Tax Goldman 98%
This is good stuff by Janet Tavakoli on Zero Hedge for those of you Fools that actually like to think...pay attention to the beginning example...it is infecting a lot more of our economy than just mobile homes...you Fools just don't know it yet....and nor does most of the country....just yet.
By Janet Tavakoli
October 20, 2009
In a January 2009 interview with NBC’s Tom Brokaw, Warren Buffett criticized leveraging “to the sky,” and creating “phony instruments [RMBSs, CDOs, et al.] that fool other people so you stick money in your pocket.” In 2002, he claimed over-the-counter derivatives are “financial weapons of mass destruction”1 and participants who account for them have “enormous incentives to cheat.” 2
Warren Buffett, the blogosphere’s “Oracle of Omaha,” often chastises the financial community. If you cost him money, he’s liable to write an expose. He posts annual shareholder letters on a low-tech website and seems to labor under the assumption that rational people eagerly read his blog. Congress and regulators are dismissive of Buffett’s hyperbolic rhetoric; it is fit only for a banana republic.
In 2003, Buffett wrote of the manufactured housing industry’s “business model centered on the ability…to unload terrible loans on naïve lenders…The consequence has been huge numbers of repossessions and pitifully low recoverie[s].” 3 Buffett alleged that the manufactured housing industry’s consumer financing practices were “atrocious,”4 and securitizations provided the money to fuel the financing.
Berkshire Hathaway’s investment in the distressed junk debt of Oakwood Homes lost money after the designer and manufacturer of modular homes went bankrupt in 2002. Buffett claimed “Oakwood participated fully in the insanity.” 5
Warren Buffett’s diatribe suggested that most of the manufactured housing industry was involved along with several Wall Street firms that underwrote the securitizations. Using money from new investors to pay returns to old investors in unsupportable investments is called a Ponzi scheme.
Oakwood’s loans to purchasers of manufactured homes were made possible by a line of credit from Credit Suisse First Boston (Credit Suisse). The credit line was similar to a credit card except that Oakwood had to put up the home loans as collateral. Credit Suisse earned fees for the loans and further fees when it packaged (securitized) Oakwood’s loans. Credit Suisse (the old investor) bought the securitized loans and then sold them to new so-called sophisticated investors.
Sales of manufactured homes declined. Loan delinquencies (late payments) and repossessions rose. Oakwood Homes had crushing debt and falling income for at least three years before it filed for bankruptcy in November 2002. But securitizations had temporarily inflated the bubble for the collapsing enterprise. A June 2008 court opinion said Oakwood’s aggressive lending practices led to the high number of repossessions and a debt load that Oakwood could not support. Oakwood’s liquidator said the transactions it did with Credit Suisse were “value destroying.”6
Someone should have muzzled Warren Buffett back in 2003. The Slumbering Esquires’ Club might have believed Buffett’s preposterous theory that after private securitizations became popular, the “industry’s conduct went from bad to worse.” 7 Buffett’s wacky warnings could have jeopardized Wall Street’s subsequent mortgage lending securitization Ponzi scheme.
The SEC might have investigated Lehman Brothers’ questionable shenanigans, especially after it was held liable in 2003 by a California jury for allegedly helping FAMCO cheat borrowers. The SEC might have looked into the unsavory practices at Goldman Sachs Alternative Mortgage Products, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch or the entire private securitization industry, and their mortgage lending subsidiaries.
While the SEC slept inside a collapsing debt bubble, the Omahaconspiracy theorist spooked Goldman Sachs into believing it needed his money. In the fall of 2008, Buffett closed a deal for $5 billion in Goldman Sachs’s preferred stock paying a 10% annual dividend. Goldman even gave Buffett warrants to buy $5 billion in common stock at a price of $115 anytime before October 1, 2013. [The Fed let Goldman buy back its warrants for chump change.9] Buffett’s warrants are now about $3 billion in-the-money and worth much more—a sweetener for his crispy calamari.
Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, and Tim Geithner10 ignored the historic ravings of the most successful living investor, and fueled some of the bombers piloted by Wall Street before finance’s Pearl Harbor. After they used taxpayer money to save the system and enriched the culpable with no strings attached, Buffett said “it could have turned out a lot differently,” and called each of them a four-letter word. The label was undeserved.
Four-letter words aside, Warren Buffett raised a good point. It could have—and should have—turned out a lot differently. But it’s not too late. Buffett called the crisis an economic Pearl Harbor and said that “Wall Street owes the American people one at this point.”8 During World War II, we imposed an excess profits tax. We should impose a 95% excess profits tax—or windfall profits tax—on certain financial institutions (including Goldman Sachs) enriching themselves with ongoing low-cost Fed funding and debt guarantees.