Karma is a bitch. Just ask Glenn Hubbard.
A few months ago, the Dean of Columbia's business school was a leading economic advisor to Mitt Romney and a rumored (perhaps even consensus) candidate for the Treasury Secretary job.
Now Romney's out of the presidential picture and Hubbard – well, he's just yet another grasping jobholder who's been exposed as a paid mouthpiece in a court proceeding.
Anyone who's seen the movie Inside Job will recall the stupendously angering scene in which Hubbard pissily snaps at his interviewer for asking about his outside relationships with the financial services industry.
Transcript: Glenn Hubbard's Deposition
In the movie, renowned filmmaker Charles Ferguson pointed out that, among other things, Hubbard had co-authored a paper with former Goldman chief economist William Dudley in which he praised credit derivatives as having improved the "allocation of risk" and helped produce "enhanced stability." It was fair to ask how much Goldman's "Global Markets Institute" had to pay one of the Ivy League's leading minds to endorse the giant daisy chains of credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations that led to the crisis – it was quite a coup, after all, like getting the Dean of Harvard Medical School to pose in public smoking a pack of Kools.
Anyway, when asked if he did consulting work for big banks, Hubbard refused to answer. And when asked if he just didn't remember who was writing checks to him when he wasn't overseeing the education of American youth, he fumed.
"This isn't a deposition, sir," he hissed. "I was polite enough to give you time, foolishly I now see. Give it your best shot."
Again, there's just nothing like karma. If your answer to a perfectly sensible question is going to be, "Screw you, this isn't a deposition," exactly how long do you think it'll be before you end up actually getting deposed? And forced to answer, under oath, just how much your opinions cost?
A couple of years, as it turns out.
Hidden among the reams of material recently filed in connection with the lawsuit of monoline insurer MBIA against Bank of America and Countrywide is a deposition of none other than Columbia University's Glenn Hubbard. And boy, is it a wild deposition. It's like Inside Job, only Hubbard has to answer the questions he doesn't want to answer. Reading it is like watching a man try to avoid breathing in a gas chamber.
At issue here is the fact that Hubbard testified on behalf of Countrywide in the MBIA suit. He conducted an "analysis" that essentially concluded that Countrywide's loans weren't any worse than the loans produced by other mortgage originators, and that therefore the monstrous losses that investors in those loans suffered were due to other factors related to the economic crisis – and not caused by the serial misrepresentations and fraud in Countrywide's underwriting.
In other words, the Dean of the Columbia University business school testified that the fact that Countrywide claimed to have conducted thorough due diligence when in fact it was pressuring underwriters to approve 60 to 70 mortgage applications a day and failing to verify any income levels or other key information (to say nothing of the outright falsification of such data, which also went on on a mass scale) – he testified that these issues were irrelevant.
Investors in Countrywide loans, he reported, in specifically rebutting MBIA's claims of fraud, were probably victims of macroeconomic factors, among other things the expansion of lending guidelines by "the government-sponsored entities," i.e. Fannie and Freddie. You know, that old saw.
So how much does it cost to get the Dean of Columbia Business School to say that Countrywide customers weren't injured by fraud? Well, MBIA's lawyer, Phillipe Selendy of Quinn Emmanuel, asked Hubbard that very question:
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