Friday, March 12, 2010

Ritholtz on the Lehman Fraud

Barry Ritholtz describes himself, accurately, as a 'non-partisan' observer. Most of the time that's easy, as he writes about Wall Street matters, which are generally non-political. It's hard to paste a (D) or (R) label on quantwonk work.

Here's his take on the Lehman fraud which we mentioned earlier.

Once again, the investing public learns — after the fact — the basic truisms of modern markets:

-Major accounting firms are worthless to investors. They were either unable or unwilling to detect fraud amounting to 50 billion dollars. The incompetents at Ernst & Young deserve the same fiery death as Arthur Anderson; Whether they are hired guns or paid whores, they — like the rating agencies — are worthless to investors.

-Corporate management engages in fraud all too regularly: Am I reading this correctly — that Dick Fuld’s defense will be “I didn’t know that Lehman was a giant Ponzi scheme, and I was unaware we were hiding billions in bad debt and leverage off balance sheet?” [Fuld was the CEO of Lehman]

Based on the release of the bankruptcy court report, LEH was technically insolvent perhaps years before it collapsed;

-The Shortsellers turn out to be the good guys. Consider the absurdity fraud of “protecting” the bankster frauds — fromt he truth, as revelaed by Einhorn et. al.

-The SEC is utterly incapable of comprehending how markets function. They believe the criminals who commit the fraud, and ignore the whistleblowers who uncover it;

-The ban on short selling is an indictment of the inability of the SEC to understand WTF is going on, and a reward to the criminal corporate management teams;

-The Media did a terrible job uncovering the fraud as well. Some media folk were used by CEOs. Some of the TV press who relied on access to their subjects, actually rallied to the defense of these CEOs, including Fuld, and trashed the short sellers. Most notably Charlie Gasparino from his CNBC days, but their were others as well.

-The Analyst community, for the most part, failed as well. The few who publicly acknowledged the debacle were notable for being so far outside of the herd. 95% of them were wrong.


All in all, the entire system failed. The situation is utterly disgusting, and if the investing public pulls its money out of the completely corrupt public markets for a generation or more, it would not surprise me . . .

Other than that, things are just fine and dandy.

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