13 Feb 2011

The Big Short

I've just finished reading Michael Lewis's book "The Big Short", the incredible story of the handful of traders who foresaw the impending doom that resulted from the explosion of subprime loans and bet on the collapse of the system.  It reads like a thriller, but it says on the cover "A True Story". And, when you look into it, it really is the case that all the characters in the book are real. I kept thinking that I was going to read that the names have been changed to protect their identities. But no. People like Steve Eisman and  Michael Burry really do exist.

You get a close up view of the sort of people that were responsible for devising schemes for converting crappy subprime loans (like providing $750 000 to a Mexican Strawberry picker) into triple-A certified CDOs (Collateralized Debt Obligations) that were then flogged off to banks around the world. The most depressing thing of all is the fact that the people responsible  walked away very rich. For example, Wing Chau, whose business went bust, walked off with tens of millions of dollars.  Howie Hubler, who lost more money that any single trader in the history of Wall Street, was allowed to keep the tens of millions he made. And the CEOs of every major Wall Street firm, without exception, "either ran their public corporations into bankruptcy or were saved from bankruptcy by the US goverment". But they all got rich too.

Where is justice?

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