John Jansen reprints some BarCap research on the Miller-Moore amendment, and now I think I understand why so many finance types are so scared by it: they’ve misread it!
Proposed by Reps. Miller (D) and Moore (D), it would effectively replace existing repo and secured funding with unsecured borrowing subject to a margin, or haircut, of up to 20%. Specifically, in the case that a large systemically important institution is put into receivership by the FDIC and there are not enough assets to cover the cost of unwinding it to the government, all secured claims would be automatically converted into unsecured loans with a haircut of up to 20%…
No secured lender will want to be left in a trade with a bank in receivership where the regulators have converted the transaction into an unsecured loan at 80% of the original amount.
But that’s not what the amendment is proposing. Here it is:
An allowed claim under a legally enforceable or perfected security interest (that became a legally enforceable or perfected security interest after the date of the enactment of this clause), other than a legally enforceable or perfected security interest of the Federal Government, in any of the assets of the covered financial company in receivership may be treated as an unsecured claim in the amount of up to 20 percent as necessary to satisfy any amounts owed to the United States or to the Fund. Any balance of such claim that is treated as an unsecured claim under this subparagraph shall be paid as a general liability of the covered financial company.
Let’s say you have a secured claim of $1 million on a bank which has been taken over by the FDIC, and let’s say that unsecured creditors of that bank end up being paid only 70 cents on the dollar.
If the BarCap reading were right, the FDIC would first impose a 20% haircut on the $1 million, turning it into $800,000, and then convert it into an unsecured loan — which, at 70 cents on the dollar, would be worth just $560,000. The net effective haircut would be a whopping 44%. But of course this makes no conceptual sense at all, because unsecured creditors would end up being treated better, under this scheme, than secured creditors.
The way I read it, however, the Miller-Moore amendment allows up to 20% of the secured debt to be converted into unsecured debt; the rest of it is untouched. So you retain $800,000 of secured debt, worth $800,000, and now the remaining $200,000 is unsecured debt, worth $140,000. All in all your $1 million claim is worth $940,000 — a net effective haircut of just 6%.
No one likes losing 6% of their money, of course, but that’s a hell of a lot better than losing 44% of your money. And maybe if the sell side begins to understand how Miller-Moore really works, they might be less averse to it.