Going again the popular theory that devious insiders caused the housing crisis, economists at the Federal Reserve Banks of Boston and Atlanta argue that “borrowers and investors made decisions that were rational and logical given their ex post overly optimistic beliefs about house prices”
In other words, it was a black swan that almost no one saw coming.
The paper, summarized neatly by WSJ’s Nick Timraos, offers 12 facts:
Fact 1: Resets of adjustable-rate mortgages did not cause the foreclosure crisis.
Fact 2: No mortgage was “designed to fail.”
Fact 3: There was little innovation in mortgage markets in the 2000s.
Fact 4: Government policy toward the mortgage market did not change much from 1990 to 2005.
Fact 5: The originate-to-distribute model was not new.
Fact 6: MBS, CDOs, and other “complex financial products” had been widely used for decades.
Fact 7: Mortgage investors had lots of information.
Fact 8: Investors understood the risks.
Fact 9: Investors were optimistic about house prices.
Fact 10: Mortgage market insiders were the biggest losers.
Fact 11: Mortgage market outsiders were the biggest winners.
Fact 12: Top-rated bonds backed by mortgages did not turn out to be “toxic.” Top-rated bonds in collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) did.