From the New York Times the last few days, three articles worth reading. First, the story of AIG:
When you start asking around about how A.I.G. made money during the housing bubble, you hear the same two phrases again and again: “regulatory arbitrage” and “ratings arbitrage.” The word “arbitrage” usually means taking advantage of a price differential between two securities — a bond and stock of the same company, for instance — that are related in some way. When the word is used to describe A.I.G.’s actions, however, it means something entirely different. It means taking advantage of a loophole in the rules. A less polite but perhaps more accurate term would be “scam.”
Second, "In Letter, Warren Buffet Concedes a Tough Year:"
In language that was by turns blunt and witty, he decried what he called “a series of life-threatening problems within many of the world’s great financial institutions.” An inveterate optimist about the American economy, Mr. Buffett also forecast an eventual recovery, asserting that the country has faced even more severe economic travails in the past.
Finally, a Canadian journalist points out that her country's banking system is fine:
Canadian banks are known to be risk-averse, and this has served them well. While their American counterparts were loading up their books with risky mortgages, Canadian banks maintained their lending requirements, largely avoiding subprime mortgages. The buttoned-down banks in Canada also tended to keep these types of securities on their books, rather than packaging them and selling them to investors. This meant that the exposures they did have to weak mortgages were more visible to the marketplace.