Mortgage Securities Trader Blasts Wall Street

Source: AL’S EMPORIUM, Al Lewis

02/16/2012

Dow Jones Newswires

The first thing I should mention about Larry Doyle are his life’s priorities: faith, family, capitalism. He grew up in a big Catholic family in Boston. His father was a lawyer. His mother was a real estate agent. He was one of eight siblings, five of whom landed work on Wall Street.

After graduating from the College of the Holy Cross in 1983, Doyle began his career at First Boston. There he met a guy named Laurence Fink, who helped pioneer the mortgage-backed security. Today, Fink is CEO of BlackRock Inc. (BLK), the giant multinational investment firm.

“Larry hired me,” Doyle said. “He goes, ‘You are really not going to know anything for the first year, so mind your Ps and Qs, and go get me a cup of coffee.’”  Doyle did whatever he was asked to do. Before long, he got a position on the trading desk. He worked at First Boston for nearly seven years. Then he moved to Bear Stearns. Then UBS. Then Bank of America. Then J.P. Morgan Chase.

Doyle, now 51 years old, left the mortgage-backed-securities business in 2006, well before it imploded and practically toppled the entire U.S. economy. But he attributes this move to circumstance, not foresight. “You could start to see significant cracks,” he said, “primarily in the subprime space. But I couldn’t forecast what was going to happen.” The mortgage-backed securities he trafficked were higher-quality. In its infancy, the mortgage-backed-securities industry wasn’t taking crazy risks with subprime paper, and toward the end, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) made a decision to stay out of the subprime end of it, Doyle said. “I never sold something where I thought, ‘Oh man, this is truly a piece of garbage,’” he said.

But Doyle said he went to work on Wall Street knowing it sometimes took advantage of the people who work and invest there. “I wanted to take advantage of Wall Street without Wall Street taking advantage of me,” he said. “That was always my mantra. I kept it to myself, and it worked.”

Since leaving J.P. Morgan Chase, Doyle has been investing the money he made over his career. Married 24 years and a father of four, he lives in Connecticut and now spends his time mentoring students, staying involved with his church and writing a blog, www.senseoncents.com, where he said some of the darndest things about Wall Street.

Regarding the missing $1.6 billion at the imploded firm run by former U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine, Doyle wrote: “We need an MF Global grand jury….Money does not vaporize. Money is misappropriated. Money is stolen.” On last week’s big settlement among 49 states, federal regulators and five major Wall Street firms, including J.P. Morgan Chase, Doyle wrote: “In a nation now all too familiar with a ‘too big to fail’ banking system, a heavily manipulated and high frequency dominated equity market, and an incestuous financial regulatory system, we should not be surprised with a mortgage settlement that does little more than ‘piss into the wind.’”

He has fiercely championed investors of “auction-rate securities,” whom he said have been jilted in settlements between regulators and the big firms that misled investors about the safety of these instruments. Though marketed as an alternative to money market funds, the entire auction-rate securities market collapsed in 2008. “The auction-rate securities market was nothing more than a Ponzi-style financing,” Doyle said. “Four years later, there are people who still can’t get their money.”  It was another fine Wall Street product shoved through the pipes. “When you tell a salesman there’s a quarter-point commission in something, they’re going to figure out a way to sell it,” Doyle said. “And they did.”

Among the central themes on Doyle’s blog: Wall Street has co-opted regulators who are more interested in their next job than protecting investors. Washington, from the Oval Office and Congress on down, has simply been acquired. And America’s investors are often too financially illiterate to know what hit them. “People are basically ignorant. They are sheep. Part of the reason I launched my blog was to say, ‘wake up.’”

Doyle said his former colleagues on Wall Street have yet to give him any blowback. “My friends are like, ‘keep writing,’” he said. “My blog is really an indictment of the Wall Street management. There are plenty of scumbags on Wall Street. But the people I know, they’re good people trying to make an honest living.” Pointing out malfeasance should not be left to Occupy Wall Street protesters, some of whom would rather destroy capitalism than correct its flaws. “I’m the furthest thing from a liberal,” Doyle said. “But let’s not forget what happened here. Capitalism got abused.

“The country needs Wall Street. It needs a flow of capital and credit, but when politicians get paid off, you end up with a regulatory system that protects the industry rather than investors.” “I’m just trying to help people understand what’s going on here,” he said. “If that’s critical of the industry, well, let’s put it this way, there’s been a lot to write about.”

(Al’s Emporium, written by Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis, offers commentary and analysis on a wide range of business subjects through an unconventional perspective. The column is published each Tuesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. ET. He can be reached at 212-416-2617 or by email at al.lewis@dowjones.com, or on his blog at tellittoal.com.)

 

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