Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 8:31 am | Partly Cloudy 62º

 
 
 

Robert Scheer: Cashing In On ‘Government Sachs’

The bailout of Wall Street has been commandeered by Goldman Sachs alums

We are so inured to tales of business corruption that even a devastating expose in The Wall Street Journal no longer shocks us. The fact that the chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank made millions off his secret purchase of Goldman Sachs stock, “in violation of Federal Reserve policy,” as the Journal put it, at a time when the N.Y. Fed was ostensibly overseeing the antics of the Wall Street firm, has barely registered a blip of outrage.

Robert Scheer
Robert Scheer

When N.Y. Fed Chairman Stephen Friedman bought stock in the company that he once headed, and where he still serves as a director, he was already in violation of Federal Reserve policy and was hoping for a waiver to permit him to hold his existing multimillion-dollar stock stash and to remain on the Goldman board. The waiver was requested last October by Timothy Geithner, then the president of the N.Y. Fed and now treasury secretary. Yet, without having received that waiver, Friedman went ahead in December and purchased 37,300 additional shares. With shares he added in January, after the waiver was granted, he ended up with 98,600 shares in Goldman Sachs, worth a total of $13,330,720 at the close of trading on Monday.

Friedman was in violation of the Fed’s policy because, thanks in part to the urging of Geithner and the N.Y. Fed, Goldman Sachs was allowed to become a bank holding company, making it eligible for government bailout funds (an option that Geithner had denied to Goldman rival Lehman Brothers). But that shift also put Goldman under more rigorous banking regulations that required Friedman as Class C director of the N.Y. Fed, a position in which he ostensibly represents the public instead of the banks who dominate the board, to step down as a Goldman director and divest his holdings.

Instead, he stayed on the Goldman board and added additional shares while waiting for the Fed waiver. Nor did he inform the Federal Reserve of his additional purchases last December, and the lawyers for the N.Y. Fed didn’t know about that purchase until the Journal raised questions in April. Friedman has made a profit of about $3 million on the additional shares.

The significance of this conflict of interest was summarized by the lead of the Journal story: “The Federal Reserve Bank of New York shaped Washington’s response to the financial crisis late last year, which buoyed Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and other Wall Street firms. Goldman received speedy approval to become a bank holding company in September and a $10 billion capital injection soon after.”

In addition to that capital injection, which at least carries some expectation of being repaid, Goldman received an additional $8.1 billion that will not have to be returned to taxpayers. This is a result of the bailout engineered by then-N.Y. Fed President Geithner of AIG, which listed Goldman as its top insured credit-swap customer. As Jerry Jordan, former president of the Fed Bank in Cleveland, told the Journal in reference to Friedman’s obvious conflict of interest, “He should have resigned.”

Unfortunately, this was not the view during the reign of Geithner, who argued that Friedman needed to remain chairman of the N.Y. Fed board to find a suitable replacement for Geithner as he moved on to be secretary of the treasury. Friedman chose a fellow former Goldman Sachs exec for the job.

All of which calls into question the unique power of Goldman Sachs over the U.S. government, as described in another important, but largely ignored, article from The New York Times last October headlined, “The Guys From ‘Government Sachs.’” Their power is vast, no matter which party controls the White House. As the Times noted, two leaders of Goldman Sachs — Robert Rubin, who co-chaired Goldman with Friedman, and Henry Paulson — had become secretaries of the treasury in the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, respectively.

Under Paulson, the bailout of Wall Street was dominated by Goldman Sachs alums, and as the Times noted, “Indeed, Goldman’s presence in the (Treasury) department and around the federal response to the financial bailout is so ubiquitous that other bankers and competitors have given the star-studded firm a new nickname: Government Sachs.”

That power continues unabated in the Obama administration. Geithner is a protege of former Goldman Sachs Chairman Rubin. And it was therefore not surprising when he picked Mark Patterson, a registered lobbyist for Goldman Sachs, to be his chief of staff at the Treasury Department. That appointment was made on the same day that Geithner announced new rules for limiting the influence of registered lobbyists. Need more be said?

TruthDig.com editor in chief Robert Scheer‘s new book is The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America. Click here for more information. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

 

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >