Investment Banking

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Investment Banking in 2008

Group Report

1. Failure Analysis:

Identify the major factors that contributed to Bear Stearns’s failure? Who stood to benefit from its implosion? How did Bear Stearns’s collapse differ from the ‘Long Term Capital Management’ failure a decade earlier? What could Bear Stearns have done differently to avoid this fate? In the early 2000’s?

And during the summer of 2007?
And during the week of March 10, 2008?

(1) Identify the major factors that contributed to Bear Stearns’s failure? Bear’s somewhat cutthroat and renegade culture of maverick may have contributed a lot to their failure. This culture somehow made it killed by the credit crisis, while other investment banks survived. But the direct factors resulted in Bear’s implosion were the failure of Ralph Cioffi’s High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Fund and Enhanced Leverage High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Fund, which invested in sophisticated credit derivatives backed by mortgage securities. And these failures cost Bear more than 1.6 billion dollars to prop up two hedge funds. And the failures of two hedge funds led to a continuous questioning about Bear’s financial stability. At the same time, Bear concentrated its business on CDOs, which means it had high exposure to this item. Thus when credit crisis happened, it is significantly impacted. And in early 2008, Moody’s downgraded 163 tranches of mortgage backed bonds issued by Bear. Almost everyone realized that Bear will face liquidity problem. But meanwhile, Bear highly relied on repo to finance itself. When lender lost confidence in Bear, it failed in finding another effective way to find cash. In sum, the reasons above contributed to the failure of Bear in 2008 crisis.

(2) Who stood to benefit from its implosion?
JP Morgan is the beneficiary from Bear’s bankruptcy. It gained a company which had $172.61 worth less than 8 months ago with an incredible low price of $10 a share.

(3) How did Bear Stearns’s collapse differ from the ‘Long Term Capital Management’ failure a decade earlier? The origin in LTCM’s failure was the high-leveraged structure. It obtained excessive debt for the investment of the bonds. Simultaneously, the market capacity was not sufficient to support LTCM’s large bloated size. As time had gone, market competition and capacity diminished its profitability. But with such a high leverage, LTCM had no other choice but to gain enough profit to move on. Therefore, they got a foot into some unfamiliar area. Meanwhile, as to the trading strategy, LTCM held a large quantity of asset with low liquidity. However, situation was different from what they had predicted. Big loss happened eventually, but LTCM could not sell asset for enough cash. It inevitably had to go bankruptcy. High leverage structure of Bear’s hedge fund also had great impact on its collapse. But the awful strategy of Bear’s management should blame most for its bankruptcy. If it was in a less turbulent environment, things might be different. Continual bad news about Bear from executives’ unmannered behavior to its first quarterly loss since foundation ruined the confidence of investors. And another difference in the failure of both was that Bear mainly died of market failure. When the whole market was fear of the loss of subprime asset, the large subprime assets holding companies such as Bear Stearns, could not avoid a fate of great loss and liquidity problem.

(4) What could Bear Stearns have done differently to avoid this fate? In the early 2000’s?
As an investment bank, Bear was just in pursuit of the return while underestimated the potential aftermath of being too risky. Most of its profit was composed of fixed income securities. Meanwhile, Bear should not let each hedge fund manager just specialize in a particular security to make volatility. It is obvious that Bear’s risk management had significant flaw....
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