Two-Way Street

Seeing Hope in an Illiquid Asset Pitch


We get some interesting visitors here at CNBC. It's a regular routine in the journalism biz. Excluding typical vendor visits, these visits are usually for one of two reasons ...

1. Get some media attention.

2. Get some media understanding.

In the latter instance, it is usually executives from companies with public relations issues or


government officials. In both cases the meetings are typically off the record and simply provide a chance for discussion without worrying about wording or qualification. The visitors, whoever they may be, simply want a chance to make their case and explain their side of things. Not a bad practice, to my mind.

In the former instance, it's usually folks with a new product to push or point of view to sell. I usually hate these kinds of meetings. Who wants to sit in an hour long sales pitch? But we had a fairly good one this week.

An outfit called came around hawking their platform for buying and selling typically illiquid assets. This includes things that have been in the news a lot over the last nine months, like collateralized debt obligations, auction-rate securities, and mortgate-backed securities. They are also trying to extend it to some other does-anyone-want-to-buy-this areas as well, like bankruptcy claims, limited partnership interests, and private company securities.

They put on the dog and pony show in hopes that we at CNBC would mention them from time to time. That might get them more customers so they could build their trading business and so on and so on. (And to a certain extent I guess their mission worked with me).

The reason the session was good was not so much Secondmarket's product; it seemed to have some plusses and minuses and lots of exceptions. I'm sure there are some other outfits out there that do some similar things better or worse. Frankly I wouldn't be much of a judge since I haven't tried to trade any illiquid assets lately.

No, I just took heart from the fact that a company, seeing all the crisis-generated complaints about no transparency and frozen markets for certain securities, is trying to fill the void and meet the demand. As a business journalist, I love to see capitalism in action.

p.s. To you pitchmeisters out there ... don't take this as an invitation to start peppering me with c'mons.