Life from a saint's perspective

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A wishlist for 2008!

Last week, I got my peanuts wrapped around in a crumpled piece of paper in this dingy bar somewhere near Churchgate station. It was this wishlist for 2008, scribbled by this institutional investor on the back of a now worthless subprime home loan mortgage while he was drowning his Black Monday sorrows.

Dear Santa,

I hope you've already refinanced your North Pole factory. Oh, don't go promising the Elves any pay increases; money will be tight for everyone next year.

If you check the list in your pocket, you’ll find that I’ve been erronously rated “bad boy” throughout this year. On smoothing over the past decade, however, my performance has firmly been at the “good boy” level. Moreover, my best buds at rating houses can always vouch for me and give me a “top boy” rating……for a fee of course, expensive cocktail parties and invites to movie premieres and fashion shows among them!

As you know, I've had a very good year. Sadly, that year wasn't 2007. Our Structured Investment Vehicle has burst it’s tires and now in retrospect seems like it was designed by a Management Associate, fresh out of college, with a “Nano” - sized blueprint. Our Equity-linked leveraged pension fund is now under investigation by the SEBI. The last we heard, the word “leveraged” is deemed to be incompatible with “Sorry, we gambled that hard earned rupee you gave us for your retirement on a bunch of CDOs and exotic options that we did not understand and ended up losing a paisa or seven.” Or 20. We are not sure yet. But what the hell, how can we be blamed? The suave bankers on wall street aren’t sure either! Our offsite sessions wih the best buds at rating houses have maxed out their MasterCards and every time we try to limit them, we are reminded that some things in life really are priceless. Our only investment that made money in the last quarter was the dough we dished out to the book runners for the Indo-Pak cricket series.

So, what I'd really love to find under the tree is a time machine so we could travel all the way back to, oooh, February. Life was so much easier when debt obligations were still worth 100 percent of face value and nobody had looked under the hood of our structured investment vehicle and found a black hole instead of a ray of hope emanating from a shining star as our friends at the analyst houses rated us. With a time machine, I could be back in the good old days when there was a fraternal and willing suspension of caution and pessimism (call it realism, if you must) between investors and issuers, rating companies and originators, regulators and speculators.

Of course, I do realize that reversing the circle of time so tastefully depicted in the Mahabharat TV seies of yore might be something of a tall order even for you, Santa. So, alternatively, I would be more than happy to accept a new rug, provided it is of sufficient size to sweep the whole subprime dirt under its edges.

Santa, you know how it is with those huge cash infusions from Chinese institutions. They bail out these ailing investment banks one after the other, especially with the advent of the falling dollar season. Anyway, I was hoping you could find a way to put a tiny little hole on the Sovereign Wealth Fund goody bag, so that some of those dollars making way into the wall street might fall down on our apna dalal street as well. An extra $5 billion would really come in handy this year, especially as my employee stock options are as worthless as Narendra Modi’s recent election promises.

Before I finish, we should spare a thought for those less fortunate than ourselves, especially those farmers in rural Maharashtra enduring spiralling commodity prices. So I was hoping, Santa, that you might be able to find a fairy godmother to stop the forward markets commission from turning into a nationalized pumpkin? I choose to remain mum on my selfish interests. As the saying goes, I too would be expected to make some speculative hay while the sun shines on the commodity markets.


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