Skip to main content

The end of the broker-dealers?

First it was Bear Stearns that went under, sold at the last moment in a fire-sale deal to JPMorgan Chase back in March.

Then it was Lehman Brothers, who filed for bankruptcy early Monday after unsuccessfully attempting to strike a quick takeover/rescue deal this past weekend.

Now Merrill Lynch has announced it will be taken over by Bank of America in an all stock deal valuing Merrill at $50 billion. The deal was arranged quickly over the weekend, as fears of a possible Lehman failure were starting to spread to other major investment banks.

Bloomberg reports on the "'Tectonic' shift on Wall Street as Lehman Fails, Merrill Sold":

"In the biggest reshaping of the financial industry since the Great Depression, two of Wall Street's most storied firms, Merrill Lynch & Co. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., headed toward extinction.

New York-based Lehman, founded 158 years ago, said early today that it plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after failing to find a buyer. Merrill Lynch, 94 years old and also based in New York, agreed to sell itself to Bank of America Corp. for $50 billion in an emergency deal hashed out yesterday...

...The five New York-based securities firms that dominated Wall Street have been reduced to two: Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley. While both firms are scheduled to report a drop in third-quarter earnings this year, their business has remained profitable throughout 2008 -- unlike Lehman and Merrill. "

Interesting to see that Merrill Lynch is being acquired at a nice premium ($29 a share) to its closing price of $17.05 on Friday. Especially when you consider that this deal was quickly cobbled together in what had to be a desperate attempt by Merrill to avoid Lehman's fate.

Marc Faber had a few things to say about that, and other aspects of the Lehman and Merrill news, in this latest Bloomberg interview.

So now that Bear, Lehman, and Merrill have been swallowed up or gone bust, what will become of the remaining "big five" broker-dealers? Is their business model fatally flawed? Will a similar fate befall Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley?

Here's what Nouriel Roubini had to say back in July:

"The broker/dealer business model is "inherently unstable" and the four remaining major firms will not be independent in a few years, says Nouriel Roubini, economics professor at NYU's Stern School and chairman of RGE Monitor.Embattled Lehman Brothers is likely to seek a buyer "within months," Roubini says.

Lehman Brothers ceasing to be independent is not such a shocking outcome, but Roubini ultimately sees a similar outcome for Goldman, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley.The problem, he says, is that broker/dealers use the same model as banks -- borrow short and lend long -- only they borrow on even shorter timeframes, use more leverage, and don't have the kind of government backstop banks enjoy."

We are not rooting for the failure of any of these firms, but it seems this weekend's developments have really shined a light on the remaining independent US investment banks.

As the financial crisis rolls on, and losses from the credit crisis steadily rise, some venerable US financial institutions are now having to face the music as sentiment regarding government-backed bailouts has turned.

Popular posts from this blog

The Dot-Com Bubble in 1 Chart: InfoSpace

With all the recent talk of a new bubble in the making, thanks in part to the Yellen Fed's continued easy money stance , I thought it'd be instructive to revisit our previous stock market bubble - in one quick chart. So here's what a real stock market bubble looks like.  Here's what a bubble *really* looks like. InfoSpace in 1999-2001. $QQQ $BCOR pic.twitter.com/xjsMk433H7 — David Shvartsman (@FinanceTrends) February 24, 2015   For those of you who are a little too young to recall it, this is a chart of InfoSpace at the height of the Nasdaq dot-com bubble in 1999-2001. This fallen angel soared to fantastic heights only to plummet back down to earth as the bubble, and InfoSpace's shady business plan , turned to rubble. As detailed in our post, " Round trip stocks: Momentum booms and busts ", InfoSpace rocketed from under $100 a share to over $1,300 a share in less than six months.  In a pattern common to many parabolic shooting stars, the s

Jesse Livermore: How to Trade in Stocks (1940 Ed. E-book)

If you've been around markets for any length of time, you've probably heard of 20th century supertrader, Jesse Livermore . Today we're highlighting his rare 1940 work, How to Trade in Stocks (ebook, pdf). But first, a brief overview of Livermore's life and trading career (bio from Jesse Livermore's Wikipedia entry). "During his lifetime, Livermore gained and lost several multi-million dollar fortunes. Most notably, he was worth $3 million and $100 million after the 1907 and 1929 market crashes, respectively. He subsequently lost both fortunes. Apart from his success as a securities speculator, Livermore left traders a working philosophy for trading securities that emphasizes increasing the size of one's position as it goes in the right direction and cutting losses quickly. Ironically, Livermore sometimes did not follow his rules strictly. He claimed that lack of adherence to his own rules was the main reason for his losses after making his 1907 and

New! Finance Trends now at FinanceTrendsLetter.com

Update for our readers: Finance Trends has a new URL!  Please bookmark our new web address at Financetrendsletter.com Readers sticking with RSS updates should point your feed readers to our new Finance Trends feedburner .   Thank you to all of our loyal readers who have been with us since the early days. Exciting stuff to come in the weeks ahead! As a quick reminder, you can subscribe to our free email list to receive the Finance Trends Newsletter . You'll receive email updates about once every 4-8 weeks (about 2-3 times per quarter).  Stay up to date with our real-time insights and updates on Twitter .