This paper explores the economic and legal causes and consequences of the 2007-2008 credit crisis. We provide basic descriptive statistics and institutional details on the mortgage origination process, mortgage-backed securities (MBS), and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). We examine a number of aspects of these markets, including the identity of MBS and CDO sponsors, CDO trustees, CDO liquidations, MBS insured and registered amounts, the evolution of MBS tranche structure over time, mortgage originations, underwriting quality of mortgage originations, and writedowns of the commercial and investment banks. We discuss the financial difficulties faced by investment and commercial banks. In light of this discussion, the paper then addresses questions as to whether these difficulties might have been foreseen, and some of the main legal issues that will play an important role in the extensive litigation (summarized in the paper) that is underway, including the Rule 10b-5 class-action lawsuits that have already been filed against the banks, pending ERISA litigation, the causes-of-action available to MBS and CDO purchasers, and litigation against the rating agencies. In the course of this discussion, the paper discusses three principles that will likely prove central in the resolution of the securities class-action litigation: (1) "no fraud by hindsight"; (2) "truth on the market"; and (3) "loss causation."
PARKES, Australia -- In this town of 10,000 in what Australians call "the bush," administrator Alan McCormack has a headache. The county council is poised to lose millions of dollars if more U.S. companies succumb to a deepening recession.
Ten thousand miles away, at New York investment firm ICP Capital, hedge-fund manager William Gahan is reaping big gains on Mr. McCormack's predicament.
The fortunes of the two men are connected through an investment known as a "synthetic collateralized debt obligation." Between 2005 and 2007, the Parkes local council put more than A$13.5 million ($9.3 million) of its savings into synthetic CDOs. The investments offered an attractive income and a gold-standard credit rating -- in return for providing a sort of insurance on the debt of hundreds of mostly U.S. companies.
L'essentiel, en quelques mots:
The linkage between Messrs. McCormack and Gahan demonstrates how far a vast superstructure of credit derivatives such as synthetic CDOs, built up over the past decade, has spread the risk of lending to U.S. companies -- and how far the pain is likely to reach. They're called derivatives in part because they don't entail any direct investment into companies. Instead, they're more like side bets on the companies' fortunes.