White House economic advisor Larry Summers, a former Treasury Secretary and President of Harvard University, had brief career at one of the world’s biggest hedge funds, D.E. Shaw & Co.
According to sources who attended meetings with him, Summers traveled to Asia during July 2007 with a pitchbook recommending the AAA-rated tranches of collateralized debt obligations to Asian sovereign funds and financial institutions, in his capacity as a Managing Director of the hedge fund D.E. Shaw.
In July 2007 the AAA-rated tranches of mortgage-backed securities backed by subprime collateral were trading at around 90 cents on the dollar. Now they are trading at less than 40 cents on the dollar. They are the “toxic assets” that the US government now is proposing to buy from banks to unclog their balance sheets.
According to my sources, Summers enthusiastically urged Asian investors including sovereign funds to purchase such instruments just weeks after the collapse of a Bear, Stearns hedge fund whose failure triggered the collapse of the whole structured market. I do not know precisely what was in Summers’ pitchbook, but if I were a member of a Congressional committee responsible for the oversight of economic policy, I would very much want to know what was in it.