CR Note: Gone hiking! I will return on Thursday, Oct 4th. There will be a few posts on Tanta today.
In December 2006, my friend Doris “Tanta” Dungey started writing for Calculated Risk.
When some people say that here are few women bloggers in finance and economics, I remind them that Tanta was the best of all of us!
From December 2006, until she passed away from ovarian cancer on Nov 30, 2008, Tanta was my co-blogger. Tanta worked as a mortgage banker for 20 years, and we started chatting in early 2005 about the housing bubble and the changes in lending practices. In 2006, Tanta was diagnosed with late stage cancer, and she took an extended medical leave while undergoing treatment. While on medical leave she wrote for this blog, and her writings received widespread attention and acclaim.
Here are excerpts from her first two posts:
From December 2006: Let Slip the Dogs of Hell
I still haven’t gotten over the fact that there’s a “capital management” group out there having named itself “Cerberus”. Those of you who were not asleep in Miss Buttkicker’s Intro to Western Civ will recognize Cerberus; the rest of you may have picked up the mythological fix from its reprise as “Fluffy” in the first Harry Potter novel. Wherever you get your culture, Cerberus is the three-headed dog who guards the gates of Hell. It takes three heads to do that, of course, because it’s never clear, in theology or finance, whether the idea is to keep the righteous from falling into the pit or the demons from escaping out of it (the third head is busy meeting with the regulators). Cerberus is relevant not just because it supplies me with today’s metaphor, but because it was the Biggest Dog of three (including Citigroup and Aozora, a Japanese bank) who in April bought a 51% stake in GMAC’s mega-mortgage operation, GM having, of course, once been renowned as one of the Big Three Automakers until it became one of the Big Three Financing Outfits With A Sideline In Cars. I tried to find a link for you to Aozora Bank’s announcement of the purchase, but the only press release I could find for that day involved the loss of customer data. They must have been so busy letting GMAC into the underworld that the dog head keeping the deposit tickets from getting out got distracted.
Now, I’m just a Little Mortgage Weenie, not a Big Finance Dog, but bear with me while I ask some stupid questions. Like: how do the Big Dogs maintain “diverse and flexible production channels” (i.e., little mortgage banker Puppies to sell you correspondent business and little broker Puppies to sell you wholesale business) when “market share currently held by top-tier players” expands to two-thirds (meaning less diverse off-load strategies for the Little Puppies in the “production channels,” putting them at further pipeline/counterparty risk unless they become Bigger Puppies, which makes them competitors instead of “channels,”), while at the same time watching some of the Little Puppies (in whom the Big Dogs have a major equity stake) crawl under the porch to die? I know Citi doesn’t seem to have noticed that the “increased regulatory scrutiny” is not just of “products” but of “wholesale operational/management controls,” but I did.
And from December 2006: On Hybrids, Teasers, and Other Mortgage Guidance Problems
First of all, a “hybrid ARM” is called a “hybrid” because it is, basically, a cross between a fixed rate and adjustable rate mortgage. Before the early 90s, an “ARM” basically meant a one-year ARM. The initial interest rate was set for one year, and the rate adjusted every year. The only real variations on this theme involved shortening the adjustment frequency: you could get an ARM that adjusted every six months instead of one year.
Around the early 90s, the “hybrid ARM” was introduced. It had an initial period in which the rate was “fixed” that didn’t match the subsequent adjustment frequency: this is the classic 3/1, 5/1, 7/1, and even 10/1 ARM. The whole idea of the hybrid ARM was to provide a kind of medium-range risk/reward tradeoff for borrowers and lenders.
Also see In Memoriam: Doris “Tanta” Dungey for photos, links to obituaries in the NY Times, Washington Post and much more.