Eric Schneiderman

Eighteen people were arrested for allegedly running a prostitution and drug ring that marketed its services to visitors to the New York area for the Feb. 2 Super Bowl, the New York Attorney General said. The ring sold “party pack” packages of cocaine and prostitutes and is estimated to have generated millions of dollars in illegal proceeds, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said today in a statement. [Bloomberg]

Eric Schneiderman’s determination to follow in Eliot Spitzer’s footsteps (to a point) is bad news for analysts who answer their phones. Read more »

The practice of paying for an early peak at market-moving news isn’t just insider-trading, according to Eric Schneiderman: It’s Insider Trading 2.0®. Read more »

This New York Attorney General lawsuit against Credit Suisse is mostly the same as all the other lawsuits by all the other regulators against all the other banks. Here is a summary, based on the complaint:

  • Some mortgage originators made crappy loans, because that was the style at the time.
  • They sold them to Credit Suisse to bundle into MBS.
  • Credit Suisse’s due diligence was of the form “hi, is this a loan? APPROVED,” in part because they sucked or whatever but mostly because there were competitive pressures where if they didn’t buy the loan someone else would1 and if you’re the guy whose job is to buy loans and you buy zero loans and say “well the thing is, they were all bad loans,” you are fired, so your incentives are not socially optimal.
  • The offering documents for the MBS said things like “ooh our due diligence is so good, so good,” though no specific falsifiable claims are made about the quality of the mortgages or the diligence, and every claim of the form “we only approve good mortgages” is followed immediately by “unless we decide to approve bad ones.”2
  • Dumb emails were sent because, you know how mortgage traders are with their email.3
  • The MBS lost value for an assortment of reasons, some due to Credit Suisse’s bad diligence, some not.
  • That all certainly seems fraudy, so New York is suing CS “for making fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions to promote the sale of residential mortgage­-backed securities (RMBS) to investors.”
  • Credit Suisse has a nontrivial argument that it didn’t break the letter of the law, fraudulent-misrepresentation-wise, since it never specifically said “these loans are good” but only things of the form “we have pondered the goodness of these loans in our heart, except when we haven’t.”
  • But its loans, and its diligence process, and its emails, are all sufficiently dumb that there’ll probably be a settlement with a high-8/low-9-figure dollar amount and no admission of guilt.

Whatever, boring, the end. But then I came to this: Read more »

So, subprime mortgage-backed securities. Here’s a schematic:

  • Banks packaged subprime mortgages into bonds and sold them to people.
  • Something.
  • The bonds were bad and the people lost money.

What’s the something? There are two main theories. Theory 1 says that everyone knew at some lizard-brain level that it was a bad idea to give lots of money to poor unemployed people with low credit scores to buy overpriced houses, but figured it would work out fine if house prices kept going up. This worked until it didn’t; when house prices went down, badness ensued.

Theory 2 says that, while mortgage originators and securitizers knew that they were giving mortgages to people who had no chance of paying them back, the buyers of those mortgages had no idea: they thought that the originators were holding them to rigorous underwriting standards, where “rigorous” is read to mean “other than requiring a job, or an income, or assets, or a credit score.” When that turned out to be false, badness ensued.

Theory 1 has the benefit of probably being right.1 Theory 2 is superior on every other metric. For one thing, it fits well with deep cultural desires to find villains for the subprime crisis, and punish them. For another, it better fits the explicit facts. No subprime offering document actually said “these guys are all just terrible reprobates and the only way you’ll get your money back is if they can find a greater fool to buy their overpriced house when their rate resets.” But there’s no shortage of internal emails that say – well:

In connection with the Bear Stearns Second Lien Trust 2007-1 (“BSSLT 2007-1”) securitization, for example, one Bear Stearns executive asked whether the securitization was a “going out of business sale” and expressed a desire to “close this dog.” In another internal email, the SACO 2006-8 securitization was referred to as a “SACK OF SHIT”2 and a “shit breather.”

Thanks Eric Schneiderman! Read more »