Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Crunch Capitalism: No Holds Barred -- Gone With Easy Credit Is Street's Collegiality; 'Law of the Jungle' Now

--Wachovia's attempt to extract itself from financing the sale of local Clear Channel television stations is the latest example of how the credit crunch has turned the once "trusted partners" into legal adversaries. --Other cases abound: In the troubled auction-rate securities market, banks have stopped providing support that customers once expected. In the market for collateralized debt obligations backed by subprime mortgages, lawsuits are brewing over the rights of different classes of investors. And in the world of buyouts, banks have been thrown into contention with each other and with private-equity clients. --It's the law of the jungle now," says Herald L. Ritch, a former co-head of mergers and acquisitions at Citigroup and DLJ and current president and co-CEO of Sagent Advisors, a boutique advisory firm. "It has become less and less relationship-oriented and more transactional. In the old days your word was your bond on Wall Street." --Wall Street is flush with many other examples of an increasingly cut-throat environment. In November, UBS asked a federal court in New York to free it from a commitment to finance Finish Line Inc.'s $1.5 billion deal to acquire shoe retailer Genesco Inc. In some cases, banks are going against each other. Last month, Credit Suisse Group angered other bankers when it broke from a group of banks lined up to sell $7.25 billion in loans tied to a buyout of Harrah's Entertainment Inc. by private-equity funds.

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