23 October 2008

A Record Number of Buyers Cannot Take Delivery of the US Treasuries that They 'Own'

He who sells what isn't his'n
Must buy it back or go to Prison.

Daniel Drew

Naked short selling and float and reserve plays are causing a record 'failures to deliver' in the US Treasuries markets. Some of this may be a 'kiting' scheme in which the sellers are playing an aribtrage against the slight fees and penalties versus returns on price distortions and extremes in volatility.

Or it might be a case of selling and using the same thing so many times as collateral that you don't really know what is your actual condition, solvent or insolvent. We can think of several (roughly nine) derivative and instrument laden banks that are utterly insolvent if forced to deliver their net obligations.

The Fed cannot even regulate its own products among its own dealer circles. What could possibly possess anyone to believe that they can do this with any other product in a larger, less exclusive market?

There are system breakdowns that have caused signficant spikes in failures, such as the widespread technical failures following the distruptions caused by 911.

But we are not aware of any massive computer system failures and shutdowns at this time. This may be a case of when the going gets tough, the frat boys bend the rules until they break, and then line up for a slap on the wrist from dad's business associates.

Is this because of the failures of Lehman and Bear Stearns and AIG? Hard to believe but we have an open mind. Transparency builds confidence more effectively than rhetoric and empty promises.

Who are the responsible parties? Let's have a list of the prime offenders of this market. We might *not* be surprised at who is failing to deliver what they sell. It might be an indication that they are in trouble. Oops, perhaps that is why we can't have it.

We suspect the Fed is turning a 'blind eye' to this activity. But more transparency would be helpful to alleviate that concern.

And do not be surprised when other things that you think that you are buying or think you own fail to show up.

There are some who see an approaching 'fail to deliver' spike at the COMEX and they may be right. There were some who believed that LTCM was short 400 tons of gold at the time of its failure, and that several central banks stepped in to depress price and increase supply to alleviate the potential shock on counterparties.

Replay in progress? It could get interesting if it is.

Stand and Deliver: Significant Fails in the US Treasury Market - 10 Oct 2008

Delivery failures plague Treasury market
Total hit a record $2.29 trillion as of Oct. 1

By Dan Jamieson
October 19, 2008

The credit crisis is causing a growing number of delivery failures with Treasury securities.

The latest data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed that cumulative failures hit a record $2.29 trillion as of Oct. 1. The federal settlement period is T+1 (trade date plus one day).

The outstanding U.S. public debt is $10.3 trillion.

"Current [fail] levels are at historic levels," said Rob Toomey, managing director of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association's funding and government and agency securities divisions. "There's been significant flight to quality" with the market turmoil, he said.

With the strong demand for Treasury securities, "some of the entities that bought Treasuries are not making them available in the [repurchase] market, which is the traditional way to get them," Mr. Toomey said.

Unlike some past bouts with high failure rates that involved particular bond issues, the current high fails involve all types of maturities, he said. (Such as in the 2001-2003 market crash - Jesse)

This month, New York- and Washington-based SIFMA came out with a set of best practices to reduce failed deliveries.

This year, the New York Fed revised its own Treasury market trading guidelines. Its guidelines, originally released last year, warned that short-sellers "should make deliveries in good faith." (And all good boys and girls should remain pure until they are married - Jesse)


Chronic failures can increase illiquidity problems in the market and expose market participants to losses in the event of counterparty insolvency, according to the New York Fed.

"There is a question about there being some impact on liquidity if [delivery failures] last for a long period," Mr. Toomey said.

Many retail investors also own Treasury securities, either directly or indirectly. The Treasury market is also an important fixed-income benchmark, so any liquidity problems can affect all participants.

In extreme cases, chronic fails could cause participants to limit their trading in secondary markets, the New York Fed said.

"Who wants to buy what they're not going to get?" said Susanne Trimbath, a market researcher with STP Advisory Services LLC of Santa Monica, Calif. In a September research paper, she estimated that based on failure rates in 2007 and 2008, the cost to investors from failed deliveries is about $7 billion annually. (Pays for the facials - Jesse)

The cost arises because sellers don't have access to their money. In addition, the federal government loses $42 million a year in lost revenue, and the states miss out on an additional $270 million in revenue due to excessive claims of tax-exempt income on state-tax-free Treasury securities, Ms. Trimbath said.

She and researchers at the New York Fed said that some delivery failures are intentional. (We're shocked, shocked! - Jesse)

As with naked shorting of stocks, naked shorting of Treasuries "allows you to avoid the borrowing costs,
" Ms. Trimbath said.

"There can be circumstances in a low-rate environment where it's cheaper to fail" than deliver, Mr. Toomey said. Such an environment also reduces incentives to act as a lender of securities, he said.

A 2005 study by the New York Fed confirmed that episodes of persistent settlement fails are often related to market participants' lack of incentive to avoid failing. (Thanks for the kind of knowledge that most mothers, teachers, and adults over the age of 25 could have told us for free, propeller heads - Jesse)

"We've got to get the [Securities and Exchange Commission], the Fed and SIFMA in there to force" Treasury traders to deliver securities, Ms. Trimbath said. (That ought not to be hard. We hear the Fed has people on premise every day with most of the probable perpetrators - Jesse)

The Department of the Treasury has a buy-in rule for the cash markets, but the repurchase markets rely on contracts, Mr. Toomey said. Currently there are no penalties for failures, and regulators to date have not required disclosure whether the dealer or the client fails to deliver. (Self regulation at its finest. Sounds like the honor system my neighbor uses to sell tomatoes in the summer from a box in her front yard. Except for the most part the people here in our neighborhood are not greedy, self-centered, shameless, hedonistic shits - Jesse)

By industry convention, fails are generally allowed to roll over until they are eventually closed out, Ms. Trimbath said.


She said that scrutiny by the SEC and the Fed, and widespread investigations into short-selling practices, are driving the industry to rein in questionable practices with Treasuries. (Apparently with 'great success,' Borat, given the record number of fails - Jesse)

Mr. Toomey said that one of SIFMA's best-practices suggestions is to require that extra margin be provided by the party that is underwater due to a failed delivery. (Wrist slap by fines is a real deterrent - Jesse)

SIFMA also said that it is establishing a Treasury fails monitoring committee, with representatives from the Fed and Treasury.

The committee will alert the market "when marketwide mitigation, remediation and the attention of management is warranted" because of a high level of fails, SIFMA said in a statement.