Tuesday, September 23, 2008


As the world listens to Messrs. Paulson and Bernanke argue for support of their three-page $700 billion manifesto, I wish to focus your attention on a central aspect of the credit crisis – the scale and scope of the credit derivatives octopus.

To illustrate, consider this: If scientists can “identify all the approximately 20,000-25,000 genes in human DNA”, and “determine the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA,” then why can’t the financial scientists identify the extent of the credit derivatives market?

This is a national, if not global, emergency. In such an emergency, is it acceptable to say, “We don’t know what we don’t know?” Or, “It’s too hard to figure out.” Nonsense. If this emergency were a war, would it be acceptable to say, “We can’t build that tank or missile because we don’t know where the steel is”? Of course not. So, why is it acceptable to say we don’t know the extent of the credit derivatives octopus?

Perhaps certain US government officials do know but they are just not saying so. Perhaps those certain US government officials reside in the US Treasury and Federal Reserve Bank. If so, then their actions these past anxiety-riddled months are about as inept as could be possible as a more comprehensive plan of action should have been constructed (from such knowledge) rather than the firemen Hank and Ben put out the latest financial wildfire this weekend, right now routine we have been treated to.

Investment Strategy Implications

Along with the insane decisions to implement FAS 157 and eliminate the uptick rule, the outrageous neglect on the part of those charged with oversight of the entire financial services industry, and the fundamental rationale supporting each (efficient markets and laissez-faire), you can add the unacceptable argument that it’s just too hard to figure out the credit derivatives octopus.

In the process, the world’s markets and economies are now forced to experience a disorderly unwinding of the credit bubble – a disorderly unwinding that could have been mitigated had certain action steps, and the rationales supporting them, been avoided.

Sadly, today’s testimony will almost certainly contain a lot of shoulder shrugging “we don’t know what we don’t know, it’s too hard to figure out” statements. Unacceptable.

1 comment:

Roy Turner said...

Amen. Just what are all those bureaucrats at Treasury & the Fed up to anyway?