First of all, Sparks assertion that “we expected those deals to perform” is ridiculous on its face. Seen in light of these emails, it’s something worse. How can you expect your synthetic worst-of-the-worst subprime CDO deal you’ve created to “perform” in May when the game is over for subprime in March and you’re “getting short CDS on RMBS and CDOs, getting short the super-senior BBB- and BBB index, and getting short AAA index as overall protection”?
I guess Sparks meant he expected it to “perform” for John Paulson, who after all, selected many of the referenced bonds in Abacus intentionally meaning for them to fail. But that’s clearly not what Senator Tester was asking. This is a great catch by Kroll.
Sparks, along with Josh Birnbaum, came out looking like worst of the testifiers from where I sat (in Seattle, watching C-SPAN on my laptop). Birnbaum was downright contemptuous of the same folks who had to bail his firm out in 2008 in no small part because of things he set in motion.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg profiles Birnbaum—an “insolent young man,” Dana Milbank aptly called him. It points out that what senators called conflicts, Birnbaum called “hedging.”
What’s interesting here is it sure looks like Birnbaum was pitching something other than hedging when he wrote his self-evaluation in September 2007. Here’s McClatchy:
Former Goldman trader Joshua Birnbaum indicated in his 2007 personnel performance review that he could capitalize on the “fear” in the market of a coming mortgage market collapse to reap profits for the firm.
Because “the world would think” Goldman would continue to invest in the mortgage market for the long term, he wrote, the firm should “flip our risk” and bet on an impending crisis.
“We could use that fear to our advantage if we could flip our risk,” wrote Birnbaum, who left Goldman in 2008.
For some reason, nobody but McClatchy has picked up on that Birnbaum quote. They should. And good job by McClatchy for doing so.
Finally, I wrote a couple of weeks ago about big discrepancies in the testimony of former Comptroller of the Currency John D. Hawke to the Angelides Commission.
Here’s what Hawke told Angelides, who asked a question based on “Power Problem” by The Audit’s very own Dean Starkman:
Well, I should say, Mr. Chairman, that we asked state law enforcement officials on many occasions to refer to us any evidence that they had or any incidents they had of national banks involved in conduct of the sort that you described. And we got zero. And we asked consumer groups for the same thing.
Here’s what I said to that:
That would be, how do you say… false. I went to the tape. The record shows states all but begged Hawke’s OCC to take on abusive lenders or allow states to do it to themselves. The OCC first preempted the states, then sat on its hands, effectively running interference for its regulated institutions.
Hawke never responded to my request for comment. So far as I can tell, no one else has followed up on it. Why not?