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…
While algos patiently await the only thing that matters for US stocks today which is Janet Yellen's testimony before Congress. expected to be released at 8:30 am (and previewed here), the rest of the world this morning is a hot mess of schizophrenic highs and lows.
One look at Asia this morning and it was more of the same: another deja vu session for Japan where the relentless surge in the Yen pressured the Nikkei lower by another 2.3%, pushing it down to 15713, to the lowest close since October 2014. The MSCI Asia index was likewise down 1.4% with all 10 sectors...
The gap down had set up for a big bearish move lower, but the collapse never appeared. Instead, lows held as support. On the flip side, an attempt at a rally couldn't get off the ground, but markets were able to do enough to register a close above the open.
The S&P closed with a spinning top below support. Watch for a strong 'sell' signal in the MACD as other technicals remain bearish. The only positive is the strong relative performance against the Russell 2000.
The Nasdaq experienced a big gap down yesterday, and today offered a brief move to test the gap. Bulls need a gap higher to leave what could be a very good bullish ...
When assets reach prior highs, its time to pay attention from a Risk On & Risk Off basis.
The chart on the left is Silver, going back to the mid 1970’s. As you can see it reached $50 in the early 1980’s and then quickly reversed, losing over 90% of its value in the next 14-years. Then it embarked on a rally, starting in the early 1990’s. This rally took Silver back to the $50 level in 2011, which ended up being a “Double Top” nearly 30-years later. After hitting the $50 level again, buyers disappeared and sellers stepped forward....
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Throughout the past 30 days of wild volatility, here’s what I didn’t do.
Panic. Worry. Sell.
In fact, the best I did was add to a couple of positions yesterday. The world was already in an uncertain state for the past 3+ years. It’s just that with the market rising, we pushed the issue to the back of our mind and ignored it.
A number of systemic, structural forces are intersecting in 2016. One is the rise of non-state, non-central-bank-issued crypto-currencies.
We all know money is created and distributed by governments and central banks. The reason is simple: control the money and you control everything.
The invention of the blockchain and crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin have opened the door to non-state, non-central-bank currencies--money that is global and independent of any state or central bank, or indeed, any bank, as crypto-currencies are structurally peer-to-peer, meaning they don't require a bank to function: people can exchange crypto-currencies to pay for goods and services without a bank acting as a clearinghouse for all these transactions.
Last year, the S&P 500 large caps closed 2015 essentially flat on a total return basis, while the NASDAQ 100 showed a little better performance at +8.3% and the Russell 2000 small caps fell -5.9%. Overall, stocks disappointed even in the face of modest expectations, especially the small caps as market leadership was mostly limited to a handful of large and mega-cap darlings.
Notably, the full year chart for the S&P 500 looks very much like 2011. It got off to a good start, drifted sideways for...
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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.
This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible. Feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
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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