Thursday, May 14, 2009

From NPR: Financial Time's Gillian Tett on JP Morgan and Derivatives

I listened to this on the radio tonight. It was so good, that the very first chance I had to blog it, I did. Good stuff!

Fresh Air from WHYY : NPR:
"Journalist Gillian Tett warned about the problems in the financial industry long before many of her colleagues. In her new book, Fool's Gold, Tett examines the role J.P. Morgan played in creating and marketing risky and complex financial products"
The author is from FT fame and FT has two extracts from the book.
"The first sign that there might be a structural problem with the innovative bundles of credit derivatives that bankers at JP Morgan had dreamed up emerged in the second half of 1998. In the preceding months, Blythe Masters and Bill Demchak – key members of JP Morgan’s credit derivatives team – had been pestering financial regulators. They believed that by using the new credit derivative products they had helped create, JP Morgan could better manage the risks in its portfolio of loans to companies, and thereby reduce the amount of capital it needed to put aside to cover possible defaults. The question was by how much. (Though these bundles of credit derivatives later went under other names, such as collateralised debt obligations [CDOs], at that time these pioneering structures were known as “Bistro” deals, short for Broad Index Secured Trust Offering). Masters and Demchak had done the first couple of Bistro deals on behalf of their own bank without knowing the answer to their question for sure. But when they were doing these deals for other banks, the question of reserve capital became more important – the others were mainly interested in cutting their reserve requirements."

1 comment:

HC said...

I used to believe that derivative and structures are very useful in risk reduction. However, (and correct me if I'm wrong, since I'm just a student of financial economics) the problem lies in the incompleteness of the actual market . Unlike automobile insurance, where the changes of two accidents are fairly uncorrelated and insurers could reduce risk by pooling assets, financial assets including the dreaded MBS are very correlated (even if historic measurements suggest otherwise). Therefore, the pooling doesn't really reduce the underlying risk. Am I close professor sir?