A Harvard Senior Thesis tells the Story of the Financial Market Meltdown

Collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) were a leading cause of writedowns at financial institutions during the recent financial crisis, leading to the demise of Merrill Lynch and AIG. Most of the securities being marked down were initially given a rating of AAA by the rating agencies, essentially marking them as "safe" investments. The rating agencies were not alone in their mistake; indeed almost all market participants failed to question the validity of the models that were luring them into a false sense of security.

In her senior thesis, “The Story of the CDO Market Meltdown”, A.K. Barnett-Hart investigated the causes of adverse performance in CDOs backed by asset-backed securities. Join her as she presents her findings, telling the story of how deterioration in collateral, irresponsible underwriting practices, and flawed credit rating procedures allowed this arcane market to contribute to the near destruction of the global financial system.

A Harvard 2009 Magna Cum Laude graduate, Ms. Barnett-Hart’s senior thesis, “The Story of the CDO Market Meltdown: An Empirical Analysis” won numerous awards, including the Hoopes Prize, the Harris Prize for the best economics thesis, and the Dunlop Prize from the Kennedy School of Government. Her research on this topic was used by Michael Lewis in his recent book on the financial crisis, “The Big Short,” and has been used by government agencies such as the TARP and the Financial Crisis Inquiry Committee.

Ms. Barnett-Hart is also an accomplished violinist, and had studied under Itzhak Perlman at the Juilliard School of Music. She is currently an investment banker at Goldman Sachs.

Event Details

Date: Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Time: 6:30 P.M., Registration and Cash Bar 7:00 P.M. Program
Location: The Harvard Club, 27 W. 44th Street (between 5th & 6th Avenues)
Cost: Free Event – Registration Required

Organizers: Hemali Dassani HBS ’99, The Harvard Club Programming Committee

Click here to register