Steve Targett, the ousted head of ANZ’s institutional bank who is suing for $57 million, won’t be enjoying all this belly-aching about the securities lending practices he employed.

New ANZ CEO Mike Smith is now suggesting the bank will completely shut down the division. These were the key quotes from his KGB interrogation on Business Spectator last night.

ALAN KOHLER: Have you wound back in any way your securities lending business in general now?

MIKE SMITH: Well let’s put it this way, they’re not actively seeking new business.. It’s very much care and maintenance and really just managing what we’ve got. They will certainly be doing no new business.

Alan Kohler: For how long?

Mike Smith: Well forever I suspect.

Talk about over-reacting. There’s more than $1 trillion of ASX-listed shares out there and some of them are okay to lend against, just like the companies themselves.

Merrill Lynch and ANZ are both run out of Melbourne and have long been close, dating back to the days of McIntosh Securities which underwrote the bank’s life-saving $600 million capital raising in 1992.

They shared key clients such as retailing billionaire Solomon Lew and there’s also an interesting connection with the Packer family, which uses ANZ as its house banker. It was the Packers who recruited former Merrill Lynch CEO Mike Tilley to run Challenger Financial Services, the Chris Murphy play which ended up costing Opes Prime creditors more than $100 million.

We know that ANZ had a $650 million loan to Opes Prime and Merrill Lynch was owed about $500 million, but how much did these two financiers have exposed to securities lending at the peak of the credit bubble last year?

The Tricom loan book peaked at $2.5 billion and this was also a double effort between the two financiers.

Then there is the $650 million loan which Merrill Lynch reportedly had with Lift Capital when it collapsed. Given this was after the run and the 25% market crash, it is fair to assume the exposure had been considerably greater.

The Australian and The AFR have today revealed that ANZ recently took a $500 million charge over Melbourne-based Chimaera Capital, which is clearly suffering a run.

Chimaera runs the same fatally damaged business model as Tricom, Lift and Opes in handing over ownership of the stock to the lender. Due to the Opes Prime publicity, it is now also in run-down mode and the only question is whether it can self-manage the process.

If Chimaera has the equivalent of Lift Capital’s negative equity accounts exposed to MFS and Allco, it will also be calling in the corporate undertaker.

All up, the combined Merrills/ANZ exposures to these four businesses would have peaked at more than $5 billion last year and the final losses, including litigation and settlements, will run to hundreds of millions.

Today’s Mayne Report video focuses on Opes Prime chairman Peter Gillooly.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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