From Abacus to Dead Prez: A Glossary of Recent Wall Street Scandal

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In the last seven days, the deluge of new Wall Street scandals has been constant, fascinating and incredibly confusing. Helpfully, one tie that binds is that nearly every major accusation has been accompanied by denials from the accused, but beyond that things can get confusing. What’s the difference between the mortgage deal named Aquarius and the one called Abacus? Did Moody’s and other credit rating agencies fool the public, or were they fooled? Was Lehman the only bank that used a book-cooker like Repo 105? What, again, was Chooch? Here is a brief and alphabetized guide to recent scandals.

Abacus: Abacus 2007-AC was one of the dozens of deals that Goldman is said to have built so that the bank and certain clients, in this case John Paulson, could bet heavily against the soon-to-tank housing market. Without it, we wouldn’t have had fabulous Fabrice, an S.E.C. case and a lot of Senatorial fun.

Chooch: This charming film about ne’er-do-wells from Queens who have a fun-filled adventure in Mexico was in the news again this April, when the giant private-equity firm Quadrangle settled pay-to-play charges, and denounced co-founder Steve Rattner. Why? The low-budget 2003 comedy was produced by the New York state pension fund chief investment officer’s brother. Back when Mr. Rattner was still running Quadrangle, the billionaire was said to have gotten in touch with an entertainment company controlled by his firm to arrange for Chooch to be distributed. Afterwards, the state pension fund invested $100 million with Quadrangle. “Mr. Rattner does not agree,” a spokesperson said after the denouncement, “with the characterization of events released today.”

Cohen vs. Cohen: Steven A. Cohen is one of the most powerful hedge fund managers in the world; Patricia Cohen is the women he divorced more than 20 years ago. Late last year, she filed a lawsuit under the racketeer act asking for $300 million, accusing him of fraud and insider trading. She was sued in April by her own lawyer.

Dead Presidents: Morgan Stanley (MS) was said this week to have misled its investors about mortgage deals known around the firm as “Dead Presidents,” because they were named after the likes of James “doughface” Buchanan and Andrew Jackson. The deals reportedly had built-in features that “made it more likely” for investors to lose money when mortgage bonds were souring. 

The Dow Crash: Why did the Dow have the biggest intraday fall in its history on May 6? No one seems to know, although they do like gossiping about fat fingers and Citi screw-ups.

From Abacus to Dead Prez: A Glossary of Recent Wall Street Scandal