There's been a spate of articles within the last week investigating Goldman Sachs role in the financial crisis.
"In 2006 and 2007, Goldman Sachs Group peddled more than $40 billion in securities backed by at least 200,000 risky home mortgages, but never told the buyers it was secretly betting that a sharp drop in U.S. housing prices would send the value of those securities plummeting.
Goldman's sales and its clandestine wagers, completed at the brink of the housing market meltdown, enabled the nation's premier investment bank to pass most of its potential losses to others before a flood of mortgage defaults staggered the U.S. and global economies.
Only later did investors discover that what Goldman had promoted as triple-A rated investments were closer to junk. "
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More from Matt Taibbi on the AIG fiasco:
"The important thing to remember about all of this is that just because Goldman was buying “insurance” from Cassano, that doesn’t mean they were being responsible. On the contrary: Goldman was creating well over ten billion dollars worth of exposure to a guy that they must have known was an absolute idiot. Now, in a world where actual capitalism existed, Goldman should then have been highly invested in making sure that AIG did not go under. A dead and bankrupt AIG should not have been good news to a company like Goldman Sachs, which had billions of dollars riding on AIG’s financial health.
But if anything Goldman behaved throughout the runup to AIG’s collapse like it couldn’t care less if the company died. In fact Goldman accelerated AIG’s demise by making margin calls against AIG, for both the CDS deals and for deals it had done with Win Neuger, who was running AIG’s securities lending business. What really sank AIG was the fact that the downgrade of its credit rating permitted companies like Goldman to demand large sums of money from AIG in the form of these margin calls, and AIG could not get its hands on enough cash to meet its demands, resulting in the death spiral situation we all witnessed last September. Of all the firms making such demands against AIG, Goldman was the most aggressive (I have more on this coming out in a forthcoming book) and my sources who were involved in the AIG bailout bunker scene of a year ago almost to a man report that Goldman and its chief Lloyd Blankfein took an extremely hard line with AIG.
Why would it act like that? Well, in a normal capitalistic situation, it wouldn’t. But Goldman, it turned out, had an ace in the hole. It seems that when the state stepped in and decided to bail AIG out, its former director, Stephen Friedman, was among those making the decision that AIG’s counterparties should be paid 100 cents on the dollar for its CDS debts. It never made sense that AIG/AIGFP would decide on its own to pay its creditors 100 cents on the dollar for its debts, but now we know, thanks to reporting from Bloomberg, that it wasn’t AIGFP and its CFO Elias Habayeb who was making that decision."
From Janet Tavakoli:
"The government’s 100% payout to AIG’s counterparties was a gift, and the negotiations were done in secret. The monoline insurers were in a similar situation with a variety of deals from a variety of counterparties. (Structured Finance Pp. 405‐427) For example, in 2008, Citigroup Inc. accepted about 60 cents on the dollar from New York‐based bond insurer Ambac Financial Group Inc. to retire protection on a $1.4 billion CDO. Ambac said the underlying “super senior” was worth about zero, and the protection payment would otherwise have been near the full $1.4 billion. Citigroup got a relatively huge payout, since other “high grade” deals have been settled for as low as ten cents on the dollar.
The irony is that Goldman Sachs may not have been involved in the worst of the deals, but its officers had unusually high profile in AIG’s damage control. Goldman’s deals with AIG may have all been completely proper, but deals like GSAMP Trust 2006‐3 indicate that Goldman should not be exempt from the general fraud audit of mortgage securitizations that all of the former investment banks [Lehman, Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and some foreign banks doing business in the U.S. (DMB Pp. 97‐107.)] should undergo."
The fact that there's been a revolving door between government and Goldman employees doesn't seem to get enough major media attention. Couple that with a list of politicians who have been on the receiving end of GS campaign contributions and connect the dots with legislative activity and appointments. A scandal of huge proportion looms, if anybody bothered to look into it. Of course, all the t's crossed and i's dotted may be perfectly legal but ethics and morality are noticeably absent.
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