Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Gift that Keeps on Taking

The gifting of Bear Stearns to Jamie Dimon's JPMorgan Chase allowed Dimon to pick and choose what assets of Bear Stearns he wanted to keep and which ones he would pass. What he didn't take, the Fed acquired. The reason for this was supposedly that JPM would be left with too much exposure to the real estate market, if it kept the entire portfolio. Yeah, right, Jamie.

What actually happened was that Dimon shifted all the real schlock to the Fed. Henny Sender at FT reports:
The US Federal Reserve is sitting on significant paper losses on the real estate assets it acquired in the Bear Stearns rescue, with much of the red ink coming from debt used to back some of the most high-profile buy-out deals of the bubble years.

Among the debts weighing on the central bank’s portfolio are those used in financing the acquisitions of Hilton Hotels, which is being restructured, and hotel operator Extended Stay, which is in bankruptcy, people familiar with the matter say.

The Fed holds these and other real estate assets in a vehicle known as Maiden Lane I, which was set up to pave the way for JPMorgan Chase’s purchase of Bear...The assets in Maiden Lane I – all of which came from Bear’s mortgage desk – were originally valued at $30bn when a final agreement on the portfolio was reached in June 2008 by the New York Fed, its advisers at asset managers BlackRock and JPMorgan. At the end of 2009 the Fed said the assets were worth $27.1bn (€20bn, £17.4bn).

People familiar with the portfolio said Maiden Lane I’s losses were concentrated in commercial real estate assets, which had a face value of $8.4bn and an estimated worth of $7.7bn when they were acquired by the Fed.

As of September they had been marked down to $4bn, filings show.

About two-thirds of the Maiden Lane I portfolio involved mortgage debt backed by government-created entities, people familiar with the matter said. Those people describe the debt as highly illiquid, a factor that has resulted in its failure to rally strongly as credit markets recovered and interest rates fell.

“It was the scrapings off the slaughterhouse floor,” said one person. “It started with the things that were not good enough to get securitised."
Naturally, Dimon and Treasury Secretary Geithner are on record with an Alice In Wonderland view of what the Fed absorbed:
The struggles of the portfolio could stir the debate on Wall Street over whether the New York Fed, then run by Tim Geithner, who is now Treasury secretary, struck a particularly good deal for taxpayers in the Bear rescue.

In a typical restructuring, creditors are made whole before shareholders are paid. In the Bear case, shareholders received $10 a share while creditors – in this case, the Fed – may lose money.

Mr Geithner told Congress in 2008 that the central bank had three “risk mitigants” to protect its interests in the Bear deal: JPMorgan’s agreement to take the first $1bn in any losses; the Fed’s long-time horizon as an investor; and the fact that the central bank’s $28.8bn loan was backed by “a pool of professionally managed collateral”.

Testifying before Congress last month, Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s chief executive, said the New York Fed received “the less risky mortgage assets” on Bear’s books.
Note: If anyone has a copy of Jamie's testimony, please let me know if he actually said the above with a straight face.


  1. And how many synthetic CDO's, bundled derivatives, landed in the Maiden Lane accounts?

    Tim Geithner paid AIG counterparties 100 cents on the dollar for such junk.

    In January Bloomberg reported:

    "the New York Fed suggested that AIG refrain in a filing from mentioning so-called synthetic collateralized debt obligations, which bundled derivative contracts rather than actual loans."

    They've lied to us before. Who knows what garbage lies in the Fed's hands?

  2. 2-16-10 FT did a piece on this topic.

    "Setback stirs debate over Fed rescue of Bear Stearns"