In making his push to administer the largest federal bailout of Wall Street in history, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is seeking unfettered authority. McClatchy poses the question today, “can you trust a Wall Street veteran with a Wall Street bailout?,” referring to Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs:
But the conflicts are also visible. Paulson has surrounded himself with former Goldman executives as he tries to navigate the domino-like collapse of several parts of the global financial market. And others have gone off to lead companies that could be among those that receive a bailout.
In late July, Paulson tapped Ken Wilson, one of Goldman’s most senior executives, to join him as an adviser on what to about problems in the U.S. and global banking sector. Paulson’s former assistant secretary, Robert Steel, left in July to become head of Wachovia, the Charlotte-based bank that has hundreds of millions of troubled mortgage loans on its books.
Goldman Sachs cashed in under Paulson, with earnings in 2005 of $5.6 billion; Paulson made more than $38 million that year. A 2005 annual report shows that “Goldman was still a significant player” in issuing mortgage bonds. The conflict of interest is increasingly clear today, as Bloomberg reports that “Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley may be among the biggest beneficiaries” of Paulson’s bailout plan:
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley may be among the biggest beneficiaries of the $700 billion U.S. plan to buy assets from financial companies while many banks see limited aid, according to Bank of America Corp.
“Its benefits, in its current form, will be largely limited to investment banks and other banks that have aggressively written down the value of their holdings and have already recognized the attendant capital impairment,” Jeffrey Rosenberg, Bank of America’s head of credit strategy research, wrote in a report today, without identifying particular investment banks.”
The conflict of interest provides all the more reason for the bailout legislation in Congress to have more stringent oversight that the administration opposes.
The Wonk Room notes six months ago, Paulson claimed, “our banks and investment banks, are strong.”