When the Game Ends...
It was February 1985. I was 23 and I had just started at a job that I anticipated would be interesting, but problematic. I was planning on going back school in September so it really didn't matter. I only planned to be there for about 6 months.
The guy that ran the travel agency was questionable, but the choices had been an insurance company or a travel company. At 23 a travel company is a heck of lot more appealing than insurance. I had no idea the disaster I was walking into.
I had worked in banking and I'd been hired to look after books. I was young. I did what I was told, but I quickly realised it was wrong. Clients who "booked" a vacation had 3 days to make a deposit. Clients were encouraged to reserve their vacation without a deposit, even when the likelihood of firming that booking was slim. I was told to record those booking as accounts payable or something like that. Within a week or two I realised the problem with what I'd been instructed to do and that these transactions weren't for the books until actual deposits were received. More than half never firmed up their booking.
Meanwhile many condos were being rented monthly by the company and then re-rented out into vacation packages. There were a couple franchises and there were serious signs the numbers weren't working. I suppose the commission scheme required a much higher ratio of rentals than what was happening.
As I learned more, it seemed to me that Mr Shady had taken the self-employed investors who owned their fanchise and he took an unsustainable pay cut for himself out of their $50-100k investments and the entire model was insolvent. It was falling apart.
There were urgent calls from the representative in Hawaii and condo owners weren't getting their rent cheques. Meanwhile, Mr Shady was trying to broker a quarter million dollar deal with a new investor. I had been with this company about 3-4 weeks when I realised the dire straights of the company.
In week 5 the urgency of the calls from Hawaii increased, and Mr Shady was avoiding those calls. The scramble was on to secure a 1/4 million dollar investment for a company that did not have a viable business model. I remember Mr Shady taking a couple thousand out of the company in that dire period to put on a carnival party for his kid.
On Thursday of week 5 the message from Hawaii had only one word in the message titled "Call" -- it was "Urgent!" It was a stressful period, when the sense of impending doom was building and there was total helplessness.
On Friday showing up for work there was a sign on the door, "This Office is Closed by the authority of..." Well, I forget who had the authority to close down the business. We were allowed in for a 10 or 15 minute meeting to tell us we didn't have a job anymore and to get our personal items and the game was over. It was payday, but there was no pay...
The stuff I'm reading out there this weekend gives me the same feelings of impending doom, an out of control train wreck that you can't do anything about, only this time it is so much bigger...
I saw someone mention that Jefferson Country is approaching bankrupcy, and I see now that Mish has posted an accounting of what is happening there.
This is about those derivative things that are my main reason for trying to hide from what's happening.
And I agree with Mish's assessment on the bottom callers:
On that I say "No Chance". There are $45 trillion credit default swaps, and over $500 trillion total derivatives, so expecting a default on tiny deal of $3.2 billion to mark any sort of bottom is strikingly Pollyannaish.
The scary G7 meeting, the debt growing so much faster than expected, and the dervatives starting to unwind...
Wall street wants to force municipalities to raise taxes. They will tell you businesses will move if you raise taxes, but they haven't figured out that people will refuse the taxes and go elsewhere as well...