Unstructured Finance

The dollars keep rolling in for foreclosed home funds

By Matthew Goldstein

Today, The Wall Street Journal reports that foreign investors have caught the gold rush mentality that surrounds the market for foreclosed homes in the U.S. But domestic-based firms are still doing quite well themselves in raising big dollars to buy-up foreclosed homes with an eye to renting them out before eventually selling them.

A foreclosed home fund managed by Tom Barrack’s Colony Capital recently disclosed in a regulatory filing that it had raised $536.7 million from 54 “accredited” investors. The fund relied on JPMorgan Chase’s wealth management team to do some of the selling.

Colony, along with private equity giant Blackstone Group and Malibu, Calif. based American Homes 4 Rent, have emerged as the three biggest buyers of foreclosed homes over the past year. Blackstone has spent well over $1 billion on buying up roughly 16,000 homes, and American Homes, backed by $600 million from the Alaska Permanent Fund, isn’t far behind.

But smaller funds with interesting pedigrees are also raking in cash, as yield starved investors look for some place to put their money as the Federal Reserve keeps trying to push down rates on mortgage securities and Treasuries.

Home Place Partners, a fund sponsored by bond firm TCW, just reported it has raised $105 million. The fund is still looking to raise another $145 million.

Essential reading: Simpson, Bowles revive deficit plan, and more


Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, testify on Capitol Hill, Nov. 1, 2011.

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines from Reuters and other sources.

* Simpson and Bowles to offer up new deficit fix. Damian Paletta – The Wall Street Journal. Deficit hawks Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles on Tuesday will propose a detailed plan for rewriting the tax code and implementing deep new spending cuts, hoping to offer a path to compromise for Democrats and Republicans, according to an outline of the plan. Link

* Facebook tax refund sparks outrage, but company did pay taxes. Salvador Rodriguez – The Los Angeles Times. A recent report saying Facebook will receive $429 million in tax refunds has sparked outrage on the Web, given that the company made more than $1 billion in profits in 2012. Link

Jim Chanos and the bears come out of hibernation

By Matthew Goldstein 

The year is young, but so far its been a rough one for bearish stock investors with the S&P 500 is up 7.25% The surge in equity prices has left  a lot of short sellers–traders who bet on a stock sliding in value–with glum looks on their faces. And it’s with that bullish backdrop that several dozen of Jim Chanos’ closest friends gather in Miami for the noted short seller’s annual meeting of the bears.

The gathering of 40 or so people from Wednesday through Friday is a chance for Chanos and other like minded investors to kick around their best short ideas. A year ago, there was a lot of talk about shorting companies in the natural gas space.

The annual event at a resort in West South Beach is one where the invited guests are sworn to secrecy. That’s why there’s almost never any press coverage of the event, and even less coverage of the short ideas presented by Chanos & Co.

Essential reading: Married couples face tough taxes, and more

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines from Reuters and other sources.

 * Happy Valentine’s Day? Check your taxes first. Laura Saunders – The Wall Street Journal. Being married raises taxes for some couples and lowers them for others. The marriage penalty is especially pronounced for couples earning above $300,000. Link 

* U.S. slams EU’s tax-on-trades plan. Gabriele Steinhauser and Jenny Strausburg – The Wall Street Journal. The U.S. Treasury said it opposes plans by 11 European Union countries to impose a small tax on trades in shares, bonds and derivatives. Link  

* U.S. banks warn over planned EU ‘Tobin tax’. Alex Barker and James Politi – The Financial Times. The European Commission will on Thursday unveil an ambitious plan for an international levy on financial trades to be collected by the eurozone’s biggest economies, raising an estimated 30 billion to 35 billion euros a year. Link  

Essential reading: Vital New York City property taxes lost, and more

Professional basketball is one of the popular attractions at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. REUTERS/Adam Hunger

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines from Reuters and other sources.

 * Vital city revenue, lost in the fine print. Jim Dwyer – The New York Times. Madison Square Garden received a tax exemption on its property in 1982 as long as the Knicks and the Rangers agreed to play there for 10 years. Madison Square Garden pays no property tax today either, 31 years later. Link  

* Property losses may mean valuable tax breaks. Jeff Reeves – USA Today. As the April 15 tax deadline approaches, it’s worth noting that the IRS is sympathetic to Americans who suffered big losses in the last year. Link  

FBI to press: How are we doing?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s press office has embarked on a bit of customer satisfaction research: The department is asking journalists to rate its performance during the hostage standoff in Alabama that ended last week.

It is a rare glint of cooperative spirit in the traditionally contentious relationship between journalists and public relations specialists.

A public affairs officer sent journalists an online survey asking them to say whether the information the FBI gave them during the early days of the standoff was “sufficient” – enough to do their jobs – or whether it was too little.

Is Blankfein’s beard really just a beard?

Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein has been sporting a beard lately, which has some people asking: is he on his way out?

The 58-year-old former commodities salesman shaved his beard, lost 50 pounds and quit smoking as he prepared to take over the reins of Goldman Sachs in 2006. He also “started dressing more like a banker and less like a renegade,” according to William Cohan, a former investment banker who wrote a book about Goldman Sachs.

Although Blankfein hasn’t been seen sporting motorcycle jackets or packing on the pounds yet, he surprised crowds at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month with more than a five o’clock shadow. And on Tuesday he appeared on CNBC again with an even fuller beard.

Essential reading: Navigating between tax avoidance and evasion, and more

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines from Reuters and other sources.

* Navigating between tax avoidance and evasion. Paul Sullivan – The New York Times. It is fairly difficult to evade taxes on legitimate investments because the I.R.S. can crosscheck the forms supplied by the company and the individual. Where people run afoul of the law is when they cut corners. Link  

* Tax help comes with health insurance advice. Chad Terhune – The Los Angeles Times. As tax season kicks into high gear across the country, millions of Americans are getting their first taste of the biggest change to health insurance in nearly half a century. Link

* Here’s the start of your tax troubles. Annie Lowrey – The New York Times. This month, one of the most despised institutions of American government turns 100: the permanent income tax. Link  

One more try at the Great Refi

By Matthew Goldstein

Don’t be surprised if President Obama includes a line or two in his State of Union address this evening about the need for a plan to allow millions of struggling homeowners whose mortgages are packaged into so-called private label mortgage-backed securities to get a chance to either refinance their loans or restructure them.

The Washington Post is reporting today that mortgage refinancing may be one of the laundry list of items Obama will talk about tonight. And for several months now, investors in private mortgage-securities–deals issued by Wall Street banks and financial firms and not guaranteed by Fannie or Freddie–have been quietly bracing for the Obama administration to move forward with a new refinancing effort.

Up until now, the federal government’s main attempts at trying to help homeowners take advantage of the Federal Reserve’s efforts to keep pushing interest rates to zero has been to prod banks and mortgage servicers to refinance home loans held in so-called agency debt guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie. But programs like HAMP and HARP have provided little relief to the millions of homeowners whose loans are held in private label securities.

Essential reading: Sandy damage leads to tax trouble, and more

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines from Reuters and other sources.

* After the hurricane, a mound of tax math. Charles DeLafuentie – The New York Times. People who lost their homes or suffered extensive property damage in Hurricane Sandy may qualify for some help from the Internal Revenue Service, but with the usual caveats: the tax code isn’t simple, and not everybody will qualify. Link 

* A doubly trying tax season for same-sex couples. Peter Applebome – The New York Times. For same-sex couples across the United States, an offshoot of being married is a dizzying set of complications in computing taxes. Link  

* McCain says ‘maybe’ to new taxes to avert sequestration. Ed O’Keefe – The Washington Post. Republican Sen. John McCain said Sunday that he is willing to consider supporting new tax revenue as part of a plan to avert $85 billion in looming budget cuts, as the White House pushed back against Republican lawmakers who say President Barack Obama is solely responsible for the spending reductions. Link  

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