Cash Strapped Bond Issuers Should Follow Willie Sutton

July 10, 2009 at 4:00 am 1 comment


When infamous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robs banks, he coyly responded, “Because that’s where the money is.” Willie Sutton was one of the more prominent bank robbers in American history. During his long career he had robbed close to 100 banks from the late 1920s to 1952. He was known as “Slick Willie” or “The Actor.” As a master of disguise the FBI files show that Sutton masqueraded himself as a mailman, policeman, telegraph messenger, maintenance man and a host of other personas. The Credit Default Swap market has also been disguised in mystery and opaqueness.  

With many cash strapped bond issuers looking for ways to negotiate more favorable credit terms during these tough economic times, one strategy has been to approach holders of the CDS instruments. However, CDS holders have no reason to negotiate with corporate bond issuers (for pennies on the dollar) when they stand to collect a full dollar from their bank (due to terms in the CDS contracts). Cash starved corporations rather should listen to Willie Sutton and go straight to the money source – the banks that issued the CDS to the investors. As bankruptcies increase, and bank failures rise, the trio of bond holders, bond issuers, and CDS issuers (banks) will become closer friends (and/or enemies).

Research Reloaded delved more into this issue by discussing the tactics used by media companies, Gannett and McClatchy (Read Article Here). Lots of wrinkles need to be ironed out in the CDS market, measured in the tens of trillions in notional value, but part of the solution involves the bond issuer and investor going straight to the money source (the bank issuer of the CDS). Willie would be proud.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Entry filed under: Banking, Financial Markets, Fixed Income (Bonds). Tags: , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • […] The rules in place allowed AIG to issue these lucrative Credit Default Swap (CDS) products (read more about CDS) with inadequate capital requirements and controls, so AIG was not shy in exploiting this lack of […]


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