Text on the Dotted Line: A Text Message Can Create a Binding Contract

Here’s another story in the “It never gets easier” file.

The Massachusetts Land Court recently decided a case that perhaps we should have all guessed was coming.

This is the above the fold headline:  Text messages may now create binding contracts.  Specifically, a text message can constitute a signature sufficient to satisfy the Statute of Frauds and form a binding contract for the purchase and sale of land. Continue Reading

A Trip Through the Labyrinth – The Regulatory Man in Full

And now to return to our commentary a few weeks back about the stultifying impact of ill-thought through rules and regulations (at best) (Brexit has intervened).  This is our Regulatory State which broadly attempted to pick winners and losers and modify market behavior, to get an engineered outcome by using the blunderbuss of proscriptive rules and regulation.

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Brexit – Okay, I Really Do Care!  (I Think)

Back in early April I observed in this commentary that I wasn’t really sure how much Brexit mattered, at least here in North America.  Of course, looking back, I realized we issued it on April Fool’s Day and now I simply can’t remember whether I was being ironic or not.  In any event, at that time we were exploring the notion that neither in nor out may ultimately affect the arc of the success of the European Union project, the health and viability of the City of London or CRE deal volume in the States.

But now that it’s happened…damn!  We needed another disruption in this volatile economy of ours like we need a social disease.  And while I am absolutely sure that a Remain vote would not have ended the ongoing debate about the future of Europe and its ability to get its sclerotic economy performing again, it sure would have been nice to at least take one issue off the table.

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CREFC Annual Conference 2016: Headwinds or Head First Into the Wall?

The slow start to 2016 did not dampen the enthusiasm at CREFC’s Annual Conference, held last week in New York City.  The conference saw record attendance, with standing-room-only crowds at virtually every panel.  As with the Industry Leaders Conference in January, the hot topics on people’s minds were risk retention (and the rest of the regulatory headwinds), liquidity and the competitiveness of the CMBS market.

The conference made very clear that we are at an inflection point in the current cycle.  The general mood of the conference, in our view, was the confluence of nervousness and cautious optimism.  The gloominess of the first quarter, and fears over the “sky is falling,” has yielded to mild bouts of enthusiasm (at least if the parties were any indication).  The capital markets have settled down over the past few months, spreads have tightened, and borrowers have begun to trickle back into the CMBS market.

Clearly our industry faces headwinds, and nobody is betting on a record second half, but we also did not hear anyone ringing the death knell for our business.  We left the conference with more questions than answers.  Here are some:

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The Strange Death of the Modern Financial System

With apologies to George Dangerfield, who published The Strange Death of Liberal England in 1935 chronicling the collapse of the British Liberal Party prior to World War I, I’m borrowing his title for this commentary.  Okay, bear with me.  Regrettably, we may be witnessing something happening to our banking system which is somewhat reminiscent of the death throes of one of England’s great political parties. The Liberal Party expired in the years leading up to the Great War not because of some single momentous and metamorphic event, but because of a series of modest crises, each in its own right small bore which, at the time, was not viewed as terribly consequential.  It failed because of the stultifying, dismal and confused responses of the Liberals to these events.  In the end, the party became untenable as a party of government.  Let’s hope no one writes that book about our banking system in the years to come.

Our enormously complex, interdependent, vibrant, entrepreneurial, adaptive, world girding and dynamic U.S. banking system has played a seminal and still critical role in making this economy succeed.  It is now under assault by large segments of our political elites and their attendant and enabling (self-identified) intelligencia.  This fraternity inspired by the twin idee fixe that the Great Recession was caused by the failures and failing, economic, structural and ethical of our banking system and a fabulist conviction that banking can be “fixed.”  This is a chimerical crusade to overturn the business cycle.  Fruitless and dangerous.

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The Continuing EU Risk Retention Saga

On June 6, 2016, the Rapporteur of the European Parliament released a draft legislative resolution to modify EU Risk Retention.  The stated goal of this draft is to promote “Simple, Transparent and Standardized” (STS) securitization.  Since STS securitization assets must be fully self-liquidating, commercial real estate (CRE) is again left out in this proposal; not including CRE in the securitization regime means yet another drag on CRE capital formation.  The regulatory diktat picking winners and losers like this is almost always a bad idea.

The proposals themselves range from troubling to very troubling.  For example, members of the so-called “shadow banking sector” may be flatly excluded from taking part in the securitization market (see Amendment 28).  Also included is an increase of the EU risk retention requirement from 5% to 20% of the material net economic interest in the securitization transaction (see Amendment 40).   This amendment would also give the EU regulatory authority the ability to further raise or lower the risk retention requirement as it desires (see Amendment 48).

For more information on this draft legislative resolution, please read our recently released OnPoint.  We will update you about any further developments related to the continuing EU Risk Retention saga.

Risk Retention: It’s the Fourth Quarter and the Home Team is Getting Glum

We thought it would be useful to give a quick, interim update on the slow-motion train wreck that is our industry’s response to the upcoming effectiveness of the Risk Retention Rule.  For those of you who have been blessedly snoozing under a rock these past couple of years, the Risk Retention Rule becomes effective on Christmas Eve and applies to all transactions closed (priced?) after that date.  The Rule, to generalize a bit, requires the sponsor of a securitization to retain a 5% vertical or horizontal strip with the additional possibility of laying off some or all of that risk onto a qualified B piece buyer or a mortgage loan originator.  For more detail, please see our OnPoints, our risk retention briefing white papers and many, many back issues of this CrunchedCredit.

Here’s the headline in Muddville in May of 2017:

We As An Industry Are In Trouble. 

We as an industry don’t have a scalable solution to the problem.  We as an industry do not know what this will cost, who will pay for it, and to what extent this is an existential risk to CRE capital formation as it has been conducted for the past twenty-five years.

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CREFC Commercial Real Estate Finance Summit (West) 2016

Earlier this month CREFC held its “Commercial Real Estate Finance Summit – West” in Santa Monica, CA, which – while not nearly as large as the annual conference in New York – was still very well attended (roughly 175 attendees, an increase over last year).

Given the sentiment earlier this year in Miami, the fluctuation in spreads over the past couple quarters, and the (now undeniably) slow start to 2016 for many in the industry, the two topics du jour for the Summit should come as no surprise: risk retention and the state of the market. Continue Reading

A Contrarian View on the Single-Family Rental Market

More than two years after the first single-family rental securitization, the single-family rental market continues to evolve and grow. The rise of single-family rentals reflects both a demographic shift among the American population and a reactionary change in consumer habits resulting from the financial crises. According to U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of Americans that own homes has decreased from almost 70% in 2004, to 63.6% in the first quarter of 2016, the lowest percentage in over 25 years. Over 13% of Americans rent single-family homes – a 4% increase from before the crises, accounting for approximately 36% of all rental homes. The decline in homeownership and the increase in the percentage of Americans that rent single-family homes reflects several key demographic and economic changes: Continue Reading

Bail-In, or Just Bailing?

You know, there’s never a dull moment when one reports on the regulatory states’ endless and so often fruitless and wrong-headed tinkering with the global economy. So now… let’s talk bail-in. The bail-in regime, which was adopted by all European Union countries (other than Poland) and implemented on January 1, 2016 (European Economic Area (EEA) members Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein are required to adopt the regime by December 31, 2016), permits European financial regulators to “bail-in” a failing institution by cancelling, writing-down, or converting into equity certain of the institution’s unsecured liabilities. Affected institutions must include a contractual recognition clause in its non-European-law governed contracts, so that all counterparties acknowledge that the institution’s liabilities are potentially subject to bail-in and agree to be bound by them.

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