We all have heard that one of the big culprits in the credit crisis was the collateralized debt obligation (CDO). CDOs are notes backed by baskets or cohorts of different types of receivables. The notes can be backed by residential mortgages, or commercial mortgages, or student loans, or credit card receivables or auto loans, etc (or a mixture of all the above). It is the cash flows from those receivables, not some end borrower, that services the CDO notes, i.e. pays interest and amortizes the principal on the notes.

I don’t want to go into the details about CDOs here or their role in the credit crisis because many other writers have gone into this exhaustively elsewhere. Suffice to say CDOs (or asset backed financing/securitizations) are actually very important and effective ways of financing certain receivables pools (of effecting what is known as ‘non-recourse’ finance). And yet there were fairly obvious issues with many CDO structures before the crisis: their excessive structural complexity (the notes were broken into too many tranches); the questionable credit quality of the underlying assets; the use of too many different types of underlying receivables; the fact that those rating the notes (the rating agencies) were effectively in bed with the originators of the notes; the overly aggressive selling methods of CDO tranches by swarms of brokers; etc. (read more…)

A collection of stories from SmartBrief publications and around the web…

The editor of The Economist says farewell: John Micklethwait departs The Economist bound for Bloomberg. I won’t even try to summarize his farewell message. It is too good. Read the whole thing.

How the next editor got the job: Gideon Litchfield writes for Quartz about the process The Economist employed to select Zanny Minton Beddoes as the new editor. Litchfield, who was also a candidate for the job, offers unique insight on the refreshingly straightforward way The Economist handled the search.

Food for thought from Davos: With the glitz and glam always stealing the headlines in Davos, many people overlook some of the research the World Economic Forum actually disseminates – during the conference or throughout the year. Kirill Shakhnov from the European University Institute shares some interesting research with this paper: How wealth inequality entices talent into finance. (read more…)

Welcome to Day 3 of SmartBrief’s roundup of financial news coming out of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Blankfein on the reality of regulation: Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein told CNBC his firm is always thinking about regulation and how it affects things like technology acquisition. On whether banks are under regulatory assault, Blankfien responded, “No choice, no problem. I don’t have to sit here and ruminate on about whether its good or its bad or I like it or not. It is what it is.”

‘Pandemic bonds’ could be a panacea for next pandemic: Gillian Tett writes in the Financial Times writes about the concept of ‘pandemic bonds’ aimed at helping finance more effective and efficient responses to global health crises. The idea, which is backed by World Bank boss Jim Kim, would see bonds issued to help governments, NGOs and other organization,. “This could help cash-strapped governments finance measures to beat disease,” Tett writes. (read more…)

Welcome to Day 2 of SmartBrief’s roundup of financial news coming out of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Scroll to the bottom of this post to watch a selection of Thursday’s panel discussions related to finance.

The Lady and the Gentleman: German Chancellor Angela Merkel might have been talking in Davos on Thursday, but everyone was listening to European Central Bank President Mario Draghi. Merkel’s call for Europe to stay the course on structural reforms was drowned out by Draghi announcing the ECB’s plan to inject $1.37 trillion into the Eurozone economy via quantitative easing. USA Today describes how many attendees at Merkel’s speech in Davos became distracted a view minutes in when Draghi’s news was announced.

Yea and Nay on European QE: Morgan Stanley boss James Gorman told Bloomberg News the ECB’s move on quantitative easing is a good thing. But according to CITY A.M., Larry Summers is not sure it is enough. (read more…)

Welcome to the first day of SmartBrief’s roundup of financial news coming out of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Scroll to the bottom of this post to watch a selection of Wednesday’s panel discussions related to finance.

Somehow … banks have survived: After years of lamenting the onslaught of post-crisis regulations, bankers in Davos still appear to be breathing. Some are even making a profit. According to DealBook, some are even lauding all that regulation. “The bulk of the regulatory reform was much needed,” said Deutsche Bank co-CEO Anshu Jain. “Our own management would have taken us on the same journey.”

What about the 99%?: The over-arching theme of last year’s coverage of Davos seemed to be the schism between the 1% and the 99%. The tone is not as palpable in this year’s coverage. But that is not to say no one is talking about income inequality. (read more…)