Audit Notes: WSJ Blotter, Deutsche CDOs, Wall Street Praised for Its Self Control

The Wall Street Journal’s much-anticipated New York section arrived today, but your humble Seattle Audit bureau didn’t get it in his paper and hasn’t lived in New York for two years. So I’ll pass on a comprehensive review for now.

But one thing jumped out at me on the Web: The august Wall Street Journal is now running a police blotter. I kid you not. Here are the two items’s subheadlines:

Three-Year-Old Unharmed After Wandering Streets


Unidentified Body Found In Water Under Bridge

Can a horoscope be far behind?

Teri Buhl and John Carney write for The Atlantic on how Deutsche Bank, a firm that you’ll be seeing scrutinized much more in the months ahead, did an Abacus-style deal with John Paulson.

This is presented as a scoop, which it’s not: The Wall Street Journal reported this stuff last Monday. Here’s the Atlantic’s lede:

Goldman Sachs was not the only investment bank selling the complex securities that ultimately resulted in staggering losses for the German bank IKB Deutsche Industriebank. Traders at Deutsche Bank sold similar collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) — built from credit protection on a portfolio of mortgage-backed securities selected in consultation with hedge fund manager John Paulson — to the German bank. And like Goldman, Deutsche Bank didn’t reveal Paulson’s role in the construction of the CDOs. So far, the SEC has not charged Deutsche with fraud relating to these transactions.

None of that is new, and the real news—which if true, seems like a good defense for Deutsche Bank—is buried in the ninth and tenth paragraphs:

Deutsche Bank’s head of communications Ted Meyer said he wouldn’t comment on specific client transactions. But he did say that the absence of a third party collateral manager distinguished the Deutsche Bank deals from Goldman’s Abacus 2007 deal.

“What distinguishes Deutsche Bank’s CDO transactions is that both long and short investors were given the opportunity to select the specific collateral to which they were seeking exposure and mutually agreed on the CDO portfolio. No third-party collateral manager was utilized for these deals, which eliminated the potential for deception with respect to the role of such a manager,” Meyer said.

Nevertheless, Buhl and Carney have the right idea here, and in chasing it they advance the story.

— Author John Steele Gordon has a knee-slapper in Forbes. Pretty much all you need to know is in the headline and subhed:

Wall Street Can Regulate Itself: History shows that the financial industry doesn’t need the government to help with reform.


And he pushes the discredited line that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were “the political piggy banks at the heart of the crisis of 2008.” Uh, no, as McClatchy showed in 2008. Those guys need reformed, believe me, and they contributed somewhat to the crisis, but they weren’t at the heart of it.

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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.