Sunday, May 9, 2010

Weekend Musings: Why Bother With Mosquitoes?

James Cayne, the ex-CEO of Bear Stearns, and his lieutenants were called before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission I know not for what.

Even when everyone feigned surprise, it was a tired show. Surprise! Cayne did not curse. The Wall Street Journal:
At times, it seemed like the panel was caught off-guard by the matter-of-fact manner, beginning when Mr. Cayne kicked off his testimony by admitting that Bear's leverage was too high.

The New York Times:
He [Cayne] showed little emotion at the hearing, giving no hint of his reputation for outbursts during his nearly 15 years at the helm of the company before stepping down in January 2008.
What could an old whore do but repent from debauchery and a sacked sheriff from hectoring?
The goon turned walking gentleman offered this gem about the cause of the collapse of his firm. The firm’s collapse, he said, “was due to overwhelming market forces”.

Since the creation and continued operations of Bear Stearns was also the result of market forces, the ex-CEO volunteered that Bear died because it was alive. Try topping that as a “cause of death”.

Paul Friedman, a senior MD running the repo desk, said that “Bear decided in late 2006 to reduce its reliance on short-term unsecured funding, primarily commercial paper ... Despite those efforts, Bear couldn’t have obtained enough long-term financing or made other changes to save it from its eventual demise.”

Recall that the trigger of the crisis was the collapse of two Bear funds in June 2007. So in “late 2006” they already knew they had hit the iceberg, as anyone who knew Bear’s operations knew. The protestations of ignorance and being caught off guard were all lies.

Why would you invite mosquitoes to testify about the cause of malaria?