↑ Grab this Headline Animator

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bubblespeak: The Orwellian language of Wall Street finds its way to the Treasury Department.Daniel Gross

In his timeless 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell condemned political rhetoric as a tool used "to make lies sound truthful" and "to give an appear­ance of solidity to pure wind." Were he alive today, Orwell might well be moved to pen a com­panion piece on the use of financial lingo. Remember those toxic assets? The poorly performing mortgages and collateralized debt obligations festering on the books of banks that made truly exe­crable lending decisions? In the latest federal bank rescue plan, they've been transformed into "legacy loans" and "lega­cy securities"—safe for professional in­vestors to purchase, provided, of course, they get lots of cheap government credit.

The problem isn't that words intended to change the conversation aren't accu­rate. Rather, the accepted terms turned out not to mean what people think they mean. Instead of helping to reduce risk, securitization—chopping up debt and distributing it—spread risk. Nonprime mortgages frequently turned out to be subprime. A lot of high-yield debt turned out to be junk. This confusion over the meaning of financial terms, and the skep­ticism it engenders, may be the real legacy of the Dumb Money Era.


Post a Comment

<< Home