Deciphering Joe Cassno’s Lies Before The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission
Joe Cassano is a very good liar, which is why it would be so hard to prosecute him for perjury. When testifying before The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, the former head of AIG Financial Products kept blending in half-truths with his audaciously dishonest claims, so that the overall effect was nonsensical. For instance, to justify his outrageous claim that, "the books were generally considered fully hedged," he explained that "we were using it basically in actuarial basis …[so] it’s not hedged in the conventional sense." (Translation: The book was never hedged in any sense. Nor was there any actuarial analysis, only a reliance on triple-A credit ratings.) These rhetorical tricks were designed to throw sand in everyone’s face. But his tactics seem to have worked. The staunchly unregenerate Cassano framed a media narrative that deflected away from his dishonesty and gross incompetence.
Here’s a reality check on some of his more ridiculous claims, in order of appearance:
1. Cassanos’s Claim: AIGFP never compromised its high underwriting standards.
The Truth: AIGFP had no underwriting standards pertaining to the most important risk, which affected AIG’s liquidity.
Commission Chairman Phil Angelides asked Cassano if he understood the subprime risks he insured. Cassano stonewalled with a lot of doubletalk:
Angelides: I want to talk to you about this, that these were represented as multisector CDOs. But if you look at — we did a sample of some of these in 2004, 2005, 2006, they were almost overwhelmingly residential-backed and very substantially subprime. For example, in the survey we did of some of these CDOs that you issued protection on, 84 percent were backed by RMBS residential mortgages in ’05, 89 percent in ’06. And just as an example, while you indicated you decided to stop writing on subprime instruments in January of ’06, for example, you backed an instrument called RFC III where that CDO was 93 percent subprime and seven percent HELOC home equity loans.
My question for you, Mr. Cassano, is was there — you said you did thorough due diligence. Were you aware of the quality of the mortgages? Do you do direct analysis of the loan data? Were you confident that you had a full understanding of the nature of what you were backing?
Today, during the FCIC’s second day of hearings, Goldman CFO David Viniar was forced to provide additional data about the firm’s AIG CDS trades. Luckily the firm kept a record of all entry and exit points, and thus will be able to confirm just what the P&L of the associated trades is (and if not, we are happy to teach Goldman’s risk department how to use the Bloomberg CDSD function in conjunction with RMGR run scraping to build a real time CDS portfolio tracker)… Which is ironic, because when asked by Brooksley Born why the firm has not yet provided a break down of its derivative revenue Mr. Viniar by all accounts perjured himself. As Bloomberg reported: “We don’t have a separate derivatives business,” Viniar told the panel. “It’s integrated into the rest of our business.”
Every evening, a firm’s back office (and that most certainly includes Goldman) takes the EOD CDS and cash marks from every single prop trader, be they equity, fixed income, mortgage, FX, etc. and using its own integrated pricing system or an outsourced one, compiles a daily P&L which is immediately sent to the head of the risk division, the head of trading, and other various listserv participants. And most certainly the traders, who have every interest of knowing just how they did in any given day as they prepare their bonus speech at the end of the fiscal year. Traders, who combine cash and CDS trading simply look at a consolidated P&L on the basis of DV01 exposure, which makes the form of product used completely irrelevant, and is a process whereby every change in 1 basis point in interest rates is equivalent to a profit or loss. Every single derivative is presented in Goldman’s daily risk summary on a DV01 basis to show not only maximum possible loss, but what the daily profit or loss may have been. This makes the tracing of both revenue from derivatives and cash products seamless.
Obviously even the FCIC panel was fully aware of this:
“When you tell us that you don’t know how much you make in your derivatives business, nobody here really believes it,” [Commissioner Byron] Georgiou told Viniar. “Nobody here believes that you don’t know how much money you’re
Think Blanche Lincoln’s attempts to tame derivative trading are new? Think again. During the 1990′s, its was the CFTC’s Brooksley Born who was the original crusader, attempting to warn about the dangers posed by an unregulated and out of control explosion in synthetic exposure. And just like Lincoln’s current role reprisal will likely end up being neutered by the Dodd-Frank tag team, so Born’s warnings continuously fell on deaf and conflicted ears. To see how 12 years ago one person was predicting precisely what may happen if JPM got its way to drown the world in $1.2 quadrillion of derivatives, watch this Frontline video "The Warning" from late last year: a fascinating hour-long adventure into the shadowy Over The Counter world which everyone has an opinion on, yet so few understand.
Last night PBS’s Frontline aired a new documentary called The Warning. If you missed it, you are in luck. We’ve got it right here.
Here’s how Frontline describes the documentary.
"We didn’t truly know the dangers of the market, because it was a dark market," says Brooksley Born, the head of an obscure federal regulatory agency — the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) — who not only warned of the potential for economic meltdown in the late 1990s, but also tried to convince the country’s key economic powerbrokers to take actions that could have helped avert the crisis. "They were totally opposed to it," Born says. "That puzzled me. What was it that was in this market that had to be hidden?"
In The Warning, airing Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS (check local listings), veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk (Inside the Meltdown, Breaking the Bank) unearths the hidden history of the nation’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. At the center of it all he finds Brooksley Born, who speaks for the first time on television about her failed campaign to regulate the secretive, multitrillion-dollar derivatives market whose crash helped trigger the financial collapse in the fall of 2008.
"I didn’t know Brooksley Born," says former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt, a member of President Clinton’s powerful Working Group on Financial Markets. "I was told that she was irascible, difficult, stubborn, unreasonable." Levitt explains how the other principals of the Working Group — former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin — convinced him that Born’s attempt to regulate the risky derivatives market could lead to financial turmoil, a conclusion he now believes was "clearly a mistake."
Born’s battle behind closed doors was epic, Kirk finds. The members of the President’s Working Group vehemently opposed regulation — especially when proposed by a Washington outsider like Born.
"I walk into Brooksley’s office one day; the blood has drained from her face," says Michael Greenberger, a former top official at the CFTC who worked closely with Born. "She’s hanging up the…
On Sunday we highlighted the rather shocking fact that commodities prices (as measured by Bloomberg’s commodity index) recently hit their lowest levels of the 21st century.
There are a number of factors that explain the plunge, not the least of which is slowing demand from China (as reinforced by this month’s beggar thy neighbor yuan deval which telegraphed Beijing’s worries about the domestic economy) and a global deflationary supply glut across the space exacerbated by easy access to capital markets (which allows otherwise insolvent producers to continue to drill...
A second day of gains keeps pressure on shorts in squeezing them out of their positions, but is also looking to sucker shorts into trying to second guess when this rally will end.
The S&P is heading fast towards 2,044. Given the speed at which it has enjoyed this advance it will be there by Tuesday! In reality, it will likely slow before it gets there. When markets do head lower it will be important they do so slowly to sow further doubt into shorts.
The Nasdaq will be testing resistance tomorrow, and is close to coming up against its 200-day MA. Those who bought the low will be very happy.
For example, the Consumer Metrics Institute says "On the surface this report shows solid economic growth for the US economy during the second quarter of 2015. Unfortunately, all of the usual caveats merit restatement".
Consumer Metrics Caveats
A significant portion of the "solid growth" in this headline number could be the result of understated BEA inflation data. Using deflators from the BLS resul...
China’s government intervened in the stock market on Thursday to end a $5 trillion rout, according to people familiar with the matter.
China wants to stabilize equities before a Sept. 3 military parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the victory over Japan during World War II, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the move wasn’t publicly announced. The intervention is the latest measure to ensure nothing detracts from the parade, an event the government will use to demonstrate its rising military and political might.
If one takes the highs of 1987 and the lows of 2003 and ties them together and then projects a line into the future, you get line (1). The Dow hit line (1) and its Fibonacci 161% level in May and the Dow could make no more upward progress after that!
Speaking of momentum, it reached lofty levels at the same time! Momentum recently hit levels last seen in 2000 and 2007.
Garnero Group Acquisition Company (NASDAQ: GGAC), a public investment vehicle formed for the purpose of effecting a merger, acquisition or similar business combination, and Grupo Colombo ("Grupo Colombo" or "GC"), a leading apparel retailer in Brazil, announced today that they have entered into a definitive investment agreement to merge the companies in a transaction valued at approximately $330 million. The combined company will remain listed on the NASDAQ Stock Market and be renamed "Garnero Colombo Inc."
Headquartered in Sao Paulo, Grupo Colombo is one of Brazil's leading retailers focusing on menswear, with over 400 stores throughout the country. Founded in 1917, Grupo Colombo is the largest retailer of men's shirts and suits in Brazil with net revenues of R$550 mill...
The dark veil around China is creating a little too much uncertainty for investors, with the usual fear mongers piling on and sending the vast buy-the-dip crowd running for the sidelines until the smoke clears. Furthermore, Sabrient’s fundamentals-based SectorCast rankings have been flashing near-term defensive signals. The end result is a long overdue capitulation event that has left no market segment unscathed in its mass carnage. The historically long technical consolidation finally came to the point of having to break one way or the other, and it decided to break hard to the downside, actually testing the lows from last ...
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With the VIX index jumping 120 percent on a weekly basis, the most in its history, and with the index measuring volatility or "fear" up near 47 percent on the day, one might think professional investors might be concerned. While the sell off did surprise some, certain hedge fund managers have started to dip their toes in the water to buy stocks they have on their accumulation list, while other algorithmic strategies are actually prospering in this volatile but generally consistently trending market.
Stock market sell off surprises some while others were prepared and are hedged prospering
Naysyers are warning that the recent plunge in Bitcoin prices - from almost $318 at its peak during the Greek crisis, to $221 yesterday - is due to growing power struggle over the future of the cryptocurrency that is dividing its lead developers. On Saturday, a rival version of the current software was released by two bitcoin big guns. As Reuters reports, Bitcoin XT would increase the block size to 8 megabytes enabling more transactions to be processed every second. Those who oppose Bitcoin XT say the bigger block size jeopardizes the vision of a decentralized payments system that bitcoin is built on with some believing ...
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Baxter Int. (BAX) is splitting off its BioSciences division into a new company called Baxalta. Shares of Baxalta will be given as a tax-free dividend, in the ratio of one to one, to BAX holders on record on June 17, 2015. That means, if you want to receive the Baxalta dividend, you need to buy the stock this week (on or before June 12).
Back in December, I wrote a post on my blog where I compared the performances of various ETFs related to the oil industry. I was looking for the best possible proxy to match the moves of oil prices if you didn't want to play with futures. At the time, I concluded that for medium term trades, USO and the leveraged ETFs UCO and SCO were the most promising. Longer term, broader ETFs like OIH and XLE might make better investment if oil prices do recover to more profitable prices since ETF linked to futures like USO, UCO and SCO do suffer from decay. It also seemed that DIG and DUG could be promising if OIH could recover as it should with the price of oil, but that they don't make a good proxy for the price of oil itself.
Kim Parlee interviews Phil on Money Talk. Be sure to watch the replays if you missed the show live on Wednesday night (it was recorded on Monday). As usual, Phil provides an excellent program packed with macro analysis, important lessons and trading ideas. ~ Ilene
The replay is now available on BNN's website. For the three part series, click on the links below.
Part 1 is here (discussing the macro outlook for the markets)
Part 2 is here. (discussing our main trading strategies)
Part 3 is here. (reviewing our pick of th...
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Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts. After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.) Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.
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