Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Run on Florida’s Local Government Investment Pool

by Calculated Risk on 11/29/2007 08:43:00 PM

On Nov 15th David Evans at Bloomberg wrote: Public School Funds Hit by SIV Debts Hidden in Investment Pools

What ... municipal finance managers ... across the country still haven't been told -- is that state-run pools have parked taxpayers' money in some of the most confusing, opaque and illiquid debt investments ever devised.

These include so-called structured investment vehicles, or SIVs, which are among the subprime mortgage debt-filled contrivances that have blown up at the biggest banks in the world.
This story led to a run on the fund, and Evans wrote today: Florida Halts Withdrawals From Local Investment Fund
Florida officials voted to suspend withdrawals from an investment fund for schools and local governments after redemptions sparked by downgrades of debt held in the portfolio reduced assets by 44 percent.
Before the run, the fund had $27 Billion in assets, and the fund was frozen today with $15 Billion remaining.

The Florida LGIP had strict investment guidelines, but unfortunately the guidelines allowed investment in asset backed commercial paper (CP) backed by prime and Alt-A mortgages.

A small percentage of the fund's investments have been downgraded and no longer meet the guidelines of the fund.

Florida Fund Holdings Click on chart for larger image.

This chart shows the investments that have been downgraded below the standards of the fund. This chart shows losses of about $45 million; not much for a $27 Billion fund (0.17%). Of course with each redemption at par (the run on the fund), the percentage losses for the remaining funds grow. $45 million for a $15 Billion fund is 0.3%. Considering the fund was paying investors 5.77%, even a 0.3% loss is not horrible.

However there are serious questions about the investment decisions of the pool. And there are other investments that could go bad. As an example the Fund invested $650 million in certificates of deposit in Countrywide Bank - with the recent redemptions that investment now amounts to over 4% of the pool's assets - and there is some risk that Countrywide could go under.

The two main concerns are: 1) Will there be a run on other investment pools? and 2) If other funds stop investing in asset backed CP, this might further the credit crunch and increase spreads for other products.