One thing that would probably be fun would be reading the internal emails sent around at the places that bought terrible RMBS CDOs in the end times of 2006-2007. What did they say? Was it “these mortgages are worth twice what Morgan Stanley is selling them for! We are ripping their faces off”?1 Was it “I looked through a representative sample of the mortgages underlying the collateral in this deal and I think the yield more than justifies the risks”? Was it “my asset-level diligence was light because my macro view is that house prices will go up a lot in the next 18-24 months”? Was it “we have to invest $100mm somewhere and this gets 2bps more yield than other AAA-rated options”? Was it “I don’t know that much about mortgages but I sure am glad we can trust our friends at Morgan Stanley to put us in such a high quality product as this here CDO”? The possibilities are endless and, I think, fascinating: each trade has two sides, and each side has a view, even if that view is sometimes more of a vacant stare.
But the arrow of lawsuits runs only one way so instead we get this:
On March 16, 2007, Morgan Stanley employees working on one of the toxic assets that helped blow up the world economy discussed what to name it. Among the team members’ suggestions: “Subprime Meltdown,” “Hitman,” “Nuclear Holocaust,” “Mike Tyson’s Punchout,” and the simple-yet-direct: “Shitbag.”
The shitbag email chain is part of a collection of internal documents produced in China Development Industrial Bank’s lawsuit against Morgan Stanley over this “Stack 2006-1″ CDO deal that Jesse Eisinger describes today in DealBook and ProPublica. Morgan Stanley has issued the standard “these emails were just a joke and have nothing to do with anything” statement,2 and while normally that is just a meaningless lie that you say after your employees are caught sending around emails saying “this deal is shit, no, I mean it, this deal is composed of actual feces, I am not kidding, come look” – the emails here aren’t that bad. Basically they were like “ugh we gotta name this deal before we print it” and everyone was all “what about Macalester Albermarle Roundtree Paddington Pemberley Structured Finance Limited” and one dope replied with some gallows-humor names. In March 2007. When it was A SUPER DUPER SECRET that subprime mortgages were in trouble:3 Read more »
Great news for anyone who’s been sitting nervously at their desk at Morgan Stanley the last few days, wondering whether or not their boss was about to tap them on the shoulder to go have a chat with HR: if you’ve made it this long, you’re safe! There will be no more human layoffs for the foreseeable future (plants may still be at risk). Read more »
Since taking the reins at Morgan Stanley in 2010, CEO James Gorman has guided the firm with a managerial style that boils down to telling people, more or less: You’ll get it when you’ve earned it, “it” being anything from personal space to money to his respect. On the point of compensation, last year he told employees complaining about what they were paid to either open a newspaper and get over themselves or do everyone a favor and quit. Today brings news that this year, he’s doubling down on that mandate and daring anyone to make something of it. Read more »
Point: “Our enthusiasm about MS’s turnaround benefits from our generally macro views. We expect CEO confidence to rise and global corporate activity levels to increase markedly in 2013. Morgan Stanley, with its sterling reputation, talent pool, and record in execution in investment banking advisory and capital markets, is uniquely positions to benefit from this improvement.” Counterpoint: “Even in early 2010, however, it was clear to many inside the firm that [James Gorman] would have his work cut out for him. Every Wednesday, executives from various corners of the bank who belonged to what was known as the asset liability committee would meet at noon to examine the cost to the firm of everything from looming credit-rating downgrades to regulatory changes. ‘It was the most depressing meeting ever,’ said one attendee who spoke on the condition of anonymity. ‘It was very clear the Morgan Stanley we knew was never coming back.’”
Cuts are expected to go down in Asia. (Update: and elsewhere!) Read more »
Not that he needs the work, but ousted almost-former Morgan Stanley dealmaker Paul Taubman will be available on May 5. Read more »
They were willing to ‘em a chance, but no more. Read more »
A year ago this Friday, a Morgan Stanley banker named William Bryan Jennings attended a couple holiday parties, drank a few Coors Lights, and around 10:30PM hailed a cab and asked the driver, Helmy Ammar, to take him home to Connecticut. On the way, a hungry WBJ requested they stop at G&G Deli off 10th Avenue, where he bought “a 20 oz. bottle of Aquafina water, a sandwich and some Burger King cheesy fries.” As the cab entered approached Jennings’ hometown of Darien, a dispute reportedly broke out as to what the fare for the ride would be. Ammar claims that they’d agreed on $204 before leaving Manhattan, but once in Connecticut, Jennings said he’d only pay $50. Jennings claims that Ammar jacked the price up to $300 and was unhappy when the banker offered $160. Another matter of he said/he said is whether or not Jennings started shouting racial slurs at Ammar and told him, “I’m going to kill you. You should go back to your country!” (Jennings denies this happened and says that Ammar locked the doors and wouldn’t let him out of the cab.)
The one aspect of the story that is not in dispute is that as tensions flared, WBJ whipped out a pen knife he had in his pocket. For those of you reading from Morgan Stanley, this is where the teachable moments occurs: if you ever find yourself in a situation wherein you’re winding up to stab a cab driver in the hand, stop and ask yourself, “Is this going to look bad in the Post tomorrow morning?” Jennings did not and now this is happening: Read more »
You may be aware that once there was a problem and this was the problem:
- Investment bankers wanted to win underwriting business.
- They realized that having their research analysts shout “BUY BUY BUY!” about every company they underwrote would help to win this business.
- So they went to their analysts and were all “do that.”
- The analysts, for cost-center and spinelessness reasons, did.
- But in classic passive-aggressive fashion they sent each other emails to the effect of “oh, man, my fingers were totally crossed when I issued that Buy recommendation, that company is dogshit.”1
- It was dogshit, and investors lost money buying those Buys.
This problem was solved via a Global Research Settlement among a bunch of banks, a bunch of state attorneys general, and the SEC. The settlement had various technical provisions around who could talk to whom about what when, but the gist of it was “yo, bankers, stop telling your analysts to talk up shitty stocks.”
You can understand why Morgan Stanley banker Michael Grimes2 would not think that he violated this settlement when he (1) learned that the Facebook underwriting syndicate’s research analysts (including Morgan Stanley’s) had estimates for Facebook’s 2Q2012 revenue were higher than what Facebook expected, (2) told Facebook something to the effect of “hey, it would look really bad if you did an IPO based on misleadingly high revenue estimates, you should guide the analysts lower,” and (3) sat with Facebook’s Treasurer in a hotel room while she did that.
I mean! You can get mad at Grimes, and Facebook, and the research analysts, because that happened.3 Read more »
For the last year or so, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman has sent a simple message to employees grumbling about compensation: STFU or GTFO. Now, according to Charles Gasparino, the bank may be telling a few employees to GTFO regardless of whether or not they’ve been bitching about pay. 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 »