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Missouri Action Against Morgan Keegan Over Municipal Bond Issue Also Illustrates Markup Abuse

On April 3, 2013 Missouri's Secretary of State of the State submitted a Petition for an Order to Cease and Desist and to Show Cause against Morgan Keegan over taxable municipal bonds Morgan underwrote for the City of Moberly in July 2010. The petition and the Offering Circular for the bonds are available to view online. The story has been picked up by The Bond Buyer and Law360.

Setting aside the Petition's allegations, the trading in this set of bonds highlights markup abuse we have found is...

Resurgence of Commercial Mortgage Backed Securities and Decreased Underwriting Standards

Late last week, Reuters reported that the issuance of so-called 'large-loan' Commercial Mortgage Backed Securities (CMBS) has recently spiked and that the increase in volume may be due in part to more lenient underwriting standards. Large-loan CMBS issuance in the first few months of 2013 has already surpassed that of 2012.

CMBSs are created by securitizing a pool of commercial mortgage loans such that an investment in a CMBS is a claim on the future cashflows from the pool of commercial...

529 College Savings Plans Underperform Similar Mutual Funds -- Morningstar

On Monday, Morningstar Fund Research issued their 2013 529 College-Savings Plans Industry Survey, which reviews the performance of the 529 industry in 2012. Their study finds that "college savers are continuing to invest in 529 college-saving plans at an impressive clip, even though their performance has lagged that of similar funds in recent years."

529 Plans are typically run by states and are used by investors to save for future education expenses such as college tuition on a...

Why So Many REITs?

Real estate investment trusts (or REITs) have been all over the news recently. The value of many traded REITs has increased dramatically as the US housing market has recovered (see, for example, Vanguard's REIT ETF VNQ which is currently trading at or above pre-crisis levels). Many mortgage REITs have been making headlines for their rapid growth and potentially adverse effects on the financial system. And of course, non-traded REITs continue to see criticism for reasons we've highlighted...

Taking the Teeth out of the STOCK Act

NPR reported earlier this week that Congress has quietly overhauled important provisions of the STOCK Act . For those that don't know, the STOCK ("Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge") Act was signed into law in April 2012 and sought to prevent "Members of Congress and employees of Congress from using nonpublic information derived from their official positions for personal benefit, and for other purposes."

The STOCK Act was supposed to prevent Members and Congressional staff from trading...

CFTC Investigating Potential Manipulation in Interest Rate Swap Market

Bloomberg's Matthew Leising is reporting that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has issued subpoenas to current and former employees at swap brokerage firm ICAP (IAP) "and as many as 15 Wall Street banks" for alleged manipulation of a key benchmark price in the interest rate swap market.

The benchmark, known as ISDAfix, "provides average mid-market swap rates for six major currencies at selected maturities on a daily basis." Similar to LIBOR, the rates are set based on end-of-day...

Goldman Sachs Uses JOBS Act to Sidestep Volcker Rule

Evan Weinberger at Law360 is reporting that Goldman Sachs may have found a way around the Volcker Rule--the ban on proprietary trading by banks, which also prohibits sponsoring hedge funds and private equity funds--by using another controversial regulatory measure, the 2012 JOBS Act (of which we have spoken before):

By setting up an independent business development company in which it will hold a minority stake and limited leverage exposures, Goldman will be able to engage in at least limited...

Stockton California May Proceed with Chapter 9 Bankruptcy

Yesterday a federal judge in California ruled that, despite the objections of bondholders and bond insurers, the city of Stockton could proceed in the process of Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Stockton is a city of almost 300,000 located about 90 minutes east of SanFrancisco Stockton was hard hit by the housing bubble and saw a 16% decline (page 345 of the PDF) in general fund revenue from FY 2008-2009 to FY 2009-2010.

After facing "an immediate and severe fiscal crisis" in early 2012, Stockton became...

Eaton Vance, Transparency, and Exchange-Traded Managed Funds (ETMFs)

Eaton Vance (EV) made a splash yesterday when they announced an application with the SEC for approval of a new type of open-end fund they call "Exchange-Traded Managed Funds" or ETMFs. Since the announcement, several bloggers have commented on the implications of such products, such as Brendan Conway at Barrons and Olly Ludwig at IndexUniverse.

In August 2011, the Financial Times reported the uncovering of patents -- U.S. Patent Nos. 7,444,300, 7,689,501, 7,496,531, 8,131,621, 8,306,901 and...

JP Morgan's New Incarnation of Non-Agency RMBS Weakens Provisions from Pre-Crisis Version

Last week, the Wall Street Journal covered the first non-agency residential mortgage-backed security (RMBS) offering from JP Morgan since the financial crisis. This particular RMBS is a collateralized mortgage obligation (CMO) which is "supported by 752 jumbo mortgage loans [...] made to borrowers with high credit scores and with about 35% of their own money in a down payment for the property." JP Morgan originated nearly half of the mortgage pool (48%) and First Republic Bank originated...

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