Skip to main content

It's a Goldman kind of Friday

The SEC's civil suit against Goldman Sachs, accusing the firm of fraud in structuring certain mortgage backed CDOs (ABACUS 2007-AC1), has been the financial story of the day.

According to the SEC complaint, Goldman let a large hedge fund (Paulson & Co.) influence its structuring of synthetic CDOs, which were subsequently sold on to bullish clients (buyers such as pension funds and other large investors) under the premise of their being assembled by an independent party.

Wall Street Journal
has the details:

"According to the SEC, Goldman structured and marketed a synthetic collateralized-debt obligation, or CDO, that hinged on the performance of subprime residential-mortgage-backed securities. The CDO was created in early 2007 when the U.S. housing market and related securities were beginning to show signs of distress, the SEC complaint said.

"Undisclosed in the marketing materials and unbeknownst to investors, a large hedge fund, Paulson & Co. Inc., with economic interests directly adverse to investors in the [CDO], played a significant role in the portfolio selection process," the complaint said.

The complaint said Paulson had an incentive to stuff the CDO with mortgage-backed securities that were likely to get into trouble. SEC enforcement chief Robert Khuzami alleged that Goldman misled investors by telling them that the securities "were selected by an independent, objective third party..."

The SEC's suit against Goldman Sachs has been the buzz of the day. Everyone is talking about it in the blogosphere, the business news media, and on Twitter and Stocktwits.

People want to discuss the political implications of the story, as well as forecast what is likely to happen to the principal parties involved: will there be a large fine/settlement, who will be thrown under the bus, why did this news just happen to come out on an option expiration Friday, and so on. Business Insider has even dedicated a special section to the Goldman Sachs story.

Meanwhile, it's interesting to note that the details of Goldman's CDO deals with Paulson & Co. were openly detailed in chapter 9 of Greg Zuckerman's book, The Greatest Trade Ever. John Paulson and his team met with various Wall Street firms (Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns) to discuss and negotiate the creation of new CDOs from pools of risky mortgages.

Paulson & Co. were open about their desire to short most tranches of the CDOs through the purchase of credit default swaps (CDS) on these CDO instruments. Some bankers (Scott Eichel at Bear Stearns, among others) turned down Paulson's proposed deals, while others (like Goldman) gladly accepted and negotiated with Paulson on the collateral backing the deals.

According to Zuckerman's book and Paulson's quotes, the bankers were ultimately responsible for what went into the CD0s that were sold to investors. It's worth pointing out that all those who took the bullish side of the trade did so of their own accord, and that "some investors were even consulted as the mortgage debt was picked for the CDOs to make sure it would appeal to them." (Zuckerman, page 181).

Having said that, Goldman probably should have been more forthright in dealing with its clients, instead of telling them (as the SEC complaint alleges) that the mortgage-backed CDOs they were buying were structured with the help of an "independent, third party".

Update: NPR interviewed Greg Zuckerman to get his thoughts on the Goldman Sachs charges and John Paulson's role in the CDO deals. Do check this out, as he quickly fills us in on some main points that people were guessing about (or just wildly wrong about) on Friday.

Related articles and posts:

1. Michael Burry explains his subprime CDS trade - Finance Trends.

2. FSN interview: Richard Eckert (Lahde Capital) - Finance Trends.

3. Lessons from John Paulson - Finance Trends.

4. NPR talks to Greg Zuckerman (Greatest Trade Ever) - NPR.org.

Popular posts from this blog

The Dot-Com Bubble in 1 Chart: InfoSpace

With all the recent talk of a new bubble in the making, thanks in part to the Yellen Fed's continued easy money stance , I thought it'd be instructive to revisit our previous stock market bubble - in one quick chart. So here's what a real stock market bubble looks like.  Here's what a bubble *really* looks like. InfoSpace in 1999-2001. $QQQ $BCOR pic.twitter.com/xjsMk433H7 — David Shvartsman (@FinanceTrends) February 24, 2015   For those of you who are a little too young to recall it, this is a chart of InfoSpace at the height of the Nasdaq dot-com bubble in 1999-2001. This fallen angel soared to fantastic heights only to plummet back down to earth as the bubble, and InfoSpace's shady business plan , turned to rubble. As detailed in our post, " Round trip stocks: Momentum booms and busts ", InfoSpace rocketed from under $100 a share to over $1,300 a share in less than six months.  In a pattern common to many parabolic shooting stars, the s

Jesse Livermore: How to Trade in Stocks (1940 Ed. E-book)

If you've been around markets for any length of time, you've probably heard of 20th century supertrader, Jesse Livermore . Today we're highlighting his rare 1940 work, How to Trade in Stocks (ebook, pdf). But first, a brief overview of Livermore's life and trading career (bio from Jesse Livermore's Wikipedia entry). "During his lifetime, Livermore gained and lost several multi-million dollar fortunes. Most notably, he was worth $3 million and $100 million after the 1907 and 1929 market crashes, respectively. He subsequently lost both fortunes. Apart from his success as a securities speculator, Livermore left traders a working philosophy for trading securities that emphasizes increasing the size of one's position as it goes in the right direction and cutting losses quickly. Ironically, Livermore sometimes did not follow his rules strictly. He claimed that lack of adherence to his own rules was the main reason for his losses after making his 1907 and

New! Finance Trends now at FinanceTrendsLetter.com

Update for our readers: Finance Trends has a new URL!  Please bookmark our new web address at Financetrendsletter.com Readers sticking with RSS updates should point your feed readers to our new Finance Trends feedburner .   Thank you to all of our loyal readers who have been with us since the early days. Exciting stuff to come in the weeks ahead! As a quick reminder, you can subscribe to our free email list to receive the Finance Trends Newsletter . You'll receive email updates about once every 4-8 weeks (about 2-3 times per quarter).  Stay up to date with our real-time insights and updates on Twitter .