As the credit markets started to close for over a dozen companies, including Prudential Financial, CIT Group, and GMAC Inc., the firms began to get their funding for debt financing from retirees-reports Bloomberg in an August 2009 article. For example, between December 2007 and 2008, CIT sold $827 million of debentures created specifically for individuals at a time when the credit market was experiencing “disruptions,” the global economy was falling apart, and the company’s credit ratings were experiencing downgrades. One analyst, David Hendler, says that the financial firms engaged in a “pump-and-dump scheme in a bear market” and that they chose to “offload risk” without having to field too many questions.
Although the retail bond market usually lets companies sell debt at lower yields than what institutional investors call for, the notes can trade at higher relative yields when a company starts to lose its fortune. There is also a lack of liquidity that occurs. This can make it hard for senior investors-especially if their savings are tied into the smaller issues. It didn’t help that late last year CIT, a 101-year-old commercial lender, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after a US bailout and debt exchange offer failed and its funding dried up.
Also, while some debentures-specifically, CTI InterNotes-came with “survivor’s options” that lets an issuer repurchase them at par after the owner passes away, the Internote issuers are entitled to limit how much can be exercised each year through the option to the greater of 2% of the outstanding principal amount or $2 million. Ex-US Securities and Exchange Commission head Arthur Levitt has described this type of financing as an “affinity-type” approach that focuses on the elderly.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has been investigating whether the risks were adequately disclosed to investors or whether securities fraud occurred.
Related Web Resources:
CIT Debt Sold to Widows Has Fine Print Pimco Resists, Bloomberg.com, August 21, 2009
CIT Files Its Bankruptcy Plan, The Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2009 Continue reading