The layer upon layer of deception, financial sleight of hand and outright fraud that is the subprime mortgage scandal is being peeled away. In its current issue, Vanity Fair reports that some on Wall Street are calling it the "greatest financial scandal in history"!! And they do mean great — some of the banks involved profited at a rate of 40% every two months.
As two-bedroom condominiums in Manhattan continue to sell for $3 million apiece and the Fed wades in to relieve investors a shout of UNFAIR echoes across the country. But it is hard to know who, if anyone, at the top is listening.
And while we’re talking about those at the top…The folks who are supposed to be regulating this business — the Bond raters — Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s didn’t just ok, they gave the coveted AAA rating on loans they knew were way subprime. In fact they invented a whole new type of debt and gave it a fancy new name: securitized debt obligation. Worth less but sounding good. And then they gave that their AAA rating.
AAA is AAA, right? Wrong. And there’s more. There are supposed to be blinders to prevent conflict of interest — they gave up on all those –and thought plenty about their own profits as they rated securities.
One analyst at the credit ratings agency was blunt: “Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.” In a December 1996 email — Did you hear that? 1996. The information’s disclosed in a blistering report out this week from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Sadly it’s not just Wall Street’s house of cards, it’s real houses — peoples homes — that are crashing down.