James Stewart is the most respected financial journalist of our time. The author of Den of Thieves (about financial shenanigans) and DisneyWar (about corporate greed), he is on a first-name basis with corporate greed and financial shenanigans. But he also has personal finances, about which he writes a personal finance column in the Wall Street Journal and Smart Money, and today's column is a little reminder why they don't give out Pulitzers for "sage investment advice." Because he was tricked into buying those auction-rate security things! Which is, like, fair enough: I don't understand them even after reading this long explanation and consulting the helpful graphic. But, oh god, his excuse for getting suckered in!!
It's not like we were clamoring to buy these securities. Like other victims I've heard from, I got a call urging me to take advantage of an offer that was being extended to valuable clients.Seriously Jimmy? You hang out with Michael Milken and Michael Ovitz and you buy that you are a valuable client? Because that is like the "Come here often?" of investment sales pitches. No, it is like the "Hey mami" of investment sales pitches. (Obligatory David Denby reference Nick wanted to make sure I did not miss.) Anyway, all that said, these auction rate securities thing-wherein municipal bonds were packaged into some other sort of bonds that people could buy at interest-rate "auctions" but the auctions were fixed to make it look as though there was actually "demand" for them when, ha ha, like so much "demand" in this country it was actually a total creation of evil people, and anyway a lot of people are now stuck with... some paper saying the Airport Authority of Lehigh County will pay them back in 20 years? I really don't know-the banks agree that they fucked things up so badly they will give it all back. Except Goldman! Goldman is like "Fuck our clients, they are almost as rich as us." And we didn't get rich by saying "My bad" when stupid people got tricked into buying our complex financial instruments they should've been smart enough to know only stupid people would believe are actually "liquid"! So there's your lesson, James B. Stewart: if you were really so valuable you would be banking with Goldman. Auction Rate Securities And The Ugly Truth [WSJ] UBS To Pay $19 Billion As Auction Mess Hits Wall Street [WSJ]