The American Securitization Forum is hosting a discussion this week on the role of the trustee in ABS transactions. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday evening at its New York headquarters. The next in the Sunset Seminar series of discussions will allow representatives from rating agencies Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings to defend their respective opinions on trustee activity, as well as giving trustees a first-time forum to defend their actions, or lack thereof, in the eyes of the market.

The panel will be moderated by Rich Wasserman of law firm Day, Berry & Howard, LLP, who has represented investor interests in the past. Also speaking will be Jim Callahan, executive director of Pentalpha Capital, an independent consultant and financial intermediary. Rob Frier of Deutsche Bank Trust and William (Doc) Walther of Wells Fargo Bank will represent trustees on the panel.

Additionally, the panel will include Moody's senior vice president Claire Robinson, who authored a report in February that declared Moody's would incorporate the trustee into its ratings methodology and could, potentially, downgrade a bond based on trustee behavior - raising the current questions. Debt tracker Fitch will be represented by managing director Kevin Duignan, who compares the trustee's role to that of an "airbag in a car accident," argued that the seller/servicer greatly overshadows any risks presented by the trustee.

"The focus of the discussion will be on the trustees," said Wasserman, "their roles both prior to and after a workout period and into default and what ways we as a market can improve the situation," he added.

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