During the boom in housing prices, beginning in 2004, Goldman Sachs developed mortgage-related securities, known as synthetic collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). Through April 2007 Goldman issued over 20 of the CDOs -- which it dubbed "Abacus" -- for a total of $10.9 billion. The securities performed very poorly and by April 2010, Bloomberg reported that at least $5 billion worth of the securities either carried "junk" ratings, or had defaulted. According to an article in the New York Times (Morgenson 2009) while Goldman Sachs sold the Abacus mortgage-backed CDOs to investors, it "shorted" the CDOs, i.e. bet against them, earning large profits while its customers lost billions.(Morgenson 2009) The Times gave as an example of the $800 million Hudson Mezzanine CDO issued in 2006, which Goldman bet against, but also sold to investors. By March 2008, just 18 months after Goldman created the CDO, "so many borrowers had defaulted that holders of the security paid out about $310 million to Goldman and others who had bet against it."
The article further claims Goldman tried to pressure the credit rating service Moody's to rate its products higher than they should have been, and that various rules regarding CDO-default pay outs were modified to favor short sellers in 2005. A Goldman worker named Tetsuya Ishikawa was involved in these deals and later wrote a novel called How I Caused the Credit Crunch.
While the Times claimed Goldman "used the C.D.O.'s to place unusually large negative bets that were not mainly for hedging purposes," Goldman claimed that it was simply hedging, not expecting the CDOs to fail, and denied that its investors were unaware of Goldman's bets against the products it was selling to them.
Goldman and one of its traders, Fabrice Tourre, were later sued by the SEC over circumstances surrounding one of these CDOs, Abacus 2007-AC1. Tourre was found guilty of six of seven charges in August 2013.
On 17 January 2006, CDS Indexco and Markit launched ABX.HE, a subprime mortgage backed credit derivative index with home equity loans as assets, with plans to extend the index to other underlying assets, such as Credit Cards (ABX.CC), Student Loans (ABX.SL) and Auto Loans (ABX.AU). In a marketing presentation(2006 Wiley) CDS IndexCo was described as the owner of the DJ CDX family of credit default swap (CDS) indices formed from a merger of the major CDS indices (iBoxx and Trac-X) in April 2004. It introduced a "second generation product such as index tranches and index options."(Wiley 2006) They launched the Home Equity (ABX.HE) ABX on 19 January 2006. Advertised daily prices were availability on the Markit website. The purpose of the indices is to allow investors to trade exposures to the subprime market without holding the actual asset backed securities. The ABX.HE Index was created from "qualifying deals of 20 of the largest sub-prime home equity ABS shelf programs from the six month period preceding the roll."(Wiley & 2006 11) The market makers of ABX.HE were listed as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, Barclays Capital, Bank of America, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, [RBS Greenwich, UBS and Wachovia.(Wiley & 2006 13)
These investment firms had "anticipated the crisis. In 2006, Wall Street had introduced a new index, called the ABX, that became a way to invest in the direction of mortgage securities. The index allowed traders to bet on or against pools of mortgages with different risk characteristics, just as stock indexes enable traders to bet on whether the overall stock market, or technology stocks or bank stocks, will go up or down."(Morgenson 2009)
On 14 November 2007, Markit Markit acquired International Index Company and agreed to acquire CDS IndexCo.
According to a (Morgenson 2009) New York Times article, Goldman Sachs used an ABX index to bet against (i.e. short) the housing market in 2006. It also "began marketing short bets using the ABX index to hedge funds like Paulson & Company, Magnetar, and Soros Fund Management."(Morgenson 2009)