Opinion

Felix Salmon

Counterparties

Felix Salmon
Sep 29, 2010 06:11 UTC

In which Arrington fails to mention the main reason he sold to AOL (the money) — TechCrunch

An interesting way of making World Bank books freely available online — Issuu

Great streets have many jobs, and moving cars is only one of them — WorldChanging

The recession, in census numbers — Census

DE Shaw Lays Off 150 People. Does this mean Larry Summers won’t get his job back? Or does it mean he costs as much as 150 other employees? — TBI

Dodgy credit card of the day

Felix Salmon
Sep 29, 2010 06:04 UTC

While John Hempton was uncovering a dodgy Chinese stock on the New York Stock Exchange, Tim Chen of Nerdwallet was looking into a much smaller operation, Anacott Financial.

The company’s home page seems simple and professional enough, although the picture of the credit card doesn’t have a Visa or MasterCard logo on it, which is a bit odd: those logos are slapped on the bottom of the page. After you move on from the home page, things rapidly fall apart, and not just because the company doesn’t seem to be able to spell.

your.tiff fees.tiff

For one thing, if you simply Google their name, the first result is their website; the next three are message boards complaining about them and asking if they’re a scam. The answer, it seems, is yes: there might be no annual fee, but they ask you for $99 upfront, and they’re likely to simply walk away with that $99 and not even send you a card.

Here’s what Chen found out after spending a bit of time on their website:

  • Their about us page (screenshot) makes a few claims that we are having trouble verifying.
  • Their free credit score check page communicates a few undisputable lies.
    • It asks for personal information, including your social security number, then falsely claims to access TransUnion, Equifax, and Expirian to download your FICO score. The page then prints out a random FICO score.
    • This sequence of events is objectively happening based on our analysis of the source code of their “creditscore.php” page. The javascript cycles through “Accessing Expirian Servers….” type text based on a random timer, then generates a random score.
    • You can trigger this sequence without any input data if you navigate directly there using this link. Alternatively, you can fabricate user data and get the same results.
    • We’ve taken screen shots of the sequence – here is a sample shot where they claim to access Expirian and retrieve a score – which is clearly a lie because I put in Jean Claude Van Damme’s name and a bogus SSN, not to mention that it spits out a different socre every time. Any programmer looking at the source code can show you where the number is randomly generated.
  • Their “Make a Payment” and “Account Login” pages do not appear to function when you enter fake data, are they on the site just for appearances?
    • The “make a payment” page (screenshot) is coded such that it requires you to fill out BOTH your external credit card and checking account information in order for the form to be submittable, which makes no sense from a user interface perspective – if it were actually intended to be used for processing payments. Once you submit bogus information, the page leads nowhere, not even to a “wrong password” page.
    • The submit button on the “Make a Payment” page says “Submit Your Application” (screenshot)
    • The account login page‘s submit button says “Submit and Check Your Credit Score for Free” (screenshot), and leads nowhere if you put in bogus information.
  • Are they trying to bilk the $99 application fee out of people with poor credit?
    • Their terms & conditions page is inconsistent with the bullets on their site. The site says you get the $99 application fee back “After First Payment”. The terms & conditions page (screenshot) says you get the $99 back if you cancel the card “within five days of application date”, which might be difficult because it also says “Please allow for four weeks from date of submission to process a completed application”.
    • The fine print drops a bombshell – you aren’t necessarily going to get approved for the card you applied for – (screenshot). On discussion forums, one person reports receiving a prepaid debit card after an extensive wait. Here are a few examples of affiliates promoting the card using the “approved copy” – a bad credit website, and comparison site CardTrak. This marketing copy is deceptive, because (i) there is a credit check involved based on the fine print, (ii) approval is not guaranteed, for the advertised card.
  • Does the credit card even exist? I can’t find any credible reports of people actually receiving the card, and there are circumstantial hints that the card does not even exist.
    • There appears to be an effort to fake a person named “Rossana Laspina” on Yahoo Answers, who claims to have received the card. She has been active on Yahoo Answers exactly 2 weeks at the time of this writing, and has been answering completely random topics in hopes of looking like a real person. The two other users who claim to have received the card, Tish Alvarez and Sharika Torske, have deleted profiles.
    • Yahoo Answers also has other highly suspicious activity, namely all the posts where the “contributor” says the card is a scam have been voted down to the point where Yahoo hides the answer. Meanwhile, other posts have been voted up.
    • This thread has a member who states that they received a prepaid debit card, with a zero balance, despite being promised a credit card based on the credit screen.
    • It’s highly unusual for a credit card not to have a Visa or MC logo on the front.
    • They do not list a card issuing bank, which I’ve never seen before.
  • Did they catch BankRate off guard? Google’s cache shows that BankRate previously advertised the card, but 3 weeks later the card has been pulled from the site.

I have enough faith in my readers that I doubt any of you would actually have shipped off $99 to these guys. But still, it would be nice to see them put out of business. In the absence of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, what’s the best way to do that? Asking their web host to take down the site would probably just result in it popping up elsewhere.

The Anacott site says that the $99 payment goes through AlliedWallet, which might be a more fruitful line of attack. They seem to be based in London, but I can’t get through on the phone number they provide there. Still, AllliedWallet did recently put out this press release:

Allied Wallet has engaged the Brand Protection Group to persistently monitor its entire merchant portfolio to ensure its clients remain in compliance with all laws, regulations, and card brand guidelines.

I retain some hope, then, that with the help of AlliedWallet and BrandProtection, Anacott Financial might not last long. Still, the underlying scam — not to mention the underlying scamsters — won’t go away.

The solution is simple: If you’re dealing with any company based solely on their web presence, at the very least do a cursory web search on them first. If the first thing you find is a litany of complaints, it’s probably a good idea to avoid that company.

COMMENT

Hi, everyone! I was just about to apply for this card today when I saw Felix’s article. Thanks, Felix! I did some additional research and found some interesting results, also. The website today has their offices at 2 Penn Center Plaza, Suite 200, in Philadelphia. Being from Philadelphia myself, I Googled the address. From the types of results I got, it appears that Suite 200 holds leased small office space that changes lessors VERY frequently. HedgeLender LIC, Master Matchmakers, various lawyers, even a charity group. In fact, I can rent my own office space there for $30/hour, right down the hall from Anacott Financial! How cool is that?!

Check out the floor plan: http://www.americanexecutivecenters.com/ Uploads/FileManager/phila%20floorplan.pd f

Posted by Marbran | Report as abusive

Beware municipal bonds

Felix Salmon
Sep 28, 2010 19:24 UTC

Meredith Whitney has a 600-page report warning of municipal bond defaults. I think she’s right — and I also think she makes a very smart distinction between municipal debt, as in the debt of towns and cities, and state-level debt.

The states are spending 27% more than they’re raising in taxes — but states can and will get bailed out by the federal government, in extremis. Cities, by contrast, are on their own:

Municipalities receive one-third of their revenue from the states. If the states hold back that money for their own stricken budgets, towns and cities won’t have the funds to make their interest payments. “It has to happen,” says Whitney. “The states will secure their own shortfalls, and leave the cities to fend for themselves.” It’s all about inter-dependency, she says, with the federal government aiding the states, and the states funding the last and most vulnerable link, the municipalities.

I’m not sure that interdependency is really the mot juste here: what we’re seeing is good old-fashioned dependency, with cities reliant on states and states reliant on the federal government.

And then, of course, there’s the monolines. Very few cities issue unwrapped bonds, and as a result it’s not the bondholders who are going to be hurt the most here. Instead, it’s the bond insurers. Insurance in general, and bond insurance in particular, is one of those businesses where you can make steady profits year after year until you lose a fortune. So while a lot of people reading Whitney’s report will be looking for clever positions they can put on in the market for municipal credit default swaps, I’d be careful there: the recovery value on defaulted bonds, at least in the first instance, is likely to be 100%, thanks to those bond insurers.

The more lasting effect of widespread defaults will be in the real economy, where public employees and public services will start feeling the pinch of forced austerity. Once you approach default, no one will roll over your debt any more and no one will insure your bonds. So you have to slash your budget: you have no choice. That process has barely begun, in the U.S., and depending on the timing, it could contribute markedly to a bout of deflation or even a double-dip recession. If the first recession had its causes in the nexus of finance and real estate, its follow-up could well be based in local government.

COMMENT

Insured, Tax Free, Municipal Bond CEFs Yielding nearly 7%. Interested?

For the second time in recent years, we have a tremendous opportunity in high quality municipal CEFs — don’t miss it!

Of course you should be interested!

There are at least eight reasonable explanations for recent Municipal Bond price weakness — there are at least eight excellent reasons why investors should be viewing this weakness as a buying opportunity.

Contact Steve for a list of ten Closed End Funds to check out for appropriateness.
http://kiawahgolfinvestmentseminars.net/ Inv/index.cfm/18393

Posted by sanserve | Report as abusive

The fuzziness of retirement math

Felix Salmon
Sep 28, 2010 17:36 UTC

Aviva has a huge new project up online on what it calls Europe’s pension gap: the problem that the continent’s pension systems are inadequate to the needs of an ageing population. Between them, Europe’s pensions systems need extra funding to the tune of a whopping €1.9 trillion a year, it concludes — a sum which is impossible to raise, and which is only growing.

There’s definitely a problem here. But equally it’s a very hard problem to quantify, because the statistical data needed to do so simply doesn’t exist. The Aviva report is based on the assumption that “on average, people need 70% of their pre-retirement income to provide an adequate standard of living in retirement” — but if you try to work out where that number comes from, you rapidly run into a very fuzzy mess.

For one thing, the average seems to encompass a large variation across income groups, with low-income people assumed to need 90% of their pre-retirement income, dropping to just 55% for high-income people.

But more importantly, the number is entirely normative: it’s the amount that the OECD and Aviva reckon that people should target if they want an adequate standard of post-retirement living. It’s not empirical.

In order to come up with solid answers to important questions, we’d ideally need to be able to look at large populations around the world, and measure their pre-tax and post-tax income and consumption levels both before and after retirement. We’d look at what kind of drop-offs in such levels are normal, and what are excessive; we’d ask retired people whether their income is adequate to their needs; and we’d look at how all these things are changing over time.

But in reality, none of this is possible: the statistics simply don’t exist. In Europe, the national statistical offices and tax authorities do give some, conflicting, information on post-retirement income — but only in the UK and Ireland. There are also still pension schemes which are explicitly based on a percentage of final income; that percentage seemed to rise over the 1980s and stay steady over the 1990s before falling back a bit in the 2000s, but even those numbers are hard to pin down with any accuracy.

And then on top of all that are questions which by their nature are unknowable: what are future investment returns going to be? What are future annuity rates going to be? What kind of tax rates will retirees pay in future?

What’s more, by the time that people have a pretty good idea what their final salary is going to be, it’s far too late to set up a retirement plan which will generate x% of it post-retirement. For that, you need to start early — ideally in your 20s, but certainly in your 30s or early 40s — and when you’re at that stage in your career, you have no idea how much you’re going to ultimately end up earning, or how much consumption your future self will consider an adequate standard of living.

Big-picture trends, however, are not good. For one thing, there’s demographics: the population is ageing, which makes it harder for the working population to support the retired population. What’s more, the rate of unencumbered homeownership is falling: people are less likely to own their houses outright at retirement and more likely to still have a substantial mortgage. And on top of that, people are having children later, and child-related expenses can continue right up to, and even after, retirement.

Oh, and did I mention rising medical costs?

Some things don’t change. You’ll probably need a smaller home once you’re retired; you won’t have commuting costs; you certainly won’t need to continue to make pension-fund contributions. And there will be some kind of state pension, too, although its size is uncertain.

But the fact is that all of these factors are so unknown, or unknowable, that to a first-order approximation all we can reasonably do is save as much as possible, and hope for the best. Any retirement planner who tries to work backwards from a fixed sum needed at age 65 is making so many assumptions that the number is almost guaranteed to be meaningless. But that kind of silly exercise is how retirement planners make their money. So it’s not going to stop any time soon.

COMMENT

Right on ARJTurgot ! “If we can’t afford it and don’t genuinely need it, we don’t buy it.” What a concept!

America seems to be the land of entitlement where people adopt a sense of need and greed, rather then act to save now and for the future.

Hints on how to make math less fuzzy…

Paying off your house should be a priority, not having a mortgage and debt rather then equity … and so few will own their homes by retirement. It should make sense now, not just when you retire. (well, for thos who make their house a home that is…)

Saving does not have to be all about deprivation. Neither does living within your means. And it is never too late to start. Pay off the debt. Forget that the math is fuzzy as it always has been and always will and just act. Throwing your arms up and inaction isn’t going to solve future problems or make that math less fuzzy. Preparation is.

Wrap your credit cards in elastics and freeze them in a block of ice and don’t touch them until they are paid off and then only in dire need. Take the same $$ that was used to pay credit card and use it for savings et voila… you are now a saver and wiser to boot!

Budget. I know it is passée word, but it is about to come back in style

You can do it yourself but do remember financial planners are pie in the sky if not and… they take their hefty slice. Go for a nice basket of diversity with transparent fees.

PS owned my first house and started retirement savings in early 20′s. I am not rich, not wealthy by any stretch, as I am on a reduced pension and work only part time, but I am happily semi retired in mid 50′s and service no debt other then a small mortgage to be paid off before my other pensions kick in.

Posted by hsvkitty | Report as abusive

How money flows to hedge funds

Felix Salmon
Sep 28, 2010 14:57 UTC

Why do American hedge funds make so much money? Macroeconomic Resilience reckons that most of it comes, ultimately, from the government:

Just because hedge funds do not directly benefit from a state guarantee doesn’t mean that central bank policy towards the banking sector is irrelevant in determining their returns… the “alpha” that Magnetar generated would likely not have existed if it were not for the skewed incentives faced by bankers which in turn were driven by the rents they could extract from the state guarantees provided to them.

The example of Magnetar merely illustrates a more general principle that is often ignored: the ultimate beneficiary of any economic rent may be far removed from its initial beneficiary.

Essentially, when the government backstops its banking system, rents will end up flowing to some part of the economy, and not necessarily to banks. In the UK, banks are the primary beneficiaries. In Germany, it’s big companies. And in the US, it’s often hedge funds.

If the Magnetar trade is too recondite for you, then consider the case of David Tepper:

In February and March 2009, when consensus had coalesced among market watchers that certain financial institutions were insolvent and would have to be nationalized, triggering a massive sell-off that drove shares of companies like Citigroup and Bank of America into the single digits, Tepper decided to tune out the chatter. After all, the Treasury Department had said it would hold up the banks—why wouldn’t they keep their promise?

That trade made Tepper something over $7.5 billion. In Europe, he would be excoriated as a profiteer: a billionaire using public policy to ratchet up his net worth to ever-more-stratospheric levels. In America, by contrast, he’s a hero, the living embodiment of everything CNBC viewers admire. His big bets are always on the long side: he makes his billions by seeing opportunity and placing huge bets on things turning out well.

It’s un-American to begrudge Tepper his wealth, even if largely because he has a pair of cartoonishly huge and grotesquely veiny brass testicles attached to a plaque in his hedge fund’s offices. Which makes me wonder what the White House economic team thinks of people like Tepper. My guess is that the more politically-minded among them are deeply appalled, even as the Summers and Geithner types reflexively look past the personality and consider him a pure economic actor who at the margin will help to fuel any recovery.

And I wonder, too, what Tepper thinks of them. Does he thank them for his billions? Or are they just another actor in a game he plays better than anybody else? And if he’s the winner of the game, does that make them losers?

COMMENT

I believe he bought the debt not shares. If it was shares then he was taking a genuine risk because back in 2009 people were talking about nationalising C and he would have been wiped out. I struggle to see a scenario in 2009 where C debt would have been wiped out, at worst he may have come under a liquidity squeeze.

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive

The European crisis gets quietly worse

Felix Salmon
Sep 28, 2010 14:02 UTC

Edward Hugh has a must-read overview of the euro crisis as it stands right now: not nearly as panicked as when everybody was concentrated on Greece back in May, yet in many ways worse than that.

Greece still seems certain to default sooner or later, and its bonds are trading at levels very near to those seen in May. Spain has improved a bit — but that tiny improvement seems to have been accompanied by a significant rise in complacency on the part of the government, so it’s unlikely to last long. And both Ireland and Portugal have deteriorated significantly.

Ireland’s debt is trading at worse levels than ever before, its economy is still in recession, and its banking system is a mess; in Portugal, the public deficit is likely to reach 9% of GDP this year, and the country’s debt spreads are also looking distressingly similar to Greece circa April 2010.

Writes Hugh:

Like former US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson before them, Europe’s leaders, having armed their bazooka may soon need to fire it…

The EuroArea countries could be likened to a group of 16 Alpine climbers scaling the Matterhorn who find themselves tightly roped together in appalling weather conditions. One of the climbers – Greece – has lost his footing and slipped over the edge of a dangerous precipice. As things stand, the other 15 can easily take the strain of holding him dangling there, however uncomfortable it may be for them, but they cannot quite manage to pull their colleague back up again. So, as the day advances, others, wearied by all the effort required, start themselves to slide.

What’s certain is that if you’re going to fire your bazooka anyway, it’s better to fire it earlier rather than later: the cost of a bailout always rises the longer it’s delayed. So why are the ECB’s bond purchases dwindling, and why is the much-vaunted European Financial Stability Facility still surrounded by so many questions? Yves Smith quotes the FT’s Wolfgang Munchau with some worrying math on that front: essentially, the EFSF won’t be able to lend cheap money to struggling countries at all.

In other words, the Eurozone’s bazooka might turn out to be even less effective than Paulson’s was. And if that’s the case, there’s no point in throwing good money after bad at all: it might be easier and cheaper just to slice that Alpine rope at a strategic point and sacrifice a weaker member or two for the sake of keeping everybody else safe.

Of course, slicing the rope would be easier if and when one of the peripheral countries actually wanted to do so — to attempt their own competitive devaluation in the global currency war. The stricter that the Germans are about the conditionality attached to new funds, the likelier that’s going to become.

In any crisis, there comes a point where it’s easier to let things fall apart than it is to keep things together. Given how fractious the European project has always been, and given that the generation of politicians who staked their careers on the European Union has now completely retired from the scene, a breakup would seem to be an inevitability at this point. The only question is when it will happen, and who will go first.

COMMENT

How about the actual public finances of those Eurozone slackers ? Are they better or worse than they were in May ? And how about the interest rates paid by the rich relatives who bankroll those slackers ? Are the markets disciplining them for supporting the slackers ? Sure they are, they ask them to pay even less than they were paying in May !
Now, markets may not wish to acknowledge the improvements, but then they also failed to acknowledge the serial bubbles of dot.com, stockmarkets and housing while they were inflating. So it would be interesting to see some more evidence apart from the spreads.
I have some reservations as to the competence of Mr Salmon on the matter of politics in the PIGS and Ireland. So, the opinion expressed in the article rests on very little concrete evidence.
Just reporting on the course of the spreads should not be disguised as analysis. One has difficulty seeing the value added.

PS Please correct the reference to Munchau. The name is actually Münchausen.

Posted by ggeorgan | Report as abusive

Counterparties

Felix Salmon
Sep 28, 2010 05:57 UTC

A sad day: The End of the Road for Xmarks — Xmarks

Me, discussing the future of housing prices — BNet

Bercovici to Forbes. Not a fan of this move — TBI

Koblin quitting NYO — VV

This would be so idiotic and short-sighted, on the part of magazine publishers, that it’s almost certainly true — Coatney

Adventures in ersatz accuracy: Dow 38,820! Really? Not 38,817? — Bloomberg

COMMENT

The problem of food transportation is not so much trucking stuff forty or fifty miles into a city from adjoining farms; it is shipping (or flying!) food–especially refrigerated food–from California to New York. Or from Argentina to California. Or Vietnam to Argentina. The distance from suburbs to city center doesn’t really factor in, and, to the extent it does, it cuts _against_ suburbs, as the rail depots, harbors, and airports tend to be convenient to the large cities.

If the model of very long-distance food transportation fails due to increased energy costs, those costs will fall heaviest on those who are farthest from the centers of transportation. You may get your eggs or wheat (or whatever your county produces) cheaper than I do in the city, but you will pay more for every other necessity of life. You have to move a _long_ way back towards Laura Ingalls Wilder before you’re producing any substantial portion of your daily needs on the prairie.

Posted by ckbryant | Report as abusive

Don’t put MBAs in charge of loan servicing

Felix Salmon
Sep 27, 2010 21:53 UTC

Paul Jackson reckons that the idiotic way in which GMAC/Ally is handling its defaulted loans is partially a function of the thankless nature of the work:

The loan servicing shop is its own world, with its own management – and none of this management typically has anything to do with the upper management within the banking institution itself…

The talent gap between the front office and the back end of a mortgage operation can be substantial – the most talented financial minds, and the best trained and most experienced managers, don’t typically find themselves falling into default management as a career. The pay scale simply isn’t there. Banks don’t require future managers to spend time working a turn in default management, either. The Harvard MBAs go elsewhere, and don’t bother themselves with getting their hands dirty on the default side of the business…

Now, it’s the same management-talent gap that is wreaking havoc for the biggest of banks and their servicers.

The implicit assumption here is that if the Harvard MBAs had gone into default management, the outcome would be better than what we’re seeing now, rather than worse. Does Jackson really believe that? I certainly don’t.

Yes, the situation we have right now is pretty gruesome. But I suspect it’s not a function of incompetent staffers in default management, so much as it’s a function of those Harvard MBAs higher up the org chart systematically depriving the default-management operations of the staff and funds they need to do their jobs properly.

Default management is not rocket science. It requires conscientious and diligent work; it doesn’t require talent. The kind of people who are good at such things also tend to be good at hiring their successors and generally doing their job perfectly well without much if any oversight. The problem isn’t that senior management is divorced from default management, it’s that senior management thinks it can squeeze costs and the people actually doing the work, without worrying about the far-reaching potential consequences.

So Jackson is absolutely right about this:

At what point does it behoove senior management at the board level of a bank to sit “Chainsaw Al” down and explain to him that “streamlining” operations at all costs is actually counterproductive? At what point does a bank’s board decide that default operations are important enough to merit a more substantial investment in people and process, rather than continuing to push default management under the proverbial rug and being content to play whack-a-mole when problems inevitably pop up from below?

Go follow that link to a classic Tanta post, and you’ll see something approaching the platonic ideal of how a loan servicer should do her job. And obviously Tanta was an exceptional person in many ways: no bank can just decide overnight to hire lots of people like her. But it seems to me that the best thing to do here is simply empower the managers in that arm of the organization to spend what they think necessary, even if they’re not on the management fast-track. Budgets will go up in the short term. But tail risk will come down enormously.

COMMENT

“The implicit assumption here is that if the Harvard MBAs had gone into default management, the outcome would be better than what we’re seeing now, rather than worse.”

I believe that. Not that the Harvard(and other) MBAs would be better at loan servicing, but rather that they wouldn’t have been steadily ripping out the controls and processes that were part of loan servicing until the Bush Administration. (I’m willing to stipulate that this might not be cause and effect, but note that a decline in enforcement activity leads naturally to removing controls by the business.)

You’ve found Tanta’s posts on how servicing changed; now realize that that occurred in large part because the Harvard (and other) MBAs decided they could cut those corners and increase their (accounting) profits.

Posted by klhoughton | Report as abusive

More prosecutions of investment banks coming?

Felix Salmon
Sep 27, 2010 14:29 UTC

Has Gretchen Morgenson buried something explosive in her story today about the FCIC testimony of a mortgage-analysis executive in Sacramento? Here’s her 28th and 29th paragraphs:

Because these loan samples were provided to the Wall Street investment banks that commissioned them, they could see throughout 2006 and into 2007 that the mortgages they were financing and selling to investors were becoming increasingly sketchy.

The results of the Clayton analyses were not disclosed to investors buying the loan pools. Instead, Wall Street firms used the information to pressure the lenders issuing the most troubled loans to accept a lower price for them, according to prosecutors who have investigated these cases.

If you remember, the SEC’s central accusation against Goldman Sachs was that it lied to its clients — it knew something important about the Abacus deal which the clients didn’t know, and Goldman didn’t see fit to enlighten them.

That case, centered on one deal at one bank, resulted in a $550 million fine, and billions of dollars of market capitalization wiped off Goldman’s share price.

Yet it seems here that something similar was going on very regularly, not only at Goldman but also at Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, UBS, Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns and Morgan Stanley.

This time, the lie of omission was not that John Paulson was both choosing and shorting the CDS in a synthetic CDO. Rather, it was that Clayton Holdings had analyzed the mortgages going into subprime mortgage pools, and found that only 54% of the loans going in to subprime mortgage pools met the lenders’ underwriting standards, and that 28% of the loans sampled were outright failures. Many of those failures ended up being accepted into the pools, rather than rejected.

Obviously, the numbers varied from bank to bank. (Goldman’s almost endearing in its doomed attempted defense that “the percentage of deficient loans that went into its pools was smaller than Clayton’s average”.) But it seems here that the banks knew that their loan pools were dirty — they told as much to the originators, and tried to to get a discount on the loans as a result. But they didn’t bother to inform the investors in those pools.

In fact, the banks might even have had an incentive to put together dirty pools. After all, dirty loans come cheaper — and so you can make more money when you sell them off to bond investors at the same price as cleaner loans.

If prosecutors are chatting away to Morgenson about this, I suspect that indictments are coming down the pike. And given how important the SEC’s case against Goldman turned out to be, a series of big cases against a whole slew of investment banks could have enormous repercussions for their reputation and their share prices. So beware, anybody buying stock in Goldman, Citi, BofA or Morgan Stanley: there’s serious litigation risk here, I think.

COMMENT

DanHess, amen. Weird how the people who actually did commit fraud are now victims….

Posted by Danny_Black | Report as abusive
  •