Super Senior

| Fri Nov. 28, 2008 5:58 PM EST

SUPER SENIOR....Felix Salmon explains the synthetic CDO market:

Let's start with a simple single-credit synthetic bond....

[Explanation follows, ending with a little bit about the size of the synthetic mortgage backed security market.]

....In fact, most of the synthetic MBS issued were issued by banks which kept the underlying mortgages on their own balance sheet. Rather than put the mortgages directly into a CDO and sell that to investors, they kept the mortgages themselves and bought protection from the CDO. Why did they do that? That's the story of the super-senior tranche, and will have to wait for another day.

What!?! For pity's sake, man, don't keep us in suspense. I want to hear about the super-senior tranche. It's one of those things that I think I understand in a technical sense — sort of the way a blind man understands a sunset — but not in the real-world sense of what people were doing with them and how they got abused so badly. So let's hear it!

Get Mother Jones by Email - Free. Like what you're reading? Get the best of MoJo three times a week.