Tag Archives: Wall street

This Is Why Credit Suisse Keeps Getting Punched in the Face

Credit Suisse keeps getting smacked. Let’s review a few of their recent scandals:

  • $4.7 billion charge for losses in trades with Archegos Capital Management, the imploding hedge fund
  • $1.5 billion loss likely in dealings with collapsed supply chain finance company Greensill Capital, just three weeks prior
  • Bonus scandal: Former CEO Tidjane Thiam spied on employees and was forced out in February 2020

So they’ve been busy! Why is this one company stumbling from cliff to quagmire?

A major factor appears to be its bifurcated business, which focuses on both asset management and investment banking, but is too small to be a big player in either market. So, in order to win business from its bigger competitors, it has to offer better terms and do worse deals.

In reality, the asset-management unit, which brought in Greensill, and the investment bank, which handled Archegos, were too small to square off with Wall Street giants. The bank tried to make more money from fewer clients than rivals with larger balance sheets and ended up overlooking risks, the executives said.

There were clear warning signs on both Archegos and Greensill.

There were clear warning signs on both Archegos and Greensill. Archegos founder Bill Hwang had been sanctioned by the SEC for insider trading and banned from handling client money, which is the entire reason he started Archegos in the first place. It was a family office, managing just his own family’s money, due to that SEC ruling. Credit Suisse thought the risk was limited because he wasn’t managing client money, but failed to consider what would happen to its own funds!

Greensill too had come under scrutiny early enough to avert problems, but nothing was done:

In 2019, members of the credit-structuring team escalated its alerts about Greensill to the bank’s reputational-risk committee, the person familiar with the funds said. They had become concerned Greensill might be taking operational shortcuts.

Interestingly, the dynamic of Credit Suisse agreeing to anything in order to win business from larger competitors was played out by its client Greensill as well:

Mr. Greensill signed up some big, credit-rated companies. To wrest those customers from big banks, Greensill had to offer competitive terms that didn’t make it much money, according to people familiar with Greensill’s business.

Credit Suisse seems to lack any internal controls whatsoever, and I strongly recommend investors avoid

Credit Suisse seems to lack any internal controls whatsoever, and I strongly recommend investors avoid it. We can also gain a broader lesson from this fiasco. If you’re a smaller company trying to get into a market, don’t do disadvantageous deals just to get some market share. You expose yourself to too many problems that will blow you up before you ever get a chance to compete with the big boys.

For more on Archegos, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 

Photo: “Punch to the Face” by Ninja M. is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

How to Lose $8 Billion in 10 Days

Archegos Capital Management, run by Bill Hwang, is imploding, racking up losses at a record pace:

Mr. Hwang alone lost approximately $8 billion in 10 days, a person familiar with the matter said, in what traders and investors say was one of the fastest losses of such a large sum they had ever seen.

Archegos borrowed massive sums of money to invest it in just a few stocks. Like addicts that get 10 oxycontin prescriptions from 10 different doctors, Hwang never revealed how deep in debt he was to the banks he dealt with:

Archegos was regularly putting up $15 of collateral to borrow $85, on the high end of leverage for stock-trading firms with similar strategies, said a banking executive familiar with the borrowing.

Archegos’s lenders say they were unaware of the extent of trades he was making with other banks, information that would have encouraged them to curb their lending.

The fact that Archegos used swaps, rather than owning shares directly, further obscured his activities. In the “contract for difference” swaps he used, the bank owns the shares while Hwang’s firm pays for the losses or receives the gains on the stock.

This is important because investors have to disclose to the SEC when they own over 5% of a company. Hwang would have had to make several such disclosures. But because he used swaps instead, none of that information was public, making it harder for banks to find out how heavily leveraged he was. This may have been by design.

A further odd wrinkle is that Hwang, the son of a pastor, suffused Archegos with religious fervor:

Mr. Hwang returned clients’ money in 2012 and turned his firm into an office to manage his family’s wealth. He named it Archegos, which, translated from Greek means “leader” or “prince of Christ.” A Christian ethos permeated the firm, with voluntary Friday morning Bible studies where a recording of Bible readings would play to music.

He tended to view gains as signs of God’s favor:

“Do I think God loves it? Of course!” Mr. Hwang said in a video, referring to his early investment in LinkedIn. “I’m like a little child looking for, what can I do today, where can I invest, to please our God?”

If Hwang had a religious certainty about his positions, he’d be all the more likely to hold them even as he lost money, expecting to be vindicated.

It strikes me how incredibly simple this one-time billionaire investor’s strategy was. Borrow a bunch of money and invest it in a few well-known stocks like Viacom. Anyone could do that if they had access to capital. There was no special sauce, and now Hwang is paying the price for his recklessness.

For more on Archegos and financial markets, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 

Photo: “Gamble” by jetglo is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

A Giant Hedge Fund Is Imploding, Taking Stocks with It

Ten billion dollar hedge fund Archegos Capital Management is imploding, causing banks to frantically sell its portfolio to stem further losses:

One mystery in a dramatic year on Wall Street has been the identity of a trader whose persistent purchases have sent shares in ViacomCBS Inc., Discovery Inc. and a handful of other companies surging even when the broader market was down.

People familiar with the transactions say the answer is former Tiger Asia manager Bill Hwang. Late last week Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG swiftly unloaded large blocks of shares in those companies and others, part of the liquidation of positions at Mr. Hwang’s Archegos Capital Management.

The sales approached $30 billion in value, some of the people said, and fueled a 27% plunge Friday in shares of ViacomCBS—an unusually large decline in a widely held, large-capitalization stock on a day with no significant company-specific news. Billions of market value in other companies were wiped out as the sales continued, surprising market participants who called the size and speed of these stock sales unprecedented.

Hwang had placed giant bets on several stocks funded with borrowed money, and his fund suffered major losses when the stocks moved against him:

…a major actor in supporting companies’ share prices appears to have been undone by his continuing to add to leveraged bets as markets soared. The strategy fell apart when some of those bets started to reverse on him.

There were serious warning signs about Hwang’s conduct, which his banks, including Nomura and Credit Suisse, did not heed:

U.S. securities filings show Credit Suisse was prime broker in 2011 and 2012 to Mr. Hwang’s former firm, Tiger Asia Management LLC. Tiger Asia handed money back to investors after Mr. Hwang admitted in December 2012 that the hedge fund criminally used inside information from investment banks at least three times to profit on securities trades.

This is the latest in a string of problems for Credit Suisse:

Credit Suisse is still digesting the collapse earlier this month of Greensill, a British supply-chain finance company that declared bankruptcy shortly after the Swiss bank froze funds that provided it with liquidity. The double hit could be an extraordinary run of bad luck; there were other banks caught up in both failures. Alternatively, it could point to endemic problems of risk management at Credit Suisse. The Swiss company carried on working with Greensill despite internal concerns.

So if you see volatility in stocks like Viacom, Discovery, Credit Suisse, etc. in the coming days, you’ll know where it’s coming from. I do wonder if other stocks may be impacted by this forced selling of Archegos’ positions.

For more on what’s moving markets, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 

Photo: “Boom-goes-the-dynamite” by Aaron & Alli is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Almost All SPACs Lose Money and They’ve Never Been More Popular

I came across an incredible stat today:

Citing data from Dealogic, Barron’s notes that there have been 302 domestic initial public offerings (80% of which are blank-check outfits) raising an aggregate $102.3 billion, so far this year through March 10. For context, the 2020 full-year tally registered at 457 IPOs raising $167.8 billion, while the tech bubble-era high-water mark of 547 IPOs and $108 billion in proceeds was set in 1999.

These newly minted public companies have distinguished themselves beyond simple size and number. According to data from Robert W. Baird, 81% of last year’s vintage were loss making, compared to a previous cyclical high water marks of 68% and 73% in 1999 and 2000, respectively.

More here (see the March 15 post).

So almost all IPOs are SPACs, they’re raising more funds than ever before, and almost none of these companies makes a profit. Even recently, money losers like WeWork were shunned by public markets. But the market seems to have thrown all standards aside.

For now.

For more on SPACs and markets, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 

Photo: Major SPAC sponsor “Chamath Palihapitiya” by jdlasica is licensed under CC BY 2.0