Monday, March 16, 2009

Welcome to the Wall St. jungle

As bad as you may think that the current financial mess is your wrong. It's worse - far, far worse. Because not only is this a financial mess of biblical proportions, but underlying it all is a level of fraud which is unimaginable. It involves the government and the Wall St. banks. It is a level of corruption that is at first shocking and then nauseating. Welcome to the Wall St. jungle.

The case for indicting the executive leadership of Goldman Sachs becomes clearer by the minute, but will Congress act? Here is the case as it is emerging in the past few months. Clearly the GS insiders were acting to defraud the American public with an elaborate shell game. And then there is AIG. And then there is the role of the Federal Reserve. It's a lot of material to cover but I will do my best to make sense of it all. After that it is up to you to follow the links and do some investigating of your own. This is big. This is very big. This makes Madoff's Ponzi scheme look like child's play.

Part 1: AIG - Arrogant, Incompetent and Greedy

I begin with an article from way back in September 2008. This seems like a long time ago now. This was the beginning of the bailout when Bernanke and Paulson were holding a loaded economic gun to the head of the American people and demanding a ransom from the Congress. Even then it was clear that there was something very fishy going on.

Link #1
The Reckoning: Behind Insurer’s Crisis, Blind Eye to a Web of Risk
NY Times - September 27, 2008

Although it was not widely known, Goldman, a Wall Street stalwart that had seemed immune to its rivals’ woes, was A.I.G.’s largest trading partner, according to six people close to the insurer who requested anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. A collapse of the insurer threatened to leave a hole of as much as $20 billion in Goldman’s side, several of these people said.

Days later, federal officials, who had let Lehman die and initially balked at tossing a lifeline to A.I.G., ended up bailing out the insurer for $85 billion.

Their message was simple: Lehman was expendable. But if A.I.G. unspooled, so could some of the mightiest enterprises in the world.

A Goldman spokesman said in an interview that the firm was never imperiled by A.I.G.’s troubles and that Mr. Blankfein [CEO of GS] participated in the Fed discussions to safeguard the entire financial system, not his firm’s own interests.

Yet an exploration of A.I.G.’s demise and its relationships with firms like Goldman offers important insights into the mystifying, virally connected — and astonishingly fragile — financial world that began to implode in recent weeks.
"Fragile" I think is a nice way of saying that the Wall St. banks were engaged in running something like a Ponzi scheme or a casino without the funds to payout the winners or maybe a pyramid scheme. Who knows exactly, but the whole thing was over leveraged to an extreme and just waiting to topple at the slightest ill economic wind - the exact opposite of the robust economy that we have taken for granted in the United States for decades. But at the same time mega-profitable for the Wall St. insiders playing the game. So will these crooks have to go to jail for their ill-gotten gains? Yes I'm talking about a criminal conspiracy that makes the Mafia look like an amateur operation.

More from Link #1
Shift your focus now from Goldman Sachs to AIG and its now infamous A.I.G. Financial Products unit.
In the case of A.I.G., the virus exploded from a freewheeling little 377-person unit in London, and flourished in a climate of opulent pay, lax oversight and blind faith in financial risk models. It nearly decimated one of the world’s most admired companies, a seemingly sturdy insurer with a trillion-dollar balance sheet, 116,000 employees and operations in 130 countries.

“It is beyond shocking that this small operation could blow up the holding company,” said Robert Arvanitis, chief executive of Risk Finance Advisors in Westport, Conn. “They found a quick way to make a fast buck on derivatives based on A.I.G.’s solid credit rating and strong balance sheet. But it all got out of control.
The man who ran that group was Joseph Cassano. I like to call him "Casino Cassano". Somehow he hasn't gotten much attention up to now. If there is any justice, he should be sharing a prison cell with Madoff in the near future. But in some ways he's small potatoes. To me the big fish are the GS executives including Hank Paulson. Is he too big to jail? And what about Bernanke? Will the law ever catch up with him?

Bernanke claims to be "outraged" that AIG got away with this dirty scheme, but where was the Fed when all this was happening? They knew about CDSs and CDOs. They knew the dangers involved and the players. Heck, the Chairman of the New York Fed is Stephen Friedman who also sits on the Goldman board. Didn't he know what was going on at AIG? According to the NYT article Goldman "was A.I.G.’s largest trading partner". And yet Bernanke is directing all his anger at AIG. He should be cursing GS as well.

More from Link #1
Here is where AIG gets into the CDS, credit default swap, business.
Ten years ago, a “watershed” moment changed the profile of the derivatives that Mr. Cassano traded, according to a transcript of comments he made at an industry event last year. Derivatives specialists from J. P. Morgan, a leading bank that had many dealings with Mr. Cassano’s unit, came calling with a novel idea.

Morgan proposed the following: A.I.G. should try writing insurance on packages of debt known as “collateralized debt obligations.” C.D.O.’s. were pools of loans sliced into tranches and sold to investors based on the credit quality of the underlying securities.
Because the underlying debt securities — mostly corporate issues and a smattering of mortgage securities — carried blue-chip ratings, A.I.G. Financial Products was happy to book income in exchange for providing insurance. After all, Mr. Cassano and his colleagues apparently assumed, they would never have to pay any claims.
These insurance products were known as “credit default swaps,” or C.D.S.’s in Wall Street argot, and the London unit used them to turn itself into a cash register.
CDSs were the mechanism for turning junk into gold. Despite what the NYT article says, the problem came when CDSs were used to insure high risk investments like sub-prime mortgages. By providing insurance from AIG in the form of CDSs, the junk quality CDOs became transformed into gold because the investment was "guaranteed".

And what about "Casino Cassano" and the rest of the members of the A.I.G. Financial Products unit. How did they fare in this business? Here's more from link #1.
Profit margins on the business were enormous. In 2002, operating income was 44 percent of revenue; in 2005, it reached 83 percent.

Mr. Cassano and his colleagues minted tidy fortunes during these high-cotton years. Since 2001, compensation at the small unit ranged from $423 million to $616 million each year, according to corporate filings. That meant that on average each person in the unit made more than $1 million a year.

In fact, compensation expenses took a large percentage of the unit’s revenue. In lean years it was 33 percent; in fatter ones 46 percent. Over all, A.I.G. Financial Products paid its employees $3.56 billion during the last seven years.
Sounds like easy money. What did they do to earn this money? It doesn't sound like this was a competitive business at all. In fact the business was created when JP Morgan approached them with the idea. So they can't even take credit for coming up with the business model. So I wonder, what exactly were these people doing to "earn" this money. It seems like AIG could have hired business school graduates to do this work and pay them a minimal amount. Sure you would need a few higher paid lawyers to look over the contracts, but nothing on the order of a million dollars a year.

BTW, what do you call a fake insurance scheme that collects money with no intention of ever paying out a cent? With no collateral to back up any claims? Normally I would just call it a fraud or a scam, but when the sums go into the trillions there has to be a better name. And what about the counter-parties in all this? Surely they knew that there was nothing backing up this "insurance". But they were more than happy to turn a blind eye because it allowed them to make huge profits as well. They all figured they had a good thing going, and nobody was going to rock the boat.

Now the article turns its attention to the clients that the AIGFP unit had. And here we see reappear the nefarious form of Goldman Sachs.
[Spooky music plays in the background]
The London unit’s reach was also vast. While clients and counterparties remain closely guarded secrets in the derivatives trade, Mr. Cassano talked publicly about how proud he was of his customer list.

At the 2007 conference he noted that his company worked with a “global swath” of top-notch entities that included “banks and investment banks, pension funds, endowments, foundations, insurance companies, hedge funds, money managers, high-net-worth individuals, municipalities and sovereigns and supranationals.”
Goldman Sachs was a member of A.I.G.’s derivatives club, according to people familiar with the operation. It was a customer of A.I.G.’s credit insurance and also acted as an intermediary for trades between A.I.G. and its other clients.
Goldman Sachs was not just a client, but also an "intermediary for trades". But notice how the whole thing was wrapped in "secrecy". But Goldman Sachs was privy to this secret world. And who do you think was CEO of GS around this time - none other than Hank Paulson. So again, when Bernanke says he's angry at AIG - shouldn't he be even more angry at Paulson?
Few knew of Goldman’s exposure to A.I.G. When the insurer’s flameout became public, David A. Viniar, Goldman’s chief financial officer, assured analysts on Sept. 16 that his firm’s exposure was “immaterial,” a view that the company reiterated in an interview.

Later that same day, the government announced its two-year, $85 billion loan to A.I.G... The plan saved the insurer’s trading partners but decimated its shareholders.
Is the NYT calling GS's CFO a liar? And then of course there is Paulson who also knew, but it was all so "secret". It reminds me of a bunch of kids playing at spies, if only the consequences weren't so dire for the rest of us.

And what is this? "The plan saved the insurer's trading partners." But at the time nobody knew who the "trading partners" were because it was all secret. And the Fed kept insisting that it couldn't reveal the names because it might cause a lack of confidence in the system and cause a panic. But what was the Fed really hiding? And even though GS's CFO got up in front of analysts and lied big time, nobody could prove it at the time because of all the secrecy. But now that this has all been exposed, shouldn't the SEC be looking into these statements? And were all these derivative trades being kept secret from the SEC all along? If you ask me GS has some big questions to answer.

And remember that this article was written back in September 2008. A lot more information has come out in just the past few days. Now we know that GS has received at least $13 billion worth of funds that have been secretly funneled through AIG. This is on top of the $10 billions worth of TARP money that GS received directly from the government. And who knows how much has been secretly funneled to them through other financial institutions.

And then there was the slight of hand that transformed GS into a "regulated bank holding company". I've yet to read an explanation of the exact purpose of that, but I suspect that it involves more shenanigans on the part of the Fed. I expect GS to transform itself back into a Wall St. investment bank when it best suits the corporation's needs. I'm sure all of this means that the government isn't collecting nearly as much in taxes from GS as it should. These companies routinely engage in schemes to keep profits out of the hands of the taxman. They even have lobbyists on Capitol Hill who's fulltime job is pushing through tax loopholes that benefit them to the detriment of the ordinary taxpayer.

And what about the regulators, why didn't they catch this scheme?
Because it was not an insurance company, A.I.G. Financial Products did not have to report to state insurance regulators. But for the last four years, the London-based unit’s operations, whose trades were routed through Banque A.I.G., a French institution, were reviewed routinely by an American regulator, the Office of Thrift Supervision.

A handful of the agency’s officials were always on the scene at an A.I.G. Financial Products branch office in Connecticut, but it is unclear whether they raised any red flags. Their reports are not made public and a spokeswoman would not provide details.
Excuse me for my cynicism, but it seems to me that AIG purposefully structured the AIGFP so that it would fall under the jurisdiction of the Office of Thrift Supervision. If you want to get an idea of how incompetent this "regulatory" body was see this article. Ironically the OTS was formed "after the industry imploded in a late 1980s scandal -- and the quality of supervision was found to be wanting -- Congress terminated the board and replaced it with a new agency, the OTS." And once again there is the secrecy because the OTS "reports are not made public".

Link #2
Was AIG watchdog not up to the job?
MSN Money - 11/10/2008
As the economy purred through the 1990s, few outsiders paid attention to OTS regulatory work. But within the financial-services industry, the agency stood as the preferred supervisor.

In 1999, Congress passed legislation allowing banks, insurance companies and securities firms to compete with each other. The new law allowed for a range of possible regulators, from the Federal Reserve to the Securities and Exchange Commission, depending on the mix of financial services a company chose to offer. Holding companies that owned one or more thrifts had the possibility of being regulated by the OTS.

"There was a stampede by commercial and financial firms to get a thrift charter," said Bart Dzivi, a former counsel to the Senate Banking Committee and now a financial-institutions lawyer in Northern California, "so that OTS could be their consolidated supervisor."
For OTS to be the "preferred" regulator says a lot about how effective it was perceived to be as a regulator. The Fed and Congress can't just pretend to be ignorant of the fact that corporations were structuring themselves in a way to purposefully avoid regulation. There job is to catch this type of activity and put a stop to it. It seems to me that they turned a blind eye, but what's really disturbing to me is the way that Bernanke and members of Congress feign shock at the lack of regulation of derivatives - as if they didn't know what was going on. I'm quite sure that just as Markopolos was trying to blow the whistle on Madoff, there were others trying to blow the whistle on the derivatives industry. But no one wanted to listen because there were some big and powerful interests that they didn't want to upset. AIG after all was a trillion dollar company and money like that pays for a lot of campaign contributions, not to mention lobbyists.

There is lots more in link #2 regarding the OTS and I encourage you to read the whole 3 page article, but back to link #1. The fall of AIGFP begins in 2007.
So began A.I.G.’s downward spiral as it, its clients, its trading partners and other companies were swept into the drowning pool set in motion by the housing downturn.

Mortgage foreclosures set off questions about the quality of debts across the entire credit spectrum. When the value of other debts sagged, calls for collateral on the securities issued by the credit default swaps sideswiped A.I.G. Financial Products and its legendary, sprawling parent.

Yet throughout much of 2007, the unit maintained that its risk assessments were reliable and its portfolios conservative. Last fall, however, the methods that A.I.G. used to value its derivatives portfolio began to come under fire from trading partners.
The article doesn't mention this at this point, but remember from earlier in the article that one of AIG's prime partners was in fact Goldman Sachs. So it appears that GS and AIG started to fight about how the assets were being valued and who owed who what. Because CDSs and CDOs were such shadowy instruments invoked in secrecy, you can imagine that they couldn't just settle this in public court. There must have been some nasty closed door meetings that took place with billions of dollars at stake. Gone were the happy times when everyone was making money hand over fist. Now it was every man for himself as the panic set in, but GS had an ace in the hole in the form of Treas-Sec Paulson.

The story ends with Mr. "Casino Cassano" departing AIG as it goes down in flames. But he'll always be remembered for this famous quote, “It is hard for us, without being flippant, to even see a scenario within any kind of realm of reason that would see us losing one dollar in any of those transactions.” A real beauty, eh? That's why AIG is sometimes referred to as Arrogant, Incompetent and Greedy.

Part 2: The Goldman Sachs cover of secrecy finally comes off

You can see from the NYT article that even back in September 2008 there were already aspersions being cast in the direction of Goldman Sachs. But because of the secretive nature of the derivatives business, there was no reliable public data on the amount of money that was involved in the relationship between Goldman Sachs and AIG. Well that just changed. AIG under pressure from Congress just released some information that begins to document the extent of its entanglement with other financial institutions including GS.

But before the full can of beans was spilled, people were already starting to get an inkling of what was going on. For one thing Hank Greenberg, the ex-CEO of AIG who was forced out in a scandal has been running off at the mouth about Goldman Sachs. It's easy to see why after reading the NYT article. GS partly precipitated the fall of AIG. If GS had sat cooly by waiting for the real estate market to rebound, then perhaps AIG could have survived. But by demanding payment from AIG at a time when its assets were shrinking, it put AIG in a precarious position. And its no accident that GS has escaped this crisis relatively unscathed while others like Lehman Brothers and AIG have collapsed.

The next article is from early March. Even though it was written before the full information regarding AIG "counterparties" was revealed, it is the best article on the topic that I have found.

Link #3
How Paulson Used AIG To Throw Goldman A Big Old Bone
Daily Kos - Mar 07, 2009
It's in the WSJ today and branching out from there -- several of the counterparties receiving par payouts for their toxic CDOs now owned by the taxpayers have been identified. The first name on the list is Goldman Sachs. [...] This is big news because the vice chairman of the Fed, Donald Kohn, would not identify any of these companies when he appeared before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday.
The author, who goes by the pseudonym of boloboffin, then breaks down the story for us. He takes us on a trip down Maiden Lane.
Let's go back a bit to when Bear Stearns went under. The Federal Reserve worked together with JPMorgan Chase to get JPMorgan a great deal. The Fed created a limited liability company in Delaware, named after the street the New York Fed bank is on, Maiden Lane. Maiden Lane, LLC, received $29 billion in loans from the Fed, and $1 billion in loans from JPMorgan. Maiden Lane used that money to buy up the toxic assets at the heart of Bear Stearns' woes. JPMorgan Chase then purchased Bear Stearns, free of the toxic assets with $30 billion sitting there all nice and tidy. And then JPMorgan bought Bear Stearns at $10 a share (although, remember, Hank Paulson wanted them to sell at $2).
That was how it all started with Bear Stearns back in March 2008. That was the first time the Fed used its "emergency powers" that hadn't been used since the Great Depression. Now when they do stuff like this the MSM doesn't even bother to call them "emergency powers" anymore. It's all just more of the same - y-a-a-awn, ho-hum.

OK. Now we get back to the fateful day of September 16. These are the same events that the previous NYT article talked about, but now we have more details.
On September 16, 2008, the Federal Reserve provided AIG with a huge line of revolving credit. They created a facility with the quirky name Revolving Credit Facility. They put $85 billion inside this facility and opened up a window for AIG. This was the plan -- AIG draws on the credit as they have need to satisfy their obligations. Over time good assets get freed up and/or toxic assets become good boys and girls again. By selling these assets, AIG could then pay back the Revolving Credit Facility. And it had two years to do so, and then, poof! The Revolving Credit Facility is no more and AIG has learned a very important lesson.

And just to make extra sure that the government wouldn't lose any money in the deal, AIG had to place 79.9% of preferred convertible stock into a trust payable to the Treasury. The important thing here to know about preferred convertible stock is that if the Treasury decides to, it can convert this preferred stock into common stock, which means the Treasury really does own a massive controlling interest in AIG at that point.
Effectively AIG was nationalized in September 2008. Except it was a covert nationalization or maybe a zombification. As we now know AIG became a shell through which the Fed could secretly funnel funds to other financial institutions without revealing the recipients even to Congress which was appropriating the funds. This was the beginning of the shell game - now you see it, now you don't. Which shell is the bailout money under? Hurry, hurry, hurry...
But by November, Hank Paulson had gotten his $700 billion in the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the wheeling and dealing had begun. Bernanke was spitting nails already about the whole situation, so the two of them got together and start thinking about restructuring the entire AIG bailout.

They came up with this. First, Bernanke capped the first facility from September, the Revolving Credit Facility, at $60 billion. He also lowered the interest rate AIG paid on this money and stretched out the loan term to five years. But AIG had to post all proceeds from asset sales into this facility and pay off the $60 billion.

Paulson agreed to give AIG $40 billion in TARP funds in exchange for $40 billion in Senior Preferred Stock in AIG. Fancy!

Then the Fed created two more Maiden Lane corporations, Maiden Lane II and Maiden Lane III. Paulson funded both of these institutions with TARP funds and then both started dealing with AIG's major problems, their own toxic assets and the CDSs on other counterparties' toxic assets.

Maiden Lane II got $20 billion in TARP funds from the Treasury. It went to the AIG subsidiaries that had been borrowing from the Secured Borrowing Facility created in October by the Fed. In exchange, the subsidiaries forked over the toxic assets they held. They were worth $40 billion at par (what AIG paid for them in the first place) but AIG only got $20 billion for them. They took the hit themselves, writing off the rest, and then paid back the Secured Borrowing Facility what they had borrowed.

And, poof! The Secured Borrowing Facility was terminated.
See what I mean? Now you see it, now you don't. It all looks like an elaborate money laundering scheme. In fact it is. All run by Paulson's little weasel Neil Kashkari. Remember him? After all the complaints about him from Congress, he's still on the job. You would have thought that Geithner would have canned him by now. But remember that Geithner was in on this whole scheme. In fact he would have been a prime player as the President of the New York Fed. About that change Obama promised... don't hold your breath.

And it doesn't end there.
But it's Maiden Lane III that is the real piece of work. Keep your eye on the ball...

Maiden Lane III has been funded with $25 billion of the TARP funds (under the same terms as Maiden Lane II), and AIG was told to kick in $5 billion as well. Maiden Lane III has gone to to the counterparties that purchased the credit default swaps from AIG and given them an offer they couldn't refuse - all of their money back.

Here's how it worked. There was around $62 billion of toxic assets (at this point) being held by these counterparties. They gave them to Maiden Lane III for the grand total of $25 billion. Sounds bad, right? Sounds like they took a bad loss for buying such crazy assets in the first place, right?

AIG paid them everything else.

That's right. In exchange for terminating the CDSs they held on AIG, these counterparties received every single cent they ever paid for these crappy assets. They got par. Now it may very well be that these counterparties have more CDOs that weren't backed up by AIG's credit default swaps, and could still be in a world of hurt. But how nice was it that Maiden Lane comes along with TARP funds and brokers them a par payment on these crappy derivatives!
Remember that Goldman Sachs was one of AIG's prime partners. As a counterparty to AIG they ended up getting back there full investment. Pretty s-w-e-e-et deal for GS. Not so great for AIG stockholders that got stuck with virtually nothing. I'm betting that GS wasn't heavily invested in AIG stock. I urge you to read the full article because its loaded with lots more details.

Finally for those who are gluttons for punishment, like me, I have one final article.

Link #4
The Fed's Risky Backdoor Bailouts
Business Week - December 17, 2008

The subtitle of this article is "As part of its effort to prop up the markets, the Fed is giving billions to banks—and putting taxpayers at risk". This doesn't sound like a story with a happy ending. :-(

Sorry for getting this article out of chronological order with the others, but I found the others more interesting. This is a long post and I don't know how many people will actually read down this far. Having said that, here's what was known back in December about funds being secretly channeled through AIG to GS and others.
In one of its latest transactions, the Fed in November channeled $20 billion—more than the size of the proposed auto bailout—to a group of U.S. and European banks, including Société (SCGLY), Deutsche Bank (DB), and Goldman Sachs (GS), according to people familiar with the deals. The only evidence that the vast sum had changed hands was an entry on the Fed's most recent balance sheet called "Maiden Lane III" and a series of cryptic regulatory documents.
A side note about the auto industry... while the Congress was hotly debating whether to give a few billion to save one of the crown jewels of the American economy which is the auto industry, the Fed was throwing money at the financial industry which in my mind is largely composed of a bunch of parasites. Sadly, the American people's attention are so totally diverted by the MSM that the parasites are winning the battle. While I'm aware that there are serious problems with the auto industry, I still believe that the key to America's future is to rebuild the manufacturing base. Cheap labor should not be an issue in a highly automated manufacturing environment. By exporting our manufacturing technology, multi-national corporations have put the future of America at risk. Please America, don't let the auto industry be the next victim of outsourcing. This trend must be reversed before it is too late.

Back to link #4. This article basically covers much of the same ground as the previous one. But I think the historical perspective is useful. It gives a strong indication of the secrecy that surrounded these transactions. It also questions the need for that degree of secrecy. Was that secrecy in place to keep the markets from panicking or was it just to cover up a sleazy money laundering operation? I vote for the sleazy money laundering operation.

The article also questions the wisdom of this strategy and points out how risky this could be if the investments don't work out. Well that kind of brings us around full circle to the first article about the AIGFP unit. Didn't "Casino Cassano" guarantee that his operation was a sure thing? And didn't these toxic assets end up sinking the Titanic-sized AIG? Who's to say that the same thing couldn't happen to the Fed. Read on...
By making loans to financial institutions that can't get credit elsewhere, the Fed is the only part of the government that has the power to pump capital quickly into the financial system to stave off crisis. Historically such moves have been rare, and they've been made behind a curtain of secrecy on the thinking that public disclosure could spark a market panic. "We keep these transactions private because the Fed, as a lender of last resort, seeks to provide liquidity and not stigmatize those who seek it," says Calvin Mitchell, a spokesman for the New York branch of the Fed, which set up the Maiden Lane III transaction.

The banks likely welcomed the fresh capital from Maiden Lane III. But in recent months the Fed has pushed the boundaries of its authority by taking larger and more opaque risks on its books. The central bank currently has $2.2 trillion in outstanding loans, up from $900 billion in September. It's also using new and untested weapons. Until this year the Fed mainly loaned to banks. Now it's buying securities, some tied to poisonous mortgages. If those bets don't pay off, the Fed will eat the loss.
That last line bears repeating. "If those bets don't pay off, the Fed will eat the loss." Notice the word "bets". Not investments - "bets". Is the Fed now turning itself into a casino? What will happen if the "bets don't pay off". Sad to say, we may just see the day when we find out the answer to that hypothetical question. It reminds me of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book "The Black Swan". We've already seen the stock market fall to its lowest point in over 10 years. And this is after the bailout that was supposed to save us from catastrophe.

Are the elite purposely trying to crash the system and create a crisis? Was 911 planned? "Casino Cassano" is the financial equivalent of one of the 911 hijackers. It's not that the elite directly told him to crash the system, it's just that they didn't do anything to stop him. And yes, they should have known in both cases about the events leading up to the crisis, the severity of the crisis, and how to stop it. That the elite allowed these two catastrophes to take place is unconscionable. For my prediction on what the elite have planned for us next read my article "The International Banker's China Syndrome".

That's all for now. Have a good day. "Don't worry, be happy". And first and foremost, have "confidence" in the system.

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AmericanGoy said...

"CDSs were the mechanism for turning junk into gold."

You got it.

Frank Hope said...

I was going to say turn lead into gold like the old medieval alchemists. Or you could say they turned trash into cash. And now we get to pay cash for their trash.

CDOs were the trash. CDSs was the alchemists' philosopher's stone. The magic potion. The blessing that cleansed the CDOs of their evil spirits. The "guarantee" that was slapped on the CDOs.

But this is an American tradition. There have always been snake oil salesmen in America. It was the great American P.T. Barnum that said, "There's a sucker born every minute". With the internet, that should be updated to "There's a sucker born every nanosecond". Which would explain the trillions of dollars lost in this economic crisis.

Doru Dan Lung said...

Great post Frank,

And now that Government Sachs has paid back the TARP fund the PR effort is in full swing to claim that everything is just dandy, move along, nothing to see here, thanks a bunch now let us take huge risks again so we can pay ourselvelves obscene amounts of money. But just because they have paid back the Tarp funds does not mean that they are not still benefitting from FDIC guaranteed debt to the tune of $29 billion.