Audit Notes: Uh Oh, Joe Cassano; Asian Markets; BW Hires

Reuters reports that AIG may have misled investors on material information related to its exposure to subprime mortgages.

Investigative reporter Matthew Goldstein has waded through Schedule A and determined that some 30 percent of the CDO’s insured were after 2005. That matters, not only because that was when the mortgage mania reached its peak, but also because Joseph Cassano, the head of the infamous AIG Financial Products unit that essentially brought down the company, told investors the unit had “limited exposure” to the mortgages:

“In December of ‘05 we went out to almost all of our counterparts and told them that we were going to stop writing this business,” said Cassano, according to a transcript of the December 2007 call. “Now we had a pipeline in place and so through that pipeline, through that first quarter, we did accumulate some early ’06s in the period.”

But, Goldstein says, “most of the remaining CDOs AIG insured after 2005 appear to have been deals backed mainly by residential mortgage-backed securities.”

Very interesting.

Bloomberg columnist Mark William Pesek says don’t pay too much attention to sliding Asian markets as an economic indicator.

We could use somebody writing that about markets here, where you could be fooled by much financial press coverage into thinking the Dow is or ought to be the primary indicator of the economy’s health.

Marion Maneker at The Big Picture writes that BusinessWeek’s hiring of two new, well-respected senior editors shows how it’s gearing up to be a bigger force in a weakened business-news environment.

Their timing couldn’t be better. The Wall Street Journal’s franchise in the pre-Murdoch era was magazine-length stories that peeled back the inner-workings of companies, government and the economy. Now that Murdoch has abandoned those stories for a newsier newspaper, there’s a huge void.

You can say that again. Don’t get your hopes up that BW will pick up the ball the Journal has dropped, but we’ll take what we can get these days. And BW now has the resources of the biggest business-journalism newsroom on the planet.

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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.