Thursday, May 28, 2009

Don’t pin the recession on AIG’s Joe Cassano - True/Slant:

Having written one of many articles identifying Cassano as a key cause of the crisis, I guess I and people like me should have seen this coming — that at some point down the road a general consensus would form blaming some rogue individual for the financial crisis. And while Joe Cassano is certainly as guilty as a person can be, the notion that he alone is responsible for this mess is not only appalling but extremely dangerous. The people who would believe such a thing are the same people who believe that this crisis might have been avoided if a few minor changes had been made. I’ve heard people say, for instance, that much havoc could have been avoidded if there had just been a law mandating margin requirements for CDS contracts, so that people like Cassano couldn’t make bets without the money to pay off.

This is bullshit. And it’s dangerous bullshit. The problem isn’t a few technical glitches in the system that allowed the Cassanos of the world to drive Mack Trucks of leverage through a loophole or two.
The problem is, at its roots, a profound collapse of morals on Wall Street that would have found its way to financial destruction using any available set of instruments and laws. We are talking about people who sold giant rafts of bullshit mortgages to pensions, who stuck municipalities, innocent taxpayers, with time-bombs of subprime debt. And not just one trader here and there, but thousands of them, with the sober approval of the highest level executives in the biggest firms. On its most basic level what these people did is rip off huge institutional investors — old people, taxpayers, you and me — by finding ways to game the system and trick the big institutional fund managers into buying what they thought were safe investments, but were actually financial lemons that could barely make it out of the lot.