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Blowing Up The World, One Tentacle At A Time.

  • Written by Syndicated Publisher 46 Comments46 Comments Comments
    November 17, 2011

    I was going to walk my blog subscribers and readers through my recent thoughts and related developments in the insurance and real estate industries, but I think I will postpone that until tomorrow for two companies that I have picked apart in considerably more detail than the average buyside investor and sell side analyst were featured in Bloomberg this morning. The questions asked forced one to query whether more than an editor or two are full time BoomBustBlog subscribers. Yes, boys and girls… Like it, love it, leave it or hate it… It’s now time to get back to business. We are once again…


    and attempting to gain a green card for our entrance into the “Economic Republic of JP Morgan…”


    Bloomberg reports (and Reggie clarifies): JPMorgan Joins Goldman Keeping Italy Debt Risk in Dark

    JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), among the world’s biggest traders of credit derivatives, disclosed to shareholders that they have sold protection on more than $5 trillion of debt globally.

    BoomBustBlog annotation…

    As excerpted from An Independent Look into JP Morgan:

    When considering the staggering level of derivatives employed by JPM, it is frightening to even consider the fact that the quality of JPM’s derivative exposure is even worse than Bear Stearns and Lehman‘s derivative portfolio just prior to their fall. Total net derivative exposure rated below BBB and below for JP Morgan currently stands at 35.4% while the same stood at 17.0% for Bear Stearns (February 2008) and 9.2% for Lehman (May 2008). We all know what happened to Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, don’t we??? I warned all about Bear Stearns (Is this the Breaking of the Bear?: On Sunday, 27 January 2008) and Lehman (“Is Lehman really a lemming in disguise?“: On February 20th, 2008) months before their collapse by taking a close, unbiased look at their balance sheet. Both of these companies were rated investment grade at the time, just like “you know who”. Now, I am not saying JPM is about to collapse, since it is one of the anointed ones chosen by the government and guaranteed not to fail – unlike Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, and it is (after all) investment grade rated. Who would you put your faith in, the big ratings agencies or your favorite blogger? Then again, if it acts like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, is it a chicken??? I’ll leave the rest up for my readers to decide.

    And as excerpted from Hunting the Squid, Part2: Since When Is Enough Derivative Exposure To Blow Up The World Something To Be Ignored?

    Goldman has the most shortable share price of all the big banks at around $100 and is quite liquid; it is more susceptible to mo-mo traders than it is to it’s own book value, it is highly levered into the European debt/banking mess, and last but not least, Goldman is the derivatives risk concentration leader of the world – bar none!

    And now back to our regularly scheduled Bloomberg article on World Dominating Squids Wielding GDP busting Morgan Explosives with indeterminate fuses…

    Just don’t ask them how much of that was issued by Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Spain, known as the GIIPS.

    As concerns mount that those countries may not be creditworthy, investors are being kept in the dark about how much risk U.S. banks face from a default. Firms including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan don’t provide a full picture of potential losses and gains in such a scenario, giving only net numbers or excluding some derivatives altogether.

    “If you don’t have to, generally people don’t see the advantage to doing it,” said Richard Lindsey, a former director of market regulation at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission who worked at Bear Stearns Cos. from 1999 through 2006. “On the other hand, if there were a run on Goldman Sachs tomorrow because the rumor was that they had exposure to Greece, you’d see them produce those numbers.”

    A run on the SQUID??? God Forbid! After all, they are doing God’s work! In Hunting the Squid, Part2: Since When Is Enough Derivative Exposure To Blow Up The World Something To Be Ignored?” I included a graphic that illustrated Goldman’s raw credit exposure…

    So, what is the logical conclusion? More phallic looking charts of blatant, unbridled, and from a realistic perspective, unhedged RISK starring none other than Goldman Sachs…


    Mr. Middleton discusses JP Morgan and concentrated bank risk.

    A case in point: Jefferies Group Inc. (JEF), the New York-based securities firm, disclosed every long and short position it held on European debt earlier this month after its shares plunged more than 20 percent. Jefferies also said it wasn’t relying on credit-default swaps, contracts that promise to pay the buyer if the underlying debt defaults, as a hedge on European holdings.

    One would hope not, because ISDA and the EU leaders want to invalidate those bilateral, privately negotiated contracts, basically making them worth just a little less than the hard drive they were saved to… As excerpted from Is The Entire Global Banking Industry Carrying Naked, Unhedged “Risk Free” Sovereign Debt Yielding 100-200%? Quick Answer: Probably!

    What’s even more interesting is the fact that derivatives concentration and counterparty risk is rampant in the US, while credit risk in Europe is literally blowing up. What if CDS really are a faux hedge as I and other astute (read objective) observers have come to realize? ReferenceThe Banks Have Volunteered (at Gunpoint)…

    … let’s peruse an email I received from one of my many astute BoomBustBloggers.

    I’m a lawyer (and investor). There is no analysis by anyone on the Internet about whether the announcement last night would in fact trigger CDS payout. Rather, everyone seems to be accepting the claim by ISDA that the decision would not trigger it. Because I can’t find any legal analysis worth reading on the Internet I decided to do my own research. In about 5 minutes I found a case in the 2nd Circuit (USA) that explained to me what’s going on with those contracts. First of all, they are unregulated private contracts between private parties. In order to know whether a trigger occurred you have to read each individual contract. As a result, what the ISDA says about whether a trigger occurred as to private contracts that are out there is totally meaningless.

    There is merit to this assertion since the ISDA contract is simply a non-binding template, often marked up to accommodate financial engineering widgets designed to increase profit margin and decrease transparency to clients and counterparties. By the time all of the widgets are installed on some of these highly customized deals, the original ISDA template is a non-issue.

    What seems to be the issue is whether there is considered to be “economic coercion” going on if one of the events to trigger is “restructuring.” 

    Whaaattt!!! Coercion? What Coercion???!!! robbery_gun_1

    Furthermore, you have to not look at voluntariness in a vacuum but compare the (Greek) bond with the substitute being offered by EU to determine if economic coercion or true voluntariness exists. For example, if the EU will give priority in payment to the substitute it is offering and not the original bond, that is the proper analysis in determining economic coercion/voluntariness etc. My analysis here is based upon a very brief reading of the case and I would need time to analysis fully. Also I’m not a financial professional I don’t understand all the implications of what the EU announced. The reason I’m contacting you is because I believe that in the coming days/weeks we will hear of entities that are buyers of the CDS protection giving notice of a credit event to their counterparties to seek to collect on the CDS contract. If payouts aren’t made lawsuits will be filed. 

    You had better believe it. I really don’t know why everybody is glazing over this very obvious fact! Imagine if you bought protection on a bond you acquired at par and you are offered 50% of it back (NPV) to be considered whole while the CDS writer laughs at and says thanks for the premiums… You’d probably break your fingers dialing your lawyer – out of both the swap payments, the CDS payout, and 50% of your investment that you thought (but really should have known better) was protected!

    I don’t know what a US Court will decide as to whether a trigger has occurred but there is a 2nd circuit case (the one I mentioned above) that is the best I’ve found to give an inkling about this… I’m telling you all this, because if I am right and there are claims that CDS was triggered and CDS in fact gets triggered… [it should be made] public so people start analyzing whether CDS was in fact triggered instead of blindly accepting the drivel out of Europe that no trigger will occur. That claim is obviously all about perception management not necessarily truth.

    ‘Funded’ Exposure

    By contrast, Goldman Sachs discloses only what it calls “funded” exposure to GIIPS debt — $4.16 billion before hedges and $2.46 billion after, as of Sept. 30. Those amounts exclude commitments or contingent payments, such as credit-default swaps, said Lucas van Praag, a spokesman for the bank.

    Goldman Sachs includes CDS in its market-risk calculations, of which value-at-risk is one measure, and it hedges the swaps and holds collateral against the hedges, primarily cash and U.S. Treasuries, van Praag said. The firm doesn’t break out its estimate of the market risk related to the five countries.

    JPMorgan said in its third-quarter SEC filing that more than 98 percent of the credit-default swaps the New York-based bank has written on GIIPS debt is balanced by CDS contracts purchased on the same bonds. The bank said its net exposure was no more than $1.5 billion, with a portion coming from debt and equity securities. The company didn’t disclose gross numbers or how much of the $1.5 billion came from swaps, leaving investors wondering whether the notional value of CDS sold could be as high as $150 billion or as low as zero.

    Yeah, but if the EU and ISDA are correct that a 60% devaluation/haircut in Greek debt does not constitute a credit event, then JPM and GS are essentially undhedged, RIGHT!!!!????

    Here’s the question du jour – Can Goldmans Sachs Derivative Exposure, realistically unhedged, cause the biggest run on the bank in Financial History?

    As excerpted from Hunting the Squid, Part2: Since When Is Enough Derivative Exposure To Blow Up The World Something To Be Ignored?

    The notional amount of derivatives held by insured U.S. commercial banks have increased at a CAGR of 22% since 2005, which naturally begs the question “Has the value or the economic quantity of the underlying increased at a similar pace, and if not does this indicate that everyone on the street has doubled and tripled up their ‘bets’ on the SAME HORSE?”

    Think about what happens if (or more aptly put, “when”) that horse loses! Would there be anybody around to pay up?

    Sequentially, the derivatives have increased every quarter since Q1-05 except for Q4-07, Q3-08 (Lehman crisis) and Q4-10 while on a YoY basis the growth has been positive throughout recorded history.  In Q2-2011, the notional value of derivative contracts increased 2% sequentially to $249 trillion. The notional value of derivatives was 12% higher than a year ago. The notional amount of a derivative contract is a reference amount from which contractual payments will be derived, but it is generally not an amount at risk. However, the changes in notional volumes can provide insight into potential revenue, and operational issues and potentially the contagion risk that banks and financial institutions poses to the wider economy – particularly in the form of counterparty risk delta. The top four banks with the most derivatives activity hold 94% of all derivatives, while the largest 25 banks account for nearly 100% of all contracts.  Overall, the US banks derivative exposure is $249 trillion and is more than four folds of World’s GDP at $58 trillion.

    In absolute terms, JPM leads this list with total notional value of derivative contracts at $78 trillion, or 1.3x times the Wolds GDP. However, in relative terms, Goldman Sachs leads the list with total value of notional derivatives at 537 times is total assets compared with 44x for JPM, 46x for Citi and 23x for US Banks (average).

    So, what does this mean? Well, it should be assumed that Goldman is well hedged for its exposure, at least on academic basis. The problem is its academic. AIG has taught as that bilateral netting is tantamount to bullshit at this level without government bailout intervention. If there is any entity at risk of counterparty default or who is at the behest of a government bailout if the proverbial feces hits the fan blades… Ladies and gentlemen, that entity would be known as Goldman Sachs.

    As excerpted from Goldmans Sachs Derivative Exposure: The Squid in the Coal Mine?, pages 2 and 3…


    Goldman is much more highly leveraged into the derivatives trade than ANY and ALL of its peers as to actually be difficult to chart. That stalk representing Goldman’s risk relative to EVERY OTHER banks is damn near phallic in stature!


    As opined earlier through the links “The Next Step in the Bank Implosion Cycle???and As the markets climb on top of one big, incestuous pool of concentrated risk… , this is not a new phenomenon. Quite to the contrary, it has been a constant trend through the bubble, and amazingly enough even through the crash as banks have actually ratcheted up risk and assets in a blind race to become TBTF (to big to fail), under the auspices of the regulatory capture (see Lehman Dies While Getting Away With Murder: Introducing Regulatory Capture). So, what is the logical conclusion? More phallic looking charts of blatant, unbridled, and from a realistic perspective, unhedged RISK starring none other than Goldman Sachs…


    And to think, many thought that JPM exposure vs World GDP chart was provocative. I query thee, exactly how will GS put a real workable hedge, a counterparty risk mitigating prophylactic if you will, over that big green stalk that is representative of Total Credit Exposure to Risk Based Capital? Short answer, Goldman may very well be to big for a counterparty condom. If that’s truly the case, all of you pretty, brand name Goldman counterparties out there (and yes, there are a lot of y’all – GS really gets around), expect to get burned at the culmination of that French banking party I’ve been talking about for the last few quarters. Oh yeah, that perpetually printing clinic also known as the Federal Reserve just might be running a little low on that cheap liquidity antibiotic… Just giving y’all a heads up ahead of time…


    Do you remember France? That country that no on is really paying attention to, but whose exposure and risk is so systemic that it can literally and unilaterally blow up the entire European continent? I post again, for effect…

    In a further worrying sign, French borrowing costs rose, lifting the premium it pays over Germany to a fresh euro-era record of 135bp. Investors are increasingly worried that France could lose its triple A rating, which in turn would threaten the status of the European financial stability facility, the eurozone’s rescue fund.

    Counterparty Clarity

    “Their position is you don’t need to know the risks, which is why they’re giving you net numbers,” said Nomi Prins, a managing director at New York-based Goldman Sachs until she left in 2002 to become a writer. “Net is only as good as the counterparties on each side of the net — that’s why it’s misleading in a fluid, dynamic market.”

    This is so true… So true. Lest we forget, Lehman and Bear Stearns were hedged!

    Investors should want to know how much defaulted debt the banks could be forced to repay because of credit derivatives and how much they’d be in line to receive from other counterparties, Prins said. In addition, they should seek to find out who those counterparties are, she said.

    Hey, just ask your local BoomBustBlog subscriber!

    JPMorgan sought to allay concerns that its counterparties are unreliable by saying in the filing that it buys protection only from firms outside the five countries that are “either investment-grade or well-supported by collateral arrangements.” The bank doesn’t identify the counterparties.

    Spare me the bullshit. Please click the link “Is The Entire Global Banking Industry Carrying Naked, Unhedged “Risk Free” Sovereign Debt Yielding 100-200%? Quick Answer: Probably!” and read..

    The top four banks with the most derivatives activity hold 94% of all derivatives, while the largest 25 banks account for nearly 100% of all contracts.  Overall, the US banks derivative exposure is $249 trillion and is more than four folds of World’s GDP at $58 trillion.

    If there are only 4 banks carrying 94% of the risk, then there is roughly a 6% chance that JPM bought protection from a bank outside of a cartel that is guaranteed to collapse if anyone its members fall. To make matters even worse, even if we win with only 6% odds, contagion will drag those other 25 banks along for the ride. Basically, that means that there is rougly a 100% chance that that JPM statement is…



    Bungee Cords

    If the value of Italian bonds drops, as it did last week, a U.S. firm that sold a credit-default swap on that debt to a French bank would have to provide more collateral. The same U.S. company might be collecting collateral from a British bank because it bought a swap from that firm.

    As long as all three banks can make good on their promises, the trade doesn’t have much risk. It could all unravel if the British firm runs into trouble because it’s waiting for a payment from an Italian company that defaults. The collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in 2008 demonstrated some of the ripple effects that one failure can have in the market.

    “We learned from Lehman that all of these firms are tied together with bungee cords — you can’t just lift one out without it affecting everyone else in the group,” said Brad Hintz, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York who previously worked at Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley. More disclosure “may push the stock prices down when it becomes clear how big the bungee cords are. But it certainly would be a welcome addition for an analyst.”

    BoomBustBlog subscribers covered this scenario months ago.

    Italy has a funding issue that nobody was able to foresee, right? Wrong! After Warning Of Italy Woes Nearly Two Years Ago, No One Should Be Surprised As It Implodes Bringing The EU With It

    France is heavily levered into Italy and Franco-Italiano fortunes are closely linked, right? Italy’s Woes Spell ‘Nightmare’ for BNP – Just As I Predicted But Everybody Is Missing The Point!!!

    American banks (like Goldman) are on the hook for protecting the damn near doomed French banks right?  French Banks Can Set Off Contagion That Will Make Central Bankers Long For The Good ‘Ole Lehman Collapse Days!


    But in the end of one, or two, three big banks go down, it’s basically a giant pan-global clusterfuck, no?

    The Next Step in the Bank Implosion Cycle???and As the markets climb on top of one big, incestuous pool of concentrated risk… 

    Guarantees provided by U.S. lenders on government, bank and corporate debt in Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Spain rose by $80.7 billion to $518 billion in the first half of 2011, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

    ‘Longs and Shorts’

    “We either have netting agreements, or they foot, or they cancel each other out, or they’re longs and shorts on the same instrument,” he said, answering a question about how the firm manages so many contracts in a crisis. “The only way you can run a business like that is to have these systems work so they can aggregate stuff, so you can run the business on a macro basis, and also so you can get the details quickly if you need them. And that’s all systems and technology.”

    Lindsey, the former SEC official who’s now president of New York-based Callcott Group LLC, which consults on markets and market operations, said few firms have systems that can portray their real-time exposure to trading partners.

    “That’s very difficult for any firm to have a good handle on all of that — you know large positions and you know what certain positions are, but to be able to say I’ve adequately aggregated all of my long exposure and all of my short exposure to a specific counterparty may be very difficult,” Lindsey said. “I don’t know of a firm where it’s not pulled together by a phone call, where somebody says, ‘OK, we need to know our exposure to X,’ and a lot of people stop their day jobs and try to find an answer.”

    ‘Needlessly Cause Reaction’

    Lindsey said banks may be wary of disclosures that could confuse investors. Figures such as gross notional exposure — the total amount of debt insured by credit derivatives — give investors an exaggerated sense of the risk and could “needlessly cause reaction,” he said.

    Other methods, such as stress-testing, scenario analysis or so-called value-at-risk estimates, rely on models that may underestimate risk because historical data on sovereign defaults show them to be unlikely.

    “If you’re looking at your exposure to a defaulting sovereign, there’s a relatively low frequency rate,” Lindsey said. “So it really depends on what they’ve done internally to back up their ideas of what their assessment of the probability of default is.”

    “…Give investors an exaggerated sense of the risk and could “needlessly cause reaction…

    “…historical data on sovereign defaults show them to be unlikely…”

    “…If you’re looking at your exposure to a defaulting sovereign, there’s a relatively low frequency rate



    I know these Goldilocks guys may not mean any harm, but do they know what happened to the Bull that Shitted too much?dead_bull_rundead_bull_run
    I query, How Long Does It Take For Losing Money To Result In Lost Money? The Effects Of Rampant Bond Selling on Devalued Sovereign Debt


    But including losses on Spanish, Italian, Irish and Portuguese capital losses realized upon disposition, and the ongoing losses on Greek debt, what then????

    You see, the truly under appreciate problem here is that the private banks rampant selling is driving down the prices of already highly distressed and rapidly devaluing bonds. Reference Bloomberg’sEuropean Banks Selling Sovereign Bond Holdings Threatens to Worsen Crisis.

    Those trillions in swaps are “guaranteed” to get called on!

    More from Reggie Middleton…

    The Street’s Most Intellectually Aggressive Analysis: We’ve Found What Bank of America Hid In Your Bank Account!

    This Bank Is Much Worse Than the Rest and the (Guaranteed?) Bust Will Probably Be Funded Right Out Of Your Bank Account!

    French Banks Can Set Off Contagion That Will Make Central Bankers Long For The Good ‘Ole Lehman Collapse Days! 

    What Was That I Heard About Squids Raising Capital Because They Can’t Trade?

    ZeroHedge Is Good In Uncovering BS, But I Will Not Be Outdone In Busting BS Bank Reporting – I Simply Refuse, Right BNP?

    BNP, the Fastest Running Bank In Europe? Banque BNP Exécuter


    Images: Flickr (licence/attribution)

    About The Author

    Reggie Middleton is an entrepreneurial investor who guides a small team of independent analysts to uncover truths, seldom if, ever published in the mainstream media or Wall Street analysts reports. Since the inception of his BoomBustBlog, he has established an outstanding track record


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