Abusing The System Pays On Wall Street - Business Insider: "How did it work? If housing prices rose or stayed flat or fell slightly, the bonds paid a small premium, about a quarter of a percent. If however, housing fell dramatically, then the bonds plummeted. From 2003 to 2007 housing prices rose. Wall Street took in record profits as the bonds paid. Bonuses paid to traders and executives were also records, with senior traders and managers receiving bonuses between $3 million and $10 million in 2006. In the middle of 2007 things turned. The housing market did collapse over 30%, triggering huge drops in the bonds. Who lost? Well the banks did, many going broke and requiring a government bailout. The traders and managers who did these trades did well personally. Many were fired, but with enough money to never work again, having collected compensation of roughly $15 million over that period. Many were later rehired, by hedge funds, to buy the securities at cheap prices after the banks disgorged them. Were they doing anything illegal? Hard to say. They were doing what Wall Street incentivised them to do."
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