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Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Departure of the Volunteers

to return perhaps?It is with no modicum of sadness that I announce that my next entry "Dare Ye Inquire Concerning Such a Wretch?" will be the very last non-administrative entry on Going Private.  It has been an amazing journey, most keenly highlighted when, on occasion, the fancy catches me and I peruse my own archives and think back to the creature that was your author "in the beginning."  It seems wonderfully arbitrary and capricious to end matters on the week of Going Private's third birthday- and that makes it sort of elegantly beautiful.  So much so, in fact, that one might even consider it an homage to the Congress of the United States.  I do, in any event.

Originally, I planned to pen a retrospective of my favorite Going Private pieces, but, in the end, this seemed like quite a lot of work for very little gain.  What could readers past and present care which were my favorites, or which I thought the most cogent or prescient, or even daft? (There are quite a few of this last description, actually).  And, really, what use have readers for the self-referential indulgences of authors? (To my shame, there are quite a few of these, in Going Private as well).

But something unexpected happened during my slow saunter to the door.  To wit: You filled up my inbox four times in as many days.

Certainly, a proud author never thinks she intends to fish for compliments from her readership, but I suspect I might have been a bit guilty of such in announcing so publicly my intention to close Going Private.  Whatever the nuances and motivations, the last week produced more reader mail than I had seen in the 5 months before.

Thank you for that.  (And the many excellent and humorous suggestions about the fate of my "message in a bottle.")

Some readers even sent money via Pay Pal.  (This struck me as odd, considering, so far as such donors knew there was no future utility in such a payment.  A parting gift?  Perhaps?  Surely some behavioral economics Ph.D. has a paper in there somewhere).  Of course, I have to politely refuse such offers, as accepting money into my Pay Pal account would have the side effect of identifying me.  The gesture is not, however, lost on me even if I cannot accept.  (I may have to find time to ruminate on the tangential point that anonymous Tip Jars are a thing of the past owing to IRS regulations).

Whatever the character of expression of the individual readers who emailed, it was a humbling experience to find one's work so rewarding to others.  It also instills a sense of obligation to one's "public," and this brings me to my last point:

Though Going Private is at its end, I have endeavored to give its readers a new forum, should they wish to join me.  And while the next post is the last for Going Private, it is the first for my next project.  It will be different.  Some readers may be annoyed.  Others charmed.  I really don't know.  I'll announce it here, without particular fanfare, and it will be there that I hope to see you again.


[Art Credit: Francois Louis Joseph Watteau, The Departure of the Volunteers]

Dare Ye Inquire Concerning Such a Wretch?

out of harms way I have always had a certain unquenchable lust for the lost works of Sophocles, member of The Three, and of whom only seven works survive the looting of the Library of Alexandria- though we have cause to believe he crafted many, many more.  I like to think some nimble librarian, or patron of the library stole away to the shelf where his works were kept and slipped away with just as many (seven) as he could fit in the folds of his clothes.  But in this, I am likely a romantic.

His most recognized works, marvelous as they are, will forever be incomplete as they represent single samples of his four volume treatments.  Before the world of finance, when such things were more apt to cause me wonder, I thought after what other commentary on sovereignty, The State and power we might have seen from this great tragedian, if only his other works were available to us.  Freud notwithstanding, Oedipus Rex is, after all, primarily about The State, power, executive arrogance, willful blindness and the consequences thereof.  But, and this is key, I think most of all, Oedipus Rex is about a total disregard for the inevitability of reality, and, it is this point, as it happens, that leads me to my present subject.

I find it intensely interesting that a number of commentators have alternately attempted to blame and exonerate the Community Reinvestment Act (hereinafter the "CRA") for complicity in the alarmingly complete inflation of the real estate bubble and, in effect, the current credit crisis.  It takes only a few readings of the most prominent (or at least the most prolific) of these authors to discern a woefully inadequate coverage of the context and history of that act, its predecessors, and the regime of mortgage regulation that they spawned.  This particular perspective, that is to say the stubborn focus on a single piece of legislation in the midst of a vast and interlocking series of statutes, rules and regulations ceaselessly built up over three decades, permits the easy (and, indeed, somewhat smug) dismissal of the CRA with the continually repeated line: "The foreclosure statistics do not support such an argument."

Early on in the development of my thinking in this area I wondered why foreclosure statistics should necessarily falsify the thesis that the CRA (or the twisted, multi-branched family of mortgage regulation that preceded and accompanied it) bears some of the responsibility for the present malaise.  We do not, after all, have to write a mortgage down to levels even remotely near salvage cost to see tremendous losses once it has been securitized.  This becomes particularly obvious when we remember that, prior to about eighteen months ago, mortgage backed securities were generally regarded with Madoff-like confidence.  Any break from the norm would easily cause a panic.  Could, therefore, a pool of mortgages suffer from such a serious confidence blow that their value would be written down to pennies on the dollar without the consummate spike in foreclosure rates?  To what extent would pools of low FICO loans be written down independent of any reference to foreclosure rates?  Surely, wise investors will use the only real metric they have for the cash flow prospects of these assets: the borrowers' ability to repay, no?  In this connection, insofar as every piece of historical data about foreclosures seems to have been fairly useless in averting the present crash, how likely are current or past foreclosure figures to have any impact on careful students of this market?  None, I would argue, where smart players are looking to guess where the next spike in foreclosures will hit.

This question only served as the seed for a different question: How did we come to find ourselves in the molasses-like regulatory pool in which we presently swim?  What came before during and after Fannie and Freddie?  When did it become so routinely fashionable to tamper with the mortgage market that, even when shown the facts as plain as day, otherwise bright and skeptical minds refuse to see any issue with an entirely backwards incentive and capital structure developed over thirty years by the legislature of the United States?  Alarmingly, there was very little work on this topic to be found.  That too made me curious.

It turns out it all began in the 1960s, with a series of slow changes that, typical of the beginnings of massive upheavals, passed unnoticed.  What followed in the 1970s and particularly the 1980s was a literal hockey-stick curve of mortgage regulation, legislation, incentives, grant programs and the seeds of a centralized financial-industrial lending policy that brought us to where we are today.  Make no mistake, there is no simple cause for the present crisis.  There were, however, simple seeds.

To be certain there is much blame to go around.  This author will attempt no defense of the various "big banks" that participated in the fiasco that is our current real estate market.  Be this as it may, it bears mentioning that no one was complaining fifteen or even twenty years ago, when the trouble started.  Banks are only the most visible and current culprits. Their bad tidings, however, would not hardly be interesting but for the worst laid plans carved laboriously out of the wood of populist pandering for more than twenty years.  Unfortunately, now the flames of said pandering have been fanned, and today apparently we think that forcing Citi to break their $50 million contract for delivery of a Dassault Falcon 7X in some kind of pathetic retroactive spanking delivered by this nation's chief executive behind the Congressional woodshed, makes some kind a difference.  (I suppose, however, Citi could at least have bought American and acquired a Gulfstream).

If you are looking for big catalysts, and most astute Going Private readers are, there are a number of fairly convincing candidates.  To understand how big, however, one must understand the nature of the environment before The Community Reinvestment Act.  What no one bothers to mention today is that the CRA broke the firewall of a long trend in the regulation of mortgage lending in the United States.  Prior to that act, legislation like Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975 focused on the prohibition of rank discrimination and used disclosure as a means to impose fairness on the mortgage market.

Without a doubt, these were areas that needed addressing, and for the most part, I find the means these statutes employ reasonable and appropriate.  In fact, it doesn't take long to see that the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975 looks nothing like legislation when viewed through today's frosty glass.  Consider:

The Congress finds that some depository institutions have sometimes contributed to the decline of certain geographic areas by their failure pursuant to their chartering responsibilities to provide adequate home financing to qualified applicants on reasonable terms and conditions.

The purpose of this title is to provide the citizens and public officials of the United States with sufficient information to enable them to determine whether depository institutions are filling their obligations to serve the housing needs of the communities and neighborhoods in which they are located and to assist public officials in their determination of the distribution of public sector investments in a manner designed to improve the private investment environment. (12 USC § 2801).

The act continues:

(1)  Each depository institution which has a home office or branch office located within a primary metropolitan statistical area... shall compile and make available, in accordance with regulations of the Board, to the public for inspection and copying at the home office, and at least one branch office within each primary metropolitan statistical area... in which the depository institution has an office the number and total dollar amount of mortgage loans which were (A) originated (or for which the institution received completed applications), or (B) purchased by that institution during each fiscal year (beginning with the last full fiscal year of that institution which immediately preceded the effective date of this title).

(2)  The information required to be maintained and made available under paragraph (1) shall also be itemized in order to clearly and conspicuously disclose the following:

(A)  The number and dollar amount for each item referred to in paragraph (1), by census tracts, for mortgage loans secured by property....

(B)  The number and dollar amount for each item referred to in paragraph (1) for all such mortgage loans which are secured by property....

(Much detail about statistical area definition elided)

The act goes on, in typical legislative fashion, to describe in detail at once great and burdensome, the various definitions and requirements and accessibility issues surrounding these disclosures.

It is pretty hard for any libertarian or otherwise free-market-disposed party to argue against this sort of thing.  Perhaps one might make the argument that market information is being disclosed to competitors, but really, and particularly in the context of 1975, this is a difficult position to cling to without a certain amount of self-deception.

I also want to highlight part of the finding of the Congress used to support the passage of this legislation.  Specifically:

The Congress finds that some depository institutions have sometimes contributed to the decline of certain geographic areas by their failure pursuant to their chartering responsibilities to provide adequate home financing to qualified applicants on reasonable terms and conditions. (Emphasis mine).

Everything you ever needed to enforce equality in lending is contained in this simple description.  I submit that, despite the fact that the "Finding and Purposes" section of most legislation is fluff, a lot of thought went into this particular passage.  Or, alternatively, the importance of this sort of thing simply occurred more readily to the Congresses of old- 1975 seems very old to me, your mileage may vary.

Consider the components here:

1. Adequate home financing...
2. ...to qualified applicants...
3. ...on reasonable terms and conditions.

This is pretty reasonable stuff, really.  There is a particular genius in public disclosure and transparency statutes, sunlight being the best disinfectant and all.  It recalls a period, some years before my birth, where there was a sort of basic trust that, once exposed to the hot glare of public scrutiny, market actors would clean up their act.  Government had to do little.

I think this very artful and elegant. Unfortunately, we have come a long way since 1975.

Enforcement for the act was provided for directly in the statute.  To wit:

For the purpose of the exercise by any agency referred to in subsection (b) of its powers under any Act referred to in that subsection, a violation of any requirement imposed under this title shall be deemed to be a violation of a requirement imposed under that Act. In addition to its powers under any provision of law specifically referred to in subsection (b), each of the agencies referred to in that subsection may exercise, for the purpose of enforcing compliance with any requirement imposed under this title, any other authority conferred on it by law. (12 USC § 2807).

Responsibility for promulgating regulations related to the act ultimately fell to the Federal Reserve Board.

Again, this is pretty reasonable stuff.

There are some other interesting provisions, including the requirement of an annual report to Congress on the utility of the effort (12 USC § 2801) and a requirement for the aggregation of the data (12 USC § 2809).

In essence, the statute was a fairly obscure reporting statute known intimately only to the growing breed of back office administrators we would today recognize as "Compliance Professionals."  Its effect was less obscure.  While the average man on the street might have been unaware of its existence, interested parties, in particular activists concerned with civil rights, now had the tools necessary to crunch data and root out discrimination in effect (if not discrimination in intent).  The phrase "The data in the study come from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act" is so rampant in the relevant literature today it seems obvious what impact the statute has had.  A quick cross-reference search of the "Home Mortgage Disclosure Act" and the name of any prominent civil rights leader makes it obvious that the data liberated by the act became the go-to ammunition for taking on lenders.

In this connection, there is no doubt that the practice of "redlining" (named for the unfortunate map fallen into the hands of investigators that outlined in red the areas to which a financial institution which shall remain nameless would not lend under any circumstances) was a serious issue at the time.  Ironically, however, we have come full circle and then some.  Cases like Hargraves v. Capital City Mortgage Corp. (140 F. Supp.2d 7 (D.D.C. 2000)) have successfully argued against "reverse redlining," wherein courts have held that artificially pumping funds into a given area on the basis of race (perhaps with the expectation of forcing foreclosure) is, in fact, "predatory lending" and just as bad.  Of course, we have the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (15 U.S.C. § 1639) to eliminate this practice.  No word yet on its success.

One cannot help but feel a little sorry for the General Counsel of a mortgage lender at this point, situated as she is between a legislative rock and a judicial hard place.  This quote from Hargraves is priceless:

Redlining creates the market conditions in which reverse redlining thrives. It should come as no surprise that the United States recently settled a case charging Chevy Chase Federal Savings Bank with redlining the exact areas that Defendants are now accused of targeting for predatory lending (140 F. Supp.2d 7 (D.D.C. 2000)).

Observant Going Private readers may point out that once you legitimize the practice of legislative underwriting, the regulatory world and the slings and arrows of the tide of public opinion get intensely confusing, and fraud works easily in both directions.  An astute practitioner once told me "fraud expands to fill the envelope," meaning that such schemes are ever-present and, like expanding gas, always pushing gently to discover the limits of their freedom.  Another friend of Going Private, a former counter-narcotics analyst, put it much more succinctly.  "We are just squeezing the Jell-O."

I will hardly argue that Hargraves was wrongly decided.  I merely note that the dilemma Congress has created solves few of the issues of the day and creates parallel problems just as bad, if not worse.  Rather, most certainly worse.

But, context being critical to the discussion, let us dial the Wayback Machine to 1989.  1989-1990 was an amazingly prolific period for federal intervention in housing and mortgage matters.  Right next to the Global Warming Prevention Act of 1989 even the most cursory of searches returns a literal spew of bills including:

The HUD Reform Act of 1989: To ensure competitiveness in procedures for approving applications for housing assistance and to provide for refinancing of mortgages, loans, and advances of credit under the lower income homeownership program of section 235 of the National Housing Act.

The Homebuyers and Renters Relief Act of 1989: To increase the affordability of homeownership for first-time homebuyers and promote the development of low-income rental housing.

The Housing Opportunity Zones Act of 1990: To remove legislative and administrative barriers to the production of new and substantially rehabilitated housing that is affordable to lower-, moderate-, and middle-income families.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development Accountability Act of 1989: To prevent abuses of the process for selection for housing assistance under programs administered by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

The Community Housing Investment Partnership Act.

The Recycling of Existing Assets for Cost-Effective Housing Act of 1989: To authorize the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to make grants to States to establish revolving funds to assist low- and moderate-income homebuyers and renters.

The Low-Income Housing Credit Act of 1989: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to improve the effectiveness of the low-income housing credit.

The Low Income Housing Preservation Act of 1989.

The Housing Affordability Act.

Homeownership and Opportunity for People Everywhere Act of 1990 (The "HOPE" Act).

Really, who could vote against this?  Consider:

"There are authorized to be appropriated for grants under this title $96,000,000 for fiscal year 1991, $260,000,000 for fiscal year 1992, and $400,000,000 for fiscal year 1993. Sums appropriated pursuant to this subsection shall remain available until expended."

The more observant of Going Private readers will expect the re-introduction of the HOPE Act any day now, submitted, no doubt, concurrently with the Community Housing Affordability and No Gains to Equity Act (the "CHANGE" Act).

Fair Lending Enforcement Act of 1990: To amend the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.

The Housing and Community Development Act of 1989.

The Housing and Community Development Act of 1990.

The Community Housing Investment Partnership Act.

The Homeownership Assistance Act of 1989: To authorize the insurance of certain mortgages for first-time homebuyers, and for other purposes.

The Home Mortgage Overcharge Prevention Act of 1989: To amend the National Housing Act to limit the amount of interest paid by a homebuyer upon the prepayment of a mortgage insured under the Department of Housing and Urban Development single-family mortgage insurance program.

The Neighborhood Mortgage Lenders Accountability Act: If any examination of an approved mortgagee by the Secretary (including an examination under subsection (d)) discloses that the mortgagee has failed, in the determination of the Secretary, to meet the lending needs of the community served by the mortgage (as determined by the Secretary under subsection (a)(1)) with respect to residential housing lending, the Secretary may, in the discretion of the Secretary, require that the mortgagee, for continued status as an approved mortgagee for purposes of this Act, develop and submit a plan for remedying such deficiencies.

This bill should ring some alarm bells:

The First-Time Homebuyers Assistance Act of 1989: To authorize the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to establish a demonstration program to insure mortgages with no downpayment for moderate-income first-time homebuying families.

But, I think it is this bill will likely be the favorite of the typically irreverent Going Private reader:

The Homeownership Through Sweat Equity Act of 1989: To authorize the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to carry out a demonstration program of providing grants to housing development agencies to acquire abandoned and vacant housing for rehabilitation and rehabitation by homeless and low-income families.

And finally (take note here):

The Fair Lending Oversight and Enforcement Act of 1989: To require lenders to compile and make available mortgage loan and commercial loan information necessary to assess compliance with nondiscrimination requirements.

Granted, most of these examples are taken from the House that, by design, is intended to literally spew forth legislation to later be picked apart and duly considered (and probably rejected) by the slower, sager, more above it all Senate.  Even so, I feel like I might be able to discern a pattern in the legislation habits of the 101st Congress.  380 bills from this period contain the word "mortgage."

Why the most basic search of the Congressional Record cannot be made evidence of the almost pathological obsession of the United States Congress with intervening in the mortgage market is somewhat beyond me.  How anyone can claim this environment even remotely proximate enough to "free markets" to use as leverage the current crisis in their indictment of capital markets literally tries the patience.   Also beyond me is the reason the CRA has become the condicio sine qua non of the argument.  It is beyond daft to argue, in light of these facts, that the present market ills are the sole responsibility of any given administration or any given party.  The simple fact is that in a rare, multi-decade fit of bi-partisan cohesion, Congress has been digi-copulating the mortgage market for so long and with such enthusiasm that, Plato-like, it stopped occurring to anyone to wonder if that was really such a good idea.  Be this as it may, waking up every morning to be crowned with a baseball bat, familiar as it may be, still results in a headache.

What is insidious about the entire matter, and as is typical of the most destructive legislation, the caustic cloud of mortgage assistance masks itself under the guise of righteous and "fair" redistribution goals.  It is the nature of the beast that any political animal arguing against these, no matter what the logic, will find herself lonely and out of work.

...to be continued.

[Art Credit: Charles François Jalabeat, Antigone Leads Oedipus Out of Thebes (1849), Musée des Beaux Arts, Marseilles]

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Spiral: The Director's Cut

the end'tis the end for Going Private and, though those with the taste for more of my musings can find them heretofore on finem respice (it is still in beta, be gentle to it), I thought it fitting to give you all the end of The Spiral as a little parting gift.  YouTube seems so, pedestrian, however, so, instead, attached below is the full, Directors Cut of "The Spiral" including the brand-new final chapter.  Caution: It is not for the faint of bandwidth.  The Spiral was, without a doubt, the number one generator of email commentary and I'm pleased to tie off this particular "loose end" in the last entry of Going Private.  The series also generated a number of reader questions, answers to most of which I typed up some time ago in a piece I planned to post with the finale.   You will find it below.  Hopefully, it has been worth the wait.

Q. What inspired the connection between Hitler and the credit crunch?

A. Actually, it was less about the personage of Hitler, or Himmler and the like and more about the tone of those times.  There is this latent, and eventually very blatant, desperation and despair in Oliver Hirschbiegel's original 2004 film "Der Untergang."  This group of supposedly brilliant and rational people, stuck in the Führerbunker, awake for 18-20 hours a day, constantly at odds with this unbridled enthusiasm, unwavering loyalty, indeed the cult of personality that surrounded National Socialism.  I think insomuch as Der Untergang is about the painful conflict between rationalism and this charisma driven mysticism, it is a perfect analogy for the credit crisis.  You have this unwavering belief that modern portfolio theory and Gaussian distributions, are realistic models of the world all the time.  That asset prices can only go up.  Forever.  And there is this huge confirmation bias built into the system.  I mean, when you have people repeatedly ignoring five, six and seven sigma events, instead frantically pointing to a model based on efficient markets theory, what's the difference between that and the National Socialist wonk who insists, "Aber, das ist ein Führerbefehl!" ("But that is an order from the Führer!")?  Interesting, that there was actually a word in German for an order from the Führer. Today we might call it a "normal distribution."

But it was always the people, not the models that were at fault.  I listened to these CDO managers just insisting that their structure couldn't possibly fail, all evidence to the contrary, and I couldn't help but think of Hitler's absolute conviction that Army Group Steiner, SS Obergruppenführer Felix Steiner's almost entirely fictional force, would attack the encircling Russians and "make military history."  That, on top of the fanatical, myopic loyalty of his senior officers.  You get these situations where the likes of Generalfeldmarschall von Rundstedt, tasked with telling Hitler the Eastern Front was about to fold for want of gasoline, comes out of that meeting eight and a half minutes later convinced that they will win a decisive victory.  If that's not a rather direct parallel to some of these senior managers in finance over the last 18 months, I don't know what is.

Q. Don't you feel some twinge of remorse at casting Dick Fuld as Hitler?

A. Well, two things.  First, "the firm" in the clips is not necessarily Lehman, or Bear Stearns, or any other bank in particular, though I do poke fun at some of the institutions that loom large in finance, Harvard, Goldman, The Treasury, Cain.  Second, I think it is easy to see the image of a banker you are looking for in the characters because, for good or for ill, they all act like bankers to some extent.  Really, the characters fit alarmingly well.  I think that's why it works.

Q. I take it you've gotten a lot of reader mail since posting the series?

A. People seem to overestimate the amount of mail I get quite a lot.  What I have noticed is that there is this class of financial Schadenfreunde who not only are eager to delight in the woes of others, but who are inclined to exaggerate (or even create) the Schaden themselves.  I have gotten a couple of emails from people enthusiastically convinced that I am a left-leaning anti-capitalist because all they have seen of my blog is the videos, and they write in the erronious belief that they have found a kindred spirit.  Of course, it is quite a shock to them when I refuse to agree with them that were are in, for instance, the down-cycle of the latest 50 year Kondratieff-wave, or that Kondratieff-waves or any other 20-50 year cycle indicator is worth the paper it's printed on.  The reaction can be quite violent.  An email exchange that started off with "love the blog, genius stuff, hey, what do you think of K-waves" turns quickly into "you fucking poser snob" when I won't join the "it's all coming down on our heads because of the reverse rainbow formation in my chart" crowd.  Ironically, these are people who are replacing one dogma, modern portfolio theory, with another less academically grounded worldview- macro-technical analysis.  Ugh.

Q. Where did you get the idea to subtitle "Der Untergang?"

A. Of course, I wasn't the first person to re-subtitle "Der Untergang."  Not by a long shot.  So it leaves something to be desired as an "original work."  Lots of readers seem to enjoy pointing this out.  What can I say?  I stand on the shoulders of giants.

Q. So you don't think the sky is falling?  Isn't "The Spiral" about how bankers blew it for the rest of us?

A. I think capitalism eventually punishes the consistently reckless.  I think capitalism eventually punishes those possessed of fatal doses of hubris.  With respect to both of these, I include central planners dedicated to e.g., the "American Dream of Home Ownership"- and these are far more sinister as they ply their myopia from the moral high ground.  At least capitalists don't try to tell you the urine on your head is rain.  All of these fantasies, from Gaussian distributions to price controls and "fairness," are excuses to be consistently reckless.  Any time you hear someone telling you "this time it's different" run, do not walk, away- and head straight for your broker to buy deep out-of-the-money puts.  Western equity investors have been spoiled beyond recognition.  I mean, if you really just want prices to go up all the time (except on certain commodities, because that would be bad), and you want to beat the stuffing out of short-sellers, why not just institute price controls on everything?  Either admit that you want a system based on bullshit that always does what you want (or what the ruling class wants), or a system based on free markets.  You don't get to have both free markets and endlessly appreciating asset prices.  You are not entitled to an eight percent return every year.  You should not be able to sue someone when you don't get it or get bailed out when you blow your fortune on opaque securities that not even a forensic accountant understands.

The Spiral isn't about bankers destroying wealth.  The Spiral is about the consequences of buying into the fantasy that you can have "soft capitalism."  Or "capitalism lite."  You can't.  It will bite you and everyone else on the ass if you try- no matter if you are a banker, a mortgage broker, a regulator or a legislator.

It has been a great pleasure writing Going Private these three years, mostly because of the many readers I have communicated with.  Thank you for that.  Enjoy the Director's Cut before Typepad decides that I am using too much bandwidth, and I will see you, I hope, on the new blog.

Download The Spiral (The Director's Cut) [00:35:20 - 178.9 MB .mov file]

Some administrative notes:

Sometime in the next few days the equityprivate -commercial at- hushmail address will be set "whitelist only" to stave off spam.  If we've talked there before, it will probably still work for you.  Be this as it may, you should use the new email address listed on the new blog to contact me.  I will be phasing out hushmail slowly.

I will leave Going Private up as a reference as long as it seems prudent to do so.  Eventually, the entire site will be shifted to an archive on the <em>finem respice</em> domain.  That day, however, is months (years?) away.

The removal of a link to the Director's Cut of The Spiral is probably a much closer event.  Act now, supplies are limited.

Finally- Some interesting statistics: After three years and almost twenty days, Going Private houses 445 posts, 9 comments and 89 "trackbacks."  As of this writing the blog has had just over 2.5 million page hits and, near as I can tell, around 1,500 direct links point here.  I have no idea where this ranks among blogs, except that it probably isn't very high given Going Private's particular niche.

Acta est fabula, plaudite!

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