Here's what Eric Dash of the "New York Times: wrote this week about the payment that Geithner permitted Goldman Sachs to make, thus liberating themselves from the cold and clammy hand of TARP:
"None of the banks' executives crowed publicly, but some of their employees celebrated Tuesday night. At an outdoor cafe on Stone Street, near Goldman's headquarters in Lower Manhattan, Goldman employees toasted their freedom."
"This one's on me," one called out from his table.
"Yeah, as long as it's not on the government," a colleague replied."
Those dudes are too smart for public crowing. But their private crowing is the problem. There is something fundamentally wrong going on here. When Goldman and the rest of the manipulators showed up destitute at the door of the Treasury, and when Treasury agreed to open the discount window to a non-bank (the first time since the Great Depression), and to inject billions of cash into their coffers, it was an extraordinary moment.
I mean, let's get real. The people who run these institutions privately mock the bureaucrats who work for the government. And what do these institutions spend most of their waking hours doing? Figuring out how to get around the government. How to thread the needle of regulation; how to push to the seductive, beckoning edge of legality; how to three-card-monty billions around the world to get the most favorable tax treatments (which, in effect, steals from the very government upon whose largesse Goldman et. al. relied upon last fall.)
Weren't they supposed to use those funds to lend, to put liquidity back into the system, not to crawl back to sufficient capital requirements that now allow them to "toast their freedom?" Don't you think there's something massively wrong with these Masters of Arrogance paying off their debt with a little bit of interest, puffing out their chests to their former levels of self-inflation, and re-commencing their old ways, albeit with a bit less recklessness?
The bailout was unprecedented. We had all the chips; Goldman and JPMorgan had none. We could and should have set very specific metrics for the use of these funds: how much had to go to small business lending, for example. Or to student lending. Or to reducing mortgages for those in or near foreclosure risk. We live in the most technologically advanced society in history; surely if you can track the moment-by-moment movements of your fresh lobster on the Fedex website, these geniuses at Goldman who were able to create complex instruments that defied comprehensibility are able to track the movements of the fresh supply of capital that was delivered to them courtesy of you, me, and the Fedex driver. I'd also like to see how much of our money they are spending on lobbyists and PR flaks.
I'm not saying that the Treasury Department should micromanage Goldman and others who got bailout money. But there's a space as big as a 15 room, $25 million dollar Park Avenue apartment between micromanaging and sending them back to their old tricks, rapacious and ungrateful as ever. Surely there were some modest quid pro quos that the government could have extracted when it had its foot on Blankfein's throat.
It would be easier to dial-back my anger if their hubris wasn't worn with the flash of one of their favored Franck Muller watches. You see, I'm not asking for much. I just want to be able to log onto Goldman's website and see where the money went. But I can't do that. In fact, I can't even go to the Goldman website and find a word of thanks to us - the American taxpayer - for lending them money when they needed it most. All I find is the same self-serving crap that was there during the worst of the Period of Grand Excess. Goldman's management lacks the decency and sensitivity to make a simple statement acknowledging the TARP payback, recognizing that the American system came through for them at a precarious moment, and humbly accepting the new level of social responsibility that places upon them.
Even the French understand the power of "thank you." It might be merely ceremonial, but at least they had the public decency on Sunday, at the 65th anniversary of D-Day, to recall the sacrifices that we made on that brutal June day in 1945. A few days later, the Goldman version of thanks was to write a check and party.
We have no reason to believe, absolutely no reason, that -- other than for a few regulatory niceties -- it won't be business as usual for Goldman. I'm not conspiracy-minded, but with their cross-party alumni armada - Rubin, Paulson, Kashkari - and now with Arthur Levitt, former head of the SEC as an advisor - they won't be back in their gross, unimpeded glory.
The dodgy dealings of one Goldman board member, Stephen Friedman, speak for themselves. (This is from BusinessInsider.com)
"New York Fed and Goldman Sachs board member Stephen Friedman purchased 37,300 shares of Goldman Sachs stock in December at the same time as Goldman received permission to convert to a bank holding company regulated by the Federal Reserve. Friedman at the time was also overseeing the selection of a New York Federal Reserve President to replace Tim Geithner, and the New York Fed ended up hiring another alumni from Goldman Sachs."
The young studs at Goldman "toasted their freedom" this week. Were they also toasting their liberators, like the French did? I don't think so.