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Bear Stearns and the Seeds of its Demise
Chaplinsky, Susan Case F-1574 / Published October 22, 2008 / 27 pages.
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Product Overview

This case is suitable for courses on corporate finance at the graduate or advanced undergraduate level that cover banking, financing, security design, capital structure, or capital markets. The case covers the events that led to the collapse of Bear Stearns's (Bear's) hedge funds in July 2007 and traces management's response to the situation through January 2008. These events include macroeconomic factors that fueled the housing boom, the growth of securitization, structured products, and credit default swaps, and the maturity mismatch of financial institutions' funding strategies. The case provides a rich setting for students to understand the increasingly interrelated nature of banking activities, which poses large systemic risk to the financial sector. Two key questions are posed: "What factors were responsible for the collapse of Bear's hedge funds?" and "Was the response by Bear's management adequate in light of the collapse and the credit problems that ensued?" John Corso is a hedge fund manager with large cash balances in a prime brokerage account at Bear. In January 2008, he receives a call from a senior Bear executive reassuring him that the firm is in good hands following a shakeup of top management. The previous summer, two Bear hedge funds collapsed as a result of their investments in collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that were backed by subprime mortgages. As a longtime client of Bear, Corso must evaluate whether the steps taken by management have been sufficient to resolve its credit problems or whether now is the time to remove his funds from the firm.


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  • Overview

    This case is suitable for courses on corporate finance at the graduate or advanced undergraduate level that cover banking, financing, security design, capital structure, or capital markets. The case covers the events that led to the collapse of Bear Stearns's (Bear's) hedge funds in July 2007 and traces management's response to the situation through January 2008. These events include macroeconomic factors that fueled the housing boom, the growth of securitization, structured products, and credit default swaps, and the maturity mismatch of financial institutions' funding strategies. The case provides a rich setting for students to understand the increasingly interrelated nature of banking activities, which poses large systemic risk to the financial sector. Two key questions are posed: "What factors were responsible for the collapse of Bear's hedge funds?" and "Was the response by Bear's management adequate in light of the collapse and the credit problems that ensued?" John Corso is a hedge fund manager with large cash balances in a prime brokerage account at Bear. In January 2008, he receives a call from a senior Bear executive reassuring him that the firm is in good hands following a shakeup of top management. The previous summer, two Bear hedge funds collapsed as a result of their investments in collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that were backed by subprime mortgages. As a longtime client of Bear, Corso must evaluate whether the steps taken by management have been sufficient to resolve its credit problems or whether now is the time to remove his funds from the firm.

  • Learning Objectives