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Subject:  Re: Government "Payback" for Downgrade Date:  2/4/2013  8:12 PM
Author:  putnid Number:  415070 of 536872

Without going into an analysis of why S&P would be singled out, the timing seems a bit late. It certainly hasn't taken the government 5 years to figure out that the ratings agencies were the ultimate enablers of the overpricing of subprime mortgage bonds.

I've no doubt that DOJ attorneys figured out that the ratings agencies were significant enablers of the bogus MBS trade. Heck, it was obvious to anyone with two ears during the Congressional hearings held on the subject, years ago, that ratings agencies were turning a blind eye towards facts and issuing bogus ratings to please their clients. Several of the e-mails presented in the hearings were quite damning. Since then, quite a bit of information has been presented in a variety of books and articles. Even so, it's one thing to know what low-level employees were doing, but a waaay bigger challenge to construct an evidence chain proving it was systemic, organized and came with approval from the top echelon. I don't know how anyone standing on the sidelines can determine how long an investigation may take (or whether or not other firms are being investigated) without have reliable inside information.

I spent a third of my career working in a federal regulatory agency. I was involved in a number of criminal and civil investigations. Most took years before sufficient information could be gathered to warrant an indictment. In some cases, not matter how hard we tried, we simply couldn't muster enough evidence to convince the DOJ to proceed with litigation.

Petty white collar criminals (generally individuals) can be pretty stupid. The more sophisticated the firm, the harder it is to "pierce the corporate veil." I have NO idea how many roadblocks had to be overcome, how many subpoenas were issued, how many were deposed, how links were forged from line analysts to corporate executives through painstaking research and investigations.

I haven't seen the indictment. I don't know how DOJ intends to prosecute its case. I'm not surprised at all that it may have taken years to get to this point.

I, too, heard the not-too-subtle insinuation (on CNBC) that this is some sort of payback for S&P's downgrade of US debt. Such an insinuation serves only one purpose: it intimates that the case against the rating agency lacks merit...that it is more a matter of pique than a legitimate enforcement effort.

Based on my interactions with an array of DOJ attorneys, I can say without hesitation that they will NOT accept a case for prosecution unless they felt they had more than enough evidence to WIN. I never met a DOJ attorney who would risk a career defeat because he/she was piqued/miffed/frustrated or mightily PO'd.
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