Goldman, Morgan Stanley avoided losses after fund meltdown hit Nomura

People are seen on Wall Street in front of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City on March 19, 2021.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

When investors are stamping the exits, it pays to be the first at the door.

It happened when the decline in ViacomCBS last week sparked a $ 20 billion wave of foreclosed sales at Wall Street banks, Archegos Capital Management, the family office run by former Tiger Management analyst Bill Hwang was founded.

When Credit Suisse and Nomura, two top Archegos brokers, announced early Monday that they were facing losses that could be “significant” to banks, rival firms Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley had, according to data from already discharged their positions knowledge of the matter.

Goldman managed to sell the majority of the shares on Friday in connection with its margin calls on Archegos, which, according to one of the people, helped the company avoid losses in the aftermath. Morgan Stanley sold $ 15 billion worth of shares in a matter of days trying to avoid significant losses, CNBC’s Leslie Picker reported.

Investors punished the two non-US banks. Nomura was down 14% on Monday, while Credit Suisse was down 11.5% after the market closed. Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley was down 2.6% and Goldman stock was down a modest 0.5%.

“In this environment where information flows fast and you need to act quickly, it shows a significant weakness in Nomura’s risk management system,” said Mark Williams, Boston University finance professor and former Federal Reserve auditor. “Did you not understand the risks you were taking or did you ignore them because you wanted to grow?”

Aside from not acting fast enough to stave off losses – Nomura and Credit Suisse each said they closed their positions as of Monday – the two companies may not have been as disciplined with Hwang’s funds as their big ones, according to industry observers American competitors.

Nomura estimated the company posted a $ 2 billion loss at market price on Friday, while Credit Suisse said the shortfall could be “highly significant” to the bank’s first quarter results. Calls to Credit Suisse and Nomura were not returned immediately.

Morgan Stanley, Goldman, and JPMorgan Chase are the largest prime brokers in the world, according to sources tracking industry revenue. Credit Suisse is in seventh place, while Nomura is outside the top ten.

Smaller companies sometimes accept less collateral or offer cheaper financing terms to attract customers in the highly competitive world of prime brokers. This works when markets are rising, but can be painful when stocks go south and leveraged bets implode.

Nomura and Credit Suisse also have smaller trading operations in the US, which may have limited their ability to quickly outsource large blocks of shares after it became clear what happened. Meanwhile, on March 26, Goldman sold shares in companies including Baidu Inc., Tencent Music Entertainment Group, ViacomCBS and Discovery for $ 10.5 billion. This comes from a customer email reported by Bloomberg.

The explosion at Archegos, a relatively unknown company before its spectacular collapse last week, calls into question what other risks lurk in the client books of major investment banks.

“Should you even take bets that could lose you $ 2 billion in a week?” Williams said. “It seems like they would have swung for the fences when they could lose that much.”

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