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
Still the result seems right. Read more »
Former Goldman Sachs trader Fabrice Tourre has only one tie left to the securities firm where he helped assemble an infamous bond deal: his legal bills. Mr. Tourre no longer works for Goldman, which put him on paid leave after the Securities and Exchange Commission accused him in April 2010 of misleading investors in a collateralized debt obligation called Abacus 2007-AC1. Goldman soon settled related allegations, but Mr. Tourre decided to fight. Since late 2011, Mr. Tourre has been a graduate student in economics at the University of Chicago, and Goldman changed his status to unpaid leave. He left the firm at the end of December 2012, a company spokesman said…The SEC’s lawsuit instantly made Mr. Tourre one of the most memorable names of the financial crisis. In an email to a friend that was disclosed by the agency, Mr. Tourre wrote: “The whole building is about to collapse anytime now … Only potential survivor, the fabulous Fab[rice Tourre] … standing in the middle of all these complex, highly leveraged, exotic trades he created without necessarily understanding all of the implications of those monstruosities!!!” [WSJ]
Citi today paid out some of its DVA gains to settle SEC charges that it sold investors a CDO-squared that facilitated its own naked CDS purchases on the underlying CDOs, while misleading investors into thinking that an independent collateral manager selected the underlying portfolio. If my grandmother reads Dealbreaker she’s now stopped.
Anyway. I’m proud of my time at Goldman, which I thought was a great place filled with smart and ethical people (really) and which also was a market leader in many areas, including paying fines for fraudulent CDO structuring fraud. In that line of business we were first both in time and in market share, settling Abacus for $550mm in July; JPMorgan’s $153.6mm Magnetar settlement came a week later and Citi didn’t get around to their $285mm entry (and Credit Suisse’s $2.5mm addition) until today.
Now, maybe it’s just my Goldman bias talking but I never really got the outrage at these things, which always seemed to come from importing an already incorrect understanding of how nonfinancial transactions work into a market-making, two-sided, financial markets context. But reading the Citi CDO documents, which are fascinating, I think makes it a little more comprehensible.
There are five points to which your free-floating rage could maybe attach:
Read more »
This time by ACA. Read more »
ProPublica reports that JPMorgan is being investigated by the SEC to determine whether or not the bank adequately disclosed to investors that the securities that went into a CDO were selected by hedge fund Magnetar Capital, which was betting against the deal (JPMorgan apparently lost approximately $880 million on the deal and what’s more). Two problems seem apparent up front– one, unlike Goldman Sachs, whose CDO had the badass name of ABACUS, JPMorgan’s version is called “Squared.” And two, no one has said anything about the role of a Frenchman who describes himself as “fabulous” and writes gushy emails to his ex-girlfriend on the company dime. That’s not going to bode well for JPMorgan when it comes time for Congress to decide whether or not this thing is worthy of a hearing and/or Senator Carl Levin describing it as “shitty” 700 times on live TV. Given that everything on Wall Street is a competition, and JPMorgan is no poor man’s Goldman, I’m going to go ahead and tip off JD and Co as to the only way they’re going to be able to come out on top of this thing. If this woman’s involvement in the deal comes to light: Read more »
So there’s this guy. A mild-mannered professor who retired a decade ago and decided he would serve as an independent director of this new booming financial product called a CDO. He collected a few thousand bucks a year for basically signing some documents. Sounded like a decent gig and a good way to make some extra pocket change. Read more »
The following post is by Dealbreaker reader and commenter Infinite Guest.
Whether they could have avoided it, I don’t know–today’s Securities and Exchange Commission acts like a wounded animal–the management of Goldman, Sachs & Co. made a strategic error by failing to cultivate a closer relationship with the new regime. That much is evident from the fact that the suit came as a surprise. Chairman Schapiro is quite capable of partnering with industry: Had Goldman done better, earlier, there might never have been a lawsuit. Popular wisdom says that Goldman should settle. I disagree. Although both parties understand that cooperation beats enmity, the SEC chose not to cooperate; and now, Goldman’s best strategy is to respond in kind. Read more »
To everyone shrieking “Goldman Sachs broke the law,” “Goldman Sachs is evil,” “Goldman Sachs is this,” “Goldman Sachs is that,” to the SEC, to the peasants, to the window, to the wall, one voice of reason– the only one that counts– is here to say “Stuff it. These guys are cool.” His (nick)name is Bubba and in a wide-ranging interview with Maria Bartiromo that will air on CNBC this afternoon, he told her we should all consider getting off GS’s nuts (vis-à-vis BS lawsuits). Read more »
He’s got this one covered. Letter to investors via Absolute Return. Read more »
Tetsuya Ishikawa worked for six years as a credit banker at ABN AMRO, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Last year he was fired from MS, and a couple years prior to that, he was listed as one of the salesman investors should contact if they wanted to get a piece of ABACUS. And since getting canned, he’s written a novel based on his “personal account of 21st-century banking excess,” which was just published this week. How much of the story relayed by narrator Andrew Dover actually happened to ‘Tets’? He’d put it at “close to 90 percent.” (Dover was hired for his job with a $3 million guarantee, whereas in six years, Tets only took home a little “more than £1 million before taxes.” Also, Andy does a lot of blow, where as the author says that “he was never a keen consumer of cocaine”). As for being a real page turner, according to reviewer Sathnam Sanghera, Ishikawa “makes structuring, syndicating and selling credit derivative, CDO and securitisation products as dull as it sounds,” and does not name-check The Fabulous Fab, having not realized during the writing process that the SEC would be going after his former colleague the same week he made his authorial debut. And it’s not clear how much light is shed on how exactly we got into this mess. Tets (via Dover) does however do a pretty good job of talking lap dances, strippers, and turning hoes into housewives, based on his experience in the field. Read more »
IKB Deutsche Industriebank took a $150 million bath on Goldman’s famed Abacus deal and is named as the key victim of the alleged GS/Paulson scheme in the SEC’s lawsuit. But the German bank touted itself as an expert in CDOs with a top notch staff that examines investments with a fine-tooth comb.
“CDO pools are examined with a drill down to underlying assets and stress testing of the underlying asset pools,” IKB bragged in marketing materials obtained by John Carney at The Daily Beast.
But it appears like the German bank never “drilled down” enough to realize the underlying mortgages in Abacus were doomed to failure. Read more »