The Swiss And Disaster


When the Swiss are worried, you really need to watch it.
No lesser financial news giant than Forbes reports (via Thomson Financial News) that former Credit Suisse CEO Oswald Gruebel (a likelier name for the antagonist in a spy novel with a plotline involving stolen gold you have probably never encountered) quipped "We've narrowly escaped a system collapse. This has never happened before." One is tempted immediately to think of World War II, the Great Depression, the Cuban Missile crisis, but this ignores the "system collapsiness" of these events from the Swiss View. To the Swiss these are but small tremors. Trifles.
So the next time someone tells you the sub-prime mess is overblown, or that Bear Stearns should have been allowed to fail, just point them to Oswald Gruebel, and remind them that the primary Swiss concern with World War II was that it increased shipping costs.
International Financial System Was Close To The Brink [Forbes]


Today In Swiss Banks With Creepy But Defensible Structured Products

I don't really understand it but the TVIX thing is creepy fun. If you haven't followed it, Credit Suisse issued this exchange-traded note called TVIX that was a 2x levered bet on the VIX. They suspended new issuance about a month ago due to position limits, and people were just so damn excited to own the thing that its price crept up to 189% of its fair value, where "fair value" is a reasonably easily measurable thing based on the formula in the TVIX prospectus. Then last week Credit Suisse announced that they would be creating more units, and the price plummeted to and then through fair value, which is what you'd expect to happen. Except that it started plummeting a few hours before that announcement, which is Suspicious. So of course people are sad and so there's a Bloomberg Brief with sort of sad-funny quotes like: “When it started to fall, I bought more because I couldn’t believe how low it was going. I didn’t realize I was playing with a hand grenade.” – Michael Gamble [heh! - ed.], 67, who doubled down on his TVIX investment before the price collapsed. Investors “all think: ‘Oh, I’ll just buy these things, I’ll be hedged against volatility and everything will be wonderful.’ And now they’ve seen the market goes down and their volatility protection goes down too, and they’re going ‘Hmm, what happened here?’ These people are going to have to pay a really expensive lesson.” – Larry McMillan, who manages $30 million as president of McMillan Analysis Corp. So, yes, Larry, they are going to pay a really expensive lesson. But what is it? Stephen Lubben has a little thing in DealBook today where he frets: