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AMBC > SEC Filings for AMBC > Form 10-K on 22-Mar-2013All Recent SEC Filings

Show all filings for AMBAC FINANCIAL GROUP INC

Form 10-K for AMBAC FINANCIAL GROUP INC


22-Mar-2013

Annual Report


Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

OVERVIEW

Ambac Financial Group, Inc. ("Ambac" or the "Company"), headquartered in New York City, is a holding company incorporated in the state of Delaware. Ambac was incorporated on April 29, 1991. On November 8, 2010, Ambac filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code ("Bankruptcy Code") in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York ("Bankruptcy Court"). Ambac has continued to operate in the ordinary course of business as "debtor-in-possession" under the jurisdiction of the Bankruptcy Court and in accordance with the applicable provisions of the Bankruptcy Code and the orders of the Bankruptcy Court. Refer to Note 1 to the Consolidated Financial Statements in Part II, Item 8 of this Form 10-K for further discussion of Ambac's bankruptcy. Ambac has two reportable business segments: Financial Guarantee and Financial Services.

Ambac Assurance Corporation ("Ambac Assurance") is Ambac's principal operating subsidiary. Ambac Assurance is a financial guarantee insurer which provided financial guarantees and financial services to clients in both the public and private sectors around the world. In March 2010, Ambac Assurance established a segregated account pursuant to Wisc. Stat. 611.24(2) (the "Segregated Account") to segregate certain segments of Ambac Assurance's liabilities. As of December 31, 2012, insurance liabilities for policies allocated to the Segregated Account were $6,245.5 million. These insurance liabilities consist of loss reserves and loss expense reserves, gross of remediation and reinsurance recoveries, established in accordance with SAP as defined in Ambac Assurance's Statutory Basis Financial Results. Refer to Note 1 to the Consolidated Financial Statements located in Item 8 of this Form 10-K for information on Ambac Assurance's liabilities that were allocated to the Segregated Account. The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance for the State of Wisconsin ("OCI" (which term shall be understood to refer to such office as regulator of Ambac Assurance and to the Commissioner of Insurance for the State of Wisconsin as rehabilitator of the Segregated Account (the "Rehabilitator"), as the context requires)) commenced rehabilitation proceedings with respect to the Segregated Account (the "Segregated Account Rehabilitation Proceedings") in order to permit the OCI to facilitate an orderly run-off and/or settlement of the liabilities allocated to the Segregated Account pursuant to the provisions of the Wisconsin Insurers Rehabilitation and Liquidation Act. The Rehabilitator is Theodore Nickel, the Commissioner of Insurance of the State of Wisconsin. Refer to Note 1 to the Consolidated Financial Statements in Part II, Item 8 of this Form 10-K for further discussion of the creation and rehabilitation of the Segregated Account.

The deterioration of Ambac Assurance's financial condition resulting from losses in its insured portfolio caused downgrades and ultimately ratings withdrawals of Ambac Assurance's financial strength ratings from the independent rating agencies. These losses have prevented Ambac Assurance from being able to write new business. An inability to write new business has and will continue to negatively impact Ambac's future operations and financial results. Ambac Assurance has been unable to pay common dividends to Ambac since 2008 and it is highly unlikely that it will be able to make dividend payments to Ambac for the foreseeable future. Refer to Note 1 to the Consolidated Financial Statements in Part II, Item 8 of this Form 10-K for further discussion of Ambac's bankruptcy and the creation and rehabilitation of the Segregated Account. Ambac Assurance is also restricted in its ability to pay dividends pursuant to the terms of its Auction Market Preferred Shares ("AMPS"). Refer to Part I, Item 1, "Business-Dividend Restrictions, Including Contractual Restrictions" of this Form 10-K for discussion of the dividend restrictions applicable pursuant to the terms of Ambac Assurance's AMPS.

Through its financial services segment, Ambac provided financial and investment products, including investment agreements, funding conduits, and interest rate swaps, principally to the clients of its financial guarantee business. Ambac Assurance insured all of the obligations of its financial services subsidiaries. The interest rate swap and investment agreement businesses are in active runoff, which is being effectuated by means of transaction terminations, settlements, assignments and scheduled amortization of contracts.


Table of Contents
Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

CRITICAL ACCOUNTING POLICIES AND ESTIMATES

The discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations is based upon our Consolidated Financial Statements, which have been prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles ("GAAP"). The preparation of these financial statements requires us to make estimates and judgments that affect the reported amount of assets and liabilities, revenues and expenses and related disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities at the date of our financial statements. Actual results may differ from these estimates under different assumptions or conditions.

Critical accounting policies are considered critical because they place significant importance on management to make difficult, complex or subjective estimates regarding matters that are inherently uncertain. Financial results could be materially different if alternative methodologies were used or if management modified its assumptions or estimates. Management has identified
(i) the accounting for loss and loss expenses of non-derivative financial guarantees, (ii) the valuation of financial instruments, including the determination of whether an investment impairment is other-than-temporary and the (iii) valuation allowance on deferred tax assets, as critical accounting policies. This discussion should be read in conjunction with the Consolidated Financial Statements and notes thereon included elsewhere in this report. We have discussed with the Audit Committee management's assessment of such critical accounting policies, the reasons why they are considered critical, and how current and anticipated future events impact those determinations. The Company's critical accounting policies and estimates are as follows:

Losses and Loss Expenses of Non-derivative Financial Guarantees:

The loss and loss expense reserves for financial guarantee insurance discussed herein relates only to Ambac's non-derivative insurance business for insurance policies issued to beneficiaries, including VIEs, for which we do not consolidate the VIE. Losses and loss expenses are based upon estimates of the ultimate aggregate losses inherent in the non-derivative financial guarantee portfolio as of the reporting date. The evaluation process for determining the level of reserves is subject to certain estimates and judgments.

ASC Topic 944, Financial Services-Insurance provides accounting guidance for financial guarantee insurance contracts issued by insurance enterprises, including the recognition and measurement of claim liabilities (i.e. loss reserves). Under ASC Topic 944, a loss reserve is recorded on the balance sheet for the excess of (a) the present value of expected losses, over (b) the unearned premium reserve ("UPR") for an insurance contract. Expected losses represent projected net cash flows and are defined as the expected future claims to be paid under an insurance contract plus the impact of potential settlement outcomes upon future installment premiums, less potential recoveries. To the extent (a) is less than (b), no loss reserve is recorded. Changes to the loss reserve estimate in subsequent periods are recorded as a loss and loss expense on the income statement. For those policies where the potential recovery is less than the expected future claims, the resulting net cash outflow is recorded as a "Loss and loss expense reserve" liability. For those policies where significant losses have been paid, but not yet recovered, the potential recovery may be greater than the expected future claims and the resulting net cash inflow is recorded as a "Subrogation recoverable" asset.


Table of Contents
Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

Ambac's loss reserves are based on management's on-going review of the non-derivative financial guarantee insurance portfolio. Active surveillance of the insured portfolio enables Ambac's Portfolio Risk Management ("PRM") group to track credit migration of insured obligations from period to period and update internal credit ratings for each transaction. Non-adversely classified credits are assigned a Class I or Survey List ("SL") risk classification, while adversely classified credits are assigned a risk classification of Class IA through Class V. The criteria for an exposure to be assigned an adversely classified credit rating includes the deterioration of an issuer's financial condition, underperformance of the underlying collateral (for collateral dependent transactions such as mortgage-backed securitizations), poor performance by the servicer of the underlying collateral and other adverse economic events or trends. The servicer of the underlying collateral of an insured securitization transaction is a consideration in assessing credit quality because the servicer's performance can directly impact the performance of the related issue. For example, a servicer of a mortgage-backed securitization that does not remain current in its collection and loss mitigation efforts could cause an increase in delinquencies and potential defaults of the underlying obligations. Similarly, loss severities increase when a servicer does not effectively handle loss mitigation activities such as
(i) the advancing of delinquent principal and interest and default-related expenses which are deemed to be recoverable by the servicer, (ii) pursuit of loan charge-offs which maximize cash flows from the mortgage loan pool, and
(iii) foreclosure and real estate owned disposition strategies and timelines.

The population of credits evaluated in Ambac's loss reserve process are (i) all adversely classified credits and (ii) non-adversely classified credits which had an internal Ambac credit rating downgrade since the transaction's inception. One of two approaches is then utilized to estimate expected losses to ultimately determine if a loss reserve should be established. The first approach is a statistical expected loss approach, which considers the likelihood of all possible outcomes. The "base case" statistical expected loss is the product of:
(i) the net par outstanding on the credit; (ii) internally developed historical default information (taking into consideration internal ratings and average life of an obligation); (iii) internally developed loss severities; and (iv) a discount factor. The loss severities and default information are based on rating agency information, are specific to each bond type and were established and approved by Ambac's senior management. For certain credit exposures, Ambac's additional monitoring; loss remediation efforts and probabilities of potential settlement outcomes may provide information relevant to adjust this estimate of "base case" statistical expected losses. As such, the loss severities used in estimating the "base case" statistical expected losses may be adjusted based on the professional judgment of the PRM analyst monitoring the credit with the approval of senior management. Analysts may accept the "base case" statistical expected loss as the best estimate of expected loss or assign multiple probability weighted severities to determine an adjusted statistical expected loss that better reflects a given transaction's potential severity, as well as the potential for additional remediation activities (i.e. commutations).

The second approach entails the use of more precise estimates of expected losses (future claim payments, net of potential recoveries, expected to be paid to the holder of the insured financial obligation). Ambac's surveillance group will consider the likelihood of all possible outcomes and develop appropriate cash flow scenarios. This approach can include the utilization of internal or external models to project future claim payment estimates. We have utilized such models for residential mortgage-backed and student loan exposures. In general, these models use historical performance of the collateral pools in order to then assume or derive future performance characteristics, such as default and voluntary prepayment rates, which in turn determine projected future claim payments. In this approach a probability-weighted expected loss estimate is developed based on assigning probabilities to multiple claim payment scenarios and applying an appropriate discount factor. Additionally, we assign a probability to the issuer's ability to refinance an insured issue and/or Ambac's ability to execute a potential settlement (i.e. commutation) of the insurance policy, including the impact on future installment premiums. The methodology used to estimate the most substantial amount of the potential recovery component of expected losses is further described in the "RMBS Representation and Warranty Subrogation Recovery" section below and in Note 2 to the Consolidated Financial Statements, located in Part II, Section 8 of this Form 10-K.


Table of Contents
Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

The discount factor applied to both of the above described approaches is based on a risk-free discount rate corresponding to the remaining expected weighted-average life of the exposure and the exposure currency. The discount factor is updated for the current risk-free rate each reporting period.

Ambac establishes loss expense reserves based on our estimate of expected net cash outflows for loss expenses, such as legal and consulting costs.

As the probability of default for an individual credit increases and/or the severity of loss given a default increases, our loss reserve for that insured obligation will also increase. Political, economic, credit or other unforeseen events could have an adverse impact on default probabilities and loss severities. The performance and loss reserves for many transactions (such as many public finance exposures) are derived from the issuer's obligation to pay. The performance and reserves of other transactions such as most structured finance exposures including RMBS have no direct issuer support and therefore are derived from the default activity and loss given default of collateral supporting the transactions. Many transactions have a combination of issuer/entity and collateral support. Loss reserves reflect our assessment of the transaction's overall structure, support and expected performance. Loss reserve volatility will be a direct result of the credit performance of our insured portfolio, including the number, size, bond types and quality of credits included in our loss reserves as well as our ability to execute commutations. The number and severity of credits included in our loss reserves depend to a large extent on transaction specific attributes, but will generally increase during periods of economic stress and decline during periods of economic stability. Reinsurance recoveries do not have a significant effect on loss reserve volatility because Ambac has little exposure ceded to reinsurers and has received collateral from the majority of its reinsurers.

Ambac has exposure to various bond types issued in the debt capital markets. Our experience has shown that, for the majority of bond types, we have not experienced significant claims. We have observed that, with respect to certain bond types, it is reasonably possible that a material change in actual loss severities and defaults could occur over time. In the future, our experience may differ with respect to the types of guaranteed bonds affected or the magnitude of the effect. The bond types that have experienced significant claims are residential mortgage-backed securities ("RMBS"), student loan securities, healthcare obligations and collateralized debt obligations ("CDOs"). These four bond types represent 93% of our ever-to-date insurance claims recorded with RMBS comprising 90% of our ever-to-date claims payments.

The table below indicates the number of credits, gross par outstanding and gross loss reserves (including loss adjustment expenses) related to policies in Ambac's loss reserves on credits at December 31, 2012:

                             Number of         Gross  par               Gross Loss
 ($ in millions)              credits        outstanding (1)       Reserves  (1) (2) (3)
 RMBS                               177     $          14,127     $                 3,560
 Student Loans                       48                 4,224                       1,041
 All other credits                   91                 5,709                       1,383
 Loss adjustment expenses            -                     -                          138

 Totals                             316     $          24,060     $                 6,122

(1) Ceded Par Outstanding and ceded loss and loss expense reserves are $1,017 and $147, respectively. Ceded loss reserves are included in Reinsurance Recoverable on paid and unpaid losses.

(2) Loss reserves of $6,122 are included in the balance sheet in the following line items: Loss and loss expense reserve-$6,619 and Subrogation recoverable-$497.

(3) Included in Gross Loss Reserves are unpaid claims of $3,388 million related to policies allocated to the Segregated Account.


Table of Contents
Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

RMBS

Ambac insures RMBS transactions that contain first-lien mortgages. Ambac classifies its insured first-lien RMBS exposure principally into two broad credit risk classes: mid-prime (including Alt-A, interest only, and negative amortization) and sub-prime. Mid-prime loans were typically made to borrowers who had stronger credit profiles relative to sub-prime loans, but weaker than prime loans. Compared with mid-prime loans, sub-prime loans typically had higher loan-to-value ratios, reflecting the greater difficulty that sub-prime borrowers have in making down payments and the propensity of these borrowers to extract equity during refinancing. The mid-prime category includes:

Loans with specific payment features that afforded borrowers the option to have lower payments in the early years with potential resets after several years. For example, so-called interest only loans have monthly payments comprised of interest but no principal. So called negative amortization loans permit borrowers to defer interest and principal in the early years and then make higher payments in the period after the reset. Both types may also have lower interest rates in the early years. Future increases in monthly payments, commonly called payment shock, raise the probability of delinquencies and defaults given the decline in house prices that has caused many borrowers' loan balances to exceed their homes' market value.

Loans backed by borrowers who typically did not meet standard agency guidelines for documentation requirement, property type or loan-to-value ratio. These are typically higher-balance loans made to individuals who might have past credit problems that were not severe enough to warrant "sub-prime" classification, or borrowers who chose not to obtain a prime mortgage due to documentation requirements.

Ambac has also insured RMBS transactions that contain predominantly second-lien mortgage loans such as closed-end seconds and home equity lines of credit. A second-lien mortgage loan is a type of loan in which the borrower uses the equity in their home as collateral and the second-lien loan is subordinate to the first-lien loan outstanding on the home. The borrower is obligated to make monthly payments on both their first and second-lien loans. If the borrower defaults on the payments due under these loans and the property is subsequently liquidated, the liquidation proceeds are first utilized to pay off the first-lien loan (as well as costs due the servicer) and any remaining funds are applied to pay off the second-lien loan. As a result of this subordinate position to the first-lien loan, second-lien loans carry a significantly higher severity in the event of a loss, typically at or above 100% in the current housing market.

RMBS transaction-specific behavior is analyzed on a risk-priority basis. We employ a screening tool to assess the sufficiency of credit enhancement remaining in a transaction, as well as other adverse credit data that may identify deterioration. Transactions which are experiencing escalating delinquencies and increasing loss severities and/or which are experiencing declining levels of subordination or overcollateralization relative to collateral losses are identified as underperforming. For underperforming transactions, historical collateral performance is examined and future collateral performance and cash flows are projected and evaluated. These underperforming transactions are then included in Ambac's adversely classified credit list and assigned a credit classification consistent with the degree of underperformance.

Methodology for Projecting Expected Losses in our RMBS Portfolio

For the first three quarters of 2011, we utilized an equal blending of the results of the following approaches to determine expected losses for each transaction: (i) an internal roll-rate model to project losses for our second-lien transactions and a licensed third-party multi-scenario stochastic (Monte Carlo) cash flow model ("stochastic model") to project losses for our first-lien transactions; and (ii) a licensed statistical regression model ("regression model") to develop estimates of projected losses for both our second and first-lien transactions. As of December 31, 2011, we discontinued the use of both the stochastic model and the internal roll rate model and utilized only the regression model to develop estimates of projected losses.


Table of Contents
Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

In the months leading up to the transition to one model, we worked extensively with the regression model vendor to ensure the model was adequately projecting the performance of our transactions, and to provide additional information and data to improve the precision of the model's projections. Prior to solely utilizing the results of the regression model, our internal RMBS credit and quantitative professionals evaluated and analyzed the results of the regression model versus loss estimates generated utilizing our internal roll-rate model for second-lien transactions and our stochastic model for first-lien transactions. This cross disciplined team compared the specific drivers and methodology of the regression model with our existing approaches, and analyzed deal performance and model outputs across the portfolio. For example, the team considered the general reasonableness of the models' projected defaults of borrowers not currently in seriously delinquent or worse payment status and also conducted selective collateral analyses. The team also assessed the models' cumulative loss estimates and compared such estimates by asset type and vintage with rating agency and other published loss projections. Based upon this analysis, we believe the exclusive use of the regression model to project RMBS losses is reasonable. Although RMBS loss projections can be widely disparate and there can be no certainty with regard to projecting such losses, we believe our current reserving approach, including the regression model itself and the assumptions utilized, is sound and reasonable.

The regression model projects losses utilizing: (i) the RMBS transaction's collateral, characteristics and status, (ii) the RMBS transaction's payment waterfall structure, including the application of interest and principal payments and recoveries, (iii) projected home price appreciation ("HPA"), and (iv) projected interest rates. We provide the regression model vendor with both HPA projections from a recognized source and interest rate projections we develop from market sources. We generally utilize waterfall structures from a market accepted vendor of securitization deal structures. In some cases, we may utilize an internally developed waterfall structure when our legal and commercial analysis of the transaction's payment structure differs from the vendor's waterfall structure. We compare monthly claims submitted against the trustees' reports, third-party provided waterfall models and our understanding of the transactions' structures to identify and resolve discrepancies. We also review the vendor's published waterfall revisions to further identify material discrepancies. Resolving discrepancies is challenging and may take place over an extended period of time. Moreover, transaction documents are subject to interpretation, and our interpretation or that of the vendor and as reflected in our loss reserves may prove to be incorrect and/or not executed by the trustees directing cash flows in the future.

The regression model is subject to ongoing refinements resulting from industry research and performance that may better inform model assumptions, enhance model capabilities and other factors. For example, enhancements were made to the model in 2012 to better reflect the potential impact of borrowers' payment histories on default rates and to normalize HPA seasonality.

In our experience, market performance and model characteristics change and are updated through time and a regular review of models and the overall approach to loss estimation is beneficial. Our ability to drive change in the models we license is limited and subject to the expertise and views of the independent developer/vendor. On the other hand, our ability to estimate losses without such models is difficult and challenging for a large portfolio across multiple RMBS exposure types.

Summarized below is our approach to projecting claims and ultimate losses in our RMBS portfolio.

Second-Lien

The regression model estimates mortgage loan collateral performance, the effect of such collateral cash flows within the transaction waterfall and the liability structure we insure. Collateral performance is frequently modeled at the deal level given the paucity of mortgage loan level data for second-lien transactions. Without specific loan-level information, the deal-level approach processes a loan pool as if it were a single loan, selecting certain aggregated deal-level characteristics to then perform a statistical analysis using a multinomial logistic regression model. We use three home price appreciation ("HPA") projection scenarios to develop a base case as well as stress and upside cases. The highest probability is assigned to the base case, with lower probabilities to the stress and upside cases. This deal-level approach of the regression model takes a relatively complicated monthly cash flow and simplifies it into two parts: a borrower-behavior-dependent stage and a servicer-behavior-dependent stage. The borrower stage is designed to forecast . . .

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