While there is plenty of blame to go around in the entire banking debacle, let’s not forget who the key enablers were: The rating agencies. Their business model is a modern form of payola, with bond underwriters as customer #9. This allowed them to slap triple AAA ratings on the paper held by firms such as Bear Stearns.
When you consider just what a criminally negligent job they have done in covering nearly
everything, from sub-prime infected RMBS to all manner of derivatives,
to the duolines themselves, it is really beyond comprehension.
Last week, we heard from S&P, who opined the end was in sight for the sub-prime write downs. Are these guys really the best messenger for this?
(I may have to change the name of this blog to The Big Schandenfreude)
Which leads to this advert, circa 2005. Its a classic:
If anyone can scare up the full report, send it to me @ Yahoo . . .
States and Cities Start Rebelling on Bond Ratings
JULIE CRESWELL and VIKAS BAJAJ
NYT, March 3, 2008
Time to brush up on what happens during a Bear Market, via Anatomy of the Bear. “How does one spot the bottom of a bear market? What brings a bear to its end? Financial market history is a guide to understanding the future.” Looking at the four occasions when US equities were particularly cheap –…Read More
Back in August of 2007, we looked at the The Ongoing Impact of the Housing Sector.
At the time, I had assigned blame for all of the problems in the credit
market to a variety of institutions and people. The blame went as follows:
* Federal Reserve (FOMC)
* Mortgage brokers
* Federal Government
* Fannie Mae
* Lending banks
* Wall Street firms
* CDO Managers
* Credit agencies
* Hedge funds
* Institutional Investors (pensions, insurance firms, banks, etc.)
* And back to regulatory role of the Federal Reserve
Today’s WSJ has a front page article looking at the same issue: Housing Bust Fuels Blame Game. However, they assess blame somewhat differently, with a bit of a political slant:
Democrats are quick to blame Republicans, who were in
power during the housing bubble and subprime lending frenzy. For years,
America’s leaders failed to restrain the markets, companies, investors
and consumers from the missteps that led to the most pervasive
financial crisis in decades.
But in hindsight, the failure stretches across
government and across party lines. At bottom are two strong currents.
From the Republican president to urban Democratic congressmen,
homeownership was pushed as an overriding and unquestioned goal. And
many significant attempts at regulation were obstructed by the
prevailing belief that the economy did best when financial markets
operated as freely as possible.
While the headline writer tries to call this a "Bipartisan Failure," the bulk of the actual article is find less kind to the GOP. The Journal blamed:
* The Bush administration for cheerleading homeownership and pressuring government-sponsored mortgage lenders
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to provide funding for riskier mortgages.
* Congress for allowing Fannie and Freddie to invest
heavily in securities backed by subprime loans.
* While Democratic congressmen
pushed federal law to restrain sub-prime lending practices Republicans (with some Democratic allies) blocked or countered with
* Federal Reserve, Chairman Alan Greenspan,
revered for not using the
Fed’s authority to more aggressively regulate lender behavior.
* California — where the country’s subprime lenders where — saw Democratic state lawmakers
refusing to impose tougher regulations on a
prized local industry.
Perhaps its bias on my part, but that list looks a little one sided to me . . .
graphic courtesy of the WSJ
Housing Bust Fuels Blame Game
Democrats Seize On Opponents’ Role;
GREG IP, JAMES R. HAGERTY and JONATHAN KARP
WSJ, February 27, 2008; Page A1