Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Charlie Mungers -- first annual Wesco letter to shareholders 1983

From the first annual letter Charlie Munger penned as chairman of Wesco.

At Mutual Savings, as well as the rest of the savings and loan industry, the standard practice used to be to borrow short from savers while lending long on fixed-rate mortgages, to have high financial leverage for shareholders' equity and to grant mortgagors easy prepayment terms. The practice was profitable for decades but always involved something like a "hurricane risk," and the equivalent of a hurricane came in 1981-82 as interest rates rose to unprecedented levels and caused widespread losses. Results were good for shareholders before 1981-82 only because interest rates were stable or rose slowly as mortgage-loan portfolios steadily and rapidly expanded under a regulatory structure which both fostered growth and protected operating margins by requiring that on all insured savings accounts fixed rates be paid that were slightly higher than the low rates specified for banks. Thus a small deposit-attracting rate advantage over banks was given to savings and loan associations, while competitive pressure was dampened for both types of institution.

Wesco's 1983 Annual Letter to Shareholders