Sunday, October 21, 2007

John Mauldin on "SIV Garbage"

In Friday's "Features" post, we included some links to commentary on the widely followed SIV "superfund" scheme. Today, we'll include some more useful background information on this issue, and some added commentary and analysis.

First off, what is the "superfund"? What is its stated purpose? How did the fund get capitalized, and why is it deemed necessary in the first place?

The "superconduit", or superfund, as it has come to be known, is a plan, enacted by the banks and endorsed by the US Treasury, to build a support fund to buy the assets of troubled structured investment vehicles, or SIVs.

Assets held by SIVs tend to be a mix of asset-backed commercial paper, short-term debt typically backed by the assets held by the issuing vehicles. The assets backing this paper tend to be mortgages, credit card receivables, student loans, and corporate loans.

The plan has already drawn a barrage of criticism, causing Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to hit back at superfund critics, while claiming the plan is misunderstood and that it is a "market driven" solution.

Still, many of the critics are just not buying it, noting that the plan essentially allows banks to profit from the very mess which they helped bring about in the first place.

For a detailed overview of the SIV bailout proposals, let's go to John Mauldin, who recently wrote about these issues in a piece called, "Taking Out the SIV Garbage".

"This week we learned that Structured Investment Vehicles or SIVs should more properly be termed SIGs or Structured Investment Garbage. Several SIVs worth over $20 billion are closing shop, and investors will lose money. More SIVs are selling assets to meet loan demands. SIVs had issued at the peak about $400 billion worth of asset-backed commercial paper. The total of asset-backed commercial paper was $1.2 trillion. Since July, that has plummeted, nose-dived, crashed to $888 billion, and is on its way to a small fraction of that.

In effect, we are taking a trillion dollars of financing for a wide variety of things we need, like credit cards, autos, homes, and corporate loans out of the credit market. That is going to have an impact.

But I don't want to get ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning. What is an SIV and where do they come from? Who owns them? Why do they exist?"

For more info on SIVs and their asset mix, as well as the "Superfund solution" and the impact this will have on the economy, read on at the link above.