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"Savvy businessmen" at Golden Sacks went rogue, to collapse world economy AGAIN?!

The "savvy businessmen" who are Obama's bosses could be about to cause him some political problems, besides collapsing the world economy again. Simon Johnson:

At 9:30pm on Sunday, September 21, 2008, Goldman Sachs was saved from imminent collapse by the announcement that the Federal Reserve would allow it to become a bank holding company – implying unfettered access to borrowing from the Fed and other forms of implicit government support, all of which subsequently proved most beneficial.  Officials allowed Goldman to make such an unprecedented conversion in the name of global financial stability. 

We now learn – from Der Spiegel last week and today’s NYT – that Goldman Sachs has not only helped or encouraged some European governments to hide a large part of their debts, but it also endeavored to do so for Greece as recently as last November.  These actions are fundamentally destabilizing to the global financial system, as they undermine: the eurozone area; all attempts to bring greater transparency to government accounting; and the most basic principles that underlie well-functioning markets.  When the data are all lies, the outcomes are all bad – see the subprime mortgage crisis for further detail.

A single rogue trader can bring down a bank – remember the case of BaringsBut a single rogue bank can bring down the world’s financial system.

Some damn thing at the banksters'....

Goldman will dismiss this as “business as usual” and, to be sure, a few phone calls around Washington will help ensure that Goldman’s primary supervisor – now the Fed – looks the other way.

But the affair is now out of Ben Bernanke’s hands, and quite far from people who are easily swayed by the White House. It goes immediately to the European Commission, which has jurisdiction over eurozone budget issues. Faced with enormous pressure from those eurozone countries now on the hook for saving Greece, the Commission will surely launch a special audit of Goldman and all its European clients. ...

The Federal Reserve must cooperate fully with this investigation. Ordinarily, the Fed might be tempted to sit on useful information, but they can now feel themselves in Senator Bob Corker’s crosshairs. Republican Senator Corker is willing to cooperate with Senator Dodd on financial sector reform, opening up the possibility of legislation that will pass the Senate, but he wants the Fed to lose its supervisory powers. If the Fed refuses to help – willingly and fully - the European Commission with bringing Goldman to account, that will just strengthen the hand of Senator Corker and his allies.

If the Federal Reserve were an effective supervisor, it would have the political will sufficient to determine that Goldman Sachs has not been acting in accordance with its banking license. But any meaningful action from this direction seems unlikely.

Instead, Goldman will probably be blacklisted from working with eurozone governments for the foreseeable future; as was the case with Salomon Brothers 20 years ago, Goldman may be on its way to be banned from some government securities markets altogether. If it is to be allowed back into this arena, it will have to address the inherent conflicts of interest between advising a government on how to put (deceptive levels of) lipstick on a pig and cajoling investors into buying livestock at inflated prices.

And the US government, at the highest levels, has to ask a fundamental question: For how long does it wish to be intimately associated with Goldman Sachs and this kind of destabilizing action? What is the priority here - a sustainable recovery and a viable financial system, or one particular set of investment bankers?

I think I know the answer to that one...

To preserve Goldman, on incredibly generous terms, in the name of saving the financial system was and is hard to defend – but that is where we are. To allow the current government-backed (massive) Goldman to behave recklessly and with complete disregard to the basic tenets of international financial stability is utterly indefensible.

Well, we're dealing with people who have no shame and are not responsible to the electorate in any way, and that goes for both legacy parties. So I assume that the indefensible will shortly be normalized, as it was in so many other ways.

UPDATE Atrios links to Johnson. Good. It's "political economy," remember?

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