Friday, April 16, 2010

SEC vs. Goldman II

I was wrong and Goldman only acted as a middleman/broker in the transactions, they did not directly issue CDS and did not have positions in any of the transactions.

As I read more and more, it seems the SEC is really going to have a hard time proving anything. All Goldman did was find participants, they acted as a market-finder and had no skin in the game. Were they supposed to issue updates on what one of their customers, Paulson, was doing? Or basically say to the CDS issuer, "Hey, don't you know the great Paulson is on the other side of the trade? He's never wrong, and you're going to get taken!".

I think I understand the situation almost completely now. Paulson saw the crisis coming and wanted to bet against housing. But how? There isn't a subprime mortgage index or anything like that so he first had to create a reference index that he could bet against. That was the CDO made up of subprime loans rated Baa2 that he expected would be in trouble. So he asked Goldman to find someone who could act as an asset manager and structure such a CDO so that he could bet against it. Goldman did in ACA. ACA had all the information Paulson did on credit scores and so forth, and subsequent investors would also. After the CDO was structured, Paulson bought CDS on it and he turned out to be correct. Those issuing the CDS had the relevant information, that Paulson wanted to bet against this CDO all along wasn't relevant. It's like if I bought Goldman Sachs tomorrow and I didn't know George Soros was selling me his shares. So what? I'm buying because I see that the SEC has no case, who cares if Soros is selling?

If there is a culprit here, it is Paulson, not Goldman who only acted as broker. Still it is a stretch, Paulson didn't have any information that wasn't available to everyone else. He was just smarter and better.

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