From Michael Lewis at Bloomberg:
Sept. 18 (Bloomberg) — One of life’s rules is that there’s bad in good and good in bad. The total collapse of the U.S. financial system is no exception. Even in the midst of the current financial despair we can look around and identify many collateral benefits.
A lot of attractive office space seems to be opening up in midtown Manhattan, for instance, and the U.S. government is now getting paid to borrow money. (And with T-bills yielding 0 per cent, they really ought to borrow a lot more of it, and quickly.)
And so as Morgan Stanley Chief Executive Officer John Mack blasts short sellers for his problems, and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein swans around pretending to be above this little panic, we ought to step back and enjoy the positives.
To wit: 1) We finally get to see what’s inside these big Wall Street firms. We’ve just witnessed the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history and we know neither the inciting incident (though there is speculation that sovereign wealth funds decided to stop lending to Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.), nor the deep cause. But there’s now a pile of assets and liabilities smouldering in New York awaiting inspection.
The assets include subprime mortgage-backed bonds and no doubt many other things that aren’t worth as much as Lehman hoped they might be worth. But it’s the liabilities that are most intriguing, as they include more than $700 billion in notional derivatives contracts. Some of that is insurance sold by Lehman, against the risk of other companies defaulting.
Continued at Bloomberg…
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