Money market funds and the commercial paper markets were at the heart of the financial crisis. In the fall of 2008, money market funds experienced massive withdrawals after one fund (the Reserve Primary Fund) reduced the value of depositors’ accounts after getting caught as Lehman went under holding significant amounts of Lehman short-term debt (other money market funds also lost money but were bailed out by their institutional sponsors). In response to this drain on funds for investing in short-term commercial paper, the Federal Reserve stepped forward and insured all money market funds. (more…)
Archive for the ‘money market’ Category
Here’s a wonderful idea for a financial product: raise trillions of dollars from investors, invest in a variety of risky assets, and then lie to investors about what the shares of the fund are worth. Just to make this easy, claim that each share is worth $1, even if it’s really worth less. To support this fiction, redeem shares at $1. If prices fall and investors suspect that the shares are actually worth less than $1, they will race to withdraw their funds. The first to withdraw receive $1, the last receive whatever is left, perhaps nothing.
You can be forgiven for thinking that I’ve just described Bernie Madoff’s investment fund. In fact, I’ve described the operation of money market mutual funds in the U.S. (Note that these are mutual funds, not insured “money market accounts” offered by banks.) (more…)
We seem to have entered a new phase of the credit crisis. We spent a number of months learning just how much house prices would fall and which institutions had exposure to mortgage loans. Now, as credit problems cascade and liquidity remains scarce, events seem to have moved beyond mortgages. Now we are concerned, for example, about which firms are exposed to other firms via credit default swaps.
In this entry I will make some observations about a few of the extraordinary events of the last week, specifically about money market funds, short sales, and the need for centralized clearing of financial products. (more…)