10-K 1 ai-10k_20171231.htm 10-K ai-10k_20171231.htm

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

(Mark One)

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2017

OR

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the transition period from             to            

Commission File Number: 001-34374

 

ARLINGTON ASSET INVESTMENT CORP.

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

 

 

Virginia

 

54-1873198

(State or Other Jurisdiction of

Incorporation or Organization)

 

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification No.)

1001 Nineteenth Street North,

Arlington, VA 22209

(Address of Principal Executive Offices) (Zip Code)

(703) 373-0200

(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of Each Class of Securities

 

Name of Each Exchange on Which Registered

Class A Common Stock, Par Value $0.01

7.00% Series B Cumulative Perpetual Redeemable Preferred Stock

 

New York Stock Exchange

New York Stock Exchange

6.625% Senior Notes due 2023

6.75% Senior Notes due 2025

 

New York Stock Exchange

New York Stock Exchange

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act:    Yes    No  

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act:    Yes      No  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days:    Yes      No  

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files):    Yes      No  

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K:

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):

 

Large accelerated filer

 

  

Accelerated filer

 

 

 

 

 

Non-accelerated filer

 

  (Do not check if a small reporting company)

  

Small reporting company

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emerging growth company

 

 

 

 

 

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act): Yes      No  

The aggregate market value of the registrant’s Class A common stock held by non-affiliates computed by reference to the last reported price at which the registrant’s Class A common stock was sold on the New York Stock Exchange on June 30, 2017 was $347 million.

As of January 31, 2018, there were 28,140,721 shares of the registrant’s Class A common stock outstanding and no shares of the registrant’s Class B common stock outstanding.

Documents incorporated by reference: Portions of the registrant’s Definitive Proxy Statement for the 2018 Annual Meeting of Shareholders (to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission no later than 120 days after the end of the registrant’s fiscal year end) are incorporated by reference in this Annual Report on Form 10-K in response to Part II, Item 5 and Part III, Items 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14.

 

i


 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

 

 

 

Page

Cautionary Statement About Forward-Looking Information

 

iii

 

 

PART I

 

 

ITEM 1.

 

Business

 

1

ITEM 1A.

 

Risk Factors

 

9

ITEM 1B.

 

Unresolved Staff Comments

 

25

ITEM 2.

 

Properties

 

26

ITEM 3.

 

Legal Proceedings

 

26

ITEM 4.

 

Mine Safety Disclosures

 

26

 

 

PART II

 

 

ITEM 5.

 

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

 

27

ITEM 6.

 

Selected Financial Data

 

30

ITEM 7.

 

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

 

31

ITEM 7A.

 

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

 

52

ITEM 8.

 

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

 

54

ITEM 9.

 

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

 

54

ITEM 9A.

 

Controls and Procedures

 

54

ITEM 9B.

 

Other Information

 

55

 

 

PART III

 

 

ITEM 10.

 

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

 

56

ITEM 11.

 

Executive Compensation

 

56

ITEM 12.

 

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

 

56

ITEM 13.

 

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

 

56

ITEM 14.

 

Principal Accountant Fees and Services

 

56

 

 

PART IV

 

 

ITEM 15.

 

Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules

 

56

Signatures

 

 

 

59

Index to Consolidated Financial Statements of Arlington Asset Investment Corp.

 

F-1

 

 

ii


CAUTIONARY STATEMENT ABOUT FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION

When used in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, in future filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) or in press releases or other written or oral communications, statements which are not historical in nature, including those containing words such as “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “estimate,” “plan,” “continue,” “intend,” “should,” “may” or similar expressions, are intended to identify “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), and, as such, may involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and assumptions. The forward-looking statements we make in this Annual Report on Form 10-K include, but are not limited to, statements about the following:

 

the availability and terms of, and our ability to deploy, capital and our ability to grow our business through our current strategy focused on acquiring primarily residential mortgage-backed securities (“MBS”) that are either issued by U.S. government agencies or guaranteed as to principal and interest by U.S. government agencies or U.S. government sponsored agencies (“agency MBS”), and MBS issued by private organizations (“private-label MBS”);

 

our ability to forecast our tax attributes, which are based upon various facts and assumptions, and our ability to protect and use our net operating losses (“NOLs”) and net capital losses (“NCLs”) to offset future taxable income, including whether our shareholder rights plan (“Rights Plan”) will be effective in preventing an ownership change that would significantly limit our ability to utilize such losses;

 

our business, acquisition, leverage, asset allocation, operational, investment, hedging and financing strategies and the success of these strategies;

 

the effect of changes in prepayment rates, interest rates and default rates on our portfolio;

 

the effect of governmental regulation and actions on our business, including, without limitation, changes to monetary and fiscal policy and tax laws;

 

our ability to quantify and manage risk;

 

our ability to roll our repurchase agreements on favorable terms, if at all;

 

our liquidity;

 

our asset valuation policies;

 

our decisions with respect to, and ability to make, future dividends;

 

investing in assets other than MBS or pursuing business activities other than investing in MBS;

 

our ability to maintain our exclusion from the definition of “investment company” under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended (the “1940 Act”);

 

our decision to not elect to be taxed as a real estate investment trust (“REIT”) under the Internal Revenue Code; and

 

the effect of general economic conditions on our business.

Forward-looking statements are based on our beliefs, assumptions and expectations of our future performance, taking into account information currently in our possession. These beliefs, assumptions and expectations may change as a result of many possible events or factors, not all of which are known to us or are within our control. If a change occurs, the performance of our portfolio and our business, financial condition, liquidity and results of operations may vary materially from those expressed, anticipated or contemplated in our forward-looking statements. You should carefully consider these risks, along with the following factors that could cause actual results to vary from our forward-looking statements, before making an investment in our securities:

 

the overall environment for interest rates, changes in interest rates, interest rate spreads, the yield curve and prepayment rates, including the timing of increases in the Federal Funds rate by the U.S. Federal Reserve;

 

current conditions and further adverse developments in the residential mortgage market and the overall economy;

 

potential risk attributable to our mortgage-related portfolios, including changes in fair value;

 

our use of leverage and our dependence on repurchase agreements and other short-term borrowings to finance our mortgage-related holdings;

 

the availability of certain short-term liquidity sources;

 

competition for investment opportunities;

iii


 

the U.S. Federal Reserve’s balance sheet normalization program of gradually reducing its reinvestment of principal payments of U.S. Treasury securities and agency MBS;

 

the federal conservatorship of the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“Freddie Mac”) and related efforts, along with any changes in laws and regulations affecting the relationship between Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the federal government;

 

mortgage loan prepayment activity, modification programs and future legislative action;

 

changes in, and success of, our acquisition, hedging and leverage strategies, changes in our asset allocation and changes in our operational policies, all of which may be changed by us without shareholder approval;

 

failure of sovereign or municipal entities to meet their debt obligations or a downgrade in the credit rating of such debt obligations;

 

fluctuations of the value of our hedge instruments;

 

fluctuating quarterly operating results;

 

changes in laws and regulations and industry practices that may adversely affect our business;

 

volatility of the securities markets and activity in the secondary securities markets in the United States and elsewhere;

 

our ability to successfully expand our business into areas other than investing in MBS and our expectations of the returns of expanding into any such areas; and

 

the other important factors identified in this Annual Report on Form 10-K under the caption “Item 1A - Risk Factors.”

These and other risks, uncertainties and factors, including those described elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, could cause our actual results to differ materially from those projected in any forward-looking statements we make. All forward-looking statements speak only as of the date on which they are made. New risks and uncertainties arise over time and it is not possible to predict those events or how they may affect us. Except as required by law, we are not obligated to, and do not intend to, update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

 

 

 

iv


ITEM 1. BUSINESS

Unless the context otherwise requires or indicates, all references in this Annual Report on Form 10-K to “Arlington Asset” refer to Arlington Asset Investment Corp., and all references to “we,” “us,” “our,” and the “Company,” refer to Arlington Asset Investment Corp. and its consolidated subsidiaries.

Our Company

We are an investment firm that focuses on acquiring and holding a levered portfolio of residential mortgage-backed securities (“MBS”), consisting of agency MBS and private-label MBS. Agency MBS include residential mortgage pass-through certificates for which the principal and interest payments are guaranteed by a U.S. government agency or government sponsored enterprise (“GSE”), such as the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“Freddie Mac”). Private-label MBS, or non-agency MBS, include residential MBS that are not guaranteed by a GSE or the U.S. government. As of December 31, 2017, nearly all of our investment capital was allocated to agency MBS.  

We leverage prudently our investment portfolio so as to increase potential returns to our shareholders. We fund our investments primarily through short-term financing arrangements, principally though repurchase agreements. We enter into various hedging transactions to mitigate the interest rate sensitivity of our cost of borrowing and the value of our MBS portfolio.

We are a Virginia corporation and taxed as a C corporation for U.S. federal tax purposes. We are an internally managed company and do not have an external investment advisor.

Investment Strategy

We manage our investment portfolio with the goal of obtaining a high risk-adjusted return on capital. We evaluate the rates of return that can be achieved in each asset class and for each individual security within an asset class in which we invest. We then evaluate opportunities against the returns available in each of our investment alternatives and attempt to allocate our assets and capital with an emphasis toward what we believe to be the highest risk-adjusted return available. We expect this strategy will cause us to have different allocations of capital and leverage in different market environments.

Based on current market conditions, we believe our residential MBS portfolio has provided us with higher relative risk-adjusted rates of return than most other investment opportunities we have evaluated. Consequently, we have allocated all of our capital in this sector and have continued to analyze other opportunities and compare risk-adjusted returns to residential MBS assets. Within our residential MBS investment portfolio, we have gradually increased our investment capital allocation to agency MBS from private-label MBS. Currently, we believe that investments in agency MBS will provide a higher risk-adjusted return as compared to private-label MBS.  As of December 31, 2017, nearly all of our investment capital was allocated to agency MBS.  

In the future, we may invest in other types of residential mortgage assets such as residential mortgage loans, mortgage servicing rights and GSE credit risk transfer securities, as well as other types of assets, including commercial MBS, asset backed securities, other structured securities, commercial mortgage loans, commercial loans, and other real estate-related loans and securities. In addition, we also may pursue other business activities that would utilize our experience in analyzing investment opportunities and applying similar portfolio management skills. We may change our investment strategy at any time without the consent of our shareholders; accordingly, in the future, we could make investments or enter into hedging transactions that are different from, and possibly riskier than, the investments and associated hedging transactions described in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

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MBS Portfolio

The following table summarizes our MBS investment portfolio at fair value as of December 31, 2017 and 2016 (dollars in thousands):

 

 

 

December 31, 2017

 

 

December 31, 2016

 

Specified agency MBS

 

$

4,054,424

 

 

$

3,909,452

 

Inverse interest-only agency MBS

 

 

 

 

 

1,923

 

Total agency MBS

 

 

4,054,424

 

 

 

3,911,375

 

Net long agency TBA dollar roll positions (1)

 

 

1,296,978

 

 

 

720,027

 

Total agency investment portfolio

 

 

5,351,402

 

 

 

4,631,402

 

Private-label MBS

 

 

 

 

 

1,173

 

Private-label interest-only MBS

 

 

76

 

 

 

93

 

Total private-label investment portfolio

 

 

76

 

 

 

1,266

 

Total MBS investment portfolio

 

$

5,351,478

 

 

$

4,632,668

 

 

(1)

Represents the fair value of the agency MBS which underlie our TBA forward purchase and sale commitments executed as dollar roll transactions. In accordance with GAAP, our TBA forward purchase and sale commitments are reflected on the consolidated balance sheets as a component of “derivative assets, at fair value” and “derivative liabilities, at fair value,” with a collective net asset carrying value of $609 and $1,156 as of December 31, 2017 and 2016, respectively.

Agency MBS

Agency MBS consist of residential pass-through certificates that are securities representing undivided interests in “pools” of mortgage loans secured by residential real property. The monthly payments of both principal and interest of the securities are guaranteed by a U.S. government agency or GSE to holders of the securities, in effect “passing through” the monthly payments made by the individual borrowers on the mortgage loans that underlie the securities plus “guarantee payments” made in the event of any defaults on such mortgage loans, net of fees paid to the issuer/guarantor and servicers of the underlying mortgage loans, to the holders of the securities. Mortgage pass-through certificates distribute cash flows from the underlying collateral on a pro rata basis among the holders of the securities. Although the principal and interest payments are guaranteed by a U.S. government agency or GSE to the security holder, the market value of the agency MBS is not guaranteed by a U.S. government agency or GSE.

The agency MBS that we primarily invest in are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac agency MBS. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are stockholder-owned corporations chartered by Congress with a public mission to provide liquidity, stability, and affordability to the U.S. housing market. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are currently regulated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (“FHFA”), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”), the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), and the U.S. Department of the Treasury (“U.S. Treasury”), and are currently operating under the conservatorship of the FHFA. The U.S. Treasury has agreed to support the continuing operations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with any necessary capital contributions while in conservatorship. However, the U.S. government does not guarantee the securities, or other obligations, of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac operate in the secondary mortgage market. They provide funds to the mortgage market by purchasing residential mortgages from primary mortgage market institutions, such as commercial banks, savings and loan associations, mortgage banking companies, seller/servicers, securities dealers and other investors. Through the mortgage securitization process, they package mortgage loans into guaranteed MBS for sale to investors, such as us, in the form of pass-through certificates and guarantee the payment of principal and interest on the securities or on the underlying loans held within the securitization trust in exchange for guarantee fees. The underlying loans must meet certain underwriting standards established by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (referred to as “conforming loans”) and may be fixed or adjustable rate loans with original terms to maturity generally up to 40 years.

Agency MBS differ from other forms of traditional fixed-income securities which normally provide for periodic payments of interest in fixed amounts with principal payments at maturity. Instead, agency MBS provide for a monthly payment that consists of both interest and principal. In addition, outstanding principal on the agency MBS may be prepaid, without penalty, at par at any time due to prepayments on the underlying mortgage loans. These differences can result in significantly greater price and yield volatility than is the case with more traditional fixed-income securities.

As of December 31, 2017, the Company’s agency MBS portfolio was generally comprised of securities collateralized by pools of fixed rate mortgages that have original terms to maturity of 30 years. In the future, we may also invest in agency MBS collateralized by adjustable-rate mortgage loans (“ARMs”), hybrid ARMs, or loans with original terms to maturity of 15 or 20 years.

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We may also invest in agency MBS through agency collateralized mortgage obligations (“CMO”), which are structured securities representing divided interests in the cash flows of underlying agency residential pass-through certificates.  Agency CMOs consist of multiple classes of securities, called tranches, which have different maturities, coupon rates, and payment priorities designed to meet the risk and yield appetites of various classes of investors. CMOs also include “stripped” securities, whereby certain tranche holders receive only interest payments from the underlying securities while other tranche holders receive only principal payments.

We purchase agency MBS either in initial offerings or in the secondary market through broker-dealers or similar entities. We may also utilize to-be-announced (“TBA”) forward contracts in order to invest in agency MBS or to hedge our investments. A TBA security is a forward contract for the purchase or the sale of agency securities at a predetermined price, face amount, issuer, coupon and stated maturity on an agreed-upon future date, but the particular agency securities to be delivered are not identified until shortly before the TBA settlement date. We may also choose, prior to settlement, to move the settlement of these securities out to a later date by entering into an offsetting position (referred to as a “pair off”), net settling the paired off positions for cash, and simultaneously entering into a similar TBA contract for a later settlement date, which is commonly collectively referred to as a “dollar roll” transaction.

Private-Label MBS

We have and, depending upon market conditions, may in the future invest in private-label MBS, which are residential MBS that are not issued or guaranteed by a U.S. government agency or a GSE. Private-label MBS are often referred to as non-agency MBS. The private-label MBS in which we may invest are generally backed by a pool of single-family residential mortgage loans. These certificates are issued by originators of, investors in, and other owners of residential mortgage loans, including savings and loan associations, savings banks, commercial banks, mortgage banks, investment banks and special purpose “conduit” subsidiaries of these institutions. Private-label MBS can carry a significantly higher level of credit exposure relative to the credit exposure of agency MBS. The private-label MBS in which we may invest are generally non-investment grade or not rated by major rating agencies.

While agency MBS are backed by the express obligation or guarantee of a U.S. government agency or GSE as described above, private-label MBS are generally only supported by one or more forms of private (i.e., non-governmental) credit enhancement. These credit enhancements provide an extra layer of loss coverage in the event that losses are incurred upon foreclosure sales or other liquidations of underlying mortgaged properties in amounts that exceed the equity holder’s equity interest in the property. Forms of credit enhancement include limited issuer guarantees, reserve funds, private mortgage guaranty pool insurance, overcollateralization and subordination. Subordination is a form of credit enhancement frequently used and involves the issuance of classes of MBS that are subordinate to senior class MBS and, accordingly, are the first to absorb credit losses realized on the underlying mortgage loans. In addition, private-label MBS are generally purchased at a discount to par value, which may provide further protection to credit losses of the underlying residential mortgage loan collateral.

Private-label MBS are backed by pools of residential mortgages that can be composed of prime or non-prime mortgage loans. Prime mortgage loans are residential mortgage loans that generally conform to the underwriting guidelines of a U.S. government agency or a GSE but that do not carry any credit guarantee from either a U.S. government agency or a GSE. Jumbo prime mortgage loans are prime mortgage loans that conform to such underwriting guidelines except with respect to maximum loan size. Non-prime mortgage loans are residential mortgage loans that do not meet all of the underwriting guidelines of a U.S. government agency or a GSE. Consequently, these loans may carry higher credit risk than prime mortgage loans. Non-prime mortgage loans may have been originated through programs that allow borrowers to qualify for a mortgage loan with reduced or alternative forms of documentation. Non-prime mortgage loans include loans commonly referred to as alternative A-paper (“Alt-A”) or as subprime. Alt-A mortgage loans are generally considered riskier than prime mortgage loans and less risky than subprime mortgage loans. Alt-A mortgage loans are typically characterized by borrowers with less than full documentation, lower credit scores and higher loan-to-value ratios and include a higher percentage of investment properties as collateral. Subprime mortgage loans are considered to be of the lowest credit quality. These loans may also include “option-ARM” loans, which contain a feature providing the borrower the option, within certain constraints, to make lesser payments than otherwise required by the stated interest rate for a number of years, leading to negative amortization and increased loan balances.

Private-label MBS are generally issued by a securitization trust referred to as a Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduit (“REMIC”). The securitization trust will generally issue both senior and subordinated interests. Senior securities are those interests in a securitization that have the first right to cash flows and are last in line to absorb losses, and, therefore, have the least credit risk in a securitization transaction. In general, most, if not all, principal collected from the underlying mortgage loan pool is used to pay down the senior securities until certain performance tests are satisfied. If certain performance tests are satisfied, principal payments are allocated, generally on a pro rata basis, between the senior securities and the subordinated securities. Conversely, the most subordinate securities are those interests in a securitization that have the last right to cash flows and are first in line to absorb losses. Subordinate securities absorb the initial credit losses from a securitization structure, thus protecting the senior securities. Subordinate securities generally receive interest payments even if they do not receive principal payments.

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In addition, private-label MBS also may include a re-securitization of MBS which is also referred to as a “re-REMIC” security. For example, a re-REMIC security may consist of re-securitized senior classes of REMIC securities. In turn, the collateral of these senior class REMIC securities consists of the underlying residential mortgage loans. The re-REMIC securitization trust will generally issue both senior and subordinated interests similar to a REMIC securitization trust. A subordinated interest in a re-securitized senior class of REMIC securities may also be referred to as a “mezzanine” interest.

Financing Strategy

We use leverage to finance a portion of our MBS portfolio and to seek to increase potential returns to our shareholders. To the extent that revenue derived from our MBS portfolio exceeds our interest expense and other costs of the financing, our net income will be greater than if we had not borrowed funds and had not invested in the assets. Conversely, if the revenue from our MBS portfolio does not sufficiently cover the interest expense and other costs of the financing, our net income will be less or our net loss will be greater than if we had not borrowed funds.

Because of the interest rate risk inherent to our agency MBS investment strategy and, to extent we invest in private-label MBS, the credit risks inherent to such investment strategy, we closely monitor the leverage (debt-to-equity ratio) of our MBS portfolio. Our leverage may vary from time to time depending upon several factors, including changes in the value of the underlying MBS and hedge portfolio, changes in investment allocation between agency MBS and private-label MBS, the timing and amount of investment purchases or sales, and our assessment of risk and returns.

We finance our investments in MBS using short-term secured borrowings, which primarily consist of repurchase agreements. We have also issued, and may issue in the future, long-term unsecured notes as an additional source of financing.

When we engage in a repurchase transaction, we initially sell securities to the counterparty under a master repurchase agreement in exchange for cash from the counterparty. The counterparty is obligated to resell the same securities back to us at the end of the term of the repurchase agreement, which typically is 30 to 90 days, but may have maturities as short as one day or as long as one year. Amounts available to be borrowed under our repurchase agreements are dependent upon lender collateral requirements and the lender’s determination of the fair value of the securities pledged as collateral, which fluctuates with changes in interest rates, credit quality and liquidity conditions within the investment banking, mortgage finance and real estate industries. In addition, our counterparties apply a “haircut” to our pledged collateral, which means our collateral is valued, for the purposes of the repurchase transaction, at less than market value. Under our repurchase agreements, we typically pay a floating rate based on the London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”), plus or minus a fixed spread. These transactions are accounted for as secured financings, and we present the investment securities and related funding on our consolidated balance sheets.

We may also seek to obtain other sources of financing depending on market conditions. We may finance the acquisition of agency MBS by entering into TBA dollar roll transactions in which we would sell a TBA contract for current month settlement and simultaneously purchase from the same counterparty a similar TBA contract for a forward settlement date. Prior to the forward settlement date, we may choose to roll the position out to a later date by entering into an offsetting TBA position, net settling the paired off positions for cash, and simultaneously entering into a similar TBA contract for a later settlement date. In such transactions, the TBA contract purchased for a forward settlement date is priced at a discount to the TBA contract sold for settlement/pair-off in the current month. This difference (or discount) is referred to as the “price drop.” As discussed in “Non-GAAP Core Operating Income—Economic Net Interest Income,” we believe this price drop is the economic equivalent of net interest carry income (interest income less implied financing cost) earned from the underlying agency MBS over the roll period, which is commonly referred to as “dollar roll income.” Consequently, dollar roll transactions represent a form of off-balance sheet financing. In evaluating our overall leverage at risk, we consider both our on-balance and off-balance sheet financing.

Risk Management Strategy

In conducting our business, we are exposed to market risks, including interest rate, prepayment, extension, spread, credit, liquidity and regulatory risks. We use a variety of strategies to manage a portion of our exposure to these risks to the extent we believe to be prudent, taking into account our investment strategy and the cost of any hedging transactions. As a result, we may not hedge certain interest rate, prepayment, extension, or credit risks if we believe that bearing such risks enhances our return relative to our risk/return profile. Our hedging instruments are generally not designed to protect our net book value from “spread risk” (also referred to as “basis risk”), which is the risk of an increase of the spread between the market yield on our agency MBS and the benchmark yield on U.S. Treasury securities or interest rate swaps.

 

Interest Rate Risk

We hedge some of our exposure to potential interest rate mismatches between the interest we earn on our long-term investments and the interest we pay on our short-term borrowings. We enter into various hedging transactions to mitigate the

4


interest rate sensitivity of our cost of borrowing and the value of our MBS portfolio. Because a majority of our funding is in the form of repurchase agreements, our financing costs fluctuate based on short-term interest rate indices, such as LIBOR. Because the vast majority of our investments are assets that have fixed rates of interest and generally mature in up to 30 years, the interest we earn on these assets generally does not move in tandem with the interest rates that we pay on our repurchase agreements, which generally have a maturity of less than 90 days. In addition, as interest rates rise, the fair value of our fixed-rate agency MBS may be expected to decline.  We may experience reduced income, losses, or a significant reduction in our book value due to adverse interest rate movements. In order to attempt to mitigate a portion of such risk, we utilize certain hedging techniques to attempt to economically lock in a portion of the net spread between the interest we earn on our assets and the interest we pay on our financing costs and to protect our net book value.  

Additionally, because prepayments on residential mortgages generally accelerate when interest rates decrease and slow when interest rates increase, mortgage securities typically exhibit “negative convexity”. In other words, certain mortgage securities in which we invest may increase in value to a lesser degree than similar duration bonds, or even fall in value, as interest rates decline. Conversely, certain mortgage securities in which we invest may decrease in value to a greater degree than similar duration bonds as interest rates increase. In order to manage this risk, we monitor, among other things, the “duration gap” between our mortgage assets and our hedge portfolio as well as our convexity exposure. Duration is an estimate of the relative expected percentage change in market value of our mortgage assets or our hedge portfolio that would be caused by a parallel change in short and long-term interest rates. Convexity exposure relates to the way the duration of our mortgage assets or our hedge portfolio changes when the interest rate or prepayment environment changes.

The value of our mortgage assets may also be adversely impacted by fluctuations in the shape of the yield curve or by changes in the market's expectation about the volatility of future interest rates. We analyze our exposure to non-parallel changes in interest rates and to changes in the market's expectation of future interest rate volatility and take actions to attempt to mitigate these exposures.

 

Prepayment Risk

Because residential borrowers have the option to prepay their mortgage loans at par at any time, we face the risk that we will experience a return of principal on our investments more quickly than anticipated, which we refer to as prepayment risk. Prepayment risk generally increases when interest rates decline. In this scenario, our financial results may be adversely affected as we may have to re-invest that principal at potentially lower yields.

We may purchase securities that have a higher interest rate than the then-prevailing market interest rate. In exchange for this higher interest rate, we may pay a premium to par value to acquire such securities.  In accordance with GAAP, we amortize this premium as a reduction to interest income under the contractual effective interest method such that a proportional amount of the unamortized premium is amortized as principal prepayments occur.  If a security is prepaid in whole or in part at a faster rate than originally expected, we will amortize the purchase premium at a faster pace, resulting in a lower effective return on our investment than originally expected.

We also may purchase securities that have a lower interest rate than the then-prevailing market interest rate.  In exchange for this lower interest rate, we may pay a discount to par value to acquire such securities.  In accordance with GAAP, we accrete this discount as an increase to interest income under the contractual effective interest method such that a proportional amount of the unamortized discount is accreted as principal prepayments occur. If a security is prepaid in whole or in part at a slower rate than originally expected, we will accrete the purchased discount at a slower pace resulting in a lower effective return on our investment than originally expected.  

 

Extension Risk

Because residential borrowers have the option to make only scheduled payments on their mortgage loans, rather than prepay their mortgage loans, we face the risk that a return of capital on our investment will occur more slowly than anticipated, which we refer to as extension risk. Extension risk generally increases when interest rates rise. In this scenario, our financial results may be adversely affected as we may have to finance our investments at potentially higher costs without the ability to reinvest principal into higher yielding securities.

 

Spread Risk

 

Because the spread between the market yield on our investments and benchmark interest rates, such as U.S. Treasury rates and interest rate swap rates, may vary, we are exposed to spread risk. The inherent spread risk associated with our agency MBS and the resulting fluctuations in fair value of these securities can occur independent of interest rates and may relate to other factors impacting the mortgage and fixed income markets, such as actual or anticipated monetary policy actions by the U.S. Federal Reserve, liquidity, or changes in market participants’ required rates of return on different assets. Consequently,

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while we use interest rate derivative instruments to attempt to protect our net book value against changes in benchmark interest rates, such instruments typically will not mitigate spread risk and, therefore, the value of our agency MBS and our net book value could decline.

 

Credit Risk

To the extent we invest in private-label MBS, we accept mortgage credit exposure at levels we deem prudent within the context of our overall investment strategy. We may retain all or a portion of the credit risk on the loans underlying private-label MBS in which we may invest. We seek to manage this risk through prudent asset selection, pre-acquisition due diligence, post-acquisition performance monitoring, and the sale of assets for which we identify negative credit trends. Additionally, we vary the percentage mix of our private-label and agency MBS investments in an effort to actively adjust our credit exposure and to improve the risk/return profile of our investment portfolio.

 

Liquidity Risk

Liquidity risk is the risk that we may be unable to meet our obligations as they come due because of our inability to liquidate assets or obtain funding. Liquidity risk also includes the risk of having to sell assets at a loss to generate liquid funds.

 

Regulatory Risk

Regulatory risk is the risk of loss, including fines, penalties or restrictions in our activities from failing to comply with current or future federal, state or local laws (including federal and state securities laws), and rules and regulations pertaining to financial services activities, including the loss of our exclusion from regulation as an investment company under the 1940 Act.

The principal instruments that we use to hedge a portion of our exposure to interest rate, prepayment and extension risks are interest rate derivative instruments primarily consisting of interest rate swaps, U.S. Treasury note futures, options on U.S. Treasury note futures and options on agency MBS.  We also may use other interest rate derivative instruments such as Eurodollar futures, interest rate swap futures, interest rate swaptions, and short TBA positions, from time to time.

In addition to the hedging instruments discussed above, we also manage our exposure to interest rate, prepayment and extension risk through asset selection. We generally seek to invest in agency MBS that are specifically selected for their relatively lower propensity for prepayment. The pools of residential mortgage loans securing these agency MBS are commonly referred to as “specified pools.” These specified pools may include mortgage loans that (i) have low loan balances, (ii) are originated through the Home Affordable Refinance Program (“HARP”) or some other government program, (iii) are originated in certain states or geographic areas, (iv) have high loan-to-value ratios, (v) are the obligations of borrowers with credit scores that fall toward the lower end of the range of GSEs’ underwriting standards, or (vi) are secured by investor properties. The borrowers of these mortgage loans are believed to have less incentive to refinance. Accordingly, agency MBS collateralized by mortgage loans with these characteristics are believed to be better “protected” from prepayment risk than agency MBS collateralized by more generic pools of mortgage loans. In general, agency MBS backed by specified pools trade at a price premium over generic agency TBA securities. As of December 31, 2017, our on-balance sheet agency MBS portfolio is comprised primarily of securities backed by specified pools selected for their lower prepayment characteristics.

The risk management actions we take may lower our earnings and dividends in the short term to further our objective of maintaining attractive levels of earnings and dividends over the long term. In addition, some of our hedges are intended to provide protection against larger rate moves and, as a result, may be relatively ineffective for smaller changes in interest rates. There can be no certainty that our projections of our exposures to interest rate, prepayment, extension, credit or other risks will be accurate or that our hedging activities will be effective and, therefore, actual results could differ materially.

Competition

Our success depends, in large part, on our ability to acquire MBS at favorable spreads over our borrowing costs. In acquiring these assets, we compete with mortgage finance and specialty finance companies, savings and loan associations, banks, mortgage bankers, insurance companies, mutual funds, institutional investors, mortgage real estate investment trusts, investment banking firms, other lenders, the U.S. Treasury, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, other governmental bodies, and other entities. In addition, there are numerous entities with similar asset acquisition objectives and others may be organized in the future which may increase competition for the available supply of MBS that meet our investment objectives. Additionally, our investment strategy is dependent on the amount of financing available to us in the repurchase agreement market, which may also be impacted by competing borrowers. Our investment strategy will be adversely impacted if we are not able to secure financing on favorable terms, if at all. In addition, competition is intense for the recruitment and retention of qualified professionals. Our ability to continue to compete effectively in our

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businesses will depend upon our continued ability to attract new professionals and retain and motivate our existing professionals. For a further discussion of the competitive factors affecting our business, see “Item 1A - Risk Factors” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

Our Tax Status

Arlington Asset is subject to taxation as a corporation under Subchapter C of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”). As of December 31, 2017, the Company had estimated net operating loss (“NOL”) carryforwards of $61 million that can be used to offset future taxable ordinary income. The Company’s NOL carryforwards begin to expire in 2027. As of December 31, 2017, the Company also had estimated net capital loss (“NCL”) carryforwards of $314 million that can be used to offset future net capital gains. The scheduled expirations of the Company’s NCL carryforwards are $137 million in 2019, $103 million in 2020, $70 million in 2021, and $4 million in 2021. Through December 31, 2017, the Company was subject to the federal alternative minimum tax (“AMT”).  However, beginning January 1, 2018, the Company is no longer subject to federal AMT.   As of December 31, 2017, the Company also had AMT credit carryforwards of $9 million that can be used to offset future regular tax liabilities.   For the tax years 2018, 2019 and 2020, to the extent that AMT credit carryovers exceed the regular tax liability, 50% of the excess AMT credit carryforwards would be refundable in that year with any remaining AMT credit carryforwards fully refundable in 2021.

The Company’s ability to use its NOLs, NCLs and built-in losses would be limited if it experienced an “ownership change” under Section 382 of the Code. In general, an “ownership change” would occur if there is a cumulative change in the ownership of the Company’s common stock of more than 50% by one or more “5% shareholders” during a three-year period. The Board of Directors adopted and the Company’s shareholders approved a shareholder rights agreement (“Rights Plan”) in an effort to protect against a possible limitation on the Company’s ability to use its NOL carryforwards, NCL carryforwards, and built-in losses under Sections 382 and 383 of the Code. The Rights Plan was adopted to dissuade any person or group from acquiring 4.9% or more of the Company’s outstanding Class A common stock without the approval of the Board of Directors and triggering an “ownership change” as defined by Section 382.  

Our Exclusion from Regulation as an Investment Company

We intend to operate so as to be excluded from regulation under the 1940 Act. We rely on Section 3(c)(5)(C) of the 1940 Act, which provides an exclusion for entities that are “primarily engaged in purchasing or otherwise acquiring . . . interests in real estate.” Section 3(c)(5)(C) as interpreted by the staff of the SEC provides an exclusion from registration for a company if at least 55% of its assets, on an unconsolidated basis, consist of qualified assets such as whole loans and whole pool agency certificates, and if at least 80% of its assets, on an unconsolidated basis, are real estate related assets. We will need to ensure not only that we qualify for an exclusion or exemption from regulation under the 1940 Act, but also that each of our subsidiaries qualifies for such an exclusion or exemption. We intend to maintain our exclusion by monitoring the value of our interests in our subsidiaries. We may not be successful in this regard.

If we fail to maintain our exclusion or secure a different exclusion or exemption if necessary, we may be required to register as an investment company, or we may be required to acquire or dispose of assets in order to meet our exemption. Any such asset acquisitions or dispositions may include assets that we would not acquire or dispose of in the ordinary course of business, may be at unfavorable prices and result in a decline in the price of our common stock. If we are required to register under the 1940 Act, we would become subject to substantial regulation with respect to our capital structure (including our ability to use leverage), management, operations, transactions with affiliated persons (as defined in the 1940 Act), and portfolio composition, including restrictions with respect to diversification and industry concentration and other matters. Accordingly, registration under the 1940 Act could limit our ability to follow our current investment and financing strategies and result in a decline in the price of our common stock.

Available Information

You may read and copy the definitive proxy materials and any other reports, statements or other information that we file with the SEC at the SEC’s public reference room at 100 F Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20549. You may call the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330 for further information on the public reference room. Our SEC filings are also available to the public from commercial document retrieval services and at the internet website maintained by the SEC at http://www.sec.gov. These SEC filings may also be inspected at the offices of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), which is located at 20 Broad Street, New York, New York 10005.

Our website address is http://www.arlingtonasset.com. We make available free of charge through our website this Annual Report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act, as well as the annual report to shareholders and Section 16 reports on Forms 3, 4 and 5 as soon as reasonably practicable after such documents are electronically filed with, or furnished to, the SEC. In addition, our Bylaws, Statement of Business Principles (our code of ethics), Corporate Governance Guidelines, and the charters of our Audit, Compensation, and Nominating and Governance Committees are available on our website and are available in print, without charge, to any shareholder upon written request in writing c/o our Secretary at 1001 Nineteenth Street North, Arlington, Virginia

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22209. Information on our website should not be deemed to be a part of this report or incorporated into any other filings we make with the SEC.

Employees

As of December 31, 2017, we had 12 employees. Our employees are not subject to any collective bargaining agreement, and we believe that we have good relations with our employees.

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ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS

Investing in our company involves various risks, including the risk that you might lose your entire investment. Our results of operations depend upon many factors including our ability to implement our business strategy, the availability of opportunities to acquire assets, the level and volatility of interest rates, the cost and availability of short- and long-term credit, financial market conditions and general economic conditions.

The following discussion concerns the material risks associated with our business. These risks are interrelated, and you should consider them as a whole. Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us may also materially and adversely affect the value of our capital stock and our ability to pay dividends to our shareholders. In connection with the forward-looking statements that appear in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including these risk factors and elsewhere, you should carefully review the section entitled “Cautionary Statement About Forward-Looking Information.”

Risks Related to our Investing and Financing Activities

Changes in interest rates and adverse market conditions could negatively affect the value of our MBS investments and increase the cost of our borrowings, which could result in reduced earnings or losses and negatively affect the cash available for distribution to our shareholders.

Our investment portfolio consists primarily of fixed-rate agency MBS with long-term maturities.  The majority of our funding is in the form of repurchase agreements with short-term maturities with a floating interest rate based on LIBOR.  We are exposed to interest rate risk that fluctuates based on changes in the level or volatility of interest rates and in the shape and slope of the yield curve.   Under a normal yield curve, long-term interest rates are higher relative to short-term interest rates.  In certain instances, the yield curve can become inverted when the short-term interest rates are higher than the long-term interest rates.  

A significant risk associated with our portfolio of mortgage-related assets is the risk that both long-term and short-term interest rates will increase significantly. If long-term rates were to increase significantly, the market value of fixed-rate agency MBS would decline and the duration and weighted average life of these MBS would increase. We could realize a loss in the future if the agency MBS in our portfolio are sold. If short-term interest rates were to increase, the financing costs on the repurchase agreements we enter into in order to finance the purchase of MBS would increase, thereby decreasing net interest margin if all other factors remain constant.

Hedging against interest rate exposure may not completely insulate us from interest rate risk and may adversely affect our earnings, which could adversely affect cash available for distribution to our shareholders.

We engage in certain hedging transactions to limit our exposure from the adverse effects of changes in interest rates on the borrowing costs of our short-term financing agreements and the value of our fixed-rate agency MBS investment portfolio, and therefore may expose our company to the risks associated with such transactions. We have historically entered into and may enter into interest rate swap agreements, U.S. Treasury note futures, Eurodollar futures, interest rate swap futures, options on U.S. Treasury note futures, options on agency MBS, TBAs or may pursue other hedging strategies. Our hedging activities are generally designed to limit certain exposures and not to eliminate them. Hedging against a decline in the values of our portfolio positions does not eliminate the possibility of fluctuations in the values of such positions or prevent losses if the values of such positions decline. Such hedging transactions may also limit the opportunity for gain if the values of the portfolio positions should increase. Moreover, it may not be possible to hedge against an interest rate fluctuation that is so generally anticipated that we are not able to enter into a hedging transaction at an acceptable price.

There are no perfect hedging strategies, and interest rate hedging may fail to protect us from loss. The success of our hedging transactions depends on our ability to accurately predict movements of interest rates and credit spreads. In addition, the degree of correlation between price movements of the instruments used in a hedging strategy and price movements in the portfolio positions being hedged may vary. Moreover, for a variety of reasons, we may not seek to establish a perfect correlation between such hedging instruments and the portfolio holdings being hedged. Any such imperfect correlation may prevent us from achieving the intended hedge and expose us to risk of loss. Furthermore, our hedging strategies may adversely affect us because hedging activities involve costs that we incur regardless of the effectiveness of the hedging activity, which may decrease our net interest margin. Our hedging activity will vary in scope based on the level and volatility of interest rates and principal prepayments, the amount of leverage, the type of MBS held, and other changing market conditions.

Interest rate hedging may fail to protect or could adversely affect us because, among other things:

 

interest rate hedging can be expensive, particularly during periods of rising and volatile interest rates;

 

available interest rate hedging may not correspond directly with the interest rate risk for which protection is sought;

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the duration of the hedge may not match the duration of the related asset or liability;

 

the party owing money in the hedging transaction may default on its obligation to pay.

Our hedging activity may adversely affect our earnings and result in volatile fluctuations in the fair value of our hedges, net income and book value per share, which could adversely affect cash available for distribution to our shareholders and the value of your investment in our securities.

Our hedging strategies are generally not designed to mitigate spread risk.

When the market spread widens between the yield on our mortgage assets and benchmark interest rates, our net book value could decline if the fair value of our mortgage assets falls by more than the offsetting fair value increases on our hedging instruments tied to the underlying benchmark interest rates or if the fair value of our mortgage assets do not increase as much as the fair value decreases on our hedging instruments.  We refer to this scenario as an example of “spread risk” or “basis risk.” The spread risk associated with our mortgage assets and the resulting fluctuations in fair value of these securities can occur independently of changes in benchmark interest rates and may relate to other factors impacting the mortgage and fixed income markets, such as actual or anticipated monetary policy actions by the Federal Reserve, market liquidity, or changes in required rates of return on different assets. Consequently, while we use various interest rate hedging instruments to attempt to protect against moves in interest rates, such instruments typically will not protect our net book value against spread risk, which could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.

Declines in the market values of our MBS portfolio may adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations, and market price of our Class A common stock, Series B Preferred Stock or Senior Notes.

Our MBS investments are recorded at fair value with changes in fair value reported in net income. As a result, a decline in the fair value of our investments would reduce our net income and book value per share. Fair values for our MBS investments can be volatile. The fair values can change rapidly and significantly and changes can result from various factors, including changes in interest rates, actual and perceived risk, supply, demand, expected prepayment rates, and actual and projected credit performance. Declines in the market values of our MBS portfolio would adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations, and market price of our Class A common stock, Series B Preferred Stock or Senior Notes.

Our mortgage investing strategy involves leverage, which could adversely affect our operations and negatively affect cash available for distribution to our shareholders.

We may increase our investment exposure in MBS or other investment opportunities by funding a portion of those acquisitions with repurchase agreements or other borrowing arrangements. To the extent that revenue derived from such levered assets exceeds our interest expense, hedging expense and other costs of the financing, our net income will be greater than if we had not borrowed funds and had not invested in such assets on a leveraged basis. Conversely, if the revenue from our MBS does not sufficiently cover the interest expense, hedging expense and other costs of the financing, our net income will be less or our net loss will be greater than if we had not borrowed funds. Because of the credit and interest rate risks inherent in our strategy, we closely monitor the leverage of our MBS portfolio. From time to time, our leverage ratio may increase or decrease due to several factors, including changes in the value of the underlying portfolio, changes in investment allocations and the timing and amount of acquisitions.

An increase in our borrowing costs relative to the interest we receive on our assets may impair our profitability and thus our cash available for distribution to our shareholders.

As our repurchase agreements and other short-term borrowings mature, we must either enter into new borrowings or liquidate certain of our investments at times when we might not otherwise choose to do so. Lenders may also seek to use a maturity date as an opportune time to demand additional terms or increased collateral requirements that could be adverse to us and harm our operations. Due to the short-term nature of our repurchase agreements used to finance our MBS investments, our borrowing costs are particularly sensitive to changes in short-term interest rates. An increase in short-term interest rates when we seek new borrowings would reduce the spread between our returns on our assets and the cost of our borrowings. This would reduce the returns on our assets, which might reduce earnings and in turn cash available for distribution to our shareholders.

Differences in the stated maturity of our fixed-rate assets and short-term borrowings may adversely affect our profitability.

We rely primarily on short-term, variable rate borrowings to acquire fixed-rate securities with long-term maturities. The relationship between short-term and longer-term interest rates is often referred to as the “yield curve.” Ordinarily, short-term interest rates are lower than longer-term interest rates. If short-term interest rates rise disproportionately relative to longer-term interest rates, resulting in a “flattening” of the yield curve, our borrowing costs may increase more rapidly than the interest income earned on our

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assets. Because our investments generally bear interest at longer-term rates than we pay on our borrowings under our repurchase agreements, a flattening of the yield curve would tend to decrease our net interest income and the market value of our investment portfolio. Additionally, to the extent cash flows from investments that return scheduled and unscheduled principal are reinvested, the spread between the yields on the new investments and available borrowing rates may decline, which would likely decrease our net income. It is also possible that short-term interest rates may exceed longer-term interest rates (a yield curve “inversion”), in which event, our borrowing costs may exceed our interest income and we could incur operating losses and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders could be hindered.

Our lenders may require us to provide additional collateral, especially when the market values for our investments decline, which may restrict us from leveraging our assets as fully as desired, and reduce our liquidity, earnings and cash available for distribution to our shareholders.

We currently use repurchase agreements to finance our investments in residential MBS. Our repurchase agreements allow the lenders, to varying degrees, to determine a new market value of the collateral to reflect current market conditions. If the market value of the securities pledged or sold by us to a funding source declines in value, we may be required by the lender to provide additional collateral or pay down a portion of the funds advanced on minimal notice, which is known as a margin call. Posting additional collateral will reduce our liquidity and limit our ability to leverage our assets, which could adversely affect our business. Additionally, in order to satisfy a margin call, we may be required to liquidate assets at a disadvantageous time, which could cause us to incur further losses and adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition, and may impair our ability to make distributions to our shareholders. In the event we do not have sufficient liquidity to satisfy these margin calls, lending institutions can accelerate our indebtedness, increase our borrowing rates, liquidate our collateral and terminate our ability to borrow. Such a situation would likely result in a rapid deterioration of our financial condition and possibly necessitate a filing for protection under the bankruptcy code.

If we fail to maintain adequate financing through repurchase agreements or to renew or replace existing borrowings upon maturity, we will be limited in our ability to implement our investing activities, which will adversely affect our results of operations and may, in turn, negatively affect the market value of our Class A common stock, Series B Preferred Stock or Senior Notes and our ability to make dividends to our shareholders.

We depend upon repurchase agreement financing to purchase our target assets and reach our target leverage ratio. We cannot assure you that sufficient repurchase agreement financing will be available to us in the future on terms that are acceptable to us. Our lenders also may revise their eligibility requirements for the types of assets they are willing to finance or the terms of such financings based on, among other factors, the regulatory environment and their perceived risk. If we fail to obtain adequate funding or to renew or replace existing funding upon maturity, we will be limited in our ability to implement our business strategy, which will adversely affect our results of operations and may, in turn, negatively affect the market value of our Class A common stock, Series B Preferred Stock or Senior Notes and our ability to make dividends to our shareholders.

New assets we acquire may not generate yields as attractive as yields on our current assets, resulting in a decline in our earnings over time.

We receive monthly cash flows consisting of principal and interest payments from many of our assets. Principal payments reduce the size of our current portfolio (i.e., reduce the amount of our long-term assets) and generate cash for us. We may also sell assets from time to time as part of our portfolio management and capital reallocation strategies. In order to maintain and grow our portfolio size and our earnings, we must reinvest in new assets a portion of the cash flows we receive from principal and interest payments and asset sales. New investment opportunities may not generate the same investment returns as our current investment portfolio. If the assets we acquire in the future earn lower returns than the assets we currently own, our reported earnings will likely decline over time as the older assets pay down, are called, or are sold.

Clearing facilities or exchanges upon which some of our hedging instruments are traded may increase margin requirements on our hedging instruments in the event of adverse economic developments.

Our interest rate hedging agreements typically require that we pledge collateral on such agreements. We exchange collateral with the counterparties to our interest rate hedging instruments at least on a daily basis based upon daily changes in fair value (also known as “variation margin”) as measured by the central clearinghouse through which those derivatives are cleared. In addition, the central clearinghouse requires market participants to deposit and maintain an “initial margin” amount which is determined by the clearinghouse and is generally intended to be set at a level sufficient to protect the clearinghouse from the maximum estimated single-day price movement in that market participant’s contracts. The clearing exchanges have the sole discretion to determine the value of derivative instruments.  In the event of a margin call, we must generally provide additional collateral on the same business day. In response to events having or expected to have adverse economic consequences or which create market uncertainty, clearing facilities or exchanges upon which our hedging instruments are traded may require us to pledge additional collateral against our hedging instruments. In the event that future adverse economic developments or market uncertainty result in increased margin requirements for

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our hedging instruments, it could materially adversely affect our liquidity position, business, financial condition and results of operations.

Our agency MBS investments that are guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are subject to the risk that these GSEs may not be fully able to satisfy their guarantee obligations or that these guarantee obligations may be repudiated, which would adversely affect the value of our investment portfolio and our ability to sell or finance these securities.

All of the agency MBS in which we invest depend on a steady stream of payments on the mortgages underlying the MBS. The interest and principal payments we receive on agency MBS issued by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac are guaranteed by these GSEs, but are not guaranteed by the U.S. government. To the extent these GSEs are not able to fully satisfy their guarantee obligations or that these guarantee obligations are repudiated or otherwise defaulted upon, the value of our investment portfolio and our ability to sell or finance these securities would be adversely affected.

The conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and related efforts, along with any changes in laws and regulations affecting the relationship between Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the federal government, may adversely affect our business.

The payments of principal and interest we receive on the agency MBS in which we invest are guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  The guarantees of agency MBS created by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not backed by the full faith and credit of the United States.  

In response to the general market instability, and more specifically, the financial condition of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 established the FHFA as the new regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2008, the FHFA, together with the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Federal Reserve, announced a comprehensive plan to boost investor confidence in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, support the availability of mortgage financing and protect taxpayers. Under this plan, the FHFA placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorship, which is a statutory process pursuant to which the FHFA operates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in an effort to stabilize the entities.  As part of these actions, the U.S. Treasury has agreed to support the continuing operations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with any necessary capital contributions up to a maximum capital commitment to each GSE while in conservatorship. Although the U.S. Treasury has committed to support the positive net worth of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two GSEs could default on their guarantee obligations, which would materially and adversely affect the value of our agency MBS.

In addition, the future roles of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could be significantly reduced or eliminated and the nature of their guarantees could be eliminated or considerably limited relative to historical measurements. Any changes to the nature of the guarantees provided by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could redefine what constitutes agency MBS, have broad adverse market implications and negatively impact us. The FHFA and both houses of Congress have each discussed and considered separate measures intended to restructure the U.S. housing finance system and the operations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The passage of any additional new legislation affecting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may create market uncertainty and reduce the actual or perceived credit quality of securities issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government through a new or existing successor entity to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. If the charters of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were revoked, it is unclear what effect, if any, this would have on the value of the existing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac agency MBS.  We anticipate debate and discussion on residential housing and mortgage reform to continue throughout 2018; however, we cannot be certain if any housing and/or mortgage-related legislation will emerge from committee, be approved by Congress, or be affected by any executive actions and, if so, what the effect will be on our business.

The impact to the agency MBS market of the implementation of a common securitization platform for agency securities is uncertain.

The FHFA established a goal of developing a new secondary mortgage infrastructure for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac referred to as the common securitization platform (“CSP”).  To achieve this strategic goal, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac formed a joint venture, Common Securitization Solutions, LLC (“CSS”), to develop and operate a CSP that will support the GSE’s single-family mortgage securitization activities, including the issuance by both GSEs of a common, single mortgage-backed security (“Single Security”).  The Single Security would finance the same types of fixed-rate mortgages that currently back agency MBS eligible for delivery into the TBA market.  The two principal objectives of the FHFA of undertaking this initiative are to establish a single, liquid market for agency MBS issued by both GSEs that are backed by fixed-rate loans and to maintain the liquidity of this market over time, including reducing the trading value disparities between Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac agency MBS.  CSS is currently in the process of developing the CSP and Single Security. The GSEs and CSS expect to complete the Single Security initiative and issue the first Single Security in the second quarter of 2019 with the impact on forward trading in the TBA market to commence in the first quarter of 2019.  Prior to the implementation of the Single Security initiative, we will need to plan and prepare our internal operational and investment procedures to accommodate the new Single Security.  If the objectives of the Single Security initiative is fully realized, it is uncertain what the effects might be on the agency MBS market and its impact on the Company’s investments in agency MBS.

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Market conditions may disrupt the historical relationship between interest rate changes and prepayment trends, which would make it more difficult for us to analyze our investment portfolio.

Our success depends on our ability to analyze the relationship of changing interest rates on prepayments of the mortgage loans that underlie our MBS. Changes in interest rates and prepayments affect the market price of MBS that we intend to purchase and any MBS that we hold at a given time. As part of our overall portfolio risk management, we analyze interest rate changes and prepayment trends separately and collectively to assess their effects on our investment portfolio. In conducting our analysis, we depend on certain assumptions based upon historical trends with respect to the relationship between interest rates and prepayments under normal market conditions. Dislocations in the residential mortgage market and other developments may change the way that prepayment trends have historically responded to interest rate changes and, consequently, may negatively impact our ability to (i) assess impact of future changes in interest rates and prepayments on the market value of our investment portfolio, (ii) implement our hedging strategies, and (iii) implement techniques to reduce our prepayment rate volatility would be significantly affected. If we are unable to accurately forecast interest and prepayment rates, our financial position and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.

Changes in prepayment rates may adversely affect our profitability and are difficult to predict.

Our investment portfolio includes securities backed by pools of residential mortgage loans. For securities backed by pools of residential mortgage loans, we receive income, generally, from the payments that are made by the borrowers of the underlying mortgage loans.  When borrowers prepay their mortgage loans at rates that are faster or slower than expected, it results in prepayments that are faster or slower than expected on our investments.  These faster or slower than expected payments may adversely affect our profitability.  

We may purchase securities that have a higher interest rate than the then-prevailing market interest rate. In exchange for this higher interest rate, we may pay a premium to par value to acquire such securities.  In accordance with GAAP, we amortize this premium as a reduction to interest income under the contractual interest method so that a proportional amount of the unamortized premium is amortized as principal prepayments occur.  If a security is prepaid in whole or in part at a faster rate than originally expected, we will amortize the purchased premium at a faster pace resulting in a lower effective return on our investment than originally expected.

We also may purchase securities that have a lower interest rate than the then-prevailing market interest rate.  In exchange for this lower interest rate, we may pay a discount to par value to acquire such securities.  In accordance with GAAP, we accrete this discount as an increase to interest income under the contractual interest method so that a proportional amount of the unamortized discount is accreted as principal prepayments occur. If a security is prepaid in whole or in part at a slower rate than originally expected, we will accrete the purchased discount at a slower pace resulting in a lower effective return on our investment than originally expected.

Moreover, if prepayment rates decrease due to a rising interest rate environment, the average life or duration of our fixed-rate assets will generally be extended. This could have a negative impact on our results from operations, as the maturities of our interest rate hedges are fixed and will, therefore, cover a smaller percentage of our funding exposure on our MBS assets to the extent that the average lives of the mortgages underlying such MBS increase due to slower prepayments.

Homeowners tend to prepay mortgage loans more quickly when interest rates decline. Although prepayment rates generally increase when interest rates fall and decrease when interest rates rise, changes in prepayment rates are difficult to predict. Prepayments may also occur as the result of an improvement in the borrower’s ability to refinance the loan as a result of home price appreciation or wage growth.  Prepayments can also occur when borrowers sell the property and use the sale proceeds to prepay the mortgage as part of a physical relocation or when borrowers default on their mortgages and the mortgages are prepaid from the proceeds of a foreclosure sale of the property. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will generally, among other conditions, purchase mortgages that are 120 days or more delinquent from holders of such mortgages when the cost of guarantee payments to such holders, including advances of interest at the loan coupon rate, exceeds the cost of holding the nonperforming loans in their portfolios. Consequently, prepayment rates also may be affected by conditions in the housing and financial markets, which may result in increased delinquencies on mortgage loans, the GSEs’ cost of capital, general economic conditions and the relative interest rates on fixed and adjustable rate loans, which could lead to an acceleration of the payment of the related principal. Furthermore, changes in the GSEs’ policies regarding the repurchase of delinquent loans can materially impact prepayment rates. In addition, the introduction of new government programs could increase the availability of mortgage credit to a large number of homeowners in the United States, which could impact the prepayment rates for the entire MBS market, and in particular for agency MBS. Any new programs or changes to existing programs could cause substantial uncertainty around the magnitude of changes in prepayment speeds.

Faster or slower than expected prepayments may adversely affect our profitability and cash available for distribution to our shareholders and are difficult to predict.

The reduction of the Federal Reserve’s portfolio of U.S. Treasury securities and agency MBS may adversely affect the price and return associated with agency MBS.

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In October 2014, the Federal Reserve ended its large scale purchases of U.S. Treasury securities and agency MBS under its quantitative easing programs designed to support the mortgage markets and stimulate the economy.  However, the Federal Reserve continued to reinvest all principal payments from its U.S. Treasury and agency MBS.  In October 2017 the Federal Reserve initiated a balance sheet normalization policy of gradually reducing its reinvestment of principal payments of U.S. Treasury securities and agency MBS.  Under its balance sheet normalization policy, principal payments received by the Federal Reserve are reinvested only to the extent they exceed gradually rising caps until it determines that the Federal Reserve is holding no more securities than necessary to implement monetary policy efficiently and effectively.  

We cannot predict the impact of the implementation of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet normalization policy could have on the prices and liquidity of agency MBS or on mortgage spreads relative to interest rate hedges tied to benchmark interest rates.  However, during periods in which the Federal Reserve reduces or ceases reinvestment of principal payments or undertakes outright sales of its securities portfolio, the price of agency MBS and U.S. Treasury securities will likely decline, mortgage spreads will likely widen, refinancing volumes will likely be lower and market volatility will likely be higher than would have been absent such actions and our net book value could be adversely affected.

It may be uneconomical to “roll” our TBA dollar roll transactions or we may be unable to meet margin calls on our TBA commitments, which could negatively affect our financial condition and results of operations.

 

We may utilize TBA dollar roll transactions as a means of investing in and financing agency MBS. TBA contracts enable us to purchase or sell, for future delivery, agency MBS with certain principal and interest terms and certain types of collateral, but the particular agency MBS to be delivered are not identified until shortly before the TBA settlement date. Prior to settlement of the TBA contract, we may choose to move the settlement of the securities out to a later date by entering into an offsetting position (referred to as a “pair off”), net settling the paired off positions for cash, and simultaneously purchasing a similar TBA contract for a later settlement date, collectively referred to as a “dollar roll.” The agency RMBS purchased for a forward settlement date under the TBA contract are typically priced at a discount to agency MBS for settlement in the current month. This difference (or discount) is referred to as the “price drop.” As discussed under “Non-GAAP Core Operating Income—Economic Net Interest Income” below, we believe this price drop is the economic equivalent of net interest carry income on the underlying agency MBS over the roll period (interest income less implied financing cost), which is commonly referred to as “dollar roll income.” Consequently, dollar roll transactions and such forward purchases of agency RMBS represent a form of off-balance sheet financing.

Under certain market conditions, TBA dollar roll transactions may result in negative carry income whereby the agency MBS purchased for a forward settlement date under the TBA contract are priced at a premium to agency MBS for settlement in the current month. Under such conditions, it may be uneconomical to roll our TBA positions prior to the settlement date and we could have to take physical delivery of the underlying securities and settle our obligations for cash. We may not have sufficient funds or alternative financing sources available to settle such obligations.

In addition, our TBA contracts are subject to master securities forward transaction agreements published by SIFMA as well as supplemental terms and conditions with each counterparty.  Under the terms of these agreements, we may be required to pledge collateral to our counterparty in the event the fair value of our agency MBS commitments decline and such counterparty demands collateral through a margin call.    

Negative carry income on TBA dollar roll transactions or failure to procure adequate financing to settle our obligations or meet margin calls under our TBA contracts could result in defaults or force us to sell assets under adverse market conditions or through foreclosure and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.

Recent changes to the U.S. Federal income tax code could have a material impact on the residential mortgage market, which could impact the pricing of residential MBS.

On December 22, 2017, the President signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which provides for substantial changes to the taxation of individuals and corporations with an effective date of January 1, 2018.  For individual taxpayers, the changes included, among others, lower ordinary income tax rates, higher standard deductions, and suspension or modification of several itemized deductions.  The changes to the categories of itemized deductions include a limit to deductions of state and local income and property taxes of $10,000 and a modification to the amount of residential mortgage interest that would be deductible.  The new rule would limit the deduction available for mortgage interest by reducing the amount of debt that can qualify from $1 million to $750,000, however mortgage debt borrowed prior to December 15, 2017 would not be affected by the reduction.  In addition, home equity mortgage interest is no longer deductible. Many of the changes affecting individual taxpayers would cease to apply after December 31, 2025 and would revert to their pre-2018 form with future legislation required to make the provisions effective beyond 2025.  As a result of these changes, it is expected that the number of individual taxpayers that itemize deductions will decrease significantly causing the income tax benefits of residential home ownership to decline materially.  It is likely that these factors could result in a decline in the pricing of residential real estate as well as alter the prepayment patterns of residential mortgages, which could have a significant impact on the pricing and returns of residential MBS.  

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Our use of repurchase agreements may give our lenders greater rights in the event that either we or any of our lenders file for bankruptcy, which may make it difficult for us to recover our collateral.

Our borrowings under repurchase agreements may qualify for special treatment under the bankruptcy code, giving our lenders the ability to avoid the automatic stay provisions of the bankruptcy code and take possession of and liquidate our collateral under the repurchase agreements without delay if we file for bankruptcy. Furthermore, the special treatment of repurchase agreements under the bankruptcy code may make it difficult for us to recover our pledged assets in the event that any of our lenders file for bankruptcy. Thus, the use of repurchase agreements exposes our pledged assets to risk in the event of a bankruptcy filing by either our lenders or us. In addition, if the lender is a broker or dealer subject to the Securities Investor Protection Act of 1970 or an insured depository institution subject to the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, our ability to exercise our rights to recover our investment under a repurchase agreement or to be compensated for any damages resulting from the lender’s insolvency may be further limited by those statutes.

If the lending institution under one or more of our repurchase agreements defaults on its obligation to resell the underlying security back to us at the end of the agreement term, we will lose money on our repurchase transactions.

When we engage in a repurchase transaction, we initially sell securities to the transaction counterparty under a master repurchase agreement in exchange for cash from the counterparty. The counterparty is obligated to resell the same securities back to us at the end of the term of the repurchase agreement, which typically is 30 to 90 days, but may have terms from one day to up to three years or more. The cash we receive when we initially sell the collateral is less than the value of the collateral, which is referred to as the “haircut.” If the counterparty in a repurchase transaction defaults on its obligation to resell the securities back to us, we will incur a loss on the transaction equal to the amount of the haircut (assuming no change in the value of the securities). Losses incurred on our repurchase transactions would adversely affect our earnings and our cash available for distribution to our shareholders.

If we default on our obligations under our repurchase agreements, we may be unable to establish a suitable replacement facility on acceptable terms or at all.

If we default on one of our obligations under a repurchase agreement, the counterparty may terminate the agreement and cease entering into any other repurchase agreements with us. In that case, we would likely need to establish a replacement repurchase facility with another financial institution in order to continue to leverage the assets in our investment portfolio and to carry out our investment strategy. We may be unable to establish a suitable replacement repurchase facility on acceptable terms or at all.

Despite current indebtedness levels, we may still be able to incur substantially more debt, which could have important consequences to you.

As of December 31, 2017, we had total unsecured indebtedness (excluding payables, derivative liabilities and recourse liability) of $75.3 million, which includes $25.0 million in principal amount of our 6.625% senior notes due 2023, $35.3 million in principal amount of our 6.75% senior notes due 2025, and $15.0 million in principal amount of subordinated unsecured long-term debentures due between 2033 and 2035. Our level of indebtedness could have important consequences to you, because:

 

it could affect our ability to satisfy our financial obligations;

 

a substantial portion of our cash flows from operations will have to be dedicated to interest and principal payments and may not be available for operations, expansion, acquisitions or general corporate or other purposes;

 

it may impair our ability to obtain additional debt or equity financing in the future;

 

it may limit our ability to refinance all or a portion of our indebtedness on or before maturity;

 

it may limit our flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in our business and industry; and

 

it may make us more vulnerable to downturns in our business, our industry or the economy in general.

Our operations may not generate sufficient cash to enable us to service our debt. If we fail to make payment on the senior notes, we could default on the senior notes.

Limitations on our access to capital could impair our liquidity and our ability to conduct our business.

Liquidity, or ready access to funds, is essential to our business. Failures of similar businesses have often been attributable in large part to insufficient liquidity. Liquidity is of particular importance to our business and perceived liquidity issues may affect our counterparties’ willingness to engage in transactions with us. Our liquidity could be impaired due to circumstances that we may be unable to control, such as a general market disruption, the payment of significant legal defense and indemnification costs, expenses, damages or settlement amounts, or an operational problem that affects us or third parties. Further, our ability to sell assets may be

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impaired if other market participants are seeking to sell similar assets at the same time or the market is experiencing significant volatility. Our inability to maintain adequate liquidity would materially harm our business and operations.

Our due diligence of potential investments may not reveal all of the liabilities associated with those investments and may not reveal aspects of the investments which could lead lower expected investment returns or investment losses.

Before making certain investments, we may undertake due diligence efforts with respect to various aspects of the acquisition, including investigating the strengths and weaknesses of the originator or issuer of the asset and, in the case of acquisitions of private-label MBS, verifying certain aspects of the underlying securities, loans or properties themselves as well as other factors and characteristics that may be material to the performance of the investment. In making the assessment and otherwise conducting due diligence, we rely on resources available to us and, in some cases, third party information. There can be no assurance that any due diligence process that we conduct will uncover relevant facts that could be determinative of whether or not an investment will be successful.

We may invest in private-label MBS that may be illiquid and have a higher risk of loss of default, which could result in significant losses to us.

As of December 31, 2017, nearly all of our investment capital was allocated to agency MBS.  However, in prior years a significant amount of our investment capital was allocated to private-label MBS, and we may increase our allocation of investment capital to private-label MBS in future periods.  

Residential mortgage loans underlying private-label MBS are secured by residential property and are subject to risks of delinquency, foreclosure and loss.  The ability of a borrower to repay a loan secured by residential property is dependent upon the income of the borrower.  In the event of a default under a mortgage loan, the holder of the mortgage loan bears the risk of loss of principal to the extent of any deficiency between the value of the collateral and the principal and accrued interest of the mortgage loan.  

We may invest in private-label MBS collateralized by pools of non-prime mortgage loans.  In general, non-prime mortgage loans are loans that have been originated using underwriting standards that do not conform to the underwriting guidelines of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Non-prime mortgage loans may experience delinquency, foreclosure, bankruptcy and loss rates that are higher than those experienced by mortgage loans underwritten in a more traditional manner.

We may also invest in private-label MBS that are non-investment grade, which means that major rating agencies rate them below the top four investment-grade rating categories (i.e., “AAA” through “BBB”). Non-investment grade, private-label MBS tend to be less liquid, may have a higher risk of default and may be more difficult to value than investment grade bonds. The lack of liquidity for certain asset classes that we may invest in may make it difficult for us to sell such investments should the need or desire arise.

We may also invest in subordinated tranches of private-label MBS, which are subordinated classes of securities in a structure of securities collateralized by a pool of mortgage loans and, accordingly, are the first or among the first classes of securities in such a structure to bear the loss upon a restructuring or liquidation of the underlying collateral and the last to receive payment of interest and principal. Furthermore, our private-label MBS may also consist of subordinate classes of re-securitized senior class MBS. Such subordinated interests generally are not actively traded and may not provide holders thereof with liquid investments.

Our investments are recorded at fair value based upon assumptions that are inherently subjective, and our results of operations and financial condition could be adversely affected if our determinations regarding the fair value of our investments are materially higher than the values that we ultimately realize upon their disposal.

We measure the fair value of our investments quarterly, in accordance with guidance set forth in FASB Accounting Standards Codification (“ASC”) Topic 820, Fair Value Measurements and Disclosures.  Ultimate realization of the value of an asset depends to a great extent on economic and other conditions that are beyond our control. Further, fair value is only an estimate based on good faith judgment of the price at which an investment can be sold because market prices of investments can only be determined by negotiation between a willing buyer and seller. If we were to liquidate a particular asset, the realized value may be more than or less than the amount at which such asset is valued. Accordingly, the value of our Class A common stock, Series B Preferred Stock and Senior Notes could be adversely affected by our determinations regarding the fair value of our investments, whether in the applicable period or in the future. Additionally, such valuations may fluctuate over short periods of time.

Our determination of the fair value of our agency MBS is based on price estimates provided by third-party pricing services. In general, pricing services heavily disclaim their valuations. Depending on the complexity and liquidity of a security, valuations of the same security can vary substantially from one pricing service to another. Private-label MBS trade infrequently and may be considered illiquid. To the extent we invest in private-label MBS, our determination of the fair value is based on significant unobservable inputs based on various assumptions made by management of the Company. These significant unobservable inputs may include assumptions regarding future interest rates, prepayment rates, discount rates, credit loss rates, and the timing of credit losses. These assumptions are inherently subjective and involve a high degree of management judgment, and our determinations of fair value may differ materially

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from the values that would have been used if a public market for these securities existed. Therefore, our results of operations for a given period could be adversely affected if our determinations regarding the fair market value of these investments are materially different than the values that we ultimately realize upon their disposal.

Credit ratings may not reflect all risks, are not recommendations to buy or hold the Senior Notes or our other senior unsecured debt that we may issue from time to time, and may be subject to revision, suspension or withdrawal at any time.

One or more independent credit rating agencies may assign and maintain credit ratings to our Senior Notes and other indebtedness that we may offer from time to time. The credit ratings reflect rating agencies’ assessment of our ability to perform our obligations under the Senior Notes, including an assessment of credit risks in determining the likelihood that payments will be made when due under such debt. The ratings may not reflect the potential impact of all risks related to the structure, market, risk and other factors relating to, and that may affect the value of, such securities. A credit rating is not a recommendation to buy, sell or hold securities and may be subject to revision, suspension or withdrawal by the rating agency at any time. Ratings do not reflect market prices or suitability of a security for a particular investor. No assurance can be given that a credit rating will remain constant for any given period of time or that a credit rating will not be lowered or withdrawn entirely by the credit rating agency if, in its judgment, circumstances in the future so warrant. A suspension, reduction or withdrawal at any time of the credit rating assigned to the Senior Notes by one or more of the credit rating agencies may adversely affect the cost and terms and conditions of our financings and could adversely affect the value and trading of the Senior Notes, as well as other of our senior unsecured debt that we may issue from time to time.

We may change our investment strategy, hedging strategy, asset allocation and operational policies without shareholder consent, which may result in riskier investments and adversely affect the market value of our Class A common stock, Series B Preferred Stock and Senior Notes and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

We may change our investment strategy, hedging strategy, asset allocation and operational policies at any time without the consent of our shareholders, which could result in our making investment or hedge decisions that are different from, and possibly riskier than, the investments and hedges described in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. A change in our investment or hedging strategy may increase our exposure to interest rate and real estate market fluctuations. A change in our asset allocation could result in us making investments in securities, assets or business different from those described in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. Our Board of Directors oversees our operational policies, including those with respect to our acquisitions, growth, operations, indebtedness, capitalization and distributions or approves transactions that deviate from these policies without a vote of, or notice to, our shareholders. Operational policy changes could adversely affect the market value of our Class A common stock, Series B Preferred Stock or Senior Notes and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders. Investing in assets other than residential MBS or pursuing business activities other than investing in residential MBS may not be successful and could adversely affect our results of operations and the market value of our Class A common stock, Series B Preferred Stock or Senior Notes.

 

We may enter into new lines of business, acquire other companies or engage in other strategic initiatives, each of which may result in additional risks and uncertainties in our businesses.

We may pursue growth through acquisitions of other companies or other strategic initiatives that may require approval by our Board of Directors, stockholders, or both.  To the extent we pursue strategic investments or acquisitions, undertake other strategic initiatives or consider new lines of business, we will face numerous risks and uncertainties, including risks associated with: 

 

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the availability of suitable opportunities;

 

the level of competition from other companies that may have greater financial resources;

 

our ability to value potential acquisition opportunities accurately and negotiate acceptable terms for those opportunities;

 

the required investment of capital and other resources;

 

the lack of availability of financing and, if available, the terms of any financings;

 

the possibility that we have insufficient expertise to engage in such activities profitably or without incurring inappropriate amounts of risk;

 

the diversion of management’s attention from our core businesses;

 

assumption of liabilities in any acquired business;

 

the disruption of our ongoing businesses;

 

the increasing demands on or issues related to combining or integrating operational and management systems and controls;

 

compliance with additional regulatory requirements; and

 

costs associated with integrating and overseeing the operations of the new businesses.

 

Entry into certain lines of business may subject us to new laws and regulations with which we are not familiar, or from which we are currently exempt, and may lead to increased litigation and regulatory risk.  In addition, if a new business generates insufficient revenues or if we are unable to efficiently manage our expanded operations, our results of operations will be adversely affected. Our strategic initiatives may include joint ventures, in which case we will be subject to additional risks and uncertainties in that we may be dependent upon, and subject to liability, losses or reputational damage relating to, systems, controls and personnel that are not under our control.

Our Board of Directors does not approve each of our investment, financing and hedging decisions.

Our Board of Directors oversees our operational policies and periodically reviews our investment guidelines and our investment portfolio. However, our Board of Directors does not review all of our proposed investments. In addition, in conducting periodic reviews, our Board of Directors may rely primarily on information provided to them by our management. Furthermore, transactions entered into or structured for us by our management may be difficult or impossible to unwind by the time they are reviewed by our Board of Directors.

We operate in a highly-competitive market for investment opportunities, which could make it difficult for us to purchase or originate investments at attractive yields and thus have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

We gain access to investment opportunities only to the extent that they become known to us. Gaining access to investment opportunities is highly competitive. Many of our competitors are substantially larger than us and have considerably greater financial, technical and marketing resources, more long-standing relationships, broader product offerings and other advantages. Some of our competitors may have a lower cost of funds and access to funding sources that are not available to us. As a result of this competition, we may not be able to purchase or originate our target investments at attractive yields, which could have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Risks Related to our Business and Structure

Our Rights Plan could inhibit a change in our control.

We have a Rights Plan designed to protect against a possible limitation on our ability to use our NOLs, NCLs and built-in losses by dissuading investors from aggregating ownership of our Class A common stock and triggering an “ownership change” for purposes of Sections 382 and 383 of the Code. Under the terms of the Rights Plan, in general, if a person or group acquires or commences a tender or exchange offer for beneficial ownership of 4.9% or more of the outstanding shares of our Class A common stock upon a determination by our Board of Directors (an “Acquiring Person”), all of our other Class A common shareholders will have the right to purchase securities from us at a discount to such securities’ fair market value, thus causing substantial dilution to the Acquiring Person. The Rights Plan may have the effect of inhibiting or impeding a change in control not approved by our Board of Directors

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and, notwithstanding its purpose, could adversely affect our shareholders’ ability to realize a premium over the then-prevailing market price for our common stock in connection with such a transaction. In addition, because our Board of Directors can prevent the Rights Plan from operating, in the event our Board of Directors approves of an Acquiring Person, the Rights Plan gives our Board of Directors significant discretion over whether a potential acquirer’s efforts to acquire a large interest in us will be successful. Consequently, the Rights Plan could impede transactions that would otherwise benefit our shareholders.

The trading price of our Class A common stock, Series B Preferred Stock or Senior Notes may be adversely affected by factors outside of our control.

Any negative changes in the public’s perception of the prospects for our business or the types of assets in which we invest could depress our stock price regardless of our results. The following factors, among others, could contribute to the volatility of the price of our Class A common stock, Series B Preferred Stock or Senior Notes:

 

actual or unanticipated variations in our quarterly results;

 

changes in our financial estimates by securities analysts;

 

conditions or trends affecting companies that make investments similar to ours;

 

changes in interest rate environments and the mortgage market that cause our borrowing costs to increase, our reported yields on our MBS portfolio to decrease or that cause the value of our MBS portfolio to decrease;

 

changes in the market valuations of the securities in our MBS portfolio and other principal investments;

 

negative changes in the public’s perception of the prospects of investment or financial services companies;

 

changes in the regulatory environment in which our business operates or changes in federal fiscal or monetary policies;

 

dilution resulting from new equity issuances;

 

general economic conditions such as a recession, or interest rate or currency rate fluctuations; and

 

additions or departures of our key personnel.

Many of these factors are beyond our control.

We may experience significant fluctuations in quarterly operating results.

Our revenues and operating results may fluctuate from quarter to quarter and from year to year due to a combination of factors, many of which are beyond our control, including the market value of the MBS we acquire, the performance of our hedging instruments, prepayment rates and changes in interest rates. As a result, we may fail to meet profitability or dividend expectations, which could negatively affect the market price of our Class A common stock, Series B Preferred Stock and Senior Notes and our ability to pay dividends to our shareholders.

We cannot assure you that we will pay dividends in the future.

Pursuant to our variable dividend policy, our Board of Directors evaluates dividends on a quarterly basis and, in its sole discretion, approves the payment of dividends. Our Board of Directors is not obligated to maintain a minimum dividend payment level and the amount of our dividend may fluctuate.  Our dividend policy differs from many of our competitors who qualify as REITs that must distribute to their shareholders at least 90% of their REIT taxable income each taxable year. As a corporation that is taxed as a C corporation for U.S. federal tax purposes, we do not have any minimum distribution requirements. There can be no assurances that our Board of Directors will continue to approve the payment of future dividends at the current levels, if any at all.

 

We may pay distributions to shareholders that are considered a return of capital for U.S. federal income tax purposes.

We may pay distributions to shareholders that may include a return of capital.  To the extent that our Board of Directors decides to pay a distribution in excess of our current or accumulated earnings and profits, such distributions would generally be considered a return of capital for U.S. federal income tax purposes.  A return of capital reduces the basis of a stockholder’s investment in our common stock to the extent of such basis and is treated as a capital gain thereafter.

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Indemnification obligations to certain of our current and former directors and officers may increase the costs to us of legal proceedings involving our company.

Our charter contains a provision that limits the liability of our directors and officers to us and our shareholders for money damages, except for liability resulting from willful misconduct or a knowing violation of the criminal law or any federal or state securities law. Our charter also requires us to indemnify our directors and officers in connection with any liability incurred by them in connection with any action or proceeding (including any action by us or in our right) to which they are or may be made a party by reason of their service in those or other capacities if the conduct in question was in our best interests and the person was acting on our behalf or performing services for us, unless the person engaged in willful misconduct or a knowing violation of the criminal law. The Virginia Stock Corporation Act requires a Virginia corporation (unless its charter provides otherwise, which our charter does not) to indemnify a director or officer who has been successful, on the merits or otherwise, in the defense of any proceeding to which he is made a party by reason of his service in that capacity.

In addition, we have entered into indemnification agreements with certain of our current and former directors and officers under which we are generally required to indemnify them against liability incurred by them in connection with any action or proceeding to which they are or may be made a party by reason of their service in those or other capacities, if the conduct in question was in our best interests and the person was conducting themselves in good faith (subject to certain exceptions, including liabilities arising from willful misconduct, a knowing violation of the criminal law or receipt of an improper benefit).

In the future we may be the subject of indemnification assertions under our charter, Virginia law or these indemnification agreements by our current and former directors and officers who are or may become party to any action or proceeding. We maintain directors’ and officers’ insurance policies that may limit our exposure and enable us to recover a portion of any amounts paid with respect to such obligations. However, if our coverage under these policies is reduced, denied, eliminated or otherwise not available to us, our potential financial exposure would be increased. The maximum potential amount of future payments we could be required to make under these indemnification obligations could be significant. Amounts paid pursuant to our indemnification obligations could adversely affect our financial results and the amount of cash available for distribution to our shareholders.

Loss of our exclusion from regulation as an investment company under the 1940 Act would adversely affect us and may reduce the market price of our shares.

We rely on Section 3(c)(5)(C) of the 1940 Act for our exclusion from the registration requirements of the 1940 Act. This provision requires that 55% of our assets, on an unconsolidated basis, consist of qualifying assets, such as agency whole pool certificates, and 80% of our assets, on an unconsolidated basis, consist of qualifying assets or real estate-related assets. We will need to ensure not only that we qualify for an exclusion or exemption from regulation under the 1940 Act, but also that each of our subsidiaries qualifies for such an exclusion or exemption. We intend to maintain our exclusion by monitoring the value of our interests in our subsidiaries. We may not be successful in this regard.

If we fail to maintain our exclusion and another exclusion or exemption is not available, we may be required to register as an investment company, or we may be required to acquire or dispose of assets in order to meet our exemption. Any such asset acquisitions or dispositions may include assets that we would not acquire or dispose of in the ordinary course of business, may be at unfavorable prices and result in a decline in the price of our Class A common stock, Series B Preferred Stock or Senior Notes. If we are required to register as an investment company under the 1940 Act, we would become subject to substantial regulation with respect to our capital structure (including our ability to use leverage), management, operations, transactions with affiliated persons (as defined in the 1940 Act), and portfolio composition, including restrictions with respect to diversification and industry concentration and other matters. Accordingly, registration under the 1940 Act could limit our ability to follow our current investment and financing strategies and result in a decline in the price of our Class A common stock, Series B Preferred Stock or Senior Notes.

Failure to obtain and maintain an exemption from being regulated as a commodity pool operator could subject us to additional regulation and compliance requirements and may result in fines and other penalties which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

The Dodd-Frank Act established a comprehensive new regulatory framework for derivative contracts commonly referred to as “swaps.” As a result, any investment fund that trades in swaps or other derivatives may be considered a “commodity pool,” which would cause its operators (in some cases the fund’s directors) to be regulated as “commodity pool operators,” or CPOs. Under rules adopted by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) for which the compliance date generally was December 31, 2012 as to those funds that become commodity pools solely because of their use of swaps, CPOs must by then have filed an application for registration with the National Futures Association (“NFA”) and have commenced and sustained good faith efforts to comply with the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC’s regulations with respect to capital raising, disclosure, reporting, recordkeeping and other business conduct applicable for their activities as CPOs as if the CPOs were in fact registered in such capacity (which also requires compliance with applicable NFA rules). However, the CFTC’s Division of Swap Dealer and

20


Intermediary Oversight issued a no-action letter saying, although it believes that mortgage REITs are properly considered commodity pools, it would not recommend that the CFTC take enforcement action against the operator of a mortgage REIT who does not register as a CPO if, among other things, the mortgage REIT limits the initial margin and premiums required to establish its swaps, futures and other commodity interest positions to not more than five percent (5%) of its total assets, the mortgage REIT limits the net income derived annually from those commodity interest positions which are not qualifying hedging transactions to less than five percent (5%) of its gross income, and interests in the mortgage REIT are not marketed to the public as or in a commodity pool or otherwise as or in a vehicle for trading in the commodity futures, commodity options or swaps markets.

We use hedging instruments in conjunction with our investment portfolio and related borrowings to reduce or mitigate risks associated with changes in interest rates, yield curve shapes and market volatility. These hedging instruments may include interest rate swaps, interest rate swap futures, Eurodollar futures, U.S. Treasury note futures and options of futures. We do not currently engage in any speculative derivatives activities or other non-hedging transactions using swaps, futures or options on futures. We do not use these instruments for the purpose of trading in commodity interests, and we do not consider our company or its operations to be a commodity pool as to which CPO registration or compliance is required. We have claimed the relief afforded by the above-described no-action letter. Consequently, we will be restricted to operating within the parameters discussed in the no-action letter and will not enter into hedging transactions covered by the no-action letter if they would cause us to exceed the limits set forth in the no-action letter. However, there can be no assurance that the CFTC will agree that we are entitled to the no-action letter relief claimed.

The CFTC has substantial enforcement power with respect to violations of the laws over which it has jurisdiction, including their anti-fraud and anti-manipulation provisions. For example, the CFTC may suspend or revoke the registration of or the no-action relief afforded to a person who fails to comply with commodities laws and regulations, prohibit such a person from trading or doing business with registered entities, impose civil money penalties, require restitution and seek fines or imprisonment for criminal violations. In the event that the CFTC staff does not provide the no action letter relief we requested or asserts that we are not entitled to the mortgage REIT no-action letter relief claimed or if CFTC otherwise determines that CPO registration and compliance is required of us, we may be obligated to furnish additional disclosures and reports, among other things. Further, a private right of action exists against those who violate the laws over which the CFTC has jurisdiction or who willfully aid, abet, counsel, induce or procure a violation of those laws. In the event that we fail to comply with statutory requirements relating to derivatives or with the CFTC’s rules thereunder, including the mortgage REIT no-action letter described above, we may be subject to significant fines, penalties and other civil or governmental actions or proceedings, any of which could have a materially adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We face competition for personnel, which could adversely affect our business and in turn negatively affect the market price of our Class A common stock, Series B Preferred Stock or Senior Notes and our ability to pay dividends to our shareholders.

We are dependent on the highly-skilled, and often highly-specialized, individuals we employ. Retention of specialists to manage our portfolio is particularly important to our prospects. Competition for the recruiting and retention of employees may increase elements of our compensation costs. We may not be able to recruit and hire new employees with our desired qualifications in a timely manner. Our incentives may be insufficient to recruit and retain our employees. Increased compensation costs could adversely affect the amount of cash available for distribution to shareholders and our failure to recruit and retain qualified employees could materially and adversely affect our future operating results.

We are dependent upon a small number of key senior professionals and the loss of any of these individuals could adversely affect our financial results which may, in turn, negatively affect the market price of our Class A common stock and Senior Notes and our ability to pay dividends to our shareholders.

We currently do not have employment agreements with any of our senior officers and other key professionals. We cannot guarantee that we will continue to have access to members of our senior management team or other key professionals. The loss of any members of our senior management and other key professionals could materially and adversely affect our operating results.

We are highly dependent upon communications and information systems operated by third parties, and systems failures could significantly disrupt our business, which may, in turn, negatively affect the market price of our Class A common stock, Series B Preferred Stock and Senior Notes and our ability to pay dividends to our shareholders.

Our business is highly dependent upon communications and information systems that allow us to monitor, value, buy, sell, finance and hedge our investments. These systems are primarily operated by third parties and, as a result, we have limited ability to ensure their continued operation. Furthermore, in the event of systems failure or interruption, we will have limited ability to affect the timing and success of systems restoration. Any failure or interruption of our systems or third-party trading or information systems could cause delays or other problems in our securities trading activities, which could have a material adverse effect on our operating results and negatively affect the market price of our Class A common stock, Series B Preferred Stock and Senior Notes and our ability to pay dividends to our shareholders.

21


If we issue additional debt securities or other equity securities that rank senior to our common stock, our operations may be restricted and we will be exposed to additional risk and the market price of our Class A common stock, Series B Preferred Stock and Senior Notes could be adversely affected.

If we decide to issue additional debt securities in the future, it is likely that such securities will be governed by an indenture or other instrument containing covenants restricting our operating flexibility. Additionally, any convertible or exchangeable or other securities registered pursuant to our shelf registration statement that we issue in the future may have rights, preferences and privileges more favorable than those of our Class A common stock. Also additional shares of preferred stock, if issued, could have a preference on liquidating distributions or a preference on dividend payments that could limit our ability to make a dividend distribution to the holders of our Class A common stock. We, and indirectly our shareholders, will bear the cost of issuing and servicing such securities. Holders of debt securities may be granted specific rights, including but not limited to, the right to hold a perfected security interest in certain of our assets, the right to accelerate payments due under the indenture, rights to restrict dividend payments, and rights to approve the sale of assets. Such additional restrictive covenants, operating restrictions and preferential dividends could have a material adverse effect on our operating results and negatively affect the market price of our Class A common stock, Series B Preferred Stock and Senior Notes and our ability to pay distributions to our shareholders.

Changes in banks’ inter-bank lending rate reporting practices or the method pursuant to which LIBOR is determined may adversely affect the value of the financial obligations to be held or issued by us that are linked to LIBOR.

LIBOR and other indices which are deemed “benchmarks” are the subject of recent national, international, and other regulatory guidance and proposals for reform. Some of these reforms are already effective while others are still to be implemented. These reforms may cause such benchmarks to perform differently than in the past, or have other consequences which cannot be predicted. In particular, regulators and law enforcement agencies in the U.K. and elsewhere are conducting criminal and civil investigations into whether the banks that contribute information to the British Bankers’ Association (the “BBA”) in connection with the daily calculation of LIBOR may have been under-reporting or otherwise manipulating or attempting to manipulate LIBOR. A number of BBA member banks have entered into settlements with their regulators and law enforcement agencies with respect to this alleged manipulation of LIBOR. Actions by the regulators or law enforcement agencies, as well as ICE Benchmark Administration (the current administrator of LIBOR), may result in changes to the manner in which LIBOR is determined or the establishment of alternative reference rates. For example, on July 27, 2017, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority announced that it intends to stop persuading or compelling banks to submit LIBOR rates after 2021.

At this time, it is not possible to predict the effect of any such changes, any establishment of alternative reference rates or any other reforms to LIBOR that may be implemented in the U.K. or elsewhere. Uncertainty as to the nature of such potential changes, alternative reference rates or other reforms may adversely affect the market for or value of any securities on which the interest or dividend is determined by reference to LIBOR, loans, derivatives and other financial obligations or on our overall financial condition or results of operations. More generally, any of the above changes or any other consequential changes to LIBOR or any other “benchmark” as a result of international, national or other proposals for reform or other initiatives or investigations, or any further uncertainty in relation to the timing and manner of implementation of such changes, could have a material adverse effect on the value of and return on any securities based on or linked to a “benchmark.”

Future sales of shares of our common stock may depress the price of our shares.

We cannot predict the effect, if any, of future sales of our common stock or the availability of shares for future sales on the market price of our common stock. Any sales of a substantial number of our shares in the public market, or the perception that sales might occur, may cause the market price of our shares to decline.

Tax Risks of our Business and Structure

We may not be able to generate future taxable income to fully utilize our tax benefits.

We recognize the expected future tax benefit from a deferred tax asset when the tax benefit is considered more likely than not to be realized. Otherwise, a valuation allowance is applied against the deferred tax asset. Assuming the recoverability of a deferred tax asset requires management to make significant estimates related to expectations of future taxable income. Estimates of future taxable income are based on forecasted cash flow from operations, the character of expected income or loss as either ordinary or capital and the application of existing tax laws in each jurisdiction. To the extent that future cash flows and the amount or character of taxable income differ significantly from estimates, our ability to realize the deferred tax asset could be impacted. To the extent our estimates of our ability to realize our tax benefits change, we would be required to record changes to our valuation allowance applied against our deferred tax asset. In addition, our NOL carryforwards begin to expire in 2027 and our NCL carryforwards begin to expire in 2019. We may not generate sufficient taxable income of the appropriate tax character to fully utilize these carryforwards prior to their expiration. To the extent that our NOL or NCL carryforwards expire unutilized, we would be required to write off the corresponding deferred tax asset. If we were to increase our valuation allowances against our deferred tax asset or if we were to write off expired loss

22


carryforwards, our net income and net book value would be adversely impacted. For additional discussion regarding our ability to utilize our tax benefits, see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Income Tax Provision.”

Our ability to use our tax benefits could be substantially limited if we experience an “ownership change.”

Our NOL and NCL carryforwards and certain recognized built-in losses may be limited by Sections 382 and 383 of the Code if we experience an “ownership change.” In general, an “ownership change” occurs if 5% shareholders increase their collective ownership of the aggregate amount of the outstanding shares of our company by more than 50 percentage points looking back over the relevant testing period. If an ownership change occurs, our ability to use our NOLs, NCLs and certain recognized built-in losses to reduce our taxable income in a future year would be limited to a Section 382 limitation equal to the fair market value of our stock immediately prior to the ownership change multiplied by the long-term tax-exempt interest rate in effect for the month of the ownership change. The long-term tax-exempt rate for February 2018 is 1.97%. In the event of an ownership change, NOLs and NCLs that exceed the Section 382 limitation in any year will continue to be allowed as carryforwards for the remainder of the carryforward period and such losses can be used to offset taxable income for years within the carryforward period subject to the Section 382 limitation in each year. However, if the carryforward period for any NOL or NCL were to expire before that loss had been fully utilized, the unused portion of that loss would be lost. Our use of new NOLs or NCLs arising after the date of an ownership change would not be affected by the Section 382 limitation (unless there were another ownership change after those new losses arose).

We have a Rights Plan designed to protect against the occurrence of an ownership change. The Rights Plan is intended to act as a deterrent to any person or group acquiring 4.9% or more of our outstanding Class A common stock without the approval of our Board of Directors. See “Risks Related to our Business and Structure - Our Rights Plan could inhibit a change in our control” for information on our Rights Plan. The Rights Plan, however, does not protect against all transactions that could cause an ownership change, such as public issuances and repurchases of shares of Class A common stock. The Rights Plan may not be successful in preventing an ownership change within the meaning of Sections 382 and 383 of the Code, and we may lose all or most of the anticipated tax benefits associated with our prior losses.

Based on our knowledge of our stock ownership, we do not believe that an ownership change has occurred since our losses were generated. Accordingly, we believe that at the current time there is no annual limitation imposed on our use of our NOLs and NCLs to reduce future taxable income. The determination of whether an ownership change has occurred or will occur is complicated and depends on changes in percentage stock ownership among shareholders. Other than the Rights Plan, there are currently no restrictions on the transfer of our stock that would discourage or prevent transactions that could cause an ownership change, although we may adopt such restrictions in the future. As discussed above, the Rights Plan is intended to discourage transactions that could cause an ownership change. In addition, we have not obtained, and currently do not plan to obtain, a ruling from the Internal Revenue Service, regarding our conclusion as to whether our losses are subject to any such limitations. Furthermore, we may decide in the future that it is necessary or in our interest to take certain actions that could result in an ownership change. Therefore, no assurance can be provided as to whether an ownership change has occurred or will occur in the future.

Preserving the ability to use our NOLs and NCLs may cause us to forgo otherwise attractive opportunities.

Limitations imposed by Sections 382 and 383 of the Code may discourage us from, among other things, repurchasing our stock or issuing additional stock to raise capital or to acquire businesses or assets. Accordingly, our desire to preserve our NOLs and NCLs may cause us to forgo otherwise attractive opportunities.

Our ability to deduct our interest expense could be limited.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act imposes limitations on the deductibility of business interest expense. The new business interest expense limitation applies to net interest expense (i.e., interest expense in excess of interest income).  Any disallowed interest expense may generally be carried forward to future taxable years, subject to additional requirements and limitations.  Because our activities generate substantial amounts of interest income, it is anticipated that the deductibility of our interest expense generally will not be impacted by the new limitation.  However, there can be no complete assurance that our activities will not produce net interest expense, the deductibility of which is limited by the new rules.

If we elect in the future to be treated as a REIT, complying with the REIT requirements may cause us to forego otherwise attractive opportunities, may result in higher income tax rates on dividends you may receive, and could result in a reduction in our net book value.

We revoked our status as a REIT effective January 1, 2009, in part to maximize the use of tax benefits associated with our NOLs and NCLs. In the future, we might make an election again to be taxed as a REIT for various business reasons, including if we no longer have the benefit of NOL carryforwards. To qualify as a REIT for federal income tax purposes, we would be required to

23


continually satisfy tests concerning, among other things, the sources of our income, the nature and diversification of our assets, the amounts we distribute to our shareholders and the ownership of our stock. In order to meet these tests, we may be required to forego attractive business or investment opportunities. Thus, compliance with the REIT requirements may hinder our ability to operate solely on the basis of maximizing profits. In addition, in order to qualify as a REIT, an entity must distribute to its shareholders, each calendar year, at least 90% of its REIT taxable income, determined without regard to the deduction for dividends paid and excluding net capital gain. As a result, if we elect to be treated as a REIT, we generally will be required to distribute most of our earnings to our shareholders rather than having the option to retain our earnings for reinvestment in our business.

Currently as a C corporation, distributions to our shareholders of current or accumulated earnings and profits are “qualified dividends” whereas similar distributions to shareholders of a REIT are nonqualified dividends.  Qualified dividends to domestic shareholders that are individuals, trusts or estates are subject to the same federal income tax rates as long-term capital gains for which the current maximum rate is 23.8% (inclusive of the 3.8% Medicare tax).  Nonqualified dividends are subject to the higher federal income tax rate on ordinary income for which the current maximum rate is 40.8% (inclusive of the 3.8% Medicare tax).  However, effective January 1, 2018, shareholders that are individuals, trusts and estates may deduct up to 20% of dividends from a REIT, subject to certain limitations, resulting in a current maximum effective rate of 33.4% (inclusive of the 3.8% Medicare tax).  If we were to elect to be treated as a REIT, future dividends you receive could be subjected to a higher tax rate. If our dividends are subject to a higher tax rate, the market value of our common stock could also be adversely affected.

If we were to elect in the future to be treated as a REIT, any remaining net deferred tax asset would likely need to be written off for GAAP accounting purposes. As a result, our net income and net book value could be adversely affected upon our election to be taxed as a REIT.

The decision to elect REIT status is in the sole discretion of our Board of Directors, and no assurance can be given that we will, or will not, elect such status for 2018 or in the future.

If we elect in the future to be treated as a REIT, our ability to invest in and dispose of agency securities through forward settling transactions could be limited by our REIT status.

We purchase a substantial portion of our agency MBS through contracts for forward settling transactions, including TBAs. In certain instances, rather than take delivery of the agency MBS subject to a contract for a forward settling transaction, we will dispose of the contract for a forward settling transaction through a dollar roll transaction in which we agree to purchase similar securities in the future at a predetermined price or otherwise, which may result in the recognition of income or gains.

If our Board of Directors were to decide that we should elect REIT status, we would have to satisfy certain gross income requirements on an annual basis and certain asset requirements as the close of each calendar quarter.  For one of the gross income requirements, at least 75% of our gross income for each taxable year, excluding gross income from sales of inventory or dealer property and certain hedging transactions, generally must be derived from investments relating to real property or mortgages on real property, including interest income derived from mortgage loans secured by real property, rents from real property, dividends from other REITs, and gains from the sale of real estate assets, as well as temporary investments.  For one of the asset requirements, at least 75% of the value of our total assets must be represented by some combination of “real estate assets”, cash, cash items, U.S. government securities, and, under some circumstances, stock or debt instruments purchased with new capital.  For this purpose, real estate assets generally include residential MBS and mortgage loans.  Under one of the additional asset requirements, the value of any one issuer’s securities that we could own may not exceed 5% of the value of our total assets.  

The law is unclear regarding whether contracts for forward settling transactions will be qualifying assets for the 75% asset test and whether income and gains from dispositions of contracts for forward settling transactions will be qualifying income for the 75% gross income test. If we elect in the future to be treated as a REIT, until such time as we seek and receive a favorable private letter ruling from the Internal Revenue Service (the "IRS"), or we are advised by counsel that contracts for forward settling transactions should be treated as qualifying assets for purposes of the 75% asset test, we would need to limit our net investment in contracts for forward settling transactions and any non-qualifying assets to no more than 25% of our assets at the end of any calendar quarter and would need to limit our investments in contracts for forward settling transactions with a single counterparty to no more than 5% of our total assets at the end of any calendar quarter. Further, until such time as we seek and receive a favorable private letter ruling from the IRS or we are advised by counsel that income and gains from the disposition of contracts for forward settling transactions should be treated as qualifying income for purposes of the 75% gross income test, we would need to limit our gains from dispositions of contracts for forward settling transactions and any non-qualifying income to no more than 25% of our gross income for each calendar year.

Accordingly, our ability to purchase agency MBS through contracts for forward settling transactions, including TBAs, and to dispose of contracts for forward settling transactions, through dollar roll transactions or otherwise, could be limited if we were to elect to be taxed as a REIT. Moreover, even if we are advised by counsel that contracts for forward settling transactions should be treated as

24


qualifying assets or that income and gains from dispositions of contracts for forward settling transactions should be treated as qualifying income, it is possible that the IRS could successfully take the position that such assets are not qualifying assets and such income is not qualifying income.

In recent years, numerous legislative, judicial and administrative changes have been made in the provisions of U.S. federal income tax laws applicable to investments similar to an investment in shares of our common stock. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act significantly changes the U.S. federal income tax laws applicable to businesses and their owners.  Technical corrections or other amendments to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act or administrative guidance interpreting the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act may be forthcoming at any time.  We cannot predict the long-term effect of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act or any future law changes on us or our shareholders.  Any such changes could have an adverse effect on the market value of our securities or our ability to make dividends to our shareholders.

ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

None.

 

 

25


ITEM 2. PROPERTIES

Our executive and administrative office is located at 1001 Nineteenth Street North, Arlington, Virginia 22209. We lease our office space.

We sublease office space to Billings Capital Management, LLC (“BCM”), which is an investment management company owned and operated by Eric F. Billings, our Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors, and his sons. The lease term is month-to-month, based on the pro-rata share of the space occupied by BCM. The lease payments to us totaled approximately $110 thousand for the year ended December 31, 2017.

ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

We are from time to time involved in civil lawsuits, legal proceedings and arbitration matters that we consider to be in the ordinary course of our business. There can be no assurance that these matters individually or in the aggregate will not have a material adverse effect on our financial condition or results of operations in a future period. We are also subject to the risk of litigation, including litigation that may be without merit. As we intend to actively defend such litigation, significant legal expenses could be incurred. An adverse resolution of any future litigation against us could materially affect our financial condition, results of operations and liquidity. Furthermore, we operate in highly-regulated markets that currently are under intense regulatory scrutiny, and we have received, and we expect in the future that we may receive, inquiries and requests for documents and information from various federal, state and foreign regulators. In addition, one or more of our subsidiaries have received requests to repurchase loans from various parties in connection with the former securitization business conducted by a subsidiary. We believe that the continued scrutiny of MBS, structured finance, and derivative market participants increases the risk of additional inquiries and requests from regulatory or enforcement agencies and other parties. We cannot provide any assurance that these inquiries and requests will not result in further investigation of or the initiation of a proceeding against us or that, if any such investigation or proceeding were to arise, it would not materially adversely affect our Company.

ITEM 4. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES

Not applicable.

 

 

26


PART II

ITEM 5. MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES

Quarterly Stock Prices and Dividend Declarations

Our Class A common stock is listed on the NYSE under the symbol “AI.” As of January 31, 2018, there were approximately 118 record holders of our Class A common stock. However, most of the shares of our Class A common stock are held by brokers and other institutions on behalf of shareholders. The following table shows the high and low sales prices of our Class A common stock during each fiscal quarter during the years ended December 31, 2017 and 2016.

 

 

 

Price Range of Class A Common Stock

 

 

 

High

 

 

Low

 

Year Ended December 31, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth Quarter

 

$

12.87

 

 

$

10.93

 

Third Quarter

 

 

13.95

 

 

 

12.43

 

Second Quarter

 

 

15.17

 

 

 

13.59

 

First Quarter

 

 

15.59

 

 

 

13.46

 

Year Ended December 31, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth Quarter

 

 

17.13

 

 

 

14.08

 

Third Quarter

 

 

15.71

 

 

 

12.61

 

Second Quarter

 

 

14.04

 

 

 

11.99

 

First Quarter

 

 

13.82

 

 

 

9.42

 

 

There is no established public trading market for our Class B common stock. As of December 31, 2017, there were no shares of Class B common stock issued and outstanding. For the periods presented below, to the extent there were shares of Class B common stock outstanding, holders of shares of our Class B common stock received dividends in the same amounts and on the same dates as holders of shares of our Class A common stock.

Pursuant to the Company’s variable dividend policy for its common stock, the Board of Directors evaluates common stock dividends on a quarterly basis and, in its sole discretion, approves the payment of dividends. The Company’s common stock dividend payments, if any, may vary significantly from quarter to quarter. In addition, holders of our 7.00% Series B Cumulative Perpetual Redeemable Preferred Stock are entitled to receive cumulative cash dividends at a rate of 7.00% per annum of its liquidation preference before holders of our common stock are entitled to receive any dividends. The Board of Directors has approved and the Company declared and paid the following dividends on its common stock in 2017:

 

Quarter Ended

 

Dividend Amount

 

 

Declaration Date

 

Record Date

 

Pay Date

December 31

 

$

0.550

 

 

December 14

 

December 29

 

January 31, 2018

September 30

 

 

0.550

 

 

September 14

 

September 29

 

October 31

June 30

 

 

0.550

 

 

June 16

 

June 30

 

July 31

March 31

 

 

0.625

 

 

March 14

 

March 31

 

April 28

 

The Board of Directors approved and the Company declared and paid the following dividends on its common stock in 2016:

 

Quarter Ended

 

Dividend Amount

 

 

Declaration Date

 

Record Date

 

Pay Date

December 31

 

$

0.625

 

 

December 16

 

December 30

 

January 31, 2017

September 30

 

 

0.625

 

 

September 15

 

September 30

 

October 31

June 30

 

 

0.625

 

 

June 17

 

June 30

 

July 29

March 31

 

 

0.625

 

 

March 15

 

March 31

 

April 29

 

Securities Authorized for Issuance Under Equity Compensation Plans

Information about securities authorized for issuance under our equity compensation plans is incorporated by reference from our Definitive Proxy Statement for the 2018 Annual Meeting of Shareholders.

Purchases of Equity Securities by the Issuer

The Company’s Board of Directors authorized a share repurchase program pursuant to which the Company may repurchase up to 2,000,000 shares of Class A common stock (the “Repurchase Program”). Repurchases under the Repurchase Program may be made

27


from time to time on the open market and in private transactions at management’s discretion in accordance with applicable federal securities laws. The timing of repurchases and the exact number of shares of Class A common stock to be repurchased will depend upon market conditions and other factors. The Repurchase Program is funded using the Company’s cash on hand and cash generated from operations. The Repurchase Program has no expiration date and may be suspended or terminated at any time without prior notice. There were no shares repurchased by the Company under the Repurchase Program during the year ended December 31, 2017. As of December 31, 2017, there remain available for repurchase 1,951,305 shares of Class A common stock under the Repurchase Program.

 

Performance Graph

The following graph compares the cumulative total shareholder return for our Class A common stock from December 31, 2012 to December 31, 2017 with the comparable cumulative return of the Standard & Poor’s (“S&P”) 500 Stock Index and the FTSE NAREIT Mortgage REIT Index. The FTSE NAREIT Mortgage REIT Index is a free-float adjusted, market capitalization-weighted index of U.S. mortgage REITs, which include all tax-qualified REITs with more than 50% of total assets invested in mortgage loans or MBS secured by interests in real property.

The graph assumes $100 invested on December 31, 2012 in our Class A common stock and $100 invested at the same time in each of the above-mentioned indices, assuming that all dividends are reinvested.

 

 

 

 

AI

 

 

S&P 500

Index

 

 

FTSE NAREIT

Mortgage REIT

Index

 

December 31, 2012

 

$

100.00

 

 

$

100.00

 

 

$

100.00

 

December 31, 2013

 

 

145.32

 

 

 

132.36

 

 

 

97.84

 

December 31, 2014

 

 

166.91

 

 

 

150.43

 

 

 

115.31

 

December 31, 2015

 

 

98.28

 

 

 

152.51

 

 

 

105.30

 

December 31, 2016

 

 

131.58

 

 

 

170.70

 

 

 

129.18

 

December 31, 2017

 

 

124.05

 

 

 

207.92

 

 

 

154.72

 

 

 

 

28


ITEM 6. SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA

SELECTED CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL INFORMATION

(Dollars in thousands, except per share amounts)

 

 

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

 

2017

 

 

2016

 

 

2015

 

 

2014

 

 

2013

 

Consolidated Statement of Comprehensive Income

   Data (audited)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interest income

 

$

121,248

 

 

$

105,336

 

 

$

121,263

 

 

$

105,577

 

 

$

72,233

 

Interest expense

 

 

51,514

 

 

 

29,222

 

 

 

18,889

 

 

 

11,391

 

 

 

8,529

 

Net interest income

 

 

69,734

 

 

 

76,114

 

 

 

102,374

 

 

 

94,186

 

 

 

63,704

 

Investment gain (loss), net

 

 

5,874

 

 

 

(69,318

)

 

 

(118,429

)

 

 

(20,287

)

 

 

(32,557

)

General and administrative expenses

 

 

18,570

 

 

 

20,756

 

 

 

14,787

 

 

 

18,499

 

 

 

17,008

 

Income (loss) before income taxes

 

 

57,038

 

 

 

(13,960

)

 

 

(30,842

)

 

 

55,400

 

 

 

14,139

 

Income tax provision (benefit)

 

 

39,603

 

 

 

27,387

 

 

 

38,561

 

 

 

47,647

 

 

 

(38,684

)

Net income (loss)

 

 

17,435

 

 

 

(41,347

)

 

 

(69,403

)

 

 

7,753

 

 

 

52,823

 

Dividend on preferred stock

 

 

(251

)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net income (loss) available (attributable) to common stock

 

 

17,184

 

 

 

(41,347

)

 

 

(69,403

)

 

 

7,753

 

 

 

52,823

 

Other comprehensive (loss) income, net of taxes

 

 

 

 

 

(12,371

)

 

 

(23,501

)

 

 

(10,397

)

 

 

11,743

 

Comprehensive income (loss)

 

$

17,435

 

 

$

(53,718

)

 

$

(92,904

)

 

$

(2,644

)

 

$

64,566

 

Basic earnings (loss) per common share

 

$

0.67

 

 

$

(1.79

)

 

$

(3.02

)

 

$

0.39

 

 

$

3.30

 

Diluted earnings (loss) per common share

 

$

0.66

 

 

$

(1.79

)

 

$

(3.02

)

 

$

0.38

 

 

$

3.26

 

 

 

 

December 31,

 

 

 

2017

 

 

2016

 

 

2015

 

 

2014

 

 

2013

 

Consolidated Balance Sheet Data (audited)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agency MBS, at fair value

 

$

4,054,424

 

 

$

3,911,375

 

 

$

3,865,316

 

 

$

3,414,340

 

 

$

1,576,499

 

Private-label MBS, at fair value

 

 

76

 

 

 

1,266

 

 

 

130,553

 

 

 

267,437

 

 

 

341,299

 

Deferred tax assets, net

 

 

800

 

 

 

48,829

 

 

 

72,927

 

 

 

101,004

 

 

 

142,691

 

Total assets

 

 

4,160,529

 

 

 

4,116,951

 

 

 

4,178,336

 

 

 

3,992,295

 

 

 

2,170,873

 

Short-term secured debt

 

 

3,667,181

 

 

 

3,649,102

 

 

 

3,621,680

 

 

 

3,179,775

 

 

 

1,547,630

 

Long-term unsecured debt

 

 

73,880

 

 

 

73,656

 

 

 

73,433

 

 

 

39,167

 

 

 

39,067

 

Total stockholders’ equity

 

 

386,317

 

 

 

358,813

 

 

 

459,428

 

 

 

620,671

 

 

 

528,668

 

Other Financial Data (unaudited)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book value per common share (1)

 

$

13.43

 

 

$

15.17

 

 

$

19.98

 

 

$

27.02

 

 

$

31.71

 

Tangible book value per common share (2)

 

$

13.40

 

 

$

13.11

 

 

$

16.81

 

 

$

22.62

 

 

$

23.15

 

Market price per share of Class A common stock (3)

 

$

11.78

 

 

$

14.82

 

 

$

13.23

 

 

$

26.61

 

 

$

26.39

 

Cash dividends declared per common share

 

$

2.275

 

 

$

2.50

 

 

$

3.00

 

 

$

3.50

 

 

$

3.50

 

 

(1)

Book value per share is calculated as total shareholders’ equity less the preferred stock liquidation preference divided by common shares outstanding.  Common shares outstanding includes shares of Class A common stock and Class B common stock outstanding plus vested restricted stock units convertible into shares of Class A common stock less unvested restricted shares of Class A common stock.

(2)

Tangible book value represents total shareholders’ equity less the preferred stock liquidation preference and net deferred tax assets.

(3)

Represents the last reported sale price of the Company’s Class A common stock on the NYSE as of the year ended on the indicated date.

 

 

29


ITEM 7. MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS

Overview

We are an investment firm that focuses on acquiring and holding a levered portfolio of residential mortgage-backed securities (“MBS”), consisting of agency MBS and private-label MBS. Agency MBS include residential mortgage pass-through certificates for which the principal and interest payments are guaranteed by a U.S. government agency or government sponsored enterprise (“GSE”), such as the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“Freddie Mac”). Private-label MBS, or non-agency MBS, include residential MBS that are not guaranteed by a GSE or the U.S. government. As of December 31, 2017, nearly all of our investment capital was allocated to agency MBS.

We leverage prudently our investment portfolio so as to increase potential returns to our shareholders. We fund our investments primarily through short-term financing arrangements, principally through repurchase agreements.  We enter into various hedging transactions to mitigate the interest rate sensitivity of our cost of borrowing and the value of our MBS portfolio.

We are a Virginia corporation and taxed as a C corporation for U.S. federal tax purposes. We are an internally managed company and do not have an external investment advisor.

Factors that Affect our Results of Operations and Financial Condition

Our business is materially affected by a variety of industry and economic factors, including:

 

conditions in the global financial markets and economic conditions generally;

 

changes in interest rates and prepayment rates;

 

conditions in the residential real estate and mortgage markets;

 

actions taken by the U.S. government, U.S. Federal Reserve, the U.S. Treasury and foreign central banks;

 

changes in laws and regulations and industry practices; and

 

other market developments.

Current Market Conditions and Trends

 

The 2017 year opened with expectations for faster economic growth and higher inflation driven by the anticipated pro-growth economic policies of the administration of President Trump, including potential income tax reform, infrastructure spending and deregulation.  In response, the forward guidance of the Federal Open Market Committee (“FOMC”) at the beginning of the year signaled three increases to the federal funds rate during the year.  Although the FOMC raised the targeted federal funds rate twice in the first half of the year, market participants began to lower their expectations for additional interest rate increases in the second half of the year due to weakening inflation expectations, waning likelihood of potential pro-economic growth policies along with geopolitical risks from North Korea and uncertainty of the economic impact from hurricane damage.  However, during the fourth quarter, the passage of income tax reform, strong employment data and the potential for additional pro-growth economic policies once again raised expectations for faster economic growth and higher inflation.  In response, the FOMC raised the targeted federal funds rate once again in December 2017 with expectations of additional increases in 2018.

 

The 10-year U.S. Treasury rate was 2.41% as of December 31, 2017, only a four basis point decrease from the prior year end and reaching a high of 2.63% and a low of 2.04% during fiscal year 2017.  The U.S. Treasury rate curve continued to flatten during the year as the spread between the 2-year and 10-year U.S. Treasury rate narrowed 74 basis points with the short-end outpacing the long-end of the interest rate curve.  The spread between 10-year U.S. Treasury rates and interest rate swaps widened by ten basis points during fiscal year 2017 with the 10-year swap rate ending at 2.40% on December 31, 2017.  In general, the interest rate volatility during the 2017 calendar year could be characterized as low, particularly as compared to recent years.  In this environment, the price of agency MBS outperformed U.S. Treasuries and interest rate swaps resulting in modest spread tightening.

 

On December 22, 2017, the President signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which provides for substantial changes to the federal taxation of individuals and corporations with an effective date of January 1, 2018. For corporate tax payers, the changes include, among others, a decrease in the federal income tax rate from 35.0% to 21.0%, a change in international taxation from a worldwide tax system to a territorial tax system, and elimination or modification of certain deductions. For individual taxpayers, the changes include, among others, lower ordinary income tax rates, higher standard deductions, and suspension or modification of several itemized deductions. The changes to the categories of itemized deductions include a limit to state and local income and property tax deductions

30


of $10,000 and a modification to the amount of residential mortgage interest that would be deductible. The new rule would limit the deduction available for mortgage interest by reducing the amount of debt that can qualify from $1 million to $750,000; however, mortgage debt acquired prior to December 15, 2017 would not be affected by the reduction. Importantly to the agency MBS market, borrowers of mortgage loans that serve as collateral for agency MBS should not be affected by the revised mortgage interest limitation, as the current GSE baseline and high cost area conforming loan limits are $453,100 and $679,650, respectively.  Many of the changes affecting individual taxpayers would cease to apply after December 31, 2025 and would revert to their pre-2018 form with future legislation required to make the provisions effective beyond 2025. As a result of these changes, it is expected that the number of individual taxpayers that itemize deductions will decrease significantly causing the income tax benefits of residential home ownership to decline materially. It is likely that these factors could result in a decline in the pricing of residential real estate as well as alter the prepayment patterns of residential mortgages, which could have a significant impact on the pricing and returns of residential MBS.

 

On December 13, 2017, the FOMC announced that it was raising the target federal funds rate range by 25 basis points to 1.25% to 1.50% representing the fourth 25 basis point rate increase over a one-year period.  On January 31, 2018, the FOMC announced that it was maintaining its target federal funds rate at 1.25% to 1.50%.  The FOMC commented that the labor market has continued to strengthen and the economic activity has been rising at a solid rate.  In its January 31, 2018 statement, the FOMC stated that it continues to expect that, with further gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace and labor market conditions will remain strong.  The FOMC also stated that it expects inflation to move up in the next year and stabilize around 2% over the medium term.  The FOMC commented further that it expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant further gradual increases in the federal funds rate, and will likely remain, for some time, below levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run.  Based on federal fund futures prices, the market is currently expecting that the FOMC will raise the target federal funds rate three more times with a possibility of an additional fourth hike during 2018.

 

On June 14, 2017, the FOMC announced that it would implement a balance sheet normalization policy by gradually decreasing its reinvestment of U.S. Treasury securities and agency MBS.  More specifically, principal payments received by the Federal Reserve would be reinvested only to the extent they exceed gradually rising caps until the FOMC determines that the Federal Reserve is holding no more securities than necessary to implement monetary policy efficiently and effectively.  In October 2017, the FOMC commenced this balance sheet normalization program. General current market sentiment is that mortgage spreads may widen during 2018 due to an expected reduction in the demand for agency MBS as the Federal Reserve executes its quantitative tightening policy, which would result in potential attractive investment opportunities in agency MBS.

 

The Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System has significant influence over monetary policy and is appointed by the U.S. President subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate.  On November 2, 2017, President Trump nominated Jerome H. Powell, an existing member of the Board of Governors, to be the next Chair upon the end of Chair Janet L. Yellen’s term on February 3, 2018.  On January 23, 2018, the Senate Banking Committee voted to recommend Mr. Powell as the next Chair and his four-year term commenced on February 3, 2018.  

 

Prepayment speeds in the residential mortgage market during fiscal year 2017 decreased from the prior year driven primarily by a decline in refinancing volumes due to an increase in mortgage rates.  Housing prices continue to improve as evidenced by the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA index reporting a 6.2% annual gain in November 2017 and the overall index continuing to reach a historical high each month.  Housing prices continue to rise faster than inflation as the demand for homes has exceeded the supply of homes driven by low inventories of new or existing homes for sale as well as affordable available financing from historically low mortgage rates and low unemployment.  Looking forward, with home prices rising faster than wages and inflation, some areas could see potential home buyers compelled to look at renting as an option.

 

31


The following table presents certain key market data as of the dates indicated:

 

 

December 31,

2016

 

 

March 31,

2017

 

 

June 30,

2017

 

 

September 30,

2017

 

 

December 31,

2017

 

 

Change - Fourth

Quarter 2017

 

30-Year FNMA Fixed Rate MBS (1)

 

3.0%

$

99.20

 

 

$

99.23

 

 

$

99.83

 

 

$

100.27

 

 

$

100.05

 

 

$

(0.22

)

3.5%

 

102.33

 

 

 

102.36

 

 

 

102.67

 

 

 

103.05

 

 

 

102.73

 

 

 

(0.32

)

4.0%

 

104.98

 

 

 

104.95

 

 

 

105.14

 

 

 

105.27

 

 

 

104.61

 

 

 

(0.66

)

4.5%

 

107.39

 

 

 

107.30

 

 

 

107.27

 

 

 

107.33

 

 

 

106.42

 

 

 

(0.91

)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. Treasury Rates (UST)

 

2-year UST

 

1.19

%

 

 

1.26

%

 

 

1.38

%

 

 

1.48

%

 

 

1.89

%

 

 

0.41

%

3-year UST

 

1.45

%

 

 

1.49

%

 

 

1.55

%

 

 

1.62

%

 

 

1.98

%

 

 

0.36

%

5-year UST

 

1.93

%

 

 

1.92

%

 

 

1.89

%

 

 

1.94

%

 

 

2.21

%

 

 

0.27

%

7-year UST

 

2.25

%

 

 

2.21

%

 

 

2.14

%

 

 

2.17

%

 

 

2.33

%

 

 

0.16

%

10-year UST

 

2.45

%

 

 

2.39

%

 

 

2.31

%

 

 

2.33

%

 

 

2.41

%

 

 

0.08

%

2-year to 10-year UST Spread

 

1.26

%

 

 

1.13

%

 

 

0.93

%

 

 

0.85

%

 

 

0.52

%

 

 

(0.33

)%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interest Rate Swap Rates

 

2-year Swap

 

1.45

%

 

 

1.62

%

 

 

1.62

%

 

 

1.74

%

 

 

2.08

%

 

 

0.34

%

3-year Swap

 

1.69

%

 

 

1.81

%

 

 

1.75

%

 

 

1.86

%

 

 

2.17

%

 

 

0.31

%

5-year Swap

 

1.98

%

 

 

2.05

%

 

 

1.96

%

 

 

2.00

%

 

 

2.24

%

 

 

0.24

%

7-year Swap

 

2.16

%

 

 

2.22

%

 

 

2.11

%

 

 

2.14

%

 

 

2.31

%

 

 

0.17

%

10-year Swap

 

2.34

%

 

 

2.38

%

 

 

2.28

%

 

 

2.29

%

 

 

2.40

%

 

 

0.11

%

2-year Swap to 2-year UST Spread

 

0.26

%

 

 

0.36

%

 

 

0.24

%

 

 

0.26

%

 

 

0.19

%

 

 

(0.07

)%

10-year Swap to 10-year UST Spread

 

(0.11

)%

 

 

(0.01

)%

 

 

(0.03

)%

 

 

(0.04

)%

 

 

(0.01

)%

 

 

0.03

%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

London Interbank Offered Rates (LIBOR)

 

1-month LIBOR

 

0.77

%

 

 

0.98

%

 

 

1.22

%

 

 

1.23

%

 

 

1.56

%

 

 

0.33

%

3-month LIBOR

 

1.00

%

 

 

1.15

%

 

 

1.30

%

 

 

1.33

%

 

 

1.69

%

 

 

0.36

%

 

(1)

Generic 30-year FNMA TBA price information, sourced from Bloomberg, provided for illustrative purposes only and is not meant to be reflective of the fair value of securities held by the Company.

Recent Regulatory Activity

The recently passed tax law informally known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made many significant changes to the U.S. federal income tax laws applicable to businesses and their owners.  Pursuant to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, among other changes, as of January 1, 2018, (1) the federal income tax rate applicable to corporations is reduced to 21%, (2) the corporate alternative minimum tax is repealed and (3) the backup withholding rate is reduced to 24%.  In addition, the long-term tax-exempt rate for February 2018 is 1.97%.

We expect vigorous debate and discussion in a number of other areas, including residential housing and mortgage reform, fiscal policy, monetary policy and healthcare, to continue over the next few years; however, we cannot be certain if or when any specific proposal or policy might be announced, emerge from committee or be approved by Congress, and if so, what the effects on us may be.

Executive Summary

The following are some key financial highlights for the year ended December 31, 2017:

$13.43 per share common share of GAAP book value as of December 31, 2017, a decrease of 11.5% from the prior year, primarily driven by a decrease in the Company’s net deferred tax asset of $2.03 per share

 

$13.40 per common share of tangible book value as of December 31, 2017, an increase of 2.2% from the prior year

 

$2.275 of declared dividends per common share, resulting in an economic gain of 19.6% measured as the change in tangible book value per share plus dividends declared during the year

 

$0.66 per diluted common share of net income

 

$2.18 per diluted common share of pre-tax net income

 

$2.26 per diluted common share of non-GAAP core operating income (1)

 

Net interest income of $69.7 million compared to $76.1 million in the prior year, driven primarily by:

32


 

o

a 46 basis point increase in weighted average short-term secured financing costs resulting primarily from hikes in the targeted federal funds rate from the Federal Reserve, partially offset by

 

o

higher weighted average asset yields on our investments in agency MBS (2.84% versus 2.70%) resulting from lower prepayment rates (9.26% constant prepayment rate versus 11.29%)

 

Economic net interest income, which includes TBA dollar roll income and net interest expense incurred from interest rate swaps, of $73.7 million compared to $77.6 million in the prior year (1)

 

As of December 31, 2017, our agency MBS investment portfolio totaled $5,351 million, comprised of $4,054 million of specified agency MBS and $1,297 million of net commitments to purchase TBA agency MBS.  During the year ended December 31, 2017, we increased our agency MBS investment allocation to TBA agency MBS to take advantage of higher risk adjusted returns in the TBA dollar roll market as compared to owning specified agency MBS financed with repurchase agreement financing. We generated TBA dollar roll income of $21.3 million during the year ended December 31, 2017 compared to $19.3 million in the prior year. For GAAP reporting purposes, TBA dollar roll income is reported as a component of our investment gain (loss), net on our consolidated statements of comprehensive income and is not a component of our net interest income.

As of December 31, 2017, we had $3,667 million of repurchase agreement financing outstanding. We maintain a substantial hedge position consisting primarily of interest rate swaps coupled with short positions in U.S. Treasury note futures to mitigate the interest rate sensitivity of our cost of borrowing and the value of our fixed-rate agency MBS portfolio over the long-term. As of December 31, 2017, we had $3,600 million in notional amount of interest rate swaps with a weighted average fixed pay rate of 1.67% and a weighted average maturity of 5.1 years, which has the economic effect of locking into a fixed cost of funding on our repurchase agreement funding for the term of the interest rate swap agreements and, thereby, mitigating the impact of rising interest rates on the cost of the our borrowings. For GAAP reporting purposes, the net interest income earned or expense incurred from interest rate swap agreements is reported as a component of our investment gain (loss), net on our consolidated statements of comprehensive income and is not a component of our net interest income.

   Excluding TBA dollar roll income and interest rate swap net interest expense included in non-GAAP core operating income, we had net investment losses on our investment portfolio of $1.9 million and net investment gains on our related interest rate hedging instruments of $3.8 million for a net investment gain on our hedged investment portfolio of $1.9 million, or $0.07 per diluted common share, for the year ended December 31, 2017.

We continue to utilize our tax benefits afforded to us as a C corporation that allow us to shield substantially all of our income from taxes.  As of December 31, 2017, we had NOL carryforwards of $60.7 million, NCL carryforwards of $314.3 million and AMT credit carryforwards of $9.1 million.  From a GAAP accounting perspective, we had a net deferred tax asset of $0.8 million, or $0.03 per common share, as of December 31, 2017.  As of December 31, 2017, we have recognized a full valuation allowance against our deferred tax assets that are expected to be capital in nature.  During the year ended December 31, 2017, we recorded an increase to our valuation allowance against our deferred tax asset of $0.64 per diluted common share to fully reserve our deferred tax assets that are expected to be capital in nature.

 

(1)

For further information on the use of non-GAAP core operating income and economic net interest income, which are non-GAAP financial measures, see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operation – Non-GAAP Core Operating Income.”

Portfolio Overview

The following table summarizes our MBS investment portfolio at fair value as of December 31, 2017 and 2016 (dollars in thousands):

 

<

 

 

December 31, 2017

 

 

December 31, 2016

 

Specified agency MBS

 

$

4,054,424

 

 

$

3,909,452

 

Inverse interest-only agency MBS