Saturday, March 21, 2009

What'd I tell you...

Goldman tries to play the "How were we supposed to know defense?" on AIG:

David Viniar, CFO of Goldman Sachs, basically suggested that since nobody knew that AIG was a house of cards, nobody had any reason to suspect anything. “AIG was a triple-A rated company, one of the largest and considered one of the most sophisticated in the world,” he said. And in a response to a question on how Goldman allowed its exposure to AIG to get as large as it did, Mr. Viniar describes positions made in 2006 and early 2007 as if it was a different age, a more innocent time, when magical dwarves ruled the land, before the ring of power had been forged.
“It was a very long time ago,” Mr. Viniar says. “AIG at the time was one of the largest, strongest companies in the entire world, and they were very sophisticated, or appeared to be, a very sophisticated counterparty.” The firm later scaled back trades — by the end of 2007, according to Mr. Viniar.

As I said, you don't need to look to far back to determine that a "Triple-A" rating has never been that safe:

In 1989, Moody's rated 24 banks Aaa, according to a study by Bankim Chadha and David Folkerts-Landau I found in Martin S. Feldstein's International Capital Flows. By 1996, just three banks retained that top rating. Just one -- Rabobank of the Netherlands -- had triple-A marks from all three agencies.

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