Recession and the butterfly effect

If you could go back in time and pick a moment to change the history of this recession, what would it be?

By Jim Van Meerten Nov 2, 2009 11:34AM
Last weekend I watched a movie starring Ashton Kutcher called "The Butterfly Effect." The main character finds that he can go back in time and, by changing just one moment, rewrite all the history from that point in time to the present.

I started thinking what moment in time I would change to rewrite the history of this recession. I think the moment I would pick would be when some analyst at Standard and Poor's decided to rate toxic assets as AAA - Investment Grade instead of the B or C speculative grade they deserved.

That moment in time is when securities firms had the green light to begin selling all this junk to pension funds, trust companies, widows and orphans as sure-thing investments and not bets at the crap tables.

This opened the floodgates and Wall Street had access to billions if not trillions of dollars of conservative foundation, retirement, banking and insurance company assets that would not have been used to purchase this junk if they were rated as speculative instead of investment grade.

I'm still having a hard time figuring out if the ratings firms were just totally incompetent or an accomplice in the most massive fraud ever perpetrated on the American public.

Bernie Madoff and Allan Stanford are getting all the headlines and their prosecution makes a few people feel good but when does the investigation of these rating agencies start? The big fraud couldn't have happened without their investment grade ratings.

With all of the federal rules and regulations that have been broken, ignored or bent, I think it's ironic that the only one who seems to care is Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general of the state of New York.

I was promised change and transparency if there was a new administration, but it looks like Eric Holder, our U.S. Attorney General, is still asleep at the wheel. Why isn't he taking the lead on investigating what happened and why?

I need answers and so do you. Were the rating agencies negligent or were they a part of the conspiracy? The real big question is why are we still letting them continue to rate investments after they gave us all such bad advice?

What moment in time would you change or do you think that it would have happened anyway?

Jim Van Meerten is an investor who writes on financial matters here and on Financial Tides. Please leave a comment below or e-mail
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