Category Archives: Investment banks

Wolf Richter: Microsoft Tallies the True Costs of the M&A Boom: Layoffs, Write-Offs, Shut-Downs, and Economic Decline

Microsoft illustrates the real-world fallout of letting corporate executives, either out of desperation or out of finding deal making more fun than the grind of making businesses perform better, follow the siren song of M&A mavens.


NYTimes Dealbook’s Dishonest Salvo at Elizabeth Warren Over Calling Out an Unqualified Nominee for Treasury Post

Even though Andrew Ross Sorkin and his mini-empire, the New York Times Dealbook, are reliable defenders of their Big Finance meal tickets, they’ve managed to skim above, if sometimes just barely above, abject intellectual dishonesty. But Dealbook has published not one but three pieces in as many weeks in defense of an unacceptably weak Obama Administration nominee for an important Treasury post, the Under Secretary of Domestic Finance.

The candidate is Antonio Weiss, a Lazard mergers and acquisitions professional who was elevated to head of investment banking in 2009. There’s no doubt that Weiss is accomplished. The non-trivial problem, as Elizabeth Warren and others have pointed out, is that Weiss’ experience and skills have absolutely nothing to do with the Treasury role.

What is striking is the way that Sorkin and his colleagues have launched what amounts to a media war against Warren in defense of Weiss, and have shameless resorted to a drumbeat of Big Lies in the hope that their messaging will stick. The fact that they can’t even mount a proper case on its merits speaks volumes about Weiss’ qualifications for the job.


AIG Bailout Trial Revelation: Morgan Stanley Told Geithner it Would File for Bankruptcy the Weekend it Became a Bank

I’m still hugely behind on the AIG bailout trial, and hope to show a ton more progress in the next week. I’m posting the transcript for days three the trial; you can find the first two days here and other key documents here.

The first week was consumed with the testimony of the painfully uncooperative Scott Alvarez, the general counsel of the Board of Governors, who Matt Stoller argued needs to be fired, and the cagier-seeming general counsel of the New York Fed, Tom Baxter. Unlike Alvarez, Baxter at least in text seemed to be far more forthcoming than Alvarez and more strategic in where he dug in his heels. But the revelations about the Morgan Stanley rescue alone are juicy. The main actors have sold a carefully concocted story for years.


Don’t Worry About Eric Cantor; Worry About His Staffers

The age of the Hot Take has also infected the financial press, as it seems like every media outlet had to feature some hastily arranged opinion piece this week on former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor becoming a vice chairman at boutique investment bank Moelis & Co. But Cantor keeping one foot in D.C. – his Moelis office will be there – actually speaks to what we should really look out for when it comes to his departure: where his staff relocates.


Krugman v. Morgenson on Too Big to Fail

Paul Krugman has a thing where you know what his column will look like on Monday based on what goes on his blog that Friday. Sure enough, he transformed this blog post on the Government Accountability Office’s report on too big to fail into this column yesterday with the humble title “Dodd-Frank Financial Reform is Working.”


Corporate Bond Trading a Casualty of QE and ZIRP

The Financial Times has an article on how corporate bond dealers are going to create a new trading hub to try to preserve their market position while “boosting liquidity” in the market. Narrowly speaking, there’s nothing wrong with the piece as a description of investor unhappiness and planned bank responses. But it curiously missed how Fed policy has helped generate conditions that are reducing corporate bond market liquidity.


Cantor’s Loss a Triumph for Anti-Corporate Right-Wing Populism

Cantor’s loss probably had many fathers. It may be as simple as this: polls always show that voters hate Congress but love their Congressmember, and Cantor, who had a whole mess of new, more conservative voters in his district after the 2010 gerrymander, symbolized the former rather than the latter. To the engaged sliver of voters participating, Cantor was the city slicker (even the Jewish city slicker, some suggest) who strove for institutional power and lost touch with the people he represented. The fact that Cantor won the areas closest to D.C. and lost the ones furthest away fits that theory.

But there’s no question that conservative economics professor David Brat succeeded in channeling a strain of right-wing populism to target Cantor, and plausibly so, as a corporate stooge and progenitor of crony capitalism. Lee Fang at Republic Report did the most thorough work on this…


David Dayen: FHFA Will Secure Up to $28 Billion From Banks in Its MBS Lawsuit

An analysis at Bloomberg Law puts some numbers down that I hadn’t seen all in one place previously. The headline effort is to pin down what other banks being sued by the FHFA over mortgage-backed securities passed to Fannie and Freddie with poor underwriting will have to pay, given the standard set by the JPMorgan Chase settlement for $4 billion. The report, by Nela Richardson, actually botches that job by adding the $1.1 billion that FHFA simultaneously received from JPMorgan through reps and warranties on raw mortgages, and doing the calculations based on a $5.1 billion award. Only the $4 billion has anything to do with the lawsuit, which was about $33 billion in Fannie and Freddie purchases of MBS. In other words, FHFA netted about 12 cents on the dollar from JPMorgan. Redoing Richardson’s work, you can calculate how much that means other banks would be expected to pay FHFA in any settlement if they paid 12 cents on the dollar:


Wolf Richter: Bubble Trouble: Record Junk Bond Issuance, A Barrage Of IPOs, “Out Of Whack” Valuations, And Grim Earnings Growth

When Blackstone’s global head of private equity, Joseph Baratta, said Thursday night that “we” were “in the middle of an epic credit bubble,” the likes of which he hadn’t seen in his career, he knew whereof he spoke.

Junk bond issuance hit an all-time record of $47.6 billion in September, edging out the prior record, set in September last year, of $46.8 billion, according to S&P Capital IQ/LCD. Year to date, issuance amounted to $255 billion, blowing away last year’s volume for this period of $243 billion. The year 2012, already in a bubble, set an all-time record with $346 billion. This year, if the Fed keeps the money flowing and forgets about that taper business, junk bond issuance will beat that record handily.


Has the Shale Bubble Already Burst?

Just like the famous Gold Rushes of the 19th century, US shale gas development is turning out to be a limited and regional market opportunity. Across the Atlantic, the high financial and human costs to fracking also mean that Europe should forget any fantasies about repeating the US shale boom.

Many US shale companies that have been beating the drums of shale “revolution” are now facing oil and gas well depletion. In February 2013 the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) warned that “diminishing returns to scale and the depletion of high productivity sweet spots are expected to eventually slow the rate of growth in tight oil production”. It was a cautious but intriguing statement.


House Republican GSE Bill Would Codify MERS, Pre-Empt Private Property Rights

The top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee has tucked a provision into his mortgage finance reform bill that would create a privately held “National Mortgage Data Repository.” The repository would basically look like MERS, the bank-owned electronic database tracking mortgage transfer. The difference is that, while MERS’ activities have drawn legal challenges across the country, the National Mortgage Data Repository would have the force of statute to carry out the exact same behavior. According to the bill text, any document arising from this repository would be seen as presumptively legal, pre-empting state and federal laws on demonstrating the right to foreclose.


David Dayen: SEC Convenes Foot-Dragging Roundtable on Rating Agency Reform, While Securities Issuers Return to Familiar Rating-Shopping Tricks

A few months ago, I wrote a story for The American Prospect about the credit rating agencies, and their thus-far successful effort to ward off any change to their business model, despite their wretched performance during the crisis. This is true even though Dodd-Frank contained a measure, written by Al Franken, to alter the issuer-pays model that incentivizes higher ratings in the pursuit of future profits. The Franken-Wicker rule (the “Wicker” is Republican Senator Roger Wicker) would create a self-regulating organization to randomly assign securities to accredited rating agencies, with more securities over time going to the agencies that rated the most accurately.


Cathy O’Neil: Black Scholes and the normal distribution

By Cathy O’Neil, a data scientist. Cross posted from mathbabe

There have been lots of comments and confusion, especially in this post, over what people in finance do or do not assume about how the markets work. I wanted to dispel some myths (at the risk of creating more).