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Merrill’S Risk Disclosure Dodges Are Unearthed

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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/10/business/10merrill.html?ref=business

It was named after a faint constellation in the southern sky: Pyxis, the Mariner’s Compass. But it helped to steer the mighty Merrill Lynch toward disaster.

Barely visible to any but a few inside Merrill, Pyxis was created at the height of the mortgage mania as a sink for subprime securities. Intended for one purpose and operated off the books, this entity and others like it at Merrill helped the bank obscure the outsize risks it was taking.

The Pyxis story is about who knew what and when on Wall Street — and who did not. Publicly, banks vastly underestimated their exposure to the dangerous mortgage investments they were creating. Privately, trading executives often knew far more about the perils than they let on.

Only after the housing bubble began to deflate did Merrill and other banks begin to clearly divulge the many billions of dollars of troubled securities that were linked to them, often through opaque vehicles like Pyxis.

In the third quarter of 2007, for instance, Merrill reported that its potential exposure to certain subprime investments was $15.2 billion. Three months later, it said that exposure was actually $46 billion.

At the time, Merrill said it had initially excluded the difference because it thought it had protected itself with various hedges.

But many of those hedges later failed, and Merrill, the brokerage giant that brought Wall Street to Main Street, soon collapsed into the arms of Bank of America.

“It’s like the parable of the blind man and the elephant: you had some people feeling the trunk and some the legs, and there was nobody putting it all together,” Gary Witt, a former managing director at Moody’s Investors Service who now teaches at Temple University, said of the situation at Merrill and other banks.

Wall Street has come a long way since the dark days of 2008, when the near collapse of American finance heralded the end of flush times for many people. But even now, two years on, regulators are still trying to piece together how so much went so wrong on Wall Street.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether banks adequately disclosed their financial risks during the boom and subsequent bust. The question has taken on new urgency now that Citigroup has agreed to pay $75 million to settle S.E.C. claims that it misled investors about its exposure to collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.’s.

As Merrill did with vehicles like Pyxis, Citigroup shifted much of the risks associated with its C.D.O.’s off its books, only to have those risks boomerang. Jessica Oppenheim, a spokeswoman for Bank of America, declined to comment.

Genius.

We don't have to tell you the full exposure because it's cleverly hedged you see, we only have limited risk because we are ever so clever bankers. And if we tell the truth it might affect the share price. Trust us we are a low risk bank hedging away to minimise risk.

Excellent.

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  • 261 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?


      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%



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