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End of the name game

sobriety strikes back

Novelty names for special purpose vehicles in structured finance have all but disappeared thanks to Enron.

The vehicles for off-balance-sheet transactions used to be given humorous or creative names. They ranged from the animal (Panther) to the mythical (Ariadne) to the plain weird (Geldilux). But the outcry over Enron has put an end to that.

The special purpose entities at the heart of Enron were Chewco, after Chewbacca from Star Wars, and Raptors, after Jurassic Park. The bankers who named them were having a bit of fun but the joke fell flat when the SPEs were dissected by the Senate, SEC and the press. Now, the party is over.

"I used to get a real kick from giving some billion-dollar shell company a really silly and obscure name," says one banker.