GOP 'fiscal cliff' plan echoesa
Republicans are proposing a "fiscal cliff" plan that revives ideas from failed budget talks with President Barack Obama last year, calling for raising the eligibility age for Medicare, lowering cost-of-living hikes for Social Security benefits and bringing in $800 billion in higher tax revenue.
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#1 Dec 4, 2012
Get rid of HUD or get rid of those employees at HUD who abuse, embezzle and misuses 26 billion dollars of US tax dollars a year! http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-872808
#2 Dec 4, 2012
"How Wall Street Lied to Its Computers
By SAUL HANSELL
| September 18, 2008, 7:52 am Comments (195)
CORRECTED 5 p.m.: Spelling of Leslie Rahl.
So where were the quants?
(Credit: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)
That’s what has been running through my head as I watch some of the oldest and seemingly best-run firms on Wall Street implode because of what turned out to be really bad bets on mortgage securities.
Before I started covering the Internet in 1997, I spent 13 years covering trading and finance. I covered my share of trading disasters from junk bonds, mortgage securities and the financial blank canvas known as derivatives. And I got to know bunch of quantitative analysts (“quants”): mathematicians, computer scientists and economists who were working on Wall Street to develop the art and science of risk management.
They were developing systems that would comb through all of a firm’s positions, analyze everything that might go wrong and estimate how much it might lose on a really bad day.
We’ve had some bad days lately, and it turns out Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and maybe some others bet far too much. Their quants didn’t save them.
I called some old timers in the risk-management world to see what went wrong.
I fully expected them to tell me that the problem was that the alarms were blaring and red lights were flashing on the risk machines and greedy Wall Street bosses ignored the warnings to keep the profits flowing.
Ultimately, the people who ran the firms must take responsibility, but it wasn’t quite that simple.
In fact, most Wall Street computer models radically underestimated the risk of the complex mortgage securities, they said. That is partly because the level of financial distress is “the equivalent of the 100-year flood,” in the words of Leslie Rahl, the president of Capital Market Risk Advisors, a consulting firm.
But she and others say there is more to it: The people who ran the financial firms chose to program their risk-management systems with overly optimistic assumptions and to feed them oversimplified data. This kept them from sounding the alarm early enough.
#3 Dec 4, 2012
Top bankers couldn’t simply ignore the computer models, because after the last round of big financial losses, regulators now require them to monitor their risk positions. Indeed, if the models say a firm’s risk has increased, the firm must either reduce its bets or set aside more capital as a cushion in case things go wrong.
In other words, the computer is supposed to monitor the temperature of the party and drain the punch bowl as things get hot. And just as drunken revelers may want to put the thermostat in the freezer, Wall Street executives had lots of incentives to make sure their risk systems didn’t see much risk.
“There was a willful designing of the systems to measure the risks in a certain way that would not necessarily pick up all the right risks,” said Gregg Berman, the co-head of the risk-management group at RiskMetrics, a software company spun out of JPMorgan.“They wanted to keep their capital base as stable as possible so that the limits they imposed on their trading desks and portfolio managers would be stable.”
One way they did this, Mr. Berman said, was to make sure the computer models looked at several years of trading history instead of just the last few months. The most important models calculate a measure known as Value at Risk — the amount of money you might lose in the worst plausible situation. They try to figure out what that worst case is by looking at how volatile markets have been in the past.
But since the markets were placid for several years (as mortgage bankers busily lent money to anyone with a pulse), the computers were slow to say that risk had increased as defaults started to rise.
It was like a weather forecaster in Houston last weekend talking about the onset of Hurricane Ike by giving the average wind speed for the previous month.
But many on Wall Street did even worse, as Mr. Berman describes it. They continued to trade very complex securities concocted by their most creative bankers even though their risk management systems weren’t able to understand the details of what they owned.
A lot of deals were nonstandard in many ways,“so you really had to go through the entire prospectus and read every single line to pick up all the nuances,” Mr. Berman said.“And that slows down the process when mortgage yields looked very attractive.”
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