Apparently, these days, anyone can think that they understand the complex world of structured finance. The latest? An academic and a consumer investment adviser, who are set to call for Federal authorities to assume responsibility for rating RMBS and related structured securities, according to a press statement released Friday
Scott Burns, investment strategist for AssetBuilder and a long-time financial columnist, and Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Boston University economics professor and author, have decided they
have a solution to the credit mess
no longer care about their professional reputations. Each wants to see the U.S. government establish a so-called Federal Financial Authority to rate securities – effectively placing warning labels on these "high-risk investments."
That's their idea. A federal entity issuing warning labels to investors. Stop the presses!
Yeah, warning labels
would have so totally
changed everything. Just imagine the investors that would have stopped in their tracks before buying when they saw one! Why didn't we think of it before? (We guess you'd have to be a personal investment adviser to know the answer, or at least for the answer to sound less like the gibberish it does to anyone that has actually managed an RMBS or CDO portfolio.)
But these guys know how to sell a useless idea -- tie it to Enron!
"The credit crisis has lots of fathers. But the ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil’ practice of the rating companies has the closest-matching DNA," Burns and Kotlikoff write in a Universal Press Syndicate column, to be published March 30. "Like Enron's accountants, the rating agencies knew where their bread was buttered. Now we have trillions of dollars of securities that no one is willing to touch."
Look, we all know the rating agencies share the blame in this mess -- and depending on who you talk to, may even deserve the lion's share of it. But to suggest that a Federal entity would solve the problem? Awesomely funny. Especially so, given that these guys are actually serious.
We were laughing hard enough trying to visualize a warning label on a prospectus, much like you might find on a pack of cigarettes, courtesy of our taxpayer dollars. But it gets better: these guys close their argument by suggesting that what the RMBS market needs is the equivalent of the FDA for structured securities.
We've got an idea: how about taking a bunch of taxpayer dollars and hosting a bonfire with them? It'd be about as effective.