I wrote my senior honors thesis back in 2000 on the interplay between transnational organized crime, corruption, and privatization in the former Soviet Union. At the time I thought is was pretty good, impressive in fact. Well, I’ve learned through the years that, in the words of Nero in Mel Brooks’ History of the World, my thesis was nothing more than “Nice. Nice. Not thrilling, but nice.”
Further confirming this notion is Anna Katherine (A.K.) Barnett-Hart and her brilliant senior thesis from Harvard on the subprime mortgage CDO meltdown. Her thesis has been getting tons of attention, including praise from leading economists and author Michael Lewis who, in the acknowledgments to his new book, said the thesis was “more interesting than any single piece of Wall Street research on the subject”. The data collection alone is masterful and a coup given the opaque nature of this market.
Barnett-Hart concludes that the meltdown in the CDO market resulted from “poorly constructed CDOs, irresponsible underwriting practices, and flawed credit rating procedures.”
A pdf version of her thesis can be found here.