The ASTA funds were so-called municipal arbitrage bond funds created by Citigroup Alternative Investments and marketed by Citibank Private Bankers to their best customers. It was called an "arbitrage" fund and many investors were misled into believing that it was relatively risk free, a safe or conservative investment fund. But it was nothing of the sort. It was a highly leveraged and speculative structured credit product that many believe to have been misrepresented and mismanaged.
The so-called municipal bond "arbitrage" strategy was a very complex investment strategy involving multiple investments in the tax exempt and taxable fixed income markets. The fund managers invested in long tax exempt municipal bonds and, in effect, shorted the equivalent of taxable corporate bonds utilizing libor swap contracts and swaptions. The key to the success of the strategy was "market timing" and the "continued correlation" of the tax exempt municipal bond yields and the libor swap contract yields. It was originally used by many banks as a short term trading strategy. But many firms like Citigroup converted it to a flawed long term buy and hold strategy to maximize their own sales commissions and management fees.
In August 2007, the handwriting was on the wall for the "muni-arbitrage" funds. It was time to sell not buy. It was not the time to launch new funds or increase the leverage of the funds. The "continued correlation" of the tax-exempt and taxable fixed income market yields had collapsed. The lack of correlation and the high leverage was a recipe for disaster. Nevertheless the "muni-arbitrage" fund managers proceeded with the investment strategy full steam in derogation of their fiduciary duties to investors.
Citibank blamed the unforeseen and unprecedented market conditions as the reason for the collapse of the so-called "muni-arbitrage" funds in 2008. Nothing could be further from the truth, the funds were rocked in August 2007 and fund managers were put on clear notice of the dangerous market conditions and risk of loss. The real cause of the collapse was the fund managers' reckless disregard of the key factors of the strategy, "correlation" and "market timing," in relation to market conditions. As a result, many investors have commenced arbitration proceedings and recovered their losses due to misrepresentations and mismanagement of the so-called muni-arbitrage funds.
The most important of investors' rights is the right to be informed! This Investors' Rights blog post is by the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., located in Boca Raton, Florida. For over 30 years, Attorney Pearce has tried, arbitrated, and mediated hundreds of disputes involving complex securities, commodities and investment law issues. The lawyers at our law firm are devoted to protecting investors' rights throughout the United States and internationally! Please visit our website, www.secatty.com, post a comment, call (800) 732-2889, or email Mr. Pearce at email@example.com for answers to any of your questions about this blog post and/or any related matter.