They’re called "vulture funds". They’re financial organizations that specialize in buying securities in distressed environments, such as high-yield bonds in or near default, or equities that are in or near bankruptcy.

Take for example, Argentina whose external public debt was  bought up in substantial measure by vulture funds at   very low prices. Or in this country, K-Mart,  where the real estate held by the company was the anticipated payout for investors who bought stock during their bankruptcy proceedings.

And now, reports Investment News, money managers are finding lots of opportunities in the subprime mortgage fallout. Investment managers are starting new funds to buy distressed securities tied to the subprime mortgage market or buy asset-based securities that been devalued by the ratings agencies.

The "blame game" has included predatory lending practices of subprime lenders and the lack of effective government oversight, mortgage brokers with steering borrowers to unaffordable loans, appraisers with inflating housing values, and Wall Street investors with backing subprime mortgage securities without verifying the strength of the portfolios.

But regardless of fault, there have been a record number of foreclosures, and now I’m curious to see whether any of the retirement plans espousing socially responsible investments will be investing with the so-called vulture funds.