Audit Notes: Goldman’s CDOs, Too Big to Fail Consensus, Need to Know

Fortune’s Stephen Gandel reports that the SEC is likely to file fraud charges against Goldman Sachs for its 2006 Fremont Home Loans Trust CDO over allegations that Goldman misled investors about the loans backing up the securities (emphasis mine):;

But what makes FHLT 2006-E potentially fraudulent, and why the SEC is likely to sue Goldman, is that it appears the firm knew that even compared to the incredibly low standards it stated it was using to select loans for the deal, the mortgages Goldman actually sold to investors were a good deal worse. For instance, the deal’s prospectus that Goldman assembled and distributed to investors, and filed with the SEC, said that there was only one home loan out of 5,012 in the Fremont trust, or 0.01%, in which a borrower had taken out more than their house was worth. But an audit conducted for the FHFA suit found that at least 1,179 loans in FHLT 2006-E, or 23.5%, were already underwater at the time Goldman was pitching the deal to investors. The suit alleges that Goldman also hid the number of loans in the Fremont trust that were made to real estate investors, which are generally considered riskier than a loan to someone who intends to live in a house themselves. Goldman’s pitch claimed that just under 14% of the loans in FHLT 2006-E were made to investors. In fact, that number was over 24%.

— Matt Taibbi has some smart thoughts on that “radical” Dallas Federal Reserve paper about the threat that the too big to fail oligopoly presents to the country:

The significance of the Dallas Fed report isn’t that yet another person has come out to make public note of the impossible-to-miss, gigantic, oozing wart on the face of American capitalism that is the TBTF system. What’s significant is that we’re moving closer to a time when the extremely critical view of TBTF, and the demand for an end to the system, becomes bipartisan consensus…

The conservative argument on TBTF is beginning to blend in with, and become indistinguishable from, the progressive argument. You can say the current system is private enterprise corrupting government, or you can call it repressive government corrupting private enterprise, but it increasingly amounts to the same thing.

By now, virtually everybody who has an informed opinion on the matter thinks the TBTF system makes no sense and must end — the only people who really disagree are the leaders of those firms, the politicians who depend on their money.

— Here’s some news The Wall Street Journal tells its New York readers they “Need to Know” that they almost certainly didn’t need to know:

A set of four porcelain urinals specially designed in Japan are being auctioned next week in a fire sale of fixtures from the Maritime Hotel’s shuttered Matsuri restaurant.

Light green and modern in style, they aren’t typical men’s room fixtures. The question is, whether a market exists at all for old urinals…

One selling point could be their potential brush with celebrity. A spokeswoman said visitors to the restaurant have included Mick Jagger, designer Karl Lagerfeld and actor John Krasinski.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.