Friday, March 16, 2012

Matt Taibbi's "anti-Semitic" Goldman campaign

I think this may be GS' "duckhouse moment": a word or phrase crystallises what is wrong, so that the common man can see it. Sensing this, the GS supporters overreact, e.g. Alex Brummer in the Daily Mail:

"The most enduring image of Blankfein era is that of the great, vampire squid drawn in an excoriating article in Rolling Stone magazine in 2010. What Rolling Stone does not seem to have realised is that this was a rerun of a notoriously anti-Semitic campaign by the late 19th-century polemicist ‘Coin’ Harvey against the Rothschild family.

Whatever mistakes Blankfein and Goldman may have made, it does not deserve that."

"Made mistakes... not deserve... anti-Semitic campaign..." Sounds like a panic reaction to me. Was, for example, betting - massively profitably - against your own product, a "mistake"?

According to Brummer's account, Loyd Blankfein is "determined not to leave until all the investigations hanging over the investment bank have been cleared up." I'll bet he is.

How about this memoir from Leo Kolivakis, formerly an analyst with a big Canadian pension fund manager:

Yes, they [GS] are an exceptional firm, attract some of the best, brightest and most interesting people, deliver exceptional service, but the crisis of 2008 exposed some serious conflicts of interests that have yet to be addressed.

Back in the summer of 2006, I wanted to short the hell of out structured credit products by shorting the ABX indexes. I had just completed research on CDO-squared and CDO-cubed and was certain the U.S. mortgage market was a disaster waiting to explode.

In November 2007, ABX indexes tied to the highest-rated subprime-mortgage bonds fell to new lows, a sign of deterioration in the perceived risk of the securities following a report showing home prices were declining in more than a third of U.S. cities but by that time, I had lost my job for speaking out on the risks of our credit portfolio.

What's the point? I remember a conversation with our Goldman client representative and some of their analysts where they kept asking me: "Why do you want to do this? Are you sure you want to do this?" It was actually annoying me and I told them "Yes, we are sure, just let me know what is the best way to go about this trade."

Well, we never put on the trade, but Goldman Sachs did and they made off like bandits shorting subprime mortgage bonds. They weren't alone. Some well known hedge funds like Paulson & Co. and a handful of others also made a killing. That whole sordid affair still bothers me to this very day. I lost my job, the pension fund lost billions, and Goldman made a killing!"

And back to Taibbi, specifically his famous 2009 "vampire squid" article - here is part of his section on GS's role in the great mortgage swindle:

"...Not that Goldman was personally at any risk. The bank might be taking all these hideous, completely irresponsible mortgages from beneath-gangster-status firms like Countrywide and selling them off to municipalities and pensioners — old people, for God's sake — pretending the whole time that it wasn't grade D horseshit. But even as it was doing so, it was taking short positions in the same market, in essence betting against the same crap it was selling. Even worse, Goldman bragged about it in public. "The mortgage sector continues to be challenged," David Viniar, the bank's chief financial officer, boasted in 2007. "As a result, we took significant markdowns on our long inventory positions … However, our risk bias in that market was to be short, and that net short position was profitable." In other words, the mortgages it was selling were for chumps. The real money was in betting against those same mortgages.

"That's how audacious these assholes are," says one hedge fund manager. "At least with other banks, you could say that they were just dumb — they believed what they were selling, and it blew them up. Goldman knew what it was doing."

If I had GS as my advisers, I'd want to know for sure if I was categorised as a favoured client, or as a "muppet" whose use was to buy GS "axes" and have my "eyeballs ripped out".

And perhaps Mr Brummer should seek to disprove Mr Taibbi's allegations, rather than spin them as the frothings of a racist/religious bigot. There are plenty of genuine anti-Semites and cheap gibes like the one he levels against Taibbi must ultimately serve to lower our guard against the real thing.

Maybe Brummer's sloppy dating - Taibbi's article appeared not in 2010 but 7 July 2009 - is an indication of his anxious haste, or that of whichever GS insider muppet ("it is my understanding", says the journalist, coyly hinting at his source) was briefing him about Blankfein's intentions.


James Higham said...

All this is so but I think it was not just that whistleblower and others - most people are well aware of GS's methods in general and despise them.

It's the lack of power to change anything which frustrates people so.

Paddington said...

Funny that you would use that graphic. Fox News had a bunch of items on the new Muppet movie, claiming that it was left-wing and biased against the banks and the wealthy.

Sackerson said...

...biased against the banks and the wealthy...

Why in the world would anyone be? They're hard-working wealth creators, doing God's work.