A federal jury found former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. trader Fabrice Tourre liable for misleading investors in a mortgage-linked deal that collapsed during the financial crisis, delivering a historic win for a U.S. regulator eager to prove its mettle inside the courtroom.
The panel of nine jurors reached their verdict during the second day of deliberations, finding Mr. Tourre liable on six of seven claims that he violated federal securities law. … Mr. Tourre, who left Wall Street to pursue a doctorate in economics, may face a fine and a ban from the securities industry.
I think it’d be a shame to deprive the securities industry of Fab’s financial-structuring creativity and proclivity for sending embarrassing emails, but as we’ve established I’m in the minority here. Read more »
The defense team for Fabrice Tourre, the former Goldman Sachs trader accused of defrauding investors in a mortgage deal six years ago, began its case about 11:47 a.m. One minute later, it rested without calling any witnesses — not even John Paulson, the billionaire whose hedge fund played a big role in the security at the heart of the trial. That decision, following more than two weeks of witnesses called by the Securities and Exchange Commission, highlights the confidence of Mr. Tourre’s lawyers in their fight against a civil lawsuit by the government over the mortgage deal. The move means that closing arguments from both sides will take place on Tuesday, and the jury will begin deliberations on Wednesday. “Fabrice has testified in the S.E.C.’s case, and ending things short allows the defense to underscore to the jury where the burden of proof lies – that is squarely on the S.E.C.,” said Susan Brune, who successfully defended Matthew M. Tannin, one of two former Bear Stearns executives acquitted in 2009 on charges they misled investors in their mortgage-backed securities hedge funds. [Deabook]
Fabrice Tourre testified in his SEC trial late last week and many perplexing things came out, with the most perplexing being a tie between:
Fab’s claims that the key disputed email, in which he maybe-defrauded maybe-victim ACA, was “not accurate” but not “false,” an epistemologico-semiotic dispute that probably sounds better in French, and
Perhaps less perplexing is that Fab’s feelings about Abacus seem to have been less about bamboozling one client on behalf of another and more about just printing a trade, whichever direction it went in. John Carney reports that Goldman was taking too long getting ABN Amro to intermediate ACA’s guarantee of the super senior tranche of the deal, Paulson was getting antsy, and Fab, ever servicey, was trying to assuage their antsiness by just getting Goldman to do the deal naked: Read more »
If you wanted to short the housing market in 2007 you could just buy protection on mortgage-backed securities via a synthetic CDO, and that’s what John Paulson did in the Abacus deal, for which Goldman Sachs and Fab Tourre got in trouble. But the problem with that is that buying protection costs money; just for instance the super-senior protection in Abacus would run you about 50bps, or around $4.5 million a year on the $909mm notional that ACA Capital wrapped.1 And who wants to throw away millions of dollars a year waiting for the housing market to crash?
So another way to short the market is to buy a lot of protection on senior tranches of CDOs (cheap because: what are the odds that the housing market will crash?) while also selling a little protection on junior tranches (expensive because the odds that there’ll be some defaults are higher). If you do this, you can have a positive carry (you get paid as more each year on the protection you sold than you pay on the protection you bought), but you can make just about as much money if the housing market craters and there are massive defaults. (The tradeoff is that if performance is mediocre, with some defaults, then you lose money on the junior protection you sold and don’t make it back on the senior protection you bought.)
This second trade is a very stylized description of what Magnetar did,2 in another CDO deal for which JPMorgan got in a bit of trouble. Less than Goldman, though! Read more »
I haven’t been following Fabrice Tourre’s trial all that closely but I gather that the main evidence against him is that a Goldman saleswoman, Gail Kreitman, told her client ACA Capital Management that Paulson & Co. was going to be a long investor in a CDO called Abacus. That turned out to be false, and arguably in a material and fraudy way. So: why isn’t the SEC suing Gail Kreitman? Well, because someone told her that that it was true, and there’s at least, like, a 60/40 chance that that someone was Fab. Because he was pretty competent: Read more »
In testimony Wednesday, Paolo Pellegrini, the former Paulson & Co managing director, said he made clear to ACA Capital Holdings Inc that Paulson wanted to bet against the deal.
“As I told all collateral selection agents, we were interested in shorting a CDO, shorting subprime securities in a CDO,” said Pellegrini, one of the architects of hedge fund manager John Paulson’s bet against subprime mortgages in 2006 and 2007. …
Pellegrini, one of two people who worked on Paulson’s strategy to take the stand so far, testified Wednesday he believed he told the principal employee at ACA working on Abacus, Laura Schwartz, about Paulson’s strategy over drinks during a “shindig” for people in the CDO industry.
“I think there was some discussion of the portfolio and what we were trying to accomplish by shorting the market,” he said.
Fabulous Fab Tourre is on his way to trial in the SEC’s securities-fraud lawsuit over the Abacus synthetic CDO he built at Goldman Sachs for John Paulson, and Andrew Ross Sorkin has a column today about all the things that the SEC doesn’t want him to be allowed to say to the jury. You should read it, it’s enraging, though who you get enraged at is entirely up to you.1 But I’ll give you a quick and tendentious summary, which is:
The SEC’s main argument is that Fab deceived ACA, the “portfolio selection agent” on the Abacus deal, and
ACA were sort of stupid scumbags, and
the SEC understandably doesn’t want the jury to find that out.
Everyone knows the story of Abacus 2007-AC1 by now: Goldman Sachs sold some mortgage-backed-security CDOs to some people, and those people thought that the underlying mortgage-backed securities were chosen by an outfit called ACA Management to be Good, but in fact they were chosen by Paulson & Co. to be Bad, and they turned out to be Bad, and that was Bad. The SEC sued Goldman over it, and Goldman settled for $550 million, and then everyone else sued too because they had been lied to about who picked the mortgage-backed securities (Paulson, not ACA) and why (to fail, not to succeed).
Among the people who sued was ACA, whose role in the transaction was (1) pretending to pick the underlying RMBS and (2) issuing a financial guaranty policy (to Goldman) referencing the super senior tranche of Abacus. That tranche more or less went poof, and ACA ended up owing $840 million to Goldman (though, really, ABN Amro paid the $840mm, and Paulson got it).1 Since ACA was in the business of writing terrible financial guaranty policies, it blew right up and ended up paying only $30 million. Then it sued Goldman for the $30 million back, plus punitive damages. ACA’s claim is that, while it knew that Paulson had selected the underlying RMBS, it thought Paulson was net long Abacus, because Goldman schemed and lied, and that it wouldn’t have insured Abacus if it’d known the truth about Paulson’s position.
Yesterday ACA lost when a New York appellate court dismissed its case. The court split 3-2, and the opinion is short and pretty weird; basically the majority says “it doesn’t matter that Goldman lied to ACA about Paulson’s position, because ACA should have kept asking until it got the truth,” which is a funny law.2 The two dissenting judges seem to have rather the better of it.3
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