Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Writing's on the Wall

"25 And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.
"26 This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE: God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.
"27 TEKEL: Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.
28 PERES: Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.
(...)
"30 In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.
"31 And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old."
Daniel 5
Belshazzar's Feast, by Rembrandt. [1]
The painting at the right is called Belshazzar's Feast and illustrates the biblical passage motivating this post. In it Belshazzar, king of Babylon, his vassals, their wives and concubines are feasting, when a hand writing an undecipherable text interrupts them.

Rembrandt's 1660 self-portrait. [2]
Worried, Belshazzar called Daniel from the Jews and Daniel interpreted the text, as the biblical passage says.

The painting's author was Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. His self-portrait can be seen at the left.

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Last week (03-10-2011) the Federal Court of Australia started hearing the class action initiated against S&P, ABN Amro (RBS, since 2010) and Local Government Financial Services (LGFS).

12 NSW councils are suing the three institutions for AU$ 16 million, for losses suffered by the councils with the Rembrandt CPDO, which was designed by ABN Amro, rated as AAA by S&P and acquired and resold by LGSF, at the same time financial advisor to the councils and Rembrandt reseller.

Michael West (Fairfax media) has a comprehensive background to the story:

"Although the likes of US pension funds have attempted to sue the agencies - indeed the Californian giant Calpers fund has been trying to get a case to trial for two years - this is the first case in the world to get to trial.
"In the US, the First Amendment protections for free speech have assisted the agencies in deflecting claims - so far at least. After all, they contend their ratings are 'just an opinion'.
"The importance of this lawsuit is that a successful claim could set a precedent for further actions for bogus ratings in Australia, and indeed worldwide."
(See here)

Image Credits:
[1] Belshazzar's Feast, by Rembrandt. Wikipedia.
[2] Rembrandt's 1660 self-portrait. Wikipedia.

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