Investment Maven's New Bet: Climate Change Will Bust the Housing Market

An investment guru who predicted the crash of the mortgage market in 2007 is now predicting that climate-caused forces like uninsured flooding are distorting real estate prices in ways that could lead to a similar crash.

"David Burt was one of the few who predicted the 2008 financial crisis. He's gambling that history is going to repeat itself soon."

"In 2007, almost no one would admit what became obvious in hindsight: The housing market was on the brink of collapse and would take a good chunk of the U.S. economy along with it. Lenders were getting rich, giving home loans to people who couldn’t afford them, investment banks were making a killing by combining those shaky loans into securities, ratings agencies cashed in by certifying those securities as safe and millions of ordinary people got screwed when the whole thing came crashing down.

But David Burt saw it coming. The investor was a consultant at Cornwall Capital, the firm that shorted the subprime mortgage market and made $80 million as some of Wall Street’s biggest firms imploded around it. It was such a spectacular, farsighted bet against the conventional wisdom surrounding the housing market boom that Cornwall was profiled in Michael Lewis's book The Big Short, and one of Burt's colleagues was played by Brad Pitt in the movie adaptation. The thing, though, is that many of the risk factors leading up to the crash were fairly easy to spot if you weren’t earning massive profits dependent on ignoring them.

“There’s some really big incentives problems in markets,” Burt explained recently at a hotel café on New York’s Upper East Side. “Whether it’s conscious or subconscious, and it’s not necessarily nefarious, a lot of the time it’s just easier for people to do the thing that’s best for them in some easy-to-conceive-of timeframe.”"

Geoff Dembicki reports for Vice November 1 2019.

Source: Vice, 11/04/2019