THE BIG SHORT – HOW WALL STREET DESTROYED MAIN STREET
Day after day, bankers have been paraded before Congressional committees regarding their role in the financial crisis which brought the financial system to the edge of the abyss on September 18,2008. Every one has claimed that they were not responsible in any way for the disaster. They blame once in a lifetime circumstances that no one could have anticipated. It was a perfect storm and they had no way of knowing. These Harvard MBA Wall Street geniuses, who collected compensation in excess of $100 million each before the collapse, had no idea what was going on within their own firms. Ignorance and stupidity is no excuse for losing a trillion dollars. The truth is that the CEO’s of all the Wall Street banks encouraged a casino culture of greed and gambling. The generation of fees became the sole driving incentive for every firm. It started with collateralizing subprime mortgages into packages of mortgage backed securities. Then they created Credit Default Swaps as insurance on these mortgages. When they ran out of chumps to put into houses, they created side bets with Credit Default Obligations that didn’t require an actual homeowner.
The fees generated by creating this crap were incomprehensible. The Masters of the Universe were taking home pay packages of $25 million and weren’t satisfied. They only made one small mistake. They deluded themselves into thinking the crap they were selling to suckers wasn’t actually crap. They ended up buying their own toxic paper. Even though they knew that the ratings agencies were basically whoring out AAA ratings for fees, they believed that AAA rated securities they were buying and insuring weren’t actually worthless. They didn’t understand that they had created Frankenderivatives. Author Michael Lewis has done a fantastic job making this sordid tale of greed understandable to the common person.
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