Wednesday, October 17, 2012

the last book I ever read (Twilight of the Elites, excerpt nine)

from Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy by Christopher Hayes:

Michael Lewis's masterful chronicle of the crisis, The Big Short, contains a remarkable, though largely unremarked upon, anecdote that gives a glimpse of just how social distance facilitated the greatest financial disaster of our age. One of Lewis's protagonists, a hedge fund manager, had an epiphany in a chance conversation with a domestic worker he employed to provide child care. An immigrant from the Caribbean, she mentioned to him that she and a sister owned six townhomes in Queens. At first it seemed to make no sense; he knew exactly how much she made and it was hardly enough to afford so much property. Eventually he unraveled the mystery. It turned out that mortgage brokers had been targeting immigrants for large mortgages on purpose. Since immigrants often didn't have much of a credit history, brokers could exploit a loophole in how creditworthiness was analyzed and more or less invent a credit score for them. This, in turn, made them look like much better credit risks than they actually were and facilitated feeding mortgages into the securitization machine that would then produce mortgage-backed securities that conferred a well-spring of money everyone involved in process.

Within the immigrant communities in New York, the ready availability of massive mortgages was common knowledge, but those same communities were entirely removed from the inner circles of Wall Street where these mortgages were transubstantiated into the asset-backed securities that generated trillions of dollars of revenue for it. So it took a chance encounter between a multimillionaire hedge fund manager and his baby nurse to connect the dots.

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