Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Enemies of the People

Taleb's 'swan song' is understandable ... notoriety has its privileges but anonymity is a lot calmer. The catalyst for justifying his oft-stated desire to retreat Walden-like to poetry and musings is represented by his entry. "Good Bye! The reappointment of Bernanke is too much to bear", but this humble blogger believes recent MSM articles about the rehabilitation of the ratings agencies may have very well tipped his 'anger fits and neck pain' scale to 'ah screw it!'

It is madness that the ratings agencies have not been hoisted onto their own petard by now. The pablum narrative of free speech should not apply to fee speech.

'If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers.'
- Thomas Pynchon

How apropos Alice. If democracy does contain the seeds of its own undoing, the rating agencies are clearly the roots of the tree masquerading as liberty.

Oh let's vote George Bush out for Barry Dunham ( personal note : I am a fierce social liberal and fiscal conservative) because that will bring about change! Although will admit that it is refreshing to have folks in charge of government agencies that haven't spent their entire adult life fighting against the very rules that they are appointed to supervise, what conclusion should the rational mind draw from an ubiquitous bankster-friendly policy flowing from the opposite side of the political spectrum?

So gosh let's circulate a petition to throw out Timmy G and BSB. For what? The same policies spewed forth by a different glamor girl?

Once upon a time I sat down in front of the agencies. Had an exclusive to place a'third'a billion face of a rather unique asset class. In order to get the buy side to bite of course we needed a rating.

It is not in any way embellishment to state that the work done by the agencies on this deal was so amateurish, so ephemeral, that a high school student with the toolkit of 'opposable thumbs and frontal lobes' could have coaxed Mr. Google into producing a superior report.

Ultimately the squints created a white paper and slicks in my biz waved it around industry conferences as if it were gospel.

Of course the gospel was built on the bell curve and the curve was based on assumptions.

While seers like Taleb and Mandelbrot have shown that it is the flight of an arrow and that reality is the tail risk, the coin flippers have heretofore admitted no more than hey... it's a modified coin flip and our assumptions, which we provided to you in the King's English, why they're free speech babe!

Shame that there isn't a smoking gun.

Waitaminnit ...

by Jesse Eisinger Oct 15 2008
Portfolio Magazine

In December 1997, J.p. Morgan closed on its first big credit-derivatives deal, the Broad Indexed Secured Trust Offering, or Bistro for short. Insurance companies and banks, the initial customers, were enthusiastic, snapping it up in just two weeks. The deal was enormous for the time, off-loading more than $9.7 billion of J.P. Morgan’s exposure. Morgan had succeeded in reducing its balance-sheet risk and was able to free up capital to buy its stock back.

J.P. Morgan would go on to launch a credit- derivatives assembly line, becoming the Henry Ford of the new financial market.

Bistro “was the most sublime piece of financial engineering that was ever developed. It was breathtaking in terms of beauty and elegance,” says Satyajit Das, a risk consultant and the author of Traders, Guns, and Money, a financial history. But “in many ways,” Das adds, “J.P. Morgan created Frankenstein’s monster.”

For J.P. Morgan, Bistro worked wonderfully. But even in that first deal, the weaknesses in structured finance and credit derivatives that would come to the fore in the 2007 credit-market crash were already there.

Despite its blue-chip assets, Bistro didn’t perform pristinely. The initial slice, the equity layer that Morgan retained as a cushion against trouble, was so thin that it couldn’t weather even one default from one of the bigger companies in the bundle. That ultimately happened, wiping the slice out entirely. The investors who were one notch up, in what’s called the mezzanine layer, lost money as well. Even the buyers of the top-rated tranches, which were thought to be rock solid, had to endure bumpy periods before they got their money back.

During that first major deal, the credit-rating agencies, which were supposed to be impartial, were already deeply enmeshed in the give-and-take of the process.

A former Morgan banker who helped create Bistro recalls that Standard & Poor’s was giving the bank a tough time. The rating firm would run the deal through its models, and “each time, it came up with disastrous results. We did some tinkering and all of a sudden, it could rate the deal,” the banker says.


What an innocuous word for fraud.

Move along nothing to see here.

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