Unstructured Finance

Wall Streeters find life really is greener on the other side

Ex Wall Streeters talk about the better life working at a startup

Here’s a post from UF contributor and intrepid Wall Street reporter Lauren T. LaCapra, who is on assignment:

By Lauren Tara LaCapra

“One last question,” the moderator asked the panel of former Wall Streeters now working for fast-growing tech startups. “Would any of you go back to banking?”

One by one the five panelists, some of whom work for hot shops like FourSquare and Spotify, each shook their heads: “No…no…no.”

The responses from the former traders and investment bankers was a comforting message the three dozen or so people who still work on Wall Street and had gathered Tuesday at  General Assembly — a tech hub of sorts in New York City’s Flatiron neighborhood — to learn about life beyond stocks, bonds, commodities and derivatives.

The panel was sort of a group therapy session for finance types considering making the jump from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. And these days there are plenty of people interested in doing just that as layoffs at big banks continue and finance just doesn’t thrill as it once did.  The problem for Wall Street is there’s a huge talent drain taking place and it’s something firms are going to have to keep an eye on.

Pay close attention to the timings in JPMorgan’s internal report

By late January last year, not even the London Whale himself thought the massive derivatives bets that eventually cost the bank $6.2 billion were such a good idea.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Bruno Iksil, the credit trader nicknamed ‘the London Whale’ for the outsized positions he took in the small market for the CDX Index, warned his bosses a year ago that the size of his desk’s positions had gotten “scary.”

JPMorgan admitted as much in the internal report it released to the public on Jan. 16, but kept Iksil’s name out of emails quoted in the report, supposedly to protect UK privacy laws. The Journal got confirmation that Iksil was indeed the author of the emails, and that he made a presentation expressing his worries to the bank’s chief investment officer, Ina Drew, on Feb. 3, 2012.

Hedge fund scorecard 2012: Mortgage masters win, Paulson on bottom again

Mortgage funds roared home with returns of almost 19 percent last year, trouncing all other hedge fund strategies and beating the S&P 500 stock index, which rose 13 percent.

BTG Pactual’s $245.5 million Distressed Mortgage Fund, which invests primarily in distressed non-agency Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities (RMBS), returned about 46 percent for the year, putting it at the top of HSBC Private Bank’s list of the Top 20 performing hedge funds and making it one of 2012′s best performing funds.  Bear in mind the the average hedge fund gained only 6 percent last year.

HSBC’s hedge fund platform features hundreds of funds, including many of the industry’s biggest and best known managers, and the bank releases regular performance updates throughout the year.

from MacroScope:

SEC has power to ban high-frequency trading, congressman says

Not everyone agrees that using high-speed machines to trade stocks in less time than it takes the average person to blink is a bad thing, but the people who do might be heartened by the letter a congressman sent the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.

Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who has waged a decades-long struggle against computerized trading sent the SEC a hint: The power to curb high-frequency trading has been within its grasp all along.

In his letter, Markey described a law he co-sponsored in 1989 to increase the agency’s power to regulate computerized trading, a precursor to HFT that employed computer programs to make trading decisions without the participation of conscious humans. The law lets the SEC “limit practices which result in extraordinary levels of volatility,” according to Markey’s citation.

Tyrone Gilliams fights the law

By Matthew Goldstein

It’s been a while since we last wrote about the legal struggles of Tyrone Gilliams, the Philadelphia commodities trader/hip-hop promoter/wannabe reality show star/self-styled preacher, whom federal authorities have charged with scamming investors out of $5 million. But the University of Pennslyania graduate is making news again with the scheduled start of his Jan. 22 criminal trial in New York federal court.

Gilliams will be on trial with his former lawyer Everette Scott. Both men are charged with working together to “devise a scheme and artifice to defraud” investors out of their money that was supposed to have been invested in Treasury Strips–a derivative of U.S. Treasury bonds the separates the coupon and principal on the underlying note into different securities.

For the details of where the investors’ money allegedly went, read our earlier special report from May 2011 and this feature article from last year in Philadelphia magazine.

Stevie, SAC and that ticking redemption clock

By Matthew Goldstein and Svea Herbst-Bayliss

The WSJ is out today with a big story saying Stevie Cohen and SAC Capital are bracing for up to $1 billion in redemptions, or roughly 16 percent of the $6.3 billion it manages for outside investors. That’s a lot of money but sources are telling us redemptions will likely come in lower than that—think more in the $500 million range.

And more important, no matter what the figure is, don’t look for it to put much crimp in Cohen’s operation.

The deadline for submitting redemptions is Feb. 15, so there is still plenty of time for outside investors make a decision about sticking around or leaving. And even if an investor puts in a redemption notice now, those requests to withdraw money can get pulled at the last minute if the investor has a change of heart.

The gold rush in foreclosed homes picks up steam as mad money flows freely

By Matthew Goldstein

Institutional money keeps rushing into the market for foreclosed homes, with some big players snapping up homes at breakneck speed. But the question is whether the big buyers are throwing money around indiscriminately and Wall Street’s big housing long will come up a bit short.

The other day Bloomberg reported that Blackstone Group has already spent $2.5 billion to buy 16,000 homes to manage as rentals and eventually sell them when prices appreciate high enough. Blackstone says it’s finding that the going price for homes sold at foreclosure auctions and out of bank inventories are rising quicker than anticipated.

But Blackstone, which some believe could spend up to $5 billion on single family home space, isn’t alone in racing to snap-up foreclosed homes in states like Florida, Georgia, California, Nevada and Arizona. American Homes 4 Rent, a firm that has $600 million from the Alaska Permanent Fund, is buying up hundreds of homes a month, industry sources say. Colony Capital, the other big institutional player is no less aggressive.

Goldman: 1, Volcker: 0

By Lauren Tara LaCapra

There’s an interesting article out today from Bloomberg, which accuses Goldman Sachs of skirting the yet-to-be-defined-or-implemented Volcker rule, and accuses its top executives, including CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, of being a hypocrite.

Bloomberg reporter Max Abelson has done some good work on the subject. His article is well written and well sourced—he spoke to at least 20 people and got many of them to go on the record about their former employer and describe how Goldman continues to place bets with the firm’s own money.

Abelson concludes “Goldman Sachs has worked around regulations curbing proprietary bets at banks. “ But what the article really points out is that Wall Street will keep finding new ways to move the goal posts in its favor when it comes to defining and clamping down on prop trading.

Why Steven Cohen won’t turn SAC into a family office

By Matthew Goldstein

Every time the insider trading investigation thrusts Stevie Cohen back into the spotlight, there’s always speculation about whether the billionaire trader will simply give back money to his outside investors and convert his $14 billion SAC Capital into a family office in order to avoid the unwanted headlines. But as tempting as that might be to the publicity-averse Cohen, the well-known trader has a big financial incentivel to keep managing money for his outside investors.

SAC Capital’s fee structure–one of the highest in the $2 trillion hedge fund industry–probably pays for a good chunk of Cohen’s overhead, say people in the hedge fund industry. These sources say that by charging a 3 percent asset management fee and skimming off as much as 50 percent of the firm’s trading profits, SAC Capital’s outside investors provide Cohen with a rich source of cash to pay his 900 or so employees.

Now sure, if Cohen were to return the roughly $6.3 billion in outside money that SAC Capital manages, he could reduce his workforce dramatically and move his operation out of its spacious offices at 72 Cummings Point Road in Stamford, Conn. But with billions of his own money invested in SAC Capital, Cohen would still need to employ a healthy crew of analysts and traders to manage his personal wealth in order to get the kind of double-digit returns he’s accustomed to. Last year, SAC Capital was up a little over 10 percent after accounting for fees–compared to the industry average of about 5 percent.

Wall Street channels Charles Dickens in 2012

By Lauren Tara LaCapra

As 2012 comes to an end, it’s clear that Wall Street has had the best-worst year in quite some time.

Bank profits are at record highs and lows, driven by free money from the Fed that they can’t make any money with, and a historically small number of historically huge deals. Facebook’s IPO – among the biggest ever – happened this year, and it was an enormous failure and a terrific success all at once.

And if that’s not enough to convince you, just take a look at the big-tiny payday that Wall Street employees are expected to get this year: bonuses for bankers, traders and money managers are supposed to rise up to 10 percent, in what a top pay consultant called one of the weakest years in a decade or more. Since big banks have been required to shift more bonus money into restricted stock with clawback provisions, some employees even feel like they’re getting punished by those bigger paychecks.

  •