17 February 2014

Margin Call: Ted Butler Wonders About the Real Cause of Bear Stearns' Collapse

Ted Butler has put one of his newsletters into the public domain.

It raises some interesting points.  As you may recall Bear was suffering losses in a number of financial instruments at the time.  But there has not been serious discussion about their precious metal positions.

At the time of the MF Global collapse it appeared that JPM had their fingerprints all over the squeeze and margin call that put them down.   JPM, In the City of London, With a Margin Call.

But I had never thought about it happening in the case of Bear Stearns.

Goldman may be the vampire squid, but JPM may be Mack the Knife.

And is MF Global Jenny Towler, and Bear Stearns Schmul Meier?   And if so, who then is Tiger Brown?

Mackie, what price did you pay?

Times may change, but the song remains the same.

What Really Happened To Bear Stearns?
By Theodore Butler
February 17, 2014

Six years ago the well-known investment bank Bear Stearns imploded. In February 2008, Bear Stearns stock traded as high as $93; by mid-March the insolvent company agreed to be taken over by JPMorgan for $2 a share (later raised to $10 after class-action lawsuits). In the annals of Wall Street, there was hardly a more sudden demise than the fall of Bear Stearns. The cause was said to be a run on the bank as nervous investors pulled assets from the firm. Bear Stearns was said to be levered by 35 times, meaning it had equity of $11 billion and total assets of $395 billion. This is a very small cushion if something negative suddenly appears.

Something negative did hit Bear Stearns in the first quarter of 2008; although there are remarkably few details of what went wrong. Since Bear had a significant presence in sub-prime mortgages and that market was in distress, it is assumed the fall of the firm was mortgage related. That may be true, but there was no general stress in the stock market through mid-March 2008 reflecting a credit crisis. Was there instead some specific trigger behind the company’s sudden collapse?

I believe that sudden and massive losses and margin calls of more than $2.5 billion on tens of thousands of short COMEX gold and silver contracts were the specific triggers that killed Bear Stearns. Let’s face it – Bear was so leveraged that a sudden demand of more than $2.5 billion in immediate payment for any reason could have put them under. Bear Stearns’ excessive gold and silver shorts on the COMEX are the most plausible reason for the sudden demise.

Bear Stearns did fail and due to a sudden cash crunch was acquired by JPMorgan for a fraction of what it was worth two months earlier. Bear Stearns was the largest short in COMEX gold and silver at the time. The day of Bear Stearns’ demise coincides precisely with the day of the historic high price points in gold and silver. That is also the same day the biggest COMEX gold and silver short would experience maximum loss and a cumulative demand for upwards of $2.5 billion in cash deposits for margin. It was no coincidence the music stopped for Bear Stearns that same day...

Read the entire article here.