Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Usual Suspects

Never in a thousand years would I expect to read articles like the ones posted today in Market Watch/Wall Street Journal & Portfolio.

In Market Watch, Paul B Farrell explains why Goldman Sachs has such enormous power over America.

"Drama? You bet. Six short months ago Hank (Paulson - ex GS CEO) led an assault on Congress. The scene parallels one in "24:" Sangala War Lord Juma's brazen attack inside the White House. But no AK-47s necessary. The Hammer assaulted Congress with
just a two-and-a-half page memo in hand. Like a crack special-ops warrior, he took down the enemy, demanding $750 billion, absolute control, total secrecy, no accountability and emergency powers to act immediately ... warning that inaction was not an option, that collapse of America's banking system was imminent, would bring down the global monetary system, pushing world's economies into a "Great Depression II." Congress surrendered.

Here's the whole plot:


Scene 1. American government is now run by the 'Goldman Conspiracy'
Oh, you really think just I'm plotting a television series? Or just paranoid, exaggerating this power grab? You better read
"The Usual Suspects," Matthew Malone's brilliant article in Portfolio magazine. He "exposed" the "Goldman Sachs 'conspiracy' to take over the U.S. financial system." Read it in this context: America's financial sector has exploded from 19% of corporate profits in 1986 to 41% today, becoming a magnet for every wannabe billionaire. They know why Wall Street must control Washington.

Malone focuses on the incestuous "conspiracy" of Goldman alumni in Treasury, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, AIG, Citigroup, Washington lobbyists and politicians."

As per Farrell's recommendation, check out this gem from Mark Malone's The Usual Suspects.

Now, with Goldman emerging from the financial crisis battered but still on top, the Street is seeing something more insidiously silly: a bona fide Goldman conspiracy. “A lot of people think that they must have gotten where they are because of some unfair advantage,” hedge fund manager Bill Fleckenstein says. “Nobody likes to think that someone flat out beat ’em.” (See a list of Goldman Sachs alumni and how they figure into the market turmoil of recent months.)

Believers point to the one degree of separation between Goldman bankers and recent financial events. Bush’s Treasury secretary, Hank Paulson, is a former Goldman C.E.O., and his replacement at Treasury, Tim Geithner, was mentored by Goldman alumni. Mario Draghi, who is leading the crisis response for the E.U., is a former Goldman vice chairman.


Merrill Lynch C.E.O. John Thain was once Goldman’s co-president, and Wachovia chief Robert Steel was a vice chairman. Ed Liddy, the new C.E.O. of A.I.G., was Goldman’s vice chairman. World Bank president Robert Zoellick was a managing director. Even Neel Kashkari, the 35-year-old tapped to oversee the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program, served at Goldman as a vice president. Are they plotting to take over the world? Who knows. They sure are a tight-knit group, and potential conflicts abound."

To put an exclamation point on all of this is Malone's Conspiracy Exposed time line delineating how GS wields power while the US economic system slowly collapses into the abyss.

Last but not least, read Michael Lewis' update on his Liar's Poker book to see why we are in such a mess.

To this day, the willingness of a Wall Street investment bank to pay me hundreds of thousands of dollars to dispense investment advice to grownups remains a mystery to me. I was 24 years old, with no experience of, or particular interest in, guessing which stocks and bonds would rise and which would fall. The essential function of Wall Street is to allocate capital—to decide who should get it and who should not. Believe me when I tell you that I hadn’t the first clue.

I’d never taken an accounting course, never run a business, never even had savings of my own to manage. I stumbled into a job at Salomon Brothers in 1985 and stumbled out much richer three years later, and even though I wrote a book about the experience, the whole thing still strikes me as preposterous—which is one of the reasons the money was so easy to walk away from. I figured the situation was unsustainable. Sooner rather than later, someone was going to identify me, along with a lot of people more or less like me, as a fraud. Sooner rather than later, there would come a Great Reckoning when Wall Street would wake up and hundreds if not thousands of young people like me, who had no business making huge bets with other people’s money, would be expelled from finance.

When I sat down to write my account of the experience in 1989—Liar’s Poker, it was called—it was in the spirit of a young man who thought he was getting out while the getting was good. I was merely scribbling down a message on my way out and stuffing it into a bottle for those who would pass through these parts in the far distant future. "

There's a sucker born every minute - PT Barnum

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