The ABS market grieved last Thursday as Michael G. Baker, a managing director at Credit Suisse First Boston, lost his four-year battle with cancer. Baker, 42, is survived by his wife, Amy, and four children. A long-time ABS veteran, he was an innovator of tax structuring within securitization technology, particularly in the auto sector. The ASR editorial staff would like to extend its condolences to his family and all who knew and worked with him. The wake was slated for Friday, 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at William Dangler Funeral Home, (908-273-2323) located in 309 Springfield Ave. Summit, N.J. The funeral mass was scheduled for Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Teresa's Church (908- 277-3700), located in 306 Morris Avenue, Summit, N.J.

Joshua Anderson has resigned from his position as vice president in Merrill Lynch's structured finance research strategy group, effective the end of this week, to accept a position with buyside firm Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMCO). At Merrill, Anderson reported to structured finance research head Dan Castro and covered CDOs and mortgage-related ABS. Merrill will begin seeking a replacement immediately.

Countrywide Securities has hired Paul Jacob as a senior vice president in the fixed income strategies group at the firm. Jacob reports to managing director Anand Bhattacharya. His role is as a mortgage strategist focusing on agency mortgages and portfolio strategy. Previously, Jacob was a portfolio manager at Hyperion Capital Management, which was founded by MBS stalwart Lewis Ranieri. At Hyperion, Jacob focused on mortgage- and asset-backed securities.

Last week ABN AMRO made public the specifics of its previously disclosed restructuring within the capital markets group formed by the integration of the global financial markets and loan products groups. These are under the bank's wholesale clients business. Named "Financial Markets," the group consists of six global product lines - credit, rates, foreign exchange, portfolio management, distribution and structured credit markets.

John Mullen was named global head of structured credit markets, which includes the operations for asset securitization, commercial mortgage securitization, leveraged finance, trading risk, private placements, CDOs, project finance, structured trade finance, commodity finance and principal finance. Mullen reports to Global Head of Financial Markets Piero Overmars.

Paul Tvetenstrand was recently elected to the position of chairman and managing partner at the law firm Thacher, Proffitt & Wood, replacing Omer S.J. "Jack" Williams, who had been chairman and managing partner of the firm for the past 12 years. Already a partner in the structured-finance group, Tvetenstrand focuses on representing issuers, insurers, servicers and investment banks in public and private ABS offerings. Williams will be returning to his position in the corporate and banking practice at the firm. The roles of chairman and managing partner are elected posts within the firm, carrying a term of four years.

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Market insiders were beginning to digest the implications of the implementation of H.R. 833, which is legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Robert Ney and a proposal that would allow the Federal Government to override any state predatory legislation. Market analysts said that this would completely preempt the different states from being able regulate predatory lending. The legislation is generally perceived more as beneficial to the securitization industry rather than being anti-consumer.

Bankrupt manufactured housing lender Oakwood Homes Inc. last week announced that it had secured $75 million in a servicer-advance fee debtor-in-possession line of credit, according to researchers at Credit Suisse First Boston. Myles E. Standish, Oakwood president and CEO, said, "The purpose of the $75 million line is to provide liquidity for mid-month servicing advances of principal and interest to the REMIC trusts as provided for in the pooling and servicing agreements."

European MBS issuance climbed 21% in 2002 to 78.5 billion euros (approximately $84.9 billion), according to the European Securitisation Forum. Within the MBS sector, residential MBS accounted for 67.3% of total securitizations at 52.3 billion euros (roughly $56.6 billion), a 9.5% increase in the volume of European RMBS issued in 2001. CMBS represented 25.2% of total MBS issuance in the past year, while deals containing a mixture of commercial and residential mortgages made up the balance of new MBS deals in 2002.

Fitch Ratings placed Countrywide Financial Corp.'s debt on Rating Watch Negative. The rating agency cited the risk of impairment to the company's balance sheet. Fitch mentioned that mortgage companies generally face an increasing risk of impairment, due to the fact that falling rates can substantially reduce the value of assets such as mortgage servicing rights. Countrywide's MSR portfolio, according to analysts, is particularly large in relation to equity. Countrywide, responding to the rating agency's move, said it has demonstrated its ability to produce record earnings in a falling rate environment while effectively hedging the value of its MSRs. The servicing hedge produced a gain of $1.8 million in 2002, the company said.

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