There was a lot of perverse behavior on Wall
Street leading up to the financial collapse. Among the worst was
rating agencies slapping triple-A ratings on junk bonds. Many have
argued that big investment firms such as Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank
conned rating agencies into inflating the value of mortgage-backed securities. Now New York
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating eight banks for that very reason.
- This Is Big, writes Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism: "The Cuomo investigation is honing in on a crucial issue: did the banks misrepresent the assets in the deals rated? That has the potential to be a Big Deal, since it could result in bad ratings and the resulting losses being attributed to bad information from banks, who could be sued, and conveniently also are deep pockets."
- This Is About the Thin Line Between Clever and Criminal, writes Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider: "If there's a clear pattern of providing improper data to the raters...then the banks begin to look like they were specifically trying to deceive customers on behalf of their own trading desks or special clients (like John Paulson). Suddenly, this looks less like hedging or market making, and more like putting your finger on the scale."
- Cuomo Is Just Playing Politics Here, writes Felix Salmon at Reuters: " I think we’ve probably moved beyond the point at which it’s important how strong these cases are. All that Cuomo needs to do is tell Story about his investigation and most of the damage is already done: he never needs to bring an actual case, and in fact, given the amount of time it takes to put such cases together, he’ll probably have moved on to grander elected office by then anyway."
- Rating Agencies Were at the Heart of the Crisis, writes Nancy Miller at True/Slant: "The rating agencies served as the handmaidens to Wall Street firms slapping triple-A ratings on mortgage-based derivative deals faster than you can shout, 'Next!' Imprimaturs from Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s (major stakeholder: Warren Buffett) enabled many municipalities and pensions seeking top-rated investments to buy collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that later turned out to be drek."
- Everyone's at Fault, writes analysts at Piper Jaffray, an investment banking firm: "While we believe the rating agencies share culpability for the errors that triggered the financial crises, we also think that banks, regulators, Congress, borrowers and investors all played leading roles."