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Shared Risk – “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” – Michael Lewis

July 29th, 2011 · No Comments · Economics, Policy

The long answer was that there were huge sums of money to be made, if you could somehow get them re-rated as triple-A, thereby lowering their perceived risk, however dishonestly and artificially. This is what Goldman Sachs had cleverly done. Their—soon to be everyone’s—nifty solution to the problem of selling the lower floors appears, in retrospect, almost magical. Having gathered 100 ground floors from 100 different subprime mortgage buildings (100 different triple-B-rated bonds), they persuaded the rating agencies that these weren’t, as they might appear, all exactly the same things. They were another diversified portfolio of assets! This was absurd. The 100 buildings occupied the same floodplain; in the event of flood, the ground floors of all of them were equally exposed. But never mind: The rating agencies, who were paid fat fees by Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms for each deal they rated, pronounced 80 percent of the new tower of debt triple-A. The CDO was, in effect, a credit laundering service for the residents of Lower Middle Class America.

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