Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What Wall Street sold

On March 16, 2007, Morgan Stanley employees working on one of the toxic assets that helped blow up the world economy discussed what to name it. Among the team members’ suggestions: “Subprime Meltdown,” “Hitman,” “Nuclear Holocaust” and “Mike Tyson’s Punchout,” as well a simple yet direct reference to a bag of excrement.

Ha ha. Those hilarious investment bankers.

Then they gave it its real name and sold it to a Chinese bank. ...

Morgan Stanley doesn’t see the narrative as the plaintiffs do. The firm is fighting the lawsuit, contending that the buyers were sophisticated clients and could have known what was going on in the subprime market. The C.D.O. documents disclosed, albeit obliquely, that Morgan Stanley might bet against the securities, a strategy known as shorting. The firm did not pick the assets going into the deal (though it was able to veto any assets). And any shorting of the deal was part of a larger array of trades, both long and short. Indeed, Morgan Stanley owned a big piece of Stack, in addition to its short bet.

Regarding the profane naming contest, Morgan Stanley said in a statement: “While the e-mail in question contains inappropriate language and reflects a poor attempt at humor, the Morgan Stanley employee who wrote it was responsible for documenting transactions. It was not his job or within his skill set to assess the state of the market or the credit quality of the transaction being discussed.”

Philip Blumberg, the Morgan Stanley lawyer who composed most of the names, meet the underside of a bus, courtesy of your employer. ...

In the end, of the $500 million of assets backing the deal, $415 million ended up worthless.
--Jesse Eisinger, ProPublica, on caveat emptor