Mark Pittman was right
Bob Ivry has the definitive obituary of Mark Pittman, a giant in the world of financial journalism, who died far too young on Wednesday. Ivry is polite enough not to call me out by name, although I deserve it:
His June 29, 2007, article, headlined “S&P, Moody’s Hide Rising Risk on $200 Billion of Mortgage Bonds,” was excoriated at the time by Portfolio.com for “trying to play ‘gotcha’ with the ratings agencies.”
“And that really isn’t helpful,” said the unsigned posting.
Pittman’s story proved prescient.
I wrote the blog entry in question, and it hasn’t stood the test of time nearly as well as Pittman’s article. At the time — between the collapse of Bear Stearns’s subprime hedge funds and the collapse of the bank itself — I was well aware of subprime alarmism, not only because of the Bear news, but also because I’d spent five months working for Nouriel Roubini. So I concentrated on the way that the story tried to back up its headline, dismissing its damning litany of problems with subprime credit ratings more generally as “2,000 words of throat-clearing”.
Sorry, Mark. In hindsight, your story was indeed prescient, and helpfully aggregated a lot of the well-founded worries that the subprime crisis was going to get much, much worse, and that none of the ratings on subprime CDOs could be trusted. It wasn’t until a good six months after your article was published that I finally understood the importance of what you’d been saying.
Pittman was an aggressive, old-school journalist, who was in his element going after big Wall Street institutions. Like most of the journalists I’ve criticized, he never responded to my blog entry, and I never met or spoke to him. That’s very much my loss: I’m sure I would have learned a lot. But Pittman had bigger fish to catch. His loss to the profession is irreplaceable.