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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

SEC: Wall Street Sold "Too many Lottery Tickets"

by Calculated Risk on 11/28/2007 10:19:00 PM

From Bloomberg: Wall Street Failed in CDO `Lottery,' SEC's Sirri Says

Securities firms and banks sold ``too many lottery tickets'' tied to U.S. mortgages and failed to look closely enough at their growing risks, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission's market regulation division said today.

Financial companies had ``a significant risk management failure'' on so-called super senior classes of collateralized debt obligations made up of asset-backed bonds, Erik R. Sirri said at a conference in New York ...

``There is a spectrum of lottery tickets that can be written,'' offering little upside for the seller and potentially large, sudden losses in a worst-case scenario, Sirri said.
Here is Sirri's speech:
If a firm were to have a concentrated position in a risk that suddenly became illiquid, that would clearly be bad. However, much worse would be a concentrated position with negative convexity that suddenly became illiquid. That trifecta is a risk manager's nightmare, as there is little to do once the markets start moving adversely and liquidity goes away, other than to hope. And as one head trader wisely said recently, "Hope is a crappy hedge." Combine this unhappy situation with risk that has begun to morph into less obvious forms and one starts to understand what occurred with super senior ABS CDO over the past nine months.