California IOUs might turn into investments

There's a market for everything, it seems, including California IOUs. The newly minted IOUs, a product of the state's cash shortage, could turn into an investment vehicle if the state budget crisis persists.

Advertisements have begun popping up on Craigslist and other Web sites from individuals interested in buying the notes for less than face value. A Rocklin temp-agency owner who's owed money by the state is considering selling IOUs through her other company, an auction house. A New York firm that specializes in trading so-called distressed securities hopes to set up a market for the California notes.

There's so much activity starting to bubble up, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer issued ground rules Monday to oversee the buying and selling.

"There's a potential for it to turn into a circus," said Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar. "There's a potential for tricksters to try to take advantage."

The treasurer's office won't redeem the IOUs held by third parties unless they're accompanied by a notarized bill of sale signed by the original holder of the note.

For now, anyway, there isn't much of a market for the IOUs, which the state began issuing Thursday. That's because the major California banks, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase, have agreed to honor the IOUs as though they're regular checks.

But those agreements end Friday, and if the banks don't extend them, IOU holders might be looking for places to turn the notes into cash.

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