Goldman Sachs Messages Show It Thrived as Economy Fell

Editor’s Note: Now the truth as reported here two years ago.
  • There were no losses.
  • They were making money hand over fist.
  • And this article focuses only on a single topic — some of the credit default swaps — those that Goldman had bought in its own name, leaving out all the other swaps bought by Goldman using other banks and entities as cover for their horrendous behavior.
  • It also leaves out all the other swaps bought by all the other investment banking houses.
  • But most of all it leaves out the fact that at no time did the investment banking firms actually own the mortgages that the world thinks caused enormous losses requiring the infamous bailout. It’s a fiction.
  • In nearly all cases they sold the securities “forward” which means they sold the securities first, collected the money second and then went looking for hapless consumers to sign documents that were called “loans.”
  • The securities created the intended chain of securitization wherein first the investors “owned” the loans (before they existed and before the first application was signed) and then the “loans” were “assigned” into the pool.
  • The pool was assigned into a Special Purpose Vehicle that issued “shares” (certificates, bonds, whatever you want to call them) to investors.
  • Those shares conveyed OWNERSHIP of the loan pool. Each share OWNED a percentage of the loans.
  • The so-called “trust” was merely an operating agreement between the investors that was controlled by the investment banking house through an entity called a “trustee.” All of it was a sham.
  • There was no trust, no trustee, no lending except from the investors, and no losses from mortgage defaults, because even with a steep default rate of 16% reported by some organizations, the insurance, swaps, and other guarantees and third party payments more than covered mortgage defaults.
  • The default that was not covered was the default in payment of principal to investors, which they will never see, because they never were actually given the dollar amount of mortgages they thought they were buying.
  • The entire crisis was and remains a computer enhanced hallucination that was used as a vehicle to keep stealing from investors, borrowers, taxpayers and anyone else they thought had money.
  • The “profits” made by NOT using the investor money to fund mortgages are sitting off shore in structured investment vehicles.
  • The actual funds, first sent to Bermuda and the caymans was then cycled around the world. The Ponzi scheme became a giant check- kiting scheme that hid the true nature of what they were doing.
April 24, 2010

Goldman Sachs Messages Show It Thrived as Economy Fell

By LOUISE STORY, SEWELL CHAN and GRETCHEN MORGENSON

In late 2007 as the mortgage crisis gained momentum and many banks were suffering losses, Goldman Sachs executives traded e-mail messages saying that they were making “some serious money” betting against the housing markets.

The e-mails, released Saturday morning by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, appear to contradict some of Goldman’s previous statements that left the impression that the firm lost money on mortgage-related investments.

In the e-mails, Lloyd C. Blankfein, the bank’s chief executive, acknowledged in November of 2007 that the firm indeed had lost money initially. But it later recovered from those losses by making negative bets, known as short positions, enabling it to profit as housing prices fell and homeowners defaulted on their mortgages. “Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess,” he wrote. “We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts.”

In another message, dated July 25, 2007, David A. Viniar, Goldman’s chief financial officer, remarked on figures that showed the company had made a $51 million profit in a single day from bets that the value of mortgage-related securities would drop. “Tells you what might be happening to people who don’t have the big short,” he wrote to Gary D. Cohn, now Goldman’s president.

The messages were released Saturday ahead of a Congressional hearing on Tuesday in which seven current and former Goldman employees, including Mr. Blankfein, are expected to testify. The hearing follows a recent securities fraud complaint that the Securities and Exchange Commission filed against Goldman and one of its employees, Fabrice Tourre, who will also testify on Tuesday.

Actions taken by Wall Street firms during the housing meltdown have become a major factor in the contentious debate over financial reform. The first test of the administration’s overhaul effort will come Monday when the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is to call a procedural vote to try to stop a Republican filibuster.

Republicans have contended that the renewed focus on Goldman stems from Democrats’ desire to use anger at Wall Street to push through a financial reform bill.

Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and head of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said that the e-mail messages contrast with Goldman’s public statements about its trading results. “The 2009 Goldman Sachs annual report stated that the firm ‘did not generate enormous net revenues by betting against residential related products,’ ” Mr. Levin said in a statement Saturday when his office released the documents. “These e-mails show that, in fact, Goldman made a lot of money by betting against the mortgage market.”

A Goldman spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Goldman messages connect some of the dots at a crucial moment of Goldman history. They show that in 2007, as most other banks hemorrhaged losses from plummeting mortgage holdings, Goldman prospered.

At first, Goldman openly discussed its prescience in calling the housing downfall. In the third quarter of 2007, the investment bank reported publicly that it had made big profits on its negative bet on mortgages.

But by the end of that year, the firm curtailed disclosures about its mortgage trading results. Its chief financial officer told analysts at the end of 2007 that they should not expect Goldman to reveal whether it was long or short on the housing market. By late 2008, Goldman was emphasizing its losses, rather than its profits, pointing regularly to write-downs of $1.7 billion on mortgage assets and leaving out the amount it made on its negative bets.

Goldman and other firms often take positions on both sides of an investment. Some are long, which are bets that the investment will do well, and some are shorts, which are bets the investment will do poorly. If an investor’s positions are balanced — or hedged, in industry parlance — then the combination of the longs and shorts comes out to zero.

Goldman has said that it added shorts to balance its mortgage book, not to make a directional bet that the market would collapse. But the messages released Saturday appear to show that in 2007, at least, Goldman’s short bets were eclipsing the losses on its long positions. In May 2007, for instance, Goldman workers e-mailed one another about losses on a bundle of mortgages issued by Long Beach Mortgage Securities. Though the firm lost money on those, a worker wrote, there was “good news”: “we own 10 mm in protection.” That meant Goldman had enough of a bet against the bond that, over all, it profited by $5 million.

Documents released by the Senate committee appear to indicate that in July 2007, Goldman’s daily accounting showed losses of $322 million on positive mortgage positions, but its negative bet — what Mr. Viniar called “the big short” — came in $51 million higher.

As recently as a week ago, a Goldman spokesman emphasized that the firm had tried only to hedge its mortgage holdings in 2007 and said the firm had not been net short in that market.

The firm said in its annual report this month that it did not know back then where housing was headed, a sentiment expressed by Mr. Blankfein the last time he appeared before Congress.

“We did not know at any minute what would happen next, even though there was a lot of writing,” he told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in January.

It is not known how much money in total Goldman made on its negative housing bets. Only a handful of e-mail messages were released Saturday, and they do not reflect the complete record.

The Senate subcommittee began its investigation in November 2008, but its work attracted little attention until a series of hearings in the last month. The first focused on lending practices at Washington Mutual, which collapsed in 2008, the largest bank failure in American history; another scrutinized deficiencies at several regulatory agencies, including the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

A third hearing, on Friday, centered on the role that the credit rating agencies — Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch — played in the financial crisis. At the end of the hearing, Mr. Levin offered a preview of the Goldman hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

“Our investigation has found that investment banks such as Goldman Sachs were not market makers helping clients,” Mr. Levin said, referring to testimony given by Mr. Blankfein in January. “They were self-interested promoters of risky and complicated financial schemes that were a major part of the 2008 crisis. They bundled toxic and dubious mortgages into complex financial instruments, got the credit-rating agencies to label them as AAA safe securities, sold them to investors, magnifying and spreading risk throughout the financial system, and all too often betting against the financial instruments that they sold, and profiting at the expense of their clients.”

The transaction at the center of the S.E.C.’s case against Goldman also came up at the hearings on Friday, when Mr. Levin discussed it with Eric Kolchinsky, a former managing director at Moody’s. The mortgage-related security was known as Abacus 2007-AC1, and while it was created by Goldman, the S.E.C. contends that the firm misled investors by not disclosing that it had allowed a hedge fund manager, John A. Paulson, to select mortgage bonds for the portfolio that would be most likely to fail. That charge is at the core of the civil suit it filed against Goldman.

Moody’s was hired by Goldman to rate the Abacus security. Mr. Levin asked Mr. Kolchinsky, who for most of 2007 oversaw the ratings of collateralized debt obligations backed by subprime mortgages, if he had known of Mr. Paulson’s involvement in the Abacus deal.

“I did not know, and I suspect — I’m fairly sure that my staff did not know either,” Mr. Kolchinsky said.

Mr. Levin asked whether details of Mr. Paulson’s involvement were “facts that you or your staff would have wanted to know before rating Abacus.” Mr. Kolchinsky replied: “Yes, that’s something that I would have personally wanted to know.”

Mr. Kolchinsky added: “It just changes the whole dynamic of the structure, where the person who’s putting it together, choosing it, wants it to blow up.”

The Senate announced that it would convene a hearing on Goldman Sachs within a week of the S.E.C.’s fraud suit. Some members of Congress questioned whether the two investigations had been coordinated or linked.

Mr. Levin’s staff said there was no connection between the two investigations. They pointed out that the subcommittee requested the appearance of the Goldman executives and employees well before the S.E.C. filed its case.

Deficiency Judgments on the Rise: NEXT BIG CRISIS

Editor’s Note: You see they have no shame. If they can get money they are going after it only this time the ones going after deficiency judgments and collections are usually not even the original people who foreclosed. This is why you MUST fight it, file motions to set aside for fraud, petition for bankruptcy relief or use other means to even the score and level the playing field. The foreclosure was in all probability a sham, defrauding both the homeowner and the investor, and the collection is just a numbers game.
On the other hand, articles like these are planted to scare people away from strategic defaults. Keep in mind that deficiency judgments are rarely successful in the best of circumstances. Usually the former homeowner had no significant assets other than his home and many states severely limit creditors’ options. So they are basically left with the usual scare tactics.

The moral is do what you need to do, talk to a savvy lawyer, and don’t let the financial service industry be the source of your information.
Lenders Pursue Mortgage Payoffs Long After Homeowners Default

Jan. 28 (Bloomberg) — When John King stopped making payments on his home in Coral Gables, Florida, two years ago, he assumed the foreclosure ended his mortgage contract, he said. Last month, a Miami-Dade County court gave collectors permission to pursue him for $44,000 stemming from the default.

King is among a rising number of borrowers who are learning that they can be on the hook for years after losing their homes. Amid a crisis that stripped $6.4 trillion, or 28 percent, from the value of U.S. residential real estate since the 2006 peak, lenders are exercising their rights to pursue unpaid mortgage balances. To get their money, they can seize wages, tap bank accounts and put liens on other assets held by debtors.

“The big dogs get a bailout, and the little man gets no mercy,” said King, 39, referring to the U.S. government’s rescue of banks and other financial institutions.

While there are no statistics on the number of deficiency judgments approved by courts, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. tracks the amount banks collect after defaulted loans were written off.

These mortgage recoveries rose 48 percent to a record $1.01 billion in the first nine months of last year compared with the year-earlier period, according to the Washington-based regulator. Recoveries on defaulted home-equity loans almost doubled to $392 million, the FDIC data shows.

The figures don’t include money retrieved by trusts overseeing mortgage-backed securities, such as the one that holds the loan on King’s former home, or efforts by distressed- asset funds and companies that buy bad loans to profit from collection rights. Judgments such as the one levied against King usually tack on court fees, fines and interest.

‘Next Big Crisis’

Deficiency judgments were rare in the 15 years since the last real estate slump, said Ben Hillard, a former investment banker who now is a real estate and corporate attorney at Hillard & Rogers in Largo, Florida.

“The banks have been too underwater with foreclosures to spend much time on deficiency judgments, but that’s beginning to change,” Hillard said in an interview. “This is going to be the next big crisis.”

Almost 4.5 percent of mortgaged U.S. homes were in foreclosure during the third quarter, the highest rate in the 37 years of tracking the data, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Nov. 19. A record one in every 10 mortgages was at least one payment overdue in the same period, the Washington-based trade group reported.

The Obama administration is seeking to modify as many as 4 million loans by 2012 to prevent foreclosures through the Home Affordable Modification Program, which cuts monthly payments to about a third of borrowers’ income. By the end of December, the program was responsible for more than 850,000 modifications, the Treasury Department said in a Jan. 15 report.

20-Year Window

The federal government spent $230 billion in the year ended in September to support homeowners, according to the Congressional Budget Office in Washington. Those efforts didn’t help people who had already walked away from their houses.

In states such as Florida, courts give mortgage holders as long as five years to seek a deficiency judgment and, if granted, up to 20 years to collect. Usually, they have the option of renewing the judgment if it’s not paid off within 20 years.

About a third of U.S. states, including California and Arizona, prohibit collection efforts on primary residences after foreclosure. In some cases, homeowners waive that protection if they refinance. Most states allow collection on unpaid home equity loans.

Depression-Era Protections

The laws in states that protect some borrowers stem from the Great Depression in the 1930s, when a lack of bidders at foreclosure auctions caused deficiencies that, with added fees and interest, sometimes were bigger than the original loan amount, according to a 1934 Virginia Law Review article by Sol Phillips Perlman. Today, many courts measure the shortfall using a property’s market value at the time of foreclosure rather than auction results.

The likeliest candidates for deficiency judgments are so- called rational defaults, said Larry Tolchinsky, a real estate attorney in Hallandale Beach, Florida. In those cases, people who are current on their mortgages decide to walk away from a property because its value has sunk so far below their loan balance they have no hope of recouping the loss.

About 21 percent of American homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth, according to Zillow.com, a Seattle-based real estate data firm.

“Walking away from a property comes with a cost, especially for people who otherwise have good credit,” Tolchinsky said in an interview. “The bank is going to pull your credit report, and if you’re current on your other bills they are going to come after you and potentially ruin you.”

Fine Print

It’s not just foreclosures that can trigger debt collections. Short sales also may lead to deficiency judgments years after former homeowners have moved on, according to Hillard, the attorney in Largo. In a short sale, lenders agree to let borrowers sell a home for less than the mortgage balance.

“Banks are being very careful to preserve their rights, either outright in the short sale agreement or by using vague language that leaves that door open,” Hillard said. About 90 percent of people who do a short sale think they are “off the hook.”

That was the case when two of his clients, Brigitte and John Howard, sold their home in New Port Richey, Florida, almost two years ago without using a lawyer to check the bank’s short- sale agreement.

$20,000 Shock

“We got a call out of the blue saying we owed $20,000,” said Brigitte Howard, 45. “It was a shock. There was no mention in the short-sale contract that the bank might come after us for the difference.”

The money King owes to the Soundview Home Loan asset-backed security that holds the mortgage on his former Coral Gables condominium consists of $38,000 for unpaid principal and almost $6,000 in legal fees and interest accrued prior to the ruling. According to the judgment, the security can charge 8 percent interest until he pays off the debt.

King, who said his default was caused by a reduction in his income, now rents near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he teaches ballroom dancing.

“I thought the foreclosure was the worst of a bad situation, but it’s not,” said King. “The people who got sucked into the real estate bubble are still paying for it, even after they’ve taken our homes.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Kathleen M. Howley in Boston at kmhowley@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: January 28, 2010 00:01 EST

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