Deals With Hedge Funds May Be Helping Merrill

Discussion in 'Wall St. News' started by THE-BEAKER, Nov 2, 2007.

  1. more cooking of the books.

    Merrill Lynch & Co., in a bid to slash its exposure to risky mortgage-backed securities, has engaged in deals with hedge funds that may have been designed to delay the day of reckoning on losses, people close to the situation said.

    The transactions are among the issues likely to be examined by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC is looking into how the Wall Street firm has been valuing, or "marking," its mortgage securities and how it has disclosed its positions to investors, a person familiar with the probe said. Regulators are scrutinizing whether Merrill knew its mortgage-related problem was bigger than what it indicated to investors throughout the summer.


    • The Issue: Merrill Lynch & Co. has been off-loading some of its mortgage-related assets to hedge funds as part of an effort to cap its exposures.
    • Backdrop: Merrill's mortgage assets fueled a $7.9 billion third-quarter write-down, leading to the forced retirement on Tuesday of Chief Executive Stan O'Neal.
    • Regulatory Question: Did some of Merrill's recent mortgage asset sales effectively postpone the reckoning for some write-downs?In one deal, a hedge fund bought $1 billion in commercial paper issued by a Merrill-related entity containing mortgages, a person close to the situation said. In exchange, the hedge fund had the right to sell back the commercial paper to Merrill itself after one year for a guaranteed minimum return, this person said.

    While the Merrill-related entity's assets and liabilities weren't on Merrill's own balance sheet, Merrill might have been required to take a write-down if the entity was unable to sell the commercial paper to other investors and suffered losses, the person said. The deal delayed that risk for a year, the person said.

    In a statement, a Merrill Lynch spokeswoman said, "We don't comment on specific transactions and we are confident in the appropriateness of our marks."

    At issue with any hedge-fund deals is whether there was an attempt by Merrill to sweep problems under the rug through private transactions kept out of view from investors. Some previous scandals, such as the collapse of Enron Corp. and the troubles of Japan's financial system in the 1990s, involved efforts to hide problems through off-balance-sheet transactions.
  2. Toxic Waste Team at work


    :D :D :D