TCW Asset Management has chosen Merrill Lynch as an underwriter of collateralized debt obligations off of its South Coast shelf, instead of Citigroup, its previous underwriter, according to several CDO professionals. Merrill is currently marketing the liabilities of South Coast IV, a $500 million CDO backed by cash flows from structured finance assets, on behalf of the Los Angeles-based money manager. Citigroup had acted as sole underwriter on the previous three South Coast CDOs, the first of which was issued in 2001 and the most recent of which closed in July, according to rating agency and rival CDO professionals.
Unlike term debt issuers which often rotate dealers, collateral managers of CDOs tend to use the same bank to underwrite their offerings, especially those sold under the same moniker, according to CDO professionals. It could not be determined why the asset manager opted to choose Merrill for this pending transaction, which is expected to be priced by the end of the year. A call to Marc Stearn, president of the firm, was referred to Mike Utley, a spokesman, who was unable to comment by press time. Janice Warne, co-head of the CDO group at Citigroup, did not return a call and Chris Ricciardi, head of structured credit products at Merrill Lynch, declined to comment. This is not the first time of late that Merrill, under Ricciardi, has received a CDO mandate from a firm that had previously used another bank. It also assumed the underwriting role for E*Trade Asset Management's second CDO, after the first deal had gone to Credit Suisse First Boston. (BW, 7/14).