SEC

Technological ineptitude has kept some civil-servants at the SEC pretty busy this year. And entertained: Without any big-game stock exchanges screwing up lately, they’ll bide their time with one that hosts a whopping 0.4% of all U.S. stock trading. Read more »

Remember, back in 2009, when Phil Falcone’s personal accountants realized that the hedge fund manager owed the government more than $100 million in state and federal taxes? And he decided to come up with the cash by “loaning” himself $113 million from a gated investor fund? It’s one of our favorite Falcone stories and we bring it up today because it’s one of the reasons, among many, that the Harbinger Capital founder just agreed to pay the Securities and Exchange Commission $18 million, admit wrongdoing, and take a five year involuntary break from the securities industry. For those who need a refresh, here’s how the idea for Falcone to help himself to the money came about, courtesy of the SEC:

1. After figuring out Falcone was in the hole for over one hundred mill, Phil’s accountants informed Harbinger’s COO, Peter Jenson, of the problem.

2. Jenson made some calls and let his boss know that “no bank would accept Falcone’s hedge fund interests as collateral.”

3. Jenson suggested that Falcone “proceed with appraisals of Falcone’s two Manhattan townhouses and artwork, and raised the possibility of borrowing against other assets, including Falcone’s interest in a National Hockey League team and an estate on the island of St. Barts.”

4. Falcone said nothing but quietly stewed. Borrow against his interest in the Minnesota Wild? He couldn’t believe Jenson had the balls to even mention it. Especially when all that investor money was just sitting there, practically begging to be used… Read more »

Maybe this is how Gary Gensler goes out with a bang? Read more »

  • 07 Aug 2013 at 9:40 AM

Everybody Will Always Be Suing BofA Over Mortgages

These lawsuits against Bank of America are pretty lame, aren’t they? The SEC and Department of Justice each sued BofA yesterday for fraud in a 2008 prime jumbo mortgage securitization but it doesn’t really feel like fraud. The guns are smoke-free. The DoJ gets itself all excited because someone proposed including some bad mortgages in the deal, and a Bank of America trader said of those mortgages that, “like a fat kid in dodgeball, these need to stay on the sidelines,” but they did! The trader thought some of the mortgages were crap, and they were crap, and so they weren’t included in the deal. The system worked! It’s like if Fabulous Fab emailed his girlfriend saying “I am creating monstruosities,” and she told him to stop, and he did.

The complaints put their fraudy eggs in two main baskets. The first is that Bank of America omitted to tell investors some material facts, of which the most important is that 70% of the loans in this securitization were wholesale loans (originated through brokers), and that wholesale loans were worse – for both credit and prepayment risk – than loans originated by BofA directly. Read more »

The SEC settled a little crisis-era CDO fraud case with UBS today and the fraud is pretty entertainingly shitty. Basically UBS provided the warehouse for a synthetic CDO where the notorious ACA was the collateral manager, and the disclosed deal was that, when the CDO closed, it would enter into (as protection seller) any CDS contracts that UBS had entered as part of the warehouse at (1) the market price of those CDS or (2) the price UBS had received for them as initial counterparty, whichever was more favorable to UBS.1 Now right there you’ve got some optionality and room for fuzziness, and you could imagine various unpleasant schemes where, for instance, UBS cherry-picks some contracts to transfer at market and some at historic price, or where UBS mis-marks some contracts to get a better deal when it transfers them.

But the actual scheme was simpler and dumber: Read more »

  • 29 Jul 2013 at 10:26 AM

Fabulous Fab Really Wanted To Get Abacus Done

Fabrice Tourre testified in his SEC trial late last week and many perplexing things came out, with the most perplexing being a tie between:

Perhaps less perplexing is that Fab’s feelings about Abacus seem to have been less about bamboozling one client on behalf of another and more about just printing a trade, whichever direction it went in. John Carney reports that Goldman was taking too long getting ABN Amro to intermediate ACA’s guarantee of the super senior tranche of the deal, Paulson was getting antsy, and Fab, ever servicey, was trying to assuage their antsiness by just getting Goldman to do the deal naked: Read more »

One hopes “black edge” wasn’t on the list. Anyway today’s indictment against SAC, for wire fraud and securities fraud, is a hoot:

For example, on or about July 29, 2009, a recently hired SAC PM (the “New PM”) sent an instant message to [Steve Cohen] and relayed that, due to some “recent research,” the New PM planned to short Nokia when he started work 10 days later. The New PM apologized for being “cryptic” but noted that the head of SAC compliance “was giving me Rules 101 yesterday – so I won’t be saying much[.] [T]oo scary.”

Possibly the weirdest part here is that new hires got compliance lectures two weeks before they showed up at the firm? But maybe not; the DOJ takes a pretty dim view of SAC’s hiring process generally, and if you believe the DOJ that SAC’s main hiring criterion was “is good at insider trading” then you could imagine the need for a little pre-start-date warning about email etiquette: Read more »

  • 24 Jul 2013 at 10:53 AM

Fab Tourre’s CDO Deal Wasn’t Complicated Enough

If you wanted to short the housing market in 2007 you could just buy protection on mortgage-backed securities via a synthetic CDO, and that’s what John Paulson did in the Abacus deal, for which Goldman Sachs and Fab Tourre got in trouble. But the problem with that is that buying protection costs money; just for instance the super-senior protection in Abacus would run you about 50bps, or around $4.5 million a year on the $909mm notional that ACA Capital wrapped.1 And who wants to throw away millions of dollars a year waiting for the housing market to crash?

So another way to short the market is to buy a lot of protection on senior tranches of CDOs (cheap because: what are the odds that the housing market will crash?) while also selling a little protection on junior tranches (expensive because the odds that there’ll be some defaults are higher). If you do this, you can have a positive carry (you get paid as more each year on the protection you sold than you pay on the protection you bought), but you can make just about as much money if the housing market craters and there are massive defaults. (The tradeoff is that if performance is mediocre, with some defaults, then you lose money on the junior protection you sold and don’t make it back on the senior protection you bought.)

This second trade is a very stylized description of what Magnetar did,2 in another CDO deal for which JPMorgan got in a bit of trouble. Less than Goldman, though! Read more »