A primary goal of financial engineering is to confuse the bejeezus out of Them while remaining crystal clear to Us. There’s no point to it if it doesn’t in some way confound the expectations of some Other, whether that Other is the tax authorities, bank capital regulators, rating agencies, customers, or markets generally.1 But the worst possible outcome is for a product to be unpredictable to whoever built it, mostly because, if it was any good, they built a lot of it, and if it blows up on them it’ll hurt.
There is an obvious tension here: complicated products serve well to confuse Them but are more likely to end up acting up on Us as well.2 One fruitful approach is for Us to be just a bit smarter than Them. Another approach, lovely when it works, is to build a product that is so beautifully simple that anyone can understand it, but that has one simple conceptual twist that falls right in the particular blind spot of one particular targeted Them.3
You can bracket the question of whom residential mortgage backed securitizations were designed to confound,4 and just take a moment to realize: they kind of screwed the banks that did them, no? I mean, “compared to what” I guess – imagine if Countrywide had done all the lending it actually did, but kept everything on its balance sheet – but the fact that BofA has eighty zillion dollars in putback liability must be discouraging for whoever’s left there on the securitization desk. Like: the whole idea was to put some loans in a box and sell the box to investors; the investors, not you, now own the credit risk on the loans. You own nothing. The loans have nothing to do with you. Sure you signed a piece of paper saying some stuff about the loans, just before you waved goodbye to them, but why would you have read that? Those are just reps and warranties; those are for the junior law firm associates to haggle over. You sold the loans, it’s done, right? Read more »
Until recently, being chief executive officer of Jefferies was an exercise in getting shit on. As the man in charge for the last 13 years, Richard Handler has had to put up with a lot of hurtful remarks that, while nothing to the person tossing them off, undoubtedly stung quite badly. “Third-tier bank.” Place “I wouldn’t let my maid’s kid work.” “Poor man’s Morgan Keegan.” So you can imagine that after a string of victories over the last several months that included getting involved in the slaughterhouse business and paying all-cash bonuses unlike some people, Handler and Co. would be feeling pretty good about themselves and that after announcing to the world they were getting paid more this year than their counterparts at big kid banks, they’d be feeling REALLY good about themselves. That payday, however, did not go over well when input into Moody’s proprietary just-make-it-up credit-rating model, and now Handler’s plan to gather everyone up to watch as the board shoots his compensation out of a tee-shirt gun in hundred dollar bills is completely ruined.* Read more »
“Moody’s Investors Service downgraded six European nations and became the first ratings firm to warn the U.K.’s rating could be at risk, citing the area’s weakening ability to implement measures aimed at reducing debt…Where Moody’s did deviate from recent actions by other ratings firms was in changing the outlook for the U.K. There had been no indication the U.K.’s outlook was necessarily in danger based on how other ratings firms view U.K.’s debt. Both S&P and Fitch have a stable outlook on their U.K. rating.” [WSJ]
On account of recent events. Read more »