The domino effect
The most striking feature of the subprime crisis is how the failure by cash-strapped house buyers in California to meet their mortgage payments could have had such far-reaching consequences.
This article appears courtesy of Global Investor.
James Norris reports.
John Devaney is chief executive of United Capital Markets, an institutional broker dealer specialising in distressed asset backed securities (ABS) and collateralised debt obligations (CDOs). He suffered losses to the point where he had to put up some of his most treasured possessions for sale, including his 142ft yacht 'Positive Carry', his $16.25 million house in Aspen and his 16-bedroom waterfront mansion in Florida.
Not everyone is as anxious as Devaney. Some people spotted the subprime problem as long as two years ago. They have been lying in wait with some serious bets and now stand to make a tidy sum. In September 2005 Deutsche Bank predicted "quite probable losses" from the least credit-worthy home loans in the US property market. The bank is now poised to collect as much as $540 million from a strategy that enabled its traders to sell subprime mortgage loans with derivatives contracts that appreciated as the US housing market suffered its worst slump in 16 years.
Like all big rivers, the current crisis is fed by a number of tributaries. One of the biggest is the role played by credit rating agencies (see page 17).