Betting against their own securities has prompted numerous investigations of Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street institutions.
Prior to the financial collapse, Goldman and others figured out a way to package risky securities, such as subprime mortgages, and sell them to investors who were told they were buying sound investments.
Little did the investors know that the firms selling the synthetic collateralized debt obligations (or CDOs) turned around and bet that the CDOs would fail—costing pension funds and insurance companies billions of dollars.
“The simultaneous selling of securities to customers and shorting them because they believed they were going to default is the most cynical use of credit information that I have ever seen,” Sylvain Raynes, an expert in structured finance at R & R Consulting in New York, told The New York Times. “When you buy protection against an event that you have a hand in causing, you are buying fire insurance on someone else’s house and then committing arson.”
In addition to Goldman, CDOs were sold and bet against by Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley and Tricadia Inc.—an investment company whose parent firm’s CDO management committee was overseen by Lee Sachs. Sachs is now a special counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Banks Bundled Bad Debt, Bet Against It and Won (by Gretchen Morgenson and Louise Story, New York Times)