Australia’s biggest GFC casualty has emerged as a central investor in the now infamous Timberwolf CDO sold by Goldman Sachs and that later died a nasty death, taking the hedge fund with it.

According to a Goldman email released by the US Senate’s Investigations Committee this week, a senior bank executive described Timberwolf as “one shitty deal”. And so it proved for the Basis Yield Alpha Fund.

Its purchase of some of the Timberwolf CDO from Goldman Sachs contributed to the fund’s collapse in August 2007.

Goldman was the underwriter and sole marketer of the Timberwolf deal, which lost 80% of its value within five months of its March 2007 completion. The hybrid collateralised debt obligation was liquidated early the next year. Reuters reported this week that there are links between this CDO and some of those in the American Insurance Group (AIG), which wrote protection deals with Goldman 2008.

The Financial Times reported overnight that Goldman Sachs is in talks to try and settle claims with Basis Alpha.

“Goldman Sachs is in talks over a potential settlement with an investor that claims that it lost money and went out of business after buying into a $1 billion mortgage-backed security that was later privately crictised by a senior executive at the bank.

“Basis Yield Alpha Fund, a hedge fund, is seeking compensation over its $100 million investment in Timberwolf, a complex security, say several people familiar with the matter.

“The talks are at a preliminary stage and there is no certainty they will lead to a settlement. ”

“Timberwolf is one of the securities at the centre of a probe into Goldman by the influential Senate sub-committee on investigations. Documents released by the committee ahead of Tuesday’s hearing included an email by Tom Montag, then co-head of Goldman’s trading division, which read: “Boy that timeberwof [sic] was one sh-tty deal”.

Basis Yield Alpha Fund was a Cayman Islands-registered hedge fund specialising in corporate and structured credit. It filed for bankruptcy protection in the US in August 2007 after the sudden implosion of credit on August 8/9 around the world.

It was Australia’s biggest casualty of the credit crunch (that excludes the domestic disasters such as MFS, Babcock and Brown, Allco Finance and Opes Prime).

The fund was run by the Australian firm Basis Capital and listed more than $US100 million of assets and more than $US100 million of liabilities in its bankruptcy filing. It had nearly $US1 billion of assets at its peak in early 2007.

Goldman Sachs was one of the groups that issued default notices against Alpha. So it sold Alpha a dog and then helped put it into liquidation.

Peter Fray

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