Saturday, March 14, 2009

Why the market failed

For those of you wanting more of an explanation, read this.

"There weren’t enough Americans with shitty credit taking out loans to satisfy investors’ appetite for the end product. The firms used (financial bets) to synthesize more of them. Here, then, was the difference between fantasy finance and fantasy football: When a fantasy player drafts Peyton Manning, he doesn’t create a second Peyton Manning to inflate the league’s stats. But when (hedge funds) bought a credit-default swap, (they) enabled Deutsche Bank to create another bond identical in every respect but one to the original. The only difference was that there was no actual homebuyer or borrower. The only assets backing the bonds were the side bets (hedge funds) and others made with firms like Goldman Sachs and AIG. (Hedge Funds), in effect, were paying to Goldman the interest on a subprime mortgage. In fact, there was no mortgage at all."

“They weren’t satisfied getting lots of unqualified borrowers to borrow money to buy a house they couldn’t afford,” (Eisman) says. “They were creating them out of whole cloth. One hundred times over! That’s why the losses are so much greater than the loans."

From The End by Michael Lewis, Portfolio Magazine. December, 2008 issue.

One part of the puzzle. This is, actually, a positive sign, meaning we may start to work our way out of this mess. Here is, also, what this means: blaming the crisis on CRA or subprime lending is flat out wrong. Others are (finally) beginning to see the problem in full light: there simply were not enough subprime borrowers to cause a catastrophe of this magnitude. For that, you needed greed-induced leverage, a complete lack of ethics, and a set of parasitic financial institutions.

As we noted in April, 2008:

"With the development of toxic (derivative and subprime lending) financial products, the relationship between investment banks and the economy has turned parasitic."

You also need a compliant (non functioning) regulatory apparatus, something we warned about in 1998:

"“The nature of financial market activities is such that significant dislocations can and do occur quickly, with great force. These dislocations strike across institutional lines. That is, they affect both banks and securities firms. The financial institution regulatory structure is not in place to effectively evaluate these risks, however. Given this, the public is at risk.” WILLIAM MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM, UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS (CASE NUMBER 98-1459). OCTOBER, 1998.

Welcome to the solution, fellas...about time you got here.

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