David Fiderer’s below piece, originally published on the Huffington Post, continues probing the topic of Goldman and AIG. For all intents and purposes the debate has been pretty much exhausted and if there was a functioning legal system, Goldman would have been forced long ago to pay back the cash it received from ML-3 (which in itself should have been long unwound now that plans to liquidate AIG have been scrapped) and to have the original arrangement reestablished (including the profitless unwind of AIG CDS the firm made improper billions on, by trading on non-public, pre-March 2009, information), and now that AIG is solvent courtesy of the government, so too its counterparties can continue experiencing some, albeit marginal, risk, instead of enjoying the possession of cold hard cash. Oh, and Tim Geithner would be facing civil and criminal charges.
Yet as we look forward, we ask, who now determines the variation margin on Greek CDS (and Portugal, and Dubai, and Spain, and, pretty soon, Japan and the US), the associated recovery rate, and how much collateral should be posted by sellers of Greek protection? If Greek banks, as the rumors goes, indeed sold Greek protection, and, as the rumor also goes, Goldman was the bulk buyer, either in prop or flow capacity, it is precisely Goldman, just like in the AIG case, that can now dictate what the collateral margin that Greek counterparties, and by extension the very nation of Greece, have to post on billions of dollars of Greek insurance. Let’s say Goldman thinks Greece’s debt recovery is 75 cents and the CDS should be trading at 700 bps, instead of the “prevailing” consensus of a 90 recovery and 450 spread, then it will very likely get its way when demanding extra capital to cover potential shortfalls, since Goldman itself has been instrumental in covering up Greece’s catastrophic financial state and continues to be a critical factor in any future refinancing efforts on behalf of Greece. Obviously this incremental margin, which only Goldman will ever see, even if the CDS was purchased on a flow basis, will never be downstreamed on behalf of its clients, and instead will be used to [buy futures|buy steepeners|prepay 2011 bonuses|buy more treasuries for the BONY $60 billion Treasury rainy day fund].
In essence, through its conflict of interest, its unshakable negotiating position, and its facility to determine collateral requirements and variation margin, Goldman can expand its previous position of strength from dictating merely AIG and Federal Reserve decision making, to one which determines sovereign policy! This is unmitigated lunacy and a recipe for financial collapse at the global level.
This is yet another AIG in the making, with Goldman this time likely threatening to accelerate the collapse not merely of the US financial system, but of the global one, in order to attain virtually infinite negotiating leverage. Of course, the world will not allow a Greece-initiated domino, allowing Goldman to call everyone’s bluff once again.