Wall Street Wizardry Amplified Credit Crisis - WSJ

Wall Street Wizardry Amplified Credit Crisis - WSJ

7 Pages · 2007 · 250 KB · English

"It is a tangled hairball of risk," Janet Tavakoli, a Chicago consultant who specializes in CDOs, says of Norma.

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Wall Street Wizardry Amplified Credit Crisis - WSJ.comhttp://online.wsj.com/article_print/SB119871820846351717.html 1 of 712/31/2007 7:45 PMDOW JONES REPRINTSThis copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers, use the Order Reprints tool at the bottom of any article or visit: www.djreprints.com. • See a sample reprint in PDF format. • Order a reprint of this article now. December 27, 2007PAGE ONE Wall Street Wizardry Amplified Credit Crisis A CDO Called Norma Left 'Hairball of Risk'; Tailored by Merrill Lynch By CARRICK MOLLENKAMP and SERENA NG December 27, 2007; Page A1 In recent years, as home prices and mortgage lending boomed, bankers found ever-more-clever ways to repackage trillions of dollars in loans, selling them off in slivers to investors around the world. Financiers and regulators figured all the activity would disperse risk, and maybe even make markets safer and stronger. Then along came Norma. Norma CDO I Ltd., as its full name goes, is one of a new breed of mortgage investments created in the waning days of the U.S. housing boom. Instead of spreading the risk of a global home-finance boom, the instruments have magnified and concentrated the effects of the subprime-mortgage bust. They are now behind tens of billions of dollars of write-downs at some of the world's largest banks, including the $9.4 billion announced last week by Morgan Stanley. 1 Norma illustrates how investors and Wall Street, in their efforts to keep a lucrative market going, took a good idea too far. Created at the behest of an Illinois hedge fund looking for a tailor-made bet on subprime mortgages, the vehicle was brought into existence by Merrill Lynch & Co. and a posse of little-known partners. In its use of newfangled derivatives, Norma contributed to a speculative market that dwarfed the value of the subprime mortgages on which it was based. It was also part

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