A Note on the Disposition of Auction-Rate Securities by Non-Financial Corporate Investors

32 Pages Posted: 15 Jan 2010 Last revised: 12 Jul 2011

Date Written: April 3, 2010

Abstract

After two decades of rare failure, at least nominally, the auctions that set the interest rates on auction-rate securities failed en mass in February of 2008. Few ARS have recovered. Absent auctions, auction-rate securities have traveled the yield curve, converting from securities that effectively matured in a week or a month into medium-term securities discounted at higher rates. The magic that made many investors over several decades believe that ARS was a short-term investment, even though the supporting collateral was long term, is unlikely to regain its effectiveness. This note provides tabulations, over time, regarding the holdings of auction-rate securities by 642 non-financial public companies. Public companies have lowered their exposure to ARS by 64%, as the par value of ARS held by these companies has declined from $40.4 billion to $14.4 billion due to issuer calls and government-mandated redemptions by the bankers that distributed these securities and then served as auction dealer for a fee. The estimated fair value of ARS is currently discounted from par by an average of 10% to 57%, depending on the type of ARS. For some reason, ARS has been held disproportionately by technology companies.

Suggested Citation

Comment, Robert, A Note on the Disposition of Auction-Rate Securities by Non-Financial Corporate Investors (April 3, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1535347 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1535347

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