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I made a Google web search on "pyramid CDO", and I found confirming opinions:
CDOs, which are debt instruments, are built as a pyramid. The bonds are packaged into different tranches of securities. At the bottom is the equity tranche backed by the riskier debt or loan collateral. On the top of the pyramid are the "super senior tranche" first, followed by the triple-A rated tranches. Those senior tranches are backed by investment-grade debt or high-quality loans. In between are the mezzanine tranches, which offer a bit of a mix of the pros and cons of both extremes. Naturally, the equity tranche at the bottom of the pyramid is the one with the potential highest risk and reward, which is why it offers the highest yield. The senior tranches on top of the pyramid pay the lowest yield because they are safer, being backed by higher credit-quality assets and benefiting from the "cushion" offered by the equity tranche that gets hit by losses first in the event of credit downgrades affecting the collateral.

Typically hedge funds get involved in the CDO market for two main reasons. The first is to obtain returns. In such cases they act as CDO investors, buying almost always the rewarding equity tranche. The second reason will lead them to issue CDOs in order to obtain a new source of funding. In these cases they are the collateral managers, those who gather and buy the assets for the collateral pool. They obtain funds by issuing the notes sliced into the various tranches that are offered to the market. Hedge funds in such cases are no different from the corporations that issue bonds on the capital markets for their funding needs.

This is from Bloomberg.com, no less:

Bundling mortgages into asset-backed bonds and then agglutinating those bonds into collateralized debt obligations sliced into different flavors of risk always smacked of a sophisticated pyramid scheme. As the foundations crumble, even the apex of the CDO market is looking shaky.

This book has a big chapter on CDOs (No 20), and this chapter:

4. Liquidity, the Credit Pyramid and Market Data
4.1 Bond liquidity
4.2 The Credit Pyramid
4.3 Survey and engineered spread data
4.3.1 Survey data
4.3.2 Engineered data
4.4 Spread and rating

And here you can find some technical info about "Fortis Bank Pyramid CDO, a Euro 268mm ABS CDO". Is this an apt name for some financial product?

The following reference is more rhetorical, but still informative:

[All buyers] liked the extra yield this stuff provided and chose to ignore the dubious basis on which A credit ratings were obtained or the fact that these instruments were not traded and so could not be marked to market. They were worth what the issuers said they were worth - until they tried to sell them.

The sheer scale of these ponzi activities is indicated by the fact that in the first quarter of this year alone US$251 billion worth of CDOs were issued and including US$121 billion of credit default swaps - instruments by which banks sell risk to each other.

by das monde on Mon Aug 20th, 2007 at 05:17:09 AM EST
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