Bloomberg has a delightful story today about a new JPMorgan RMBS transaction, its first non-agency deal since the crisis. Specifically about this:
The bonds are made riskier by the New York-based bank and other originators of the mortgages offering weaker promises to repurchase misrepresented loans than those on similar deals, Fitch Ratings said today in an e-mailed report. Lenders and bond sponsors have been seeking to trim potential liabilities in such deals as the market revives after suffering billions of dollars of losses from debt sold before the collapse in home prices.
The value of the so-called representations and warranties in the JPMorgan transaction is “significantly diluted by qualifying and conditional language that substantially reduces lender loan breach liability and the inclusion of sunsets for a number of provisions including fraud,” New York-based Fitch analysts including Roelof Slump wrote in the presale report.
So naturally the deal is limited to an Aa rating, as it would be at Moody’s based on those sort of rep and warranty weaknesses, right? Errr not so much:
The classes of the deal expected to receive top credit ratings carried loss buffers of 7.4 percent as Fitch said it adjusted its analysis to reflect the greater investor dangers created by the weaker contracts, according to the report.
So 92.6% of the deal will be AAA rated at Fitch and Kroll, the other rating agency on the deal. Here’s the cap structure from Kroll’s report: Read more »
You may not share my tastes in this sort of thing but I’m going to go ahead and give American Banker a gold star for the headline “Libor-Rigging Set Interest Rates Too Low, Too High and So Low They Were Too High.” The reference is to this Journal article about the mishegas of Libor lawsuits. Since every bank seems to have manipulated Libor, and in different directions at different times, you get to sort of take your pick about what you want to sue over. And so some borrowers are suing banks for setting Libor too low, some municipal swaps counterparties etc. are suing banks for setting Libor too high, and one cable-car driver is taking the second derivative:
Carl Payne, a 72-year-old former cable-car driver in San Francisco, alleged in a federal-court suit filed in December that manipulating interest rates lower inflated margins on adjustable-rate mortgages tied to U.S. dollar Libor. The law firm acting on Mr. Payne’s proposed class action suit, Baron & Budd P.C., estimates that about a million mortgages were affected.
The interest rate on the mortgage for his condominium is based on the one-year rate plus a 2.25-percentage-point margin that is fixed over the life of the 30-year loan. Because the rate when he took out the mortgage was artificially low, Mr. Payne says, he was locked into a higher margin than he should have been.
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 »
American International Group Inc. filed a lawsuit against a Federal Reserve vehicle created during AIG’s bailout that held some of its troubled mortgage bonds, in a dispute over rights to sue over the bonds. … At issue is whether AIG, in selling billions of dollars in troubled mortgage bonds to the New York Fed in late 2008, transferred its rights to sue for losses it incurred on the securities.
So it’s not quite as big as the Hank Greenberg give-me-back-my-$25-billion lawsuit that AIG opted out of, but it’s pretty big; AIG thinks it has over $7 billion in damages against Bank of America/Countrywide alone. If it’s right, either AIG or the Fed should be entitled to about $7bn of BofA’s cash. So call this 1/4 as big as joining the Greenberg suit, though considerably less than 1/4 as offensive.
One way to resolve this dispute amicably might be to conclude that both AIG and the Fed should be entitled to $7bn of BofA’s cash. After all, who decided that only one investor gets to sue BofA per mortgage? We’ve talked before about the fact that BofA’s liability for Countrywide mortgages does not seem to be limited by the amount of mortgages that Countrywide wrote; several lawsuits now cover overlapping pools of mortgages. How much BofA ends up paying for those mortgages will depend on political and PR factors, on the existence of embarrassing emails, on technicalities of contract drafting and legal doctrines, and on how much money BofA, y’know, has, but it seems unlikely that it will depend on some sort of one-mortgage-one-lawsuit principle. You write enough bad mortgages and you give up your expectations of tidiness. Read more »
Who won the Bank of America / Fannie feud? I want the answer to be “all of us,” but I guess it isn’t. Unlike Bank of America’s multi-front battle of deviousness with MBIA, which has spawned some genuine entertainment, BofA’s battle with Fannie has been conducted almost entirely in the boring trenches of actually flinging mortgages at each other. The story so far: back in the bad old days of “January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2008,” BofA/Countrywide sold approximately $1.4 trillion of mortgages to Fannie; in recent years Fannie has been figuring out that lots of those mortgages were badly underwritten, came with false reps and warranties, etc., and so it can demand that BofA repurchase them at par. It’s tried to do so on around $11bn of loans, and BofA’s reaction has been along the lines of (1) no and (2) “we’re so mad we’re going to stop selling you more mortgages,” which somewhat surprisingly to the casual observer actually seems to have been interpreted by both sides as a threat rather than a reward.
But today Fannie and BofA announced a settlement that would resolve all of those claims, as well as almost all future claims on the $297 billion of unpaid principal that remains on those $1.4 trillion of ’00-to-’08 mortgages.
The math here is a little funny. Let’s try to parse it: Read more »
There are some financial jobs that come with a perhaps undeserved swashbuckling cachet. “Oh, you know, I do hostile takeovers,” you say, and a certain crowd will treat you like you just got back from plundering a Spanish ship-of-the-line, even though you mostly sit in a cubicle updating spreadsheets and changing the wording in press releases. Then there are other jobs. When you say “I do liability management for insurance-company bonds,” everyone instantly thinks of spreadsheets.
Still, you swashbuckle on unrecognized, taking a quiet satisfaction in your piratical ways. Everyone in this story is a pirate, and this is a bond that somebody made or lost or made and lost a lot of loot on: