Here is a fascinating twist on the underwater homeowner walking away fromt heir bad purchases: This time, its Morgan Stanley.

They spent over $8 billion on commercial property in 2007 — the peak of commercial real estate in the US.  Now, they are going to preemptively “Walk Away” from five San Francisco office buildings, letting them go back to the lenders.

The buildings Morgan Stanley is giving up are :

One Post
201 California St.
Foundry Square I
60 Spear St.
188 Embarcadero

So this is now a new category of real estate financing: Preemptive “Walks Away” from bad CRE purchases.

Here’s Bloomberg:

Morgan Stanley plans to relinquish five San Francisco office buildings to its lender two years after purchasing them from Blackstone Group LP near the top of the market.

The bank has been negotiating an “orderly transfer” of the towers since earlier this year, Alyson Barnes, a Morgan Stanley spokeswoman, said yesterday in a telephone interview. AREA Property Partners will take over the buildings. Barnes declined to say when the transfer will occur.

“This isn’t a default or foreclosure situation,” Barnes said. “We are going to give them the properties to get out of the loan obligation.”

The San Francisco transfer would mark the second real estate deal to unravel this year for Morgan Stanley, which bet big on the property markets as prices were rising. The firm last month agreed to surrender 17 million square feet of office buildings to Barclays Capital after acquiring them for $6.5 billion in 2007 from Crescent Real Estate Equities. U.S. commercial real estate prices have dropped 43 percent from October 2007’s peak, Moody’s Investors Service said last month.

Morgan Stanley spokeswoman is correct when she says it is technically not a default. Instead, it is a case of Commercial Jingle Mail. Rather than make payments, they are turning the keys over to the lender — just like underwater homeowners do!

Good luck making moral arguments against homeowners doing just that in the future . .  .


Morgan Stanley to Give Up 5 San Francisco Towers Bought at Peak
Dan Levy
Bloomberg, Dec. 17 2009

Category: Bailouts, Credit, Real Estate, Really, really bad calls

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

62 Responses to “Morgan Stanley’s Commercial Jingle Mail”

  1. Dan Levy says:

    Morgan Stanley bought 10 San Francisco buildings in the city’s financial district as part of a $2.5 billion purchase from Blackstone Group in May 2007. The buildings were formerly owned by billionaire investor Sam Zell’s Equity Office Properties and acquired by Blackstone in its $39 billion buyout of the real estate firm earlier that year.

  2. rcogen says:

    Appropriate that this is happening at Christmas.

    Jingle all the way!

  3. wally says:

    When others do it, it is called “ruthless” default.

    I don’t see much ruth here, either. Having already benefited from the theft of taxpayer subsidy they now dump losses on another bank… which will do the same.

  4. Moss says:

    I hope the Santelli definition of ‘losers’ is no longer limited to individuals. How much money did the taxpayers dole out for Morgan? Hypocrites all muddled about waiting for Santa to bail them out.

  5. DM RTA says:

    When, exactly, did a mortgage or a contract to borrow become an option and not a morally binding agreement? Did I miss that lecture? seriously. I maintain that businesses are reflections of people’s shared values. That means they are lagging. There’s no way this “trend” can become anything of the sort because there won’t be enough TARP-like money for the bailouts as underwater folks abandon mortgages and local taxes. It’s like we are all standing around watching a key social contract burn as if it is OK to happen but as soon as it progresses a little further on the curve it will be at the core of a major national crisis. Banks and brokers were not selling options labeled as “mortgages”. This isn’t self-righteous or hopeful. It’s really basic. How much are we on the hook for Fannie & Freddie backings? This has to be stopped now.

  6. the bohemian says:

    And to think that people actually listen to what the IB’ s have to say- maybe now they will see it for the self serving bullshit that it is-

    no-one will see this other than what it is- deed in lieu of foreclosure-

    this is yet another reason- if you are underwater on your home and decide it is not in your financial interests to continue to make those monthly payments- as I have been telling folks for months-

    send in your keys and walk away- the banks have seen the light and now understand

  7. the difference between MS, and John Q, ‘walking away’ for their ‘mortgage’, is that John Q didn’t turn his ‘mortgage’ into Structured Product and sell sell it to John Q’s Pension Fund Manager.

    and equivalance being made between those two transaction are mistaken..

  8. Transor Z says:

    Barry, the DS9 reference might be the nerdiest thing ever written on this blog.

    @Moss: you nailed it. Santelli has nothing to say.

    Jean-Luc Picard for President!

  9. Mike in Nola says:

    This was in the news in Houston a few weeks ago:

    Many were pretty substantial buildings But, I suppose it wasn’t as big a headline because Houston real estate never became as outrageously priced as San Francisco’s. It was still a not inconsiderable chunk of Houston’sdowntown and close-in office space.

    On a side note, Houston is finally feeling the collapse of the residential bubble, e.g.,-95.402355&sspn=0.035931,0.076818&ie=UTF8&ei=MY0rS-evM46wNJ3nqPUI&attrid=2c9c97583d09b00d_&radius=2.3&rq=1&ev=zi&hq=&hnear=&ll=29.713401,-95.414028&spn=0.035931,0.076818&z=14

    The above link encompasses the once prosperous SW quadrant inside the Houston Loop, containing the Texas Medical Center (one of the biggest in the world), the Museum of Fine Arts (quite nice since it was filled by oil money) and a lot of 300k-multimillion dollar homes, townhouses and condos. Asking prices are still generally pretty high, but higher priced properties aren’t moving. I suspect the next stage will be acceptance and price reductions in the high end 2010. Much of the lower priced stuff has been snapped up by investors thinking they are buying rental properties at the bottom. We may move into one in a couple of months as we can get a pretty decent house or townhouse for about the same or only a little more than our current apartments. Not even mentioning the hundreds of luxury apartments coming on the market right now.

    There aren’t that many residential foreclosures inside the Loop. I suppose it’s because the people are generally wealthier and have the loans that are just starting to go bad. I was shocked by the number up in Spring, TX which had been a nice bedroom community about 30 miles north of Houston whre prices had been in the $150-$300k range for those who could stand the commute. The link below is just to foreclosures. Clicking the “For Sale” box adds a ton more to what’s on the market.,-95.464668&sspn=0.07162,0.153637&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=&ei=e44rS6jKLpCsM7z3yY4J&attrid=ee6d68e1e5cb9843_&ll=30.047996,-95.455055&spn=0.071621,0.153637&z=13

  10. Mike in Nola says:

    BTW, agree with others that it’s “just business” if MS does it, but a moral failing if some poor middle class guy walks.

  11. hue says:

    dumb money. never buy when the grave dancer sells.

  12. Marcus Aurelius says:

    DM RTA:

    There is no such thing as a “morally binding agreement.” No one is bound by morality — compliance is voluntary. That’s why we have laws for bankruptcy and divorce. That’s why we have contracts — the contact is the bond. However, in this case, and as is the case for millions of residential mortgages, the borrower may break the bonds of the contract by returning to the lender (or whomever (?) has purchased or been assigned the lender’s rights under the contract) the secured asset backing the loan. If one party doesn’t like that option, they shouldn’t have agreed to the terms of the contract.

  13. ella says:

    Query me this… If you must forfeit the asset because you can not service your debt how can you afford to pay bonuses and dividends?

    Forfeiting an asset is always a business decision and not a moral one.

  14. the bohemian says:

    Barry dropping his Star Trek knowledge on us-

    as an aside- do you speak Klingon?

    from movie “Garden State”- 2 minute mark

    “Tim: [Klingon phrase] qIrq HoH.

    Carol: It means I like to mate after battle.

    Tim: That’s not what I said.

    Carol: Yeah…

    Tim: No, no. That wasn’t the one I said. This one means Kill Kirk… And also, hallelujah… Depending on the context. “

    of course you probably already knew that- lol

  15. Wes Schott says:

    …Ferengi Alliance and is governed by the Grand Nagus and a Commerce Authority made primarily of the Council of Economic Advisors (formerly Board of Liquidators). Like most of their culture, their religion is also based on the principles of capitalism: they offer prayers and monetary offerings to a “Blessed Exchequer” in hopes of entering the “Divine Treasury” upon death, and fear an afterlife spent in the “Vault of Eternal Destitution”.

  16. Mike in Nola says:


    Well, at least I didn’t go off the farthest on a tangent :)

  17. DM RTA says:

    Marcus Aurelius, thanks for your reply. I see the sense in what you write and am inclined to go with it…..but as soon as you do the bailouts and TARP are laughable as were the risk assumptions. (ok, writing that around this comment section is just as funny) If everyone around us….everyone, agrees that a compliance is voluntary and we all say f*k it, then through short sightedness we’ve just thrown out the model for home ownership. What kid growing up today will ever want to own a house after watching this in their youth?

    Mark: Your point above about structured products negating any comparison….are there any links you can think of that might shed some light? Thanks.

  18. Michael M says:

    Huffington Post making that very argument today:

    If Morgan Stanley Walks Away, Why Shouldn’t You?

  19. beaufou says:

    Ferengi also exploit women, sounds like a bunch of pimps to me.

    “We are going to give them the properties to get out of the loan obligation.”
    That’s the most amusing part, they are giving…soooo giving

  20. Assassin says:

    @ DM RTA:

    “Banks and brokers were not selling options labeled as “mortgages”. ”

    Actually, they WERE selling options labeled as mortgages — to investors. These “mortgages” behaved much like options because there was never enough cash flow to pay off the loans, so their success was dependent on refinancing, which was dependent on house prices continuing to climb. So these so-called “mortgages” were nothing but a bet on home price appreciation; in other words, an option. Fortunately, not all of these options expired worthless (though some did), but could recover 50-60% depending on the collateral.

  21. [...] San Francisco transfer would mark the second real estate deal to unravel this year for Morgan Stanley, which bet big on the property markets as prices were rising. The firm last month agreed to surrender 17 million square feet of office buildings to … I hope the Santelli definition of ‘losers’ is no longer limited to individuals. How much money did the taxpayers dole out for Morgan? Hypocrites all muddled about waiting for Santa to bail them out. DM RTA Says: … [...]

  22. Moss says:

    Preemptive “Walks Away”, I like that characterization.. follows right in line with the Bush foreign policy doctrine. Are we sure that Dick Cheney is not advising MS.

  23. Darkness says:

    Bought at the top and now walking away. And people trust these yahoos to invest their money for them?

  24. Mannwich says:

    Morals, schmorals. Jingle Mail all the way. Ho, ho, ho.

  25. Mike in Nola says:

    DM RTA: What you are saying about what kid seeing this today would ever want to own a home reminds me of my parents who were young during the depression never trusting banks. It’s a healthy skepticism that helped keep our banking system sound for half a century.

    Owning a home isn’t for everyone and a reluctance to make one the biggest investment of one’s life probably a good idea. Check that link to the Spring, Texas market to see how bad it is for those who thought their house purchase would help fund their retirement. My wife’s brother has lived there for 15+ years and her house price is flat over that time, so they’ve lost money to inflation, not mentioning maintenance and repairs. But, people are slow to learn and need a big lesson. My sister in law was complaining to my wife about just having to spend $1900 on plumbing repairs, but still presses us to buy a house because that’s how a whole generation was raised.

  26. DM RTA says:

    Yea but, if someone in the next generation of Americans wants to own a house but faces double digit interest rates and onerous “other” conditions set forth because we all decided to butter our bread on both sides then what does that really say about us as a generation? And won’t that further polarize the classes in the US by creating the owner class and those who don’t own. I don’t think this is too dramatic nor do I think looking 15 years down the line too much to ask.

  27. DM RTA says:

    Mike we pressed send at the same time. You allude to a cycle ( and I watch cycles) but this next one will go much deeper before getting better if it is socially OK to walk away. Shouldn’t a price tag be generated by the feds for each walkaway to show the added burden to the People?

  28. Patrick Neid says:

    Has Morgan now opened the floodgates……..

  29. the bohemian says:

    “When, exactly, did a mortgage or a contract to borrow become an option and not a morally binding agreement?”

    exactly what the banks expect from the borrowers- I say-

    don’t be chumps- tell the bank to take the house and shove it up their ass-

    think of all the extra $$$ that you just freed up to help bolster the economy w/ discretionary purchases-

    it’s a win/win- for the homeowner- fuck the banks

  30. Mannwich says:

    @Patrick: Probably but the floodgates were going to open at some point regardless. Can’t “extend and pretend” forever. We’re going to draw this thing out as long as possible, Japan-style. Going to be lots of fun.

  31. gregh says:

    Since when is a corporation supposed to be moral? Legally bound to maximize shareholder profit right….

    Interesting documentary on this –

    To assess the “personality” of the corporate “person,” a checklist is employed, using diagnostic criteria of the World Health Organization……principles of the corporation give it a highly anti-social “personality”: it is self-interested, inherently amoral, callous and deceitful; it breaches social and legal standards to get its way; it does not suffer from guilt, yet it can mimic the human qualities of empathy, caring and altruism…… Concluding this analysis…: the institutional embodiment of laissez-faire capitalism fully meets the diagnostic criteria of a “psychopath.”

  32. the bohemian says:

    “the institutional embodiment of laissez-faire capitalism fully meets the diagnostic criteria of a “psychopath.””

    I like that- good observation

  33. ashpelham2 says:

    It’s reprehenisble that a professed pillar of our financial community would do something such as this. Their actions probably just trimmed the values of all the properties surrounding their defaults. One would think that the property owners of those buildings in the vacinity would band together to sue MS for market manipulation or anti-trust laws. Maybe the feds do that, I”m not sure.

    Seems like they have a case. As opposed to an individual walking away from their home, an individual usually doesn’t have the power to “make a market” like a major institution buying properties, and then dumping them.

  34. Onlooker from Troy says:

    DM RTA

    I’m afraid that you’re just catching on to what’s really going on here. It will get worse, all as a result of how bad we let it get. There’s really no getting away from that. We don’t have any magic wands to wave away all the damage that was done in the credit boom, and now the bust.

  35. Mike in Nola says:

    I suspect we are in different generations. When we bought our one and only house about 25 years ago, rates were up in the 10-12% range in the post Volker inflation squashing era. We weren’t rich and I don’t think making home ownership something that has to be earned instead of a right financed by unrealistically low rates is a bad thing.

  36. Onlooker from Troy says:

    It’s called deflation folks. Get used to it. It’s the natural progression from the greatest credit bubble ever. The forces are huge and Bernanke, standing with his hand in the air, can’t stop it.

  37. DM RTA says:

    I’ve expected the bust and worse for a long time but I never expected the walk-away mentality because I grew up with “honor your commitments”. The GSE’s have always been my biggest concern.
    What’s worse from a social standpoint? To make legislation that penalizes residential walkaways or just force capitulation on our guaranteed debt? Hold one generation accountable, or hurt the next three generations? What’s fair?

  38. DM RTA,

    see: What are structured products?
    Structured products are designed to facilitate highly customized risk-return objectives. This is accomplished by taking a traditional security, such as a conventional investment-grade bond, and replacing the usual payment features (e.g. periodic coupons and final principal) with non-traditional payoffs derived not from the issuer’s own cash flow, but from the performance of one or more underlying assets.

    for intro to the ‘Retail’ side of the, broader, “Derivatives”-world..

    and, for more, on the ‘Institutional’-side, see:
    By Janet Tavakoli
    International Financing Review (IFR Magazine) Issue 1507, October 25, 2003, Derivatives 2003
    yes, note date..
    “…Janet Tavakoli, president of Tavakoli Structured Finance, highlights the opportunities – and pitfalls – for investors.
    Adoption of credit derivatives technology has been key to the explosive growth in collateralised debt obligations. In 1990 the CDO market consisted of roughly US$2.2bn in rated securitisations. In 1997 the US$64bn rated CDO market consisted chiefly of securitisations of cash assets. Growth seemed impressive, but the biggest surge was yet to come due to the growing credit derivatives market. In 2002 CDO global issuance was almost US$270bn, and YTD 2003 estimates of visibile issuance were at around US$370bn at the end of September, already exceeding 2002 issuance by 37%. Synthetic CDOs, or securitisations incorporating credit derivatives technology to transfer asset risks and cash flows, now make up more than 75% of CDOs.

    The unfunded nature of the credit default swap and the ease of manipulation of cash flows allow more flexibility in the creation of deals. Synthetic deals can be created in greater size than cash deals, and avoid the currency and interest rate risk of most cash based CDOs. Synthetic deals pose other challenges for investors, however. Close attention must be paid to the structure of the deal and the cash flows involved…”

    “Synthetic deals can be created in greater size than cash deals” accounts for a lot of the gain we have witnessed in Nominal Pricing..and, “The unfunded nature of the credit default swap and the ease of manipulation of cash flows allow more flexibility in the creation of deals.”, accounted for much of the Pain.

    Hope that helps clearify, if not, shout..

  39. Mike in Nola says:

    This was on Mish:

    A little long, but what’s happening across the country. All those mortgage payments saved is probably what’s powering that little increase in consumer spending the past few months.

  40. Onlooker from Troy says:

    DM RTA

    This was foreseeable a long time ago. When people have very little, or zero, skin in the game they’re going to act rationally, not stay enslaved by the debt. And it also works to rationalize the markets, instead of keeping them propped up at unsustainable, ridiculous levels. There’s a lot of fall out from that. But that’s what we reap from the insanity that was allowed to happen.

    And future generations only get stuck with the bill if we bail out all the creditors with taxpayer money. That’s the immoral part of this. But we don’t want to take our medicine so we’ll stick our descendants with the bill.

    Letting this play out without bail outs is the best thing that can happen to future generations. They’ll inherit a healthier market that isn’t artificially propped up and mispriced, so they don’t have to allocate an outsized portion of their income to housing. It’s ugly, but once again, there’s no getting around it.

  41. Onlooker from Troy says:

    And DM, believe me, it pisses me off to no end that people are living rent free for long periods of time after acting recklessly in so many ways. But beyond having a literal or virtual debtor’s prison, there’s not much we can do about it but let the market clear. Which is what’s causing such a long dragged out process that people take advantage of while others sit, mouth agape, fuming.

  42. jc says:

    Mike in Nola
    I’m baffled by people who think it’s “just a business decision” for “smart money” guys like MS to use jingle mail but a moral failing when ordinary people who were tag-teamed by unethical appraisers and lenders and grossly overpaid for their homes when they employ the same tactic.

    IMO homeowner jinglemail is like divorce, once a couple neighbors and relatives do it it’s no longer a moral failing.

    It will be interesting when the jinglemail rate approaches the divorce rate! But the big banks are just handing off their losses to F&F and other GSE

  43. DM RTA says:

    Thank you Mark…I appreciate the ideas.

    Onlooker from Troy…if what you say happens and the walkaways are allowed then the bust in house prices will factor in 70′s + rates again and lookout below. If that happens then it seems like a gimme that walk away penalties will be imposed on future buyers anyway in some form in order to allow the market to recover while attracting capital….especially if they can pay but do not want to. Again, now or later?

  44. But the big banks are just handing off their losses to F&F and other GSE–jc

    and dumped the rest into John Q “Pension Fund”

    the toxic ‘equity’ tranches were gifted to the FedRes @ Par..

    Please, tell me, “It was an accident! Too much ‘punchbowl’, Too little ‘Regulation’”

    and People wonder where their “Change”’s quaint, for self-delusion.
    yes, #3

  45. Mike in Nola says:

    DM RTA: In some states, it won’t be a lot different. I Louisiana those who default on mortgages have always been subject to deficiency judgments for whatever the lender can’t recoupl from an auction. I was naively surprised to learn last year that this was not the case everywhere. It seemed stupid when I heard it and it is stupid in practice.

    Of course getting a judgment against a defaulting homeowner and collecting on it are two different things. But, I suppose it will hit hardest those who make a conscious decision to default when they could pay as opposed to those who cannot pay.

  46. DM RTA,

    sure, no prob.

    tho, re: “Homeownership”, are you sure that you are not fretting over a ‘failed’ concept?

    literally, How many people need to own homes? Our recent experience of ~65% “Homeowner/debtor-ship” is, afterall, a Historical outlier…

    peep might be better off paying ‘rent’, and buying the Equity of the REIT they Rent from, as, but, one different was to ‘gild the lily’..

  47. wally says:

    “Their actions probably just trimmed the values of all the properties surrounding their defaults.”

    Actually, no. The values were already trimmed (that’s the reason for the default). What this does is force RECOGNITION of those trimmed values. The same process is going on in residential neighborhoods. A short sale or foreclosure forces the neighbors to recognize reality.

  48. wally says:

    “All those mortgage payments saved is probably what’s powering that little increase in consumer spending the past few months.”

    This is very much parallel to what happened with GDP in 2006-2007. What showed up on the charts as prosperity was really future default. Anybody who really wanted to track economic growth would have to go back in time and adjust annual GDP by subtracting out the part that was really fiction.

  49. Transor Z says:

    More precisely MS has zero equity.

    And zero faith in a big CRE rebound any time soon. They are voting with their feet x5. That’s TBP take-away here IMO.

  50. jc says:

    And the leagal issues with MERS has everything up in the air? Will the banks be able to convey clear titles after a MERS foreclosure? Can foreclosed homeowners be able to reclaim ownership? What a tangled web these fast buck artists wove in RE

  51. ashpelham2 says:

    As a homeowner, in the burbs, with a nice little postage stamp yard, a privacy fence when my backyard faces nothing but the wilds of Southern Appalachia, and a 2 car garage, I value the feeling of ownership. I dare say that many people who own equities value that feeling of owership, alas, many just value the appreciation they might get. I rented for a long time, and never had a bad experience. But the idea of owning the roof over my head is important to me, even if technically, I don’t OWN it, until this mortgage is paid in full.

    It’s just about the feeling of ownership. I don’t think the overwhelming majority of Americans thought of buying their home as a business decision.

  52. [...] Links 12/18/2009 Posted by Steven Russolillo on December 18, 2009 Banks, Dollar, Economic Indicators, Economy, Markets, Twitter, Unemployment – Morgan Stanley’s (MS) plan to relinquish five San Francisco office buildings to its lender represents “a fascinating twist on the underwater homeowner walking away from their bad purchases,” FusionIQ CEO Barry Ritholtz says. [...]

  53. Mike in Nola says:

    ash: As a reader of this blog, you likely knew what you were doing when you purchased.

    While it is nice to own, except when somehting breaks, my experience is that Americans have been indoctrinated with home ownership as a good financial move and don’t even consider that it might not be. Many are finding out the drawbacks the hard way. It’s time that they take both sides into account. If ownership is worth it for them, then fine, but they need to know what they’re getting into.

    I myself may well buy another house after things have hit bottom in a couple of years.

  54. [...] Sighting: “This isn’t a default or foreclosure situation,” [Morgan Stanley spokesmodel Melody] Barnes said. “We are going to give them the properties to get out of the loan obligation.” [...]

  55. sailsluft says:

    “This isn’t a default or foreclosure situation,” Barnes said. “We are going to give them the properties to get out of the loan obligation.”

    NOT a default or a foreclosure — HAH — It is called a deed in lieu of foreclosure. Do you all bankers think everybody else is stupid or is it just the culture at Morgan Stanley?

    Wachovia now offers “retirement consulting services.” Why do you think widows and orphans invested in Wachovia’s dividend — speculation or retirement?

    If it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck and looks like a duck the fact that someone calls it a platypus does not make it so. It is a duck. This “quack” will probably ask to be evaluated for a 6 figure year end bonus because money heretofore committed to loan payments can be redistributed as surplus cash.

    After all what is a couple $100 million in losses among friends?

    The bankers have contribed new “metrics” and “optics” to add to the glossary of the “new economy.” We save money by not paying debts. One’s net worth is equal to how much money one can borrow not how much one has saved, invested wisely, accumulated in equity and successfully avoided the bankers.

    The quick ratio is computed instantaneously by credit score accessed over the internet. A derivative is being designed as I write to make a market in accessions to credit score weighted based upon click on; click through onsite content; and click through to off-site content.

    The seed corn has been sold.

    Hunger unavoidably follows crop failure.

    In its place a surreal mentality has spawned. We can harvest and eat the air.

  56. [...] sitting around. Here is an interesting, almost funny example of another aspect of the meltdown: Morgan Stanley’s Commercial Jingle Mail | The Big Picture A fascinating twist on the underwater homeowner walking away fromt heir bad purchases: This time, [...]

  57. Unsympathetic says:

    I can’t wait to read Megan McArdle’s fail of an article sometime next week defending these tools.

    You know you want to write that article, Megan! Don’t let me down!