Morgan Stanley had $911 million loss in Q1 tied to Archegos meltdown


Bill Hwang in 2012

Emile Warnsteker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Morgan Stanley posted blockbuster results for the first quarter, but a single prime brokerage client cost the firm nearly $1 billion.

In its earnings results, Morgan Stanley said Friday it had a $644 million loss from a “credit event” for that client, as well as $267 million in related trading losses.

That client was Bill Hwang’s Archegos, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman said during a conference call with analysts, confirming what a person with knowledge of the situation told CNBC earlier.

While Morgan Stanley was the biggest prime broker to Archegos, other banks suffered larger losses. Credit Suisse, which CNBC has reported was the No. 2 broker to Archegos, took a $4.7 billion hit to unwind the losing bets and shuffled top managers because of the meltdown. Nomura said it could face $2 billion in losses.  

During his scheduled call with analysts to discuss the quarter, Gorman said Archegos owed it $644 million after its meltdown in late March.

“We liquidated some very large single stock positions through a series of block sales culminating on Sunday night, March 28,” Gorman said. “That resulted in a net loss of $644 million which represents the amount the client owed us under the transactions that they failed to pay us.”

He added: “Subsequently, we made a management decision to completely de-risk the remaining smaller long and short positions,” Gorman said. “We decided we would be out of the risk as rapidly as possible, and in so doing, incurred an incremental loss of $267 million. I regard that decision as necessary and money well spent.”

Morgan Stanley may have been misled by the family office, CFO Jon Pruzan said during the call. The bank held collateral for Archegos based on facts that turned out to be untrue, he said.

Archegos representatives could not immediately be located for comment. Its previous communications firm said it no longer represented the family office.

At least part of the Archegos loss was driven by the fact that Morgan Stanley had been an underwriter on ViacomCBS shares the previous week, so it held off selling a block of the company’s stock until Sunday, which caused the bank to be later in selling than others, Gorman said.

During the call, an analyst asked Gorman if the episode would change the firm’s approach to risk management in the prime brokerage business.

“I think we’ll certainly be looking hard at family office-type relationships where they are very concentrated and you have multiple prime brokers and frankly, the transparency and lack of disclosure relating to those institutions is just different” from hedge funds, Gorman said. “That’s something I’m sure the SEC is going to be looking at and that’s probably good for the whole industry.”

— CNBC’s Dawn Giel contributed to this report.



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