In Financial Crisis, Hedgies Betting Morgan Stanley 'First to Go'

Wednesday, 18 Apr 2012 | 6:33 PM ET

If another financial crisis were to strike, like the one in 2008, Morgan Stanley will be the first to go --that's the conventional wisdom on Wall Street. So says, Charlie Bobrinskoy, vice-chairman of Ariel Investments in an interview on CNBC's Fast Money.

“That’s why whenever there’s trouble in Europe, Morgan seems to fall the most,” he says.

Hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci confirms the thesis; Scaramucci says it's the prevailing reason why so many hedgies have either shorted Morgan Stanley outright or paired it with a long position in Goldman Sachs.

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“There is a theory that you always pick the next weakest link to go,” says Bobrinskoy as he echoes Scaramucci. "First Bear Stearns was weakest then Lehman Brothers was weakest. Now, the conventional wisdom is that if something bad happens the weakest sister would be Morgan Stanley.”

But that doesn’t mean Bobrinksoy advocates a short position. In fact he thinks shorting Morgan is probably misguided.

Bobrinksoy describes Morgan Stanley as a stock that people love to hate. “People are worried about a Moody’s downgrade – but the stock is extremely cheap – historically investment banks trade between one and two times book – right now Morgan Stanley trades for $16 and tangible book is $28.”

He also says current skepticism in Morgan Stanley is based on an old paradigm. “They’re not nearly as levered as Bear and Lehman were – they do not have the same kinds of mortgage exposures that Bear and Lehman had.”

Also he says current weakness is simply profit taking - and reminds the desk that Morgan Stanley was trading at $10 in October.

All told, he thinks all the bearish sentiment presents opportunity. “In Morgan Stanley, we think there’s plenty of room to run.”

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Trader disclosure: On Apr 18, 2012, the following stocks and commodities mentioned or intended to be mentioned on CNBC’s "Fast Money" were owned by the "Fast Money" traders; Tim Seymour is long BAC; Tim Seymour is long INTC; Tim Seymour is long SBUX; Tim Seymour is long FCX; Tim Seymour is long TSL; Jon Najarian is long CALL SPREADS IN AAPL; Jon Najarian is long CALL SPREADS IN GS; Jon Najarian is long CALL SPREADS IN JOYG; Jon Najarian is long CALL SPREADS IN SBUX; Jon Najarian is long CALL SPREADS IN GMCR; Jon Najarian is long DDMG; Jon Najarian is long CME; Jon Najarian is long CBOE; Jon Najarian is long CGIX; Anthony Scaramucci is long GS; Anthony Scaramucci is long JPM; Anthony Scaramucci is long MS; Anthony Scaramucci is long INTC; Anthony Scaramucci is long IBM; Dan Nathan is long AAPL Jan 450 Puts; Dan Nathan is long BAC APR AND MAY 7 8 PUTS; Dan Nathan is long JPM APR 42 PUTS; Dan Nathan is long MS MAY 16/14/12 PUTS; Dan Nathan is long XLF APR 15 PUTS; Dan Nathan is long YHOO MAY 60/57.5 PUT SPREAD; Dan Nathan is long WMT JAN 20/25 CALL SPREAD

For Charlie Bobrinskoy
Charlie Bobrinksoy’s firm (Ariel Investments) is long C
Charlie Bobrinksoy’s firm (Ariel Investments) is long MS
Charlie Bobrinksoy’s firm (Ariel Investments) is long GS
Charlie Bobrinksoy’s firm (Ariel Investments) is long JPM

For Dale Pfau
Investment banking (next 3 months): Cantor Fitzgerald and/or its affiliates, expect to receive, or intend to seek, compensation for investment banking services within the next three months from all of the companies referenced within this report: FSLR
Lead or Co-manager: Cantor Fitzgerald and/or its affiliates, has not acted as lead or co-manager in a public offering of equity and/or debt securities for First Solar, Inc. within the last 12 months FSLR
Cantor Fitzgerald and/or its affiliates has not received compensation for investment banking services in the last 12 months from FSLR
Cantor Fitzgerald and/or its affiliates is a market maker in FSLR

For Brian Modoff
Deutsche Bank (and/or affiliates) owns 1% or more of any class of common equity securities of this company: QCOM
Deutsche Bank and/or its affiliate(s) has received non-investment banking related compensation from this company within the past year: QCOM
This company has been a client of Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. within the past year, during which time it received non-investment banking securities-related services: QCOM
The research analyst or a member of his/her household an officer, director, or advisory board member of this company: QCOM

For Shawn Reynolds
Shawn Reynolds is long APC
Shawn Reynolds is long PBT
Shawn Reynolds is long BKKN
Shawn Reynolds is long SLB
Shawn Reynolds is long HAL
Shawn Reynolds is long PXD
Shawn Reynolds is long XTA

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