From Volume 82, Number 3 (March 2009)
The fall of 2007 heralded a tumultuous time in the U.S. capital markets. The implosion of the subprime mortgage market disrupted the economy and caused the credit markets to dry up and become increasingly illiquid. Almost overnight, credit became both more expensive and more difficult to obtain as financial institutions became unwilling to extend financing. The credit securitization market was particularly affected, leaving many financial institutions with pending and existing loans that they could only securitize and sell, if at all, at a large loss. Faced with these potentially large losses, financial institutions began to balk at funding preagreed private equity acquisitions. This sudden, unexpected turn of events and the general revaluation and decline in stock prices it wrought led private equity firms to reassess their pending acquisitions—acquisitions which had been agreed to in more stable times. The private equity firms’ reevaluations were often unkind. Throughout the fall and into 2008, private equity firms repeatedly attempted to terminate their contractual obligations to acquire companies.