How is it that a hedge fund, MatlinPatterson, is eligible to receive US bailout (TARP) funds? Surely Tim Geither knows that Lap Wai Chan, a key figure at MatlinPatterson is a fugitive from Brazil.
How is it that The Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) is opening a door the Federal Reserve has closed, allowing leveraged buyout firms to take control of banks amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression?
The Fed has told private-equity companies (a polite term for hedge funds) it won’t permit a firm that isn’t regulated as a bank to own a majority stake in a lender. The OTS explains that it has an interest in keeping remaining thrifts alive with fresh capital, and private equity is one of the only options available. So now, hedge funds can purchase banks with US bailout funds.
MatlinPatterson, a hedge fund, has used TARP (US bailout) money to purchase Flagstar Bancorp Inc. It did so with the full knowledge and consent of Tim Geithner, US Treasury Secretary.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, a noted columnist with The Telegraph wrote about MatlinPatterson’s purchase of Flagstar with TARP money, several days ago. Shortly after the article was published, it was pulled off the Internet by The Telegraph – the reason cited being a letter from MatlinPatterson challenging the facts of the article.
After some investigation, according to a source familiar with The Telegraph’s thinking, the story by Ambrose Evans Pritchard on MatlinPatterson will return, as it is verifiable.
This means that MatlinPatterson’s letter to The Telegraph, which killed the story, is not truthful. It also raises the question of Geithner’s putting pressure on The Telegraph to kill the story. Certainly Geithner does not want people to know that he is doling out money to friendly hedge funds – especially a hedge fund employing Lap Wai Chan, a fugitive, as we mentioned in our last post.
Here is a copy of MatlinPatterson’s letter to The Telegraph.
Here is a copy of the by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard that The Telegraph was forced to withdraw from the Internet.
The US Treasury’s effort to stabilize the banking system through the TARP programme is a hopelessly ill-conceived policy that enriches speculators at public expense, according to the buy-out firm supposed to be pioneering the joint public-private bank rescues.
“The taxpayers ought to know that we are in effect receiving a subsidy. They put in 40pc of the money but get little of the equity upside,” said Mark Patterson, chairman of MatlinPatterson Advisers.
The comments are likely to infuriate Tim Geithner, the US Treasury Secretary,
MatlinPatterson took advantage of the TARP’s matching funds to buy Flagstar Bancorp in Michigan. His confession appears to validate concerns that the bail-out strategy is geared towards Wall Street.
Mr Patterson said the US Treasury is out of its depth and seems to be trying to put off drastic action by pretending that the banking system is still viable.
“It’s a sham. The banks are insolvent. The US government is trying to sedate the public because they are down to the last $100bn (£66bn) of the $700bn TARP funds. They think they’re doing this for the greater good of society,” he said, speaking at the Qatar Global Investment Forum.
Mr Patterson said it would be better for the US to bite the bullet as Britain has done, accepting that crippled lenders must be nationalised. “At least the British are not hiding the bail-out,” he said.
MatlinPatterson said private equity and hedge funds were deluding themselves in hoping to go back to business as usual after the trauma of the last 18 months.
“This is not a normal recession and there will be no V-shaped recovery. The crisis has destroyed leveraged companies. We’re going to see a catastrophic increase in the number of LBO’s (leveraged buyouts) going into default because they’re knee-deep in debt and no solution exists since they can’t refinance,” he said.
“Alfa hedge funds have been making their money by gambling with excessive leverage, so the knife that cuts off leverage is going to cut off their heads as well,” he said.
Like many bears, Mr Patterson expects the great crunch to end in deliberate inflation, deemed a lesser evil than outright depression.
“The US government has thrown 29pc of GDP at this crisis compared to 8pc in the early 1930s.
The Fed’s balance sheet has risen from $900bn to $2.7 trillion to bail out the system. America has to do it because the only way out is to debase the currency, but that is going to lead to some very high inflation three years down the road,” he said.
MatlinPatterson, however, has missed the Spring rebound, the most powerful rise in equities in over 70 years. “We shorted the equity rally because we thought it was lunatic. We’ve kept adding positions seven times, and we’re still holding,” he said. Ouch!