If you've been following the Doral (NYSE:DRL) versus Puerto Rico saga as closely as I have, you're familiar with all the usual misinformation and disinformation. If you have a Twitter account, you know exactly what I mean. It's the standard confusion cloud perpetuated by bashers and promoters trying to make their buck before the real deal goes down. And that's all well and good. I'm all for making your nut. But it's a bit disconcerting when even the most clean-cut of financial scenarios become subject to the kind of speculation reserved for horse racing. I don't take my hard-earned money to the race track for the same reason I've never hired a dog to do my taxes-I don't trust my finances to animals. That's not smart business.
In the matter of Puerto Rico versus Doral, the burden of responsibility is clear: You pay your debts. Seeking a tax refund of $230 million, which was essentially loaned to the Puerto Rican government years ago, is not a scandalous story by any means-unless of course, for no good reason, the debtor just doesn't want to pay. Now you've got a story, and market-makers love a good story because there's no money in a stalemate. Stable prices brought on by question marks and indecisive investors don't generate profits-volatility does.
Look, let's get one thing straight: Doral is a bank. And if there's one thing banks know best it's credit flow. This is a game of creditors and debtors. That's why when I learned of how Puerto Rico tried to pull the wool over Doral's eyes this week, I couldn't help but think, "Really?"
News came from the online publication, Bloomberg, providing the much-sought-after details of why negotiations broke down just when Puerto Rico and Doral were on the verge of a settlement. By the middle of the article I nearly fell off my chair with laughter. The last time I laughed that hard was in 1996, when a friend of mine sneezed unexpectedly while being yelled at by our teacher. He simultaneously passed gas and the entire class could not stop laughing.
It was revealed by the Bloomberg article that negotiations hit a snag over vouchers as a form of payment, more specifically who was to issue them: Doral or Puerto Rico? Puerto Rico insisted that Doral issue them, while Doral insisted that Puerto Rico issue them.
The Twitter universe exploded with ridiculously exaggerated language like "failure," and even phrases like, "falling apart," and, "on the verge of collapse," all of which were used as a means to suggest that Doral was somehow at a disadvantage. Complete silliness. None of it made any sense, and all of it wreaked of a propaganda campaign aimed at capitalizing on shock language-pretty much business as usual. But when things stop making sense, you've got to start using common sense.
One of the basic sentiments I caught was that Doral was being unreasonable, that they expected too much of Puerto Rico. Well, if expecting PR to take responsibility for paying its own debt is unreasonable, then, yeah, okay. There is, however, good reason for Doral to reject the idea that it should issue the vouchers over Puerto Rico: it's a scam.
Asking Doral to issue the vouchers represents the same kind of underhanded tactics used to convince us that automated telephone menus were created for "customer convenience." If you're a little slow behind the wheel with that one, try navigating an automated telephone menu and let me know just how convenient your experience really was. I'll wait here.
But if you really understand the subtleties well, then you also understand why Doral walked away from such a terrible deal. Asking Doral to issue the vouchers themselves essentially lets Puerto Rico off the hook for a debt it owes by transferring the responsibility of payment to Doral. Think about it.
Rather than Puerto Rico taking the responsibility of paying its own debt by issuing the vouchers, it's asking that Doral raise the money themselves. It's a tricky tactic. That's like if you lent me $5000 and then I told you to go get another job to pay yourself back. I'm not paying back my debt, you are. But I'm the one who should be getting another job.
The message Puerto Rico's offer sends is: "We'll allow you to pay yourself back". That's not true debt repayment because it cancels the initial risk of borrowing the money in the first place. If real life ever worked that way the entire financial system would collapse because the lender would be taking on the responsibility of the borrower in addition to the risk of lending. It's the equivalent of me telling Chase and AT&T, "Hey listen guys, I can't pay you for your services, but if you ever owe me later on in the future, don't worry about it. We're even."
Doral knows that it's more likely to make itself whole if vouchers are issued through the Puerto Rican government, as assets associated with government ties are traditionally attractive-especially when Doral hasn't posted an annual profit since 2005. Yikes! But Puerto Rico knows it's less likely to take a hit if the burden of repayment can be transferred onto Doral's back. It's easier to let go of cash you never had than to give up a chunk of what you already have. But that's Puerto Rico's problem-not Doral's.
It's clear that Doral knew what they were doing all along, as there were only ever two possible outcomes that made any sense:
A.) Puerto Rico settles on an acceptable cash amount.
B.) Through trial, Puerto Rico is ordered to issue vouchers of a greater amount.
Either way, Doral wins.