Who Dunnit?

Friday, September 19, 2008
There is plenty of blame to go around for the country's latest financial crisis.

When you unwind it,legislation requiring lenders to make loans to people that could not afford them is at the heart of the problem. The legislation is the Community Reinvestment Act. It was passed in 1977 during the Carter Administration and got more teeth through Clinton Adminstration changes to the implementing regulations. As can be seen from the link, Bob Rubin was a major advocate of these changes which allowed securitization of underlying instruments memorializing these high risk loans. Bob Rubin is one of BHO's primary economic advisors.

Everything after 1993 was designed to spread the risk.

Fanny and Freddie were the primary guarantors of that risk, and rather than highlighting that risk, those institutions, under Raines, Johnson and Gorelick, hid it. Their reward was very high compensation running in the tens of millions dollars. All three of those individuals are democratic stalwarts. Raines and Johnson have connections with the Obama campaign. Obama is one of the recipients of the most largesse from Fannie and Freddy.

The financial institutions (e.g. Countrywide -- for whom Johnson worked after FNMA, NationsBank, etc.) who originated the loans ignored the risks as well and as a result the loans were overvalued.

Those who purchased, carved up, repackaged, securitized and sold the repackaged loans to investors (e.g. Bear Stearns -- the first marketer of these instruments -- and Lehman Bros.,with the assistance of Wall Street lawyers and major accounting firms) continued the problem by inflating the purported value of the loans even more.

Then the ultimate purchasers (e.g. AIG and other insurance companies, pension plans and 401k's, wealthy investors worldwide, etc.) of the repackaged loans had overvalued assets on their books (knowingly or unknowingly?) which has or will eventually cost them.

The caricatures necessitated by the exigencies of political advertising will oversimplify the problems to place blame on the "other guy".

Which caricatures, are on balance, more accurate may well determine the election.