I’ve been sent several articles on the Cat Bond market of late, some very good and some not necessarily worthy of the publication in which they were printed. I’ll start with an article from The Banker Magazine which is not yet online which I read courtesy of Factiva. While the article is generally good the author, Edward Russell-Walling parrots some long discredited facts about Cat Bonds, such as their being non correlated with the broader financial markets which the financial crisis of last year exposed as pure BS and it is there we start:
In 2008, the annus horribilis, non-correlation did not prevent it slumping to $2.7bn. Some hedge funds, which had been prominent players in this market, became distressed sellers and depressed pricing. The situation was aggravated by the downgrade of four cat bonds exposed to Lehman Brothers which, as total return swap counterparty, was effectively holding the investors’ capital.
What the author neglects to mention was “the innovation” of stuffing issues full of subprime mortgages whose accompanying (illusory) high yields no doubt drastically lowered the cost to the issuer. Lehman, as the guarantor, is cited as a problem because of its insolvency but the fact is TARP and the United States taxpayers are what has propped up every such issue so structured as major guarantors like AIG and the other Wall Street investment banks were essentially insolvent meaning their financial guarantees were worthless. Without the Lehman guarantee for instance Allstate’s Willow Re, which defaulted on their interest payments to investors earlier this year, plunged to around 50 cents on the dollar or roughly about what the underlying subprime mortgages were worth.
That said Russell-Walling did give a good explanation of the concept of the “trigger” in these agreements and it is there we pick back up:
One important choice that had to be made was the nature of the trigger. An indemnity trigger is activated by the issuer’s actual losses. So if the cover is for $100m with an excess of $400m, the bond is triggered once claims exceed $400m. Non-indemnity triggers may be based on other mechanisms, such as modelled loss, insured industry loss or physical parameters such as earthquake magnitude or wind speed. Continue reading