The American Securitization Forum (ASF) Conference returned to Las Vegas on Sunday after short stints in DC and Orlando. As you may recall, the Conference’s last hurrah in Vegas in 2009 was not well received by the Fourth Estate – the juxtaposition of investment bankers meeting in Sin City with the then-recent creation of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program was low hanging fruit for a media eager to assign blame for the credit crisis. Three years later, over 4,000 securitization professionals, including investment bankers, originators, servicers, trustees, accountants and of course, lawyers, are back in full force here in Vegas. The mood here stands in stark contrast to 2009 when we were staring into the abyss. We have since survived the worst of the credit crisis and have been steadily rebuilding the securitization machine. The dismay and depression of 2009 have been replaced with the sense that we can, in fact, see the light at the end of the tunnel. But how close we are to the end of that tunnel differs greatly by asset class. For example, Monday’s CLO panelists noted that they expected to see continued strong growth in 2012, building on a very successful 2011. On the other hand, the future of non-agency RMBS is unfortunately not looking as bright in 2012. Panelists discussing the 2012 Market Outlook again pointed to the regulatory as well as domestic and international fiscal issues that still need to be resolved before we can see a true recovery in securitization. Looking back at the 2009 ASF Conference Agenda, I found that the program included “substantive panels on critical policy challenges confronting the market, including TARP, TALF, mortgage finance and foreclosure avoidance legislation, loan servicing and loss mitigation initiatives, GSE reform, and what to expect from the new Congress and administration.” Well, we’ve worked our way through TARP and TALF. For better or worse (mostly worse) we now have Congress’s answer to the credit crisis – the Dodd-Frank Act. And of course, GSE Reform is still TBD or possibly RIP. So the near future will in many ways be similar to the past few years: more proposed rules and more comment letters to the SEC et al. I’ll follow up with more news from ASF which concludes Wednesday and will provide insights from the eight other Dechert attorneys here with me in Las Vegas.
By Ralph Mazzeo