Was There a Plan to Blow Up the Economy? The Subprime Conspiracy: COUNTERPUNCH

May 3, 2010

Was There a Plan to Blow Up the Economy?

The Subprime Conspiracy

By MIKE WHITNEY

Many people now believe that the financial crisis was not an accident. They think that the Bush administration and the Fed knew what Wall Street was up to and provided their support. This isn’t as far fetched as it sounds. As we will show, it’s clear that Bush, Greenspan and many other high-ranking officials understood the problem with subprime mortgages and knew that a huge asset bubble was emerging that threatened the economy. But while the housing bubble was more than just an innocent mistake, it doesn’t rise to the level of “conspiracy” which Webster defines as  “a secret agreement between two or more people to perform an unlawful act.”  It’s actually worse than that, because bubblemaking is the dominant policy, and it’s used to overcome structural problems in capitalism itself, mainly stagnation.

The whole idea of a conspiracy diverts attention from what really happened. It conjures up a comical vision of  top-hat business tycoons gathered in a smoke-filled room stealthily mapping out the country’s future. It ignores the fact, that the main stakeholders don’t need to convene a meeting to know what they want. They already know what they want; they want a process that helps them to maintain profitability even while the “real” economy remains stuck in the mud.  Historian Robert Brenner has written extensively on this topic and dispels the mistaken view that the economy is “fundamentally strong”. (in the words of former Treasury secretary Henry Paulson)  Here’s Brenner :

“The current crisis is more serious than the worst previous recession of the postwar period, between 1979 and 1982, and could conceivably come to rival the Great Depression, though there is no way of really knowing. Economic forecasters have underestimated how bad it is because they have over-estimated the strength of the real economy and failed to take into account the extent of its dependence upon a buildup of debt that relied on asset price bubbles.

“In the U.S., during the recent business cycle of the years 2001-2007, GDP growth was by far the slowest of the postwar epoch. There was no increase in private sector employment. The increase in plants and equipment was about a third of the previous, a postwar low. Real wages were basically flat. There was no increase in median family income for the first time since World War II. Economic growth was driven entirely by personal consumption and residential investment, made possible by easy credit and rising house prices. Economic performance was weak, even despite the enormous stimulus from the housing bubble and the Bush administration’s huge federal deficits. Housing by itself accounted for almost one-third of the growth of GDP and close to half of the increase in employment in the years 2001-2005. It was, therefore, to be expected that when the housing bubble burst, consumption and residential investment would fall, and the economy would plunge. ” (“Overproduction not Financial Collapse is the Heart of the Crisis”, Robert P. Brenner speaks with Jeong Seong-jin, Asia Pacific Journal)

What Brenner describes is an economy \that–despite unfunded tax cuts, massive military spending and gigantic asset bubbles–can barely produce positive growth.  The pervasive lethargy of mature capitalist economies poses huge challenges for industry bosses who are judged solely on their ability to boost quarterly profits. Goldman’s Lloyd Blankfein and JPM’s Jamie Dimon could care less about economic theory, what they’re interested in is making money; how to deploy their capital in a way that maximizes return on investment. “Profits”, that’s it.  And that’s much more difficult in a world that’s beset by overcapacity and flagging demand.  The world doesn’t need more widgets or widget-makers. The only way to ensure profitability is to invent an alternate system altogether, a new universe of financial exotica (CDOs, MBSs, CDSs) that operates independent of the sluggish real economy. Financialization provides that opportunity. It allows the main players to pump-up the leverage, minimize capital-outlay, inflate asset prices, and skim off record profits even while the real  economy endures severe stagnation.

Financialization provides a  path to wealth creation, which is why the sector’s portion of total corporate profits is now nearly 40 per cent. It’s a way to bypass the pervasive inertia of the production-oriented economy. The Fed’s role in this new paradigm is to create a hospitable environment (low interest rates) for bubble-making so the upward transfer of wealth can continue without interruption. Bubblemaking is policy.

As we’ve pointed out in earlier articles, scores of people knew what was going on during the subprime fiasco. But it’s worth a quick review, because Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan, Timothy Geithner, and others have been defending themselves saying, “Who could have known?”.

The FBI knew (“In September 2004, the FBI began publicly warning that there was an “epidemic” of mortgage fraud, and it predicted that it would produce an economic crisis, if it were not dealt with.”) The FDIC knew. ( In testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, FDIC chairman Sheila Bair confirmed that she not only warned the Fed of what was going on in 2001, but cited particular regulations (HOEPA) under which the Fed could stop the “unfair, abusive and deceptive practices” by the banks.) Also Fitch ratings knew, and even Alan Greenspan’s good friend and former Fed governor Ed Gramlich knew. (Gramlich personally warned Greenspan of the surge in predatory lending that was apparent as early as 2000. Here’s a bit of what Gramlich said in the Wall Street Journal:

“I would have liked the Fed to be a leader” in cracking down on predatory lending, Mr. Gramlich, now a scholar at the Urban Institute, said in an interview this past week. Knowing it would be controversial with Mr. Greenspan, whose deregulatory philosophy is well known, Mr. Gramlich broached it to him personally rather than take it to the full board. “He was opposed to it, so I didn’t really pursue it,” says Mr. Gramlich. (Wall Street Journal)

So, Greenspan knew, too. And, according to Elizabeth MacDonald  in an article titled “Housing Red flags Ignored”:

“One of the nation’s biggest mortgage industry players repeatedly warned the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and other bank regulators during the housing bubble that the U.S. faced an imminent housing crash….But bank regulators not only ignored the group’s warnings, top Fed officials also went on the airwaves to say the economy was “building on a sturdy foundation” and a housing crash was “unlikely.”

So, the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America [MICA] also knew. And, here’s a clip from the Washington Post by former New York governor Eliot Spitzer who accused Bush of being a ‘partner in crime’ in the subprime fiasco. Spitzer says that the OCC launched “an unprecedented assault on state legislatures, as well as on state attorneys general just to make sure the looting would continue without interruption. Here’s an except from Spitzer’s article:

“In 2003, during the height of the predatory lending crisis….the OCC promulgated new rules that prevented states from enforcing any of their own consumer protection laws against national banks. The federal government’s actions were so egregious and so unprecedented that all 50 state attorneys general, and all 50 state banking superintendents, actively fought the new rules. (Washington Post)

So, the Fed knew, the Treasury knew, the FBI knew, the OCC knew, the FDIC knew, Bush knew, the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America knew, Fitch ratings knew, all the states Attorneys General knew, and thousands, of traders, lenders, ratings agency executives, bankers, hedge fund managers, private equity bosses, regulators knew. Everyone knew, except the unlucky people who were victimized in the biggest looting operation of all time.

Once again, looking for conspiracy, just diverts attention from the nature of the crime itself. Here’s a statement from former regulator and white collar criminologist William K. Black which helps to clarify the point:

“Fraudulent lenders produce exceptional short-term ‘profits’ through a four-part strategy: extreme growth (Ponzi), lending to uncreditworthy borrowers, extreme leverage, and minimal loss reserves. These exceptional ‘profits’ defeat regulatory restrictions and turn private market discipline perverse. The profits also allow the CEO to convert firm assets for personal benefit through seemingly normal compensation mechanisms. The short-term profits cause stock options to appreciate. Fraudulent CEOs following this strategy are guaranteed extraordinary income while minimizing risks of detection and prosecution.” (William K. Black,“Epidemics of’Control Fraud’ Lead to Recurrent, Intensifying Bubbles andCrises”, University of Missouri at Kansas City – School of Law)

Black’s definition of “control fraud” comes very close to describing what really took place during the subprime mortgage frenzy. The investment banks and other financial institutions bulked up on garbage loans and complex securities backed by dodgy mortgages so they could increase leverage and rake off large bonuses for themselves. Clearly, they knew the underlying collateral was junk, just as they knew that eventually the market would crash and millions of people would suffer.

But, while it’s true that Greenspan and Wall Street knew how the bubble-game was played; they had no intention of blowing up the whole system. They simply wanted to inflate the bubble, make their profits, and get out before the inevitable crash.  But, then something went wrong. When Lehman collapsed, the entire financial system suffered a major heart attack. All of the so-called “experts” models turned out to be wrong.

Here’s what happened: Before to the meltdown, the depository “regulated” banks got their funding through the repo market by exchanging collateral (mainly mortgage-backed securities) for short-term loans with the so-called “shadow banks” (investment banks, hedge funds, insurers) But after Lehman defaulted, the funding stream was severely impaired because the prices on mortgage-backed securities kept falling. When the bank-funding system went on the fritz,  stocks went into a nosedive sending panicky investors fleeing for the exits. As unbelievable as it sounds, no one saw this coming.

The reason that no one anticipated a run on the shadow banking system is because the basic architecture of the financial markets has changed dramatically in the last decade due to deregulation. The fundamental structure is different and the traditional stopgaps have been removed. That’s why no one knew what to do during the panic. The general assumption was that there would be a one-to-one relationship between defaulting subprime mortgages and defaulting mortgage-backed securities (MBS). That turned out to be a grave miscalculation. The subprimes were only failing at roughly 8 percent rate when the whole secondary market collapsed. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill explained it best using a clever analogy. He said, “It’s like you have 8 bottles of water and just one of them has arsenic in it. It becomes impossible to sell any of the other bottles because no one knows which one contains the poison.”

And that’s exactly what happened. The market for structured debt crashed, stocks began to plummet, and the Fed had to step in to save the system. Unfortunately, that same deeply-flawed system is being rebuilt brick by brick without any substantive changes.. The Fed and Treasury support this effort, because–as agents of the banks–they are willing to sacrifice their own credibility to defend the primary profit-generating instruments of the industry leaders. (Goldman, JPM, etc) That means that Bernanke and Geithner will go to the mat to oppose any additional regulation on derivatives, securitization and off-balance sheet operations, the same lethal devices that triggered the financial crisis.

So, there was no conspiracy to blow up the financial system, but there is an implicit understanding that the Fed will serve the interests of Wall Street by facilitating asset bubbles through “accommodative” monetary policy and by opposing regulation. It’s just “business as usual”, but it’s far more damaging than any conspiracy, because it ensures that the economy will continue to stagnate, that inequality will continue to grow, and that the gigantic upward transfer of wealth will continue without pause.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached atfergiewhitney@msn.com

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Borrower Bailout?: Goldman Sachs Conveyor Belt

 Via: Livinglies

Borrower Bailout?: Goldman Sachs Conveyor Belt

  • If you have a GSAMP securitized loan you might want to pay particular attention here. In fact, if you ever had a securitized loan of any kind you should be very interested.
  • Hudson Mezzanine: The use of the word “mezzanine” is like the use of the word “Trust.” There is no mezzanine and there is no trust in the legal sense. It is merely meant to convey the fact that a conduit was being used to front multiple transactions — any one of which could be later moved around because the reference to the conduit entity does not specifically incorporate the exhibits to the conduit.
  • The real legal issue here is who owns the profit from these deals? The profit is derived from insurance. The cost of insurance was funded from the securitized chain starting with the sale of securities to investors for money that was pooled.
  • That pool was used in part to fund mortgages and insurance bets that those mortgages would fail. 93% of the sub-prime mortgages rated Triple AAA got marked down to junk level even if they did not fail, and insurance paid off because of the markdown. That means money was paid based upon loans executed by borrowers, whether they were or are default or not.
  • If enough of the pool consisted of sub-prime mortgages, the the entire pool was marked down and insurance paid off. So whether you have a sub-prime mortgage or a conventional mortgage, whether you are up to date or in default, there is HIGH PROBABILITY that a payment has been made from insurance which should be allocated to your loan, whether foreclosed or not.
  • The rest of the proceeds of investments by investors went as fees and profits to middlemen. If you accept the notion that the entire securitization chain was a single transaction in which fraud was the principal ingredient on both ends (homeowners and ivnestors), then BOTH the homeowner borrowers and the investors have a claim to that money.
  • Homeowners have a claim for undisclosed compensation under the Truth in Lending Act and Investors have a claim under the Securities laws.  (That is where these investor lawsuits and settlements come from).
  • What nobody has done YET is file a claim for borrowers. The probable reason for this is that the securities transactions giving rise to these profits seem remote from the loan transaction. But if they arose BECAUSE of the execution of the loan documents by the borrower, then lending laws apply, along with REG Z from the Federal reserve. The payoff to borrowers is huge, potentially involving treble damages, interest, court costs and attorney fees.
  • Under common law fraud and just plain common sense, there is no legal basis for allowing the perpetrator of a fraud to keep the benefits arising out of the the fraud. So who gets the money?
April 26, 2010

Mortgage Deals Under Scrutiny as Goldman Faces Senators

By LOUISE STORY

WASHINGTON — The legal storm buffeting Goldman Sachs continued to rage Tuesday just ahead of what is expected to be a contentious Senate hearing at which bank executives plan to defend their actions during the housing crisis.

Senate investigators on Monday claimed that Goldman Sachs had devised not one but a series of complex deals to profit from the collapse of the home mortgage market. The claims suggested for the first time that the inquiries into Goldman were stretching beyond the sole mortgage deal singled out by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The S.E.C. has accused Goldman of defrauding investors in that single transaction, Abacus 2007-AC1, have thrust the bank into a legal whirlwind.

The stage for Tuesday’s hearing was set with a flurry of new documents from the panel, the Permanent Senate Subcommittee on Investigations. That was preceded by a press briefing in Washington, where the accusations against Goldman have transformed the politics of financial reform.

In the midst of this storm, Lloyd C. Blankfein, Goldman’s chairman and chief executive, plans to sound a conciliatory note on Tuesday.

In a statement prepared for the hearing and released on Monday, Mr. Blankfein said the news 10 days ago that the S.E.C. had filed a civil fraud suit against Goldman had shaken the bank’s employees.

“It was one of the worst days of my professional life, as I know it was for every person at our firm,” Mr. Blankfein said. “We have been a client-centered firm for 140 years, and if our clients believe that we don’t deserve their trust we cannot survive.”

Mr. Blankfein will also testify that Goldman did not have a substantial, consistent short position in the mortgage market.

But at the press briefing in Washington, Carl Levin, the Democrat of Michigan who heads the Senate committee, insisted that Goldman had bet against its clients repeatedly. He held up a binder the size of two breadboxes that he said contained copies of e-mail messages and other documents that showed Goldman had put its own interests first.

“The evidence shows that Goldman repeatedly put its own interests and profits ahead of the interests of its clients,” Mr. Levin said.

Mr. Levin’s investigative staff released a summary of those documents, which are to be released in full on Tuesday. The summary included information on Abacus as well as new details about other complex mortgage deals.

On a page titled “The Goldman Sachs Conveyor Belt,” the subcommittee described five other transactions beyond the Abacus investment.

One, called Hudson Mezzanine, was put together in the fall of 2006 expressly as a way to create more short positions for Goldman, the subcommittee claims. The $2 billion deal was one of the first for which Goldman sales staff began to face dubious clients, according to former Goldman employees.

“Here we are selling this, but we think the market is going the other way,” a former Goldman salesman told The New York Times in December.

Hudson, like Goldman’s 25 Abacus deals, was a synthetic collateralized debt obligation, which is a bundle of insurance contracts on mortgage bonds. Like other banks, Goldman turned to synthetic C.D.O.’s to allow it to complete deals faster than the sort of mortgage securities that required actual mortgage bonds. These deals also created a new avenue for Goldman and some of its hedge fund clients to make negative bets on housing.

Goldman also had an unusual and powerful role in the Hudson deal that the Senate committee did not highlight: According to Hudson marketing documents, which were reviewed on Monday by The Times, Goldman was also the liquidation agent in the deal, which is the party that took it apart when it hit trouble.

The Senate subcommittee also studied two deals from early 2007 called Anderson Mezzanine 2007-1 and Timberwolf I. In total, these two deals were worth $1.3 billion, and Goldman held about $380 million of the negative bets associated with the two deals.

The subcommittee pointed to these deals as examples of how Goldman put its own interests ahead of clients. Mr. Levin read from several Goldman documents on Monday to underscore the point, including one in October 2007 that said, “Real bad feeling across European sales about some of the trades we did with clients. The damage this has done to our franchise is very significant.”

As the mortgage market collapsed, Goldman turned its back on clients who came knocking with older Goldman-issued bonds they had bought. One example was a series of mortgage bonds known as Gsamp.

“I said ‘no’ to clients who demanded that GS should ‘support the Gsamp’ program as clients tried to gain leverage over us,” a mortgage trader, Michael Swenson, wrote in his self-evaluation at the end of 2007. “Those were unpopular decisions but they saved the firm hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The Gsamp program was also involved in a dispute in the summer of 2007 that Goldman had with a client, Peleton Partners, a hedge fund founded by former Goldman workers that has since collapsed because of mortgage losses.

According to court documents reviewed by The Times on Monday, in June 2007, Goldman refused to accept a Gsamp bond from Peleton in a dispute over the securities that backed up a mortgage security called Broadwick. A Peleton partner was pointed in his response after Goldman refused the Gsamp bond.

“We do appreciate the unintended irony,” wrote Peter Howard, a partner at Peleton, in an e-mail message about the Gsamp bond.

Bank of America ended up suing Goldman over the Broadwick deal. The parties are awaiting a written ruling in that suit. Broadwick was one of a dozen or so so-called hybrid C.D.O.’s that Goldman created in 2006 and 2007. Such investments were made up of both mortgage bonds and insurance contracts on mortgage bonds.

While such hybrids have received little attention, one mortgage researcher, Gary Kopff of Everest Management, has pointed to a dozen other Goldman C.D.O.’s, including Broadwick, that were mixes of mortgage bonds and insurance policies. Those deals — with names like Fortius I and Altius I — may have been another method for Goldman to obtain negative bets on housing.

“It was like an insurance policy that Goldman stuck in the middle of the sandwich with all the other subprime bonds,” Mr. Kopff said. “And it was an insurance policy designed to protect them.”

An earlier version of this article misidentified Senator Levin’s home state.

Relatated Stories:

Shareholders Sue Goldman, Blankfein Confirming Trusts Do NOT Own the Loans

Merrill Lynch Accused of Same Fraud as Goldman Sachs; House of Cards are beginning to fall: Bloomberg

This is going to unleash a domino effect! Come one, Come all! Anyone buying these CDO’s from these fraudsters need to get examined!

Interested to see their stock this week??

 

 

Merrill Used Same Alleged Fraud as Goldman, Bank Says (Update1)

By William McQuillen

April 17 (Bloomberg) — Merrill Lynch & Co. engaged in the same investor fraud that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused Goldman Sachs Group Inc. of committing, according to a bank that sued the firm in New York last year.

Cooperatieve Centrale Raiffeisen-Boerenleenbank BA, known as Rabobank, claims Merrill, now a unit of Bank of America Corp., failed to tell it a key fact in advising on a synthetic collateralized debt obligation. Omitted was Merrill’s relationship with another client betting against the investment, which resulted in a loss of $45 million, Rabobank claims.

Merrill’s handling of the CDO, a security tied to the performance of subprime residential mortgage-backed securities, mirrors Goldman Sachs conduct that the SEC details in the civil complaint the agency filed yesterday. It claimed Goldman omitted the same key fact about a financial product tied to subprime mortgages as the U.S. housing market was starting to falter.

“This is the tip of the iceberg in regard to Goldman Sachs and certain other banks who were stacking the deck against CDO investors,” said Jon Pickhardt, an attorney with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, who is representing Netherlands-based Rabobank.

“The two matters are unrelated and the claims today are not only unfounded but weren’t included in the Rabobank lawsuit filed nearly a year ago,” Bill Halldin, a Merrill spokesman, said yesterday of the Dutch bank’s claims.

Kenneth Lench, head of the SEC’s Structured and New Products unit, said yesterday that the agency “continues to investigate the practices of investment banks and others involved in the securitization of complex financial products tied to the U.S. housing market as it was beginning to show signs of distress.”

Failed to Disclose

In its complaint, the SEC said New York-based Goldman Sachs, which had a record $13.4 billion profit last year, failed to disclose to investors that hedge fund Paulson & Co. was betting against the CDO, known as Abacus, and influenced the selection of securities for the portfolio. Paulson, which oversees $32 billion and didn’t market the CDO, wasn’t accused of wrongdoing by the SEC.

Goldman Sachs, the most profitable securities firm in Wall Street history, created and sold CDOs tied to subprime mortgages in early 2007, as the U.S. housing market faltered, without disclosing that Paulson helped pick the underlying securities and bet against them, the SEC said in a statement yesterday.

The SEC allegations are “unfounded in law and fact, and we will vigorously contest them,” Goldman said in a statement.

Merrill Lynch’s arrangement involved Magnetar, a hedge fund that bet against a CDO known as Norma, Rabobank claimed.

Effort to Replicate

“When one major firm becomes aware of the creative instrument of others, there is historically an effort to replicate them,” said Jacob Frenkel, a former SEC lawyer now in private practice in Potomac, Maryland.

SEC spokesman John Heine declined to comment on whether it is investigating Merrill’s actions.

Norma’s largest investor was investment bank Cohen & Co, with more than $100 million in notes, according to Rabobank’s complaint.

Merrill loaded the Norma CDO with bad assets, Rabobank claims. Rabobank seeks $45 million in damages, according to a complaint filed in state court in June 2009. Rabobank initially provided a secured loan of almost $60 million to Merrill, according to its complaint.

Risks Disclosed

Merrill countered in court papers that Rabobank was aware of the risks, which were disclosed in the transaction documents. The bank should have been responsible for conducting its own due diligence, and shouldn’t have relied on Merrill, it said in a court filing last year seeking to dismiss the case.

Steve Lipin, an outside spokesman for Magnetar, didn’t immediately comment.

The case is Cooperatieve Centrale Raiffeisen- Boerenleenbank, B.A. v. Merrill Lynch & Co, 09-601832, New York State Supreme Court (New York County).

To contact the reporter on this story: William McQuillen in Washington at bmcquillen@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: April 16, 2010 23:03 EDT

MATT TAIBBI: Goldman Sachs “VAMPIRE SQUID”

The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.

TYX91101 Taibbi’s excellent articles alone are worth the price of the magazine. There have been several. He’s doing a commendable job of putting Wall Street monkey business into the public consciousness. You never get that kind of reporting on CNBC. Great work Matt! 6 hours ago
overseachininadoll Those who greatly benefited from the crash must hand back the money. (Paulson company) 14 hours ago
Relugus Alot more than the sycophantic financial journalists who kiss Wall Street’s ass. Wall Street has been screwing people, stealing taxpayers money, stealing wealth from the people, for decades. People are slowly waking up to what Wall Street is, a bunch of criminals and gangsters. 18 hours ago
Related Articles:

Dylan Ratigan does a great job explaining the con: GOLDMAN SACHS

The SEC’s complaint charges Goldman Sachs and Tourre with violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Exchange Act Rule 10b-5. The Commission seeks injunctive relief, disgorgement of profits, prejudgment interest, and financial penalties.

 

Many recall this post below:

Move over GOLDMAN SACHS…WE have a New Player to this Housing “Betting” Crisis…NASDAQ Presenting the Law Offices of David J. Stern, P.A. (“DJS”)

SEC Charges Goldman Sachs With Fraud: Complaint Reveals Discovery Tips

Posted on April 16, 2010 by Neil Garfield

“The Commission seeks injunctive relief, disgorgement of profits, prejudgment interest and civil penalties from both defendants.” Editor’s Note: Here is where the rubber meets the road. This same pool of illegal fraudulent profit is also subject to being defined as an undisclosed yield spread premium due to the borrowers. Some enterprising class action lawyer has some low hanging fruit here — the class is already defined for you by the SEC — all those homeowners subject to loan documents that were pledged or transferred into a pool which was received or incorporated by reference into this Abacus vehicle)

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Litigation Release No. 21489 / April 16, 2010

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Fabrice Tourre, 10 Civ. 3229 (BJ) (S.D.N.Y. filed April 16, 2010)

The SEC Charges Goldman Sachs With Fraud In Connection With The Structuring And Marketing of A Synthetic CDO

The Securities and Exchange Commission today filed securities fraud charges against Goldman, Sachs & Co. (“GS&Co”) and a GS&Co employee, Fabrice Tourre (“Tourre”), for making material misstatements and omissions in connection with a synthetic collateralized debt obligation (“CDO”) GS&Co structured and marketed to investors. This synthetic CDO, ABACUS 2007-AC1, was tied to the performance of subprime residential mortgage-backed securities (“RMBS”) and was structured and marketed in early 2007 when the United States housing market and the securities referencing it were beginning to show signs of distress. Synthetic CDOs like ABACUS 2007-AC1 contributed to the recent financial crisis by magnifying losses associated with the downturn in the United States housing market.

According to the Commission’s complaint, the marketing materials for ABACUS 2007-AC1 — including the term sheet, flip book and offering memorandum for the CDO — all represented that the reference portfolio of RMBS underlying the CDO was selected by ACA Management LLC (“ACA”), a third party with expertise in analyzing credit risk in RMBS. Undisclosed in the marketing materials and unbeknownst to investors, a large hedge fund, Paulson & Co. Inc. (“Paulson”) [Editor’s Note: Brad Keiser in his forensic analyses has reported that Paulson may have been a principal in OneWest which took over Indymac and may have ties with former Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson, former GS CEO], with economic interests directly adverse to investors in the ABACUS 2007-AC1 CDO played a significant role in the portfolio selection process. After participating in the selection of the reference portfolio, Paulson effectively shorted the RMBS portfolio it helped select by entering into credit default swaps (“CDS”) with GS&Co to buy protection on specific layers of the ABACUS 2007-AC1 capital structure. Given its financial short interest, Paulson had an economic incentive to choose RMBS that it expected to experience credit events in the near future. GS&Co did not disclose Paulson’s adverse economic interest or its role in the portfolio selection process in the term sheet, flip book, offering memorandum or other marketing materials.
The Commission alleges that Tourre was principally responsible for ABACUS 2007-AC1. According to the Commission’s complaint, Tourre devised the transaction, prepared the marketing materials and communicated directly with investors. Tourre is alleged to have known of Paulson’s undisclosed short interest and its role in the collateral selection process. He is also alleged to have misled ACA into believing that Paulson invested approximately $200 million in the equity of ABACUS 2007-AC1 (a long position) and, accordingly, that Paulson’s interests in the collateral section process were aligned with ACA’s when in reality Paulson’s interests were sharply conflicting. The deal closed on April 26, 2007. Paulson paid GS&Co approximately $15 million for structuring and marketing ABACUS 2007-AC1. By October 24, 2007, 83% of the RMBS in the ABACUS 2007-AC1 portfolio had been downgraded and 17% was on negative watch. By January 29, 2008, 99% of the portfolio had allegedly been downgraded. Investors in the liabilities of ABACUS 2007-AC1 are alleged to have lost over $1 billion. Paulson’s opposite CDS positions yielded a profit of approximately $1 billion.

The Commission’s complaint, which was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, charges GS&Co and Tourre with violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. §77q(a), Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. §78j(b) and Exchange Act Rule 10b-5, 17 C.F.R. §240.10b-5. The Commission seeks injunctive relief, disgorgement of profits, prejudgment interest and civil penalties from both defendants.

The Commission’s investigation is continuing into the practices of investment banks and others that purchased and securitized pools of subprime mortgages and the resecuritized CDO market with a focus on products structured and marketed in late 2006 and early 2007 as the U.S. housing market was beginning to show signs of distress.

Glenn Beck on The Goldman Sachs Connection

So what does this ‘FRAUD” mean and the AIG bailout they received?