Thursday, October 23, 2008

Who’s Responsible for the Crash?

Today we got our answer... “Alan Greenspan: Bad data hurt Wall Street computer models”

On March 2, 2008, we wrote:

“...We send our best and brightest young people to Wall Street to learn investment banking and figure out new ways to attract investment funds and enrich their firms and themselves. Usually, many are successful and the economy and the country benefit from this economic stimulus that creates capital for investment in new industry, thus creating jobs and purchasing power. So what happened here? Who were the “brains” behind this housing crisis? Which genius or geniuses decided that it was prudent or even smart to lend to people who could not afford to repay their loans and then use those loans as security for other investments? Wasn’t a crash inevitable under those circumstances? 

The lenders and the investment bankers knew in advance that certain borrowers were not credit-worthy; would not have sufficient incentive to repay their loans; did not have the income necessary to meet the projected payments, and yet, in what can only be considered a mass delusion, made these loans anyway. Was it greed? That’s a tempting thought, but even the greediest money managers can sense a disaster in the making and find ways to avoid it--perhaps like not making the loans in the first place? No, that would be too simple. I think it’s more a case of a lot of professional people who were too used to believing in the infallibility of their decisions coupled with the pressure to churn out enormous profits to keep their positions intact. A form of “greed” to be sure, but way more sophisticated, at least on the surface. Here we have a large number of very smart people who perhaps were too insulated from the real world...”

 The New York Times , October 23, 2008:

“...(Alan) Greenspan has long praised computer technology as a tool that can be used to limit risks in financial markets. For instance, in 2005, he credited improved computing power and risk-scoring models with making it possible for lenders to extend credit to subprime mortgage borrowers.

But at a hearing held today by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Greenspan acknowledged that the data fed into financial systems was often a case of garbage-in, garbage-out.

Business decisions by financial services firms were based on "the best insights of mathematicians and finance experts, supported by major advances in computer and communications technology," Greenspan told the committee. "The whole intellectual edifice, however, collapsed in the summer of last year because the data inputted into the risk management models generally covered only the past two decades a period of euphoria."

 A quote from Warren Buffet in his annual letter to investors:

 "As house prices fall, a huge amount of financial folly is being exposed. You only learn who has been swimming naked when the tide goes out--and what we are witnessing at some of our largest financial institutions is an ugly sight."


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