Paying $10 for CDS with a maximum payout of $10 purely to lower your capital requirements is a recent amusing/egregious example.
The thing that wasn’t mentioned in the CFA Level I derivatives primer is principal-agent arbitrage. This is … first of all, let’s say this isn’t a derivatives issue, or a financial-industry issue, it’s like a life issue. (Some would say it’s why there’s an M&A business, for instance.*) Read more »
Tags: BIS, central counterparties, charts, collateral, Derivatives, papers
The gnomes at the Bank for International Settlements have produced a particularly gnomish paper called “Collateral requirements for mandatory central clearing of over-the-counter derivatives.” Wait! It might be important! Hear them out. (There’ll be charts …)
Their goal is to measure how much more cash collateral the big dealer banks will need to encumber to make the transition to central clearing of derivatives (specifically interest rate swaps and CDS) under various forms of central counterparty regime. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, and some people are, then this provides you with much fodder for chewing ruminatively. It sort of reads like an econometrics final exam that, speaking only for myself here, I would fail, so I can’t really say how ruminatively you should chew it. You could clearly make different choices at many, many different points, and while each individual choice seems thoughtful enough you wonder whether the accumulation leaves you with a toy paper at the end.*
Now, if you’re not particularly into the constraints on cash that would be driven by central clearing of derivatives, you can still get something from this paper. Specifically, this gives you a sensible look at how much damage the Financial Weapons Of Mass DestructionTM can do at any one time. Because “margin” is a proxy for something else, specifically likelihood of a big loss. Here’s how they do their math: Read more »