S-11/A 1 ds11a.htm AMENDMENT #7 TO FORM S-11 Amendment #7 to Form S-11
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As filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 17, 2010

Registration No. 333-160562

 

 

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

 

Pre-Effective Amendment No. 7

to

Form S-11

FOR REGISTRATION UNDER THE SECURITIES ACT OF 1933

OF CERTAIN REAL ESTATE COMPANIES

 

 

Ellington Financial LLC

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its governing instruments)

 

 

53 Forest Avenue

Old Greenwich, Connecticut 06870

(203) 698-1200

(Address, including zip code, and telephone number, including area code, of registrant’s principal executive offices)

Laurence Penn

Chief Executive Officer

53 Forest Avenue

Old Greenwich, Connecticut 06870

(203) 698-1200

(Name, address, including zip code, and telephone number, including area code, of agent for service)

 

 

Copies to:

 

Daniel M. LeBey

Christopher C. Green

Hunton & Williams LLP

Riverfront Plaza, East Tower

951 E. Byrd Street

Richmond, Virginia 23219-4074

(804) 788-8200

(804) 788-8218 (Facsimile)

 

Valerie Ford Jacob, Esq.

Paul D. Tropp, Esq.

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP

One New York Plaza

New York, New York 10004

(212) 859-8000

(212) 859-4000 (Facsimile)

 

 

Approximate date of commencement of proposed sale to the public: As soon as practicable after the effective date of this Registration Statement.

If any of the securities being registered on this form are to be offered on a delayed or continuous basis pursuant to Rule 415 under the Securities Act, check the following box.  ¨

If this form is filed to register additional securities for an offering pursuant to Rule 462(b) under the Securities Act, check the following box and list the Securities Act registration statement number of the earlier effective registration statement for the same offering.  ¨

If this form is a post-effective amendment filed pursuant to Rule 462(c) under the Securities Act, check the following box and list the Securities Act registration statement number of the earlier effective registration statement for the same offering.  ¨

If this form is a post-effective amendment filed pursuant to Rule 462(d) under the Securities Act, check the following box and list the Securities Act registration statement number of the earlier effective registration statement for the same offering.  ¨

If delivery of the prospectus is expected to be made pursuant to Rule 434, please check the following box.  ¨

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

 

Large accelerated filer

  ¨      Accelerated filer   ¨

Non-accelerated filer

  x   (Do not check if a smaller reporting company)    Smaller reporting company   ¨

The registrant hereby amends this registration statement on such date or dates as may be necessary to delay its effective date until the registrant shall file a further amendment which specifically states that this registration statement shall thereafter become effective in accordance with Section 8(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 or until the registration statement shall become effective on such date as the Commission, acting pursuant to said Section 8(a), may determine.

 

 

 


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The information in this preliminary prospectus is not complete and may be changed. We may not sell these securities until the registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission is declared effective. This preliminary prospectus is not an offer to sell these securities and it is not soliciting an offer to buy these securities in any state where an offer or sale is not permitted.

 

Subject to Completion, Dated March 17, 2010

LOGO

Ellington Financial LLC

 

                 Shares

Common Shares Representing Limited Liability Company Interests

 

 

This is the initial public offering of Ellington Financial LLC. We are offering              common shares representing limited liability company interests, which we refer to as common shares. We anticipate that the initial public offering price will be between $             and $             per share. We have applied to list our common shares on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “EFC.”

Ellington Financial LLC is a specialty finance company that specializes in acquiring and managing mortgage-related assets, including residential mortgage-backed securities backed by prime jumbo, Alt-A and subprime residential mortgage loans, residential mortgage-backed securities for which the principal and interest payments are guaranteed by a U.S. Government agency or a U.S. Government-sponsored entity, and mortgage-related derivatives, as well as corporate debt and equity securities and derivatives. We are externally managed and advised by Ellington Financial Management LLC, or our Manager, an affiliate of Ellington Management Group, L.L.C.

Investing in our common shares involves risk. See “Risk Factors” beginning on page 24.

Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission nor any state securities commission has approved or disapproved of these securities or determined if this prospectus is truthful or complete. Any representation to the contrary is a criminal offense.

 

      

Per Share

    

Total

Public offering price

     $                       $                 

Underwriting discounts and commissions

     $                       $                 

Proceeds, before expenses, to Ellington Financial LLC

     $                       $                 

We have granted the underwriters the right to purchase up to              additional shares to cover over-allotments.

 

Deutsche Bank Securities

The date of this prospectus is                 , 2010

 


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SUMMARY

This summary highlights information contained elsewhere in this prospectus. It is not complete and may not contain all of the information that you should consider before making an investment in our common shares. You should read carefully the more detailed information set forth under “Risk Factors” and the other information included in this prospectus. Except where the context suggests otherwise, “EFC,” “we,” “us” and “our” refer to Ellington Financial LLC and its subsidiaries, our “Manager” refers to Ellington Financial Management LLC, our external manager, “Ellington” refers to Ellington Management Group, L.L.C. and its affiliated investment advisory firms, including our Manager, and “Manager Group” refers collectively to Ellington and its principals and employees (including family trusts established by the foregoing) and entities in which 100% of the interests are beneficially owned by the foregoing. In certain instances, references to our Manager and services to be provided to us by our Manager may also include services provided by Ellington and its other affiliates from time to time. Unless indicated otherwise, the information in this prospectus assumes (i) the common shares to be sold in this offering will be sold at $             per share, which is the mid-point of the price range set forth on the front cover of this prospectus and (ii) no exercise of the underwriters’ over-allotment option described on the cover page of this prospectus.

Our Company

Ellington Financial LLC is a specialty finance company formed in August 2007 that specializes in acquiring and managing mortgage-related assets. Our primary objective is to generate attractive, risk-adjusted total returns for our shareholders by making investments that we believe compensate us appropriately for the risks associated with them. We seek to attain this objective by utilizing an opportunistic strategy. Our targeted assets currently include:

 

   

residential mortgage-backed securities, or RMBS, backed by prime jumbo, Alternative A-paper, or Alt-A, and subprime residential mortgage loans, or non-Agency RMBS;

 

   

RMBS for which the principal and interest payments are guaranteed by a U.S. Government agency or a U.S. Government-sponsored entity, or Agency RMBS;

 

   

mortgage-related derivatives; and

 

   

corporate debt and equity securities and derivatives.

We also may opportunistically acquire and manage other types of mortgage-related assets and financial assets, such as residential whole mortgage loans, commercial mortgage-backed securities, or CMBS, and commercial mortgages or other commercial real estate debt, asset-backed securities, or ABS, backed by consumer and commercial assets and non-mortgage-related derivatives. As of December 31, 2009, we had an aggregate portfolio of RMBS with a net value of approximately $246.1 million, derivatives contracts with a net value of approximately $109.6 million and total shareholders’ equity of approximately $299.8 million. Our net RMBS portfolio value of $246.1 million as of December 31, 2009, represents long investments in Agency and non-Agency RMBS valued at $748.7 million offset by Agency RMBS sold short valued at $502.6 million.

The members of our management team are Michael Vranos, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ellington, who serves as our Co-Chief Investment Officer, Laurence Penn, Vice Chairman of Ellington, who serves as our Chief Executive Officer and President, Mark Tecotzky, a Managing Director of Ellington, who serves as our Co-Chief Investment Officer, Lisa Mumford, who serves as our dedicated Chief Financial Officer and Eric Bothwell, a Managing Director of Ellington, who serves as our Chief Operating Officer and our Secretary. Each of these individuals is an officer of our Manager. We currently do not have any employees.

 

 

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Our Manager and Ellington

We are externally managed and advised by our Manager, an affiliate of Ellington, pursuant to a management agreement. Our Manager was formed solely to serve as our manager and does not have any other clients. In addition, our Manager currently does not have any employees and instead relies on the employees of Ellington to perform its obligations to us. Ellington is a private investment management firm and registered investment advisor with a 15-year history of investing in a broad spectrum of mortgage-backed securities, or MBS, and related derivatives.

Our Manager is responsible for administering our business activities and day-to-day operations and, pursuant to a services agreement between our Manager and Ellington, relies on the resources of Ellington to support our operations. See “Certain Relationships and Related Party Transactions—Services Agreement” for a description of the terms of the services agreement between our Manager and Ellington. Ellington has established portfolio management resources for each of our targeted asset classes and an established infrastructure supporting those resources. Through our relationship with our Manager, we benefit from Ellington’s highly analytical investment processes, broad-based deal flow, extensive relationships in the financial community, financial and capital structuring skills, investment surveillance database and operational expertise. Ellington’s analytic approach to the investment process involves collection of substantial amounts of data regarding historical performance of MBS collateral and MBS market transactions. Ellington analyzes this data to identify possible trends and develops financial models used to support the investment and risk management process. In addition, throughout Ellington’s 15-year history of investing in MBS and related derivatives, it has developed strong relationships with a wide range of dealers and other market participants that provide Ellington access to a broad range of trading opportunities and market information. In addition, our Manager provides us with access to a wide variety of asset acquisition and disposition opportunities and information that assist us in making asset management decisions across our targeted asset classes, which we believe provides us with a significant competitive advantage. We also benefit from Ellington’s finance, accounting, operational, legal, compliance and administrative functions.

As of December 31, 2009, Ellington employed over 100 employees and, including our company, various hedge funds, and various private accounts, had net assets under management of approximately $3.0 billion. In addition, Ellington, through its affiliates, manages collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, collateralized by MBS or ABS, as well as a traditional managed account.

Our Manager has an investment and risk management committee that advises and consults with our senior management team with respect to, among other things, our investment policies, portfolio holdings, financing and hedging strategies and investment guidelines. The members of the investment and risk management committee include Messrs. Vranos, Penn, Tecotzky and Bothwell.

Our Strategy

We utilize an opportunistic strategy to seek to provide investors with attractive, risk-adjusted total returns by:

 

   

taking advantage of opportunities in the residential mortgage market by purchasing investment grade and non-investment grade non-Agency RMBS, including senior and subordinated securities;

 

   

acquiring Agency RMBS on a more leveraged basis in order to take advantage of opportunities in that market sector and assist us in maintaining our exclusion from regulation as an investment company under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended, or the Investment Company Act;

 

   

opportunistically entering into and managing a portfolio of mortgage-related derivatives;

 

 

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opportunistically acquiring and managing other mortgage-related and financial assets, such as residential whole mortgage loans, CMBS, commercial mortgages or other commercial real estate debt, ABS backed by consumer and commercial assets and non-mortgage-related derivatives; and

 

   

opportunistically mitigating our credit and interest rate risk by using a variety of hedging instruments.

Our strategy is adaptable to changing market environments, subject to compliance with the income and other tests that will allow us to continue to be treated as a partnership for U.S. federal income tax purposes and to maintain our exclusion from regulation as an investment company under the Investment Company Act. As a result, although we focus on the assets described above, our acquisition and management decisions depend on prevailing market conditions and our targeted asset classes may vary over time in response to market conditions. To effect our strategy, we may engage in a high degree of trading volume. Our Manager is authorized to follow very broad investment guidelines and, as a result, we cannot predict our portfolio composition. We may change our strategy and policies without a vote of our shareholders. Moreover, although our independent directors periodically review our investment guidelines and our portfolio, they generally do not review our proposed asset acquisitions or asset management decisions.

Ellington’s investment philosophy revolves around the pursuit of value across various types of MBS and related assets. Ellington seeks investments across a wide range of MBS sectors without any restriction as to ratings, structure or position in the capital structure. Over time and through market cycles, opportunities will present themselves in varying sectors and in varying forms. In current markets, for example, the liquidation of portfolios of MBS from structured vehicles and from distressed financial institutions have been significant sources of asset acquisition opportunities. By rotating between sectors of the MBS markets and adjusting the extent to which it hedges, Ellington believes that it is able to capitalize on the disparities between these sectors as well as on overall trends in the marketplace, and therefore provide better and more consistent returns for its investors. Disparities between MBS sectors vary from time to time and are driven by a combination of factors. For example, as various MBS sectors fall in and out of favor, the relative yields that the market demands for those sectors may vary. In addition, Ellington’s performance projections for certain sectors may differ from those of other market participants and such disparities will naturally cause us, from time to time, to gravitate towards certain sectors and away from others. Disparities between MBS sectors may also be driven by differences in collateral performance (for example, seasoned subprime collateral may perform better than more recent subprime collateral) and in the structure of particular investments (for example, in the timing of cash flow or the level of credit enhancement), and our Manager may believe that other market participants are overestimating or underestimating the value of these differences. Furthermore, we believe that risk management, including opportunistic portfolio hedging and prudent financing and liquidity management, is essential for consistent generation of attractive, risk-adjusted total returns across market cycles.

Ellington’s continued emphasis on and development of proprietary MBS credit, interest rate and prepayment models, as well as other proprietary research and analytics, underscores the importance it places on a disciplined and often analytical approach to fixed income investing, especially in MBS. Our Manager uses Ellington’s proprietary models to identify attractive assets, value these assets, monitor and forecast the performance of these assets, and opportunistically hedge our credit and interest rate risk. We leverage these skills and resources to seek to meet our objectives.

We believe that our Manager is uniquely qualified to implement our strategy. Our strategy is consistent with Ellington’s investment approach, which is based on its distinctive strengths in sourcing, analyzing, trading and hedging complex MBS. Furthermore, we believe that Ellington’s extensive experience in buying, selling, analyzing and structuring fixed income securities, coupled with its broad access to market information and trading flows, provides us with a steady flow of opportunities to acquire assets with favorable trade executions.

 

 

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Our Targeted Asset Classes

Our targeted asset classes currently include:

 

Asset Class

  

Principal Assets

Non-Agency RMBS   

• RMBS backed by prime jumbo(1), Alt-A(2) and subprime mortgages(3)

  

• RMBS backed by fixed rate mortgages, adjustable rate mortgages, or ARMs, Option-ARMs and Hybrid ARMs

  

• RMBS backed by first lien and second lien mortgages

  

• Investment grade and non-investment grade securities

  

• Senior and subordinated securities

  

• Interest only securities, or IOs, principal only securities, or POs, inverse interest only securities, or IIOs, and inverse floaters

Agency RMBS   

• Whole pool pass-through certificates

  

• To-Be-Announced mortgage pass-through certificates, or TBAs(4)

Mortgage-Related Derivatives   

• Credit default swaps on individual RMBS, on the ABX and CMBX indices and on other mortgage-related indices

 

• Other mortgage-related derivatives

Corporate Debt and Equity Securities and Derivatives

  

• Credit default swaps on corporations or on corporate indices

  

• Corporate debt or equity securities

  

• Options or total return swaps on corporate equity or on corporate equity indices

Other

  

• Residential whole mortgage loans

  

• CMBS

  

• Commercial mortgages and other commercial real estate debt

  

• ABS

  

• Other non-mortgage-related derivatives

 

(1)   Prime jumbo mortgage loans are mortgage loans that have principal amounts that are greater than the conforming loan limits for the Federal National Mortgage Association, or Fannie Mae, and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, or Freddie Mac, but are otherwise within typical Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines.
(2)   Alt-A mortgage loans generally have income verification and/or employment verification standards that are weaker than those standards employed in prime underwriting. Additionally, Alt-A mortgage loans are more frequently collateralized by non-primary residences than prime loans. The credit quality of Alt-A borrowers generally exceeds the credit quality of subprime borrowers.
(3)   Subprime mortgage loans are loans that are originated using underwriting standards that are less restrictive than those used for other first and junior lien mortgage loan origination programs, such as the programs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These lower standards permit loans to be made to borrowers having low credit scores and/or imperfect or impaired credit histories (including outstanding judgments or prior bankruptcies), loans with no income disclosure or verification and loans with high loan-to-value ratios.
(4)   TBAs are forward-settling purchases and sales of Agency RMBS where the underlying pools of mortgage loans are “To-Be-Announced.” Pursuant to these TBA transactions, we agree to purchase or sell, for future delivery, Agency RMBS with certain principal and interest terms and certain types of underlying collateral, but the particular Agency RMBS to be delivered is not identified until shortly before the TBA settlement date.

 

 

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Our Portfolio

As of December 31, 2009, our RMBS portfolio consisted of the following assets:

 

Asset Class

   Amortized
Cost
Basis
    Estimated Fair
Value
    Estimated Fair
Value as a
Percentage of

Total
Shareholders’
Equity
 

Non-Agency RMBS

   $ 213,939,936      $ 210,363,731      70.17

Agency RMBS:

      

Agency RMBS-Principal and Interest Securities

     491,616,224        497,958,272      166.10

Agency RMBS-TBAs

     40,773,672        40,345,039      13.46

Agency RMBS-TBAs Sold Short

     (509,587,384     (502,543,554   (167.63 )% 
                      

Total

   $ 236,742,448      $ 246,123,488      82.10
                      

As of December 31, 2009, our derivatives portfolio consisted of the following derivatives:

 

Asset Class

   Notional
Amount
    Estimated Fair
Value
    Estimated Fair
Value as a
Percentage of
Total
Shareholders’
Equity
 

Long positions using credit default swaps on RMBS(1)

   $ 15,252,372      $ (10,547,540   (3.52 )% 

Long positions using credit default swaps on RMBS Indices(1)

     3,250,000        (1,878,143   (0.63 )% 

Short positions using credit default swaps on RMBS and on RMBS and CMBS Indices(2)

     (157,225,956     114,795,584      38.29

Short positions using credit default swaps on corporate bonds and corporate bond indices(2)

     (55,867,400     8,015,954      2.67

Short positions in interest rate swaps(3)

     (11,000,000     109,332      0.04

Other derivatives(4)

     N/A        (903,050   (0.30 )% 
                

Total

     $ 109,592,137      36.55
                

 

(1)   Long positions using credit default swaps represent transactions where we sold credit protection to a counterparty.
(2)   Short positions using credit default swaps represent transactions where we purchased credit protection from a counterparty.
(3)   For short positions in interest rate swaps, a fixed rate is being paid and a floating rate is being received.
(4)   Other derivatives consists of depreciated futures, short positions in total return swaps and other swaps.

As of December 31, 2009, in addition to our RMBS portfolio and our derivatives portfolio, a small portion of our investment portfolio consisted of Treasury securities and put options purchased with a fair value of approximately $6.8 million.

Our Performance

Notwithstanding the difficult market conditions in which we have operated since our inception in August 2007, we have delivered a positive total return on our capital over that period. As of February 28, 2010, our book value per common share was approximately $            . For companies such as ours that employ an investment company basis of accounting, book value and net asset value are the same. Entities utilizing investment company accounting carry investments at fair value. The total return on our common shares since inception and for the two month period ended February 28, 2010, was     % and     %, respectively. Total returns on our common shares are calculated based on changes in book value per share, assume reinvestment of dividends, and exclude shares held by our Manager. See “Description of Shares—Manager’s Shares,” for a detailed description of how shares held by our Manager were treated prior to July 1, 2009.

 

 

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The following table shows our book value per outstanding common share as of our inception date and as of the end of each fiscal quarter thereafter, the dividends per share we paid each quarter, the quarterly total return for each such quarter and the cumulative total return as of the end of each such quarter:

 

     Ending
Book Value(1)
   Dividends
Paid
   Quarterly Total
Return(1)(2)
    Cumulative Total
Return(1)(2)
 

Inception (August 17, 2007)

   $ 19.17      N/A    N/A      N/A   

Three month period ending September 30, 2007

   $ 19.10      —      (0.37 )%    (0.37 )% 

Three month period ending December 31, 2007

   $ 19.35      —      1.31   0.94

Three month period ending March 31, 2008

   $ 18.96      —      (2.02 )%    (1.10 )% 

Three month period ending June 30, 2008

   $ 20.28      —      6.96   5.79

Three month period ending September 30, 2008

   $ 20.47      —      0.94   6.78

Three month period ending December 31, 2008

   $ 19.27      —      (5.86 )%    0.52

Three month period ending March 31, 2009(3)

   $ 20.83      —      8.10   8.66

Three month period ending June 30, 2009(4)

   $ 23.87      —      14.59   24.52

Three month period ending September 30, 2009

   $ 24.93    $ 1.50    10.72   37.87

Three month period ending December 31, 2009(5)

   $ 25.04    $ 1.00    4.45   44.00

 

(1)   Amounts exclude common shares issuable upon conversion of outstanding LTIP units. As of December 31, 2009, we had 11,972,113 common shares outstanding and 382,500 LTIP units outstanding (which are convertible into common shares on a one-to-one basis).
(2)   Returns are calculated based on changes in book value per share and assume reinvestment of dividends.
(3)   Returns include the effect of share repurchases during the quarter. Because we repurchased common shares during the quarter at a discount to our book value per common share and subsequently canceled the repurchased shares, the share repurchases were accretive to our quarter-end book value per common share. Had this accretive benefit not been included, total return for the first quarter of 2009 would have been 6.26% and cumulative total return would have been 6.83%.
(4)   Returns include the effect of share repurchases during the quarter. Because we repurchased common shares during the quarter at a discount to our book value per common share and subsequently canceled the repurchased shares, the share repurchases were accretive to our quarter-end book value per common share. Had this accretive benefit not been included, total return for the second quarter of 2009 would have been 14.11% and cumulative total return would have been 21.54%.
(5)   Cumulative total return in each quarterly period subsequent to the periods in which share repurchases occurred includes the effect of such share repurchases. Had the share repurchases not occurred, cumulative total return through the fourth quarter of 2009 would have been 40.33%.

As of February 28, 2010, our book value per common share was $             as compared to $25.04 as of December 31, 2009. Our results can fluctuate from month to month depending on a variety of factors, some of which are beyond our control and/or are difficult to predict, including, without limitation, changes in interest rates, changes in default rates and prepayment speeds, and other changes in market conditions and economic trends. Therefore, you should not assume that our performance (as measured by the change in our book value per share) for the two month period ended February 28, 2010 is indicative of what our performance is likely to be for the three month period ending March 31, 2010, and we cannot assure you that our performance for the full three month period or in future periods will be consistent with our performance for the two month period ended February 28, 2010 or consistent with our performance in recent periods. The estimated book value per common share as of February 28, 2010 that is referenced above does not reflect the expected reduction resulting from the $1.25 dividend per share declared by our board of directors on February 10, 2010 that was paid on March 15, 2010 to shareholders of record as of March 1, 2010.

We believe that our performance is attributable to the experience and expertise of our Manager. We further believe that our strategy of being flexible with respect to the sectors of the non-Agency RMBS market in which we acquire assets and the level of credit exposure taken in our portfolio combined with selective hedging of credit risk in our portfolio has been effective in these difficult markets. Given the substantial declines in the mortgage markets during the last two years, as evidenced by the decline in the 2006-2 AAA ABX index from approximately 91.75 as of August 17, 2007 to approximately 46.81 as of February 26, 2010, we believe that we have performed well relative to the broader mortgage market.

The 2006-2 AAA ABX index, an index widely used and cited by investors and market participants tracking the subprime non-Agency RMBS market, is composed of 20 credit default swaps referencing mortgage-backed

 

 

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securities, originally rated AAA by Standard & Poor’s, Inc., or Standard & Poor’s, and Aaa by Moody’s Investors Service, Inc., or Moody’s, issued during the first six months of 2006 and backed by subprime mortgage loans originated in late 2005 and early 2006. Subject to certain selection criteria, these transactions represent some of the largest subprime mortgage securitizations completed during the first six months of 2006. Given that monthly subprime loan origination peaked in the last six months of 2005 and that monthly subprime non-Agency RMBS issuance peaked in late 2005 and early 2006, we believe that the performance of this index since our inception is a representative measure of the performance of the subprime non-Agency RMBS market over the same period.

All performance data provided is historical and is not indicative of future results, and there can be no assurance that these or comparable results will be achieved or that performance objectives will be achieved.

Our Hedging Strategy

In addition to utilizing derivatives to generate profits outright, we utilize derivatives and other hedging instruments to opportunistically hedge our credit and interest rate risk. For example, we enter into short positions using credit default swaps to protect against adverse credit events with respect to an underlying credit instrument (which may be a single debt instrument, a basket of debt instruments, or an issuer of a series of debt instruments). We also enter into short positions in interest rate swaps to offset the potential adverse effects that changes in interest rates will have on the value of our assets and our financing costs. We also enter into derivative contracts for hedging purposes referencing the unsecured corporate credit, or the equity of corporations. See “—Our Portfolio,” for a description of our short derivatives positions, most of which were entered into for hedging purposes.

Our Financing Strategies and Use of Leverage

We finance our assets with what we believe to be a prudent amount of leverage, the level of which varies from time to time based upon the particular characteristics of our portfolio, availability of financing and market conditions. Our borrowings currently consist solely of reverse repurchase agreements, or reverse repos. Currently, the great majority of our reverse repo borrowings are collateralized by Agency RMBS; however, should the prospects for stable and reliable reverse repo financing for non-Agency RMBS continue to improve, we would expect to increase our reverse repo borrowings that are collateralized by non-Agency RMBS. While the proceeds of our reverse repo financings are often used to purchase the assets subject to the repo, our financing arrangements do not restrict our ability to use the proceeds from these arrangements to support our other liquidity needs. Our reverse repo arrangements are typically documented under the standard form Master Repurchase Agreement published by the Securities Industry and Financial Market Association (formerly The Bond Market Association), or SIFMA, with the ability for both parties to request margin. Given daily market volatility, we and our repo counterparties are required to post additional margin collateral to each other from time to time as part of the normal course of our business. Our reverse repo financing counterparties generally have the right to determine the value of the underlying collateral for margining purposes, subject to the terms and conditions of our agreement with the counterparty, including in certain cases our right to dispute the counterparty’s valuation determination. As of December 31, 2009, we had approximately $560.0 million outstanding on reverse repos with six counterparties. These borrowings were the only debt financings we had outstanding as of December 31, 2009, and, given that we had approximately $299.8 million of shareholders’ equity as of December 31, 2009, our debt-to-equity ratio was 1.87 to 1. Our debt-to-equity ratio does not account for liabilities other than debt financings. As of December 31, 2009, the remaining terms on our reverse repos ranged between 4 and 236 days.

We may utilize other types of borrowings in the future, including term facilities or other more complex financing structures. Additionally, we may also take advantage of available borrowings, if any, under new programs established by the Federal Government to finance our assets. We also may raise capital by issuing unsecured debt, preferred or common shares, or trust preferred securities.

Our use of leverage, especially in order to increase the amount of assets supported by our capital base, may have the effect of increasing losses when these assets underperform. Our investment policies require no

 

 

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minimum or maximum leverage and our Manager’s investment and risk management committee will have the discretion, without the need for further approval by our board of directors, to change both our overall leverage and the leverage used for individual asset classes. Because our strategy is flexible, dynamic and opportunistic, our overall leverage will vary over time. As a result, we do not have a targeted debt-to-equity ratio.

Our Competitive Strengths

Experienced and Cohesive Management Team. We believe that the extensive experience of our officers and the officers and employees of Ellington and our Manager provides us with expertise across all of our targeted asset classes. Certain of our officers were founding principals of Ellington and have worked together in the mortgage securities business for over 15 years. Among the members of our management team are the former heads of RMBS origination and trading, whole loan MBS origination and trading and fixed income research and quantitative systems at Kidder Peabody. Our Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Penn, was one of the founding principals of Ellington and worked for 10 years at Lehman Brothers where he co-headed the Lehman Brothers trading desk for collateralized mortgage obligations, or CMOs.

Access to Leading Investment Advisor. We benefit substantially from our relationship with our Manager and Ellington through our access to Ellington’s investment ideas, proprietary research, models and analytics, trading and structuring expertise, risk management, and asset-sourcing capabilities. We believe this relationship provides us with unique access to attractive opportunities and market information that enhances our ability to make decisions regarding our targeted asset classes, which we believe is a significant competitive advantage. We believe that Ellington possesses the essential elements necessary to successfully acquire and manage RMBS and our other targeted asset classes: portfolio management experience across multiple market cycles, asset selection, trading and hedging expertise, broad asset sourcing capabilities, and sophisticated risk management systems and analytical tools.

As of December 31, 2009, Ellington employed over 100 employees, including 14 principals with an average of over 20 years of industry experience; its Chief Executive Officer and three Vice Chairmen have an average of over 24 years of industry experience. Ellington and its senior management have a long history managing a broad range of asset classes and sectors and extensive experience as a leader in buying, selling, analyzing, and structuring MBS and ABS. As of December 31, 2009, Ellington, including our company, various hedge funds, and various private accounts, had net assets under management of approximately $3.0 billion. In addition, Ellington, through its affiliates, manages CDOs collateralized by MBS or ABS, as well as a traditional managed account.

Sophisticated Platform and Analytical Capabilities. We benefit from Ellington’s proprietary analytical models and infrastructure, which have been developed as a result of many years of experience as a significant participant in our target markets. Ellington’s risk management process emphasizes the quantitative assessment of credit risk, interest rate risk and prepayment risk, both on a security-by-security and portfolio basis. This is only possible with sophisticated quantitative tools and methodologies that are the foundation of Ellington’s investment technique and asset surveillance. Analyzing RMBS credit risk and prepayment risk, in particular, necessitates the development and continuous refinement of sophisticated statistics-based computer models. We believe that these skills and range of resources, together with Ellington’s experience investing and leveraging large pools of capital in complex mortgage and derivative instruments through various economic and business cycles, are critical for us to meet our objectives. We believe that Ellington’s proprietary models and modeling capabilities provide it with a competitive advantage over most other market participants.

Strong Relationships and Deal Flow. Acquiring our targeted assets is a highly competitive process, and our Manager competes with many other investment managers and companies for attractive opportunities in these areas. We believe that the strengths of Ellington in this regard give us a competitive advantage. We capitalize on the proprietary deal-sourcing opportunities that Ellington brings to us as a result of its investment experience in our targeted asset classes and extensive network of contacts in the financial community.

 

 

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Ellington currently sources many of its and our assets through its well-developed relationships with a large and diverse group of financial intermediaries. Ellington has extensive contacts throughout the market and experience dealing with investment banks, lenders and other major market participants, as well as a thorough knowledge of the characteristics and location of the product inventory in the fixed income markets.

Alignment of Interests between Our Manager, the Manager Group and Our Investors. As of March 15, 2010, the Manager Group owned 2,965,945 of our common shares, excluding LTIP units, representing approximately 24.7% of our common shares outstanding as of that date and that will represent approximately     % of our common shares outstanding upon completion of this offering. Our directors and executive officers and the Manager Group have indicated that they intend to enter into lock-up agreements covering 3,355,945 of our common shares and LTIP units, representing all of our common shares and LTIP units that they collectively own as of the date of this prospectus. In addition, our Manager receives at least 10.0% of its incentive fee under our management agreement in the form of EFC common shares. Our Manager has agreed not to sell any of the common shares it receives as part of its incentive fee prior to one year after the date such shares are issued. To date, the Manager Group has not sold any of our common shares.

Summary Risk Factors

An investment in our common shares involves various risks. You should consider carefully the risks listed below and those risks under “Risk Factors” before purchasing common shares.

 

   

Difficult conditions in the mortgage and residential real estate markets have caused and may cause us to experience losses and these conditions may persist for the foreseeable future.

 

   

No assurance can be given that the actions taken by the Federal Government, including the Federal Reserve and the Treasury, and other governmental and regulatory bodies, for the purpose of stabilizing the financial and credit markets will achieve their intended effect, or will benefit our business, and further government or market developments could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

 

   

The federal conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and related efforts, along with any changes in laws and regulations affecting the relationship between Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Government National Mortgage Association, or Ginnie Mae, and the Federal Government, may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

 

   

Mortgage loan modification programs and future legislative action may adversely affect the value of, and the returns on, our targeted assets.

 

   

The principal and interest payments on our non-Agency RMBS are not guaranteed by any entity, including any government entity or government-sponsored entity, or GSE, and, therefore, are subject to increased risks, including credit risk.

 

   

We rely on analytical models and other data to analyze potential asset acquisition and disposition opportunities and to manage our portfolio. Such models and other data may be incorrect, misleading or incomplete, which could cause us to purchase assets that do not meet our expectations or to make asset management decisions that are not in line with our strategy.

 

   

Valuations of some of our assets are inherently uncertain, may be based on estimates, may fluctuate over short periods of time and may differ from the values that would have been used if a ready market for these assets existed. As a result, the values of some of our assets are uncertain.

 

   

Prepayment rates can change, adversely affecting the performance of our assets.

 

   

We leverage certain of our assets, which may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

 

 

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Interest rate mismatches between our assets and any borrowings used to fund purchases of our assets may reduce our income during periods of changing interest rates.

 

   

Our lenders may require us to provide additional collateral, especially when the market values for our assets decline, which may restrict us from leveraging our assets as fully as desired, force us to liquidate assets, reduce our liquidity, and materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

 

   

Hedging against credit events and interest rate changes and other risks may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

 

   

We are dependent on our Manager and certain key personnel of Ellington that are provided to us through our Manager and may not find a suitable replacement if our Manager terminates the management agreement or such key personnel are no longer available to us.

 

   

The base management fee payable to our Manager is payable regardless of the performance of our portfolio, which may reduce its incentive to devote the time and effort to seeking profitable opportunities for our portfolio.

 

   

Our Manager’s incentive fee may induce our Manager to acquire certain assets, including speculative or high risk assets, or to acquire assets with increased leverage, which could increase the risk to our portfolio.

 

   

We compete with Ellington’s other accounts for access to Ellington.

 

   

We and other Ellington accounts may compete for opportunities to acquire assets, which are allocated in accordance with Ellington’s investment allocation policies.

 

   

There are conflicts of interest in our relationships with our Manager and Ellington, which could result in decisions that are not in the best interests of our shareholders.

 

   

There may not be an active market for our common shares, which may cause our common shares to trade at a discount to the initial offering price and make it difficult to sell the common shares you purchase.

 

   

The market price and trading volume of our common shares may be volatile following this offering.

 

   

Future sales of our common shares could have an adverse effect on our share price.

 

   

Our shareholders may not receive distributions or distributions may not grow over time.

 

   

Investing in our common shares involves a high degree of risk.

 

   

If we were required to register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act, we would be subject to the restrictions imposed by the Investment Company Act, which would require us to make material changes to our strategy.

 

   

If we fail to satisfy the “qualifying income exception” under the tax rules for publicly traded partnerships, all of our income will be subject to an entity-level tax.

 

   

The Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, Schedules K-1 we will provide will be significantly more complicated than the IRS Forms 1099 provided by real estate investment trusts, or REITs, and regular corporations, and holders of our common shares may be required to request an extension of time to file their tax returns.

 

 

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Our Formation and Structure

We were formed as a Delaware limited liability company in July 2007 and completed our initial capitalization in August 2007. We have a holding company structure and conduct most of our business through various subsidiaries. The following chart illustrates our organizational structure immediately prior to the completion of this offering.

LOGO

 

 

(1)   EMG Holdings, L.P. is a holding company that owns interests in our Manager, Ellington, and other Ellington affiliates. VC Investments L.L.C. is the general partner of EMG Holdings, L.P. and is also the managing member of our Manager and Ellington, and as such controls each of these three entities. The limited partners of EMG Holdings L.P. include Michael Vranos and certain other Ellington principals.
(2)   Mr. Vranos, our Co-Chief Investment Officer, beneficially owns a controlling interest in VC Investments L.L.C.
(3)   Includes 1,258,783 common shares held by EMG Holdings, L.P., but excludes LTIP units held by EMG Holdings, L.P.
(4)   Includes 77,162 common shares held by Ellington Financial Management LLC, but excludes LTIP units held by Ellington Financial Management LLC.

 

 

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(5)   Includes 380,000 common shares held by Ellington Mortgage Partners, L.P., 750,000 common shares held by New Ellington Credit Partners, L.P. and 500,000 common shares held by a trust for which Mr. Vranos is the settlor.
(6)   Our assets generally include cash, cash equivalents, shares of EF Mortgage LLC and shares of EF Securities LLC. EF Mortgage LLC’s assets generally include Agency whole pool pass-through certificates and shares of EF CMO LLC. EF CMO LLC’s assets generally include non-Agency CMOs. EF Securities LLC’s assets generally include any targeted assets that are not cash, cash equivalents, Agency whole pool pass-through certificates, or CMOs; however EF Securities LLC’s assets may also include cash and certain CMOs. Although the foregoing reflects recent and current allocations of assets among our subsidiaries, as well as our expectations for our allocations in the near term, we may choose to allocate assets among our subsidiaries in a different manner going forward.
(7)   Includes 120,000 common shares held by an Ellington managed hedge fund in which Ellington and its affiliates own a majority interest.

Conflicts of Interest; Equitable Allocation of Opportunities

Ellington manages, and expects to continue to manage, other funds, accounts and vehicles that have strategies that are similar to, or that overlap with, our strategy. As of December 31, 2009, Ellington managed various funds, accounts and other vehicles that have strategies that are similar to, or that overlap with, our strategy, that have aggregate net assets of approximately $2.7 billion (excluding our assets). Ellington makes available to our Manager all opportunities to acquire assets that it determines, in its reasonable and good faith judgment, based on our objectives, policies and strategies, and other relevant factors, are appropriate for us in accordance with Ellington’s written investment allocation procedures and policies, subject to the exception that we might not participate in each such opportunity, but will on an overall basis equitably participate with Ellington’s other accounts in all such opportunities. Ellington’s investment and risk management committee and its compliance committee (headed by its Chief Compliance Officer) are responsible for monitoring the administration of, and facilitating compliance with, Ellington’s investment allocation procedures and policies.

Because many of our targeted assets are typically available only in specified quantities and because many of our targeted assets are also targeted assets for other Ellington accounts, Ellington often is not able to buy as much of any given asset as required to satisfy the needs of all its accounts. In these cases, Ellington’s investment allocation procedures and policies typically allocate such assets to multiple accounts in proportion to their needs and available capital. As a result, accounts in start-up mode are given priority. The policies permit departure from such proportional allocation when such allocation would result in an inefficiently small amount of the security being purchased for an account. In that case, the policy allows for a protocol of allocating assets so that, on an overall basis, each account is treated equitably.

Other policies of Ellington that our Manager will apply to the management of our company include controls for cross transactions (transactions between Ellington-managed accounts), principal transactions (transactions between Ellington and an Ellington-managed account), investments in other Ellington accounts and split price executions. To date we have not entered into any cross transactions with other Ellington-managed accounts, principal transactions with Ellington or invested in other Ellington accounts. See “Business—Conflicts of Interest; Equitable Allocation of Opportunities” for a more detailed description of these types of transactions and the policies of Ellington and our Manager that govern these types of transactions.

Our executive officers and the officers and employees of our Manager are also officers and employees of Ellington, and, with the exception of those officers that are dedicated to us, we compete with other Ellington accounts for access to these individuals.

The management agreement with our Manager does not restrict the ability of its officers and employees from engaging in other business ventures of any nature, whether or not such ventures are competitive with our business.

 

 

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Our Management Agreement

We entered into a management agreement with our Manager upon our inception in August 2007. The management agreement, which was amended and restated effective July 1, 2009, has a current term that expires on December 31, 2011, and will be automatically renewed for successive one-year terms thereafter unless notice of non-renewal is delivered by either party to the other party at least 180 days prior to the expiration of the then current term. Pursuant to the management agreement, our Manager implements our strategy and manages our assets and our day-to-day business and operations and performs certain services for us, subject to oversight by our board of directors. Our Manager is responsible for, among other duties, determining criteria, in conjunction with our board of directors, for sourcing, analyzing and executing asset purchases, asset sales and financings and performing asset management duties.

The following table summarizes the fees and expense reimbursements and other amounts that we pay to our Manager and its affiliates.

 

Type

  

Description

  

Payment

Base management fee

   We pay a base management fee of 1.50% per annum of our shareholders’ equity (calculated in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP) as of the end of each fiscal quarter (before calculations related to base management fees and incentive fees with respect to such quarter). Shareholders’ equity will be adjusted to exclude one-time events pursuant to changes in GAAP, as well as non-cash charges after discussion between our Manager and our independent directors and approval by a majority of our independent directors in the case of non-cash charges.    Quarterly in arrears in cash

Incentive fee

  

In addition to the base management fees, with respect to each fiscal quarter we pay an incentive fee equal to the excess, if any, of (i) the product of (A) 25% and (B) the excess of (1) our Adjusted Net Income (described below) for the Incentive Calculation Period (which means such fiscal quarter and the immediately preceding three fiscal quarters (but excluding any fiscal quarters prior to July 1, 2009)) over (2) the sum of the Hurdle Amounts (described below) for the Incentive Calculation Period, over (ii) the sum of the incentive fees already paid or payable for each fiscal quarter in the Incentive Calculation Period preceding such fiscal quarter.

 

Adjusted Net Income for the Incentive Calculation Period means our net increase in shareholders’ equity from operations (or such equivalent GAAP measure based on the basis of presentation of our consolidated financial statements) for such period, after all base management fees but before any incentives fees for such period, and excluding any non-cash equity compensation expenses for such period, as reduced by any Loss Carryforward (as described below) remaining as of the end of the fiscal quarter preceding the Incentive Calculation Period. Adjusted Net Income will be adjusted to exclude one-time events pursuant to changes in GAAP, as well as non-cash charges after discussion between our Manager and our independent directors and approval by a majority of our independent directors in the case of non-cash charges.

   Quarterly in arrears in a combination of common shares and cash, provided that at least 10% of any quarterly payment will be made in EFC common shares

 

 

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Type

  

Description

  

Payment

  

The “Loss Carryforward” as of the end of any fiscal quarter is calculated by determining the excess, if any, of (1) the Loss Carryforward as of the end of the immediately preceding fiscal quarter over (2) our net increase in shareholders’ equity from operations (expressed as a positive number) or net decrease in shareholders’ equity from operations (expressed as a negative number) for such fiscal quarter (or such equivalent GAAP measures as may be appropriate depending on the basis of presentation of our consolidated financial statements), as the case may be, calculated in accordance with GAAP, adjusted to exclude one-time events pursuant to changes in GAAP, as well as non-cash charges after discussion between our Manager and our independent directors and approval by a majority of our independent directors in the case of non-cash charges.

 

For purposes of calculating the incentive fee, the Hurdle Amount means, with respect to any fiscal quarter, the product of (i) one-fourth of the greater of (A) 9% and (B) 3% plus the ten-year Treasury rate for such fiscal quarter (determined as provided in the management agreement), (ii) the sum of (A) the weighted average gross proceeds per share of all of our common share issuances (excluding issuances of our common shares (a) as equity incentive awards, (b) to our Manager as part of its base management fees or incentive fees and (c) to our Manager or any of its affiliates in privately negotiated transactions) up to the end of such fiscal quarter (with each such issuance weighted by both the number of shares issued in such issuance and the number of days that such issued shares were outstanding during such fiscal quarter) and (B) the result obtained by dividing (I) retained earnings attributable to our common shares at the beginning of such fiscal quarter by (II) the average number of our common shares outstanding for each day during such fiscal quarter, and (iii) the average number of our common shares and LTIP units outstanding for each day during such fiscal quarter.

  

Expense reimbursement

   We reimburse our Manager for certain expenses directly related to our operations incurred by our Manager on our behalf or for our benefit, including legal, accounting and other services provided by outside professionals, as well as the costs associated with a dedicated Chief Financial Officer and a dedicated controller, and, if provided by our Manager, a dedicated in-house counsel.    Quarterly in cash

Operating and Regulatory Structure

Tax Requirements

We believe that we have been organized and have operated so that we have qualified, and will continue to qualify, to be treated for U.S. federal income tax purposes as a partnership and not as an association or a publicly traded partnership taxable as a corporation. In general, an entity that is treated as a partnership for U.S. federal

 

 

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income tax purposes is not subject to U.S. federal income tax at the entity level. Consequently, as a holder of our common shares, you will be required to take into account your allocable share of items of our income, gain, loss, deduction and credit for our taxable year ending within or with your taxable year, regardless of whether we make cash distributions on a current basis with which to pay any resulting tax. We believe that we are treated, and will continue to be treated, as a publicly traded partnership. Publicly traded partnerships are generally treated as partnerships for U.S. federal income tax purposes as long as they satisfy certain income and other tests on an ongoing basis. We believe that we have satisfied and will continue to satisfy those requirements and that we have been and will continue to be treated as a partnership for U.S. federal income tax purposes.

Investment Company Act Exclusions

Most of our business is conducted through various wholly-owned and majority-owned subsidiaries in a manner such that neither we nor our subsidiaries are subject to regulation under the Investment Company Act. Under Section 3(a)(1) of the Investment Company Act, a company is deemed to be an “investment company” if:

 

   

it is, or holds itself out as being, engaged primarily, or proposes to engage primarily, in the business of investing, reinvesting or trading in securities (Section 3(a)(1)(A)); or

 

   

it is engaged or proposes to engage in the business of investing, reinvesting, owning, holding or trading in securities and does own or proposes to acquire “investment securities” having a value exceeding 40% of the value of its total assets (excluding U.S. Government securities and cash) on an unconsolidated basis, or the 40% Test. “Investment securities” excludes U.S. Government securities and securities of majority-owned subsidiaries that are not themselves investment companies and are not relying on the exception from the definition of investment company for private funds under Section 3(c)(1) or Section 3(c)(7) of the Investment Company Act.

We believe we will not be considered an investment company under Section 3(a)(1)(A) of the Investment Company Act because we will not engage primarily or hold ourself out as being engaged primarily in the business of investing, reinvesting or trading in securities. Rather, through wholly-owned or majority-owned subsidiaries, we will be primarily engaged in the non-investment company businesses of these subsidiaries.

The 40% Test limits the types of businesses in which we may engage either directly or through our subsidiaries. Our wholly-owned subsidiary, EF Mortgage LLC, relies on the exclusion provided by Section 3(c)(5)(C) under the Investment Company Act. It, in turn, has a wholly-owned subsidiary, EF CMO LLC, which invests in mortgage-related securities and relies on Section 3(c)(7) of the Investment Company Act. EF Mortgage LLC treats its investment in EF CMO LLC as a real estate-related asset for purposes of its own exclusion under Section 3(c)(5)(C). Our other wholly-owned subsidiary, EF Securities LLC, owns securities, including various kinds of mortgage-related securities and relies on the exemption provided by Section 3(c)(7) of the Investment Company Act; therefore, we treat securities that we own and that were issued by EF Securities LLC as “investment securities” and are required to keep the value of these securities, together with any other investment securities we own, below 40% of our total assets (excluding U.S. Government securities and cash) on an unconsolidated basis. Any subsidiaries we may form in the future may not be majority-owned or wholly-owned by us or might rely on the exclusion provided by Section 3(c)(1) or 3(c)(7) of the Investment Company Act, in which case we would treat securities that we own and that were issued by these types of subsidiaries as “investment securities” and be required to keep the value of these securities, together with the value of our investment in EF Securities LLC and any other investment securities we own, below 40% of our total assets (excluding U.S. Government securities and cash) on an unconsolidated basis.

Section 3(c)(5)(C), the Investment Company Act exclusion upon which EF Mortgage LLC relies, is designed for entities “primarily engaged in the business of purchasing or otherwise acquiring mortgages and other liens on and interests in real estate.” This exclusion generally requires that at least 55% of the entity’s

 

 

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assets consist of qualifying real estate assets and at least 80% of the entity’s assets consist of either qualifying real estate assets or real estate-related assets. Qualifying real estate assets for this purpose include mortgage loans, whole pool Agency pass-through certificates and other assets that the SEC staff has determined in various no-action letters are the functional equivalent of mortgage loans for the purposes of the Investment Company Act. We intend to treat as real estate-related assets RMBS that do not satisfy the conditions set forth in those SEC staff no-action letters. In classifying the assets held by EF Mortgage LLC as qualifying real estate assets or real estate-related assets, we also will rely on any other guidance published by the SEC staff or on our analyses (in consultation with outside counsel) of guidance published with respect to other types of assets to determine which assets are qualifying real estate assets and real estate-related assets.

Both the 40% Test and the requirements of the Section 3(c)(5)(C) exclusion limit the types of businesses in which we may engage and the types of assets we may hold, as well as the timing of sales and purchases of assets.

There can be no assurance that the laws and regulations governing the Investment Company Act status of companies similar to ours, or the guidance from the Division of Investment Management of the SEC regarding the treatment of assets as qualifying real estate assets or real estate-related assets, will not change in a manner that adversely affects our operations. To the extent that the SEC staff provides more specific guidance regarding any of the matters bearing upon our exclusion from the need to register under the Investment Company Act, we may be required to adjust our strategy accordingly. Any additional guidance from the SEC staff could provide additional flexibility to us, or it could further inhibit our ability to pursue the strategies that we have chosen. Furthermore, although we intend to monitor the assets of EF Mortgage LLC regularly, there can be no assurance that EF Mortgage LLC will be able to maintain this exclusion from registration. In that case, our investment in EF Mortgage LLC would be classified as an investment security, and we might not be able to maintain our overall exclusion from registering as an investment company under the Investment Company Act.

If we or our subsidiaries were required to register as an investment company under the Investment Company 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 Investment Company Act), and portfolio composition, including restrictions with respect to diversification and industry concentration and other matters. Compliance with the restrictions imposed by the Investment Company Act would require us to make material changes to our strategy which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders. Accordingly, to avoid that result, we may be required to adjust our strategy, which could limit our ability to make certain investments or require us to sell assets in a manner, at a price or at a time that we otherwise would not have chosen. This could negatively affect the value of our common shares, the sustainability of our business model and our ability to make distributions.

Investment Advisers Act of 1940

Both Ellington and our Manager are registered as investment advisers under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended, or the Advisers Act, and are subject to the regulatory oversight of the Investment Management Division of the SEC.

Dividend Policy

Our present intention is to pay quarterly and special dividends to our common shareholders so that approximately 100% of our net income attributable to our common shares each calendar year, beginning with the 2010 calendar year, has been distributed prior to April of the subsequent calendar year, subject to potential adjustments for changes in common shares outstanding. In setting our dividends, our board of directors takes into account, among other things, our earnings, our financial condition, our working capital needs and new investment

 

 

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opportunities. In particular, we may deviate from our dividend policy when we believe it is prudent to do so for liquidity management purposes, during financial crises or extreme market dislocations, or in order to take advantage of what we deem to be extraordinary investment opportunities. Furthermore, it is possible that some of our future financing arrangements could contain provisions restricting our ability to pay dividends. In addition, our ability to pay dividends is subject to certain restrictions under the Delaware Limited Liability Company Act, or the Delaware LLC Act. Under the Delaware LLC Act, a limited liability company generally is not permitted to pay a dividend if, after giving effect to the payment of the dividend, the liabilities of the company will exceed the value of the company’s assets. Shareholders generally will be subject to U.S. federal income tax (and any applicable state and local taxes) on their respective allocable shares of our net taxable income regardless of the timing or amount of dividends we pay to our shareholders.

The following table sets forth the dividends per share we have paid to our shareholders with respect to the periods indicated. We did not pay any dividends prior to 2009.

 

    Dividend Per Share   Record Date   Payment Date

Fiscal year ended December 31, 2009:

     

First quarter

  $ —     N/A   N/A

Second quarter

  $ 1.50   September 1, 2009   September 15, 2009

Third quarter

  $ 1.00   December 1, 2009   December 15, 2009

Fourth quarter

  $ 1.25   March 1, 2010   March 15, 2010

Fiscal year ending December 31, 2010:

     

First quarter

  $      

We cannot assure you that we will pay any future dividends to our shareholders and the dividends set forth in the table above are not intended to be indicative of the amount and timing of future dividends, if any.

We generally refer to payments made to our shareholders with respect to our common shares as “dividends” for purposes of this prospectus. For U.S. federal income tax purposes, those payments will be treated as distributions from a partnership and will be taxed as described in “Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations—Taxation of Holders of Our Common Shares—Treatment of Distributions” below.

Lock-up Agreements

Our directors and executive officers and the Manager Group have indicated that they intend to enter into lock-up agreements covering a period of 180 days after the date of this prospectus with respect to our common shares held by them currently and any additional common shares acquired by them during the lock-up period. The number of common shares and LTIP units that will be subject to lock-up agreements covering a period of 180 days after the date of this prospectus is currently 3,355,945, representing all of our common shares and LTIP units held by our directors and executive officers and the Manager Group as of the date of this prospectus. One Ellington-managed hedge fund, which owns 120,000 of our common shares, will be subject to a lock-up agreement covering a period of 60 days after the date of this prospectus. In addition, unaffiliated shareholders that currently beneficially hold              common shares have entered into lock-up agreements covering a period of 60 days after the date of this prospectus. Collectively,              common shares and LTIP units, representing     % of the common shares and LTIP units outstanding prior to this offering, will be locked up for at least 60 days after the date of this prospectus.

Our Corporate Information

Our principal executive offices are located at 53 Forest Avenue, Old Greenwich, CT 06870. Our telephone number is (203) 698-1200. Our internet address is www.ellingtonfinancial.com. Our internet web site, and the information contained therein or connected thereto, does not constitute part of this prospectus.

 

 

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The Offering

 

Common shares offered by us

             common shares (plus up to an additional              common shares that we may issue and sell upon the exercise of the underwriters’ over-allotment option)

 

Shares outstanding after this offering

             common shares(1)

 

Use of proceeds

The net proceeds that we will receive from this offering, after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us, will be approximately $             million (or approximately $             million if the underwriters fully exercise their over-allotment option). We expect to use a substantial portion of the net proceeds of this offering to acquire our targeted assets within three months after the closing of this offering. We expect to use the balance of the net proceeds of this offering, if any, for working capital and general corporate purposes. Pending such uses, we may invest the net proceeds from this offering in interest-bearing, short-term investments, including money market accounts. See “Use of Proceeds.”

 

Dividend policy

Our present intention is to pay quarterly and special dividends to our common shareholders so that approximately 100% of our net income attributable to our common shares each calendar year, beginning with the 2010 calendar year, has been distributed prior to April of the subsequent calendar year, subject to potential adjustments for changes in common shares outstanding. The declaration of dividends to our shareholders and the amount of such dividends are at the discretion of our board of directors. In setting our dividends, our board of directors takes into account, among other things, our earnings, our financial condition, our working capital needs and new opportunities. In particular, we may deviate from our dividend policy when we believe it is prudent to do so for liquidity management purposes, during financial crises or extreme market dislocations, or in order to take advantage of what we deem to be extraordinary investment opportunities. See “Dividend Policy.”

 

Ownership and transfer restrictions

We may own interests in real estate investment trusts, or REITs. Due to limitations on the concentration of ownership of REITs that are imposed by the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Code, our operating agreement generally prohibits any holder of our

 

(1)   The number of common shares outstanding after this offering includes (i) 12,500,000 common shares issued in our August 2007 private offering, (ii) 50 common shares issued in connection with the formation of our company, (iii) 85,895 common shares issued to our Manager as part of the incentive fees we have paid to our Manager, (iv) 6,250 common shares that have been issued in connection with LTIP unit conversions and (v)              common shares being offered by us in this offering. The number of common shares outstanding after this offering (i) excludes 375,000 common shares which are issuable upon conversion of 375,000 LTIP units that were issued to our Manager and 5,000 common shares which are issuable upon conversion of 5,000 LTIP units that were issued to our independent directors and (ii) reflects the repurchase by us of 608,500 of our common shares. The number of common shares outstanding after the offering also excludes up to an additional              common shares that we may issue and sell upon the exercise of the underwriters’ over-allotment option.

 

 

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common shares from directly or indirectly owning more than 9.8% of the aggregate value or number (whichever is more restrictive) of our outstanding shares. Our board of directors has granted an exemption from this limitation to Ellington, certain affiliated entities of Ellington and certain non-affiliated entities, subject to certain terms and conditions. In addition, our operating agreement contains various other restrictions on the ownership and transfer of our common shares.

 

Risk Factors

See “Risk Factors” and other information included in this prospectus for a discussion of factors you should carefully consider before deciding to invest in the common shares.

 

Proposed New York Stock Exchange Symbol

“EFC”

 

 

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Summary Consolidated Financial Information

The following table presents summary consolidated financial information as of December 31, 2009, 2008 and 2007, for the years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008, and for the period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) to December 31, 2007. The consolidated financial information presented below as of December 31, 2009 and 2008 and for the years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008, and for the period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) to December 31, 2007, have been derived from our audited financial statements included elsewhere in the prospectus. The consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2007 was derived from our historical audited consolidated financial statements not included in this prospectus. Because we only operated our business for a portion of the year ended December 31, 2007, a direct comparison of our operating results for the years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008 to our operating results for the period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) to December 31, 2007 may be of limited use.

Since the information presented below is only a summary and does not provide all of the information contained in our historical consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus, including the related notes, you should read it in conjunction with “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” and our historical consolidated financial statements, including the related notes, included elsewhere in this prospectus.

 

    Years Ended December 31,     Period From
August 17, 2007
(commencement
of operations) to
December 31,

2007
 
    2009     2008    

Net Investment Income:

     

Interest Income

  $ 51,714,577      $ 29,914,585      $ 5,898,720   

Expenses:

     

Base management fee

    4,246,745        3,721,121        1,355,912   

Incentive fee

    18,873,654        1,771,026        —     

Share-based LTIP expense

    3,625,087        2,389,436        906,973   

Interest expense

    2,460,653        6,189,887        —     

Other operating expenses

    4,157,435        3,018,175        1,283,302   
                       

Total expenses

    33,363,574        17,089,645        3,546,187   
                       

Net Investment Income

    18,351,003        12,824,940        2,352,533   
                       

Net Realized and Unrealized Gain (Loss) on Investments and Financial Derivatives:

     

Net realized gain (loss) on:

     

Investments

    (18,291,604     (5,075,879     1,753,849   

Financial derivatives

    6,109,730        63,598,153        —     
                       

Net realized gain (loss)

    (12,181,874     58,522,274        1,753,849   
                       

Change in net unrealized gain (loss) on:

     

Investments

    88,423,716        (79,180,278     (651,290

Financial derivatives

    (1,211,832     5,410,419        (130,122
                       

Change in net unrealized gain (loss)

    87,211,884        (73,769,859     (781,412
                       

Net Realized and Unrealized Gain (Loss) on Investments and Financial Derivatives

    75,030,010        (15,247,585     972,437   
                       

Net Increase (Decrease) in Shareholders’ Equity Resulting from Operations

  $ 93,381,013      $ (2,422,645   $ 3,324,970   
                       

 

 

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     As of December 31,
     2009    2008    2007

Consolidated Balance Sheet Data:

        

Cash and cash equivalents

   $ 102,863,164    $ 61,400,254    $ 61,705,104

Investments at fair value

     755,440,869      429,884,006      180,657,979

Financial derivatives at fair value (appreciated)

     123,638,023      141,690,748      —  

Total assets

     1,530,665,452      699,976,080      243,494,998

Investments sold short at fair value

     502,543,554      38,421,032      —  

Reverse repos

     559,978,100      260,534,000      —  

Financial derivatives at fair value (depreciated) ..

     14,045,886      17,304,903      130,122

Total liabilities

     1,230,871,439      458,898,436      1,668,105

Shareholders’ equity

     299,794,013      241,077,644      241,826,893

Shareholders’ equity per common share

   $ 25.04    $ 19.27    $ 19.35

 

 

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SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

Some of the statements under “Summary,” “Risk Factors,” “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” “Dividend Policy,” “Business” and other statements included elsewhere in this prospectus constitute forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements relate to expectations, beliefs, projections, future plans and strategies, anticipated events or trends and similar expressions concerning matters that are not historical facts. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by terms such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “could,” “estimate,” “expect,” “intend,” “may,” “plan,” “goal,” “objective,” “potential,” “project,” “should,” “will” and “would” or the negative of these terms or other comparable terminology.

The 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 before you invest in our common shares, along with the following factors that could cause actual results to vary from our forward-looking statements:

 

   

the effect of the Federal Reserve’s and the Treasury’s recent actions and programs, including the Treasury’s purchases of Agency RMBS and the Public-Private Investment Program, or PPIP, on the liquidity of the capital markets and the impact and timing of any further programs or regulations implemented by the Federal Government or its agencies;

 

   

the federal conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and related efforts, along with any changes in laws and regulations affecting the relationship between Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae and the Federal Government;

 

   

increased prepayments of the mortgages and other loans underlying our RMBS, including prepayments resulting from repurchases of delinquent mortgage loans by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac;

 

   

the volatility of our target markets, especially the markets for non-Agency RMBS and of the market value of our common shares;

 

   

increased rates of default and/or decreased recovery rates on our assets;

 

   

mortgage loan modification programs and future legislative action;

 

   

the degree to which our hedging strategies may or may not protect us from, or expose us to, credit or interest rate risk;

 

   

changes in our business and strategy;

 

   

availability, terms and deployment of capital;

 

   

our projected financial and operating results;

 

   

changes in interest rates and interest rate mismatches between our assets and related borrowings;

 

   

our ability to maintain existing financing agreements, obtain future financing arrangements and the terms of such arrangements;

 

   

our ability to effectively deploy the proceeds raised in this offering;

 

   

changes in economic conditions generally and the real estate and debt securities markets specifically;

 

   

legislative or regulatory changes (including tax law changes and changes to laws governing the regulation of investment companies);

 

   

availability of qualified personnel;

 

   

estimates relating to our future distributions to our shareholders;

 

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changes in our industry;

 

   

availability of opportunities in real estate-related and other assets;

 

   

the degree and nature of our competition; and

 

   

changes to GAAP.

 

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RISK FACTORS

Investing in our common shares involves a high degree of risk. Before making an investment decision, you should carefully consider the following risk factors and all other information contained in this prospectus.

If any of the following risks occurs, our business, financial condition or results of operation could be materially and adversely affected. If this were to happen, we may be unable to make distributions to our shareholders, the market value of our common shares could decline significantly, and you may lose some or all of your investment. In connection with the forward-looking statements that appear in this prospectus, you should also carefully review the cautionary statements referred to under “Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements.”

Risks Related To Our Business

Difficult conditions in the mortgage and residential real estate markets have caused and may cause us to experience losses and these conditions may persist for the foreseeable future.

Our business is materially affected by conditions in the residential mortgage market, the residential real estate market, the financial markets and the economy generally. Concerns about the residential mortgage market and a declining real estate market, as well as inflation, energy costs, geopolitical issues and the availability and cost of credit have contributed to increased volatility and diminished expectations for the economy and markets going forward. The residential mortgage market has been severely affected by changes in the lending landscape, the severity of which was largely unanticipated by the markets. There is no assurance that this market has stabilized or that it will not worsen.

For now (and for the foreseeable future), homeowner access to residential mortgage loans has been substantially limited. While the limitation on financing was initially in the subprime mortgage market, it also materially affected the prime jumbo and Alt-A mortgage market, with lending standards having become significantly more stringent than in recent periods and many product types being severely curtailed or eliminated. This financing limitation has had an impact on new demand for homes, has compressed home ownership rates and is weighing heavily on home price performance. There is a strong correlation between home price growth rates and mortgage loan delinquencies. Furthermore, investor perception of the risks associated with RMBS, residential mortgage loans, real estate-related securities and various other assets that we acquire has been negatively impacted by the continued adverse developments in the broader residential mortgage market, which has caused the values of these assets to experience high volatility. The further deterioration of the mortgage market and investor perception of the risks associated with RMBS, residential mortgage loans, real estate-related securities and various other assets that we acquire may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

No assurance can be given that the actions taken by the Federal Government, including the Federal Reserve and the Treasury, and other governmental and regulatory bodies, for the purpose of stabilizing the financial and credit markets will achieve their intended effect, or will benefit our business, and further government or market developments could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

In response to the issues affecting the banking system and financial and housing markets, the Federal Government, including the Federal Reserve and the Treasury, and other governmental and regulatory bodies, have taken a number of initiatives intended to bolster the banking system and the financial and housing markets. For a description of some of these initiatives, see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Trends and Recent Market Developments.”

The effects of the actions taken by the Federal Government and governmental entities and regulatory bodies remain uncertain. Furthermore, the scope and nature of these and other actions are unknown and will continue to

 

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evolve. No assurance can be given that these initiatives will have the intended beneficial impact on the banking system, financial market or housing market. To the extent the markets do not respond favorably to these initiatives or if these initiatives do not function as intended, the pricing, supply, liquidity and value of our assets and the availability of financing on attractive terms may be materially adversely affected and our business may not receive the intended positive impact from these actions. There can also be no assurance that we will be eligible to participate in programs established by the Federal Government and other governmental and regulatory bodies, or if we are eligible to participate, that we will be able to utilize them successfully or at all. In addition, because the programs are designed, in part, to stimulate the market for certain of our targeted assets, the establishment of these programs may result in increased competition for our targeted assets. In addition, the Federal Government and other governmental and regulatory bodies have taken or are considering taking other actions in the wake of the financial crisis and its aftermath. We cannot predict whether or when such actions may occur, and such actions could have a material adverse impact on our business, results of operations and financial condition and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

The federal conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and related efforts, along with any changes in laws and regulations affecting the relationship between Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae and the Federal Government, may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

The payments we receive on our Agency RMBS depend upon a steady stream of payments on the underlying mortgages and such payments are guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or Ginnie Mae. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are GSEs but their guarantees are not backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. Ginnie Mae, which guarantees MBS backed by federally insured or guaranteed loans primarily consisting of loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration, or FHA, or guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, is part of a U.S. Government agency and its guarantees are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States.

In response to the deteriorating financial condition of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the recent credit market disruption, the United States Congress and the Treasury undertook a series of actions to stabilize these GSEs and the financial markets generally, including the enactment of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, or the HERA, on July 30, 2008. These actions include steps taken by the Treasury to capitalize and provide financing to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. See also “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Trends and Recent Market Developments.”

Shortly after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were placed in federal conservatorship, the Secretary of the Treasury, in announcing the actions, noted that the guarantee structure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac required examination and that changes in the structures of the entities were necessary to reduce risk to the financial system. The future roles of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could be significantly reduced and the nature of their guarantees could be considerably limited relative to historical measurements or even eliminated. Under this conservatorship, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are required to reduce the amount of mortgage loans they own or for which they provide guarantees on Agency RMBS. Moreover, any changes to the nature of the guarantees provided by, or laws affecting, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae could materially adversely affect the credit quality of the guarantees, could increase the risk of loss on purchases of Agency RMBS issued by these GSEs and could have broad adverse market implications for the Agency RMBS they currently guarantee. Any action that affects the credit quality of the guarantees provided by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae could materially adversely affect the value of our Agency RMBS.

The Treasury could also stop providing financial support for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the future. The substantial financial assistance provided by the Federal Government to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, especially in the course of their being placed into conservatorship and thereafter, together with the substantial financial assistance provided by the Federal Government to the mortgage-related operations of other GSEs and government agencies, such as the FHA, the VA, and Ginnie Mae, has stirred debate among many federal policymakers over the continued role of the Federal Government in providing such financial support for the mortgage-related GSEs in particular, and for the mortgage and housing markets in general. The Treasury

 

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previously indicated it would release a preliminary report discussing the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in February 2010; however, no such report has been released. Each of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae could be dissolved and the Federal Government could determine to stop providing liquidity support of any kind to the mortgage market. If Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or Ginnie Mae were eliminated, or their structures were to change radically or the Federal Government significantly reduced its support for any or all of them, we may be unable or significantly limited in our ability to acquire Agency RMBS, which would drastically reduce the amount and type of Agency RMBS available for purchase which, in turn, could materially adversely affect our ability to maintain our exclusion from regulation as an investment company under the Investment Company Act.

Mortgage loan modification programs and future legislative action may adversely affect the value of, and the returns on, our targeted assets.

In the second half of 2008, the Federal Government, through FHA and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, commenced implementation of programs designed to provide homeowners with assistance in avoiding residential mortgage loan foreclosures. The programs involve, among other things, the modification of mortgage loans to reduce the principal amount of the loans or the rate of interest payable on the loans, or to extend the payment terms of the loans. It is likely that loan modifications would result in interest rate reductions or principal reductions on the mortgage loans that back our RMBS. However, it is also likely that loan modifications would result in increased prepayments on some RMBS. See “—Prepayment rates can change, adversely affecting the performance of our assets,” for information relating to the impact of prepayments on our business.

In addition, members of Congress have indicated support for additional legislative relief for homeowners, including an amendment of the bankruptcy laws to permit the modification of mortgage loans in bankruptcy proceedings. Under such an amendment, the bankruptcy judge would have the authority to modify mortgage loans that are in default, or for which default is reasonably foreseeable, if such modifications are in the best interests of the holders of the related RMBS and such modifications are done in accordance with the terms of the relevant agreements. A significant number of loan modifications could result in a significant reduction in cash flows to the holders of the related RMBS on an ongoing basis.

These loan modification programs, as well as future legislative or regulatory actions, including amendments to the bankruptcy laws, that result in the modification of outstanding mortgage loans may adversely affect the value of, and the returns on, our assets which, in turn, could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

The increasing number of proposed federal, state and local laws may increase our risk of liability with respect to certain mortgage loans and could increase our cost of doing business.

Congress and various state and local legislatures are considering, and in the future may consider, legislation, which, among other provisions, would permit limited assignee liability for certain violations in the mortgage loan origination process, and would allow judicial modification of loan principal in the event of personal bankruptcy. We cannot predict whether or in what form Congress or the various state and local legislatures may enact legislation affecting our business or whether any such legislation will require us to change our practices or make changes in our portfolio in the future. These changes, if required, could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders, particularly if we make such changes in response to new or amended laws, regulations or ordinances in any state where we acquire a significant portion of our mortgage loans, or if such changes result in us being held responsible for any violations in the mortgage loan origination process.

 

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The principal and interest payments on our non-Agency RMBS are not guaranteed by any entity, including any government entity or GSE, and, therefore, are subject to increased risks, including credit risk.

Our portfolio includes non-Agency RMBS which are backed by residential mortgage loans that do not conform to the Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac underwriting guidelines, including subprime, Alt-A and prime jumbo mortgage loans. See “Business—Our Targeted Asset Classes,” for a detailed description of our assets. Consequently, the principal and interest on non-Agency RMBS, unlike those on Agency RMBS, are not guaranteed by GSEs such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or, in the case of Ginnie Mae, the Federal Government.

Non-Agency RMBS are subject to many of the risks of the respective underlying mortgage loans. Residential mortgage loans are typically secured by single-family residential property and are subject to risks of delinquency and foreclosure and risks of loss. The ability of a borrower to repay a loan secured by a residential property is dependent upon the income or assets of the borrower. A number of factors, including a general economic downturn, acts of God, terrorism, social unrest and civil disturbances, may impair borrowers’ abilities to repay their mortgage loans. The ability of a borrower to repay these mortgage loans is dependent upon his or her income or assets.

In the event of defaults under mortgage loans backing any of our non-Agency RMBS, we will bear a 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. Additionally, in the event of the bankruptcy of a mortgage loan borrower, the mortgage loan to such borrower will be deemed to be secured only to the extent of the value of the underlying collateral at the time of bankruptcy (as determined by the bankruptcy court), and the lien securing the mortgage loan will be subject to the avoidance powers of the bankruptcy trustee or debtor-in-possession to the extent the lien is unenforceable under state law. Foreclosure of a mortgage loan can be an expensive and lengthy process which could have a substantial negative effect on our anticipated return on the foreclosed mortgage loan. If borrowers default on the mortgage loans backing our non-Agency RMBS and we are unable to recover any resulting loss through the foreclosure process, our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders could be materially adversely affected.

We rely on analytical models and other data to analyze potential asset acquisition and disposition opportunities and to manage our portfolio. Such models and other data may be incorrect, misleading or incomplete, which could cause us to purchase assets that do not meet our expectations or to make asset management decisions that are not in line with our strategy.

Our Manager relies on Ellington’s analytical models (both proprietary and third-party models), and information and data supplied by third parties. These models and data may be used to value assets or potential asset acquisitions and dispositions and also in connection with our asset management activities. If Ellington’s models and data prove to be incorrect, misleading or incomplete, any decisions made in reliance thereon could expose us to potential risks. Our Manager’s reliance on Ellington’s models and data may induce it to purchase certain assets at prices that are too high, to sell certain other assets at prices that are too low, or to miss favorable opportunities altogether. Similarly, any hedging activities that are based on faulty models and data may prove to be unsuccessful.

Some of the risks of relying on analytical models and third-party data include the following:

 

   

collateral cash flows and/or liability structures may be incorrectly modeled in all or only certain scenarios, or may be modeled based on simplifying assumptions that lead to errors;

 

   

information about collateral may be incorrect, incomplete or misleading;

 

   

collateral or RMBS historical performance (such as historical prepayments, defaults, cash flows, etc.) may be incorrectly reported, or subject to interpretation (e.g. different RMBS issuers may report delinquency statistics based on different definitions of what constitutes a delinquent loan); and

 

   

collateral or RMBS information may be outdated, in which case the models may contain incorrect assumptions as to what has occurred since the date information was last updated.

 

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Some models, such as prepayment models or mortgage default models, may be predictive in nature. The use of predictive models has inherent risks. For example, such models may incorrectly forecast future behavior, leading to potential losses. In addition, the predictive models used by our Manager may differ substantially from those models used by other market participants, with the result that valuations based on these predictive models may be substantially higher or lower for certain assets than actual market prices. Furthermore, because predictive models are usually constructed based on historical data supplied by third parties, the success of relying on such models may depend heavily on the accuracy and reliability of the supplied historical data, and, in the case of predicting performance in scenarios with little or no historical precedent (such as extreme broad-based declines in home prices, or deep economic recessions or depressions), such models must employ greater degrees of extrapolation, and are therefore more speculative and of more limited reliability.

All valuation models rely on correct market data inputs. If incorrect market data is entered into even a well-founded valuation model, the resulting valuations will be incorrect. However, even if market data is inputted correctly, “model prices” will often differ substantially from market prices, especially for securities with complex characteristics or whose values are particularly sensitive to various factors. If our market data inputs are incorrect or our model prices differ substantially from market prices, our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders could be materially adversely affected.

Valuations of some of our assets are inherently uncertain, may be based on estimates, may fluctuate over short periods of time and may differ from the values that would have been used if a ready market for these assets existed. As a result, the values of some of our assets are uncertain.

The values of some of the assets in our portfolio are not readily determinable. We value these assets quarterly at fair value, as determined in good faith by our Manager, subject to the oversight of the valuation sub-committee of the Manager’s investment and risk management committee as well as the oversight of the independent members of our board of directors, and changes in the fair value of our assets directly impact our net income. Because such valuations are inherently uncertain, may fluctuate over short periods of time and may be based on estimates, our Manager’s determinations of fair value may differ from the values that would have been used if a ready market for these assets existed or from the prices at which trades occur. Furthermore, we do not obtain third party valuations for all of our assets. Our Manager’s determination of fair value has a material impact on our net earnings through recording unrealized appreciation or depreciation of investments.

While in many cases our Manager’s determination of the fair value of our assets is based on valuations provided by third-party dealers and pricing services, our Manager can and does value assets based upon its judgment and such valuations may differ from those provided by third-party dealers and pricing services. Valuations of certain assets are often difficult to obtain or are unreliable. In general, dealers and pricing services heavily disclaim their valuations. Additionally, dealers may claim to furnish valuations only as an accommodation and without special compensation, and so they may disclaim any and all liability for any direct, incidental, or consequential damages arising out of any inaccuracy or incompleteness in valuations, including any act of negligence or breach of any warranty. Depending on the complexity and illiquidity of an asset, valuations of the same asset can vary substantially from one dealer or pricing service to another. Higher valuations of our assets have the effect of increasing the amount of base management fees and incentive fees we pay to our Manager. Therefore, conflicts of interest exist because our Manager is involved in the determination of the fair value of our assets. The valuation process has been particularly difficult recently as market events have made valuations of certain assets more difficult and unpredictable and the disparity of valuations provided by third-party dealers has widened.

Our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders could be materially adversely affected if our Manager’s fair value determinations of these assets were materially higher than the values that would exist if a ready market existed for these assets.

 

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We depend on third-party service providers, including mortgage servicers, for a variety of services related to our non-Agency RMBS, and we intend to utilize third-party service providers if we acquire pools of whole mortgage loans. We are, therefore, subject to the risks associated with third-party service providers.

We depend on a variety of services provided by third-party service providers related to our non-Agency RMBS, and we will depend on similar services should we acquire pools of whole mortgage loans. We rely on the mortgage servicers who service the mortgage loans backing our non-Agency RMBS to, among other things, collect principal and interest payments on the underlying mortgages and perform loss mitigation services. Our mortgage servicers and other service providers to our non-Agency RMBS, such as trustees, bond insurance providers and custodians, may not perform in a manner that promotes our interests. In addition, recent legislation intended to reduce or prevent foreclosures through, among other things, loan modifications may reduce the value of mortgage loans backing our non-Agency RMBS or whole mortgage loans that we acquire, and mortgage servicers may be incentivized by the Federal Government to pursue such loan modifications, as well as forbearance plans and other actions intended to prevent foreclosure, even if such loan modifications and other actions are not in the best interest of the holder of the mortgage loan. In addition to the recent legislation that creates financial incentives for mortgage loan servicers to modify loans and take other actions that are intended to prevent foreclosures, legislation has recently been adopted that creates a safe harbor from liability to creditors for servicers that undertake loan modifications and other actions that are intended to prevent foreclosures. As a result of these recent legislative actions, the mortgage loan servicers on which we rely may not perform in our best interests or up to our expectations. If our third-party service providers do not perform as expected, our business, financial condition and results of operations and ability to make distributions to our shareholders may be materially adversely affected.

We rely on mortgage servicers for our loss mitigation efforts, and we also may engage in our own loss mitigation efforts with respect to whole mortgage loans we may purchase. Such loss mitigation efforts may be unsuccessful or not cost effective.

Both default frequency and default severity of mortgage loans is highly dependent on the quality of the mortgage servicer. We depend on the loss mitigation efforts of mortgage servicers and in some cases “special servicers,” which are mortgage servicers who specialize in servicing non-performing loans. If mortgage servicers are not vigilant in encouraging borrowers to make their monthly payments, the borrowers are far less likely to make those payments. In addition, if we purchase pools of whole mortgage loans, we may engage in our own loss mitigation efforts in addition to the efforts of the mortgage servicers, including more hands-on mortgage servicer oversight and management, borrower refinancing solicitations, as well as other efforts. Our and our mortgage servicers’ loss mitigation efforts may be unsuccessful in limiting delinquencies, defaults and losses, or may not be cost effective, which may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

To the extent that due diligence is conducted on potential assets, especially non-Agency RMBS or pools of whole mortgage loans, such due diligence may not reveal all of the risks associated with such assets and may not reveal other weaknesses in such assets, which could lead to losses.

Before acquiring non-Agency RMBS or pools of whole mortgage loans, our Manager may decide to conduct (either directly or using third parties) certain due diligence. Such due diligence may include (i) an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the originators or services of the related mortgage loans, (ii) a review of all or merely a subset of the related individual mortgage loans in order to, among other things, assess the accuracy or reasonableness of certain loan-level information, and to estimate current loan-to-value ratios by obtaining updated property appraisals or otherwise, or (iii) other reviews that our Manager may deem appropriate to conduct. There can be no assurance that our Manager will conduct any specific level of due diligence, or that, among other things, our Manager’s due diligence processes will uncover all relevant facts or that any purchase will be successful, which could result in losses on these assets, which, in turn, could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

 

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Our assets include subordinated and lower-rated securities that generally have greater risks of loss than senior and higher-rated securities.

Certain securities that we acquire are deemed by rating companies to have substantial vulnerability to default in payment of interest and/or principal. Other securities we acquire have the lowest quality ratings or are unrated. Many RMBS or ABS that we acquire are subordinated in cash flow priority to other more “senior” securities of the same securitization. The risks of defaults on the underlying mortgages or assets are severely magnified in subordinated securities. Certain subordinated securities (“first loss securities”) absorb all losses from default before any other class of securities is at risk. Such securities therefore possess some of the attributes typically associated with equity securities. Also, the risk of declining real estate values, in particular, is amplified in subordinated RMBS, as are the risks associated with possible changes in the market’s perception of the entity issuing or guaranteeing them, or by changes in government regulations and tax policies. Accordingly, these securities may experience significant price and performance volatility relative to more senior securities and they are subject to greater risk of loss than more senior securities which, if realized, could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

Prepayment rates can change, adversely affecting the performance of our assets.

The frequency at which prepayments (including both voluntary prepayments by the borrowers and liquidations due to defaults and foreclosures) occur on mortgage loans underlying RMBS is affected by a variety of factors, including the prevailing level of interest rates as well as economic, demographic, tax, social, legal, and other factors. Generally, borrowers tend to prepay their mortgages when prevailing mortgage rates fall below the interest rates on their mortgage loans. Many of the mortgage loans underlying our existing RMBS were originated in a relatively higher interest rate environment than currently in effect and, thus, could be prepaid if borrowers are eligible for refinancings.

In general, “premium” securities (securities whose market values exceed their principal or par amounts) are adversely affected by faster-than-anticipated prepayments because the above-market coupon that such premium securities carry will be earned for a shorter period of time. Generally, “discount” securities (securities whose principal or par amounts exceed their market values) are adversely affected by slower-than-anticipated prepayments. Since many RMBS will be discount securities when interest rates are high, and will be premium securities when interest rates are low, these RMBS may be adversely affected by changes in prepayments in any interest rate environment.

On February 10, 2010, Freddie Mac announced that it would repurchase substantially all mortgage loans that are 120 or more days delinquent from mortgage pools backing Freddie Mac guaranteed RMBS. Freddie Mac estimated the amount of such mortgage loans at nearly $70 billion as of the end of December 2009. On February 10, 2010, Fannie Mae also announced that it would significantly increase over the coming months its repurchases of mortgage loans that are 120 or more days delinquent from mortgage pools backing Fannie Mae guaranteed RMBS. Fannie Mae estimated the amount of such mortgage loans at approximately $127 billion as of the end of December 2009. These repurchases will have an effect similar to a one-time or short-term increase in mortgage prepayment rates. The magnitude of the effect of these repurchases on a particular Agency RMBS will depend upon the composition of the mortgage pool underlying each Agency RMBS, although for many Agency RMBS the effect is expected to be significant.

The adverse effects of prepayments may impact us in various ways. First, particular investments may experience outright losses, as in the case of IOs and IIOs in an environment of faster actual or anticipated prepayments. Second, particular investments may under-perform relative to any hedges that our Manager may have constructed for these assets, resulting in a loss to us. In particular, prepayments (at par) may limit the potential upside of many RMBS to their principal or par amounts, whereas their corresponding hedges often have the potential for unlimited loss. Furthermore, to the extent that faster prepayment rates are due to lower interest rates, the principal payments received from prepayments will tend to be reinvested in lower-yielding assets,

 

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which may reduce our income in the long run. Therefore, if actual prepayment rates differ from anticipated prepayment rates our business, financial condition and results of operations and ability to make distributions to our shareholders could be materially adversely affected.

Changes in interest rates could negatively affect the value of our assets, and increase the risk of default on our assets.

Currently, our assets primarily consist of RMBS. Most RMBS, especially most fixed-rate RMBS and most RMBS backed by fixed-rate mortgage loans, decline in value when long-term interest rates increase. Even in the case of Agency RMBS, the guarantees provided by GSEs do not protect us from declines in market value caused by changes in interest rates. In the case of RMBS backed by ARMs, increases in interest rates can lead to increases in delinquencies and defaults as borrowers become less able to make their mortgage payments following interest payment resets. At the same time, an increase in short-term interest rates would increase the amount of interest owed on our reverse repos.

RMBS backed by ARMs are typically subject to periodic and lifetime interest rate caps. Periodic interest rate caps limit the amount an interest rate can increase during any given period. Lifetime interest rate caps limit the amount an interest rate can increase over the life of the security. Our borrowings typically are not subject to similar restrictions. Accordingly, in a period of rapidly increasing interest rates, the interest rates paid on our borrowings could increase without limitation while interest rate caps could limit the interest rates on our RMBS backed by ARMs. This problem is magnified for RMBS backed by ARMs and hybrid ARMs that are not fully indexed. Further, some RMBS backed by ARMs and hybrid ARMs may be subject to periodic payment caps that result in a portion of the interest being deferred and added to the principal outstanding. As a result, the payments we receive on RMBS backed by ARMs and hybrid ARMs may be lower than the related debt service costs. These factors could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

Residential whole mortgage loans, including subprime residential mortgage loans and non-performing and sub-performing residential mortgage loans, are subject to increased risks.

We may acquire and manage pools of residential whole mortgage loans. Residential whole mortgage loans, including subprime mortgage loans and non-performing and sub-performing mortgage loans, are subject to increased risks of loss. Unlike Agency RMBS, whole mortgage loans generally are not guaranteed by the Federal Government or any GSE, though in some cases they may benefit from private mortgage insurance. Additionally, by directly acquiring whole mortgage loans, we do not receive the structural credit enhancements that benefit senior tranches of RMBS. A whole mortgage loan is directly exposed to losses resulting from default. Therefore, the value of the underlying property, the creditworthiness and financial position of the borrower and the priority and enforceability of the lien will significantly impact the value of such mortgage. In the event of a foreclosure, we may assume direct ownership of the underlying real estate. The liquidation proceeds upon sale of such real estate may not be sufficient to recover our cost basis in the loan, and any costs or delays involved in the foreclosure or liquidation process may increase losses.

Whole mortgage loans are also subject to “special hazard” risk (property damage caused by hazards, such as earthquakes or environmental hazards, not covered by standard property insurance policies), and to bankruptcy risk (reduction in a borrower’s mortgage debt by a bankruptcy court). In addition, claims may be assessed against us on account of our position as mortgage holder or property owner, including assignee liability, responsibility for tax payments, environmental hazards and other liabilities. In some cases, these liabilities may be “recourse liabilities” or may otherwise lead to losses in excess of the purchase price of the related mortgage or property.

Commercial mortgage loans are subject to risks of delinquency and foreclosure and risks of loss that may be greater than similar risks associated with residential mortgage loans.

We may acquire CMBS backed by commercial mortgage loans or directly acquire commercial mortgage loans. Commercial mortgage loans are secured by multifamily or commercial property and are subject to risks of

 

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delinquency and foreclosure and risks of loss that are greater than similar risks associated with residential mortgage loans. The ability of a borrower to repay a loan secured by an income-producing property typically is dependent primarily upon the successful operation of such property rather than upon the existence of independent income or assets of the borrower. If the net operating income of the property is reduced, the borrower’s ability to repay the loan may be impaired. If we incur losses on CMBS, or commercial mortgage loans, our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders may be materially adversely affected.

Our real estate assets are subject to risks particular to real property.

We own assets secured by real estate and may own real estate directly in the future, either through direct acquisitions or upon a default of mortgage loans. Real estate assets are subject to various risks, including:

 

   

acts of God, including earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters, which may result in uninsured losses;

 

   

acts of war or terrorism, including the consequences of terrorist attacks, such as those that occurred on September 11, 2001;

 

   

adverse changes in national and local economic and market conditions;

 

   

changes in governmental laws and regulations, fiscal policies and zoning ordinances and the related costs of compliance with laws and regulations, fiscal policies and ordinances;

 

   

costs of remediation and liabilities associated with environmental conditions such as indoor mold; and

 

   

the potential for uninsured or under-insured property losses.

The occurrence of any of the foregoing or similar events may reduce our return from an affected property or asset and, consequently, materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

If we acquire and subsequently re-sell any whole mortgage loans, we may be required to repurchase such loans or indemnify investors if we breach representations and warranties.

If we acquire and subsequently re-sell any whole mortgage loans, we would generally be required to make customary representations and warranties about such loans to the loan purchaser. Our residential mortgage loan sale agreements and terms of any securitizations into which we sell loans will generally require us to repurchase or substitute loans in the event we breach a representation or warranty given to the loan purchaser. In addition, we may be required to repurchase loans as a result of borrower fraud or in the event of early payment default on a mortgage loan. The remedies available to a purchaser of mortgage loans are generally broader than those available to us against an originating broker or correspondent. Repurchased loans are typically worth only a fraction of the original price. Significant repurchase activity could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

We engage in short selling transactions, which may subject us to additional risks.

Many of our hedging transactions, and occasionally our investment transactions, are short sales. Short selling involves selling securities that are not owned and typically borrowing the same securities for delivery to the purchaser, with an obligation to repurchase the borrowed securities at a later date. Short selling allows the investor to profit from declines in market prices to the extent such declines exceed the transaction costs and the costs of borrowing the securities. A short sale may create the risk of an unlimited loss, in that the price of the underlying security might theoretically increase without limit, thus increasing the cost of repurchasing the securities. There can be no assurance that securities sold short will be available for repurchase or borrowing. Repurchasing securities to close out a short position can itself cause the price of the securities to rise further, thereby exacerbating the loss.

 

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We leverage certain of our assets, which may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

We currently leverage certain of our assets through borrowings under reverse repos. The degree of leverage we employ may increase substantially in the future. Leverage can enhance our potential returns but can also exacerbate losses. Market conditions could cause our financing costs to increase relative to the income earned from our assets. To the extent that we cannot meet our debt service obligations, we risk the loss of some or all of our assets to forced liquidation in order to satisfy our debt obligations.

If our financing costs increase relative to the income earned from our assets or we are unable to satisfy our debt service obligations, our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders may be materially adversely affected.

Our access to financing sources, which may not be available on favorable terms, or at all, especially in light of current market conditions, may be limited, and this may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

We depend upon the availability of adequate capital and financing sources to fund our operations. However, as previously discussed, the capital and credit markets recently experienced unprecedented levels of volatility and disruption which exerted downward pressure on stock prices and credit capacity for lenders. If these levels of market volatility and disruption recur, it could materially adversely affect one or more of our lenders and could cause one or more of our lenders to be unwilling or unable to provide us with financing, or to increase the costs of that financing, or to become insolvent, as was the case with Lehman Brothers. Moreover, we are currently party to reverse repos of a short duration and there can be no assurance that we will be able to roll over these borrowings on favorable terms, if at all. In the event we are unable to roll over our reverse repos, it may be more difficult for us to obtain debt financing on favorable terms or at all. In addition, if regulatory capital requirements imposed on our lenders change, they may be required to limit, or increase the cost of, financing they provide to us. In general, this could potentially increase our financing costs and reduce our liquidity or require us to sell assets at an inopportune time or price. Under current market conditions, securitizations are generally unavailable, which has also limited borrowings under warehouse facilities and other credit facilities that are intended to be refinanced by such securitizations. Consequently, depending on market conditions at the relevant time, we may have to rely on additional equity issuances to meet our capital and financing needs, which may be dilutive to our shareholders, or we may have to rely on less efficient forms of debt financing that consume a larger portion of our cash flow from operations, thereby reducing funds available for our operations, future business opportunities, cash distributions to our shareholders and other purposes. We cannot assure you that we will have access to such equity or debt capital on favorable terms (including, without limitation, cost and term) at the desired times, or at all, which may cause us to curtail our asset acquisition activities and/or dispose of assets, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

Interest rate mismatches between our assets and any borrowings used to fund purchases of our assets may reduce our income during periods of changing interest rates.

Some of our assets are fixed-rate securities or have a fixed rate component (such as hybrid ARMs). This means that the interest we earn on these assets will not vary over time based upon changes in a short-term interest rate index. Although the interest we earn on our RMBS backed by ARMs generally will adjust for changing interest rates, the interest rate adjustments may not occur as quickly as the interest rate adjustments to any related reverse repos. Therefore, to the extent we finance our assets with reverse repos or other types of floating rate debt, the interest rate indices and repricing terms of our assets and their funding sources will create an interest rate mismatch between our assets and liabilities. Additionally, our RMBS backed by ARMs will generally be subject to interest rate caps, which potentially could cause such RMBS to acquire many of the characteristics of fixed-rate securities if interest rates were to rise above the cap levels. The use of interest rate hedges also will introduce the risk of other interest rate mismatches and exposures, as will the use of other financing techniques. During periods of changing interest rates, these mismatches could cause our business, financial condition and results of operations and ability to make distributions to our shareholders to be materially adversely affected.

 

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Our lenders may require us to provide additional collateral, especially when the market values for our assets decline, which may restrict us from leveraging our assets as fully as desired, force us to liquidate assets, reduce our liquidity, and materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

Our reverse repos allow the lenders, to varying degrees, to determine an updated market value of the collateral to reflect current market conditions. If the market value of the collateral 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. 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, financial condition, and may impair our ability to make distributions. We receive margin calls from our lenders from time to time in the ordinary course of business similar to other entities in the specialty finance business. 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. A significant increase in margin calls could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders, and could increase our risk of insolvency.

Further, lenders may require us to maintain a certain amount of cash that is not invested or to set aside non-leveraged assets sufficient to maintain a specified liquidity position which would allow us to satisfy our collateral obligations. As a result, we may not be able to leverage our portfolio as fully as we would prefer, which could reduce our return on equity. In the event that we are unable to meet these collateral maintenance obligations, then, as described above, our financial condition could deteriorate rapidly.

Our rights under our reverse repos are subject to the effects of the bankruptcy laws in the event of the bankruptcy or insolvency of us or our lenders.

In the event of our insolvency or bankruptcy, certain reverse repos may qualify for special treatment under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, the effect of which, among other things, would be to allow the lender to avoid the automatic stay provisions of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code and to foreclose on and/or liquidate the collateral pledged under such agreements without delay. In the event of the insolvency or bankruptcy of a lender during the term of a reverse repo, the lender may be permitted, under applicable insolvency laws, to repudiate the contract, and our claim against the lender for damages may be treated simply as an unsecured creditor. 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 securities under a reverse repo or to be compensated for any damages resulting from the lenders’ insolvency may be further limited by those statutes. These claims would be subject to significant delay and costs to us and, if and when received, may be substantially less than the damages we actually incur.

The terms and conditions of the Legacy Loans Program established under PPIP have not been finalized and there is no assurance that the final terms will enable us to participate in the Legacy Loans Program in a manner consistent with our investment strategy or benefit from the Legacy Loans Program.

Although the Treasury and the FDIC released a summary of proposed terms and conditions for the Legacy Loans Program and the FDIC conducted a pilot sale of receivership assets in the summer of 2009, the Treasury and the FDIC have not released the final terms and conditions governing this program. Furthermore the proposed terms do not address the specific terms and conditions relating to, among other things: the FDIC-guaranteed debt to be issued by participants in the Legacy Loans Program and the warrants that the Treasury will receive under the Legacy Loans Program if it makes an equity investment in a Public-Private Investment Fund, or PPIF. If and when the final terms and conditions are released, there is no assurance that we will benefit from this program or that the final terms will enable us to participate in the Legacy Loans Program in a manner that is consistent with our strategy, or at all.

 

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Governmental regulation of participants in Federal Government programs could materially adversely affect our ability to participate in such programs and may impose various restrictions on our business or on our investors.

The Federal Government may from time to time establish or change requirements applicable to participants in the various programs that have been established by the Federal Government, such as the PPIP. Furthermore, the Federal Government may seek to modify the requirements applicable to participants in such programs after their initial participation. There can be no assurance that the U.S. Congress or regulatory bodies will not seek such modifications or impose new restrictions and/or taxes and penalties on participants in such programs, possibly even with retroactive effect. Even without action taken by the U.S. Congress or regulatory bodies, if a perception develops that there is or could be a Congressional or regulatory focus on participants in the various Federal Government programs, market participants may become apprehensive or refuse to participate in such programs. If this were to occur, the intended benefits of such programs may not materialize, which could significantly diminish the value of our assets. While it is not possible for us to predict what types of new laws or regulations could be imposed on us or how they may affect us or our investors, it may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

Some of our lending and derivative counterparties may cease doing business with us or may become insolvent, which would adversely affect our ability to obtain financing readily or on favorable terms and enter into derivatives or may expose us to losses on our derivatives.

The ongoing downturn in the economy and stress within the financial industry may cause some of our lenders and the counterparties to our derivative positions to cease doing business with us, or to become insolvent, as was the case with Lehman Brothers. In the event one or more of our lenders cease doing business with us or becomes insolvent, it may be more difficult for us to obtain additional debt financing on favorable terms or at all. We also are exposed to the risk of loss associated with the insolvency of our lending and derivatives counterparties, including the risk that we may incur significant costs in attempting to recover any collateral held with such counterparties and the risk that we may not be able to recover such collateral in a timely manner or at all. Any of these events could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

Hedging against credit events and interest rate changes and other risks may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

We opportunistically pursue various hedging strategies to seek to reduce our exposure to losses from adverse credit events and other factors. Hedging against a decline in the values of our portfolio positions does not prevent losses if the values of such positions decline, or eliminate the possibility of fluctuations in the value of our portfolio. Hedging transactions generally will limit the opportunity for gain if the values of our portfolio positions should increase. Further, certain hedging transactions could result in our experiencing significant losses. Moreover, at any point in time we may choose not to hedge all or a portion of these risks, and we generally will not hedge those risks that we believe are appropriate for us to take at such time, or that we believe would be impractical or prohibitively expensive to hedge. Even if we do choose to hedge certain risks, for a variety of reasons we generally will not seek to establish a perfect correlation between our hedging instruments and the risks being hedged. Any such imperfect correlation may prevent us from achieving the intended hedge and expose us to risk of loss. Our hedging activity will vary in scope based on the composition of our portfolio, our market views, and changing market conditions, including the level and volatility of interest rates. When we do choose to hedge, hedging may fail to protect or could materially adversely affect us because, among other things:

 

   

our Manager may fail to correctly assess the degree of correlation between the performance of the instruments used in the hedging strategy and the performance of the assets in the portfolio being hedged;

 

   

our Manager may fail to recalculate, re-adjust and execute hedges in an efficient and timely manner;

 

   

the hedging transactions may actually result in poorer over-all performance for us than if we had not engaged in the hedging transactions;

 

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credit hedging can be expensive, particularly when the market is forecasting future credit deterioration and when markets are more illiquid;

 

   

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

 

   

available hedges may not correspond directly with the risks for which protection is sought;

 

   

the durations of the hedges may not match the durations of the related assets or liabilities being hedged;

 

   

many hedges are structured as over-the-counter contracts with counterparties whose creditworthiness is not guaranteed, raising the possibility that the hedging counterparty may default on their payment obligations; and

 

   

to the extent that the creditworthiness of a hedging counterparty deteriorates, it may be difficult or impossible to terminate or assign any hedging transactions with such counterparty.

For these and other reasons, our hedging activity may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

Hedging instruments and other derivatives, including credit default swaps, often are not traded on regulated exchanges, guaranteed by or regulated by any U.S. or foreign governmental authorities and involve risks and costs that could result in material losses.

Hedging instruments and other derivatives, including credit default swaps, involve risk because they often are not traded on regulated exchanges and are not guaranteed by or regulated by any U.S. or foreign governmental authorities. Consequently, there are no requirements with respect to record keeping, financial responsibility or segregation of customer funds and compliance with applicable statutory and commodity and other regulatory requirements and, depending on the identity of the counterparty, applicable international requirements. Our Manager is not restricted from dealing with any particular counterparty or from concentrating any or all of its transactions with one counterparty. Furthermore, our Manager has only a limited internal credit function to evaluate the creditworthiness of its counterparties, mainly relying on its experience with such counterparties and their general reputation as participants in these markets. The business failure of a hedging counterparty with whom we enter into a hedging transaction will most likely result in a default under the hedging agreement. Default by a party with whom we enter into a hedging transaction, such as occurred with Lehman Brothers, may result in losses and may force us to re-initiate similar hedges with other counterparties at the then-prevailing market levels. Generally we will seek to reserve the right to terminate our hedging transactions upon a counterparty’s insolvency, but absent an actual insolvency, we may not be able to terminate a hedging transaction without the consent of the hedging counterparty, and we may not be able to assign or otherwise dispose of a hedging transaction to another counterparty without the consent of both the original hedging counterparty and the potential assignee. If we terminate a hedging transaction, we may not be able to enter into a replacement contract in order to cover our risk. There can be no assurance that a liquid secondary market will exist for hedging instruments purchased or sold, and therefore we may be required to maintain any hedging position until exercise or expiration, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and certain commodity exchanges have established limits referred to as speculative position limits or position limits on the maximum net long or net short position which any person or group of persons may hold or control in particular futures and options. Limits on trading in options contracts also have been established by the various options exchanges. It is possible that trading decisions may have to be modified and that positions held may have to be liquidated in order to avoid exceeding such limits. Such modification or liquidation, if required, could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operation and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

In light of recent events, significant public pressure exists for increased regulatory oversight of derivative transactions, including credit default swaps. Any actions taken by regulators could constrain our strategy and could increase our costs; either of which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

 

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We may change our asset acquisition strategy, hedging strategy and, asset allocation and operational and management policies without shareholder consent, which may result in the purchase of riskier assets and materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

We may change our asset acquisition strategy, hedging strategy and asset allocation and operational and management policies at any time without the consent of our shareholders, which could result in our purchasing assets or entering into hedging transactions that are different from, and possibly riskier than, the assets and hedging transactions described in this prospectus. A change in our asset acquisition or hedging strategy may increase our exposure to real estate values, interest rates and other factors. A change in our asset allocation could result in us purchasing assets in classes different from those described in this prospectus. Our board of directors determines our operational policies and may amend or revise our policies, including those with respect to our acquisitions, growth, operations, indebtedness, capitalization and distributions or approve transactions that deviate from these policies without a vote of, or notice to, our shareholders. Operational policy changes could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

A portion of the net proceeds from this offering will most likely be invested in more liquid, lower-yielding assets, which is likely to produce an initial return on your investment that may be lower than when the net proceeds from this offering are fully invested in assets meeting our objectives.

We expect to take up to three months to fully deploy the net proceeds from this offering in a portfolio satisfying our general objectives and policies, subject to the availability of appropriate opportunities to acquire assets. However, there can be no assurance that sufficient suitable opportunities will be available to adhere to this time frame. As a result, the initial return on your investment may be lower than when our portfolio is fully invested in assets meeting our long-term investment objectives and policies.

Until appropriate assets can be identified and purchased, our Manager may invest the net proceeds of this offering in interest-bearing, short-term investments, including money market accounts. These investments are expected to provide a lower net return than we will seek to achieve from our targeted assets.

We may not realize income or gains from our assets.

We acquire assets to generate both current income and capital appreciation. The assets we acquire may, however, not appreciate in value and, in fact, may decline in value, and the debt securities we purchase may default on interest or principal payments. Accordingly, we may not be able to realize income or gains from our acquired assets. Any gains that we do realize may not be sufficient to offset any other losses we experience. Any income that we realize may not be sufficient to offset our expenses.

We or Ellington or its affiliates may be subject to adverse legislative or regulatory changes and to regulatory inquiries or proceedings.

At any time, laws or regulations that impact our business, or the administrative interpretations of those laws or regulations, may be amended. In addition, the markets for MBS and derivatives, including credit default swaps, have been the subject of intense legislative, regulatory and other scrutiny in recent months. We cannot predict when or if any new law, regulation or administrative interpretation, or any amendment to any existing law, regulation or administrative interpretation, will be adopted or promulgated or will become effective. Additionally, revisions in these laws, regulations or administrative interpretations could cause us to change our portfolio. We could be adversely affected by any change in, or any new, law, regulation or administrative interpretation.

Moreover, we cannot predict when or if any industry-wide or company-specific regulatory inquiries or proceedings will be initiated in which we and/or our Manager and Ellington will be involved. For example, in the

 

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last several years, as described below and also under “Business-Legal Proceedings,” Ellington and its affiliates have received, and we expect in the future may receive, inquiries and requests for documents and information from various federal, state and foreign regulators, including the following:

In June 2007, Ellington received an informal inquiry from the SEC requesting documents and other information relating to trading in credit default swaps on the ABX indices. Ellington provided documents to the SEC staff in August 2007 and Ellington has had no communication with the SEC on the matter since that time.

In November 2006, Ellington received a request from the SEC that it produce documents relating to trading of collateralized mortgage obligations, or CMOs, between Ellington and a third party broker-dealer as well as individuals associated with that broker-dealer, and Ellington produced documents to the SEC consistent with that request. In July 2007, Ellington received a subpoena from the SEC requesting documents relating to trading in CMOs by these individuals and firms they were affiliated with, including that broker-dealer. Ellington responded to that subpoena in August 2007, and has had no communication with the SEC on the matter since that time. The SEC filed complaints in May 2009 and December 2009 against, respectively, certain former employees of the broker-dealer, and the broker-dealer and its CEO, alleging fraud in their marketing of CMOs to their clients.

In August 2007, Ellington received a subpoena from the New York Attorney General, or the NYAG, requesting documents and other information from Ellington about its and its affiliates’ mortgage loan servicing activities. Ellington informed the NYAG that it did not engage in mortgage loan servicing. Ellington subsequently received subpoenas for documents and information relating to Ellington’s residual or equity interests in mortgage securitization trusts; communications with and information received from mortgage servicers relating to these trusts and their underlying mortgage loans; and trading in bonds of these trusts and related credit default swaps, and for documents and other information relating to communications with and information received from one of its vendors, which had performed asset surveillance for Ellington on these trusts. Ellington completed its response to the NYAG subpoenas in June 2008 and has had no communication with the NYAG since that time.

In March 2008, Ellington received a subpoena from the SEC requesting documents and other information relating primarily to CDOs underwritten during 2007 and 2008 by a particular investment bank and for which Ellington acted as collateral manager. Ellington provided an initial response to the subpoena in April 2008 and finished its production in May 2009. Ellington has had no communication with the SEC on the matter since that time.

In August 2009, Ellington and one of its affiliates received subpoenas from the SEC seeking documents and information regarding certain structuring, sales and marketing practices in the CDO market. The subpoenas seek documents and details regarding CDOs in which Ellington or its affiliates participated during 2006 and 2007. Ellington finished its production in response to the subpoenas in November 2009 and intends to cooperate with any further requests.

Information relating to legal proceedings and regulatory inquiries is also discussed under “Business-Legal Proceedings.” We can give no assurances that regulatory inquiries such as those discussed above will not result in investigations of Ellington or its affiliates or enforcement actions, fines or penalties or the assertion of private litigation claims against Ellington or its affiliates. In the event regulatory investigations such as those discussed above were to result in investigations, enforcement actions, fines, penalties or the assertion of private litigation claims against Ellington or its affiliates, our Manager’s ability to perform its obligations to us under the management agreement between us and our Manager, or Ellington’s ability to perform its obligations to our Manager under the services agreement between Ellington and our Manager, could be adversely impacted, which could in turn have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

 

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We operate in a highly competitive market.

Our profitability depends, in large part, on our ability to acquire targeted assets at favorable prices. We compete with a number of entities when acquiring our targeted assets, including mortgage REITs, financial companies, public and private funds, commercial and investment banks and residential and commercial finance companies. We may also compete with (i) the Federal Reserve and the Treasury to the extent they purchase assets in our targeted asset classes and (ii) companies that partner with and/or receive financing from the Federal Government, including PPIP participants. Many of our competitors are substantially larger and have considerably greater access to capital and other resources than we do. Furthermore, new companies with significant amounts of capital have recently been formed or have raised additional capital, and may continue to be formed and raise additional capital in the future, and these companies may have objectives that overlap with ours, which may create competition for assets we wish to acquire. Some competitors may have a lower cost of funds and access to funding sources that are not available to us. In addition, some of our competitors may have higher risk tolerances or different risk assessments, which could allow them to consider a wider variety of assets to acquire and establish more relationships than us. Furthermore, competition for assets in our targeted asset classes may lead to the price of such assets increasing, which may further limit our ability to generate desired returns. We cannot assure you that the competitive pressures we face will not have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We are highly dependent on information systems and system failures could significantly disrupt our business, which may, in turn, materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

Our business is highly dependent on communications and information systems. Any failure or interruption of our systems could cause delays or other problems in our securities trading activities, including RMBS trading activities, which could materially adversely affect on our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

Lack of diversification in the number of assets we acquire would increase our dependence on relatively few individual assets.

Our management objectives and policies do not place a limit on the size of the amount of capital used to support, or the exposure to (by any other measure), any individual asset or any group of assets with similar characteristics or risks. As a result, our portfolio may be concentrated in a small number of assets or may be otherwise undiversified, increasing the risk of loss and the magnitude of potential losses to us and our shareholders if one or more of these assets perform poorly.

For example, our portfolio of mortgage-related assets may at times be concentrated in certain property types that are subject to higher risk of foreclosure, or secured by properties concentrated in a limited number of geographic locations. To the extent that our portfolio is concentrated in any one region or type of security, downturns relating generally to such region or type of security may result in defaults on a number of our assets within a short time period, which may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

The lack of liquidity in our assets may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

Many of our assets are structured as private placements. As such, they may be subject to legal and other restrictions on resale, transfer, pledge or other disposition or will otherwise be less liquid than publicly-traded securities. Other assets of ours, while publicly issued, have limited liquidity on account of their complexity, turbulent market conditions or other factors. Illiquid assets typically experience greater price volatility, because a ready market does not exist, and they can be more difficult to value. The illiquidity of our assets may make it

 

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difficult for us to sell such assets if the need arises or to vary our portfolio in response to changes in economic and other conditions. In addition, if we are required to liquidate all or a portion of our portfolio quickly, we may realize significantly less than the value at which we have previously recorded our assets. We may also face other restrictions on our ability to liquidate any assets for which we or our Manager has or could be attributed with material non-public information. If we are unable to sell our assets at favorable prices or at all, it could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

We may allocate the net proceeds from this offering to acquire assets with which you may not agree or for purposes that are different in range or focus than those contemplated in this prospectus.

We will have significant flexibility in using the net proceeds of this offering and may use the net proceeds from this offering to acquire assets with which you may not agree or for purposes that are different in range or focus than those contemplated in this prospectus or those in which we have historically invested. The failure of our Manager to apply these proceeds effectively could result in unfavorable returns, and could cause a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

In addition, prior to the time we have fully deployed the net proceeds of this offering, we may fund distributions to our shareholders out of such net proceeds, which would reduce the amount of cash we have available for acquiring assets and other purposes. The use of our net proceeds for such distributions could be dilutive to our financial results and may constitute a return of capital to our investors, which would have the effect of reducing each shareholder’s basis in its common shares.

We could be subject to liability for potential violations of predatory lending laws, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

Various federal, state and local laws have been enacted that are designed to discourage predatory lending practices. The federal Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994, or HOEPA, prohibits inclusion of certain provisions in residential mortgage loans that have mortgage rates or origination costs in excess of prescribed levels and requires that borrowers be given certain disclosures prior to origination. Some states have enacted, or may enact, similar laws or regulations, which in some cases impose restrictions and requirements greater than those in HOEPA. In addition, under the anti-predatory lending laws of some states, the origination of certain residential mortgage loans, including loans that are not classified as “high cost” loans under applicable law, must satisfy a net tangible benefits test with respect to the related borrower. This test may be highly subjective and open to interpretation. As a result, a court may determine that a residential mortgage loan, for example, does not meet the test even if the related originator reasonably believed that the test was satisfied. Failure of residential mortgage loan originators or servicers to comply with these laws, to the extent any of their residential mortgage loans become part of our mortgaged-related assets, could subject us, as an assignee or purchaser to the related residential mortgage loans, to monetary penalties and could result in the borrowers rescinding the affected residential mortgage loans. Lawsuits have been brought in various states making claims against assignees or purchasers of high cost loans for violations of state law. Named defendants in these cases have included numerous participants within the secondary mortgage market. If the loans are found to have been originated in violation of predatory or abusive lending laws, we could incur losses, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

We may be exposed to environmental liabilities with respect to properties to which we take title.

In the course of our business, we may take title to real estate, and, if we do take title, we could be subject to environmental liabilities with respect to these properties. In such a circumstance, we may be held liable to a governmental entity or to third parties for property damage, personal injury, investigation, and clean-up costs

 

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incurred by these parties in connection with environmental contamination, or may be required to investigate or clean up hazardous or toxic substances, or chemical releases at a property. The costs associated with investigation or remediation activities could be substantial. In addition, the presence of hazardous substances may adversely affect an owner’s ability to sell real estate or borrow using real estate as collateral. To the extent that an owner of an underlying property becomes liable for removal costs, the ability of the owner to make debt payments may be reduced, which in turn may materially adversely affect the value of the relevant mortgage-related assets held by us.

Risks Related to our Relationship with our Manager and Ellington

We are dependent on our Manager and certain key personnel of Ellington that are provided to us through our Manager and may not find a suitable replacement if our Manager terminates the management agreement or such key personnel are no longer available to us.

We do not have any employees of our own. Our officers are employees of Ellington or one or more of its affiliates. We have no separate facilities and are completely reliant on our Manager, which has significant discretion as to the implementation of our operating policies and execution of our business strategies and risk management practices. We also depend on our Manager’s access to the professionals and principals of Ellington as well as information and deal flow generated by Ellington. The employees of Ellington identify, evaluate, negotiate, structure, close and monitor our portfolio. The departure of any of the senior officers of our Manager, or of a significant number of investment professionals or principals of Ellington, could have a material adverse effect on our ability to achieve our objectives. We can offer no assurance that our Manager will remain our manager or that we will continue to have access to our Manager’s senior management. We are subject to the risk that our Manager will terminate the management agreement or that we may deem it necessary to terminate the management agreement or prevent certain individuals from performing services for us and that no suitable replacement will be found to manage us.

The base management fee payable to our Manager is payable regardless of the performance of our portfolio, which may reduce its incentive to devote the time and effort to seeking profitable opportunities for our portfolio.

We pay our Manager substantial base management fees based on our equity capital (as defined in the management agreement) regardless of the performance of our portfolio. The base management fee takes into account the net issuance proceeds of both common and preferred share offerings. Our Manager’s entitlement to non-performance-based compensation might reduce its incentive to devote the time and effort of its professionals to seeking profitable opportunities for our portfolio, which could result in a lower performance of our portfolio and materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Our Manager’s incentive fee may induce our Manager to acquire certain assets, including speculative or high risk assets, or to acquire assets with increased leverage, which could increase the risk to our portfolio.

In addition to its base management fee, our Manager is entitled to receive an incentive fee based, in part, upon our achievement of targeted levels of net income. In evaluating asset acquisition and other management strategies, the opportunity to earn an incentive fee based on net income may lead our Manager to place undue emphasis on the maximization of net income at the expense of other criteria, such as preservation of capital, maintaining liquidity and/or management of credit risk or market risk, in order to achieve a higher incentive fee. Assets with higher yield potential are generally riskier or more speculative. This could result in increased risk to our portfolio.

 

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Our board of directors has approved very broad investment guidelines for our Manager, but will not approve each decision made by our Manager, to acquire, dispose of, or otherwise manage an asset.

Our Manager is authorized to follow very broad guidelines in pursuing our strategy. Our board of directors periodically reviews our guidelines and our portfolio and asset-management decisions; however, it does not review all of our proposed acquisitions. In addition, in conducting periodic reviews, our board of directors relies primarily on information provided to them by our Manager. Furthermore, our Manager may arrange for us to use complex strategies or to enter into complex transactions that may be difficult or impossible to unwind by the time they are reviewed by our board of directors. Our Manager has great latitude within the broad guidelines in determining the types of assets it may decide are proper for us to acquire and other decisions with respect to the management of those assets. Poor decisions could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

We compete with Ellington’s other accounts for access to Ellington.

Ellington has sponsored and/or currently manages accounts with a focus that overlaps with our investment focus, and expects to continue to do so in the future. Ellington is not restricted in any way from sponsoring or accepting capital from new accounts, even for investing in asset classes or strategies that are similar to, or overlapping with, our asset classes or strategies. Therefore, we compete for access to the benefits that our relationship with our Manager and Ellington provides us. For the same reasons, the personnel of Ellington and our Manager may be unable to dedicate a substantial portion of their time managing our assets.

We and other Ellington accounts may compete for opportunities to acquire assets, which are allocated in accordance with Ellington’s investment allocation policies.

Ellington may, from time to time, simultaneously seek to purchase the same or similar assets for us (through our Manager) that it is seeking to purchase for other Ellington accounts, and has no duty to allocate such opportunities in a manner that preferentially favors us. Ellington makes available to us all opportunities to acquire assets that it determines, in its reasonable and good faith judgment, based on our objectives, policies and strategies, and other relevant factors, are appropriate for us in accordance with Ellington’s written investment allocation procedures and policies, subject to the exception that we might not participate in each such opportunity, but will on an overall basis equitably participate with Ellington’s other accounts in all such opportunities.

Since many of our targeted assets are typically available only in specified quantities and since many of our targeted assets are also targeted assets for other Ellington accounts, Ellington often is not able to buy as much of any given assets as required to satisfy their needs. In these cases, Ellington’s investment allocation procedures and policies typically allocate such assets to multiple accounts in proportion to their needs. As a result, accounts in start-up mode are given priority which could work to our disadvantage, particularly because there are no limitations surrounding Ellington’s ability to create new accounts. The policies permit departure from such proportional allocation when such allocation would result in an inefficiently small amount of the security being purchased for an account, which may also serve to preclude our ability to acquire certain assets.

There are conflicts of interest in our relationships with our Manager and Ellington, which could result in decisions that are not in the best interests of our shareholders.

We are subject to conflicts of interest arising out of our relationship with Ellington and our Manager. Two of Ellington’s employees are our directors and all of our executive officers – even those expected to dedicate all or substantially all of their time to us—are or will be employees of Ellington or one or more of its affiliates. As a result, our Manager and our officers may have conflicts between their duties to us and their duties to, and interests in, Ellington or our Manager.

We may acquire or sell assets in which Ellington or its affiliates have or may have an interest. Similarly, Ellington or its affiliates may acquire or sell assets in which we have or may have an interest. Although such

 

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acquisitions or dispositions may present conflicts of interest, we nonetheless may pursue and consummate such transactions. Additionally, we may engage in transactions directly with Ellington or its affiliates, including the purchase and sale of all or a portion of a portfolio asset.

Acquisitions made for entities with similar objectives may be different from those made on our behalf. Ellington may have economic interests in or other relationships with others in whose obligations or securities we may acquire. In particular, such persons may make and/or hold an investment in securities that we acquire that may be pari passu, senior or junior in ranking to our interest in the securities or in which partners, security holders, officers, directors, agents or employees of such persons serve on boards of directors or otherwise have ongoing relationships. Each of such ownership and other relationships may result in securities laws restrictions on transactions in such securities and otherwise create conflicts of interest. In such instances, Ellington may, in its sole discretion, make recommendations and decisions regarding such securities for other entities that may be the same as or different from those made with respect to such securities and may take actions (or omit to take actions) in the context of these other economic interests or relationships the consequences of which may be adverse to our interests.

The officers of our Manager and its affiliates devote as much time to us as our Manager deems appropriate, however, these officers may have conflicts in allocating their time and services among us and Ellington and its affiliates’ accounts. During turbulent conditions in the mortgage industry, distress in the credit markets or other times when we will need focused support and assistance from our Manager and Ellington employees, other entities for which Ellington serves as a manager, or its accounts will likewise require greater focus and attention, placing our Manager and Ellington’s resources in high demand. In such situations, we may not receive the necessary support and assistance we require or would otherwise receive if we were internally managed or if Ellington did not act as a manager for other entities.

We, directly or through Ellington, may obtain confidential information about the companies or securities in which we have invested or may invest. If we do possess confidential information about such companies or securities, there may be restrictions on our ability to dispose of, increase the amount of, or otherwise take action with respect to the securities of such companies. Our Manager’s and Ellington’s management of other accounts could create a conflict of interest to the extent our Manager or Ellington is aware of material non-public information concerning potential investment decisions. We have implemented compliance procedures and practices designed to ensure that investment decisions are not made while in possession of material non-public information. We cannot assure you, however, that these procedures and practices will be effective. In addition, this conflict and these procedures and practices may limit the freedom of our Manager to make potentially profitable investments, which could have an adverse effect on our operations. These limitations imposed by access to confidential information could therefore materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

The Manager Group currently owns approximately 27.0% of our outstanding common shares as of the date of this prospectus, including LTIP units. In evaluating opportunities for us and other management strategies, this may lead our Manager to emphasize certain asset acquisition, disposition or management objectives over others, such as balancing risk or capital preservation objectives against return objectives. This could increase the risks, or decrease the returns, of your investment.

The management agreement with our Manager was not negotiated on an arm’s-length basis and may not be as favorable to us as if it had been negotiated with an unaffiliated third party and may be costly and difficult to terminate.

Our management agreement with our Manager was negotiated between related parties, and its terms, including fees payable, may not be as favorable to us as if it had been negotiated with an unaffiliated third party. Various potential and actual conflicts of interest may arise from the activities of Ellington and its affiliates by virtue of the fact that our Manager is controlled by Ellington.

 

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Termination of our management agreement without cause is subject to several conditions which may make such a termination difficult and costly. The management agreement, which was amended and restated effective July 1, 2009, has a current term that expires on December 31, 2011, and will be automatically renewed for successive one-year terms thereafter unless notice of non-renewal is delivered by either party to the other party at least 180 days prior to the expiration of the then current term. The management agreement provides that it may be terminated by us based on performance upon the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of our independent directors, or by a vote of the holders of at least a majority of our outstanding common shares, based either upon unsatisfactory performance by our Manager that is materially detrimental to us or upon a determination by the board of directors that the management fee payable to our Manager is not fair, subject to our Manager’s right to prevent such a termination by accepting a mutually acceptable reduction of management fees. In the event we terminate the management agreement as discussed above or elect not to renew the management agreement, we will be required to pay our Manager a termination fee equal to the amount of three times the sum of the average annual base management fee and the average annual incentive fee earned by our Manager during the 24-month period immediately preceding the date of termination, calculated as of the end of the most recently completed fiscal quarter prior to the date of termination. These provisions will increase the effective cost to us of terminating the management agreement, thereby adversely affecting our ability to terminate our Manager without cause.

Our Manager’s failure to identify and acquire assets that meet our asset criteria or perform its responsibilities under the management agreement could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

Our ability to achieve our objectives depends on our Manager’s ability to identify and acquire assets that meet our asset criteria. Accomplishing our objectives is largely a function of our Manager’s structuring of our investment process, our access to financing on acceptable terms and general market conditions. We have not yet identified any specific assets for our portfolio from the proceeds to be raised herewith. Additionally, our assets are selected by our Manager, and our shareholders will not have input into such decisions. All of these factors increase the uncertainty, and thus the risk, of investing in our common shares. The senior management team of our Manager has substantial responsibilities under the management agreement. In order to implement certain strategies, our Manager may need to hire, train, supervise and manage new employees successfully. Any failure to manage our future growth effectively could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

If our Manager ceases to be our Manager pursuant to the management agreement, our reverse repo and our derivative counterparties may cease doing business with us.

If our Manager ceases to be our Manager, it could constitute an event of default or early termination event under many of our reverse repo or derivative transaction agreements, upon which our counterparties would have the right to terminate their agreements with us. If our Manager ceases to be our Manager for any reason, including upon the non-renewal of our management agreement which has a current term that expires on December 31, 2011, and we are unable to obtain financing or enter into or maintain derivative transactions, our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders may be materially adversely affected.

We do not own the Ellington brand or trademark, but may use the brand and trademark as well as our logo pursuant to the terms of a license granted by Ellington.

Ellington has licensed the “Ellington” brand, trademark and logo to us for so long as our Manager or another affiliate of Ellington continues to act as our Manager. We do not own the brand, trademark or logo that we will use in our business and may be unable to protect this intellectual property against infringement from third parties. Ellington retains the right to continue using the “Ellington” brand and trademark. We will further be unable to preclude Ellington from licensing or transferring the ownership of the “Ellington” brand and trademark to third

 

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parties, some of whom may compete against us. Consequently, we will be unable to prevent any damage to goodwill that may occur as a result of the activities of Ellington or others. Furthermore, in the event our Manager or another affiliate of Ellington ceases to act as our Manager, or in the event Ellington terminates the license we will be required to change our name and trademark. Any of these events could disrupt our recognition in the market place, damage any goodwill we may have generated and otherwise harm our business. Finally, the license is a domestic license in the United States only and does not give us any right to use the “Ellington” brand, trademark and logo overseas even though we expect to use the brand, trademark and logo overseas. Our use of the “Ellington” brand, trademark and logo overseas will therefore be unlicensed and could expose us to a claim of infringement.

Risks Related To Our Common Shares

There may not be an active market for our common shares, which may cause our common shares to trade at a discount to the initial offering price and make it difficult to sell the common shares you purchase.

Prior to this offering, there has been no public market for our common shares. The initial public offering price of our common shares will be determined by negotiations between the underwriters and us. We cannot assure you that the initial public offering price will correspond to the price at which our common shares will trade in the public market subsequent to this offering or that the price of our shares available in the public market will reflect our actual financial performance.

We have applied to list our common shares on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “EFC.” Listing on the New York Stock Exchange would not ensure that an actual market will develop for our common shares. Accordingly, no assurance can be given as to:

 

   

the likelihood that an actual market for our common shares will develop;

 

   

the liquidity of any such market;

 

   

the ability of any holder to sell common shares; or

 

   

the prices that may be obtained for our common shares.

The market price and trading volume of our common shares may be volatile following this offering.

The stock market has experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations during the past two years that have affected the market price and trading volume of many companies in industries similar to ours. As a result, even if an active trading market develops for our common shares after this offering, the market price of our common shares may be highly volatile and could be subject to wide fluctuations. In addition, the trading volume in our common shares may fluctuate and cause significant price variations to occur. We cannot assure you that the market price of our common shares will not fluctuate or decline significantly in the future, and in particular, we cannot assure you that you will be able to resell your shares at or above the initial public offering price. Some of the factors that could negatively affect our share price or result in fluctuations in the price or trading volume of our common shares include:

 

   

actual or anticipated variations in our quarterly operating results or distributions;

 

   

changes in our earnings estimates, failure to meet earnings or operating results expectations of public market analysts and investors, or publication of research reports about us or the real estate specialty finance industry;

 

   

increases in market interest rates that lead purchasers of our common shares to demand a higher yield;

 

   

changes in applicable laws or regulations, court rulings and enforcement and legal actions;

 

   

changes in government polices or changes in timing of implementation of government policies, including with respect to TALF, PPIP, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae;

 

   

changes in market valuations of similar companies;

 

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adverse market reaction to any increased indebtedness we incur in the future;

 

   

additions or departures of key management personnel;

 

   

actions by institutional shareholders;

 

   

speculation in the press or investment community; and

 

   

general market and economic conditions.

Future offerings of debt securities, which would rank senior to our common shares upon our liquidation, and future offerings of equity securities, which would dilute our existing shareholders and may be senior to our common shares for the purposes of dividend and liquidating distributions, may adversely affect the market value of common shares.

In the future, we may attempt to increase our capital resources by making offerings of debt or additional offerings of equity securities, including commercial paper, medium-term notes, senior or subordinated notes and classes of preferred shares. If we decide to issue senior securities in the future, it is likely that they will be governed by an indenture or other instrument containing covenants restricting our operating flexibility. Holders of senior securities may be granted specific rights, including the right to hold a perfected security interest in certain of our assets, the right to accelerate payments due under an indenture, rights to restrict dividend payments and rights to require approval to sell assets. Additionally, any convertible or exchangeable securities that we issue in the future may have rights, preferences and privileges more favorable than those of our common shares and may result in dilution of owners of our common shares. We and, indirectly, our shareholders, will bear the cost of issuing and servicing such securities. Upon liquidation, holders of our debt securities and preferred shares and lenders with respect to other borrowings will receive a distribution of our available assets prior to the holders of our common shares. Additional equity offerings may dilute the holdings of our existing shareholders or reduce the market value of our common shares, or both. Our preferred shares, 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 common shares. Because our decision to issue securities in any future offering will depend on market conditions and other factors beyond our control, we cannot predict or estimate the amount, timing or nature of our future offerings. Thus, holders of our common shares bear the risk of our future offerings reducing the market value of our common shares and diluting their share holdings in us.

Future sales of our common shares could have an adverse effect on our share price.

We cannot predict the effect, if any, of future sales of our common shares, or the availability of our common shares for future sales, on the market value of our common shares. Sales of substantial amounts of our common shares, or the perception that such sales could occur, may adversely affect prevailing market values for our common shares.

Upon the completion of this offering, we will have              common shares outstanding, assuming              common shares are sold in this offering and the underwriters’ over-allotment option is not exercised. If the underwriters exercise their over-allotment option in full, we will have              common shares outstanding following the completion of this offering. Of these shares, 8,887,750 were sold in our August 2007 private offering and remain outstanding and are freely tradable without restriction or registration under the Securities Act. Unaffiliated shareholders that beneficially own an aggregate of              of these common shares, or     % of our common shares and vested LTIP units outstanding prior to this offering, have entered into lock-up agreements covering a period of 60 days after the date of this prospectus, with respect to the common shares held by them. In addition, our directors and executive officers and the Manager Group have indicated that they intend to enter into lock-up agreements covering 3,355,945 of our common shares and LTIP units outstanding prior to this offering, or 27.1% of our common shares and LTIP units outstanding prior to this offering, for a period of 180 days after the date of this prospectus with respect to our common shares held by them. In addition, the lock-up agreements will cover any shares acquired by our directors and executive officers and the Manager Group during the lock-up period. Lastly, one Ellington-managed hedge fund, which owns 120,000 of our common shares, will be subject to a lock-up agreement covering a period of 60 days after the date of this prospectus.

 

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Although we, our directors and officers and the Manager Group intend to enter into lock-up agreements, the representative of the underwriters, at any time and without notice, may release all or any portion of the common shares subject to the foregoing lock-up agreements. If the restrictions under any of these lock-up agreements are waived, common shares will be available for sale into the market, which could reduce the market value for common shares.

We are currently a party to a registration rights agreement whereby we are obligated to file a resale shelf registration statement within 60 days following the closing of this offering with respect to 3,089,645 of our common shares held by the Manager Group, one Ellington-managed fund and one of our independent directors. Upon registration, these common shares will be eligible for sale into the market, subject to the restrictions set forth in the lock-up agreements noted above and the one-year resale restriction on common shares issued as compensation pursuant to the management agreement, as applicable. See “Certain Relationships and Related Party Transactions—Registration Rights.”

Our shareholders may not receive dividends or dividends may not grow over time.

We have not established a minimum dividend payment level and our ability to pay dividends may be adversely affected by a number of factors, including the risk factors described herein. All dividends will be declared at the discretion of our board of directors and will depend on our earnings, our financial condition and other factors as our board of directors may deem relevant from time to time. Our board is under no obligation or requirement to declare a dividend. Among the factors that could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to pay dividends to our shareholders are:

 

   

the ultimate profitability of our assets;

 

   

margin calls or other expenses that reduce our cash flow;

 

   

defaults in our portfolio or decreases in the value of our portfolio; and

 

   

increases in actual or estimated operating expenses.

A change in any one of these factors could affect our ability to pay dividends to our shareholders. We cannot assure you that we will achieve results that will allow us to pay a specified level of dividends or year-to-year increases in dividends.

Market interest rates may have an effect on the trading value of our shares.

One of the factors that investors may consider in deciding whether to buy or sell our common shares is our dividend rate or earnings as a percentage of our common share price, as compared to market interest rates. If market interest rates increase, prospective investors may demand a higher dividend or earnings rate or seek higher-yielding alternative debt or equity investments. As a result, interest rate fluctuations and other capital market conditions can affect the market value of our common shares independent of the effects such conditions may have on our portfolio. For instance, if interest rates rise, it is likely that the market price of our common shares will decrease as market rates on interest-bearing securities, such as bonds, increase.

Investing in our common shares involves a high degree of risk.

The assets we purchase in accordance with our objectives may result in a higher amount of risk than other alternative asset acquisition options. The assets we acquire may be highly speculative and aggressive and may be subject to a variety of risks, including credit risk, prepayment risk, interest rate risk and market value risks. As a result, an investment in our common shares may not be suitable for someone with lower risk tolerance.

 

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Risks Related To Our Organization And Structure

Our operating agreement and management agreement contain provisions that may inhibit potential acquisition bids that shareholders may consider favorable, and the market price of our common shares may be lower as a result.

Our operating agreement contains provisions that have an anti-takeover effect and inhibit a change in our board of directors. These provisions include the following:

 

   

allowing only our board of directors to fill newly created directorships;

 

   

requiring advance notice for our shareholders to nominate candidates for election to our board of directors or to propose business to be considered by our shareholders at a meeting of shareholders;

 

   

our ability to issue additional securities, including, but not limited to, preferred shares, without approval by shareholders;

 

   

the ability of our board of directors to amend the operating agreement without the approval of our shareholders except under certain specified circumstances; and

 

   

limitations on the ability of shareholders to call special meetings of shareholders or to act by written consent.

Certain provisions of the management agreement also could make it more difficult for third parties to acquire control of us by various means, including limitations on our right to terminate the management agreement and a requirement that, under certain circumstances, we make a substantial payment to our Manager in the event of a termination.

Our operating agreement, subject to certain exceptions, contains restrictions on the amount of our shares that a person may own and may prohibit certain entities from owning our shares. Our operating agreement provides that (subject to certain exceptions described below) no person may own, or be deemed to own by virtue of the attribution provisions of the Code, more than 9.8% of the aggregate value or number (whichever is more restrictive) of our outstanding shares.

Any person who acquires or attempts or intends to acquire beneficial or constructive ownership of our shares that will or may violate any of the foregoing restrictions on transferability and ownership, or who is the intended transferee of our common shares which are transferred to the trust (as described below), will be required to give written notice immediately to us, or in the case of proposed or attempted transactions will be required to give at least 15 days written notice to us, and provide us with such other information as we may request in order to determine the effect of such transfer, including, without limitation, the effect on the qualification of any of our potential REIT subsidiaries as a REIT.

Our board of directors, in its sole discretion, may exempt any person from the foregoing restrictions. Any person seeking such an exemption must provide to our board of directors such representations, covenants and undertakings as our board of directors may deem appropriate. Our board of directors may also condition any such exemption on the receipt of a ruling from the IRS or an opinion of counsel as it deems appropriate. Our board of directors has granted an exemption from this limitation to Ellington, certain affiliated entities of Ellington and certain non-affiliates, subject to certain conditions.

Our rights and the rights of our shareholders to take action against our directors and officers or against our Manager or Ellington are limited, which could limit your recourse in the event actions are taken that are not in your best interests.

Our operating agreement limits the liability of our directors and officers to us and our shareholders for money damages, except for liability resulting from:

 

   

actual receipt of an improper benefit or profit in money, property or services; or

 

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active and deliberate dishonesty by the director or officer established by a final judgment and that is material to the cause of action adjudicated.

We have entered into indemnification agreements with our directors and officers that obligate us to indemnify them to the maximum extent permitted by Delaware law. In addition, our operating agreement authorizes us to obligate our company to indemnify our present and former directors and officers for actions taken by them in those capacities to the maximum extent permitted by Delaware law. Our operating agreement requires us to indemnify each present or former director or officer, to the maximum extent permitted by Delaware law, in the defense of any proceeding to which he or she is made, or threatened to be made, a party by reason of his or her service to us. In addition, we may be obligated to fund the defense costs incurred by our directors and officers. See “Description of Shares—Operating Agreement—Limitations on Liability and Indemnification of Our Directors and Officers.”

Our management agreement with our Manager requires us to indemnify our Manager and its affiliates against any and all claims and demands arising out of claims by third parties caused by acts or omissions of our Manager and its affiliates not constituting bad faith, willful misconduct, gross negligence or reckless disregard of our Manager’s duties under the management agreement.

Due to the liability limitations contained in our operating agreements and our indemnification arrangements with our directors and officers and our Manager, our and our shareholders’ rights to take action against our directors and officers and our Manager are limited, which could limit your recourse in the event actions are taken that are not in your best interests.

Maintenance of our exclusion from registration under the Investment Company Act imposes significant limitations on our operations.

We intend to conduct our operations through various wholly-owned or majority-owned subsidiaries in a manner such that neither we nor those subsidiaries are subject to regulation under the Investment Company Act. The securities issued by our subsidiaries that are excluded from the definition of “investment company” under Section 3(c)(1) or Section 3(c)(7) of the Investment Company Act, together with other investment securities we may own, cannot exceed a combined value of 40% of the value of all our assets (excluding U.S. Government securities and cash) on an unconsolidated basis. This requirement limits the types of businesses in which we may engage and the assets we may hold. Our wholly-owned subsidiary, EF Mortgage LLC, relies on the exclusion provided by Section 3(c)(5)(C) under the Investment Company Act. Section 3(c)(5)(C) of the Investment Company Act is designed for entities “primarily engaged in the business of purchasing or otherwise acquiring mortgages and other liens on and interests in real estate.” This exclusion generally requires that at least 55% of the entity’s assets consist of qualifying real estate assets and at least 80% of the entity’s assets consist of qualifying real estate assets or real estate-related assets. These requirements limit the assets we can own and the timing of sales and purchases of our assets.

To classify the assets held by EF Mortgage LLC as qualifying real estate assets or real estate-related assets, we rely on no-action letters and other guidance published by the SEC staff regarding those kinds of assets, as well as upon our analyses (in consultation with outside counsel) of guidance published with respect to other types of assets. There can be no assurance that the laws and regulations governing the Investment Company Act status of companies similar to ours, or the guidance from the Division of Investment Management of the SEC regarding the treatment of assets as qualifying real estate assets or real estate-related assets, will not change in a manner that adversely affects our operations. To the extent that the SEC staff provides more specific guidance regarding any of the matters bearing upon our exemption from the need to register under the Investment Company Act, we may be required to adjust our strategy accordingly. Any additional guidance from the SEC staff could further inhibit our ability to pursue the strategies that we have chosen. Furthermore, although we intend to monitor the assets of EF Mortgage LLC regularly, there can be no assurance that EF Mortgage LLC will be able to maintain this exemption from registration. Any of the foregoing could require us to adjust our strategy, which could limit

 

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our ability to make certain investments or require us to sell assets in a manner, at a price or at a time that we otherwise would not have chosen. This could negatively affect the value of our common shares, the sustainability of our business model and our ability to make distributions.

If we were required to register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act, we would be subject to the restrictions imposed by the Investment Company Act, which would require us to make material changes to our strategy.

If we are deemed to be an investment company under the Investment Company Act, we would be required to materially restructure our activities or to register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act, which would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial conditions and results of operations. In connection with any such restructuring, we may be required to sell portfolio assets at a time we otherwise might not choose to do so, and we may incur losses in connection with such sales. Further, our Manager may unilaterally terminate the management agreement if we become regulated as an investment company under the Investment Company Act. Further, if it were established that we were an unregistered investment company, there would be a risk that we would be subject to monetary penalties and injunctive relief in an action brought by the Commission, that we would be unable to enforce contracts with third parties and that third parties could seek to obtain rescission of transactions undertaken during the period it was established that we were an unregistered investment company.

Federal Income Tax Risks

If we fail to satisfy the “qualifying income exception” under the tax rules for publicly traded partnerships, all of our income will be subject to an entity-level tax.

We have operated, and intend to continue to operate, so that we qualify as a partnership, and not as an association or a publicly traded partnership taxable as a corporation, for U.S. federal income tax purposes. In general, if a partnership is “publicly traded” (as defined in the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Code), it will be treated as a corporation for U.S. federal income tax purposes. A publicly traded partnership will, however, be treated as a partnership, and not as a corporation, for U.S. federal income tax purposes, so long as at least 90% of its gross income for each taxable year constitutes “qualifying income” within the meaning of Section 7704(d) of the Code and it would not be included in the definition of a regulated investment company, or RIC, under Section 851(a) of the Code if it were a domestic corporation (which generally applies to entities required to register under the Investment Company Act). We refer to this exception as the “qualifying income exception.” Qualifying income generally includes rents, dividends, interest (to the extent such interest is neither derived from the “conduct of a financial or insurance business” nor based, directly or indirectly, upon “income or profits” of any person), and capital gains from the sale or other disposition of stocks, bonds and real property. Qualifying income also includes other income derived from the business of investing in, among other things, stocks and securities.

If we fail to satisfy the “qualifying income exception” described above, we would be treated as a corporation for U.S. federal income tax purposes. In that event, items of income, gain, loss, deduction and credit would not pass through to holders of our common shares and such holders would be treated for U.S. federal (and certain state and local) income tax purposes as shareholders in a corporation. We would be required to pay income tax at regular corporate rates on all of our income. In addition, we would likely be liable for state and local income and/or franchise taxes on all of our income. Distributions to holders of our common shares would constitute ordinary dividend income taxable to such holders to the extent of our earnings and profits, and these distributions would not be deductible by us. Additionally, distributions paid to non-U.S. holders of our common shares would be subject to U.S. federal withholding taxes at the rate of 30% (or such lower rate provided by an applicable tax treaty). Thus, if we were treated as a corporation, such treatment would result in a material reduction in cash flow and after-tax returns for holders of our common shares and thus would result in a substantial reduction in the value of our common shares.

 

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Holders of our common shares will be subject to U.S. federal income tax on their share of our taxable income, regardless of whether or when they receive any cash distributions from us, and may recognize income in excess of our cash distributions.

We intend to continue to operate so as to qualify, for U.S. federal income tax purposes, as a partnership and not as an association or a publicly traded partnership taxable as a corporation. Holders of our common shares are subject to U.S. federal income taxation and, in some cases, state, local and foreign income taxation, on their allocable share of our items of income, gain, loss, deduction, and credit, regardless of whether or when they receive cash distributions. In addition, certain of our assets may produce taxable income without corresponding distributions of cash to us or produce taxable income prior to or following the receipt of cash relating to such income. Consequently, it is possible that the U.S. federal income tax liability of shareholders with respect to their respective allocable shares of our earnings in a particular taxable year could exceed the cash distributions we make to shareholders with respect to that taxable year, thus requiring out-of-pocket tax payments by shareholders. Furthermore, if we did not make cash distributions with respect to a taxable year, holders of our common shares would still have a tax liability attributable to their allocation of our taxable income for that taxable year. Our present intention is to make quarterly and special distributions to our common shareholders so that approximately 100% of our net income attributable to our common shares each calendar year, beginning with the 2010 calendar year, has been distributed prior to April of the subsequent calendar year, subject to potential adjustments for changes in common shares outstanding and certain other factors. See “Dividend Policy.”

The ability of holders of our common shares to deduct certain expenses incurred by us may be limited.

We believe that the expenses incurred by us, including base management fees and incentive fees paid to our Manager, will generally not be treated as “miscellaneous itemized deductions” and will be deductible as ordinary trade or business expenses. In general, “miscellaneous itemized deductions” may be deducted by a holder of our common shares that is an individual, estate or trust only to the extent that such deductions exceed, in the aggregate, 2% of such holder’s adjusted gross income. In addition, “miscellaneous itemized deductions” are also not deductible in determining the alternative minimum tax liability of a holder. There are also limitations on the deductibility of itemized deductions by individuals whose adjusted gross income exceeds a specified amount, adjusted annually for inflation. Although we believe that our expenses will not be treated as “miscellaneous itemized deductions,” there can be no assurance that the IRS will not successfully challenge that treatment. In that event, a holder’s inability to deduct all or a portion of such expenses could result in an amount of taxable income to such holder with respect to us that exceeds the amount of cash actually distributed to such holder for the year.

Holders of our common shares may recognize a greater taxable gain (or a smaller tax loss) on a disposition of our shares than expected because of the treatment of our debt under the partnership tax accounting rules.

We incur debt for a variety of reasons, including for acquisitions as well as other purposes. Under partnership tax accounting principles (which apply to us), our debt is generally allocable to holders of our common shares, who will realize the benefit of including their allocable share of our debt in the tax basis of their shares. A holder’s tax basis in our common shares will be adjusted for, among other things, distributions of cash and allocations of our losses, if any. At the time a holder of our common shares sells its shares, the holder’s amount realized on the sale will include not only the sales price of the shares but also such holder’s portion of our debt allocable to those shares (which is treated as proceeds from the sale of those shares). Depending on the nature of our activities after having incurred the debt, and the utilization of the borrowed funds, a later sale of our common shares could result in a larger taxable gain (or a smaller tax loss) than anticipated.

Tax-exempt holders of our common shares will likely recognize significant amounts of “unrelated business taxable income,” the amount of which may be material.

An organization that is otherwise exempt from U.S. federal income tax is nonetheless subject to taxation with respect to its “unrelated business taxable income,” or UBTI. Because we have incurred “acquisition indebtedness” with respect to certain securities we hold (either directly or indirectly through subsidiaries that are

 

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treated as partnerships or are disregarded for U.S. federal income tax purposes), a proportionate share of a holder’s income from us with respect to such securities will be treated as UBTI. Accordingly, tax-exempt holders of our common shares will likely recognize significant amounts of UBTI. For certain types of tax-exempt entities, the receipt of any UBTI might have adverse consequences. Tax-exempt holders of our common shares are strongly urged to consult their tax advisors regarding the tax consequences of owning our common shares.

There can be no assurance that the IRS will not assert successfully that some portion of our income is properly treated as effectively connected income with respect to non-U.S. holders of our common shares.

While it is expected that our method of operation will not result in the generation of significant amounts of income treated as effectively connected with the conduct of a U.S. trade or business with respect to non-U.S. holders of our common shares, there can be no assurance that the IRS will not assert successfully that some portion of our income is properly treated as effectively connected income with respect to such non-U.S. holders. To the extent our income is treated as effectively connected income, non-U.S. holders generally would be required to (i) file a U.S. federal income tax return for such year reporting their allocable portion, if any, of our income or loss effectively connected with such trade or business and (ii) pay U.S. federal income tax at graduated U.S. tax rates on any such income. Additionally, we would be required to withhold tax (currently at a rate of 35%) on a non-U.S. holder’s allocable share of any effectively connected income. Non-U.S. holders that are corporations also would be required to pay branch profits tax at a 30% rate (or lower rate provided by applicable treaty). To the extent our income is treated as effectively connected income, it may also be treated as nonqualifying income for purposes of the qualifying income exception.

If the IRS challenges our election to mark our assets to market for U.S. federal income tax purposes, the taxable income allocated to the holders of our common shares would be adjusted (possibly retroactively) and our ability to provide tax information on a timely basis could be negatively affected.

We intend to continue to qualify as a trader in securities and have elected to mark-to-market our positions in securities that we hold as a trader, in accordance with Section 475(f) of the Code. There are limited authorities under Section 475(f) of the Code as to what constitutes a trader for U.S. federal income tax purposes. Under other sections of the Code, the status of a trader in securities depends on all of the facts and circumstances, including the nature of the income derived from the taxpayer’s activities, the frequency, extent and regularity of the taxpayer’s securities transactions, and the taxpayer’s investment intent. Therefore, there can be no assurance that we have qualified or will continue to qualify as a trader in securities eligible for the mark-to-market election. We have not received, and in connection with this offering we will not receive, an opinion from counsel or a ruling from the IRS regarding our qualification as a trader. If our eligibility for, or our application of, the mark-to-market election were successfully challenged by the IRS, in whole or in part, it could, depending on the circumstances, result in retroactive (or prospective) changes in the amount of taxable income recognized by us and allocated to the holders of our common shares. An inability to utilize the mark-to-market election might also have an adverse effect on our ability to provide tax information to you on a timely basis. The IRS could also challenge any conventions that we use in computing, or in allocating among holders of our common shares, any gain or loss resulting from the mark-to-market election. See “Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations—Taxation of Holders of Our Common Shares—Allocation of Profits and Losses.”

In addition, we intend to take the position that our mark-to-market gain or loss, and any gain or loss on the actual disposition of marked-to-market assets, should be treated as ordinary income or loss. However, because the law is unclear as to the treatment of assets that are held for investment, and the determination of which assets are held for investment, the IRS could take the position that the mark-to-market gain or loss attributable to certain assets should be treated as capital gain or loss and not as ordinary gain or loss. In that case, we will not be able to offset our non-cash ordinary income with any resulting capital losses from such assets, which could increase the amount of our non-cash taxable income.

 

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The IRS may challenge our allocations of income, gain, loss, deduction and credit.

Our operating agreement provides for the allocation of income, gain, loss, deduction and credit among the holders of our common shares. The rules regarding partnership allocations are complex. It is possible that the IRS could successfully challenge the allocations in the operating agreement and reallocate items of income, gain, loss, deduction and credit in a manner which reduces benefits or increases income allocable to holders of our common shares. See “Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations—Taxation of Holders of Our Common Shares—Allocation of Profits and Losses.”

Complying with certain tax-related requirements may cause us to forego otherwise attractive business opportunities.

To be treated as a partnership for U.S. federal income tax purposes, and not as an association or publicly traded partnership taxable as a corporation, we must satisfy the qualifying income exception, which requires that at least 90% of our gross income each taxable year consist of interest, dividends, capital gains and other types of “qualifying income.” Interest income will not be qualifying income for the qualifying income exception if it is derived from “the conduct of a financial or insurance business.” This requirement limits our ability to originate loans or acquire loans originated by our Manager and its affiliates. In addition, we intend to operate so as to avoid generating a significant amount of income that is treated as effectively connected with the conduct of a U.S. trade or business with respect to non-U.S. holders. In order to comply with these requirements, we (or our subsidiaries) may be required to invest through foreign or domestic corporations or forego attractive business opportunities. Thus, compliance with these requirements may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.

The IRS Schedules K-1 we will provide will be significantly more complicated than the IRS Forms 1099 provided by REITs and regular corporations, and holders of our common shares may be required to request an extension of time to file their tax returns.

Holders of our common shares are required to take into account their allocable share of items of our income, gain, loss, deduction and credit for our taxable year ending within or with their taxable year. We will use reasonable efforts to furnish holders of our common shares with tax information (including IRS Schedule K-1) as promptly as possible, which describes their allocable share of such items for our preceding taxable year. However, we may not be able to provide holders of our common shares with tax information on a timely basis. Because holders of our common shares will be required to report their allocable share of each item of our income, gain, loss, deduction, and credit on their tax returns, tax reporting for holders of our common shares will be significantly more complicated than for shareholders in a REIT or a regular corporation. In addition, delivery of this information to holders of our common shares will be subject to delay in the event of, among other reasons, the late receipt of any necessary tax information from an investment in which we hold an interest. It is therefore possible that, in any taxable year, holders of our common shares will need to apply for extensions of time to file their tax returns.

Our structure involves complex provisions of U.S. federal income tax law for which no clear precedent or authority may be available, and which is subject to potential change, possibly on a retroactive basis. Any such change could result in adverse consequences to the holders of our common shares.

The U.S. federal income tax treatment of holders of our common shares depends in some instances on determinations of fact and interpretations of complex provisions of U.S. federal income tax law for which no clear precedent or authority may be available. The U.S. federal income tax rules are constantly under review by persons involved in the legislative process and the IRS, resulting in changes in and revised interpretations of established concepts. Also, the IRS pays close attention to the proper application of tax laws to partnerships and investments in foreign entities. The present U.S. federal income tax treatment of an investment in our common shares may be modified by administrative, legislative or judicial interpretation at any time, and any such action

 

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may affect investments and commitments we have previously made. We and holders of our common shares could be adversely affected by any such change in, or any new tax law, regulation or interpretation. Our operating agreement permits our board of directors to modify (subject to certain exceptions) the operating agreement from time to time, without the consent of the holders of our common shares. These modifications may address, among other things, certain changes in U.S. federal income tax regulations, legislation or interpretation. In some circumstances, such revisions could have an adverse impact on some or all of the holders of our common shares. Moreover, we intend to apply certain assumptions and conventions in an attempt to comply with applicable rules and to report income, gain, deduction, loss and credit to holders of our common shares in a manner that reflects their distributive share of our items, but these assumptions and conventions may not be in compliance with all aspects of applicable tax requirements. It is possible that the IRS will assert successfully that the conventions and assumptions we use do not satisfy the technical requirements of the Code and/or Treasury Regulations and could require that items of income, gain, deduction, loss or credit be adjusted or reallocated in a manner that adversely affects holders of our common shares.

Proposed tax legislation, if enacted, could limit our ability to conduct investment management or advisory or other activities in the future.

Proposed tax legislation has been introduced in Congress that is intended to prevent publicly traded partnerships from conducting investment management or advisory activities without the imposition of corporate income tax. One version of this proposed legislation would prevent a publicly traded partnership from qualifying as a partnership for U.S. federal income tax purposes if it conducts such activities either directly or indirectly through any entity in which it owns an interest, no matter how small or insignificant such activities are compared to the partnership’s other activities. Other versions of the legislation would mandate that any income from investment management or advisory activities be treated as non-qualifying income under the 90% qualifying income exception for publicly traded partnerships, which, in turn, would limit the amount of such income that a publicly traded partnership could derive other than through corporate subsidiaries. It is unclear which version of the legislation, if any, ultimately will be enacted. It also is uncertain whether such legislation, if enacted, would apply retroactively to dates specified in the original proposals or prospectively only. We do not currently engage in investment management or advisory activities either directly or indirectly through an entity in which we own an interest. However, if such legislation is enacted, depending on the form it takes, it could limit our ability to engage in investment management and advisory or other activities in the future. Holders should consult their own tax advisors regarding the likelihood that the proposed legislation will be enacted and, if enacted, the form it is likely to take.

 

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USE OF PROCEEDS

The net proceeds we will receive from the sale of              common shares in this offering will be approximately $             million (or approximately $             million if the underwriters fully exercise their over-allotment option), in each case after deducting the underwriting discounts and commissions of approximately $             million (or approximately $             million if the underwriters fully exercise their over-allotment option) and estimated offering expenses of approximately $             million payable by us.

We plan to use substantially all of the net proceeds of this offering to acquire our targeted assets in accordance with our investment objectives and strategies as described in this prospectus. See “Business—Our Strategy.” Based on prevailing market conditions, our current expectation is that we will use substantially all of the net proceeds of this offering within three months after completion of this offering. We expect that the net proceeds of this offering will be allocated as follows: 85% to 95% in non-Agency RMBS, 5% to 15% in Agency RMBS, 0% to 10% in mortgage-related derivatives including credit default swaps on individual RMBS and on the ABX indices, and 0% to 10% in our other targeted assets and cash. The foregoing percentages do not reflect our expected use of leverage, in that they reflect the use of capital that we expect to deploy, as opposed to the gross assets that we expect to acquire. See “Business—Our Financing Strategies and Use of Leverage.” However, we cannot assure you that we will not change the capital allocation described above. Our decisions will depend on prevailing market conditions and the opportunities we identify and may be adjusted in response to changes in interest rates, economic and credit environments. Capital allocated to particular targeted assets may reflect the actual usage of cash, such as in connection with the payment of the purchase price for such assets or in connection with the posting of collateral with third parties in connection with the financing of such assets, or may represent deemed allocations of capital pursuant to internal liquidity guidelines in connection with the financing or maintenance of such assets. We expect to use the balance of the net proceeds of this offering, if any, for working capital and general corporate purposes. Pending such uses, we may invest the net proceeds from this offering in interest-bearing, short-term investments, including money market accounts. These investments are expected to provide a lower net return than we hope to achieve from investments in our longer-term intended use of proceeds of this offering.

While we intend to use the net proceeds of this offering to acquire our targeted assets as described above, we will have significant flexibility in using the net proceeds of this offering and may use the net proceeds from this offering to acquire assets with which you may not agree or for purposes that are different in range or focus than those described above and elsewhere in this prospectus or those in which we have historically invested.

 

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INSTITUTIONAL TRADING OF OUR COMMON SHARES

Currently, there is no public trading market for our common shares. Our common shares issued in our August 2007 private offering are eligible for resale to qualified institutional buyers as defined under, and pursuant to, Rule 144A under the Securities Act. These trades may be reported in the PORTALSM Market, or PORTAL, a subsidiary of the Nasdaq Stock Market, Inc. The following table shows the high and low sales prices for our common shares as reported on PORTAL for each quarterly period since our common shares became eligible for PORTAL:

 

     High Sales
Price
   Low Sales
Price

August 1 to September 30, 2007

     *      *

October 1 to December 31, 2007

     *      *

January 1 to March 31, 2008

   $ 20.00    $ 20.00

April 1 to June 30, 2008

     *      *

July 1 to September 30, 2008

   $ 20.00    $ 20.00

October 1 to December 31, 2008

     *      *

January 1 to March 31, 2009

     *      *

April 1 to June 30, 2009

     *      *

July 1 to September 30, 2009

   $ 20.00    $ 20.00

October 1 to December 31, 2009

     *      *

January 1 to March 10, 2010(1)

   $ 19.75    $ 19.75

 

*   No trades of our common shares were reported on PORTAL during this period.
(1)   Reflects one transaction which settled after the March 1, 2010 record date for our $1.25 per share fourth quarter 2009 dividend.

We have been advised that, as of March 10, 2010, the last sale of our common shares reported on PORTAL occurred on February 25, 2010, at a price of $19.75 per share. The information above regarding trades reported on PORTAL may not include all reported trades. Moreover, institutions and individuals are not required to report all trades to PORTAL. Therefore, the last sales price that was reported on PORTAL may not be reflective of sales of our common shares that have occurred and were not reported and may not be indicative of the prices at which our common shares may trade after this offering. In addition, between March 2, 2009 and May 27, 2009, we repurchased a total of 608,500 of our common shares in three separate transactions at prices ranging from $12.00 to $13.00 per share.

As of December 31, 2009, we had 11,972,113 common shares issued and outstanding. As of December 31, 2009, 50 of our issued and outstanding common shares were held in the name of our Manager, 1,250 of our issued and outstanding common shares were held in the name of one of our independent directors and the remainder of our issued and outstanding common shares were held in the name of Cede & Co., which holds shares as nominee for The Depository Trust Company, or DTC. We believe that, as of December 31, 2009, DTC held shares on behalf of approximately 70 beneficial owners of our common shares.

 

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DIVIDEND POLICY

Our present intention is to pay quarterly and special dividends to our common shareholders so that approximately 100% of our net income attributable to our common shares each calendar year, beginning with the 2010 calendar year, has been distributed prior to April of the subsequent calendar year, subject to potential adjustments for changes in common shares outstanding. In setting our dividends, our board of directors takes into account, among other things, our earnings, our financial condition, our working capital needs and new investment opportunities. In particular, we may deviate from our dividend policy when we believe it is prudent to do so for liquidity management purposes, during financial crises or extreme market dislocations, or in order to take advantage of what we deem to be extraordinary investment opportunities. Furthermore, it is possible that some of our future financing arrangements could contain provisions restricting our ability to pay dividends. In addition, our ability to pay dividends is subject to certain restrictions under the Delaware LLC Act. Under the Delaware LLC Act, a limited liability company generally is not permitted to pay a dividend if, after giving effect to the dividend, the liabilities of the company will exceed the value of the company’s assets. Shareholders generally will be subject to U.S. federal income tax (and any applicable state and local taxes) on their respective allocable shares of our net taxable income regardless of the timing or amount of dividend we pay to our shareholders.

The declaration of dividends to our shareholders and the amount of such dividends are at the discretion of our board of directors. Our dividend policy for the 2009 calendar year was to pay quarterly and special dividends to our common shareholders so that at least 50% of our net income attributable to our common shares was distributed. The dividends we declared for the second, third and fourth quarters of 2009, as shown in the table below, represented in the aggregate approximately 50% of our net income attributable to our common shares for the 2009 calendar year. The following table sets forth the dividends per share we have paid to our shareholders with respect to the periods indicated. We did not pay any dividends prior to 2009.

 

    Dividend Per Share   Record Date   Payment Date

Fiscal year ended December 31, 2009:

     

First quarter

  $ —     N/A   N/A

Second quarter

  $ 1.50   September 1, 2009   September 15, 2009

Third quarter

  $ 1.00   December 1, 2009   December 15, 2009

Fourth quarter

  $ 1.25   March 1, 2010   March 15, 2010

Fiscal year ending December 31, 2010:

     

First quarter

  $      

We cannot assure you that we will pay any future dividends to our shareholders and the dividends set forth in the table above are not intended to be indicative of the amount and timing of future dividends, if any.

We generally refer to payments made to our shareholders with respect to our common shares as “dividends” for purposes of this prospectus. For U.S. federal income tax purposes, those payments will be treated as distributions from a partnership and will be taxed as described in “Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations—Taxation of Holders of Our Common Shares—Treatment of Distributions” below.

 

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DILUTION

The price per common share offered hereby will exceed the pro forma book value per share as of February 28, 2010, after giving effect to (a) this offering and (b) the dividend paid on March 15, 2010 of $1.25 per share to our shareholders of record as of March 1, 2010 and to the holders of our outstanding LTIP units. Therefore, purchasers of the common shares in this offering will realize an immediate dilution in the book value of their common shares. Pro forma book value per share is determined by subtracting our total liabilities from our total assets after giving effect to the dividend paid on March 15, 2010 and dividing the remainder by the number of common shares that will be outstanding after this offering. Pro forma book value per share excludes the effects of LTIP units and common shares issuable upon conversion of LTIP units. The following table illustrates the dilution to purchasers of common shares in this offering, based on the sale by us of              shares in this offering at an assumed offering price of $             per common share (the midpoint of the price range set forth on the front cover page of this prospectus), and assuming underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated expenses of this initial public offering, which are equal to $             per common share outstanding immediately following completion of this offering.

 

Price per share to investors in this offering(1)

  $             

Book value per share as of February 28, 2010, before giving effect to this offering and the payment of the dividend discussed above

 

Decrease in book value per share attributable to the payment of the dividend discussed above

 

Pro forma book value per share before giving effect to this offering

 

Decrease in book value per share attributable to this offering(2)

 

Pro forma book value per share after giving effect to this offering and the payment of the dividend discussed above(3)

 
     

Dilution per share to new investors

  $             

 

(1)   Before deducting the underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated expenses payable by us in this offering.
(2)   After deducting the underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated expenses payable by us in this offering.
(3)   Based on an assumed price per share of $            , the offering price will be equal to     % of the pro forma book value per share after giving effect to this offering and the payment of the dividend discussed above.

The following table summarizes, as of February 28, 2010, the differences between the average price per share paid by our existing shareholders in previous issuances and by new investors purchasing common shares in this offering at an assumed initial public offering price of $             per share, which is the midpoint of the price range set forth on the front cover page of this prospectus, before deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us in this offering:

 

     Shares Purchased
or LTIPs
Granted(1)
   Total
Consideration
   Average
Price Per
Share
 

Shares purchased by existing shareholders

   12,500,050    $ 247,674,500    $ 19.81 (5) 

Shares issued to our Manager as part of its incentive fee(2)

   85,895      —        —     

LTIP units granted pursuant to our incentive plans(3)

   380,000      —        —     

Shares issued pursuant to the conversion of LTIP units(4)

   6,250      —        —     

New shares being purchased by investors in this offering

        

 

(1)   Assumes no exercise of the underwriters’ over-allotment option to purchase an additional              common shares.
(2)   No cash consideration was paid for these securities.
(3)   As of February 28, 2010, includes 375,000 LTIP units issued to our Manager and an aggregate of 5,000 LTIP units owned by our independent directors. Each LTIP unit is convertible into one common share. No cash consideration was paid for the LTIP units or will be payable upon conversion of the LTIP units into common shares.
(4)   No cash consideration was paid in connection with the conversion of these LTIP units into common shares.
(5)   Represents the weighted average price per share purchased by the initial purchaser/placement agent for its own account in our August 2007 private offering at $18.80 per share and by other investors at $20.00 per share.

 

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CAPITALIZATION

The following table sets forth our actual capitalization as of December 31, 2009, and our capitalization as of December 31, 2009, as adjusted to give effect to (a) the sale of              common shares by us in this offering at an offering price of $             per share, which is the midpoint of the price range set forth on the front cover page of this prospectus, after deducting the underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses payable by us, (b) the dividend paid on March 15, 2010 of $1.25 per share to our shareholders of record as of March 1, 2010 and to the holders of our outstanding LTIP units, (c) the issuance of 9,082 common shares to our Manager in February 2010 as part of our Manager’s incentive fee for the fourth quarter of 2009, and (d) the conversion of 2,500 LTIP units into 2,500 common shares by one of our independent directors in February 2010. You should read this table together with “Use of Proceeds” included elsewhere in this prospectus.

 

     As of December 31, 2009
     Actual(1)    As Adjusted(2)

Common shares, no par value; 100,000,000 shares authorized; 11,972,113 common shares outstanding, actual;              common shares outstanding, as adjusted upon completion of the offering(1)(2)

   $ 292,946,604    $                     

Preferred shares, no par value; 100,000,000 preferred shares authorized, no preferred shares outstanding, actual or as adjusted

     —        —  

Additional paid-in capital—LTIP units

     6,847,409   
             

Total shareholders’ equity

   $ 299,794,013    $  
             

 

(1)   Excludes 375,000 common shares which are issuable upon conversion of 375,000 LTIP units that were issued to our Manager, 5,000 common shares which are issuable upon conversion of 5,000 LTIP units that were issued to our independent directors, 9,082 common shares issued to our Manager in February 2010 as part of our Manager’s incentive fee for the fourth quarter of 2009 and 2,500 common shares issued pursuant to the conversion of LTIP units by one of our independent directors in February 2010.
(2)   Assumes the sale by us of              common shares in this offering at an initial offering price of $             per share, which is the midpoint of the price range set forth on the front cover page of this prospectus, for net proceeds of approximately $             million after deducting the underwriting discounts and commissions for the initial public offering and estimated offering expenses payable by us. Does not include up to an additional              common shares that we may issue and sell upon the exercise of the underwriters’ over-allotment option. Also assumes the payment of the $1.25 per share dividend paid on March 15, 2010 on 11,983,695 common shares and 380,000 LTIP units. The 9,082 common shares issued to our Manager in February 2010 were valued at $25.04 per share, which was our book value per outstanding common share as of December 31, 2009.

 

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SELECTED CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL INFORMATION

The following table presents selected consolidated financial information as of December 31, 2009, 2008 and 2007, for the years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008, and for the period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) to December 31, 2007. The consolidated financial information presented below as of December 31, 2009 and 2008 and for the years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008, and for the period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) to December 31, 2007, have been derived from our audited financial statements included elsewhere in the prospectus. The consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2007 was derived from our historical audited consolidated financial statements not included in this prospectus. Because we only operated our business for a portion of the year ended December 31, 2007, a direct comparison of our operating results for the years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008 to our operating results for the period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) to December 31, 2007 may be of limited use.

Since the information presented below is only a summary and does not provide all of the information contained in our historical consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus, including the related notes, you should read it in conjunction with “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” and our historical consolidated financial statements, including the related notes, included elsewhere in this prospectus.

 

    Years Ended December 31,     Period From
August 17, 2007
(commencement
of operations) to
December 31,

2007
 
    2009     2008    

Net Investment Income:

     

Interest Income

  $ 51,714,577      $ 29,914,585      $ 5,898,720   

Expenses:

     

Base management fee

    4,246,745        3,721,121        1,355,912   

Incentive fee

    18,873,654        1,771,026        —     

Share-based LTIP expense

    3,625,087        2,389,436        906,973   

Interest expense

    2,460,653        6,189,887        —     

Other operating expenses

    4,157,435        3,018,175        1,283,302   
                       

Total expenses

    33,363,574        17,089,645        3,546,187   
                       

Net Investment Income

    18,351,003        12,824,940        2,352,533   
                       

Net Realized and Unrealized Gain (Loss) on Investments and Financial Derivatives:

     

Net realized gain (loss) on:

     

Investments

    (18,291,604     (5,075,879     1,753,849   

Financial derivatives

    6,109,730        63,598,153        —     
                       

Net realized gain (loss)

    (12,181,874     58,522,274        1,753,849   
                       

Change in net unrealized gain (loss) on:

     

Investments

    88,423,716        (79,180,278     (651,290

Financial derivatives

    (1,211,832     5,410,419        (130,122
                       

Change in net unrealized gain (loss)

    87,211,884        (73,769,859     (781,412
                       

Net Realized and Unrealized Gain (Loss) on Investments and Financial Derivatives

    75,030,010        (15,247,585     972,437   
                       

Net Increase (Decrease) in Shareholders’ Equity Resulting from Operations

  $ 93,381,013      $ (2,422,645   $ 3,324,970   
                       

 

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     As of December 31,
     2009    2008    2007

Consolidated Balance Sheet Data:

        

Cash and cash equivalents

   $ 102,863,164    $ 61,400,254    $ 61,705,104

Investments at fair value

     755,440,869      429,884,006      180,657,979

Financial derivatives at fair value (appreciated)

     123,638,023      141,690,748      —  

Total assets

     1,530,665,452      699,976,080      243,494,998

Investments sold short at fair value

     502,543,554      38,421,032      —  

Reverse repos

     559,978,100      260,534,000      —  

Financial derivatives at fair value (depreciated)

     14,045,886      17,304,903      130,122

Total liabilities

     1,230,871,439      458,898,436      1,668,105

Shareholders’ equity

     299,794,013      241,077,644      241,826,893

Shareholders’ equity per common share

   $ 25.04    $ 19.27    $ 19.35

 

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MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF

FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS

The following discussion relates to and should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and the notes thereto appearing elsewhere in this prospectus. The discussion is intended to assist in understanding and assessing the trends and significant changes in our results of operations and financial condition. Our historical results may not indicate, and should not be relied upon as an indication of, our future performance. Our forward-looking statements reflect our current views about future events, are based on assumptions and are subject to known and unknown risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contemplated by these statements. See “Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements” for a discussion of risks associated with reliance on forward-looking statements.

Executive Summary

We are a specialty finance company that specializes in acquiring and managing mortgage-related assets, including non-Agency RMBS, Agency RMBS and mortgage-related derivatives, as well as corporate debt and equity securities and derivatives. We also may opportunistically acquire and manage other types of mortgage-related and financial asset classes, such as residential whole mortgage loans, CMBS, commercial mortgages or other commercial real estate debt, ABS backed by consumer and commercial assets and non-mortgage-related derivatives. We are externally managed and advised by our Manager, an affiliate of Ellington. Ellington is a private investment management firm and a registered investment advisor with a 15-year history of investing in a broad spectrum of MBS and related derivatives.

We completed our initial capitalization in August 2007, pursuant to which we sold 12,500,000 common shares for aggregate net proceeds of approximately $239.7 million.

Our primary objective is to generate attractive, risk-adjusted total returns for our shareholders. We seek to attain this objective by utilizing an opportunistic strategy to make investments, without restriction as to ratings, structure or position in the capital structure, that we believe compensate us appropriately for the risks associated with them rather than targeting a specific yield. Our evaluation of the potential risk-adjusted return of any potential investment typically involves weighing the potential returns of such investment under a variety of economic scenarios against the perceived likelihood of the various scenarios. Potential investments subject to greater risk (such as those with lower credit ratings and/or those with a lower position in the capital structure) will generally require a higher potential return to be attractive in comparison to investment alternatives with lower potential return and a lower degree of risk. However, at any particular point in time, depending on how we perceive the market’s pricing of risk both generally and across sectors, we may favor higher-risk assets or we may favor lower-risk assets, or a combination of the two in the interests of portfolio diversification or other considerations.

As of December 31, 2009, our invested capital was weighted toward non-Agency RMBS, although we also acquire Agency RMBS on a leveraged basis to take advantage of opportunities in that market sector and to maintain our exclusion from regulation as an investment company under the Investment Company Act. As discussed below in “—Liquidity and Valuation,” financing for non-Agency RMBS has become more readily available in recent months, but currently we employ only low levels of leverage with respect to the non-Agency RMBS in our portfolio. We expect that over the near term our invested capital will continue to be weighted toward non-Agency RMBS, subject to maintaining our exclusion from regulation as an investment company under the Investment Company Act.

Our strategy is intended to take advantage of opportunities in the current credit environment. We intend to adjust our strategy to changing market conditions by shifting our asset allocations across various asset classes as credit and liquidity trends evolve over time. We believe that this strategy, combined with Ellington’s experience, will help us generate more consistent returns on our capital throughout changing market cycles. We take a long-term view of assets and liabilities, and our reported earnings and mark-to-market valuations at the end of a

 

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financial reporting period do not significantly impact our objective of providing attractive, risk-adjusted total returns to our shareholders over the long-term.

As of December 31, 2009, the majority of our borrowings consisted of reverse repos collateralized by Agency RMBS and our debt-to-equity ratio was 1.87 to 1. Our debt-to-equity ratio does not account for liabilities other than debt financings.

We opportunistically hedge our credit risk and interest rate risk; however, at any point in time we may choose not to hedge all or a portion of these risks, and we will generally not hedge those risks that we believe are appropriate for us to take at such time, or that we believe would be impractical or prohibitively expensive to hedge.

We believe that we have been organized and have operated so that we have qualified, and will continue to qualify, to be treated for U.S. federal income tax purposes as a partnership and not as an association or a publicly traded partnership taxable as a corporation.

Trends and Recent Market Developments

Market Disruption in RMBS. We commenced operations in August 2007 in the midst of challenging market conditions which affected both (i) the credit performance and valuations of assets we targeted at that time (especially non-Agency RMBS) and (ii) the cost and availability of financing for those assets (primarily, reverse repos and securitizations). After reviewing the market conditions that existed at that time, we decided to deploy a relatively modest amount of our capital in late 2007 and also began to adapt the strategy for the portfolio in light of market conditions.

In early 2008, as credit availability diminished and valuations of non-Agency RMBS came under significant pressure, we began slowly purchasing primarily senior tranches of non-Agency RMBS while simultaneously aggressively hedging the credit risk in these securities through a combination of single name credit default swaps referencing primarily mezzanine tranches of non-Agency RMBS, positions with respect to certain vintages and tranches of the ABX indices and selected other hedges. The market for non-Agency RMBS was impacted by several significant events during the first quarter of 2008, including the forced liquidation of several multi-billion dollar RMBS portfolios by heavily leveraged investors and the failure of Bear Stearns & Co. in March 2008. These market events also severely restricted the financing available for non-Agency RMBS, as many lenders curtailed their lending against these types of securities.

Poor credit performance of non-Agency RMBS and limited availability of financing for such assets continued throughout 2008 and into 2009, influenced by many market events including the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.

As discussed below, home price declines and increases in loss severities upon default continued through the second quarter of 2009, although both trends slowed or modestly reversed in many regions in the second half of 2009. However, these recent improvements may be short-lived as we believe they may be the result of (i) a temporarily lower inventory of lender-owned properties for sale, resulting from foreclosure moratoria and other delays in foreclosure actions as discussed below, (ii) increased seasonal demand for housing during the second quarter of 2009, and (iii) a temporary increase in the ratio of voluntary sales to liquidations. An easing or reversal of these factors could lead to further home price declines and increased loss severities upon default.

Since the announcement of the PPIP discussed below, liquidity and prices have improved in the RMBS markets presumably reflecting, among other things, market participants’ pricing better economic scenarios into, and demanding lower target returns on, their investments.

In light of these conditions, we continue to target non-Agency RMBS at prices that we believe will provide attractive, risk-adjusted total returns. Additionally, we continually focus on managing our cash and liquidity with

 

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a goal of maintaining sufficient available cash and liquidity to both take advantage of opportunities to acquire assets and meet our anticipated operating and financing needs.

Although our Agency RMBS portfolio is generally not subject to the same credit risks as our non-Agency RMBS portfolio, many of the market events that affected the non-Agency RMBS market discussed above also affected the Agency RMBS market. However, unless we acquire very substantial amounts of whole mortgage loans, we expect that we will always maintain some core amount of Agency RMBS to maintain our exclusion from regulation as an investment company under the Investment Company Act.

Government Response. During this period of market dislocation, fiscal and monetary policymakers (i) established liquidity facilities for primary dealers and commercial banks, (ii) reduced short-term interest rates, and (iii) passed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, which seeks to, among other things, forestall home foreclosures for distressed borrowers and assist communities with foreclosure problems.

Subsequent to June 30, 2008, there were increased market concerns about Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae’s ability to withstand future credit losses associated with securities held in their investment portfolios, and on which they provide guarantees, without the direct support of the Federal Government. In September 2008 Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were placed into the conservatorship of the FHFA, their federal regulator, pursuant to its powers under The Federal Housing Finance Regulatory Reform Act of 2008, a part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. As the conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the FHFA controls and directs their operations and may (i) take over their assets and operate them with all the powers of their shareholders, directors, and officers and conduct all their business; (ii) collect all obligations and money due to them; (iii) perform all of their functions which are consistent with the conservator’s appointment; (iv) preserve and conserve their assets and property and (v) contract for assistance in fulfilling any function, activity, action or duty of the conservator.

In addition to the FHFA becoming the conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, (i) the Treasury and FHFA entered into preferred stock purchase agreements with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pursuant to which the Treasury will ensure that each of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac maintains a positive net worth; (ii) the Treasury established a secured lending credit facility for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks to serve as a liquidity backstop; and (iii) the Treasury initiated a program to purchase RMBS issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In December 2009, the Treasury ended the secured lending credit facility and the RMBS purchase program, but contemporaneously lifted the cap on assistance to be provided to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pursuant to the preferred stock purchase program thereby effectively providing nearly unlimited support for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over the next three years. It is unclear how the continuingly evolving status of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will impact our business.

The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, or EESA, was adopted in the fourth quarter of 2008. The EESA provided the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury with the authority to establish the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, to purchase from financial institutions up to $700 billion of, among other financial instruments, equity or preferred securities, residential or commercial mortgages and any securities, obligations, or other instruments that are based on or related to such mortgages, that in each case was originated or issued on or before March 14, 2008. For example, as of February 22, 2010, pursuant to TARP the Treasury had, in addition to other programs under TARP, purchased approximately $204.9 billion of stock and warrants from hundreds of banks throughout the country.

The Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, or TALF, was first announced by the Treasury on November 25, 2008, and was expanded in size and scope after its initial announcement. Under the TALF, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York makes non-recourse loans to borrowers to fund their purchase of eligible assets, including certain ABS and CMBS, but not RMBS. With respect to newly issued ABS and legacy CMBS, the TALF is currently scheduled to cease making loans as of March 31, 2010 and, with respect to newly issued CMBS, the TALF is currently scheduled to cease making loans as of June 30, 2010. The Federal Reserve and the Treasury have stated that they do not anticipate any further additions to the types of collateral that are eligible for the TALF.

 

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On March 23, 2009, the Federal Government announced that the Treasury in conjunction with the FDIC, and the Federal Reserve, would create the PPIP. The PPIP aims to recreate a market for specific illiquid residential and commercial loans and securities through a number of joint public and private investment funds. The PPIP is designed to draw new private capital into the market for these securities and loans by providing government equity co-investment and attractive public financing.

The PPIP consists of the following two parts:

 

   

The Legacy Loans Program—The Legacy Loans Program is intended to provide a market for troubled legacy loans on bank balance sheets. Pursuant to the Legacy Loans Program, the FDIC will conduct auctions where private investors will have an opportunity to bid on loans that banks wish to sell. The highest bidder at auction will be the winner and will form a Legacy Loans PPIF with the Treasury. It is possible that we will seek to participate in the Legacy Loans Program in the future.

 

   

The Legacy Securities Program—The Legacy Securities Program is an expansion of the TALF whereby qualified fund managers will be able to invest side-by-side with the Federal Government in certain types of non-Agency RMBS, commercial mortgage-backed securities and ABS from banks and financial institutions. While many of our current assets (such as our non-Agency RMBS) and targeted assets fall within the asset categories targeted for inclusion in the Legacy Securities Program, we do not currently expect to participate in the Legacy Securities Program.

On July 8, 2009, the Treasury released a statement that it had pre-qualified nine firms, together with certain identified partners or sub-advisors, to participate as fund managers in the initial round of the Legacy Securities PPIP. As of December 31, 2009, the Treasury had announced the initial and subsequent closing of all nine Legacy Securities PPIFs comprised of, in the aggregate, approximately $12.4 billion of equity capital, $6.2 billion of which has been provided by private investors, with the balance provided by the Treasury. As of December 31, 2009, Legacy Securities PPIFs had drawn down approximately $4.3 billion of total capital. In connection with the Legacy Securities PPIFs the Treasury has provided an additional $12.4 billion of debt financing, bringing the total purchasing power of these nine funds to approximately $24.8 billion. During the six month period following its initial closing, each Legacy Securities PPIF has the opportunity to conduct two additional closings of private capital with matching Treasury equity and financing. Total Treasury equity investment in Legacy Securities PPIFs can be up to $10 billion and total Treasury financing for Legacy Securities PPIFs can be up to $20 billion, which, together with the private capital investments, creates the potential for $40 billion in aggregate purchasing power for the Legacy Securities PPIFs. On January 4, 2010, one of the Legacy Securities PPIP managers announced that it was voluntarily withdrawing from the Legacy Securities PPIP and would conduct an orderly liquidation of its Legacy Securities PPIF. As discussed above, liquidity and prices have increased in the RMBS markets since the announcement of PPIP due to this anticipated increased purchasing power in the market, although it remains difficult to predict how these programs will impact our business longer term.

In March 2009, as part of the government’s Making Home Affordable initiatives, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced the terms of their Home Affordable Modification Programs, or HAMP. The details of each HAMP differ, but they share the goal of helping troubled borrowers who face hardship and either have defaulted or are at imminent risk of default. Subject to certain loan eligibility criteria under HAMP, servicers will take a

 

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series of steps, including reduction of interest, extension of loan term, forbearance of principal and waiver of interest, to reduce a borrower’s monthly payment obligations. While eligibility for HAMP is being evaluated and adjustments implemented, servicers are directed to suspend foreclosures. In March 2010 the government reported that through February 2010 there were 1,003,902 active mortgage modifications under HAMP.

In addition to programs adopted by the Federal Government and other federal authorities, state governments have taken a variety of actions intended to help troubled homeowners. In particular, during 2008 many states adopted temporary moratoria on foreclosures. While in effect, these moratoria have slowed the pace of home price declines and the increase of loss severities upon default, but as these moratoria continue to expire we would expect that price declines and loss severity increases will resume.

On November 25, 2008 the Federal Reserve announced a program to purchase Agency RMBS in the open market. The stated goal of this program was to provide support to mortgage and housing markets and to foster improved conditions in financial markets more generally. On March 18, 2009 this program was expanded to a target size of $1.25 trillion. On September 23, 2009 it was announced that the Federal Reserve anticipated completing this purchase program by the end of the first quarter of 2010. The absence of continued Federal Reserve purchases of Agency RMBS following completion of this purchase program could adversely affect the prices and liquidity of Agency RMBS.

Although these aggressive steps are intended to protect and support the U.S. housing and mortgage market, we continue to operate under very difficult market conditions. As a result, there can be no assurance that the EESA, TARP, TALF, PPIP, HAMP or other policy initiatives will have a beneficial impact on the financial markets. We cannot predict whether or when such actions may occur or what impact, if any, such actions could have on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Labor Market. On March 5, 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that, as of February 2010, the U.S. unemployment rate was 9.7%. While it is difficult to quantify the relationship between the unemployment rate and the housing and mortgage markets, we believe that continued unemployment at such levels could contribute to further increases in mortgage delinquencies and decreases in home prices.

Prepayment Rates. Mortgage prepayment rates are sensitive to changes in interest rates, conditions in financial markets, lender competition and other factors, none of which can be predicted with any certainty. In general, when interest rates rise, it is relatively less attractive for borrowers to refinance their mortgage loans and, as a result, prepayment rates tend to decrease. Conversely, when interest rates fall, prepayment rates tend to increase. Prepayment rates can affect our RMBS in a number of ways. Faster-than-expected prepayment rates will generally adversely affect RMBS valued at a premium to par value, because the valuation premium will amortize faster than expected, and the above-market coupon that such premium securities carry will be earned for a shorter period of time. Conversely, slower-than-expected prepayment speeds will generally benefit RMBS valued at a premium, because the above-market coupon that such premium securities carry will be earned for a longer period of time. Similarly, faster-than-expected prepayment rates generally benefit RMBS valued at a discount to par value. However, to the extent that faster prepayment rates are due to lower interest rates, the principal payments received from prepayments will tend to be reinvested in lower-yielding assets which may reduce our income in the long run.

Certain Federal Government programs introduced in 2009, such as the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan, or HASP, as well as a reduction in the Federal Funds Rate target to 0-0.25%, have resulted in lower residential mortgage interest rates. However, this reduction in mortgage interest rates has not led to increases in prepayment rates to the extent that might have been expected. Because many lenders have recently tightened their lending standards, only certain types of mortgage loans are eligible for refinancing. Consequently, our non-Agency RMBS backed by option ARMs and our newer vintage non-Agency RMBS backed by subprime mortgage loans have experienced declines in prepayment rates despite lower mortgage rates. However, non-Agency RMBS backed by fixed-rate, prime and Alt-A mortgage loans with low current loan-to-value ratios

 

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have experienced increases in prepayment rates, though these increases are modest by historical standards and we expect they will likely begin to slow over the coming year as borrowers who are eligible to refinance into lower rate mortgage loans do so, leaving a population of borrowers who are generally less able to refinance.

On February 10, 2010, Freddie Mac announced that it would repurchase substantially all mortgage loans that are 120 or more days delinquent from mortgage pools backing Freddie Mac guaranteed RMBS. Freddie Mac estimated the amount of such mortgage loans at nearly $70 billion as of the end of December 2009. On February 10, 2010, Fannie Mae also announced that it would significantly increase over the coming months its repurchases of mortgage loans that are 120 or more days delinquent from mortgage pools backing Fannie Mae guaranteed RMBS. Fannie Mae estimated the amount of such mortgage loans at approximately $127 billion as of the end of December 2009. These repurchases will have an effect similar to a one-time or short-term increase in mortgage prepayment rates. The magnitude of the effect of these repurchases on a particular Agency RMBS will depend upon the composition of the mortgage pool underlying each Agency RMBS, although for many Agency RMBS the effect is expected to be significant.

Credit Quality. The deterioration of the U.S. housing market as well as the recent economic downturn have caused U.S. residential mortgage delinquency rates to remain at high levels for various types of mortgage loans, including subprime mortgage loans and option ARMs. During December 2009, the composite S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index, a broad measure of U.S. home prices, fell 3.1% from December 2008. As of February 1, 2010, delinquency rates on subprime mortgage loans and option ARMs averaged 45.2% and 42.6%, respectively. Loss severities upon default increased steadily through the first half of 2009 due to, among other things, additional servicing costs, delays in loan foreclosure, continuing home price declines and lack of incentive for mortgage servicers to minimize costs. The second half of 2009 exhibited some stabilization or improvement of these measures of credit quality, although as described above this stabilization and/or improvement may be temporary. Because many subprime mortgage loans and option ARMs are not eligible for refinancing, our RMBS backed by these types of loans may experience losses if these trends continue. Although other types of loans backing the RMBS in our portfolio continue to experience high delinquency rates, many of these loans are benefiting from refinancing opportunities.

Liquidity and Valuations. As a result of the recent conditions in the credit market, reductions in value of various types of RMBS and other factors, available leverage on RMBS assets has decreased significantly since 2007, which has negatively affected the liquidity of RMBS and has contributed to the significant rise in market yields on these types of assets. As described above, there has been significant government action aimed at increasing the liquidity of various types of RMBS. Through PPIP, the government is making available some leverage to finance the purchase of RMBS; however, this government program is still relatively new and it is difficult to predict the longer term effect of this program on the liquidity of the RMBS market.

In recent months, many investment banks have begun making term financing available for non-Agency RMBS. The return of financing availability has somewhat improved liquidity in the market for these securities, although such financing is currently available only in limited amounts and with respect to only certain types of those securities, so such improved liquidity is likely to be limited in the near term.

For the past few years, the illiquidity in the RMBS market as well as the deterioration in credit quality of non-Agency RMBS has led to greater price volatility, making it more difficult to accurately value these assets; however, these conditions are better today than in early 2009. Furthermore, validating third-party pricing, especially for our non-Agency RMBS, may be more subjective than in years past as fewer participants may be willing to provide this service to us.

Financing Costs. Our reverse repo borrowings are primarily collateralized by Agency RMBS. The interest rates on our reverse repos are typically tied to one-month LIBOR. For the year ended December 31, 2009, one-month LIBOR averaged 0.33% compared to 2.68% for the year ended December 31, 2008. While the reduction in one-month LIBOR led to a reduction in our reverse repo borrowing costs in 2009, the average yields of our Agency RMBS and other assets also declined in 2009.

 

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Critical Accounting Policies

On July 1, 2009, the Financial Accounting Standards Board, or the FASB, issued FASB Accounting Standards Codification, ASC 105-10, Hierarchy of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or ASC 105-10. ASC 105-10 establishes the exclusive authoritative reference for U.S. GAAP for use in the financial statements, except for SEC rules and interpretive releases, which are also authoritative GAAP for SEC registrants. The Accounting Standards Codification, or the ASC, superseded all existing non-SEC accounting and reporting standards. Any new authoritative U.S. GAAP will be issued under a new FASB document called an Accounting Standards Update, or ASU. Once the new guidance becomes effective, it will be referred to under the relevant ASC. ASC is effective for financial statements that cover interim and annual periods after September 15, 2009. Due to our adoption of ASC 105-10 in the three month period ended September 30, 2009, hereinafter, we reference our relevant accounting guidance on the standards as organized under ASC.

Our consolidated financial statements have been prepared in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States for investment companies. In June 2007, the AICPA issued ASC 946, Clarification of the Scope of the Audit and Accounting Guide Investment Companies and Accounting by Parent Companies and Equity Method Investors for Investments in Investment Companies, or ASC 946. ASC 946 was effective for fiscal years beginning on or after December 15, 2007 with earlier application encouraged. After we adopted ASC 946, the FASB issued guidance which effectively delayed indefinitely the effective date of ASC 946. However, this additional guidance explicitly permitted entities that early adopted ASC 946 before December 31, 2007 to continue to apply the provisions of ASC 946. We have elected to continue to apply the provisions of ASC 946. ASC 946 provides guidance for determining whether an entity is within the scope of the AICPA Audit and Accounting Guide for Investment Companies, or the Guide. The Guide provides guidance for determining whether the specialized industry accounting principles of the Guide should be retained in the financial statements of a parent company of an investment company or an equity method investor in an investment company. Effective August 17, 2007, we adopted ASC 946 and follow its provisions which, among other things, requires that investments be reported at fair value in the financial statements. Although we conduct our operations so that we are not required to register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act, for financial reporting purposes, we have elected to continue to apply the provisions of ASC 946.

Certain of our critical accounting policies require management to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities at the date of the consolidated financial statements and the reported amounts of revenues and expenses during the reporting period. Actual results could differ from those estimates. We believe that all of the decisions and assessments upon which our consolidated financial statements are based were reasonable at the time made based upon information available to us at that time. We rely on our Manager and Ellington’s experience and analysis of historical and current market data in order to arrive at what we believe to be reasonable estimates. See Note 2 to the consolidated financial statements included in this prospectus for a complete discussion of our significant accounting policies. We have identified our most critical accounting policies to be the following:

Valuation: We adopted a three-level valuation hierarchy for disclosure of fair value measurements on January 1, 2008. The valuation hierarchy is based upon the transparency of inputs to the valuation of an asset or liability as of the measurement date. Financial instruments include securities, derivatives and repurchase agreements. A financial instrument’s categorization within the valuation hierarchy is based upon the lowest level of input that is significant to the fair value measurement. The inputs or methodology used for valuing securities are not necessarily an indication of the risk associated with investing in these securities.

The following is a description of the valuation methodologies used for our financial instruments:

Level 1 valuation methodologies include the observation of quoted prices (unadjusted) for identical assets or liabilities in active markets, often received from widely recognized data providers.

Level 2 valuation methodologies include the observation of (i) quoted prices for similar assets or liabilities in active markets, (ii) inputs other than quoted prices that are observable for the asset or liability (for

 

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example, interest rates and yield curves) in active markets and (iii) quoted prices for identical or similar assets or liabilities in markets that are not active.

Level 3 fair value methodologies include (i) the use of proprietary models that require the use of a significant amount of judgment and the application of various assumptions including, but not limited to, prepayment assumptions and default rate assumptions, and (ii) the solicitation of valuations from third-parties (typically, broker-dealers). Third-party valuation providers often utilize proprietary models that are highly subjective and also require the use of a significant amount of judgment and the application of various assumptions including, but not limited to, prepayment assumptions and default rate assumptions. Our Manager utilizes such information to assign a good faith valuation (the estimated price that would be received to sell an asset or paid to transfer a liability in an orderly transaction at the valuation date) to such financial instruments. Our Manager has been able to obtain third-party valuations on the vast majority of our assets and expects to continue to solicit third-party valuations on substantially all of our assets in the future to the extent practical. Our Manager uses its judgment, based on its own models, the assessments of its portfolio managers, and third-party valuations it obtains, to determine and assign fair values to our Level 3 assets. We believe that third-party valuations play an important role in ensuring that our Manager’s valuation determinations are fair and reasonable. Our Manager’s valuation process is subject to the oversight of the Manager’s investment and risk management committee as well as the oversight of the independent members of our board of directors. Because of the inherent uncertainty of valuation, these estimated values may differ significantly from the values that would have been used had a ready market for the financial instruments existed, and the differences could be material to the consolidated financial statements.

See the notes to our consolidated financial statements for more information on valuation.

Securities Transactions and Investment Income: Securities transactions are recorded on trade date. Realized and unrealized gains and losses are calculated based on identified cost. Interest income is recorded as earned. We accrete market discount and amortize market premium on debt securities using the effective yield method and classify any paydown gains or losses as interest income. Accretion of market discount and amortization of premium require the use of a significant amount of judgment and the application of several assumptions including, but not limited to, prepayment rate assumptions and default rate assumptions.

LTIP Units: Long term incentive plan units, or LTIP units, have been issued to independent directors as well as to our Manager. The costs associated with LTIP units are amortized over the relevant vesting period. The vesting period for units issued to independent directors under the Ellington Incentive Plan for Individuals, or Director LTIP units, is one year for the grants awarded on August 17, 2007 and October 1, 2009, and nine months for the grants awarded on December 31, 2008. Vesting period for units issued to our Manager under the Ellington Incentive Plan for Entities, or the Manager LTIP units, occurs over a three year period with one-third of the units vesting at the end of each year. The cost of the Manager LTIP units fluctuates with the price per share until the vesting date, whereas the cost of the Director LTIP units is based on the price per share at the initial grant date. Because we remeasure the amount of share-based LTIP unit costs associated with the unvested Manager LTIP units as of each reporting period, our share-based LTIP unit expense reported in our consolidated statement of operations will change based on the price per share, which may result in additional earnings volatility.

Recent Accounting Pronouncements

Refer to the notes to our consolidated financial statements for a description of relevant recent accounting pronouncements.

Financial Condition

The following table summarizes certain characteristics of our RMBS portfolio as of December 31, 2009 and 2008. For more detailed information about the investments in our portfolio, please refer to Consolidated Condensed Schedules of Investments as of these dates contained in our consolidated financial statements at the end of this prospectus.

 

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RMBS—Agency and Non-Agency Securities

As of December 31, 2009

 

Security Description

   Current
Principal
    Estimated Fair
Value
    Average
Price
   Amortized Cost
Basis
    Average
Cost

Agency RMBS—Floating Rate—Principal and Interest Securities

   $ 194,294,205      $ 203,760,253      $ 104.87    $ 197,937,966      $ 101.88

Agency RMBS—Fixed Rate—Principal and Interest Securities

     283,824,017        294,198,019        103.66      293,678,258        103.47

Agency RMBS—Fixed Rate—TBAs

     41,250,000        40,345,039        97.81      40,773,672        98.85

Agency RMBS—Fixed Rate—TBAs Sold Short

     (493,250,000     (502,543,554     101.88      (509,587,384     103.31

Non-Agency RMBS—Principal and Interest Securities

     345,186,599        198,361,316        57.46      205,747,380        59.60

Non-Agency RMBS—Interest Only Securities

     N/A        12,002,080        N/A      7,494,892        N/A

Non-Agency RMBS—Other

     N/A        335        N/A      697,664        N/A
                       

Total

     $ 246,123,488         $ 236,742,448     
                       

As of December 31, 2008

 

Security Description

   Current
Principal
    Estimated Fair
Value
    Average
Price
   Amortized Cost
Basis
    Average
Cost

Agency RMBS—Floating Rate—Principal and Interest Securities

   $ 263,433,307      $ 268,418,351      $ 101.89    $ 266,187,466      $ 101.05

Agency RMBS—Fixed Rate—TBAs

     15,000,000        15,451,172        103.01      15,426,563        102.84

Agency RMBS—Fixed Rate—TBAs Sold Short

     (30,000,000     (30,725,391     102.42      (30,612,891     102.04

Non-Agency RMBS—Principal and Interest Securities

     317,246,058        121,150,228        38.19      191,649,144        60.41

Non-Agency RMBS—Interest Only Securities

     N/A        3,668,311        N/A      6,314,539        N/A

Non-Agency RMBS—Other

     N/A        —          N/A      840,438        N/A
                       

Total

     $ 377,962,671         $ 449,805,259     
                       

Non-RMBS—Other Securities

The table below summarizes other Non-RMBS securities as of December 31, 2009 and 2008.

As of December 31, 2009

 

Security Description

   Current
Principal or
Number of
Contracts
   Estimated Fair
Value
   Average
Price
   Amortized Cost
Basis
   Average
Cost

U.S. Treasury Securities

   $ 7,000,000    $ 6,734,635    $ 96.21    $ 6,981,860    $ 99.74

Equity Options Purchased(1)

     284      39,192      1.38      580,860      20.45
                      

Total

      $ 6,773,827       $ 7,562,720   
                      

 

(1)   Each contract represents the option to sell the S&P 500 index on a specified date at a specified price with each contract point representing $100.

 

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As of December 31, 2008

 

Security Description

   Current
Principal
    Estimated Fair
Value
    Average
Price
   Amortized Cost
Basis
    Average
Cost

U.S. Treasury Securities

   $ 2,800,000      $ 3,240,944      $ 115.75    $ 2,820,142      $ 100.72

U.S. Treasury Securities Sold Short

     (6,900,000     (7,695,641     111.53      (6,980,858     101.17

Auction Rate Securities

     25,650,000        17,955,000        70.00      25,650,000        100.00
                       

Total

     $ 13,500,303         $ 21,489,284     
                       

Mortgage-Related Derivatives

The table below summarizes our mortgage-related derivative instruments as of December 31, 2009 and 2008.

As of December 31, 2009

 

Description

   Notional
Amount
   

Range of Final
Termination
Dates(3)

   Estimated Fair
Value
 

Long Swaps—Credit Default Swaps On RMBS(1)

   $ 15,252,372      5/34-9/36    $ (10,547,540

Long Swaps—Credit Default Swaps On RMBS and CMBS Indices(1)

     3,250,000      8/37      (1,878,143

Short Swaps—Credit Default Swaps On RMBS(2)

     (113,743,916   6/34-12/36      95,199,131   

Short Swaps—Credit Default Swaps On RMBS and CMBS Indices(2)

     (43,482,040   8/37-10/52      19,596,453   
             

Total

        $ 102,369,901   
             

As of December 31, 2008

 

Description

   Notional
Amount
    Range of Final
Termination
Dates(3)
   Estimated Fair
Value
 

Long Swaps—Credit Default Swaps On RMBS(1)

   $ 19,747,709      5/34-09/36    $ (10,651,424

Short Swaps—Credit Default Swaps On RMBS(2)

     (128,860,596   6/34-12/36      108,126,227   

Short Swaps—Credit Default Swaps On RMBS and CMBS Indices(2)

     (83,556,020   1/09-10/52      22,769,087   
             

Total

        $ 120,243,890   
             

 

(1)   Long swaps represent transactions where we sold protection.
(2)   Short swaps represent transactions where we purchased protection.
(3)   Final termination dates represent the contractual final termination date.

 

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Derivatives On Corporate Securities (Debt and Equity)

The table below summarizes our derivative instruments on corporate securities (debt and equity) as of December 31, 2009 and 2008.

As of December 31, 2009

 

Description

   Notional
Amount
    Range of Final
Termination
Dates(3)
   Estimated Fair
Value
 

Short Swaps—Credit Default Swaps On Corporate Bonds(1)

   $ (36,325,000   3/13-12/14    $ 8,475,895   

Short Swaps—Credit Default Swaps On Corporate Bonds Indices(1)

     (19,542,400   12/13      (459,941

Short Swaps—Total Return Swaps on Equity Securities(2)

     (11,447,595   4/10-5/10      (87,798

Long Swaps—Other Swaps

     8,700,000      9/13-6/14      257,212   
             

Total

        $ 8,185,368   
             

As of December 31, 2008

 

Description

   Notional
Amount
    Range of Final
Termination
Dates(3)
   Estimated Fair
Value
 

Short Swaps—Credit Default Swaps On Corporate Bonds(1)

   $ (45,775,000   1/09-12/13    $ 10,085,262   

Short Swaps—Credit Default Swaps On Corporate Bonds Indices(1)

     (19,700,000   12/13      385,172   

Long Swaps—Total Return Swaps on Equity Securities(2)

     1,903,886      11/13      250,087   

Short Swaps—Total Return Swaps on Equity Securities(2)

     (13,745,096   12/13      (113,313

Long Swaps—Other Swaps

     2,200,000      9/13      22,000   
             

Total

        $ 10,629,208   
             

 

(1)   Short swaps represent transactions where we purchased protection.
(2)   Notional amount for total return swaps on equity securities represents number of underlying shares multiplied by the market value of the underlying securities as of December 31, 2009.
(3)   Final termination dates represent the contractual final termination date.

Non-RMBS—Other Derivatives

The table below summarizes Non-RMBS-other derivative instruments as of December 31, 2009 and 2008:

As of December 31, 2009

 

Description

   Notional
Amount or
Number of
Contracts
    Range of Final
Termination
Dates(3)
   Estimated Fair
Value
 

Short Swaps—Interest Rate Swaps(1)

   $ (11,000,000   10/14    $ 109,332   

Depreciated Futures(2)

     (1,257   3/10-9/11      (1,072,464
             

Total

        $ (963,132
             

 

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As of December 31, 2008

 

Description

   Notional
Amount
    Range of Final
Termination
Dates(3)
   Estimated Fair
Value
 

Short Swaps—Interest Rate Swaps(1)

   $ (145,000,000   9/11-10/11    $ (6,487,253

 

(1)   For short interest rate swaps, a fixed rate is being paid and a floating rate is being received.
(2)   Each contract represents a notional amount of $1,000,000.
(3)   Final termination dates represent the contractual final termination date.

Our Consolidated Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Shareholders’ Equity as of December 31, 2009 reflects a substantial increase in our assets and liabilities relative to December 31, 2008. A significant contributor to this was our increased trading activity in TBAs, which has created both additional TBA-related assets (TBAs and receivables for TBAs sold short) and additional TBA-related liabilities (TBAs sold short and payables for TBAs purchased). Open TBA purchases and sales involving the same counterparty, the same underlying deliverable Agency passthroughs, and the same settlement date are reflected in our consolidated financial statements on a net basis. We have used TBAs primarily to hedge risks associated with our Agency RMBS investments.

As of December 31, 2009, total assets included $40.3 million of TBAs. As of December 31, 2009, total assets also included $510.5 million of receivable for securities sold relating to unsettled TBA sales. As of December 31, 2008, total assets included $15.5 million of TBAs. As of December 31, 2008, total assets also included $30.7 million of receivable for securities sold relating to unsettled TBA sales.

As of December 31, 2009, total liabilities included $502.5 million of TBAs sold short. As of December 31, 2009, total liabilities also included $41.6 million of payable for securities purchased relating to unsettled TBA purchases. As of December 31, 2008, total liabilities included $30.7 million of TBAs sold short. As of December 31, 2008, total liabilities also included $15.5 million of payable for securities purchased related to unsettled TBA purchases.

The aggregate net value of our TBA positions (both long and short positions) as of December 31, 2009 was ($462.2) million, whereas the aggregate value of our other Agency RMBS as of December 31, 2009 was $498.0 million. The aggregate net value of our TBA positions (both long and short positions) as of December 31, 2008 was ($15.2) million, whereas the aggregate value of our other Agency RMBS as of December 31, 2008 was $268.4 million. See the tables captioned “RMBS—Agency and Non-Agency Securities” above for additional details regarding our TBAs.

We have entered into reverse repos to finance some of our assets. The majority of our outstanding indebtedness under reverse repos is secured by Agency RMBS and bears interest at rates that have historically moved in close relationship to LIBOR. As of December 31, 2009 and 2008, indebtedness outstanding on our reverse repos was approximately $560.0 million and $260.5 million, respectively. As of December 31, 2009, our reverse repos had borrowing rates ranging from (0.01)% to 2.75% and remaining terms ranging from 4 to 236 days. The negative borrowing rate relates to a single Treasury holding that we financed using a reverse repo arrangement. As of December 31, 2009, market demand for this security was such that the lender was willing to pay interest to us in order to access the security as collateral under the reverse repo arrangement. As of December 31, 2008, our reverse repos had borrowing rates ranging from 1.20% to 4.50% and remaining terms ranging from 6 to 26 days.

In connection with our derivative and TBA transactions, in certain circumstances we may require that counterparties post collateral with us. When we exit a derivative or TBA transaction for which a counterparty has posted collateral, we may be required to return some or all of the related collateral to the respective counterparty. As of December 31, 2009 and 2008, our derivative and TBA counterparties posted an aggregate value of approximately $106.5 million and $124.8 million, respectively, of collateral with us. This collateral posted with us is reflected as “Due to Brokers-Margin Accounts” on our consolidated balance sheets.

 

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Shareholders’ Equity

As of December 31, 2009, our shareholders’ equity increased by approximately $58.7 million from December 31, 2008. This increase consisted of a net increase in shareholders’ equity resulting from operations for the year ended December 31, 2009 of approximately $93.4 million, a decrease for dividends paid of approximately $30.8 million, a decrease for common shares repurchased of $7.3 million, an increase in share-based LTIP awards of approximately $3.6 million, an increase for common shares issued in connection with incentive fee payments of approximately $1.7 million, and a decrease associated with the special distribution paid to our Manager of approximately $1.8 million.

As of December 31, 2008, our shareholders’ equity decreased by approximately $0.7 million from December 31, 2007. The decrease consisted of a net decrease in shareholders’ equity resulting from operations for the year ended December 31, 2008 of approximately $2.4 million, an increase in share-based LTIP awards of approximately $2.4 million, a decrease associated with the special distribution paid to our Manager of approximately $0.9 million, an increase for common shares issued in connection with incentive fee payments of approximately $0.2 million, and other immaterial items.

 

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Results of Operations for the Years Ended December 31, 2009 and 2008 and for the Period August 17, 2007 (Commencement of Operations) through December 31, 2007

The table below presents the net increase (decrease) in shareholders’ equity resulting from operations for the years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008, and for the period August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) through December 31, 2007. Because we only operated our business for a portion of the year ended December 31, 2007, a direct comparison of our operating results for the years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008 to our operating results for the period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) to December 31, 2007 may be of limited use.

 

     Year Ended
December 31,
2009
    Year Ended
December 31,
2008
    Period from
August 17, 2007
(commencement
of operations) to
December 31,
2007
 

Investment income—Interest income

   $ 51,714,577      $ 29,914,585      $ 5,898,720   

Expenses:

      

Interest expense

     2,460,653        6,189,887        —     

Other expenses

     30,902,921        10,899,758        3,546,187   
                        

Total expenses

     33,363,574        17,089,645        3,546,187   
                        

Net investment income

     18,351,003        12,824,940        2,352,533   

Net realized and unrealized gain (loss) on investments

     70,132,112        (84,256,157     1,102,559   

Net realized and unrealized gain (loss) on financial derivatives

     4,897,898        69,008,572        (130,122
                        

Net increase (decrease) in shareholders’ equity resulting from operations

   $ 93,381,013      $ (2,422,645   $ 3,324,970   
                        

Beginning Shareholders’ Equity Per Share (12/31/2008, 12/31/2007 and 8/17/2007 respectively)

   $ 19.27      $ 19.35      $ 19.17   

Net Investment Income

     1.52        1.03        0.19   

Net Realized/Unrealized Gains (Losses)

     6.18        (1.23     0.08   
                        

Results of Operations

     7.70        (0.20     0.27   

Dividends Paid

     (2.50     —          —     

Offering Costs

     —          —          (0.15

Accretive Effect of Share Repurchase

     0.42        —          —     

Share-Based LTIP Awards

     0.30        0.19        0.07   

Manager Special Distribution

     (0.15     (0.07     (0.01
                        

Ending Shareholders’ Equity Per Share(1)

   $ 25.04      $ 19.27      $ 19.35   
                        

Ending Shares Outstanding

     11,972,113        12,510,033        12,500,050   

 

 

(1)   If all units issued pursuant to the long term incentive plans were vested and exchanged for common shares as of December 31, 2009, 2008 and 2007, shareholders’ equity per share would have been $24.27, $18.70 and $18.78, respectively.

Results of Operations for the Years Ended December 31, 2009 and 2008

Summary of Net Increase (Decrease) in Shareholders’ Equity from Operations

Our shareholders’ equity increased by $93.4 million from operations during the year ended December 31, 2009. The majority of the net increase in 2009 was due to net appreciation on our RMBS. Total return for our common shares was 43.26% for the year ended December 31, 2009 as compared to (0.41)% for the year ended December 31, 2008. Total return on our common shares is calculated based on changes in book value per share, assumes reinvestment of dividends, and excludes shares held by our Manager. If we exclude the effect of our share repurchases which took place during the year ended December 31, 2009, our total return for that period based on change in book value per share and assuming reinvestment of dividends was 40.33%.

 

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Net Investment Income

Net investment income was $18.4 million for the year ended December 31, 2009 as compared to $12.8 million for the year ended December 31, 2008. Net investment income consists of interest income less total expenses. The year-over-year increase in net investment income resulted from growth in interest income over the two periods partially offset by higher total expenses. The largest component of the increased expenses in the year ended December 31, 2009 was incentive fees earned by our Manager. See “—Other Expenses” below for further discussion regarding the incentive fees earned by our Manager.

Interest Income

Interest income was $51.7 million for the year ended December 31, 2009 as compared to $29.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2008. Interest income includes coupon payments received and accrued on our holdings as well as the net accretion and amortization of purchased discounts and premiums on those holdings. The year-over-year increase in interest income was principally attributable to an increase in our average investment holdings over the stated periods. For this purpose, we define our average investment holdings as the average of our beginning and ending total investments at cost (excluding TBAs, which are unsettled positions) for each quarter included in the relevant period. On this basis, for the year ended December 31, 2009, the average investment holdings were $575.1 million as compared to average investment holdings for the year ended December 31, 2008 of $360.0 million, representing an increase of $215.1 million. The increase in average investment holdings was principally related to increased investments in Agency whole pool pass-through certificates during the year ended December 31, 2009.

Interest Expense

Interest expense includes interest on funds borrowed under reverse repos and interest on our counterparties’ cash collateral held by us. We had average borrowed funds of $368.2 million and $165.6 million for the years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008, respectively. Our total interest expense, inclusive of interest expense on our counterparties’ cash collateral held by us, was $2.5 million for the year ended December 31, 2009 as compared to $6.2 million for the year ended December 31, 2008. The decrease in interest expense is mainly related to a decrease in borrowing costs related to our reverse repos for the year ended December 31, 2009 as compared to the year ended December 31, 2008. In addition, during the year ended December 31, 2009, we also experienced a decrease in the interest payable by us on our counterparties’ cash collateral held by us resulting from a decrease in average collateral balances held by us and the rates payable by us on those balances.

The table below shows our average borrowed funds, interest expense, average cost of funds, average one-month LIBOR and average six-month LIBOR under our reverse repos for the years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008.

 

     Average
Borrowed
Funds
   Interest
Expense
   Average
Cost of
Funds
    Average
One-Month
LIBOR
    Average
Six-Month
LIBOR
 

For the year ended December 31, 2009

   $ 368,176,286    $ 2,263,800    0.61   0.33   1.11

For the year ended December 31, 2008

   $ 165,616,083    $ 4,363,685    2.63   2.68   3.06

Other Expenses

Other expenses consist of base management fees and incentive fees payable to our Manager pursuant to our management agreement, share-based LTIP expense and other operating expenses. Other expenses exclude interest expense. Other operating expenses include staffing costs, professional fees, insurance expense, agency and administrative fees and other expenses necessary to operate the business. Our other expenses were $30.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2009 as compared to $10.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2008. This year-over-year increase was mainly due to increased expenses associated with incentive fees discussed below; however, the year-over-year increase was also related to higher expense for base management fees due to the growth in net asset value, to share-based LTIP expenses based on growth in book value per share

 

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and to higher other operating expenses. The increase in other operating expenses was primarily related to costs associated with our dedicated employees hired in 2009 that we did not have in 2008 and increased professional costs.

For the years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008, we incurred expenses for base management fees payable to our Manager of $4.2 million and $3.7 million, respectively. Our Manager is also entitled to a quarterly incentive fee if, and in proportion to the extent that, our performance (as measured by adjusted net income, as defined in the management agreement) over the relevant calculation period exceeds a defined return hurdle for the period. During each of the years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008, our performance exceeded the return hurdle for one or more of the relevant quarterly calculation periods, and therefore our Manager earned incentive fees. For each of the quarterly calculation periods included in the years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008, the return hurdle was based on a 9% annual rate. Total incentive fees earned for the years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008 were $18.9 million and $1.8 million, respectively.

Effective July 1, 2009, our Management Agreement was amended. The incentive fees earned by our Manager for the period prior to July 1, 2009, were calculated based on the provisions in our management agreement that were in effect prior to the July 1, 2009 amendment. See Note 4 to our consolidated financial statements for a description of the changes to our management agreement.

Net Realized and Unrealized Gains and Losses on Investments and Financial Derivatives

During the year ended December 31, 2009, we had net realized and unrealized gains on investments of $70.1 million as compared to net realized and unrealized losses on investments of $(84.3) million for the year ended December 31, 2008. This increase of $154.4 million is principally attributable to a net increase in the value of investments, primarily our non-Agency RMBS, for the year ended December 31, 2009 as compared to the year ended December 31, 2008 when the net value of our non-Agency RMBS declined. Our net realized gains on investments during the year ended December 31, 2009 includes proceeds, in the amount of approximately $5.3 million, of the nonrecourse sale of a claim against Lehman Brothers Special Financing, Inc., or LBSF, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., or Lehman. In September 2008, Lehman filed with the United States Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York for protection under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. At that time, we were a party to a number of interest rate swap and credit default swap contracts with LBSF and the Chapter 11 filing by Lehman constituted an event of default under the ISDA Master Agreement between us and LBSF. See Note 8 to our consolidated financial statements for a full description of the events leading up to the sale of this claim in 2009.

During the year ended December 31, 2009, we had net realized and unrealized gains on our financial derivatives of $4.9 million as compared to net realized and unrealized gains on financial derivatives of $69.0 million for the year ended December 31, 2008. The decline of $64.1 million is principally attributable to our swaps, where for the year ended December 31, 2008, we realized substantially more gains relative to 2009. Net realized gains on our swaps for the year ended December 31, 2009, was $6.8 million as compared to $63.6 million for the year ended December 31, 2008.

Results of Operations for the Year Ended December 31, 2008 and the Period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) through December 31, 2007

Summary of Net Increase (Decrease) in Shareholders’ Equity from Operations

Our shareholders’ equity decreased by $2.4 million from operations during the year ended December 31, 2008 as compared to an increase of $3.3 million during the period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) through December 31, 2007. We attribute a majority of the net decrease in 2008 to increases in unrealized losses on RMBS. We attribute a majority of the net increase in the partial 2007 year to interest income and net realized gains on our RMBS. Total return for our common shares for the year ended December 31, 2008 based on change in book value per share was (0.41)% as compared to 0.94% for the period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) through December 31, 2007.

 

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Net Investment Income

Net investment income was $12.8 million for the year ended December 31, 2008 as compared to $2.4 million for the period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) through December 31, 2007. Net investment income consists of interest income less expenses. The increase was due primarily to our being more fully invested in 2008 than in 2007 and the fact that we operated for a full fiscal year in 2008.

Interest Income

Interest income was $29.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2008 as compared to $5.9 million for the period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) through December 31, 2007. Our interest income increased due to our being more fully invested in 2008 than in 2007 and the fact that we operated for a full fiscal year in 2008.

Interest Expense

Interest expense includes interest on funds borrowed under reverse repos and interest on our counterparties’ cash collateral held by us. We had average borrowed funds of $165.6 million and $0 for the year ended December 31, 2008 and the period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) through December 31, 2007, respectively. Interest expense increased $6.2 million for the year ended December 31, 2008 from $0 for the period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) through December 31, 2007. The increase in interest expense is related to an increase in total borrowings.

The table below shows our average borrowed funds, interest expense, average cost of funds, average one-month LIBOR and average six-month LIBOR under our reverse repos for the year ended December 31, 2008.

 

    Average
Borrowed
Funds
  Interest
Expense
  Average Cost
of Funds
    Average One-
Month LIBOR
    Average Six-
Month LIBOR
 

For the year ended December 31, 2008

  $ 165,616,083   $ 4,363,685   2.63   2.68   3.06

There were no borrowings for the period ended December 31, 2007.

Other Expenses

Other expenses consist of base management fees and incentive fees payable to our Manager pursuant to our management agreement, share-based LTIP expense and other operating expenses. Other expenses exclude interest expense. Other operating expenses include professional fees, insurance expense, agency and administrative fees, organizational costs and other expenses necessary to operate the business. Our other expenses were $10.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2008 as compared to $3.5 million for the period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) through December 31, 2007. This increase was mainly due to the fact that (i) we operated for a full year in 2008 as compared to only a partial year in 2007 and (ii) we paid an incentive fee to our Manager in 2008 and did not pay an incentive fee to our Manager in 2007.

Net Realized and Unrealized Gains and Losses on Investments and Financial Derivatives

During the year ended December 31, 2008, we had net realized and unrealized losses on investments of $(84.3) million as compared to net realized and unrealized gains on investments of $1.1 million during the period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) through December 31, 2007. This change of $(85.4) million was mainly the result of a decline in the value of our RMBS. During the year ended December 31, 2008, we had net realized and unrealized gains on financial derivatives of $69.0 million as compared to net realized and unrealized losses on financial derivatives of $(0.1) million during the period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) through December 31, 2007. This change of $69.1 million was mainly the result of our exiting certain derivative contracts at net realized gains during the year ended December 31, 2008.

 

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Liquidity and Capital Resources

Liquidity refers to our ability to meet our cash needs, including repaying our borrowings, funding and maintaining RMBS and other assets, making distributions and other general business needs. Our short-term (one year or less) and long-term liquidity requirements include acquisition costs for assets we acquire, payment of our base management fee and incentive fee, compliance with margin requirements under our reverse repos, TBAs and derivative contracts, repayment of reverse repo borrowings to the extent we are unable or unwilling to extend our reverse repos, and payment of our general operating expenses. Our capital resources primarily include cash on hand, cash flow from our investments (including monthly principal and interest payments received on our RMBS and proceeds from the sale of securities), borrowings under reverse repos and proceeds from equity offerings. We expect that these sources of funds will be sufficient to meet our short-term and long-term liquidity needs.

We expect to continue to borrow funds in the form of reverse repos and we may increase the level of borrowings in the future. The terms of these borrowings under our master repurchase agreements generally conform to the terms in the standard master repurchase agreement as published by SIFMA as to repayment and margin requirements. In addition, each lender typically requires that we include supplemental terms and conditions to the standard master repurchase agreement. Typical supplemental terms and conditions include the addition of or changes to provisions relating to margin calls, requirements that all controversies related to the repurchase agreement be litigated in a particular jurisdiction and cross default provisions. These provisions may differ for each of our lenders.

We have repurchased some of our own common shares in privately negotiated unsolicited transactions. To date, these share repurchases have occurred at prices which represented a material discount to our book value per common share at the time of repurchase. As a result, the share repurchases were each accretive to our book value and, in our Manager’s opinion, the effective expected return on the capital used to repurchase the shares was attractive compared to alternative opportunities available in the market at those times. However, we currently do not have a systematic plan to buy back our common shares.

We may declare dividends based on, among other things, our earnings, our financial condition, our working capital needs and new opportunities. The declaration of dividends to our shareholders and the amount of such dividends are at the discretion of our board of directors. During the year ended December 31, 2009, we paid total dividends in the amount of $30.8 million. On February 10, 2010, our board of directors declared a dividend in the amount of $1.25 per share that was paid on March 15, 2010 to shareholders of record as of March 1, 2010. This dividend was in the amount of approximately $15.5 million. No dividends were paid in the year ended December 31, 2008.

Based on our current portfolio, amount of free cash on hand, debt-to-equity ratio and current and anticipated availability of credit, we believe that our capital resources will be sufficient to enable us to meet anticipated short-term and long-term liquidity requirements. However, the unexpected inability to finance our Agency RMBS portfolio would create a serious short-term strain on our liquidity and would require us to liquidate much of that portfolio, which in turn would require us to restructure our portfolio to maintain our exclusion from regulation as an investment company under the Investment Company Act. Steep declines in the values of our RMBS assets financed using reverse repos, or in the values of our derivative contracts, would result in margin calls that would significantly reduce our free cash position. Furthermore, a substantial increase in prepayment rates on our assets financed by reverse repos could cause a temporary liquidity shortfall, because we are generally required to post margin on such assets in proportion to the amount of the announced principal paydowns before the actual receipt of the cash from such principal paydowns. If our cash resources are at any time insufficient to satisfy our liquidity requirements, we may have to sell assets or issue debt or additional equity securities.

We held cash and cash equivalents of approximately $102.9 million and $61.4 million as of December 31, 2009 and 2008, respectively.

 

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Our operating activities used net cash of approximately $215.4 million for the year ended December 31, 2009 primarily through the acquisition of assets. Our operating activities used net cash of approximately $259.7 million for the year ended December 31, 2008, primarily through the acquisition of assets and payments made in respect of financial derivatives. Our operating activities used net cash of approximately $176.2 million for the period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) through December 31, 2007 primarily for the acquisition of assets.

Our financing activities provided net cash of $256.9 million during the year ended December 31, 2009 primarily through borrowings under our reverse repos. Our financing activities provided net cash of $259.4 million during the year ended December 31, 2008, primarily through borrowings under our reverse repos. Our financing activities provided net cash of $237.9 million for the period from August 17, 2007 (commencement of operations) through December 31, 2007, primarily through net proceeds received from our August 2007 private offering. We expect to continue to borrow funds in the form of reverse repos as well as other types of financing. As of December 31, 2009, we had $560.0 million of borrowings outstanding under our reverse repos, most of which were collateralized by our Agency RMBS, with a weighted average borrowing rate of 0.58%. As of December 31, 2009, our reverse repos had interest rates ranging from (0.01)% to 2.75%. The negative borrowing rate relates to a single Treasury holding which we financed using a reverse repo arrangement. As of December 31, 2009, market demand for this security was such that the lender was willing to pay interest to us in order to access the security as collateral under the reverse repo arrangement. As of December 31, 2009, the remaining terms on our reverse repos ranged from 4 to 236 days. The RMBS and Treasury security pledged as collateral under the reverse repos had an aggregate estimated fair value of $627.4 million as of December 31, 2009. The interest rates of the reverse repos are generally indexed to the one-month LIBOR rate and reset accordingly. As of December 31, 2008, the remaining terms on our reverse repos ranged from 6 to 26 days and had interest rates ranging from 1.20% to 4.50%. Securities pledged as collateral under our reverse repos had an estimated fair value of $299.0 million as of December 31, 2008. It is expected that amounts due upon maturity of our reverse repos will be funded primarily through the roll over/re-initiation of reverse repos and, if we are unable or unwilling to roll over/re-initiate our reverse repos, through free cash and proceeds from the sale of securities.

We are not required by our investment guidelines to maintain any specific debt-to-equity ratio, and we believe that the appropriate leverage for the particular assets we hold depends on the credit quality and risk of those assets, as well as the general availability and terms of stable and reliable financing for those assets.

Contractual Obligations and Commitments

We are a party to a management agreement with our Manager. Pursuant to that agreement, our Manager is entitled to receive a base management fee, an incentive fee, reimbursement of certain expenses and, in certain circumstances, a termination fee. Such fees and expenses do not have fixed and determinable payments. For a description of the management agreement provisions, see “Management—Management Agreement.”

We enter into reverse repos with third-party broker-dealers whereby we sell securities to such broker-dealers at agreed-upon purchase prices at the initiation of the reverse repos and agree to repurchase such securities at predetermined repurchase prices and termination dates, thus providing the broker-dealers with an implied interest rate on the funds initially transferred to us by the broker-dealers. When we enter into a reverse repo, the lender establishes and maintains an account containing cash and securities having a value not less than the repurchase price, including accrued interest, of the reverse repo. We enter into repos with third-party broker-dealers whereby we purchase securities under agreements to resell at an agreed-upon price and date. In general, we most often enter into repo transactions in order to effectively borrow securities that we can then deliver to counterparties to whom we have made short sales of the same securities. The implied interest rates on the repos and reverse repos we enter into are based upon market rates at the time of initiation. Repos and reverse repos that are conducted with the same counterparty may be reported on a net basis if they meet the requirements of ASC 210-20, Balance Sheet, Offsetting.

 

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As of December 31, 2009, we had an aggregate amount at risk under our reverse repos with six counterparties of approximately $74.5 million. As of December 31, 2008, we had an aggregate amount at risk on repos and reverse repos with four counterparties of approximately $38.4 million. Amounts at risk represent the aggregate excess, if any, for each counterparty of the fair value of collateral held by such counterparty over the amounts outstanding under repos and reverse repos. If the amounts outstanding under repos and reverse repos with a particular counterparty are greater than the collateral held by the counterparty, there is no amount at risk for the particular counterparty. Amounts at risk as of December 31, 2009 and 2008 do not include approximately $2.0 million and $1.0 million, respectively, of net accrued interest, defined as accrued interest on securities held as collateral less interest payable on cash borrowed.

Our swap and futures contracts are governed by trading agreements, which are separately negotiated agreements with dealer counterparties. Changes in the relative value of the swap and futures transactions may require us or the counterparty to post or receive collateral. Typically, a collateral payment or receipt is triggered based on the net change in the value of all contracts governed by a particular trading agreement. Entering into swap and futures contracts involves market risk in excess of amounts recorded on our balance sheet.

As of December 31, 2009, we had an aggregate amount at risk under our derivatives contracts with six counterparties of approximately $10.5 million, including $1.8 million with one futures counterparty. As of December 31, 2008, we had an aggregate amount at risk under our derivatives contracts with four counterparties of approximately $8.8 million. Amounts at risk under our derivatives contracts represent the aggregate excess, if any, for each counterparty of the fair value of our derivative contracts plus our collateral held directly by the counterparty less the counterparty’s collateral held by us. If a particular counterparty’s collateral held by us is greater than the aggregate fair value of the financial derivatives plus our collateral held directly by the counterparty, there is no amount at risk for the particular counterparty. We are party to a tri-party collateral arrangement under one of our ISDA trading agreements whereby a third party holds collateral posted by us. Pursuant to the terms of the arrangement, the third party must follow certain pre-defined actions prior to the release of the collateral to the counterparty or to us. Deposits with Dealers Held as Collateral on the Consolidated Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Shareholders’ Equity includes, at December 31, 2009 and 2008 collateral posted by the Company and held by a third party custodian in the amount of approximately $11.3 million and $14.3 million, respectively.

We purchase and sell certain non-derivative securities, including TBAs, on a when-issued or delayed delivery basis. Since delivery for these securities extends beyond the typical settlement dates for most non-derivative investments, these transactions are more prone to market fluctuations between the trade date and the ultimate settlement date, and thereby are more vulnerable, especially in the absence of margining arrangements with respect to these transactions, to increasing amounts at risk with the applicable counterparties.

As of December 31, 2009, in connection with our TBAs we had an aggregate amount at risk with six counterparties in the aggregate amount of approximately $6.6 million. Amounts at risk in connection with our TBAs represent the aggregate excess, if any, for each counterparty of the net fair value of our TBAs plus our collateral held directly by the counterparty less the counterparty’s collateral held by us. If a particular counterparty’s collateral held by us is greater than the aggregate fair value of the TBAs plus our collateral held directly by the counterparty, there is no amount at risk for the particular counterparty.

Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements

As of December 31, 2009, we did not have any relationships with unconsolidated entities or financial partnerships, such as entities often referred to as structured finance or special purpose entities, which would have been established for the purpose of facilitating off-balance sheet arrangements or other contractually narrow or limited purposes. Further, we have not guaranteed any obligations of unconsolidated entities nor do we have any commitment or intent to provide funding to any such entities. As such, we are not materially exposed to any market, credit, liquidity or financing risk that could arise if we had engaged in such relationships.

 

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Inflation

Virtually all of our assets and liabilities are interest rate sensitive in nature. As a result, interest rates and other factors influence our performance far more so than does inflation. Changes in interest rates do not necessarily correlate with inflation rates or changes in inflation rates. Our activities and balance sheet are measured with reference to historical cost and/or fair market value without considering inflation.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

The primary components of our market risk are related to credit risk, prepayment risk and interest rate risk. We seek to actively manage these and other risks and to acquire and hold assets that we believe justify bearing those risks, and to maintain capital levels consistent with those risks.

Credit Risk

We are subject to credit risk in connection with our assets, especially our non-Agency RMBS. Credit losses on real estate loans can occur for many reasons, including, but not limited to, poor origination practices, fraud, faulty appraisals, documentation errors, poor underwriting, legal errors, poor servicing practices, weak economic conditions, decline in the value of homes, businesses or commercial properties, special hazards, earthquakes and other natural events, over-leveraging of the borrower on the property, reduction in market rents and occupancies and poor property management services, changes in legal protections for lenders, reduction in personal income, job loss and personal events such as divorce or health problems. Property values are subject to volatility and may be affected adversely by a number of factors, including, but not limited to, national, regional and local economic conditions (which may be adversely affected by industry slowdowns and other factors), local real estate conditions (such as an oversupply of housing), changes or continued weakness in specific industry segments, construction quality, age and design, demographic factors and retroactive changes to building or similar codes. For mortgage-related instruments, the two primary components of credit risk are default risk and severity risk. Market conditions since August 2007 have demonstrated substantial increase in both of these risks which has had a negative impact on the value of non-Agency RMBS. The second half of 2009 experienced some perceived stabilization in default risk and severity risk which has led to an increase in values of certain non-Agency RMBS; however should these factors resume their negative trend, some or all of the increase in value of these non-Agency RMBS may be reversed.

Default Risk

Default risk is the risk that borrowers will fail to make principal and interest payments on their mortgage loans. We may attempt to mitigate our default risk by, among other things, opportunistically entering into credit default swaps on individual RMBS or RMBS indices, whereby we would receive payments upon the occurrence of a credit event on the underlying reference asset or assets. We also rely on third-party mortgage servicers to mitigate our default risk, but such third-party mortgage servicers may have little or no economic incentive to mitigate loan default rates. Although default risk in the RMBS market, as measured by mortgage loans which are sixty days or greater delinquent, has not increased materially in recent months, there has not been material improvement and current delinquency levels remain the same as or worse than levels in the second half of 2008.

Severity Risk

Severity risk is the risk of loss upon a borrower default on a mortgage loan underlying our RMBS. Severity risk includes the risk of loss of value of the property underlying the mortgage loan as well as the risk of loss associated with taking over the property, including foreclosure costs. We rely on third-party mortgage servicers to mitigate our severity risk, but such third-party mortgage servicers may have little or no economic incentive to mitigate loan loss severities. Such mitigation efforts may include loan modification programs and prompt foreclosure and property liquidation following a default. Severity risk increased consistently throughout the first half of 2009 due to, among other things, increased servicing costs, delays in loan foreclosure, continuing home price declines and lack of incentive for mortgage servicers to minimize costs. The stabilization in loss severities which occurred in the second half of 2009 may prove temporary should the pace of property liquidations increase in the coming months.

 

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Prepayment Risk

Prepayment risk is the risk of change, whether an increase or a decrease, in the rate at which principal is returned in respect of mortgage loans underlying RMBS, including both through voluntary prepayments and through liquidations due to defaults and foreclosures. This rate of prepayment is affected by a variety of factors, including the prevailing level of interest rates as well as economic, demographic, tax, social, legal and other factors. Changes in prepayment rates will have varying effects on the different types of securities in our portfolio. We attempt to take these effects into account in making asset management decisions with respect to our assets. Additionally, increases in prepayment rates may cause us to experience losses on our IOs and IIOs, as those securities are extremely sensitive to prepayment rates. Prepayment risk was at elevated levels throughout the second half of 2008 and the first half of 2009. Prepayment rates, besides being subject to interest rates and borrower behavior, are also substantially affected by government policy and regulation. Legislation directed at high loan-to-value borrowers increased prepayments over several classes of mortgage loans in the second half of 2009; however, we believe heightened prepayment levels are unlikely to continue as many borrowers who are eligible to refinance have already done so. A one-time or short-term increase in return of principal similar to an increase in prepayment rates is anticipated with respect to our Agency RMBS given the increase in repurchases by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac of delinquent mortgage loans from the mortgage pools backing Agency RMBS guaranteed by them.

Interest Rate Risk

Interest rates are highly sensitive to many factors, including governmental monetary and tax policies, domestic and international economic and political considerations and other factors beyond our control. We are subject to interest rate risk in connection with certain of our assets and liabilities. For some securities in our portfolio, the coupon yields on, and therefore also the values of, such securities are highly sensitive to interest rate movements, such as inverse floating rate RMBS, which benefit from falling interest rates, or certain deep discount floating rate RMBS, which benefit from rising interest rates. We selectively hedge our interest rate risk by entering into interest rate swaps, Eurodollar futures, and other instruments. In general, such hedging instruments are used to offset the large majority of the interest rate risk we estimate to arise from our Agency RMBS positions. Hedging instruments may also be used to offset a portion of the interest rate risk arising from certain non-Agency RMBS positions.

The following sensitivity analysis table shows the estimated impact on the fair value of our portfolio segregated by certain identified categories as of December 31, 2009, assuming a static portfolio and immediate shifts in interest rates from current levels as indicated below.

 

     Estimated Change in Fair
Value for a Decrease in
Interest Rates by
    Estimated Change in Fair Value
for an Increase in
Interest Rates by
 

Category of Instruments

   50 Basis
Points
    100 Basis
Points
    50 Basis
Points
    100 Basis
Points
 

Non-Agency RMBS

   $ 4,009,554      $ 8,124,516      $ (3,904,144   $ (7,702,879

U.S. Treasury Securities and Interest Rate Swaps and Futures

   $ (1,514,940   $ (3,022,161   $ 1,522,659      $ 3,053,036   

Agency RMBS

   $ (2,468,448   $ (4,007,652   $ 3,397,691      $ 7,724,626   
                                

Total

   $ 26,166      $ 1,094,703      $ 1,016,206      $ 3,074,783   
                                

The preceding analysis does not show sensitivity to changes in interest rates for our reverse repo liabilities, our credit default swaps on MBS or MBS indices, or our derivatives on corporate securities (whether debt or equity-related). We believe that the effect of a change in interest rates on such categories of instruments in our portfolio cannot be accurately estimated and/or is not material to the value of the overall portfolio.

Our analysis of interest rate risk is derived from Ellington’s proprietary models as well as third party information and analytics. The estimated changes in fair value for our non-Agency CMOs are calculated

 

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assuming that changes in interest rates affect the related securitization’s variable-rate bond and variable-rate collateral coupons and the market discount rates applied to the projected cash flows of our CMOs, but do not affect the projected prepayment or default rates of the underlying collateral. If, instead, such prepayment or default rates were projected to vary with interest rates, the resulting estimated changes in fair value could deviate significantly from the estimates set forth in the table above. The estimated changes in fair value for our Agency passthroughs are calculated assuming that changes in interest rates affect not only the related securitization’s variable-rate bond and variable-rate collateral coupons and the market discount rates applied to the projected cash flows of our Agency passthroughs, but also the prepayment rates of the underlying collateral. In all cases, changes in fair value for a given shift in interest rates are estimated by averaging over a wide range of possible future interest rate scenarios consistent with such shift.

Our portfolio is subject to many risks other than interest rate risks. Furthermore, many simplifying assumptions have been made in connection with the calculations set forth in the table above and, as such, there can be no assurance that assumed events will occur or that other events will not occur that would affect the outcomes. For example, for each hypothetical immediate shift in interest rates, simplifying assumptions have been made concerning the shape of the yield curve and market volatilities of interest rates, each of which can significantly and adversely affect the fair value of our interest rate-sensitive instruments.

The above analysis utilizes assumptions and estimates based on management’s judgment and experience, and relies on financial models, which are inherently imperfect; in fact different models can produce different results for the same securities. While the table above reflects the estimated impacts of immediate interest rate increases and decreases on specific categories of instruments in our portfolio, we actively trade many of the instruments in our portfolio, and therefore our current or future portfolios may have risks that differ significantly from those of our December 31, 2009 portfolio estimated above. Furthermore, the impact of changing interest rates on fair value can change significantly when interest rates change by a greater amount than the hypothetical shifts assumed above. For all of the foregoing reasons and others, the table above is for illustrative purposes only and actual changes in interest rates would likely cause changes in the actual fair value of our portfolio that would differ from those presented above, and such differences might be significant and adverse. See “Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements.”

 

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BUSINESS

Our Company

Ellington Financial LLC is a specialty finance company formed in August 2007 to specialize in acquiring and managing mortgage-related assets. Our primary objective is to generate attractive, risk-adjusted total returns for our shareholders by making investments that we believe compensate us appropriately for the risks associated with them. We seek to attain this objective by utilizing an opportunistic strategy. Our targeted assets currently include non-Agency RMBS, Agency RMBS, mortgage-related derivatives, corporate debt and equity securities and derivatives. We also may opportunistically acquire and manage other types of mortgage-related assets and financial assets, such as residential whole mortgage loans, CMBS and commercial mortgages or other commercial real estate debt, ABS backed by consumer and commercial assets and non-mortgage-related derivatives. As of December 31, 2009, we had an aggregate portfolio of RMBS with a net value of approximately $246.1 million, derivatives contracts with a net value of approximately $109.6 million and total shareholders’ equity of approximately $299.8 million. Our net RMBS portfolio value of $246.1 million as of December 31, 2009, represents long investments in Agency and non-Agency RMBS valued at $748.7 million offset by Agency RMBS sold short valued at $502.6 million.

The members of our management team are Michael Vranos, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ellington, who serves as our Co-Chief Investment Officer, Laurence Penn, Vice Chairman of Ellington, who serves as our Chief Executive Officer and President, Mark Tecotzky, a Managing Director of Ellington, who serves as our Co-Chief Investment Officer, Lisa Mumford, who serves as our dedicated Chief Financial Officer and Eric Bothwell, Managing Director of Ellington, who serves as our Chief Operating Officer and our Secretary. Each of these individuals is an officer of our Manager. We currently do not have any employees.

Our Manager and Ellington

We are externally managed and advised by our Manager, an affiliate of Ellington, pursuant to a management agreement. Our Manager was formed solely to serve as our Manager and does not have any other clients. In addition, our Manager currently does not have any employees and instead relies on the employees of Ellington to perform its obligations to us. Ellington is a private investment management firm and registered investment advisor with a 15-year history of investing in a broad spectrum of MBS and related derivatives.

Our Manager is responsible for administering our business activities and day-to-day operations and, pursuant to a services agreement between our Manager and Ellington, relies on the resources of Ellington to support our operations. See “Certain Relationships and Related Party Transactions—Services Agreement” for a description of the terms of the services agreement between our Manager and Ellington. Ellington has established portfolio management resources for each of our targeted asset classes and an established infrastructure supporting those resources. Through our relationship with our Manager, we benefit from Ellington’s highly analytical investment processes, broad-based deal flow, extensive relationships in the financial community, financial and capital structuring skills, investment surveillance database and operational expertise. Ellington’s analytic approach to the investment process involves collection of substantial amounts of data regarding historical performance of MBS collateral and MBS market transactions. Ellington analyzes this data to identify possible trends and develops financial models used to support the investment and risk management process. In addition, throughout Ellington’s 15-year history of investing in MBS and related derivatives, it has developed strong relationships with a wide range of dealers and other market participants that provide Ellington access to a broad range of trading opportunities and market information. In addition, our Manager provides us with access to a wide variety of asset acquisition and disposition opportunities and information that assist us in making asset management decisions across our targeted asset classes, which we believe provides us with a significant competitive advantage. We also benefit from Ellington’s finance, accounting, operational, legal, compliance and administrative functions.

 

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As of December 31, 2009, Ellington employed over 100 employees, and, including our company, various hedge funds, and various private accounts, had net assets under management of approximately $3.0 billion. In addition, Ellington, through its affiliates, manages CDOs collateralized by MBS or ABS, as well as a traditional managed account.

Our Manager has an investment and risk management committee that advises and consults with our senior management team with respect to, among other things, our investment policies, portfolio holdings, financing and hedging strategies and investment guidelines. The members of the investment and risk management committee include Messrs. Vranos, Penn, Tecotzky and Bothwell.

Our Strategy

We utilize an opportunistic strategy to seek to provide investors with attractive, risk-adjusted total returns by:

 

   

taking advantage of opportunities in the residential mortgage market by purchasing investment grade and non-investment grade non-Agency RMBS, including senior and subordinated securities;

 

   

acquiring Agency RMBS on a more leveraged basis in order to take advantage of opportunities in that market sector and assist us in maintaining our exclusion from regulation as an investment company under the Investment Company Act;

 

   

opportunistically entering into and managing a portfolio of mortgage-related derivatives;

 

   

opportunistically acquiring and managing other mortgage-related and financial assets, such as residential whole mortgage loans, CMBS, commercial mortgages or other commercial real estate debt, ABS backed by consumer and commercial assets and non-mortgage-related derivatives; and

 

   

opportunistically mitigating our credit and interest rate risk by using a variety of hedging instruments.

Our strategy is adaptable to changing market environments, subject to compliance with the income and other tests that will allow us to continue to be treated as a partnership for U.S. federal income tax purposes and to maintain our exclusion from regulation as an investment company under the Investment Company Act. As a result, although we focus on the assets described above, our acquisition and management decisions depend on prevailing market conditions and our targeted asset classes may vary over time in response to market conditions. To effect our strategy, we may engage in a high degree of trading volume. Our Manager is authorized to follow very broad investment guidelines and, as a result, we cannot predict our portfolio composition. We may change our strategy and policies without a vote of our shareholders. Moreover, although our independent directors periodically review our investment guidelines and our portfolio, they generally do not review our proposed asset acquisitions or asset management decisions.

Ellington’s investment philosophy revolves around the pursuit of value across various types of MBS and related assets. Ellington seeks investments across a wide range of MBS sectors without any restriction as to ratings, structure or position in the capital structure. Over time and through market cycles, opportunities will present themselves in varying sectors and in varying forms. In current markets, for example, the liquidation of portfolios of MBS from structured vehicles and from distressed financial institutions have been significant sources of asset acquisition opportunities. By rotating between sectors of the MBS markets and adjusting the extent to which it hedges, Ellington believes that it is able to capitalize on the disparities between these sectors as well as on overall trends in the marketplace, and therefore provide better and more consistent returns for its investors. Disparities between MBS sectors vary from time to time and are driven by a combination of factors. For example, as various MBS sectors fall in and out of favor, the relative yields that the market demands for those sectors may vary. In addition, Ellington’s performance projections for certain sectors may differ from those of other market participants and such disparities will naturally cause us, from time to time, to gravitate towards certain sectors and away from others. Disparities between MBS sectors may also be driven by differences in collateral performance (for example, seasoned subprime collateral may perform better than more recent subprime collateral) and in the structure of particular investments (for example, in the timing of cash flow or the level of

 

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credit enhancement), and our Manager may believe that other market participants are overestimating or underestimating the value of these differences. Furthermore, we believe that risk management, including opportunistic portfolio hedging and prudent financing and liquidity management, is essential for consistent generation of attractive, risk-adjusted total returns across market cycles.

Ellington’s continued emphasis on and development of proprietary MBS credit, interest rate and prepayment models, as well as other proprietary research and analytics, underscores the importance it places on a disciplined and often analytical approach to fixed income investing, especially in MBS. Our Manager uses Ellington’s proprietary models to identify attractive assets, value these assets, monitor and forecast the performance of these assets, and opportunistically hedge our credit and interest rate risk. We leverage these skills and resources to seek to meet our objectives.

We believe that our Manager is uniquely qualified to implement our strategy. Our strategy is consistent with Ellington’s investment approach, which is based on its distinctive strengths in sourcing, analyzing, trading and hedging complex MBS. Furthermore, we believe that Ellington’s extensive experience in buying, selling, analyzing and structuring fixed income securities, coupled with its broad access to market information and trading flows, provides us with a steady flow of opportunities to acquire assets with favorable trade executions.

We also employ a wide variety of hedging instruments and derivative contracts. See “—Risk Management.”

Our Targeted Asset Classes

Our targeted asset classes currently include:

 

Asset Class

  

Principal Assets

Non-Agency RMBS

  

•   RMBS backed by prime jumbo, Alt-A and subprime mortgages

  

•   RMBS backed by fixed rate mortgages, ARMs, Option-ARMs and Hybrid ARMs

  

•   RMBS backed by first lien and second lien mortgages

  

•   Investment grade and non-investment grade securities

  

•   Senior and subordinated securities

  

•   IOs, POs, IIOs and inverse floaters

Agency RMBS

  

•   Whole pool pass-through certificates

  

•   TBAs

Mortgage-Related Derivatives

  

•   Credit default swaps on individual RMBS, on the ABX and CMBX indices and on other mortgage-related indices

 

•   Other mortgage-related derivatives

Corporate Debt and Equity Securities and Derivatives

  

•   Credit default swaps on corporations or on corporate indices

  

•   Corporate debt or equity securities

  

•   Options or total return swaps on corporate equity or on corporate equity indices

 

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Asset Class

  

Principal Assets

Other

  

•   Residential whole mortgage loans

  

•   CMBS

  

•   Commercial mortgages and other commercial real estate debt

  

•   ABS

  

•   Other non-mortgage-related derivatives

The following briefly discusses the principal types of assets we purchase.

Non-Agency RMBS

We acquire non-Agency RMBS backed by prime jumbo, Alt-A and subprime residential mortgage loans.

Non-Agency RMBS are debt obligations issued by private originators of or investors in residential mortgage loans. Non-Agency RMBS generally are issued as CMOs, and are backed by pools of whole mortgage loans or by mortgage pass-through certificates. Non-Agency RMBS generally are securitized in senior/subordinated structures, or in excess spread/over-collateralization structures. In senior/subordinated structures, the subordinated tranches generally absorb all losses on the underlying mortgage loans before any losses are borne by the senior tranches. In excess spread/over-collateralization structures, losses are first absorbed by any existing over-collateralization, then borne by subordinated tranches and excess spread, which represents the difference between the interest payments received on the mortgage loans backing the RMBS and the interest due on the RMBS debt tranches, and finally by senior tranches and any remaining excess spread.

We currently acquire and may continue to acquire IOs, POs, IIOs and inverse floaters. IOs are RMBS that entitle the holder to receive interest payments, but not any principal payments, from either a collection of mortgage loans or a particular RMBS debt tranche. IIOs are IOs that entitle the holder to interest payments from an inverse floater. POs are RMBS that entitle the holder to receive principal payments, but not any interest payments, from either a collection of mortgage loans or a particular RMBS debt tranche. POs sell at a discount to par value and are in many respects similar to zero coupon bonds. Inverse floaters are RMBS that have coupon rates that move in the opposite direction of a designated reference interest rate.

Prime jumbo mortgage loans are mortgage loans that generally conform to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac underwriting guidelines except that the mortgage balance exceeds the maximum amount permitted by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac underwriting guidelines.

Alt-A mortgage loans generally have income verification and/or employment verification standards that are weaker than those standards employed in prime underwriting. Additionally, Alt-A mortgage loans are more frequently collateralized by non-primary residences than prime loans. The credit quality of Alt-A borrowers generally exceeds the credit quality of subprime borrowers.

Subprime mortgage loans are loans that are originated using underwriting standards that are less restrictive than those used for other first and junior lien mortgage loan origination programs, such as the programs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These lower standards permit loans to be made to borrowers having low credit scores and/ or imperfect or impaired credit histories (including outstanding judgments or prior bankruptcies), loans with no income disclosure or verification, and loans with high loan-to-value ratios.

The residential mortgage loans securing our RMBS are either fixed-rate mortgages, ARMs, option-ARMs or hybrid ARMs. ARMs have interest rates that reset periodically, typically every six or twelve months. Because the interest rates on ARMs adjust periodically based on market conditions, ARMs tend to have interest rates that do not significantly deviate from current market rates. This, in turn, can cause ARMs to have less price sensitivity to interest rates.

 

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A second lien mortgage loan is a mortgage loan that is subordinate to the primary mortgage loan on a property. The second lien mortgage loan can be in the form of a revolving home equity line of credit or in a closed-end non-revolving loan. In the event of a default or a bankruptcy of the borrower, the second lien mortgage loan will not be paid off until the first lien mortgage loan is paid off. The subordination inherent in the second lien mortgage loan and the resulting difficulty in asset recovery following a bankruptcy makes this type of loan a greater risk to lenders, and consequently carries higher interest rates and has high costs associated with it.

Manufactured homes are housing units that are largely assembled in factories and then transported to sites of use. Manufactured housing loans include both manufactured housing installment sales contracts secured by security interests in manufactured homes (and, in some cases, by liens on the real estate on which the manufactured homes are located) and mortgage loans secured by first liens on the real estate on which manufactured homes are permanently affixed.

An option ARM is a mortgage loan that initially offers the borrower a variety of monthly payment options, typically including a specified minimum payment that may be less than the full interest payment, an interest-only payment, a 30-year fully amortizing payment and a 15-year fully amortizing payment. Such mortgage loans typically allow unpaid accrued interest to be capitalized monthly and added back to the loan’s outstanding principal balance. This negative amortization only occurs in loans where the monthly payment does not cover the amount of interest due for that period. Such mortgage loans typically employ (i) a “recast date” before which the outstanding principal loan balance is permitted to negatively amortize but after which it is not, and (ii) a principal balance cap based on federal and state legislation. Option ARMs are typically made to borrowers in high-cost areas because monthly mortgage payments are relatively low for these loans, and are made for the purposes of cash management and increased payment flexibility.

Hybrid ARMs have interest rates that have an initial fixed period (typically two, three, five, seven or ten years) and thereafter reset at regular intervals in a manner similar to traditional ARMs.

The characteristics of RMBS differ from those of traditional fixed-income securities. The major differences include the monthly payment of interest and principal on the RMBS and the possibility that principal may be prepaid on the RMBS 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 traditional fixed-income securities.

Our non-Agency RMBS portfolio has significant quantities of RMBS collateralized by prime jumbo, Alt-A and subprime residential mortgage loans and generally consists of securities which ranked in the more senior classes of their respective securitizations, benefiting from the subordination provided by those securitization structures. Our portfolio also includes significant quantities of RMBS collateralized by manufactured housing loans. However, because we actively trade our portfolio and consider a wide range of potential investments without restriction as to ratings, structure or position in the capital structure, no assurance can be given that, in the future, our non-Agency RMBS will or will not be concentrated in these or other sectors, or consist of securities which rank lower in the capital structure or have lower ratings.

Agency RMBS

Our assets in this asset class consist primarily of whole-pool, pass-through certificates, the principal and interest of which are guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or Ginnie Mae and which are backed by ARMs, hybrid ARMs or fixed-rate mortgages. Pass-through certificates are securities representing undivided interests in “pools” of mortgage loans secured by residential real property where payments of both interest and principal, plus pre-paid principal, on the securities are made monthly to holders of the security, in effect “passing through” monthly payments made by the individual borrowers on the mortgage loans that underlie the securities, net of fees paid to the issuer/guarantor and servicers of the securities. Whole pool pass-through certificates are pass-through certificates that represent the entire ownership of (as opposed to merely a partial undivided interest in) a pool of mortgage loans.

 

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TBAs

In addition to investing in specific pools of Agency RMBS, we utilize forward-settling purchases and sales of Agency RMBS where the underlying pools of mortgage loans are “To-Be-Announced,” or TBAs. Pursuant to these TBA transactions, we agree to purchase or sell, for future delivery, Agency RMBS with certain principal and interest terms and certain types of underlying collateral, but the particular Agency RMBS to be delivered is not identified until shortly before the TBA settlement date. TBAs are liquid and have quoted market prices and represent the most actively traded class of MBS. We use TBAs primarily for hedging purposes. TBA trading is based on the assumption that the specific mortgage pools that will be delivered at settlement are fungible and thus do not need to be explicitly known at the time a trade is initiated. As a general matter, one mortgage pool is considered to be interchangeable with another mortgage pool for these purposes.

Mortgage-Related Derivatives

We take long and short positions in various mortgage-related derivative instruments, including credit default swaps. A credit default swap is a credit derivative contract in which one party (protection buyer) pays an ongoing periodic premium (and often an upfront payment as well) to another party (protection seller) in return for compensation for default (or similar credit event) by a reference entity. In this case, the reference entity can be an asset-backed security or an index of several ABS, such as an ABX Index or a CMBX Index. Payments from protection seller to protection buyer typically occur if a credit event takes place; a credit event may be triggered by, among other things, the reference entity’s failure to pay its principal obligations or a severe ratings downgrade of the reference entity.

Legislators and market regulators are currently considering additional regulations pertaining to derivative transactions, including credit derivatives. Given the variety of potential regulations that have been proposed and the preliminary nature of most of the proposals, we are not able at this time to predict the impact any final regulations might have on our business. Proposed regulations could have positive, adverse or mixed consequences for our business. For example, some measures being considered would require that derivatives be traded on regulated exchanges or through clearinghouses. While such changes could benefit us by substantially reducing our derivatives counterparty-related risks, they might also reduce some of the market inefficiencies that we believe create opportunities for us. Such changes might also impact the amount of collateral that we are required to post against our derivatives positions, which could affect our liquidity and the amount of capital that we have available for our non-derivative investment activities. Such changes may lead us to re-evaluate our derivatives strategy in particular and our investment strategy overall. No assurance can be given that any final regulations will not impact our business in a material and adverse way.

Corporate Debt and Equity Securities and Derivatives

For hedging purposes, we take short positions in corporate debt and equity (including indices on corporate debt and equity) by entering into derivative contracts such as credit default swaps, total return swaps and options. These are generally not hedges against risks that are directly related to specific corporate entities. Rather, these hedges reference corporations or indices whose performance we believe may have a reasonable degree of correlation with the performance of our portfolio. Given this correlation, a short position with respect to such corporations or indices provides a hedge to our portfolio of RMBS as a whole.

A credit default swap is a derivative contract in which one party (protection buyer) pays an ongoing periodic premium (and often an upfront payment as well) to another party (protection seller) in return for compensation upon the occurrence of a credit event with respect to the corporation or index referenced by such derivative contract. A credit event relating to a credit default swap on an individual corporation or an index of corporate names would typically be triggered by a corporation’s bankruptcy or failure to make scheduled payments in respect of debt obligations. A total return swap is a derivative whereby one party makes payments to the other representing the total return on a reference debt or equity security (or index of debt or equity securities) in exchange for an agreed upon ongoing periodic premium. An equity option is a derivative that gives the holder the

 

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option to buy or sell an equity security or index of securities at a predetermined price within a certain time period. The option may reference the equity of a publicly traded company or an equity index. In addition to general market risk, our derivatives on corporate debt and equity securities are subject to risks related to the underlying corporate entities.

Other Assets

We also may from time to time opportunistically acquire other mortgage-related and financial assets that may include, among others: residential whole mortgage loans, CMBS, commercial mortgages or other commercial real estate debt and ABS backed by consumer and commercial assets.

Our Portfolio

As of December 31, 2009, our RMBS portfolio consisted of the following assets:

 

Asset Class

   Amortized
Cost
Basis
    Estimated Fair
Value
    Estimated Fair
Value as a
Percentage of
Total
Shareholders’
Equity
 

Non-Agency RMBS

   $ 213,939,936      $ 210,363,731      70.17

Agency RMBS:

      

Agency RMBS-Principal and Interest Securities

     491,616,224        497,958,272      166.10

Agency RMBS-TBAs

     40,773,672        40,345,039      13.46

Agency RMBS-TBAs Sold Short

     (509,587,384     (502,543,554   (167.63 )% 
                      

Total

   $ 236,742,448      $ 246,123,488      82.10
                      

As of December 31, 2009, our derivatives portfolio consisted of the following derivatives:

 

Asset Class

   Notional
Amount
    Estimated Fair
Value
    Estimated Fair
Value as a
Percentage of
Total
Shareholders’
Equity
 

Long positions using credit default swaps on RMBS(1)

   $ 15,252,372      $ (10,547,540   (3.52 )% 

Long positions using credit default swaps on RMBS Indices(1)

     3,250,000        (1,878,143   (0.63 )% 

Short positions using credit default swaps on RMBS and on RMBS and CMBS Indices(2)……………

     (157,225,956     114,795,584      38.29

Short positions using credit default swaps on corporate bonds and corporate bond indices(2)

     (55,867,400     8,015,954      2.67

Short positions in interest rate swaps(3)

     (11,000,000     109,332      0.04

Other derivatives(4)

     N/A        (903,050   (0.30 )% 
                

Total

     $ 109,592,137      36.55
                

 

(1)   Long positions using credit default swaps represent transactions where we sold credit protection to a counterparty.
(2)   Short positions using credit default swaps represent transactions where we purchased credit protection from a counterparty.
(3)   For short positions in interest rate swaps, a fixed rate is being paid and a floating rate is being received.
(4)   Other derivatives consists of depreciated futures, short positions in total return swaps and other swaps.

As of December 31, 2009, in addition to our RMBS portfolio and our derivatives portfolio, a small portion of our investment portfolio consisted of Treasury securities and put options purchased with a fair value of approximately $6.8 million.

 

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The table below shows the credit rating categories from Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s or Fitch Ratings Ltd., respectively, for our long RMBS portfolio, including TBAs but excluding IOs, as of December 31, 2009; as well as our long investments that were unrated but affiliated with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or Ginnie Mae. Ratings tend to be a lagging credit indicator; as a result, the credit quality of our long investment holdings may be lower than the credit quality implied based on the ratings listed below. In situations where an investment has a split rating, the lowest provided rating is used.

 

Rating Description(1)

   Current Principal    Estimated Fair Value    Average Price    Estimate Fair
Value as a
Percentage of
Shareholders’ Equity
 

U.S. Treasury Securities

   $ 7,000,000    $ 6,734,635    $ 96.21    2.25

Unrated but Agency-Issued

     519,368,222      538,303,311      103.65    179.56

Aaa/AAA/AAA

     41,044,623      32,384,807      78.90    10.80

Aa/AA/AA

     50,571,090      37,597,883      74.35    12.54

A/A/A

     18,410,936      14,994,489      81.44    5.00

Baa/BBB/BBB

     13,760,082      7,537,838      54.78    2.51

Ba/BB/BB and below

     221,399,868      105,846,299      47.81    35.31

Unrated

     257,483,379      335      0.00    0.00

 

(1)   The rating descriptions include ratings qualified with a “+,” “–,” “1,” “2” or “3.”

Investment Process

Our investment process benefits from the resources and professionals of our Manager and Ellington. The process is managed by an investment and risk management committee, which includes the following four officers of our Manager: Messrs. Vranos, Penn, Tecotzky and Bothwell. These officers of our Manager also serve as our Co-Chief Investment Officer; Chief Executive Officer; Co-Chief Investment Officer; and Chief Operating Officer and Secretary, respectively. The investment and risk management committee operates under investment guidelines and meets periodically to develop a set of preferences for sectors and sub-sectors. The primary focus of the investment and risk management committee is to review and approve our investment policies and our portfolio holdings and related compliance with our investment policies and guidelines. Our investment and risk management committee has authority delegated by our board to authorize transactions consistent with our investment guidelines. Any transactions deviating in a material way from these guidelines must be approved by our board.

Ellington has a focused investment team for each of our targeted asset classes. Each team evaluates acquisition opportunities consistent with the guidelines developed and maintained by our Manager’s investment and risk management committee. Our asset acquisition process includes sourcing and screening of asset acquisition opportunities, credit analysis, due diligence, structuring, financing and hedging, each as appropriate, to seek attractive total returns commensurate with our risk tolerance. We also screen and monitor all potential assets to determine their impact on maintaining our exclusion from regulation as an investment company under the Investment Company Act and our qualification as a partnership for U.S. federal income tax purposes.

Asset Surveillance

Our asset surveillance process benefits from the resources and professionals of our Manager and Ellington. Ellington performs security- and loan-level analysis of its holdings on a periodic and on-going basis by assessing collateral performance data, evaluating future expected performance, and observing market expectations. Such surveillance capabilities help identify securities or sectors that are performing anomalously. In addition, Ellington analyzes the collateral performance of a broad range of securities that it does not hold in order to monitor emerging trends across asset classes. For instance, Ellington performs surveillance on representative samples of actively traded securities, covering most residential MBS sectors and vintages. On a monthly basis, Ellington gathers data on each such representative sample from its third-party data providers, and produces detailed reports based on loan level information, including analyses of prepayment rates, flow rates, severities, delinquencies and loan modification effects. This process offers Ellington’s trading and surveillance personnel

 

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additional insight into the Company’s portfolio and potential asset acquisition opportunities. We believe that Ellington’s surveillance capabilities provide it with a substantial advantage over most other market participants, and present a formidable barrier to entry for potential competitors.

Valuation of Assets

The value of our assets as used and reported in our financial statements is generally determined as follows:

If an asset is listed on a recognized exchange, such asset will be valued at its last available public sale price, or at the bid price for long positions and the offer price for short positions, as applicable. It is anticipated that only a small portion of our holdings may be so listed.

If a security is not listed on a recognized exchange, then such security will generally be valued using methodologies that include (i) the use of proprietary models that require the use of a significant amount of judgment and the application of various assumptions including, but not limited to, prepayment assumptions and default rate assumptions, and (ii) the solicitation of valuations from third parties (typically, broker-dealers). Third party valuation providers often utilize proprietary models that are highly subjective and also require the use of a significant amount of judgment and the application of various assumptions including, but not limited to, prepayment assumptions and default rate assumptions. Our Manager utilizes such information to assign a good faith valuation (the estimated price that would be received to sell an asset or paid to transfer a liability in an orderly transaction at the valuation date) to such financial instruments. Our Manager has been able to obtain third party valuations on the vast majority of our assets and expects to continue to solicit third party valuations on substantially all of our assets in the future to the extent practical. Our Manager uses its judgment, based on its own models, the assessments of its portfolio managers, and third party valuations it obtains, to determine and assign fair values to our Level 3 assets. We believe that third party valuations play an important role in ensuring that our Manager’s valuation determinations are fair and reasonable. Our Manager’s valuation process is subject to the oversight of the Manager’s investment and risk management committee as well as the oversight of the independent members of our board of directors. Because of the inherent uncertainty of valuation, those estimated values may differ significantly from the values that would have been used had a ready market for the financial instruments existed, and the differences could be material to the consolidated financial statements. See “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations —Critical Accounting Policies—Valuation.”

Risk Management

Risk management is a cornerstone of Ellington’s portfolio management process. Ellington’s risk management infrastructure system includes “ELLiN,” a proprietary trading and portfolio management system that Ellington uses for all of its accounts, which provides real time and batch reporting to all departments at Ellington, including trading, research, finance, operations, and accounting. We benefit from Ellington’s comprehensive risk management infrastructure and ongoing assessment of both portfolio and operational risks. In addition, we utilize derivatives and other hedging instruments to opportunistically hedge our credit and interest rate risk.

Credit Risk Hedging

We enter into short positions using credit default swaps to protect against adverse credit events with respect to our non-Agency RMBS. We may use credit default swaps to hedge non-Agency RMBS credit risk by buying protection on a single non-Agency RMBS or by buying protection on a basket of non-Agency RMBS assets. We may also enter into credit default swaps on the ABX index or CMBX index. We also enter into derivative contracts for hedging purposes referencing the unsecured corporate credit, or the equity of, certain corporations.

 

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Interest Rate Hedging

We opportunistically hedge our interest rate risk by using various hedging strategies to mitigate such risks. The interest rate hedging instruments that we use and may use in the future include, without limitation:

 

   

Treasury securities;

 

   

interest rate swaps (floating-to-fixed, fixed-to-floating, or more complex swaps such as floating-to-inverse floating, callable or non-callable);

 

   

swaptions, caps, floors and other derivatives on interest rates;

 

   

futures and forward contracts; and

 

   

options on any of the foregoing.

In particular, from time to time we enter into short positions in interest rate swaps to offset the potential adverse effects that changes in interest rates will have on the value of certain of our assets and our financing costs. An interest rate swap is an agreement to exchange interest rate cash flows, calculated on a notional principal amount, at specified payment dates during the life of the agreement. Typically one party pays a fixed interest rate and receives floating interest rate and the other party pays a floating interest rate and receives a fixed interest rate. Each party’s payment obligation is computed using a different interest rate. In an interest rate swap, the notional principal is never exchanged.

Liquidity Management

As part of the risk management and liquidity management functions that our Manager performs for us, our Manager computes a “cash buffer” which at any given point in time represents the amount of our free cash in excess of what our Manager estimates would conservatively be required, especially in times of market dislocation, to support our particular assets and liabilities at such time. Thus, rather than focusing solely on our leverage, our Manager typically seeks to maintain a positive cash buffer.

Our Financing Strategies and Use of Leverage

We finance our assets with what we believe to be a prudent amount of leverage, the level of which varies from time to time based upon the particular characteristics of our portfolio, availability of financing and market conditions. Our borrowings currently consist solely of reverse repos. Currently, the great majority of our reverse repo borrowings are collateralized by Agency RMBS; however, should the prospects for stable and reliable reverse repo financing for non-Agency RMBS continue to improve, we would expect to increase our reverse repo borrowings that are collateralized by non-Agency RMBS. In a reverse repo, we sell an asset to a counterparty at a discounted value, or the loan amount, and simultaneously agree to repurchase the same asset from such counterparty at a price equal to the loan amount plus an interest factor. Despite being legally structured as sales and subsequent repurchases, reverse repos are generally accounted for as debt secured by the underlying assets. During the term of a reverse repo, we generally receive the income and other payments distributed with respect to the underlying assets, and pay interest to the counterparty. While the proceeds of our reverse repo financings are often used to purchase the assets subject to the repo, our financing arrangements do not restrict our ability to use proceeds from these arrangements to support our other liquidity needs. Our reverse repo arrangements are typically documented under SIFMA’s standard form Master Repurchase Agreement, with the ability for both parties to request margin. Given daily market volatility, we and our repo counterparties are required to post additional margin collateral to each other from time to time as part of the normal course of our business. Our reverse repo financing counterparties generally have the right to determine the value of the underlying collateral for margining purposes, subject to the terms and conditions of our agreement with the counterparty, including in certain cases our right to dispute the counterparty’s valuation determination. As of December 31, 2009, we had approximately $560.0 million outstanding on reverse repos with six counterparties. These borrowings were the only debt financings we had outstanding as of December 31, 2009, and, given that we had approximately $299.8

 

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million of shareholders’ equity as of December 31, 2009, our debt-to-equity ratio was 1.87 to 1. Our debt-to-equity ratio does not account for liabilities other than debt financings.

The following table summarizes our reverse repos by counterparty as of December 31, 2009:

 

Counterparty

   Outstanding
Borrowings
   Range of
Borrowing Rates
   Range of
Maturity Dates
   Estimated Fair Value of
Collateral

Morgan Stanley

   $ 189,369,600    0.19% to 2.75%    13 to 68 days    $ 207,657,754

Bank of America

     137,049,500    (0.01)% to 2.27%    4 to 53 days      150,777,288

Deutsche Bank AG

     132,953,000    0.24% to 2.24%    5 to 25 days      138,803,442

Credit Suisse Group

     50,588,000    0.75% to 2.75%    4 to 236 days      62,413,275

Barclays

     34,828,000    0.27% to 2.28%    6 to 82 days      46,921,587

Royal Bank of Scotland

     15,190,000    1.74% to 2.02%    5 to 49 days      20,804,797
                   
   $ 559,978,100          $ 627,378,143
                   

We may utilize other types of borrowings in the future, including term facilities or other more complex financing structures. Additionally, we may also take advantage of available borrowings, if any, under new programs established by the Federal Government to finance our assets. We also may raise capital by issuing unsecured debt, preferred or common shares, or trust preferred securities.

Our use of leverage, especially in order to increase the amount of assets supported by our capital base, may have the effect of increasing losses when these assets underperform. Our investment policies require no minimum or maximum leverage and our Manager’s investment and risk management committee will have the discretion, without the need for further approval by our board of directors, to change both our overall leverage and the leverage used for individual asset classes. Because our strategy is flexible, dynamic and opportunistic, our overall leverage will vary over time. As a result, we do not have a targeted debt-to-equity ratio.

Conflicts of Interest; Equitable Allocation of Opportunities

Ellington manages, and expects to continue to manage, other funds, accounts and vehicles that have strategies that are similar to, or that overlap with, our strategy. As of December 31, 2009, Ellington managed various funds, accounts and other vehicles that have strategies that are similar to, or that overlap with, our strategy, that have aggregate net assets of approximately $2.7 billion (excluding our assets). Ellington makes available to our Manager all opportunities to acquire assets that it determines, in its reasonable and good faith judgment, based on our objectives, policies and strategies, and other relevant factors, are appropriate for us in accordance with Ellington’s written investment allocation procedures and policies, subject to the exception that we might not participate in each such opportunity, but will on an overall basis equitably participate with Ellington’s other accounts in all such opportunities. Ellington’s investment and risk management committee and its compliance committee (headed by its Chief Compliance Officer) are responsible for monitoring the administration of, and facilitating compliance with, Ellington’s investment allocation procedures and policies.

Because many of our targeted assets are typically available only in specified quantities and because many of our targeted assets are also targeted assets for other Ellington accounts, Ellington often is not able to buy as much of any given asset as required to satisfy the needs of all its accounts. In these cases, Ellington’s investment allocation procedures and policies typically allocate such assets to multiple accounts in proportion to their needs and available capital. As a result, accounts in start-up mode are given priority. The policies permit departure from such proportional allocation when such allocation would result in an inefficiently small amount of the security being purchased for an account. In that case, the policy allows for a protocol of allocating assets so that, on an overall basis, each account is treated equitably.

 

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Other policies of Ellington that our Manager will apply to the management of our company include controls for:

 

   

Cross Transactions—defined as transactions between us or one of our subsidiaries, on the one hand, and an account (other than us or one of our subsidiaries) managed by Ellington or our Manager, on the other hand. It is Ellington’s policy to engage in a cross transaction only when the transaction is in the best interests of, and is consistent with the objectives and policies of, both accounts involved in the transaction. Ellington or our Manager may enter into cross transactions where it acts both on our behalf and on behalf of the other party to the transaction. Upon written notice to our Manager, we may at any time revoke our consent to our Manager’s executing cross transactions. Additionally, unless approved in advance by a majority of our independent directors or pursuant to and in accordance with a policy that has been approved by a majority of our independent directors, all cross transactions must be effected at the then-prevailing market prices. Pursuant to our Manager’s current policies and procedures, assets for which there are no readily observable market prices may be purchased or sold in cross transactions (i) at prices based upon third party bids received through auction, (ii) at the average of the highest bid and lowest offer quoted by third party dealers, or (iii) according to another pricing methodology approved by our Manager’s chief compliance officer.

 

   

Principal Transactions—defined as transactions between Ellington or our Manager (or any related party of Ellington or our Manager, which includes employees of Ellington and our Manager and their families), on the one hand, and us or one of our subsidiaries, on the other hand. Certain cross transactions may also be considered principal transactions whenever our Manager, Ellington (or any related party of Ellington or our Manager, which includes employees of Ellington and our Manager and their families) have a substantial ownership interest in one of the transacting parties. Our Manager is only authorized to execute principal transactions with the prior approval of a majority of our independent directors and in accordance with applicable law. Such prior approval includes approval of the pricing methodology to be used, including with respect to assets for which there are no readily observable market prices.

 

   

Investment in other Ellington accounts—pursuant to our management agreement, although we have not done so to date, if we invest at issuance in the equity of any CDO that is managed, structured or originated by Ellington or one of its affiliates, or if we invest in any other investment fund or other investment for which Ellington or one of its affiliates receives management, origination or structuring fees, the base management and incentive fees payable by us to our Manager will be reduced by an amount equal to the applicable portion (as described in the management agreement) of any related management fees, origination fees or structuring fees payable to our Manager.

 

   

Split price executions—pursuant to our management agreement, our Manager is authorized to combine purchase or sale orders on our behalf together with orders for other accounts managed by Ellington, our Manager or their affiliates and allocate the securities or other assets so purchased or sold, on an average price basis or other fair and consistent basis, among such accounts.

To date, we have not entered into any cross transactions with other Ellington-managed accounts, principal transactions with Ellington or invested in other Ellington accounts.

Our Manager is authorized to follow very broad investment guidelines. Our independent directors will periodically review our investment guidelines and our portfolio. However, our independent directors generally will not review our proposed asset acquisitions, dispositions or other management decisions. In addition, in conducting periodic reviews, the independent directors will rely primarily on information provided to them by our Manager. Furthermore, our Manager may arrange for us to use complex strategies or to enter into complex transactions that may be difficult or impossible to unwind by the time they are reviewed by our board of directors. Our Manager has great latitude within our broad investment guidelines to determine the types of assets it may decide are proper for purchase by us. The management agreement with our Manager does not restrict the ability of its officers and employees from engaging in other business ventures of any nature, whether or not such

 

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ventures are competitive with our business. We may acquire assets from entities affiliated with our Manager, even where the assets were originated by such entities. Affiliates of our Manager may also provide services to entities in which we have invested.

Our executive officers and the officers and employees of our Manager are also officers and employees of Ellington, and, with the exception of those officers that are dedicated to us, we compete with other Ellington accounts for access to these individuals. We have not adopted a policy that expressly prohibits our directors, officers, security holders or affiliates from having a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any asset to be acquired or disposed of by us or any of our subsidiaries or in any transaction to which we or any of our subsidiaries is a party or has an interest, nor do we have a policy that expressly prohibits any such persons from engaging for their own account in business activities of the types conducted by us. However, our code of business conduct and ethics contains a conflicts of interest policy that prohibits our directors, officers and employees, as well as employees of our Manager who provide services to us, from engaging in any transaction that involves an actual or apparent conflict of interest with us, absent approval by the board of directors or except as expressly set forth above or as provided in the management agreement between us and our Manager. In addition, nothing in the management agreement binds or restricts our Manager or any of its affiliates, officers or employees from buying, selling or trading any securities or commodities for their own accounts or for the accounts of others for whom our Manager or any of its affiliates, officers or employees may be acting.

Policies with Respect to Certain Other Activities

If our board of directors determines that additional funding is required, we may raise such funds through additional offerings of equity or debt securities, the retention of cash flow and other funds from debt financing, including reverse repos, or a combination of these methods. In the event that our board of directors determines to raise additional equity capital, it has the authority, without shareholder approval, to issue additional common shares or preferred shares in any manner and on such terms and for such consideration as it deems appropriate, at any time.

We have not in the past, but may in the future, offer equity or debt securities in exchange for assets.

We have not invested in the past in the securities of other issuers for the purpose of exercising control over such entities, but we may do so in the future.

We engage in the purchase and sale of assets. We have in limited circumstances in the past, and may in the future, make loans to third parties. We have not in the past and will not in the future underwrite the securities of other issuers.

We have furnished and intend to continue to furnish our shareholders with annual reports containing consolidated financial statements audited by our independent certified public accountants and with quarterly reports containing unaudited consolidated financial statements for each of the first three quarters of each fiscal year.

Our board of directors may change any of these policies without prior notice to you or a vote of our shareholders.

Competition

In acquiring our assets, we compete with mortgage REITs, specialty finance companies, savings and loan associations, banks, mortgage bankers, insurance companies, mutual funds, institutional investors, investment banking firms, financial institutions, governmental bodies and other entities. Many of our competitors are significantly larger than us, have greater access to capital and other resources and may have other advantages over us. In addition to existing companies, other companies may be organized for similar purposes, including companies focused on purchasing mortgage assets. A proliferation of such companies may increase the competition for equity capital and thereby adversely affect the market value of our common shares. In addition,

 

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some of our competitors may have higher risk tolerances or different risk assessments, which could allow them to consider a wider variety of assets and establish more relationships than us.

Additionally, we may also compete with (i) the Federal Reserve and the Treasury to the extent they purchase assets meeting our objectives pursuant to various purchase programs and (ii) companies that partner with and/or receive financing from the Federal Government, including TALF and PPIP participants. See “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Trends and Recent Market Developments.”

In the face of this competition, we have access to our Manager’s and Ellington’s professionals and their industry expertise, which may provide us with a competitive advantage and help us assess risks and determine appropriate pricing for certain potential assets. In addition, we believe that these relationships enable us to compete more effectively for attractive asset acquisition opportunities. However, we may not be able to achieve our business goals or expectations due to the competitive risks that we face.

Operating and Regulatory Structure

Tax Requirements

We believe that we have been organized and have operated so that we have qualified, and will continue to qualify, to be treated for U.S. federal income tax purposes as a partnership and not as an association or a publicly traded partnership taxable as a corporation. In general, an entity that is treated as a partnership for U.S. federal income tax purposes is not subject to U.S. federal income tax at the entity level. Consequently, as a holder of our common shares, you will be required to take into account your allocable share of items of our income, gain, loss, deduction and credit for our taxable year ending within or with your taxable year, regardless of whether we make cash distributions on a current basis with which to pay any resulting tax. We believe that we are treated, and will continue to be treated, as a publicly traded partnership. Publicly traded partnerships are generally treated as partnerships for U.S. federal income tax purposes as long as they satisfy certain income and other tests on an ongoing basis. We believe that we have satisfied and will continue to satisfy those requirements and that we have been and will continue to be treated as a partnership for U.S. federal income tax purposes. See “Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations.”

Investment Company Act Exclusions

Most of our business is conducted through various wholly-owned and majority-owned subsidiaries in a manner such that neither we nor our subsidiaries are subject to regulation under the Investment Company Act. Under Section 3(a)(1) of the Investment Company Act, a company is deemed to be an “investment company” if:

 

   

it is, or holds itself out as being, engaged primarily, or proposes to engage primarily, in the business of investing, reinvesting or trading in securities (Section 3(a)(1)(A)); or

 

   

it is engaged or proposes to engage in the business of investing, reinvesting, owning, holding or trading in securities and does own or proposes to acquire “investment securities” having a value exceeding 40% of the value of its total assets (excluding U.S. Government securities and cash) on an unconsolidated basis, or the 40% Test. “Investment securities” excludes U.S. Government securities and securities of majority-owned subsidiaries that are not themselves investment companies and are not relying on the exception from the definition of investment company for private funds under Section 3(c)(1) or Section 3(c)(7) of the Investment Company Act.

We believe we will not be considered an investment company under Section 3(a)(1)(A) of the Investment Company Act because we will not engage primarily or hold ourself out as being engaged primarily in the business of investing, reinvesting or trading in securities. Rather, through wholly-owned or majority-owned subsidiaries, we will be primarily engaged in the non-investment company businesses of these subsidiaries.

 

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The 40% Test limits the types of businesses in which we may engage either directly or through our subsidiaries. Our wholly-owned subsidiary, EF Mortgage LLC, relies on the exclusion provided by Section 3(c)(5)(C) under the Investment Company Act. It, in turn, has a wholly-owned subsidiary, EF CMO LLC, which invests in mortgage-related securities and relies on Section 3(c)(7) of the Investment Company Act. EF Mortgage LLC treats its investment in EF CMO LLC as a real estate-related asset for purposes of its own exclusion under Section 3(c)(5)(C). Our other wholly-owned subsidiary, EF Securities LLC, owns securities, including various kinds of mortgage-related securities and relies on the exemption provided by Section 3(c)(7) of the Investment Company Act; therefore, we treat securities that we own and that were issued by EF Securities LLC as “investment securities” and are required to keep the value of these securities, together with any other investment securities we own, below 40% of our total assets (excluding U.S. Government securities and cash) on an unconsolidated basis. Any subsidiaries we may form in the future may not be majority-owned or wholly-owned by us or might rely on the exemption provided by Section 3(c)(1) or 3(c)(7) of the Investment Company Act, in which case we would treat securities that we own and that were issued by these types of subsidiaries as “investment securities” and be required to keep the value of these securities, together with the value of our investment in EF Securities LLC and any other investment securities we own, below 40% of our total assets (excluding U.S. Government securities and cash) on an unconsolidated basis.

Section 3(c)(5)(C), the Investment Company Act exclusion upon which EF Mortgage LLC relies, is designed for entities “primarily engaged in the business of purchasing or otherwise acquiring mortgages and other liens on and interests in real estate.” This exclusion generally requires that at least 55% of the entity’s assets consist of qualifying real estate assets and at least 80% of the entity’s assets consist of either qualifying real estate assets or real estate-related assets. Qualifying real estate assets for this purpose include mortgage loans, whole pool Agency pass-through certificates and other assets that the SEC staff has determined in various no-action letters are the functional equivalent of mortgage loans for the purposes of the Investment Company Act. We intend to treat as real estate-related assets RMBS that do not satisfy the conditions set forth in those SEC staff no-action letters. In classifying the assets held by EF Mortgage LLC as qualifying real estate assets or real estate-related assets, we also will rely on any other guidance published by the SEC staff or on our analyses (in consultation with outside counsel) of guidance published with respect to other types of assets to determine which assets are qualifying real estate assets and real estate-related assets.

Both the 40% Test and the requirements of the Section 3(c)(5)(C) exclusion limit the types of businesses in which we may engage and the types of assets we may hold, as well as the timing of sales and purchases of assets.

There can be no assurance that the laws and regulations governing the Investment Company Act status of companies similar to ours, or the guidance from the Division of Investment Management of the SEC regarding the treatment of assets as qualifying real estate assets or real estate-related assets, will not change in a manner that adversely affects our operations. To the extent that the SEC staff provides more specific guidance regarding any of the matters bearing upon our exclusion from the need to register under the Investment Company Act, we may be required to adjust our strategy accordingly. Any additional guidance from the SEC staff could provide additional flexibility to us, or it could further inhibit our ability to pursue the strategies that we have chosen. Furthermore, although we intend to monitor the assets of EF Mortgage LLC regularly, there can be no assurance that EF Mortgage LLC will be able to maintain this exclusion from registration. In that case, our investment in EF Mortgage LLC would be classified as an investment security, and we might not be able to maintain our overall exclusion from registering as an investment company under the Investment Company Act.

If we or our subsidiaries were required to register as an investment company under the Investment Company 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 Investment Company Act), and portfolio composition, including restrictions with respect to diversification and industry concentration and other matters. Compliance with the restrictions imposed by the Investment Company Act would require us to make material changes to our strategy which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders. Accordingly, to avoid that result, we may be

 

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required to adjust our strategy, which could limit our ability to make certain investments or require us to sell assets in a manner, at a price or at a time that we otherwise would not have chosen. This could negatively affect the value of our common shares, the sustainability of our business model and our ability to make distributions.

Investment Advisers Act of 1940

Both Ellington and our Manager are registered as investment advisers under the Advisers Act and are subject to the regulatory oversight of the Investment Management Division of the SEC.

Staffing

All of our executive officers, including our dedicated Chief Financial Officer and our dedicated controller, and a dedicated in-house counsel, if our Manager elects to provide such officer, are or will be employees of Ellington or one or more of its affiliates. See “Management—Management Agreement.”

Legal Proceedings

Neither we nor our Manager is currently subject to any legal proceedings that we or our Manager considers to be material. Nevertheless, we, our Manager and Ellington operate in highly regulated markets that currently are under intense regulatory scrutiny, and Ellington and its affiliates have received, and we expect in the future may receive, inquiries and requests for documents and information from various federal, state and foreign regulators. In the past these have included:

In June 2007, Ellington received an informal inquiry from the SEC requesting documents and other information relating to trading in credit default swaps on the ABX indices. Ellington provided documents to the SEC staff in August 2007 and Ellington has had no communication with the SEC on the matter since that time.

In November 2006, Ellington received a request from the SEC that it produce documents relating to trading of collateralized mortgage obligations, or CMOs, between Ellington and a third party broker-dealer as well as individuals associated with that broker-dealer, and Ellington produced documents to the SEC consistent with that request. In July 2007, Ellington received a subpoena from the SEC requesting documents relating to trading in CMOs by these individuals and firms they were affiliated with, including that broker-dealer. Ellington responded to that subpoena in August 2007, and has had no communication with the SEC on the matter since that time. The SEC filed complaints in May 2009 and December 2009 against, respectively, certain former employees of the broker-dealer, and the broker-dealer and its CEO, alleging fraud in their marketing of CMOs to their clients.

In August 2007, Ellington received a subpoena from the New York Attorney General, or the NYAG, requesting documents and other information from Ellington about its and its affiliates’ mortgage loan servicing activities. Ellington informed the NYAG that it did not engage in mortgage loan servicing. Ellington subsequently received subpoenas for documents and information relating to Ellington’s residual or equity interests in mortgage securitization trusts; communications with and information received from mortgage servicers relating to these trusts and their underlying mortgage loans; and trading in bonds of these trusts and related credit default swaps, and for documents and other information relating to communications with and information received from one of its vendors, which had performed asset surveillance for Ellington on these trusts. Ellington completed its response to the NYAG subpoenas in June 2008 and has had no communication with the NYAG since that time.

In March 2008, Ellington received a subpoena from the SEC requesting documents and other information relating primarily to CDOs underwritten during 2007 and 2008 by a particular investment bank and for which Ellington acted as collateral manager. Ellington provided an initial response to the subpoena in April 2008 and finished its production in May 2009. Ellington has had no communication with the SEC on the matter since that time.

 

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In August 2009, Ellington and one of its affiliates received subpoenas from the SEC seeking documents and information regarding certain structuring, sales and marketing practices in the CDO market. The subpoenas seek documents and details regarding CDOs in which Ellington or its affiliates participated during 2006 and 2007. Ellington finished its production in response to the subpoenas in November 2009 and intends to cooperate with any further requests.

Ellington has advised us that, at the present time, it is not aware that any material legal proceeding against Ellington and its affiliates is contemplated in connection with any of the foregoing inquiries or requests; however, Ellington and we cannot provide any assurance that these inquiries and requests will not result in further investigation of or the initiation of a proceeding against Ellington or its affiliates or that, if any such investigation or proceeding were to arise, it would not materially adversely affect our company.

 

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OUR MANAGER

Overview

Our Manager is an affiliate of Ellington. Ellington is a private investment management firm and registered investment advisor specializing in fixed income strategies, with an emphasis on the RMBS market.

Our Manager is responsible for administering our business activities and day-to-day operations and, pursuant to a services agreement between our Manager and Ellington, relies on the resources of Ellington to support our operations. Ellington has established portfolio management resources for each of our targeted asset classes and an established infrastructure supporting those resources. Through our relationship with our Manager, we benefit from Ellington’s highly analytical investment process, broad-based deal flow, extensive relationships in the financial community, financial and capital structuring skills, investment surveillance database, and operational expertise. Ellington’s analytic approach to the investment process involves collection of substantial amounts of data regarding historical performance of MBS collateral and MBS market transactions. Ellington analyzes this data to identify possible trends and develops financial models used to support the investment and risk management process. In addition, throughout Ellington’s 15-year history of investing in MBS and related derivatives it has developed strong relationships with a wide range of dealers and other market participants that provide Ellington access to a broad range of trading opportunities and market information. In addition, our Manager provides us with access to a wide variety of asset acquisition and disposition opportunities and information that assists us in making asset management decisions across our targeted asset classes, which we believe provides us with a significant competitive advantage. We also benefit from Ellington’s finance, accounting, operational, legal, compliance and administrative functions.

As of December 31, 2009, Ellington employed over 100 employees, and, including our company, various hedge funds, and various private accounts, had net assets under management of approximately $3.0 billion. In addition, Ellington, through its affiliates, manages CDOs collateralized by MBS or ABS, as well as a traditional managed account.

Throughout its 15-year history, Ellington has participated in virtually all sectors of the MBS and ABS markets. Early on in its history, Ellington invested primarily in CMO prepayment and interest rate derivatives such as IOs, IIOs, POs and inverse floaters. Since then, Ellington has dramatically broadened its investment scope and strategies to include a wide spectrum of asset-backed sectors, including RMBS and CMBS, and, within RMBS:

 

   

RMBS representing all parts of the credit spectrum, from AAA securities down to unrated, first-loss securities;

 

   

RMBS backed by fixed rate mortgages, ARMs and hybrid ARMs indexed to a wide variety of indices;

 

   

Agency RMBS and non-Agency RMBS backed by prime jumbo, Alt-A and subprime mortgage loans; and

 

   

credit default swaps on debt tranches of RMBS.

Ellington has extensive experience in, and actively seeks investment opportunities in, all of these sectors. By establishing and maintaining expertise in a wide variety of MBS sectors, Ellington believes that it can identify those sectors in which the greatest opportunities exists, and therefore be able to adapt and rotate its strategies over time to produce more consistent performance across market cycles.

Ellington’s investment strategies, which we believe are applicable to us, rely on two key components:

 

   

the ability to identify and purchase securities that are either fundamentally undervalued or provide relative value versus other fixed income instruments; and

 

   

an intensive analytical approach to risk management.

 

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Our Manager has an investment and risk management committee that advises and consults with our senior management team with respect to, among other things, our investment policies, portfolio holdings, financing and hedging strategies and investment guidelines. The members of the investment and risk management committee include Messrs. Vranos, Penn, Tecotzky and Bothwell.

Our Manager’s and Ellington’s Employees

Through 15 years of operational experience as an investment advisor, Ellington has built significant portfolio management and infrastructure resources to support its numerous funds and large asset base. Therefore, we believe that Ellington’s portfolio management resources and infrastructure are scalable to service our activities.

Ellington’s 14 principals have an average of over 20 years of industry experience; its Chief Executive Officer and three Vice Chairmen have an average of over 24 years of industry experience. One of the strengths of the Ellington portfolio management team is the strength of its senior management team; summary biographies of certain of these individuals are as follows:

 

Name/position at Ellington

   Age   

Background summary

Michael W. Vranos

Founder & Chief Executive

Officer

   48    Mr. Vranos is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ellington. Mr. Vranos is also the Chief Executive Officer and President of our Manager and serves on our Manager’s investment and risk management committee. Mr. Vranos has been our Co-Chief Investment Officer since June 2009. Mr. Vranos has served as a member of our board of directors since August 2007, and from August 2007 until October 2009 Mr. Vranos served as our Chairman. Mr. Vranos founded Ellington in December of 1994 to capitalize on distressed conditions in the MBS derivatives market. Until December 1994, Mr. Vranos was a Senior Managing Director at Kidder Peabody in charge of RMBS trading. Mr. Vranos graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in Mathematics from Harvard University.

Laurence Penn

Vice Chairman

   48    Mr. Penn is a Vice Chairman of Ellington, where he helps oversee many functions of the firm, including trading, risk management, and new business. Mr. Penn is also the Executive Vice President of our Manager and serves on our Manager’s investment and risk management committee. Mr. Penn has been our Chief Executive Officer and has served as a member of our board of directors since August 2007. In Ellington’s earlier years, Mr. Penn was the senior portfolio manager primarily responsible for investments in Agency RMBS and was also responsible for monitoring and updating the risk measures associated with all MBS assets in the funds. Prior to joining Ellington in 1995 shortly after its inception, Mr. Penn was at Lehman Brothers where he was a Managing Director and co-head of CMO origination and trading. Mr. Penn specialized in the trading and risk-management of CMO derivatives. Prior to trading CMOs and CMO derivatives, Mr. Penn was in charge of Lehman Brothers’ structured transaction modeling group from 1987 to 1990, where he was responsible for the structuring, modeling and computer system design for MBS and ABS. Mr. Penn began his career at Lehman Brothers in 1984, after receiving a Certificate of Advance Study in Mathematics from Cambridge University, where he studied as both a National Science Foundation and Winston Churchill Fellow. Mr. Penn graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in Mathematics from Harvard University.

 

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Name/position at Ellington

   Age   

Background summary

Richard Brounstein

Vice Chairman

   49    Mr. Brounstein is a Vice Chairman and the Director of Investor Relations at Ellington. Prior to joining Ellington in 2000, Mr. Brounstein was the Managing Director responsible for the Fixed Income Securities division at Société Générale Securities Corporation, later renamed S.G. Cowen Securities Corporation. In this capacity, Mr. Brounstein was responsible for supervising all aspects of risk management, market making, proprietary trading, distribution and finance related activities. In addition to his direct responsibilities for the Fixed Income Division, Mr. Brounstein was a member of the Risk Management committee at Société Générale Securities Corporation. Prior to joining Société Générale Securities Corporation, Mr. Brounstein was the Managing Director responsible for the Mortgage-Backed Securities Division at the Union Bank of Switzerland. Later he was given responsibilities for the supervision of distribution/placement of all Fixed Income Securities. Prior to joining the Union Bank of Switzerland, Mr. Brounstein worked with Messrs. Vranos and other Ellington employees at Kidder Peabody. Mr. Brounstein received a M.A. from Columbia University and a B.A. from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Eric Bothwell

Managing Director

   41    Mr. Bothwell is a Managing Director of Ellington. Mr. Bothwell is also the Chief Operating Officer and Secretary of our Manager and serves on our Manager’s investment and risk management committee. Mr. Bothwell has been our Chief Operating Officer since July 2008 and our Secretary since February 2010. Mr. Bothwell joined Ellington in June 2006. Prior to Ellington, Mr. Bothwell was a Vice President on the CDO team at Goldman, Sachs & Co., or Goldman. After joining Goldman in July 1997, Mr. Bothwell was one of the founding members of Goldman’s CDO business and at the time of his departure in January 2006 was co-head of the business, specifically focusing on the collateralized loan obligation market. Prior to Goldman, Mr. Bothwell was an associate in the New York office of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, focusing on securitization, credit derivatives and CDOs. Mr. Bothwell received his B.S. in Business Administration from Pacific Union College and his J.D. from Columbia University.

John Geanakoplos

Managing Director

   54    Professor Geanakoplos is a Managing Director at Ellington, where he is the Head of Research and Development and is responsible for the design of computer models to evaluate and hedge the firm’s portfolio. Professor Geanakoplos is largely responsible for the theoretical framework of Ellington’s proprietary prepayment model and interest rate model. From 1992 until joining Ellington in 1995, Professor Geanakoplos was a Managing Director of Kidder Peabody, where he was head of the Fixed Income Research Department. In this capacity, he led the design of the firm’s proprietary MBS analytical systems. He became a full Professor at Yale University in 1986, at the age of 30, and is currently the James Tobin Professor of Economics and Director of the Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics. He was elected a fellow of the Econometric Society in 1990 and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999. He was awarded the Samuelson Prize in 1999, and was awarded the first Bodossaki Prize in economics in 1995. In 1990 and again in 2000, he directed the economics program at the Santa Fe Institute, where he remains an external professor. Professor Geanakoplos graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in Mathematics from Yale University and received a M.A. in Mathematics and a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University.

 

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Name/position at Ellington

   Age   

Background summary

Robert Kinderman

Managing Director

   33    Mr. Kinderman is a Managing Director at Ellington where he is responsible for trading credit-sensitive securities, including CMBS, ABS, and subordinated RMBS. Mr. Kinderman also serves on our Manager’s investment and risk management committee. He started full-time with Ellington in 1998, developing credit models as well as pieces of Ellington’s proprietary portfolio management systems, and is currently the head trader for all credit-sensitive mortgage-backed and asset-backed investments at Ellington. He also helps direct the development of research, modeling and systems for credit-sensitive products. Mr. Kinderman earned a B.A. from Yale with distinction in Economics and in Mathematics.

Thomas Larkin

Chief Operating Officer &

Managing Director

   45    Mr. Larkin is the Chief Operating Officer of Ellington, where he oversees most of the operational and financial functions of the firm. He has over 20 years of experience in the investment management industry with a primary focus in hedge funds and private equity funds. From 1997 until joining Ellington in 2004, Mr. Larkin served as Chief Financial Officer of Resurgence Asset Management, or Resurgence, a SEC-registered investment advisory firm specializing in securities of financially distressed companies. At Resurgence, Mr. Larkin oversaw accounting, reporting, taxation, operations, human resources and information systems. Prior to joining Resurgence, he was the Controller of Concord International Investments Group, a multinational investment management firm. Mr. Larkin started his career at Ernst & Young, where he provided auditing and consulting services to companies in a variety of industries, including private investment funds, commodity trading advisors, mutual funds, and oil and gas concerns. Mr. Larkin received a B.S. in Accounting from Boston College. He became a CPA in 1989.

Vassilios Nikos Nicopoulos

Managing Director

   48    Mr. Nicopoulos is a Managing Director at Ellington and is responsible for the mathematical modeling and computer implementation of Ellington’s interest rate and hedging models, and their use in valuing, hedging and managing the risk of MBS. Mr. Nicopoulos joined Ellington from Oxford University in England, where he was an Assistant Professor in Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics. His work focused on the complex behavior of interacting electronic systems. He has had extensive experience in the simulation and analysis of complex stochastic systems on workstations and supercomputers and has built an international reputation for research relevant to real-world physics problems. Mr. Nicopoulos graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in Physics from Harvard University, and also holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Theoretical Physics from Princeton University. Prior to his position at Oxford, he was a researcher and consultant at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

 

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Name/position at Ellington

   Age   

Background summary

David Rice

Chief Compliance Officer

   40    Mr. Rice is Ellington’s Chief Compliance Officer and chairs the firm’s Compliance Committee. He is responsible for implementation of Ellington’s compliance program. Prior to joining Ellington, he served as Associate General Counsel, Compliance at GSC Group. From 2002-2007 he served in the Division of Enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C., where he worked on investigations involving hedge funds, broker-dealers, investment companies, and public and private companies. He has a J.D. from Yale Law School, a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Irvine, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude, with a B.A. in English and Philosophy from the University of Southern California.

Mark Tecotzky

Managing Director

   48    Mr. Tecotzky is a Managing Director of Ellington, and head manager for all MBS/ABS credit, reporting directly to Mr. Vranos. Mr. Tecotzky also serves as the Chief Investment Officer of Ellington Global Asset Management LLC and our Manager and serves on our Manager’s investment and risk management committee. Mr. Tecotzky has been our Co-Chief Investment Officer since March 2008. Prior to joining Ellington in July 2006, Mr. Tecotzky was the senior trader in the mortgage department at Credit Suisse. He developed and launched several of its securitization vehicles, including hybrid ARMs and second liens, and subsequently ran its hybrid ARM business, including conduit pricing, servicing sales, monthly securitization, trading of Agency/non-Agency hybrids of all ratings categories and managing and hedging the residual portfolio. Prior to joining Credit Suisse, Mr. Tecotzky worked with Mr. Vranos and many of the other Ellington principals at Kidder Peabody, where he traded Agency and non-Agency pass-throughs and structured CMOs as a Managing Director. Mr. Tecotzky holds a B.S. from Yale University, and received a National Science Foundation fellowship to study at MIT.

Lisa Mumford

Chief Financial Officer of the Company

   46    Ms. Mumford has served as the Chief Financial Officer of our Manager and as our Chief Financial Officer since October 2009. Prior to joining our Manager, and since August 2008, Ms. Mumford was Chief Financial Officer of ACA Financial Guaranty Corporation, or ACA FG, where she oversaw all aspects of the finance and accounting operations. Prior to August 2008, ACA FG was an operating subsidiary of ACA Capital Holdings, Inc., or ACA, and from 2003 until this period, Ms. Mumford served as the Chief Accounting Officer. While at ACA, Ms. Mumford oversaw all aspects of the accounting, internal control, and financial reporting process. Prior to joining ACA, and beginning in 1988, Ms. Mumford was with ACE Guaranty Corp., where over her tenure, she held the positions of Chief Financial Officer and Controller. She began her career as a staff accountant with Coopers & Lybrand in 1984, culminating in the role of Audit Supervisor at the time of her departure in 1988. Ms. Mumford is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and holds a B.B.A. in Accounting from Hofstra University.

 

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MANAGEMENT

Directors and Executive Officers

Our board of directors consists of five directors. Of these five directors, three are considered independent in accordance with the requirements of the New York Stock Exchange, Inc., or NYSE. See “—Corporate Governance—Board of Directors and Committees.”

Each member of our board of directors serves for a one-year term expiring in May 2010. All of our executive officers, including our dedicated Chief Financial Officer, dedicated controller and, if provided by our Manager, dedicated in-house counsel are or will be employees of Ellington or one or more of its affiliates. The following table sets forth certain information about our directors and executive officers.

 

Name

   Age   

Position With Us

Michael W. Vranos

   48   

Co-Chief Investment Officer and Director

Laurence Penn

   48    Chief Executive Officer, President and Director

Eric Bothwell

   41    Chief Operating Officer and Secretary

Lisa Mumford

   46    Chief Financial Officer

Mark Tecotzky

   48    Co-Chief Investment Officer

Edward Resendez

   53    Director*

Thomas F. Robards

   63    Chairman of the Board of Directors*

Ronald I. Simon, Ph.D.

   71    Director*

 

*   Independent director

For biographical information relating to our executive officers, see “Our Manager—Our Manager’s and Ellington’s Employees.” Information for each of our directors is set forth below.

Edward Resendez—Mr. Resendez has served as a member of our board of directors since August 2007. From 2007 to September 2009 Mr. Resendez was Senior Vice President-Chief Lending Officer of Kinecta Federal Credit Union and President of Kinecta Alternative Financial Solutions, Inc. From 2002 to 2007 Mr. Resendez was Chief Executive Officer, Board Member and Co-Founder of ResMAE Financial Corporation and its wholly-owned subsidiary ResMAE Mortgage Corporation, or ResMAE. In February 2007, ResMAE filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware. From 1995 through 2000, Mr. Resendez was the President of Long Beach Mortgage Company. During that timeframe he was also appointed as President and a Management Member of the board of directors for both Long Beach Financial Corporation, when that company went public in 1997 (formerly NASDAQ symbol: LBFC), and its wholly-owned operating subsidiary, Long Beach Mortgage Company, a subprime mortgage company, or, collectively with Long Beach Financial Corporation, Long Beach. Long Beach was an originator, purchaser, seller and servicer of subprime mortgages. From 1987 to 1995, Mr. Resendez held various management positions at Long Beach, including Executive Vice President—Loan Administration, First Vice President—Risk Management, Vice President—REO Loan Servicing, and Vice President—Retail Origination. Prior to joining Long Beach in 1987, Mr. Resendez held several managerial positions with Transamerica Financial Services from 1977 to 1987. Mr. Resendez earned a B.B.A. from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles in 1978, and is a licensed real estate broker in California.

Thomas F. Robards—Mr. Robards has served as a member of our board of directors since August 2007 and as our Chairman since October 2009. Mr. Robards is a principal in Robards & Co, LLC, a private investment and advisory company. He currently serves as a Trustee and is Audit Committee Chair for the HSBC Investor Funds, a mutual fund complex. He is a Director and is Audit Committee Chair of Overseas Shipholding Group, Inc., and until December of 2006 was a Director and on the Audit Committee of Financial Federal Corporation, both NYSE-listed companies. From 2003 to 2004, he was the Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the

 

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American Museum of Natural History in New York, New York. He was the Chief Financial Officer for Datek Online Holding Corporation from 2000 until its acquisition by Ameritrade in 2002. Prior to that, Mr. Robards was employed at Republic New York Corporation for 24 years, including as Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President, and from 1997-1999 served on its board of directors. During his tenure his responsibilities at Republic included leading its Asset/Liability and Finance Committees as well as managing Republic National Bank treasury and investment portfolio activities. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees and is Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Big Apple Circus. Mr. Robards earned his B.A. from Brown University and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

Ronald I. Simon, Ph.D.—Dr. Simon has served as a member of our board of directors since August 2007. Dr. Simon is a private investor and financial consultant to businesses. From March 2003 through February 2006, when it was acquired by Wachovia Corp., Dr. Simon was a Director of WFS Financial Inc., a publicly-traded financial services company specializing in automobile finance. He was a director of Collateral Therapeutics from 1998 until its acquisition by Schering A.G. in 2002. From January 2006 to January 2009, he was a director of Cardium Therapeutics, a company formed to acquire and carry on the research and development of gene therapy to treat heart disease, which was originally developed by Collateral Therapeutics and then continued by Schering. From 1995 through 2002, Dr. Simon was a director of SoftNet Systems, Inc., and since 2002, has been a director of its successor company, American Independence Corp., a holding company engaged principally in the health insurance and reinsurance business. He was a director of BDI Investment Corporation, a closely held regulated investment company, from February 2003 until its liquidation in early 2005, and served as Chief Financial Officer for Wingcast, LLC, a developer of automotive telematics from 2001 to 2002. During 2001, Dr. Simon served as Acting Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer for SoftNet Systems, Inc. He also served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Western Water Company from 1997 to 2000, and a director of Western Water Company from 1999 through 2001. Dr. Simon earned a B.A. from Harvard University, an M.A. from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from Columbia University Graduate School of Business.

Promoters

We consider Mr. Vranos, our Co-Chief Investment Officer, and Mr. Penn, our Chief Executive Officer and President, as our promoters, which means that they have taken initiative in funding and organizing our business.

Corporate Governance—Board of Directors and Committees

Our business is managed through the oversight and direction of our board of directors, which has established investment guidelines for our Manager to follow in its day-to-day management of our business. At least a majority of our board of directors is “independent,” as defined by the rules of the NYSE. Our independent directors are nominated by our nominating and corporate governance committee.

Our board consists of five directors, two of whom are affiliated with our Manager and three of whom are independent directors (Messrs. Resendez, Robards and Simon). The directors are informed about our business at meetings of our board and its committees and through supplemental reports and communications. Our independent directors meet regularly in executive sessions without the presence of our corporate officers.

Our board has established three committees consisting solely of independent directors, the principal functions of which are briefly described below. Matters put to a vote at any one of our three committees must be approved by a majority of the directors on the committee who are present at a meeting at which there is a quorum or by unanimous written consent of the directors on that committee.

 

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Audit Committee

Our board of directors has established an audit committee, which is composed of Messrs. Robards, Simon and Resendez. Mr. Robards chairs the committee. Our audit committee assists the board in overseeing (i) our accounting and financial reporting processes; (ii) the integrity and audits of our consolidated financial statements; (iii) our compliance with legal and regulatory requirements; (iv) the qualifications and independence of our independent auditors; (v) the performance of our independent auditors; and (vi) the performance of the Company’s internal audit function.

Compensation Committee

Our board of directors has established a compensation committee, which is composed of Messrs. Resendez, Robards and Simon. Mr. Resendez chairs the committee. The compensation committee’s principal functions are to (i) evaluate the performance of our officers, (ii) review the compensation payable to our dedicated Chief Financial Officer, dedicated controller and, if provided by our Manager, dedicated in-house counsel, (iii) evaluate the performance of our Manager, (iv) review the compensation and fees payable to our Manager under our management agreement and (v) administer the issuance of any LTIP units and other share-based awards issued to our officers, our Manager or the employees of our Manager who provide services to us.

Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee

Our board of directors has established nominating and corporate governance committee, which is comprised of Messrs. Simon, Robards and Resendez. Mr. Simon chairs the committee. The nominating and corporate governance committee is responsible for seeking, considering and recommending to the board qualified candidates for election as directors and recommending a slate of nominees for election as directors at the annual meeting. It also periodically prepares and submits to the board for adoption the committee’s selection criteria for director nominees. It reviews and makes recommendations on matters involving general operation of the board and our corporate governance, and annually recommends to the board nominees for each committee of the board. In addition, the committee annually facilitates the assessment of the board of directors’ performance as a whole and of the individual directors and reports thereon to the board.

Compensation Committee Interlocks and Insider Participation

None of the members of our compensation committee is or has been employed by us. None of our executive officers currently serves, or in the past three years has served, as a member of the board of directors or compensation committee of another entity that has one or more executive officers serving on our board of directors or compensation committee.

Compensation of Directors

Any member of our board of directors who is also an employee of our Manager or Ellington or their respective affiliates does not receive additional compensation for serving on our board of directors. Each independent director currently receives an annual cash retainer of $40,000 and a fee of $1,000 for each board and committee meeting attended ($500 if the meeting is attended telephonically). The chairman of each of our board of directors, the audit committee, the compensation committee and the nominating and corporate governance committee also receives an additional annual cash retainer of $25,000, $15,000, $7,500 and $7,500, respectively. We also reimburse our directors for their travel expenses incurred in connection with their attendance at full board and committee meetings.

Our independent directors currently receive annual awards of 1,250 LTIP units and are eligible to receive LTIP units and other share-based awards under our individual incentive plan. On October 1, 2009, we granted 1,250 LTIP units to each of our independent directors in connection with the 2009 annual award of LTIP units to our independent directors. See “—2007 Long-Term Incentive Plans.”

 

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Compensation of Our Directors in 2009

The table below describes the compensation earned by our independent directors in 2009. We compensated only those directors who are independent under the NYSE listing standards.

 

Name

   Fees Earned
or Paid in
Cash
   Share-
Based
Awards(1)
    All other
Compensation
   Total
Compensation

Thomas F. Robards

   $ 65,000    $ 31,163 (2)    —      $ 96,163

Ronald I. Simon

   $ 57,500    $ 31,163 (3)    —      $ 88,663

Edward Resendez

   $ 57,500    $ 31,163 (4)    —      $ 88,663

 

(1)   All share-based awards were granted pursuant to the Ellington Incentive Plan for Individuals.
(2)   Mr. Robards received 1,250 LTIP units with a grant date fair value of $31,163. These LTIP units were granted on October 1, 2009, and will vest on October 1, 2010. As of December 31, 2009, Mr. Robards had outstanding an aggregate of 2,500 LTIP units.
(3)   Mr. Simon received 1,250 LTIP units with a grant date fair value of $31,163. These LTIP units were granted on October 1, 2009, and will vest on October 1, 2010. As of December 31, 2009, Mr. Simon had outstanding an aggregate of 1,250 LTIP units.
(4)   Mr. Resendez received 1,250 LTIP units with a grant date fair value of $31,163. These LTIP units were granted on October 1, 2009, and will vest on October 1, 2010. As of December 31, 2009, Mr. Resendez had outstanding an aggregate of 3,750 LTIP units.

Executive Compensation

We do not pay any annual cash compensation to our executive officers, although we are required to reimburse the costs of the wages, salaries and benefits incurred by our Manager or Ellington with respect to our dedicated Chief Financial Officer, our dedicated controller and, if provided by our Manager, our dedicated in-house counsel, subject to the approval of these reimbursements by the compensation committee of our board of directors. Our Manager currently provides us with a dedicated Chief Financial Officer and a dedicated controller. The annual base salary of our dedicated Chief Financial Officer is $250,000. Her cash bonus for 2009 was $85,000. For calendar year 2010 and thereafter, she is eligible to receive an annual bonus at the discretion of and in an amount determined by our compensation committee. It is our understanding that the compensation paid to our executive officers by our Manager or Ellington, other than to our dedicated Chief Financial Officer, our dedicated controller and, if provided by our Manager, our dedicated in-house counsel, is not allocated in a manner that would allow us to determine that portion of their compensation that is related to the services performed for us and that portion that is related to services performed for other entities.

2007 Long-Term Incentive Plans

In connection with our August 2007 private offering, our board adopted the Ellington Incentive Plan for Individuals, or the individual incentive plan, and the Ellington Incentive Plan for Entities, or the entity incentive plan, referred to collectively in this prospectus as the incentive plans, to provide incentives to attract and retain the highest qualified directors, officers, employees, advisors, consultants and other personnel. Our Manager’s directors, officers, employees and affiliates who provide services to us and our officers, directors, employees, consultants and advisors who are natural persons are eligible to receive awards under the individual incentive plan. Our Manager, consultants and advisors who are not natural persons are eligible to receive awards under the entity incentive plan.

The incentive plans are administered by our compensation committee. The incentive plans each have a term of ten years from the date of adoption.

Currently, under the incentive plans, a combined total of 363,750 LTIP units remain available for issuance. Upon vesting, LTIP units are transferable on a one-for-one basis into common shares. In each subsequent calendar year, the maximum limit on the number of common shares and LTIP units issuable under both incentive plans shall increase by an amount equal to six percent (6%) of the difference, if any (but not less than zero) between (i) the number of common shares that are outstanding as of the last day of such calendar year and (ii) the

 

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number of common shares that are outstanding as of the last day of the immediately preceding calendar year. The individual incentive plan requires that of the number of common shares and LTIP units available for awards under both plans, 62,500 common shares be reserved for awards to be made to our independent directors. As of December 31, 2009, 11,250 LTIP units had been issued to our independent directors. In no event shall the number of common shares and LTIP units issued pursuant to both incentive plans exceed 10,000,000. In the event that an award expires, or is forfeited, cancelled or otherwise terminates without the issuance of shares, such common shares subject to such award will again be available for subsequent awards, except as prohibited by law. In addition, common shares that we withhold in satisfaction of the holder’s obligation to remit an exercise price or withholding taxes will be available for future awards.

Upon the occurrence of any event that affects our common shares in such a way that an adjustment of outstanding awards is appropriate in order to prevent the dilution or enlargement of rights under the awards (including, without limitation, any extraordinary dividend or other distribution (whether in cash or in kind), recapitalization, stock split, reverse split, reorganization, merger, consolidation, spin-off, combination, repurchase, or share exchange, or other similar corporate transaction or event), the compensation committee shall make appropriate equitable adjustments, which may include, without limitation, adjustments to any or all of the number and kind of common shares (or other securities) which may thereafter be issued in connection with such outstanding awards and adjustments to any exercise price specified in the outstanding awards and shall also make appropriate equitable adjustments to the number and kind of common shares (or other securities) authorized by or to be granted under the incentive plans. Such other substitutions or adjustments shall be made respecting awards granted under the incentive plans as may be determined by the compensation committee, in its sole discretion. In connection with any event described in this paragraph, the compensation committee may provide, in its discretion, for the cancellation of any outstanding award and payment in cash or other property in exchange therefor, equal to the difference, if any, between the fair market value of our common shares or other property subject to the award, and the exercise price, if any.

The compensation committee has the authority under the incentive plans to determine the terms and conditions of any awards thereunder, including the terms of any LTIP units. In general, LTIP units will comprise a separate class or classes of our limited liability company interests. Each LTIP unit awarded will typically be deemed to be the equivalent of one common share under the incentive plans. In connection with each grant of LTIP units, the compensation committee sets the relevant terms of such grant, including the number, vesting schedule (including any performance-based vesting conditions) and forfeiture provisions, rights to distributions, allocations of income and capital accounts, required capital contributions, if any, voting rights and conversion features, among other things. As equity interests, the LTIP units are also subject to the terms of our operating agreement. LTIP units may be granted either as free-standing awards or in tandem with other awards under our incentive plans.

In addition to LTIP units, the incentive plans also permit awards of restricted common shares. A restricted common share award is an award of our common shares that may be subject to forfeiture (vesting), restrictions on transferability and such other restrictions, if any, as the compensation committee may impose at the date of grant. The restrictions may lapse at such times and under such circumstances, including, without limitation, a specified period of employment or the satisfaction of pre-established criteria, in such installments or otherwise, as our compensation committee may determine. Except to the extent restricted under an award agreement, the holder of a restricted common share has all of the rights of a shareholder, including, without limitation, the right to vote and the right to receive distributions on the restricted common shares. Although distributions are paid on all restricted common shares, whether or not vested, at the same rate and on the same date as common shares, the award agreement may prohibit holders of restricted common shares from transferring such restricted common shares until they vest. All restrictions on restricted common shares granted under the incentive plans will be removed immediately and fully upon a change of control of us.

 

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The compensation committee may also grant share appreciation rights, performance awards and other share and non-share-based awards under the incentive plans. These awards may be subject to such conditions and restrictions as the compensation committee may determine, including, but not limited to, the achievement of certain performance goals or continued employment with us through a specific period.

Generally, holders are not permitted to sell, transfer, pledge or assign any award, and all awards shall be exercisable, during the holder’s lifetime, only by the holder; provided, however, that the compensation committee may, in its sole discretion, provide that certain awards may be transferable subject to certain restrictions.

Our compensation committee may at any time amend, alter, suspend or discontinue the incentive plans, but cannot, without a participant’s consent, take any action that would impair the rights of such participant under any award granted under the plans. To the extent required by law, the compensation committee will obtain approval of the shareholders for any amendment that would:

 

   

increase the total number of common shares reserved for issuance under the incentive plans (other than through adjustment as provided in the incentive plan);

 

   

change the class of eligible participants under the incentive plans; or

 

   

otherwise require such approval.

Outstanding Awards

In connection with our August 2007 private offering, we issued 375,000 LTIP units to our Manager under our entity incentive plan, which are convertible into 375,000 common shares. Currently, 250,000 of these LTIP units have vested. As of December 31, 2009, our independent directors have, in the aggregate, been issued 11,250 LTIP units under our individual incentive plan, 7,500 of which have vested and 3,750 of which have been converted into common shares (excludes 2,500 common shares converted by one of our independent directors in February 2010).

These LTIP units comprise a separate non-voting class of our limited liability company interests. They are structured as profits interests that do not require any capital contribution by the grantee, and, unlike common shares, they initially had no associated capital account. Each of the LTIP units is generally entitled to distributions, and to allocations of our income, in amounts that correspond to distributions and allocations for one common share.

The LTIP units issued to our Manager are subject to forfeiture restrictions that began lapsing in three equal annual installments beginning on the first anniversary of the closing date of our August 2007 private offering, while the LTIP units issued to our independent directors will be subject to forfeiture restrictions that lapse one year after the date of grant. To the extent that distributions are received in respect of an LTIP unit that is subsequently forfeited, the recipient of the distribution will have no obligation to repay us the amount di