Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We Give Credit Rating Companies and Big Banks Way Too Much Credit

Let me see if I can follow this trail. In this article, Stocks slump as Greece debt downgraded to junk, Standard & Poor's "dismissed the suggestion that its announcement caused [market] turmoil Tuesday" while markets on both sides of the Atlantic took a 2% dump and the two portfolios I try to manage took 3.5% hits. It seems to me that S&P's statement is categorically wrong; the article title is right - "stocks slump as...." John Chambers, S&P's Chairman, says, "Ratings just hold a mirror up to nature. The fate of Greece is in the hands of policymakers." Huh? What the hell does that mean?

Do they mean to tell me that several years ago when Goldman Sachs, etal., scammed Greece into taking a huge loan it couldn't pay back (and they knew it and bet against it) and Goldman helped Greece hide its staggering debt from the European Union that Standard & Poor's investment grade rating at that time was a mirror of nature? How, exactly, was that? A little birdie told them Greece's bonds were investment grade back then?

So, now Chambers absolves himself of any responsibility because the "fate of Greece is in the hands of the policymakers." Nope, he's just a guy doing normal business. Can't blame him.

That's pretty much what we heard from Goldman Sachs executives yesterday as they testified to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations after, of course, they rehearsed how to avoid, delay, dance-around and side-step answers. And, when they couldn't delay an answer any longer, they gave technical responses that amounted to, "we were just managing risk when we hedged our bets by shorting CDOs that we sold to investors." There you go. It's just a normal course of business that they sell one thing to investors in one office, leaving out meaningful details in the prospectus, and betting against them in another office down the hall. It's not their problem if the investor didn't get the whole story. Just like it wasn't their problem that the European Union didn't know they were hiding Greece's debt. Is there anyone who doubts that we need finance reform? Only Republicans and Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, apparently.

Was it only about two years ago that Goldman Sachs rushed to make itself a depository bank so it could stand in line at the Fed window for zero interest government loans? Taxpayer loans? Is my memory accurate on that? If so, you wouldn't have known that by listening to them yesterday. Not one word out of their mouths gave any indication that they were more than an investment bank or that they had any obligation to depositors, like you and me who may have had money in their bank. I didn't, but I hope you get my point. They called themselves a depository bank for the sake of getting free-money government loans, but that didn't change their normal course of business. It appears to be that the normal course of business is actually collusion and corruption in the finance industry, scamming investors and depositors.

Oh well. I know the real problem. The real problem is that I forgot to set aside two cups of coffee for my wife this morning and I, on top of my normal share, inadvertently drank them instead. I'm too wired at the moment to think about this stuff.


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