SEC JUST NOW SEEKING KEY INFORMATION ON MELTDOWN

THANK YOU ALLAN AGAIN!!!

Editor’s Note: Allan is right about his frustration with a government that is so slow on the draw. Yet if history teaches us anything it is that government, especially our govenment, tends tomove very slowly except for “emergency” situations, when most of the actions are flawed.

It would be a good idea to contact the SEC, ask for their form and give them as much information a you can. Remember, every homeowner involved with a securitized mortgage was a “CDO Player.” Hearing from you will balance the scales a little. The SEC will soon take notice that homeowners were sold  security the same way that pension funds were sold securities at the other end of the securitization chain. THAT is where the scheme unravels. And smart securities class action lawyers will finally see that there is more money in this unravelling than anything they have ever worked on in their lives.  

Business
SEC JUST NOW SEEKING KEY INFORMATION ON MELTDOWN

by Jake Bernstein and Jesse Eisinger, ProPublica
– December 16, 2009 3:30 pm EST

This story is part of an ongoing investigation with NPR’s Planet Money [1].

Former SEC chairman Christopher Cox, right. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Former SEC chairman Christopher Cox, right. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Almost three years since banks started taking losses that led to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the Securities and Exchange Commission is still asking basic questions about what happened.

Were you there?

If you were involved in the CDO business during the end days of the boom, please contact us.

 

(917) 512-0258 cdos@propublica.org [2]

The SEC is conducting an information-gathering sweep of the key players in the market for collateralized debt obligations, the bundles of mortgage securities whose sudden collapse in price was at the center of the meltdown of the global banking system.

In a letter dated Oct. 22, the SEC sent what amounts to a questionnaire to a number of collateral managers, the middlemen between the investment banks that created the complex financial products and the investors who bought them.

Collateralized debt obligations are made up of dozens if not hundreds of securities, which in turn are backed by underlying loans, such as mortgages. Investment banks underwrite the structures and recruit their investors. Collateral managers, brought in by the investment banks but paid by fees from the assets, select the securities and manage the structures on behalf of the investors. CDO managers have a fiduciary duty to manage the investments fairly for investors.

Since 2005, $1.3 trillion worth of CDOs have been issued, with a record $521 billion in 2006, according to the securities industry lobbying group SIFMA. The collapse in value of mortgage CDOs triggered the 2008 financial collapse.

ProPublica and NPR have confirmed that the SEC letter was sent to several managers, although the distribution list was likely industrywide. At the height of the boom in 2006, only 28 managers controlled about half of all CDOs, according to Standard and Poor’s.

Banks began disclosing the first big losses on CDOs in early 2007. The infamous Bear Stearns hedge funds ran into problems [3] beginning that summer. By that August, the credit markets began seizing up. Merrill Lynch and Citigroup were among the hardest hit by losses on bad investments in mortgage-based securities and CDOs.

The SEC’s letter focuses on information regarding “trading, allocation and valuations and advisers’ disclosure,” though it also asks for other details on how the managers ran their businesses. The letter requests information on CDOs issued since Jan. 1, 2006.

The letter asks collateral managers for information about what investments they made on their own behalf and how they valued these investments. Securities experts say the letter indicates that the agency is still gathering basic information about the CDO market, despite its centrality to the banking crisis.

“One wonders why this letter, especially given the general nature of it, is just now being sent. And why wasn’t it sent several years ago, as the CDO market was exploding?” says Lynn Turner, who was the SEC’s chief accountant in the late 1990s. “It makes it look like the SEC is several years behind the markets.”

Even Wall Street executives and securities lawyers who were involved in the CDO business at its height have privately expressed surprise that the SEC was only now contacting them for such rudimentary information.

The SEC declined to comment on the letter. As a policy, a spokesman said, the agency doesn’t comment on its regulatory actions. The SEC has jurisdiction over CDO managers,and enforces rules against securities manipulation, among other violations. The letter does not use the words “inquiry” or “investigation.”

Interviews with market participants and former regulators point to several areas that the SEC might be investigating. Some managers had their own in-house investment funds and may have taken positions that were in conflict with those of the investors in the structures that they managed. In some cases, their hedge funds may have bet against the very slices of the securities they were managing on behalf of the investors in the structure.

Underwriting investment banks often had influence over the investment choices some CDO managers made, giving rise to another possible conflict of interest. The agency may be looking at whether that influence was proper or not.

“The possibility for conflicts and self-dealing is huge,” says Turner, the former SEC chief accountant.

To date, the agency has little to show for its probes into the causes of the crisis that engulfed global financial markets just over a year ago. In June 2007, Christopher Cox, then the SEC chairman, testified before Congress that the agency had “about 12 investigations” [4] under way concerning CDOs and collateralized loan obligations and similar products. A little more than a year later, Cox told Congress that the number of investigations into the financial industry, including the subprime mortgage origination business, had ballooned to over 50 separate inquiries. [5]

There could be multiple reasons why investigations are proceeding slowly. Such cases are complex and require enormous resources and expertise. Regulators also face the hurdle of proving intent to defraud.

Under Cox’s stewardship, the SEC fell into disarray [6], and it was harshly criticized by Congress and its own inspector general, particularly for its failure to catch [7] the Ponzi scheme of Bernie Madoff. The turnover of the new administration, which ushered in new leadership at the much-criticized agency, has also likely slowed efforts. In recent months, under new Chairman Mary Schapiro, the SEC has made insider-trading inquiries a high priority.

So far, there have been few indictments or civil complaints. In a sign of how long these cases can take, the mortgage company New Century Financial Corporation disclosed in March 2007 that it was the subject of an SEC investigation [8] into possible insider stock sales and accounting irregularities. It wasn’t until last week — Dec. 7 — that the SEC filed a formal complaint against former executives of the company. The government’s highest-profile prosecution involving the financial collapse – the case against two managers of the Bear Stearns hedge fund for alleged securities and wire fraud – failed to gain a conviction when a jury decided [9] that the men were simply bad businessmen rather than criminals.

Were you involved in the CDO business in the latter stages of the boom? We want to talk to you. E-mail us at CDOS@propublica.org [10] or call us at               (917) 512-0258         (917) 512-0258.

Write to Jesse Eisinger at Jesse.Eisinger@propublica.org [11].

Write to Jake Bernstein at Jake.Bernstein@propublica.org [12].

Want to know more? Follow ProPublica on Facebook [13] and Twitter [14], and get ProPublica headlines delivered by e-mail every day [15].

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FINALLY somebody’s paying George Santayana heed. “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” My bet’s on repeating it, given how our political system works like a pendulum. How many bubbles did we experience in the last 10 years? What happens to regulation and resolve when there is a political changeover?

ALLAN
B e M o v e d @ A O L . c o m

6 Responses

  1. Abbey, what form would you file with SEC for a securitization complaint alleging unjust enrichment by the servicers? I am fighting against Wells Fargo and Lasalle servicers and I believe they have been paid already for the mortgage.

  2. God forbid Martha Stewart and Mark Cuban sell a few shares of stock… WHAM!

    Wall Street engineered the heist of the Millennium and the SEC looks the other way. They are a joke, literally!!!

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBYo-G8RePM&hl=en_US&fs=1&color1=0x5d1719&color2=0xcd311b]

  3. The SEC is a joke… LITERALLY!

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBYo-G8RePM&hl=en_US&fs=1&color1=0x5d1719&color2=0xcd311b]

    Martha Stewart and Mark Cuban sell a few stocks and WHAM.

    http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/spt/basketball/mavs/stories/1209dnbuscuban.332d5f42a.html

    Instead of letting the “free market” take the Ponzi players under, they look the other way and prop them up with our money. The SEC turned the other way while Wall Street engineered the heist of the Millennium.

    In the S&L crisis (RTC) bailout they allowed million dollar office buildings and commercial properties to be re-appraised down to what the asset was really worth. So your $5M office complex is reappraised down to sub-$1M and the taxpayers foot the $4M+/- loss.

    FIRREA came after the S&L crisis (Financial Institution Reform Recovery Enforcement Act) and was gutted like Carolina catfish, leaving loopholes just where the wealthy banking and financial wizards knew to find them!

    We got plenty of s**t cake and ice cream stories from Main-Stream-Media telling people all about RECORD GAINS RECORD GAINS and MORE RECORD GAINS in the housing market. Not a pundit in sight. Same thing with the Govt. talking heads promoting the hell out of buying a piece of the American Dream.

    Not trying to be a whiner… just want to frame the scenario properly so we can see that it was destined to fail from the onset. I mean really… did we not have enough land left in America to supply working people with houses at working people prices?

    To blame: (this is by no means all-inclusive, obviously hind sight is 20/20) tight zoning and land use regs, rampant speculation, AMC’s, AVM’s, Title Mills, Legal Boiler Shops, the legislative and executive branches of our government, the FED, the SEC & the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 which repealed part of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, opening up the market among banking companies, securities companies and insurance companies.

    Glass-Steagall prohibited any one institution from acting as any combination of an investment bank, a commercial bank, and/or an insurance company.

    The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act allowed commercial banks, investment banks, securities firms and insurance companies to consolidate.

    For example, Citicorp (a commercial bank holding company) merged with Travelers Group (an insurance company) in 1998 to form the conglomerate Citigroup, a corporation combining banking, securities and insurance services under a house of brands that included Citibank, Smith Barney, Primerica and Travelers.

    This combination, announced in 1993 and finalized in 1994, would have violated the Glass-Steagall Act and the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 by combining securities, insurance, and banking, if not for a temporary waiver process. The law was passed to legalize these mergers on a permanent basis. [1]

    The solution: RUN FOR OFFICE. Really… run for a position in the next election cycle. Mayor, Council Member, Commissioner, state or congressional rep, whatever!!!
    Hats off to Mr. Garfield for the work you’ve done and for the wake-up call. It’s up to all of us now to follow through.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDJ_NLPLSyc&hl=en_US&fs=1&color1=0x5d1719&color2=0xcd311b]

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xir5j8SjVlI&hl=en_US&fs=1&color1=0x5d1719&color2=0xcd311b]

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gramm-Leach-Bliley_Act

  4. THE GOVERNMENT GAVE THE BANKSTERS OUR TAX MONEY SO THEY CAN BE BIG SHOTS AND TAKE OUR HOMES AWAY. THEY HAVE ALL THE MONEY TO PURSUE THE BIGGEST ROBBERY (TAKE OUR HOMES AFTER THEY HAVE BEEN PAID)

    WOW.

  5. I’m sure this is a moot statement, but it really is a damn shame more lawyers out there don’t “get it”. Those who do could easily make themselves a ton of money, while helping to save the country at the same time.

    Steve
    99Libra@gmail.com

  6. http://www.sec.gov/complaint.shtml

    filing SEC complaints using online form

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