Deloitte & Touche's statements in an audit released last year of Bear Stearns may have given investors an inkling of the trouble to come at the investment firm, which was acquired this week by JPMorgan Chase for $2 a share in a Federal Reserve-backed deal that has averted a likely bankruptcy.
Deloitte & Touche warned of the problems in fair value accounting for assets in two of Bear Stearns' hedge funds. The 2006 audit, which was released in May 2007, warned that many of the assets in the funds were being valued using estimates by Bear Stearns' management team that may not have corresponded with reality.
"These values may differ from the values that would have been used had a ready market for these investments existed, and the differences could be material," said the audit, according to BusinessWeek. The value of 70 percent of the net assets in the Bear Stearns High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Fund were estimated using fair value accounting, while 63 percent of the net assets in the High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Enhanced Leverage Fund drew on such estimates.
The release of the 2006 audit in May 2007 preceded by just two weeks the firm suspending redemptions in one of the funds.
Bear Stearns' near collapse is already provoking talk of shareholder lawsuits, according to Reuters. Just over a year ago, the firm's stock was trading for up to $172 per share. Now the Federal Reserve has come to the aid of the firm, helping guarantee the bailout. JPMorgan will pay just $240 million for Bear Stearns, less than a quarter of the $1.2 billion estimated value of its office building in New York. Meanwhile the Federal Reserve will supply financing of up to $30 billion for Bear Stearns' less liquid assets, including $20 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities.
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