When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

14 December 2008

The biggest Ponzi scheme of all?

Wall Street trader Bernard Madoff allegedly defrauds the rich and famous out of tens of billions of dollars. Minnesota businessman Tom Petters allegedly fleeces hedge funds out of $3.5 billion. And socialite New York lawyer Marc Dreier may have duped some hedge funds into giving him hundreds of millions of dollars for an apparently bogus real estate scheme.

All of these scams are a big [sic] and all appear to be some kind of Ponzi scheme, designed to take in money from new investors to pay-off earlier investors. A Ponzi scheme is one of the oldest financial frauds around. And many are referring to the Madoff caper as the biggest Wall Street fraud ever.

But derivatives consultant Janet Tavakoli may be onto something. In a note to her clients, she says the biggest Ponzi scheme of all may be the one that brought the world financial markets to its knees. And that’s the scheme that united Wall Street bankers with mortgage lenders in a bid to funnel more and more money into the market for supbrime homes loans. She says the packaging of iffy home loans into securitized bonds that could be sold to insitutional investors—many of them relying on borrowed money—was a system born to fail.

“The largest Ponzi scheme in the history of the capital markets is the relationship between failed mortgage lenders and investment banks that securitized the risky overpriced loans and sold these packages to other investors—a Ponzi scheme by every definition applied to Madoff,” says Tavakoli. “These and other related deeds led to the largest global credit meltdown in the history of the world.”
Ponzi Nation - BusinessWeek Investing Blog (14 December 2008)

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