Richard Posner, a sitting Judge on the 7th Circuit and a senior lecturer at The University of Chicago Law School, has once again proved why willful blindness is the order of the day among those who are supposed to enforce the law when it comes to finance:
When the rise in housing prices began to slow in 2005 after an increase of more than 60 percent since 2000, the press began talking about a housing bubble.
No one in a position of authority in government, and very few in business or academe, heeded the warnings. In May 2007 Bernanke said, "We see no serious broader spillover to banks or thrift institutions from the problems in the subprime market," though by then many banks and thrift institutions were insolvent.
Preconceptions played an especially large role. It is tempting, indeed irresistible under conditions of uncertainty, to base policy to a degree on theoretical preconceptions, on a worldview, an ideology. But shaped as they are by past experiences, preconceptions can impede reactions to novel challenges.
There was NO novel challenge Mr. Posner.
Bluntly, this was willful blindness and it certainly appears that the blindness was fueled by outright bribery in the thin disguise of "campaign contributions" within and through our political process.
By the first quarter of 2007 there was absolutely no doubt that the accounting of many (if not all) of these institutions was cooked.
I started writing about this crap when Washington Mutual (which later failed) reported their first quarter "earnings" - in 2007. I also noted the similarities to Lucent, which blew up during the tech wreck over the same crap - writing negative amortization paper (but in the tech sector.)
I've been there and seen that. The entirety of the 2000-03 "Tech Wreck" was similarly caused by "aggressive" (and in my opinion unlawful and fraudulent) accounting that led investors to believe that firms in fact had a much better financial position and prospects than in fact existed. Most of the tech years' "optimism" was in fact fueled by knowing lies about claimed rates and projections of growth - claims that were mathematically impossible. Yet when this mathematical impossibility came to the forefront in the form of thousands of bankruptcies and the decimation of people's stock portfolios only a handful of people went to prison for their intentional acts of deceit and mathematically-impossible claims - the very essence of what was a massive, thousands-of-firm-wide Ponzi Scheme.
Yet less than ten years later we let it happen again, this time throughout the economy in essentially every area of finance from housing to commercial construction to credit cards to student loans to automobiles.
This sort of attempted blatant revisionism when we have a clear and "in your face" public record of what really happened is outrageous.
It is even more outrageous when it comes from a sitting judge in the Federal Circus, er, Circuit of The United States judiciary.
There may be some sort of argument for your position in the early 2000s or even into 2005 and 2006.
But by 2007 when the pattern of book-cooking became blatant to the point that less than 10 minutes with a 10Q left you with hard, documentary proof that firms were paying dividends not from cash but rather from "income" that was in fact phantom and likely would never exist, there was no longer any excuse for any regulator, lawmaker or judge to ignore it.
From that point forward this "crisis" went from an "unanticipated" event to the biggest coverup and looting operation in the history of the world, encompassing both private and government interests.
Pull your head out of the sand - or your ass - Mr. Posner.
We must lock up all of the crooks who were involved in the mess this time, including those in both finance and government.