We are sure, just as many of the so-called “smartest men in the room” ignored him last time, so every status-quo-maintaining, asset-gathering, commission-taker will be quick to dissonantly shrug off Michael Burry’s (the economic soothsayer from Michael Lewis’ book “The Big Short”) warnings this time.
As NYMag.com reports, in an email, which readers of the book will recognize as his preferred method of communication, the real-life head of Scion Asset Management answered some of questions about the state of the financial system, his ominous-sounding water trade, and what, if anything, we can feel hopeful about…
The movie portrays all of you as kind of swashbuckling heroes in some ways, but McKay suggested to me that you were very troubled by what happened. Is that the case?
I felt I was watching a plane crash. I actually had that dream again and again. I knew what was happening, but there was nothing I, or anyone else, could do to stop it. The last day of 2007, I couldn’t come home. I was in the office till late at night, I couldn’t calm down. I wrote my wife an email and just said, “I can’t come home; it’s just too upsetting what’s happening, and I didn’t want to come home to my kids like this.” As for punishment of those responsible, borrowers were punished for their overindulgences — they lost homes and lives. Let’s not forget that. But the executives at the lenders simply got rich.
Were you surprised no one went to jail?
I am shocked that executives at some of the worst lenders were not punished for what they did. But this is the nature of these things. The ones running the machine did not get punished after the dot-com bubble either — all those VCs and dot-com executives still live in their mansions lining the 280 corridor on the San Francisco peninsula. The little guy will pay for it — the small investor, the borrower. Which is why the little guy needs to be warned to be more diligent and to be more suspicious of society’s sanctioned suits offering free money. It will always be seductive, but that’s the devil that wants your soul.
When I spoke to some of the other real-life characters from The Big Short, I was surprised to hear that they thought that financial reform was pretty effective and that the system was much safer. Michael Lewis disagreed. In your opinion, did the crash result in any positive changes?
Unfortunately, not many that I can see. The biggest hope I had was that we would enter a new era of personal responsibility. Instead, we doubled down on blaming others, and this is long-term tragic. Too, the crisis, incredibly, made the biggest banks bigger. And it made the Federal Reserve, an unelected body, even more powerful…