The following guest post was contributed by Jennifer S. Taub, a Lecturer and Coordinator of the Business Law Program within the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (SSRN page here). Previously, she was an Associate General Counsel for Fidelity Investments in Boston and Assistant Vice President for the Fidelity Fixed Income Funds.
Since reading portions of the report issued by Anton Valukas, the examiner in the Lehman bankruptcy and writing about the firm’s accounting tricks in “A Whiff of Repo 105,” I’ve been thinking about footnote 69.
Perhaps ‘obsessing’ is a better description of my state of mind. Consider that I possess a printed copy of the nine-volume, 2,200 page report. However, that obsession seemed justified, very early this morning, when the Wall Street Journal broke the story, Big Banks Mask Risk Levels, revealing the early results of the SEC’s probe of repurchase agreement accounting practices at major firms.
According to the WSJ, based on data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, eighteen banks “understated the debt levels used to fund securities trades by lowering them an average of 42% at the end of each of the past five quarterly periods.” These banks include Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup.