Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Harriet Harperson—bigoted and wrong

A few days ago, Harridan Harperson—the Worst Person on the Planet™—decided that the whole banking crisis had been caused by too many men in the banking system.
Asked whether the financial crisis would have arisen if more women had been in senior positions, Ms Harman referred to the US bank that collapsed and prompted international turmoil.

"Somebody did say... that if it had been Lehman sisters rather than Lehman Brothers then there may not have been as much," she told GMTV.

Riiiight. So, can I look forward to this fucking evil little witch eating her own words?

"What?" I hear you cry.

As you may know, one of the very dodgy financial instruments that brought the whole banking system crashing down was the Credit Default Swap (and these have made it particularly difficult for the banks to assess precisely how much debt they are holding, and the quality of that debt).

And now, via @gareth_e_clark, it seems that it was a woman who invented these jolly little bundles of fun.
You won't find her on Fortune's list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business but Blythe Masters may go down in history as the woman who is responsible for the 2008 collapse of global financial markets. You can't get more powerful than that.

When I started researching credit default swaps --the financial vehicle that Blythe Masters is credited/blamed for inventing and which Warren Buffet described in 2003 in his annual letter to shareholders as "financial weapons of mass destruction", my image of its originator was definitely not pink.

So sure was I that the culprits were testosterone-driven venture capital types that before I had the facts I had already begun my mental argument of why a woman would never have come up with a scheme that could bring global markets to their knees.

So much for fact-less based arguments.

As recently as September, Ms. Masters was defending the credit default swaps in an email exchange with The Guardian.
"I do believe CDSs [credit default swaps] have been miscast, much as poor workmen tend to blame their tools."

NC Painter has a short article written by Blythe Masters in 1997 where she describes how the credit default swaps will revolutionize banking. NC Painter added the bold italics.

By enhancing liquidity, credit derivatives achieve the financial equivalent of a free lunch, whereby both buyers and sellers of risk benefit from the associated efficiency gains."

Ms. Masters obviously isn't a devotee of TANSTAAL—"There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch,"—an acronym made popular in the 1966 novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, which, according to Wikipedia, discusses the problems caused by not considering the eventual outcome of an unbalanced economy.

Oh dear. It looks like Harridan Harperson needs to shut the fuck up and crawl under a rock somewhere and die. I mean, obviously I thought that was the case before I stumbled across this little gem, but this has merely strengthened that feeling.

Bugger off, Harperson, you bigoted, sodding loon.

P.S. HowStuffWorks has a rather interesting way of describing how Credit Default Swaps work. Or, rather, what happens when they don't.
Imagine that you could purchase your friend Jimmy's health insurance policy from the company that issued it. Everything's going smoothly; you're raking in the dough as Jimmy makes his monthly payments. But things take a sudden turn for the worse after Jimmy's legs are crushed in a car wreck. Jimmy can't afford the healthcare costs, but luckily he's insured—by you.

You find nothing but cobwebs in your savings account and realize that you can't pay for Jimmy's health care. Jimmy's still insured (he's faithfully made his premium payments), so who pays the hospital bills? The insurance company sold the policy to you, and you owned it when Jimmy's accident happened. You were caught with the hot potato.

Jimmy's hospital realizes his insurer won't cover his costs and releases him, but he still requires care. So Jimmy sues you to pay up, but you just blew all of your money completing your collection of Pat Boone albums, which suddenly doesn't seem like such a good investment. Even worse, a trove of Boone's albums was discovered in the estates of some recently deceased collectors, and the market value of your collection plummets. You sell the collection for half of what you paid for it and put it toward Jimmy's health care costs, but it's a drop in the bucket. Ultimately, you're forced to declare bankruptcy.

Yup, that's as clear an explanation as I've seen.


Anonymous said...

Harridan Harpyperson, surely?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

and how are jimmy,s legs now.

Fausty said...

It'll be interesting to see how she wriggles out of that one - assuming she's made aware of it ...

Nicely argued, DK.

Trixy said...

Dur, of course it would be invented by a woman. It's devious and allows you to go shopping and be blissfully unaware as to whether or not you can afford all these shiny new things.


Brian E. said...

I wonder what she thinks about the council that has forced a women's refuge to close because they won't take in abused men?
This really demonstrates equality at work!

Anonymous said...

sorry but as much as I hate HH i would much rather she be in charge than Marshall Brain.

Ryan said...

It's one of those perfect little facts.

The kind of thing you would expect the Today program to throw in the harpies face were it doing its job. Hopefully someone will bring it up if she's on QT.

Anonymous said...


Is it just me or is this woman clinically insane??

"Labour’s deputy leader used her position as Gordon Brown’s stand-in to demand a more radical overhaul of the law, such as targets for prosecutors and police to secure more convictions."

SO assuming only 30% of alleged rapists are actually guilty but there is a target of a 60% conviction rate, we would just send em down anyway?

Don't get me wrong I am not defending rapists or quoting actual figures I just think that "Trial by Statistic" is a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear. I wish Harm Man would fuck off.

One and a half weeks left.

Anonymous said...

She's one of the nastiest and most egregious people in this shithole of a government. Well maybe with the exception of Blinker Balls...

Anyway, on a lighter note......


Ex-Locust said...

Actually that explanation of credit default swaps is wrong. The contract between Jimmy and the insurer is unchanged by the fact that the insurer 'bought protection' from you, the Pat Boone album collector. It's your and the insurer's problem if you are broke, not Jimmy's.

The main problem with the widespread use of CDSes was that the people buying the protection against end-customers defaulting (i.e. 'selling on' part of the insurance policy, or loan in the real world) assumed that the buyers of those policies/loans would be able to pay up when the time came. But especially with the collapse of Lehman Brothers,this was not the case, so the sellers of the risk still had the risk they thought they had got rid of.

A soon-to-emerge problem may be the impact on bankruptcy procedures. Buying a CDS on a company makes you money if the company goes broke, and the more spectacularly un irredeemably it goes broke, the better for you. It's possible to buy a decent stake of the debt or bonds of a troubled company, buy many times that amount in CDSes, 'bets that they go broke', and use your stake in the loans or bonds to ensure that they do not get rescued. You lose a bit of money on your bonds and make out like, well, a bandit on the CDSes. Nasty but true.


Richard said...

More women in banking?

Don't forget the best known woman in the City - Nicola Horlick, who thought that Bernie Madoff was "very, very good at calling the U.S. equity market" and so invested her clients' money in his pyramid investment scam. With that and other duff investments, the fund she managed lost over half its value.

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