Jody Shenn of BusinessWeek reports that Ambac Financial Group Inc.’s regulator won support from Dunkin Brands Inc., Sonic Corp. and Hertz Corp. as he seeks to overcome objections from some of the insurer’s clients to his plan to rehabilitate the second-largest bond guarantor.
Executives of donut retailer Dunkin Brands, drive-in restaurateur Sonic and car-rental firm Hertz, all of which issued Ambac-insured bonds, filed affidavits in support of Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Sean Dilweg’s motion in state court yesterday opposing the legal bids by two groups of bondholders. Opponents of his plan said it would favor banks who bought default protection on one type of mortgage security.
“Aside from being factually wrong” in their allegations about the plan, Dilweg’s challengers should be turned aside because the commissioner “has broad discretion to decide how to best to protect policyholders and the public from the grave risks posed by Ambac’s deteriorating condition,” the department’s lawyers at Foley & Lardner LLP said in the filing.
Two months ago Dilweg forced New York-based Ambac’s insurance unit to split in two after its capital was depleted by projected losses on collateralized debt obligations tied to subprime mortgages, halting payments on $35 billion of other mortgage bond policies and additional contracts.
At the same time, Ambac reached a tentative agreement to pay $2.6 billion in cash and $2 billion of surplus notes to banks holding $16.5 billion of insurance on CDOs that was left in its main account. Surplus notes can be paid if the company has enough capital at some later point in time.
‘Substantial Collateral Damage’
“A rehabilitation of Ambac in its entirety could have substantial collateral damage in several facets of Ambac’s business,” Roger A. Peterson, a director in Wisconsin’s office of the commissioner of insurance, said in the filing. That could include requirements for borrowers such as Dunkin Brands to make accelerated payments on certain debt if Ambac were seized completely, he said.
Dunkin Brands Chief Financial Officer Kate Lavelle said in an affidavit that a failure of Ambac would result in a “very substantial restriction of operational cash available to” the donut company because of agreements related to a $1.5 billion “whole business securitization.”
The filing by the insurance department of Wisconsin, where Ambac’s insurance unit is based, also included affidavits by Sonic CFO Stephen C. Vaughn and Hertz Corp. Treasurer R. Scott Massengill.
Opposed to Plan
Policyholders seeking to block Dilweg’s plan include owners of residential mortgage-backed securities such as hedge fund firms Aurelius Capital Management and Fir Tree Partners and holders of Las Vegas Monorail Co. municipal debt such as mutual fund manager Eaton Vance Corp. The RMBS holders would receive 25 cents on the dollar in cash for their claims and the rest in surplus notes under his plan.
Their argument that they would get less than CDO holders isn’t accurate because the CDO settlement offers between 35.8 percent and 54.4 percent of projected claims, while mortgage- bond claims would be paid in their entirety, as they arise, when considering the surplus notes they would also receive, the department said, citing an analysis by BlackRock Inc.
CDOs package pools of assets such as mortgage bonds or high-yield company loans into new securities with varying risks.
Read more at: BusinessWeek