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   Chapter 37 COLLATERALS AND SECURITIES

Up To Date Business By Various Characters: 10763

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


TWO DISTINCT CLASSES OF SECURITIES

There are two distinct classes of mortgage securities-one class based upon the actual value and the other upon the earning value of the property. When a man lends money upon a dwelling-house he bases his estimate of security upon (1) the cost of the property, (2) its location, (3) the average value of adjoining properties, and (4) the general character of the locality; that is to say, the value of the property is the basis of the security. On the other hand, the lender of money upon railway mortgages, for instance (that is, the buyer of securities known as railway mortgages), considers the general earnings of the road rather than the cost of building and equipping the road as the correct basis upon which to estimate the value of the security. These two classes of securities differ in other particulars. The value of the mortgage upon ordinary real estate is constant and the security itself is not so likely to change ownership, while the value of the railway mortgage may vary with the success or failure of the road, and the security itself is in the market constantly as a speculative property. The whole property of a railroad company, considered simply as real estate and equipment, is usually worth but a small fraction of the amount for which it is mortgaged. The creditors, as a rule, depend for the security of their money upon the business of the company.

We have already learned that collaterals are mortgages, stocks, bonds, etc., placed temporarily in the hands of lenders as additional security for money borrowed. The student will note, further, that the borrowing value of such securities depends very largely upon the character of the property represented.

MORTGAGES AS SECURITIES

A mortgage is a conveyance of property for the purpose of securing debt, with the condition that if the debt is paid the conveyance is to become void. A mortgage in form is really a deed of the land, with a special clause stating that the grant is not absolute but only for the security of the debt. It is usual for the debtor at the time of executing the mortgage to execute also a bond or promissory note in favour of the creditor for the amount of the debt. This is called a mortgage note. Mortgages are frequently given in cases where there is a debt existing to secure or indemnify the mortgagee against some liability which he may possibly incur on behalf or for the benefit of the mortgagor. For instance, when a man has indorsed another's note for the latter's accommodation or gone on his bond as surety the latter may execute to the former a mortgage of indemnity. The power of a corporation to mortgage its property is usually regulated by its character or by the general law under which it is organised. All mortgages must be recorded in the office of the register of deeds for the county in which the property is located. The object of recording is to give notice of the existence of the mortgage to any one who might wish to purchase the land or to take a mortgage upon it. There may be several mortgages upon the same property. The first mortgagee is entitled to be paid in full first, then the second, and so on. The mortgagee may use his mortgage as security for loans or he may assign it as he pleases. When the requirements of a mortgage are not met the holder has under certain conditions the right to foreclose-that is, to advertise the property for sale and, within a time fixed by law, to sell it to satisfy the mortgage. It is usual for the mortgagor to insure the property for the benefit of the mortgagee.

Although the terms of corporation mortgages are similar to those on real estate such as is represented by dwelling-houses, the commercial conditions make it inconvenient or impossible to foreclose and sell such properties. To stop all business of a railway or to shut down the work of a manufacturing concern would not only result in injury to the public but would reduce largely the earning value of the property. To overcome this difficulty where an active concern is financially embarrassed, the court appoints a receiver, who is responsible for the proper conduct of the business until a satisfactory reorganisation or sale is accomplished.

Mortgages upon improved property, if properly graduated in amount, should be safe and profitable investments. The buyer, however, must exercise great care and good judgment. Should there be collusion between the loaning agent and the land-owner, the money advanced may be largely in excess of the actual property value. Villages with less than a dozen houses are often the sites of investment companies doing business under pretentious names and offering mortgage investments at interest rates which by the local conditions are impossible. One of the devices of these enterprising companies is to offer their own guarantees as to both principal and interest of all mortgages negotiated by them. The investor should be sure of two things: (1) The safety of the principal, and (2) regularity in the payment of the interest. There is great danger of default from causes not anticipated by the mortgagor and over which he has no control.

STOCKS AS SECURITIES

To make a profitable investment in stocks the buyer must anticipate the future. A mill that may be working day and night this year may be obliged to shut down entirely next year. A b

usiness which is open to public competition must take its chances on its future success. The greater the earnings, the more certain the competition. Many corporations owning monopolies by virtue of patent rights have made large fortunes, but there is always the possibility of new discovery. Electricity has succeeded gas; the telephone is competing with the telegraph; the trolley is cutting into the profits of railways. A good thing in stocks to-day does not necessarily mean a good thing next year. Railroad stocks are of such varied character that it is impossible here to make more than general statements. Many of our railroad stocks bring prices far above par and pay liberal interest on investments. Some of them are so profitable that they are really not on the market and cannot easily be bought. Others represent roads loaded down with mortgages and other obligations so heavy as to make the stock really a liability rather than a resource to its owner. The stock quotations represent in a general way the comparative value of these securities. Of recent stock electric-railway stock is the most popular and in many instances the most profitable. The introduction of electric power has reduced the working expense one half and in most instances has doubled the traffic without any reduction in fares. The buyer should make sure that the road is in a busy community able to sustain it, that its franchise will protect it from dangerous competition, and that the securities have been legally issued.

SUBSTITUTION SECURITIES

There have recently been formed several large companies whose business it is to issue bonds on the security of other bonds. The idea is similar to that of real-estate title insurance. Such companies are supposed to have superior facilities for investigating securities. They purchase those which they consider good and at the best prices possible. These they deposit with some trust company or banking institution. With these bonds which they buy as their original property they issue new bonds of their own, which they sell to the public and which they guarantee. The differences in prices and in interest make up their profits.

LOANS AND INVESTMENTS

With the growth of wealth we find increasing numbers of persons who want to invest their means in good securities. To do this successfully and safely is a very difficult question. It is even more difficult to keep money profitably employed than to make it. Changes and innovations are of continual occurrence. Not only are new securities constantly coming upon the market, but new subjects as a basis of their production are industriously sought after. Every newly discovered force or process in mechanics means the appearance of another detachment of paper securities. The War of the Rebellion popularised the coupon bond, in consequence of its adoption by the government, and made it the favourite form of investment paper. Railroads and other corporations soon availed themselves of the confidence which that species of paper inspired, and States, cities, and counties were soon flooding the country with obligations carrying long coupon attachments. Many persons have purchased and paid good prices for mortgage coupon bonds, giving them no control over their security, who would have rejected share certificates standing for an equal interest in the property pledged and giving them the right to participate in its management, with the possibility of a greater return for their money. Many of the States through careless legislation have permitted corporations to decide for themselves the amounts of obligations they might put out, and the privilege has been very much abused. We now have stocks and bonds upon the market representing nearly all conceivable kinds of property-telegraph and telephone companies, mining companies, cattle ranches, grain farms, water-works, canals, bridges, oil- and gas-wells, electric lighting, trolley companies, factories and mills, patent rights, steamboat lines, apartment-houses, etc. Not only are properties of many kinds used to issue bonds upon, but many kinds of bonds are often issued upon the same properties. One issue of bonds is sometimes made the basis of other issues. Some one has said that there never was a time in the history of the world when it was so easy to invest money-and to lose it. Of the securities that are offered with first-class recommendations it is probable that about one third are actually good, one third have some value, and one third are practically worthless. In making investments the first and main thing to be studied is safety. Never buy a security of any kind without having read it. Do not buy what are commonly known as cheap securities. Do not rely solely upon the advice of a broker; he may have personal interest to serve. By far the greater number of losses to investors have been in securities purchased exclusively on the recommendation of interested commission men. It is a mistake to give preference to listed securities-that is, those reported on the stock-exchange lists. Stocks are too often listed simply for speculative purposes, and the price represents not so much the value of the property as the pitch of the speculation at the time. Securities in the long run must stand upon their merits. As a rule the best time for an experienced investor to buy is when others are unloading.

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