Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Market Caps of 19 Stress Test Banks

Commercial Mortgage Defaults

From the FT:

The volume of commercial mortgages at risk of default has quintupled since the beginning of 2008 as a deteriorating economy has made it increasingly difficult for shops and businesses to keep up with their payments.

Special servicers, companies that collect payments from borrowers in distress on behalf of mortgage bond investors, reported $23.7bn of mortgages under their care at the end of the first quarter, according to Fitch Ratings.

Mortgages for multi-family residential properties suffering from the housing downturn represented the largest share of the troubled loans at 31 per cent, said Fitch. However, mortgages for shops and businesses were catching up, with retail loans at 28 per cent of the distressed pools.

“Retail properties were the first property type to see the effects of declining economic conditions and consumer spending,” said Stephanie Petosa, analyst at Fitch. “[We have] observed an increase in defaults of retail loans and expect them to eventually surpass multi-family as the highest property type concentration.”

Mortgages for retail properties such as shopping centres have suffered from bankruptcies of “big box” retailing tenants such as Circuit City and Linens ’n Things, spurring an increase in vacancies and forcing a growing number of borrowers to seek relief from their lenders.

General Growth Properties, the second-largest US mall owner, collapsed earlier this month because it was unable to refinance more than $3.3bn in debt due for repayment this year. The company owns 200 shopping centers.

“Commercial real estate is in a world of hurt and will be for at least the next two years,” said Ross Smotrich, analyst at Barclays Capital. “This is a capital intensive business in which lending capacity has diminished because of the absence of securitisation, while the fundamentals are driven by the overall economy so both occupancy and rents are declining.”

Fitch analysts said they expect commercial mortgage defaults to continue to increase this year. At the end of the first quarter, defaults and payments more than 60 days late were at 1.53 per cent of outstanding mortgages. Fitch said they could reach 4 per cent by the end of 2010.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More Power to the FDIC

FDIC Chair Shelia Blair said in a speech yesterday that the agency should have expanded powers to take over and close financial institutions - including insurers or bank holding companies. She suggested forming a "good bank / bad bank" model as part of the process and that the FDIC should have the authority to close even large and "systemically important" financial firms.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Stress Test Methodology

Stress Test Loan Loss Estimates

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

El-Erian (PIMCO) on Bank Stress Tests

From the FT:

To maximise the prospects for a good outcome, or at least minimize the risk of damage, it would be prudent for US policymakers to take seriously the following five factors:

First, transparency is key. Whether the government likes it or not, hundreds of analysts around the world will reverse engineer the stress tests. The government would be well advised to assist the process through clarity. Obfuscation would result in damaging market noise and further derail the real economy. At the minimum, policymakers need to provide credible details on the methodology, the underlying assumptions and scenario analyses.

Second, the results of the stress tests must be part of a comprehensive, forward-looking package to resolve problems at banks. Out-performing banks should be provided with exit mechanisms from the exceptional government support that they have been receiving and, presumably, no longer need. At the other end, there must be clarity as to how capital-deficient banks that no longer have access to private capital will be handled.

Third, the banks’ recovery and rehabilitation efforts must be co-ordinated closely with other efforts to put the banking system back on a viable road. In particular, they need to work together with the implementation of initiatives aimed at lowering funding costs (such as federally-guaranteed borrowings and Federal Reserve facilities), and facilitating the removal of the overhang of toxic assets. This will require a level of co-operation among US agencies that, historically, has not come easily or effectively.

Fourth, the government should arrest and counter the recent erosion in key parameters of the market system. Specifically, it must work hard to resist the temptation to override contracts, to undermine the sanctity of the capital structure and to treat differently stakeholders with similar legal rights. Indeed, seemingly attractive and politically expedient financial engineering, such as that used in the third Citigroup bail-out, risks undermining long-standing principles that have served the US well for years.

Finally, the US must never lose sight of the international dimensions of its policies. Its response must be consistent with efforts to upgrade a deeply challenged infrastructure for cross-border harmonisation of regulation and bank capital. The aim is to ensure a degree of global consistency that clarifies accountability and responsibility.

These are stringent requirements. Yet there is really no alternative. The US is already embarked on a journey to a “new normal” that includes reduced private credit intermediation and lower capacity for sustained, non-inflationary growth. Adherence to these five principles would help to ensure that the damage caused by past market failures is not compounded further by stress-test policy failures.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Office of the Special Inspector General on PPIP

From the WSJ:

Addressing one of the Treasury's newest efforts, the watchdog said fund managers that participate in the Treasury's program to address toxic assets, the Public-Private Investment Program, could take advantage of the program at taxpayers' expense.

"The significant Government-financed leverage presents a great incentive for collusion between the buyer and seller of the asset, or the buyer and other buyers, whereby, once again, the taxpayer takes a significant loss while others profit," the office said in its quarterly report to Congress.

The Treasury should impose conflict-of-interest rules on firms participating in the program and disclose information about its beneficiaries, the report said.

Monday, April 20, 2009

BoA's Lewis Says Credit is Bad and Getting Worse

From MarketWatch:
"Credit is bad and we believe credit is going to get worse before it will eventually stabilize and improve," Lewis said during a conference call with investors. "Whether that turn is later this year or in the first half of 2010, I'm not going to hazard a guess."
"From an economic standpoint we believe we can see weak but positive GDP growth by the fourth quarter this year," he said. "I have to say that even our internal economists are a little at odds as to the timing with some seeing recovery earlier. However, we think it prudent to run the company under an expectation it will be later in the year or early next year. We believe unemployment levels won't peak until next year at somewhere in the high single digits."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

From Bloomberg: Summers Says Banks Must Tap Markets for New Capital
Banks in the U.S. that have received billions of dollars from the government will first have to rely on private markets if they need more money, National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers said.

“The first resort for more capital is going to the private markets directly to raise equity,” Summers told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program ...

His comments signal that banks deemed in need of capital at the conclusion of government-run “stress tests” may not get additional funds automatically ...

David Axelrod, a senior White House adviser, said some banks “are going to have very serious problems, but we feel that there are tools available to address those problems.” The banks want the “market to know” the health of their balance sheets, he said today on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reducing Foreclosures

Conclusions from Federal Reserve Bank of Boston paper on reducing foreclosures:
DTI (debt to income) at Origination is Not a Strong Predictor of Default.
What really matters in the default decision is the mortgage payment relative to the borrower’s income in the present and future, not the borrower’s income in the past. Consequently, the high degree of volatility in individual incomes means that mortgages that start out with low DTIs can end in default if housing prices are falling.

Evidence Suggests Loan Servicers are Unwilling to Turn High-DTI Mortgages into Low-DTI Mortgages
The evidence that a foreclosure loses money for the lender seems compelling. The servicer typically resells a foreclosed house for much less than the outstanding balance on the mortgage ... This would seem to imply that the ultimate owners of a securitized mortgage, the investors, lose money when a foreclosure occurs. Estimates of the total gains to investors from modifying rather than foreclosing can run to $180 billion, more than 1 percent of GDP. It is natural to wonder why investors are leaving so many $500 bills on the sidewalk. While contract frictions are one possible explanation, another is that the gains from loan modifications are in reality much smaller or even nonexistent from the investor’s point of view.

We provide evidence in favor of the latter explanation. First, the typical calculation purporting to show that an investor loses money when a foreclosure occurs does not capture all relevant aspects of the problem. Investors also lose money when they modify mortgages for borrowers who would have repaid anyway, especially if modifications are done en masse, as proponents insist they should be. Moreover, the calculation ignores the possibility that borrowers with modified loans will default again later, usually for the same reason they defaulted in the first place. These two problems are empirically meaningful and can easily explain why servicers eschew modification in favor of foreclosure.
emphasis added

On "Walking Away" or "Ruthless Default"
If there is no hope that the price of the house will ever recover to exceed the outstanding balance on the mortgage, the borrower may engage in “ruthless default” and simply walk away from the home. Kau, Keenan, and Kim (1994) show that optimal ruthless default takes place at a negative-equity threshold that is well below zero, due to the option value of waiting to see whether the house price recovers.

To sum up, falling house prices are no doubt causing some people to ruthlessly default. But the data indicate that ruthless defaults are not the biggest part of the foreclosure problem. For the nation as a whole, less than 40 percent of homeowners who had their first 90-day delinquency in 2008 stopped making payments abruptly. Because this figure is an upper bound on the fraction of ruthless defaults, it suggests ruthless default is not the main reason why falling house prices have caused so many foreclosures.

Negative Equity is Key to Defaults
The empirical evidence on the role of negative equity in causing foreclosures is overwhelming and incontrovertible. Household-level studies show that the foreclosure hazard for homeowners with positive equity is extremely small but rises rapidly as equity approaches and falls below zero.

Resets are of Only Limited Importance
Many commentators have put the resets at the heart of the crisis, but the simulations illustrate that it is difficult to support this claim. The payment escalation story is relevant if we assume that there is no income risk and that the initial DTI is also the threshold for ex post DTI. Then loans with resets become unaffordable 100 percent of the time and loans without resets never become unaffordable. But adding income risk essentially ruins this story. If the initial DTI is also the threshold for ex post DTI, then, with income risk, about 70 percent of the loans will become unaffordable even without the reset. The reset only raises that figure to about 80 percent. If, on the other hand, we set the ex post affordability threshold well above the initial DTI, then the resets are not large enough to cause ex post affordability problems.

Roubini on Stress Testing the Stress Test Scenarios

Roubini writes: Stress Testing the Stress Test Scenarios: Actual Macro Data Are Already Worse than the More Adverse Scenario for 2009 in the Stress Tests. So the Stress Tests Fail the Basic Criterion of Reality Check Even Before They Are Concluded

If you look at the actual data today macro data for Q1 on the three variables used in the stress tests – growth rate, unemployment rate, and home price depreciation – are already worse than those in FDIC baseline scenario for 2009 AND even worse than those for the more adverse stressed scenario for 2009. Thus, the stress test results are meaningless as actual data are already running worse than the worst case scenario.
The spin machine about the banks’ stress test is already in full motion; some banking regulators have already leaked to the New York Times the spin that all 19 banks who are subject to the stress test will pass it, i.e. none of them will fail it.

Bank Stress Test Results

From the WSJ: Banks Await Stress-Test Results
The Obama administration is considering making public some results of the stress tests being conducted on the country's 19 largest banks, said people familiar with the matter, a move that could help more clearly separate healthy banks from the weaklings.

It isn't clear precisely what information the government might disclose. ... But some within the administration believe a certain amount of information needs to be released in order to provide assurance about the validity and rigor of the assessments. In addition, these people also are concerned that the tests won't be able to fulfill their basic function of shoring up confidence unless investors are able to see data for themselves.

From the NY Times: U.S. Planning to Reveal Data on Health of Top Banks
The Obama administration is drawing up plans to disclose the conditions of the 19 biggest banks in the country, according to senior administration officials ... The administration has decided to reveal some sensitive details of the stress tests now being completed after concluding that keeping many of the findings secret could send investors fleeing from financial institutions rumored to be weakest.

“The purpose of this program is to prevent panics, not cause them,” said one senior official ... “And it’s becoming clearer that we and the banks are going to have to explain clearly where each bank falls in the spectrum.”

Two senior government officials said on Tuesday that they were now likely to encourage the banks to reveal a range of information, perhaps including the size of losses the banks could suffer under each of the stress assumptions.

Stress test results should be released for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the taxpayer deserves to have some insight into the future viability of the banks the government has supported to date. Shareholders deserve to know where they stand and potential investors in other financial institutions need to know if they are competing with another bank or with the government.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

FDIC to Guarantee Treasury PPIP Loans

From the NYT:

In the fine print of Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner’s plan to lend as much as $1 trillion to private investors to help them buy toxic assets from our nation’s banks, you’ll find some details of how the F.D.I.C is trying to stabilize the system by adding more risk, not less, to the system.

It’s going to be insuring 85 percent of the debt, provided by the Treasury, that private investors will use to subsidize their acquisitions of toxic assets.

The terms are hard to beat. They are, for example, “nonrecourse,” which means that if an investor loses money, he owes taxpayers

So where did the risk go this time?

To the F.D.I.C., and ultimately, to us taxpayers. A close reading of the F.D.I.C.’s statute suggests the agency is using a unique — some might call it plain wrong — reading of its own rule book to accomplish this high-wire act.

Somehow, in the name of solving the financial crisis, the F.D.I.C. has seemingly been given a blank check, with virtually no oversight by

The F.D.I.C. is insuring the program, called the Public-Private Investment Program, by using a special provision in its charter that allows it to take extraordinary steps when an “emergency determination by secretary of the Treasury” is made to mitigate “systemic risk.”

Simple enough, but that language seems to bump up against another, perhaps more important provision. That provision clearly limits its ability to borrow, guarantee or take on obligations of more than $30

So how is the F.D.I.C. planning to insure more than $1 trillion in new obligations? This is where things get complicated and questions are being raised.

The plan hinges on the unique, and somewhat perverse, way the F.D.I.C. values the loans. It considers their value not as the total obligation, but as “contingent liabilities” — meaning what it expects it could possibly lose. As the F.D.I.C’s charter dictates: “The corporation shall value any contingent liability at its expected cost to the corporation.

Try a variation of that argument on your FDIC examination team........

So how much does the F.D.I.C. think it might lose?

“We project no losses,” Sheila Bair, the chairwoman, told me in an interview. Zero? Really? “Our accountants have signed off on no net losses,” she said.

By this logic, though, the F.D.I.C. appears to have determined it can lend an unlimited amount of money to anyone so long as it believes, at least at the moment, that it won’t lose any money.


Here’s the F.D.I.C.’s explanation: It says it plans to carefully vet every loan that gets made and it will receive fees and collateral in exchange. And then there’s the safety net: If it loses money from insuring those investments, it will assess the financial industry a fee to pay the agency back.

Ms. Bair said that she can not imagine the F.D.I.C. losing money on the scale I suggested in my doomsday scenario. She said that before announcing the program, the F.D.I.C.’s lawyers determined that the statute allowed it to guarantee loans by valuing them as contigent liabilities. “That’s how we’ve interpreted it,” she said, adding that the determination was made back in October when the F.D.I.C. first introduced the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program, which is also backed by the F.D.I.C.

Monday, April 6, 2009

More Write-Downs to Come in Loan Portfolios

From Mike Mayo, a Calyon Securities analyst formerly with Deutsche Bank:
"Given that securities portfolios have been written down closer to market values than loans, traditional banks with more loans seem to have the greatest regulatory risk as part of this process, given the potential requirement for large capital raises."
Mayo believes that the level of loan losses would be the main issue over the next couple of years and expects them to exceed the level of the Great Depression. He sees industry loan losses rising from a current 2% level, to 3.5%, "above 3.4% in 1934 or, under a stress scenario, at 5.5%."
Better take another look at that ALLL....

Case-Shiller March 2009 Analysis

New York, March 31, 2009 – Data through January 2009, released today by Standard & Poor’s for its S&P/Case-Shiller1 Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, shows continued broad based declines in the prices of existing single family homes across the United States, with 13 of the 20 metro areas showing record rates of annual decline, and 14 reporting declines in excess of 10% versus January 2008.

The chart above depicts the annual returns of the 10-City Composite and the 20-City Composite Home Price Indices. Following the lead of the 14 metro areas described above, the 10-City and 20-City Composites also set new records, with annual declines of 19.4% and 19.0%, respectively.

The chart above shows the index levels for the 10-City Composite and 20-City Composite Home Price Indices. As of January 2009, average home prices across the United States are at similar levels to what they were in late 2003. From the peak in the second quarter of 2006, the 10-City Composite is down 30.2% and the 20-City Composite is down 29.1%.

William Black: "There Are No Real Stress Tests Going On"

From naked capitalism on William Black:
There are no real stress tests going on.

1) If you did a real stress test, as Geithner explained them, you wouldn't just have a $2 trillion hole -- you'd impose regulatory capital requirements of 50%. (FYI, the regulators have the power to set HIGHER individual capital requirements based on unusually large risks at a particular bank.)
2) You can't conduct a meaningful stress test without reviewing (sampling) the underlying loan files and it seems likely that the purchasers of securitized instruments (not just mortgages) do not even have the loan file data. Moreover, loss ratios vary enormously depending on the issuer, so even a bank that originates (or has purchased a bank that originates) similar product cannot simply take its own loss rate and extrapolate it to the measure the risk on the value of securitized credit instruments.

3) The regulators are overwhelmed because of personnel cuts (particularly heavy among their best, most experienced examiners that had worked banks that had engaged in sophisticated frauds. Buyouts were common, because more experienced examiners appear more expensive. This isn't true when you consider effecitiveness and productivity, but management didn't care about that. Treat what I write after the colon as hearing from me at my most serious and thoughtful: it is vastly more difficult to examine a bank that is engaged in accounting control fraud. You can't rely on the bank's books and records. It doesn't simply take more, far more, FTEs -- it takes examiners with experience, care, courage, and investigative instincts and abilities. Very few folks earning $60K are willing to get in the face of the CEO and CFO making $25 million annually and tell them that they are running a fraudulent bank and they are liars. FYI, this is one of the reasons why having "resident examiners" never works. The examiners don't even get to marry the natives. They get to worship God's annoited. Effective examination is good for you, but it is very unpleasant, ala a doctor's finger up your rectum. It requires total independence.

So, the examination force doesn't have remotely the numbers or the relevant experience and mindset to examine the largest banks with the greatest problems.
4) As Geithner describes the process, NO ONE can conduct reliable "stress testing." It inherently requires testing everything in every way any and all aspects of everything could conceivably interact. It also doesn't provide any meaningful output that can be operationalized (unless you want to force an enormous rise in minimum regulatory capital requirements, which he obviously doesn't want to do).

5) Examiners certainly can't A) do the stress testing that Geithner describes or B) evaluate the reliability of a large bank's proprietary stress test. If they were serious about constructing reliable stress tests, which they aren't, you'd require their analytics to be made public. You'd have the industry fund independent investigations by rocket scientists chosen by a committee selected by the regulators of the soundness of the analytics. You'd also have the industry fund competitions to rip them apart (a bit like we hire legit hackers to test security by trying to defeat it) and show where they produce absurd results. The geeks would have a field day (that would probably last a decade). There are probably zero examiners that have the modeling skills required to evaluate the most sophisticated stress test models. The concept that there are 100 examiners with these skills, suddenly freed up from all other duties, assigned to CONDUCT stress tests is a lie.

6) It is, however, possible to use even the less experienced examiners to conduct a far more useful examination of the quality and value of nonprime loans. My nightmare scenario which I fear is often true is that A) because the biggest originators of nonprime loans were mortgage bankers, B) because every large mortgage banker that specialized in nonprime loans went bankrups, C) because many of them went into Chapter 7 liquidations and even those that went into Chapter 11's had little incentive to hang on to files on mortgage loans they had sold to other entities -- the loan files on many nonprime loans may no longer exist. (My fervent prayer is that the loan servicers have tapes with copies of the underlying loan files, but I fear that this prayer will not be answered.) Under this nightmare scenario it will be extraordinarily hard to determine loan quality and losses and very hard to foreclose against borrowers that can afford attorneys (admittedly a minority) and that claim fraud in the inducement.
Yes, few examiners understand more exotic products. In my experience, nobody understands all the products. I certainly don't, and if I did I'm sure my knowledge would be out of date within weeks.
The problem is compounded by the fact that understanding how the product is actually used (CDS is a good example) v. how its proponents picture it as being used is essential. Understanding its sensitivity to credit and interest rate risk is well beyond the ken. Understanding the liquidity risks and interaction effects is out of the question.
Examiners rarely know that financial risks are not normally distributed, but have far fatter tails. (Nor do they understand why this makes truncating the VAR a recipe for disaster.) Examiners rarely understand that any econometric analysis undertaken during the expansion phase of a bubble will invariably find the strongest positive correlation with the worst possible business practices (because those practices maximize accounting fraud).
We were, 15 years ago, able to get some strong capital markets people and give them advance training. We sent them out on exams, they impressed the industry -- and they were promptly hired away from us at substantial raises

Friday, April 3, 2009

Beggar Kings: Bailed Out Banks to Buy Toxic Assets

From the Financial Times:

US banks that have received government aid, including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase, are considering buying toxic assets to be sold by rivals under the Treasury’s $1,000b plan to revive the financial system.

The plans proved controversial, with critics charging that the government’s public-private partnership - which provide generous loans to investors - are intended to help banks sell, rather than acquire, troubled securities and loans.

Spencer Bachus, the top Republican on the House financial services committee, vowed after being told of the plans by the FT to introduce legislation to stop financial institutions ”gaming the system to reap taxpayer-subsidised windfalls”.

Mr Bachus added it would mark ”a new level of absurdity” if financial institutions were ”colluding to swap assets at inflated prices using taxpayers’ dollars.”

Where do we start?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

FDIC May Let Banks Share Profit From Distressed Loans They Sell

Today from Bloomberg:

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is considering giving banks the chance to share in future profits on loans sold into a U.S. government-financed program to remove distressed assets.

The FDIC may allow the sellers of a loan to get an equity interest in the vehicle that buys it, meaning they would gain from any future increase in the asset’s value. The aim is to give healthier banks an incentive to sell loans at a cheaper price, encouraging more investors to make bids.

“One option is for the seller to retain an equity interest as a part of the consideration for the sale,” Jim Wigand, the FDIC’s deputy director for resolutions and receiverships, said in an interview.

The FDIC is considering a change in the original outline of how to finance the purchases, according to documents posted on its Web site.

Rather than guarantee debt issued by the buyers as previously envisaged, the program could issue FDIC-backed notes directly to the banks that are selling loans. That would avoid underwriting fees and accelerate the process. It might be a simpler way to run the program, Wigand said.

By effectively trading illiquid loans in exchange for FDIC- guaranteed notes, the selling banks would strengthen their balance sheets. The FDIC notes would carry higher ratings and may also be eligible for use as collateral for Federal Reserve loan facilities.

Officials aim to have the first purchases under the PPIP begin within weeks of the conclusion of stress tests this month on the nation’s biggest banks to assess the vulnerabilities of their balance sheets.

Yet another trial balloon......

Commercial Property Faces Crisis

From the WSJ: Commercial Property Faces Crisis

Commercial real-estate loans are going sour at an accelerating pace, threatening to cause tens or possibly even hundreds of billions of dollars in losses to banks already hurt by the housing downturn.
The delinquency rate on about $700 billion in securitized loans backed by office buildings, hotels, stores and other investment property has more than doubled since September to 1.8% this month

Foresight Analytics in Oakland, Calif., estimates the U.S. banking sector could suffer as much as $250 billion in commercial-real-estate losses in this downturn. The research firm projects that more than 700 banks could fail as a result of their exposure to commercial real estate.

In contrast to home mortgages -- the majority of which were made by only 10 or so giant institutions -- hundreds of small and regional banks loaded up on commercial real estate. As of Dec. 31, more than 2,900 banks and savings institutions had more than 300% of their risk-based capital in commercial real-estate loans, including both commercial mortgages and construction loans.

At First Bank of Beverly Hills in Calabasas, Calif., , the amount of commercial-property debt outstanding was 14 times the bank's total risk-based capital as of the end of last year. Delinquencies reached 12.9%, compared with the average of 7% among the nation's banks and thrifts.

"In perfect hindsight, we would have done less commercial real-estate lending," said Larry B. Faigin, president and CEO.

No shit sherlock

Details on the PPIP for Legacy Loans

The Public-Private Investment Program for Legacy Assets

To address the challenge of legacy assets, Treasury – in conjunction with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Federal Reserve – is announcing the Public-Private Investment Program as part of its efforts to repair balance sheets throughout our financial system and ensure that credit is available to the households and businesses, large and small, that will help drive us toward recovery.

Three Basic Principles: Using $75 to $100 billion in TARP capital and capital from private investors, the Public-Private Investment Program will generate $500 billion in purchasing power to buy legacy assets – with the potential to expand to $1 trillion over time. The Public-Private Investment Program will be designed around three basic principles:

  • Maximizing the Impact of Each Taxpayer Dollar: First, by using government financing in partnership with the FDIC and Federal Reserve and co-investment with private sector investors, substantial purchasing power will be created, making the most of taxpayer resources.

  • Shared Risk and Profits With Private Sector Participants: Second, the Public-Private Investment Program ensures that private sector participants invest alongside the taxpayer, with the private sector investors standing to lose their entire investment in a downside scenario and the taxpayer sharing in profitable returns.

  • Private Sector Price Discovery: Third, to reduce the likelihood that the government will overpay for these assets, private sector investors competing with one another will establish the price of the loans and securities purchased under the program.

The Merits of This Approach: This approach is superior to the alternatives of either hoping for banks to gradually work these assets off their books or of the government purchasing the assets directly. Simply hoping for banks to work legacy assets off over time risks prolonging a financial crisis, as in the case of the Japanese experience. But if the government acts alone in directly purchasing legacy assets, taxpayers will take on all the risk of such purchases – along with the additional risk that taxpayers will overpay if government employees are setting the price for those assets.

Two Components for Two Types of Assets: The Public-Private Investment Program has two parts, addressing both the legacy loans and legacy securities clogging the balance sheets of financial firms:

  • Legacy Loans:The overhang of troubled legacy loans stuck on bank balance sheets has made it difficult for banks to access private markets for new capital and limited their ability to lend.

  • Legacy Securities: Secondary markets have become highly illiquid, and are trading at prices below where they would be in normally functioning markets. These securities are held by banks as well as insurance companies, pension funds, mutual funds, and funds held in individual retirement accounts.

Chart: Public-Private Investment Program

The Legacy Loans Program: To cleanse bank balance sheets of troubled legacy loans and reduce the overhang of uncertainty associated with these assets, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Treasury are launching a program to attract private capital to purchase eligible legacy loans from participating banks through the provision of FDIC debt guarantees and Treasury equity co-investment. Treasury currently anticipates that approximately half of the TARP resources for legacy assets will be devoted to the Legacy Loans Program, but our approach will allow for flexibility to allocate resources where we see the greatest impact.

  • Involving Private Investors to Set Prices: A broad array of investors are expected to participate in the Legacy Loans Program. The participation of individual investors, pension plans, insurance companies and other long-term investors is particularly encouraged. The Legacy Loans Program will facilitate the creation of individual Public-Private Investment Funds which will purchase asset pools on a discrete basis. The program will boost private demand for distressed assets that are currently held by banks and facilitate market-priced sales of troubled assets.
  • Using FDIC Expertise to Provide Oversight: The FDIC will provide oversight for the formation, funding, and operation of these new funds that will purchase assets from banks.
  • Joint Financing from Treasury, Private Capital and FDIC: Treasury and private capital will provide equity financing and the FDIC will provide a guarantee for debt financing issued by the Public-Private Investment Funds to fund asset purchases. The Treasury will manage its investment on behalf of taxpayers to ensure the public interest is protected. The Treasury intends to provide 50 percent of the equity capital for each fund, but private managers will retain control of asset management subject to rigorous oversight from the FDIC.
  • The Process for Purchasing Assets Through The Legacy Loans Program: Purchasing assets in the Legacy Loans Program will occur through the following process:
    • Banks Identify the Assets They Wish to Sell: To start the process, banks will decide which assets – usually a pool of loans – they would like to sell. The FDIC will conduct an analysis to determine the amount of funding it is willing to guarantee. Leverage will not exceed a 6-to-1 debt-to-equity ratio. Assets eligible for purchase will be determined by the participating banks, their primary regulators, the FDIC and Treasury. Financial institutions of all sizes will be eligible to sell assets.
    • Pools Are Auctioned Off to the Highest Bidder: The FDIC will conduct an auction for these pools of loans. The highest bidder will have access to the Public-Private Investment Program to fund 50 percent of the equity requirement of their purchase.
    • Financing Is Provided Through FDIC Guarantee: If the seller accepts the purchase price, the buyer would receive financing by issuing debt guaranteed by the FDIC. The FDIC-guaranteed debt would be collateralized by the purchased assets and the FDIC would receive a fee in return for its guarantee.
    • Private Sector Partners Manage the Assets:Once the assets have been sold, private fund managers will control and manage the assets until final liquidation, subject to strict FDIC oversight.

Sample Investment Under the Legacy Loans Program

Step 1: If a bank has a pool of residential mortgages with $100 face value that it is seeking to divest, the bank would approach the FDIC.
Step 2: The FDIC would determine, according to the above process, that they would be willing to leverage the pool at a 6-to-1 debt-to-equity ratio.
Step 3: The pool would then be auctioned by the FDIC, with several private sector bidders submitting bids. The highest bid from the private sector – in this example, $84 – would be the winner and would form a Public-Private Investment Fund to purchase the pool of mortgages.
Step 4: Of this $84 purchase price, the FDIC would provide guarantees for $72 of financing, leaving $12 of equity.
Step 5: The Treasury would then provide 50% of the equity funding required on a side-by-side basis with the investor. In this example, Treasury would invest approximately $6, with the private investor contributing $6.
Step 6: The private investor would then manage the servicing of the asset pool and the timing of its disposition on an ongoing basis – using asset managers approved and subject to oversight by the FDIC.


Geithner's Plan for Bad Bank Assets

Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner writes in the WSJ: My Plan for Bad Bank Assets

... [T]he financial system as a whole is still working against recovery. Many banks, still burdened by bad lending decisions, are holding back on providing credit. Market prices for many assets held by financial institutions -- so-called legacy assets -- are either uncertain or depressed. With these pressures at work on bank balance sheets, credit remains a scarce commodity, and credit that is available carries a high cost for borrowers.

Today, we are announcing another critical piece of our plan to increase the flow of credit and expand liquidity. Our new Public-Private Investment Program will set up funds to provide a market for the legacy loans and securities that currently burden the financial system.

The Public-Private Investment Program will purchase real-estate related loans from banks and securities from the broader markets. Banks will have the ability to sell pools of loans to dedicated funds, and investors will compete to have the ability to participate in those funds and take advantage of the financing provided by the government.

The funds established under this program will have three essential design features. First, they will use government resources in the form of capital from the Treasury, and financing from the FDIC and Federal Reserve, to mobilize capital from private investors. Second, the Public-Private Investment Program will ensure that private-sector participants share the risks alongside the taxpayer, and that the taxpayer shares in the profits from these investments. These funds will be open to investors of all types, such as pension funds, so that a broad range of Americans can participate.

Third, private-sector purchasers will establish the value of the loans and securities purchased under the program, which will protect the government from overpaying for these assets.

The new Public-Private Investment Program will initially provide financing for $500 billion with the potential to expand up to $1 trillion over time, which is a substantial share of real-estate related assets originated before the recession that are now clogging our financial system. Over time, by providing a market for these assets that does not now exist, this program will help improve asset values, increase lending capacity by banks, and reduce uncertainty about the scale of losses on bank balance sheets. The ability to sell assets to this fund will make it easier for banks to raise private capital, which will accelerate their ability to replace the capital investments provided by the Treasury.

This program to address legacy loans and securities is part of an overall strategy to resolve the crisis as quickly and effectively as possible at least cost to the taxpayer. The Public-Private Investment Program is better for the taxpayer than having the government alone directly purchase the assets from banks that are still operating and assume a larger share of the losses. Our approach shares risk with the private sector, efficiently leverages taxpayer dollars, and deploys private-sector competition to determine market prices for currently illiquid assets. Simply hoping for banks to work these assets off over time risks prolonging the crisis in a repeat of the Japanese experience.