Economics 31/07/09: NAMA Part III

The NAMA Legislation provides some stunningly simplistic and outright primitive economic analysis. This is contained in Part 5 of the Bill (once again, italics are mine):


Determination of acquisition values—valuation methodology.

58.—(1) In this section—
(a) a reference to the current market value of the property comprised in the security for a credit facility that is a bank asset is a reference to the estimated amount that would be paid between a willing buyer and a willing seller…
(b) a reference to the current market value of a bank asset is a reference to the estimated amount that would be paid between a willing buyer and a willing seller in an arm’s-length transaction…

[In other words, the difference between the two values is that the property value is a valuation of the collateral, while the asset value is the valuation of the loan drawn against this collateral as an asset. This difference should capture: counterparty risk, liquidity risk, expected return risk, lien risk and term structure risks. None are specified or explicitly required for pricing in the NAMA legislation.]

(c) a reference to the long-term economic value of the property [bank asset, per point (d) below] comprised in the security for a credit facility that is a bank asset is a reference to the value that the property can reasonably be expected to attain in a stable financial system when current crisis conditions are ameliorated and in which a future price or
yield of the asset is consistent with reasonable expectations having regard to the
long-term historical average…

[So, implicitly, this statement assumes an imposition of some assumptions on:

  • What constitutes a stable financial system and how does this system impact the pricing in operative markets – something that is virtually impossible to ascertain as the only functional markets we have a history of relate to the property bubble period? Was our financial system stable when we were lending x10 times income to home buyers? Or was it stable when the likes of AIB were embroiled in a series of massive scandals?
  • What constitutes an amelioration of the current crisis – with further issues arising as to what crisis is being meant in this context: the crisis in property markets? in banking? in credit supply? in money supply? in financial assets? in the economy at large? in the Exchequer revenue? in the labour markets? in the markets for land sites? or in demographics? or in all the above?
  • What is the relationship that determines the future (expected?) price of an asset or a yield on the asset and what is the assumed relationship between the yield and the price? What determines the relevant expectations mechanism?
  • What is the long-term historical average? A 10-year historical average taken from today back 10 years is one thing. A 5 year one is another. Yet a third number can be obtained if the historic average is taken back from some date in the past (say 2007 to 1998) and so on. In reality, there is an infinite number of long-term historic averages that can be taken. Which one will be selected and on what basis is never attempted to be answered in the document.]

(2) Subject to subsection (4), the acquisition value of a bank asset is its long-term economic value as determined by NAMA.

[Well, see above on long-term economic valuation, but in effect this is the statement that says it all – there is no price, there is no pricing model, there is not even a hint at the pricing model fundamentals. This is a botched economic analysis that would not warrant a permission to buy a typewriter for the DofF, let alone to ‘invest’ Euro 90bn into any undertaking. And this problem is compunded by the fact that this Bill seals the hatches on risk and credit committees operating NAMA by requiring that their members be NAMA employees or directors and not establishing any independent presence on these committees. This is like having a reactor heading into a meltdown and shutting down your monitoring systems because they are flashing red.]

(3) NAMA shall determine the long-term economic value of a bank asset by reference to the following:
(a) the current market value of the property comprised in the security for the credit facility that is the bank asset at a date specified by NAMA;
(b) the current market value of the bank asset, at a date specified by NAMA, by reference to market rates and accepted market methodology;
(c) the long-term economic value of the property referred to in paragraph (a) at the date referred to in that paragraph…

[This is incomprehensible gibberish, folks. It has neither any meaning nor economic or financial justification whatsoever. There are no accepted market rates, for there is no market for these securities and/or assets other than at extremely deep discounts that Minister Lenihan has already ruled out. The legislation provides nothing for testing the market – as I suggested in one of the required bullet points below.]

(4) NAMA may, if it considers it appropriate after consultation with the Minister, and subject to any regulations made by the Minister under subsection (5)… determine that the acquisition value to be assigned to particular bank assets or class of bank assets shall be—
(i) their current market value, or
(ii) a greater value (not exceeding their long-term economic value) that NAMA
considers appropriate in the circumstances.
[But not a lesser value, note. And once again, since there is no market value or a mechanism to attempt establishing some market value testing, this means NAMA will pay above market value for all assets. Furthermore, this section explicitly commits NAMA to use taxpayer funds to pay the real price or more for the given loan! Sickened yet? Ok, let me explain in a bit more detail. There is an auction with only one bidder. The bidder has stated up front that he will pay any price at or above the market price. But there is no market price. Where do you think the seller will set the opening bid at? If the implicit market value, known to the seller, but not the bidder is X, the seller will set an opening bid at X+y, where y is a positive premium on the ‘stupidity’ of the buyer or on the fact that the buyer has committed to buying the asset and is willing to pay above the market value for it. What will be the reservation price set by the seller? X+y+z, where z is a positive premium on ‘desperation’ of the buyer to acquire the asset. What will be the price paid by the buyer? X+y+z+v, where v is the premium on seller’s skills in convincing the buyer to purchase the asset. v is also non-negative. Done. Basic auction theory, folks. Incidentally, adopting the approach advocated by me in the bullet points below removes: y through forcing the banks to take realistic writedowns first prior to NAMA; and removes z by requiring a simulative establishment of the market which can test the actual price of at least of the assets. One can’t really remove v, for the smarter bankers will always be able to sell to the careless or incompetent, or both, authorities that can author this document in the first place.]

(6) In determining the acquisition value of a bank asset under subsection (2) or (4), NAMA shall have regard to the following:
(a) any value that the participating institution concerned submits as being, in its opinion, the current market value of the property comprised in the security for the credit facility that is the bank asset [that’s X above];
(b) the acquisition value already determined in accordance with the valuation methodology of another similar bank asset [thats y derived from previous sales];
(c) the credit worthiness of the debtor or obligor concerned [that’s v above];
(d) the performance history of the debtor or obligor in respect of that asset [that’s v above];
(e) any reports furnished to NAMA in relation to the matters specified in subsection (7) whether prepared before or after the commencement of this Act [that’s z above].

[So to recap: NAMA paid price for an Asset = X+y+z+v, where X is ‘true’ value of the asset; and (y+z+v) is a strictly positive premium accruing to the bank from the economic illiteracy written into this legislation!]

I have covered section 59 of the Act already in the previous post.

I will repeat the list of provisions that must be required before NAMA can be allowed to proceed in every post on NAMA from ehre on:

  • Provisions for taxpayer protection and provision for a taxpayers’ oversight board filled with only independent observers, who are not in the employment of NAMA, NTMA, the State or any other party to NAMA undertaking;
  • Complete and comprehensive balance sheet and cost/benefit analysis of the undertaking;
  • Exact upper and lower limits for banks equity the taxpayers will receive in return for NAMA funds and post-NAMA recapitalization funding;
  • The exact procedures for divesting out of the banks shares in 3-5-7 years time with exact legal commitment by the state to disburse any and all surplus funds (over and above the costs) directly to the taxpayers in a form of either banks shares or cash;
  • The formula for imposing a serious haircut (60%+) on banks bond holders, possibly with some sort of a debt for equity swap and a restriction that NAMA cannot purchase any rolled up interest acrued since the latest ‘restructuring’ of a loan;
  • A recourse to all developers’ own assets – applied retroactively to July 2008 when the first noises of a rescue plan started;
  • The list of qualifications for any bank to participate in NAMA, including, but not limited to, the caps on executive compensation at the banks and the requirement to set up a truly independent, veto-wielding risk assessment committee at each bank with a mandatory requirement for a position of a taxpayers’ representative on the board that cannot be occupied by a civil servant or anyone who has worked in the industry in the last 10 years;
  • A requirement that risk and credit committees of NAMA include at least 51% majority of independent experts who cannot be employees of the state, NAMA or any toher parties to this undertaking;
  • A condition that the banks must undergo loan book evaluation prior to transfer of any loans to NAMA, the results of which will be made public – on the web – instantaneously – and will impose a requirement on the banks to write down their assets, again before NAMA purchases any of them, by the requisite amounts to balance their own books in line with valuations;
  • A condition that any loan purchased by NAMA be placed on the open market for the period of 2 weeks and that NAMA will not pay any amount in excess of the bids received (if any), with a prohibition for the participating banks to bid on these loans;
  • A condition that every NAMA loan should be publicly disclosed, including its valuations and bids it receives in the auction stage of the process;
  • A stipulation that all and any regulatory authorities (and their senior level employees) that were involved in regulating the banking and housing sector in this country take a mandatory pension cut of 50% and return any and all lump sum funds they collected upon their retirement;
  • A provision for dealing with the speculatively zoned land to be acquired by NAMA, i.e orderly de-zoning of this land and transfer of this land to either public (if no bidders arise) or private use consistent with sustainable agricultural development, environmental improvements, public use or forestry;
  • The measures to prevent banks from beefing up their profit margins through squeezing their preforming customers;
  • The measures to force the banks to reduce their cost bases by laying off surplus workers;
  • The measures for accounting (in a transparent and fully publicly accessible fashion) on a quarterly basis for NAMA operations and the performance of the state-supported banks.

If I forget something, please, let me know…