Goldman is trying to diffuse the increasingly harsh light being turned on its dubious practices in the collateralized debt obligation market, with the wattage turned up considerably last week by a story in the New York Times that described how a synthetic CDO program called Abacus was the means by which Goldman famously went “net short” subprime. We’ve mentioned Abacus repeatedly because AIG wrote guarantees on at least some of the Abacus trades.
One of the things that has been frustrating in watching this debate is the peculiar propensity of quite a few observers to defend Goldman and its brethren, and to argue, effectively, caveat emptor. Contrary to the fantasies of libertarians, that is not in fact how markets, particularly securities markets, operate. In virtually every market in the world, when someone represents his wares as being sound and safe and they turn out to be “bad” and dangerous, the seller is considered to have some responsibility for the damage. Remember those Pintos that turned into fireballs when rear-ended? The pets that died from pet food laced with melamine from China? No one suggested that the buyers of those products were at fault.