New York City-based GSC Partners is planning to launch a new fund aimed at high yield debt and mezzanine debt backed by U.S. commercial real estate. At press time, GSC Partners had not named the fund, but it did recruit Alexander Zabik as senior managing director and head of high-yield real estate to oversee it. Zabik was a senior member of the Real Estate Debt Group at BlackRock, Inc., and a member of the investment committee and investment strategy group. He was also head of originations for high yield commercial real estate debt products, and was an officer of Anthracite Capital, a public CMBS REIT and CDO issuer.

Deutsche Bank has hired Alex Bernand as global head of credit correlation trading in London. The new hire will be reporting to Head of Credit Trading for North America and Europe Boaz Weinstein and Head of Complex Risk Wayne Felson. Bernard, who was formerly at Bank of America where he built up the firm's global structured credit business from scratch in the past six years, has replaced Mark Stainton who left Deutsche Bank at the end of last year.

Cantor Fitzgerald has hired Brad Whitener in the small business administration division of its DCM group in Memphis, Tenn. Whitener will oversee efforts to provide liquidity and pooling of SBA loans and securities. He joins Cantor from First Matrix Investment Services, where he served as a senior vice president. Prior to that, Whitener was with Duncan Williams.

The Bank of New York promoted Margo Cook to executive vice president focusing on equity and fixed-income strategies for the institutional market. Cook will report to Steven Pisarkiewicz, executive vice president and head of BNY Asset Management. Before her promotion, Cook had a nine-year stint as head of institutional fixed income for BNY Asset Management and was also senior portfolio manager and MBS specialist. Patrick Byrne, who was previously senior portfolio manager focusing on MBS and ABS, has replaced Cook as head of institutional fixed income. Byrne reports to Cook.

International law firm Brown Rudnick of Boston appointed Howard Siegel as chair of its new climate and energy group, which will focus on serving the needs of the carbon reduction and green energy markets by specializing in environmentally sound energy sources, renewable energy projects, and reducing carbon emissions. The new group will also advise its clients on structured finance, venture capital, energy and environmental law, project finance, regulatory compliance, U.S. and European Union emissions trading regimes, renewable energy, intellectual property, and government law and strategies, said the firm. "Our climate and energy group was created to foster the development of a cohesive, interdisciplinary team that can exchange key substantive expertise and collaborate to serve the market from different perspectives. We feel we offer an interdisciplinary approach that is needed - and unmatched - in this growing market," said Siegel, who is also managing partner of Brown Rudnick's Hartford office.

Freddie Mac CFO Martin Baumann has resigned after less than three years at the job. The GSE's Chief Operating Officer Eugene McQuade will assume Baumann's responsibilities while a search for a replacement is undertaken. Baumann's departure is not related to Freddie Mac's March 10 statement that it would delay the release of its quarterly and full-year financial results until May, according to a Freddie Mac spokesperson.

Standard & Poor's has weighed in on Russia's first lease-backed ABS, giving the deal's RUR12.6 billion senior piece a BBB-' rating. Originated by three leasing companies and relying on Russian Railways as obligor, the transaction already earned a Baa2' rating from Moody's Investors Service on its senior notes (ASR 3/20/06). Morgan Stanley, CIT Finance Investment Bank, and TransCreditBank are joint leads. Echoing Moody's assessment, S&P pointed out the deal's significant exposure to tax issues. "The transaction is highly sensitive to changes in the tax regime," said Kristel Richard, a credit analyst with S&P. "To address that risk, we have stressed the tax regime in a BBB-' rating scenario, and analyzed the impact on tax changes on the cash flows."

The National Association of Realtors reported last week that existing home sales surged in February after five straight monthly drops. Sales of existing homes increased to a 6.91 million unit annual rate in February from January's upwardly revised 6.57 million unit pace. RBS Greenwich Capital Chief Economist Stephen Stanley said that the February reading retraces over half of the cumulative dip since last summer's high and is down only a little over 4% from the record peak. Although the case could be made that the January dip and the February rebound could partly reflect the harsh December and unusually friendly January weather, Stanley is more inclined to "chalk the last few months' fluctuations to statistical noise and thus to conclude that home sales are on a gentle cooling trend."

Standard & Poor's announced last week the launch of Standard and Poor's Evaluated Pricing Service, a pricing tool that uses cashflow analysis and modeling to evaluate the prices of European structured finance securities. The new service will initially cover European ABS and MBS and will provide fund managers and securities firms with daily and intraday evaluations of securities prices based on analysis of their underlying collateral and latest market data. "The rapid growth in securitization issuance in Europe in recent years has not been matched by the development of a liquid secondary market, and this has raised concerns about the transparency, reliability and consistency of valuing many structured bonds," said Peter Jones, director of European securities evaluations at S&P. "Our new service provides an independent, rigorous, and credible answer for daily valuation and mark-to-market problems within this thinly traded market."

The primary challenge for commercial servicers administering loans in regions affected by Hurricane Katrina is resolving insurance claims, said a recent Standard & Poor's report. Most servicers characterized the progress of insurance claim resolutions as slow but steady, with most of the outcomes favorable for borrowers. S&P reported that blanket insurance policies also pose issues that could potentially end in litigation. Nearly all servicers contacted by the rating agency have started approving and disbursing proceeds for rebuilding or repairing the hurricane-damaged properties and none of them have reported any REMIC compliance issues related to rebuilding efforts. Some servicers also said that some damaged properties that were repaired using insurance proceeds have already been transferred from special servicing back to master or primary servicing.

(c) 2006 Asset Securitization Report and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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