Are we misunderstanding this:
But then this fascinating nugget:
Goldman Sachs, which received about 8 percent of the pile, or $13 billion, has claimed publicly that the money was, to them, a matter of indifference, as Goldman had hedged itself against a possible collapse of AIG — by making bets against AIG.
If I understand this correctly, Goldman was making bets against the insurance company it was paying to insure its bets. If that’s correct, is it any wonder we’re in the mess we’re in?
Also, more Taibbi:
The most galling thing about this financial crisis is that so many Wall Street types think they actually deserve not only their huge bonuses and lavish lifestyles but the awesome political power their own mistakes have left them in possession of. When challenged, they talk about how hard they work, the 90-hour weeks, the stress, the failed marriages, the hemorrhoids and gallstones they all get before they hit 40.
“But wait a minute,” you say to them. “No one ever asked you to stay up all night eight days a week trying to get filthy rich shorting what’s left of the American auto industry or selling $600 billion in toxic, irredeemable mortgages to ex-strippers on work release and Taco Bell clerks. Actually, come to think of it, why are we even giving taxpayer money to you people? Why are we not throwing your ass in jail instead?”
But before you even finish saying that, they’re rolling their eyes, because You Don’t Get It. These people were never about anything except turning money into money, in order to get more money; valueswise they’re on par with crack addicts, or obsessive sexual deviants who burgle homes to steal panties. Yet these are the people in whose hands our entire political future now rests.
Good luck with that, America. And enjoy tax season.
This is like a slow motion bank robbery, but this time the victims are the ones providing the getaway car.
Yes, the economy sucks.
Yes, the banksters are going all Bonnie and Clyde on our asses.
But West Freakin Virginia is losing to Dayton at half! Heaven forfend!
Can I haz anudder tourney thread, puleeze?
Yes, Taco Bell strippers are tasty, or whatever you quoted.
Ever get a feeling you’ve been had?
Much like a few tut-tutting blowhards here who claim the "bonuses" are chump change and no one should be worked up about them. And how the awful Congress is OMG! taxing them.
They should consider paying more taxes as getting off easy, as opposed to throwing their asses in jail where they really belong.
and the getaway car is a friggin dusey.
@Punchy: Is anyone keeping track on how their brackets are doing against Obama’s? I heard that he had some losses. I’d like to think that the Balloon Juice folks are keeping up.
Does anyone know where Hank Paulson lives?
When I read about this kind of shit, the little devil on my shoulder pipes up and says, Let the fuckers burn!, even if Ma and Pa Kettle goes down with them. Of course, being a sensible liberal and concerned with the big picture, I smack the impish little fucker down. But still….
Again with the "how hard we work" shit. Payment is not about how hard you work, it’s about the results you produce. Bankrobbers work hard too. You think all that running and shooting is easy? So, what, raise their pay?
If I have one guy who looks like he’s fucking off but at the end of the day has put hundreds of dollars in the till for me, and another who is running around like a chicken with his head cut off and accomplishing nothing, which one should I pay more? I know which one I’m going to pay more.
Get this you morons, I don’t give a flying fuck how hard you worked. I care what you accomplished.
This is what I’ve been screaming about. We’re following the strategy of keeping these firms alive, pretending they’re still viable concerns, instead of taking them over and figuring out what to do with their assets. When we do that, we become liable for all the bad decisions they made. They promised some employees fat bonuses for sticking around an extra year before we got involved? A contract is a contract. They wrote promises to give billions to clever investors who shorted the market? Well, AIG is committed to honoring its contracts (with our money). It’s absolutely insane, and I bet it’s going to get worse and worse as we hear more and more horror stories of where our money is actually going. I agree a bail out was necessary, we couldn’t let the world financial system collapse. But propping up a fundamentally broken system, and taking on responsibility for all the insane decisions these huge institutions made, is not the way to do it.
A few years ago at the Capital Grill in Boston I overhead two young "smart guys" from Fidelity bitching about how conservative the firm was…I interjected and told them I had been in the Magellan Fund since around the time Peter Lynch took it over and it had performed well for me…one of the them said, "Fuck Lynch he hasn’t done shit lately"
What a dickhead! And typical, too!
It’s a hell of a lot cheaper to bail out Ma & Pa Kettle. They don’t have to pay hanger fees on the G-V, they can keep it in the barn.
Maybe Heads Goldman Wins, Tails You’re Really Screwed would sound a tad better.
Completely not OT:
First time ever, actual pie filter joke:
Edit: I guess I should include cleek’s link just so new people will get the joke, too.
I like royally better.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, McCain’s competent economic policy adviser (as opposed to the corrupt hack , Phil Gram), is coming out for nationalization of bankrupt banks.
Doug Holtz-Eakin Talks Sense About AIG, the TARP, and Bank Nationalization
This is good news, since Holtz-Eakin has a history of being a competent and honest, if overly conservative and ultra-free market friendly, economist. His performance during the McCain campaign will be blot on his record, but looks like he is recovering his senses.
I meant to say royally, you are right. I plead brain fart.
Looks like the moderate Republicans and DLC folks are on board.
At least Goldman realized that AIG might not be able to back up its commitments, and it took measures to protect itself. But then who did they insure their bet with AIG with? And would that company have gone down like another in a line of dominos if AIG had failed? My head is beginning to hurt.
If we are understanding those counterparties to be honest investors and not little fuckers in on a scam, then I’d say why yes, yes are are.
I had a comment in an earlier thread with a link to an article in the Villiage Voice that sheds some light on this little misunderstanding. After reading it it also made sense to me why AIG wanted to hide who all those billions went to.
The victims not only provided the getaway car, they also helped pack the trunk, glove compartment, ashtrays and cupholders with their own cash.
Part of me wonders if there is a link between bad parenting and the current catastrophe.
Call me crazy, but if people learn that they can fuck up royally and still get bailed out, they will have zero motivation not to fuck up, especially if in the short term it makes them tons of money. This is what is incredibly aggravating about all those people saying it would be horrible to let the banks fail. Don’t they get it? If this gets unwound and people don’t lose everything and end up in jail, it will happen again and again and again.
Were these people never parents? It’s not like I want to see people suffer, but you have to have a punishment that fits the crime, and destroying the global economy warrants a bit more than losing your bonus for a year.
Haven’t had time to read all the threads yet, but has anyone seen this yet???????
I really don’t know that I can get any more outraged. And I’m not wingnut enough to turn it up to 11.
When do we get to claim them as dependents?
Plus it kind of puts the kibosh on the "OMG! They’ll sue if we don’t pay their bonuses" crapola. That ship has already sailed.
Once again I am back in "we are so totally screwed" mode. The more I understand this the more frightened and angry I become. The worst part is that I feel completely powerless.
We are not transitioning into anything that resembes a socialist economy contrary to all the bruhaha – instead we are transitioning into a feudal economy. The rich and powerful are just too rich and too powerful to be restrained in any meaningful way – and they are living off all of our peasant labor.
This is certainly no longer capitalism in any meaningful way, or by any reasonable definition.
I wonder if this is all happening now, because its long enough that the people who lived through the great depression have either passed away or retired. People who lived through that period in my experience were conservative in the good sense of the word; they saved, they avoided unnecessary expenses. Remembering what happened before, I think they would have hesitated before deregulating everything and kicking it up to 11 throwing themselves into leveraged investments that couldn’t possibly fail. I think we may be about to relearn some of those lessons.
I think you’re right. The memories of laissez fair capitalism promoted by conservative business ideology and the destruction it wrought faded, and the wingnut’s took advantage of it. I suspect it will happen again in 4O or 50 years, and somebody will again say, "we are idiots".
Here’s my take on this entire mess…
Financial institutions exist for one purpose: to match capital with investments in a free, open, transparent market. Whether that investment is a student loan, mortgage, business loan, all the way up to an IPO for a huge corporation, the point is to give money to those institutions that will take it, do something with it, and provide a return. This works out great for both parties: the family gets a house and the investor gets the interest, etc. As the middle in the transaction, the financial institutions are allowed to get a cut of the action, but they are just the conduits.
This entire problem started when instead of acting as mere conduits, financial institutions thought that they should trade money back and forth among themselves, so that at every point along the way they could take their ever-increasing pieces. Of course, this grew into a huge pyramid scheme, and it collapsed.
Now I don’t know where I got this crazy idea, but I do think that until we get regulations that force Wall Street to act like they should, this will happen again.
Note that this has nothing to do with how many millions these bankers make. That’s not the point. As long as they are efficiently directing capital to the most productive parts of the economy, they can make however damn much they want. But they are not allowed to slosh money back and forth just to get huge bonuses for themselves.
Why has the Senate reduced the bonus tax to 33%? That is less than what these people would be paying for that income in their regular taxes. Am I missing something?
Were these people never parents? It’s not like I want to see people suffer, but you have to have a punishment that fits the crime, and destroying the global economy warrants a bit more than losing your bonus for a year.
That’s not what I’m worried about, though. I’m not fretting that they may be punished too harshly by being allowed to fail. I’m worried that if they’re allowed to fail, I (we) will suffer more. I don’t care about "them". I’m interested in what happens to "not-them".
That’s why the child-rearing axiom won’t work. If you raise a bratty 13 year old, the entire world won’t pay when he or she loses her allowance. If punishing them means they don’t repeat this madness, great, but can I afford to punish them? Who pays, and how much?
I missed the blowhards tut-tutting since I’ve been heads down this week, but the bonuses are a smoke screen. The same assholes who made the AIG mess in the first place are reporting to work (well, except for the ones who took the money and ran), and are flat out failing to do any negotiation with the counter-parties with regards to payments owed. They are being paid to pass through money, rather than preserve taxpayer dollars, which makes them worth about as much as Kelly temps from where I sit. Get mad about the bonuses if you want, but be aware they are a small part of the fleecing going on.
As far as taxing the bonuses go, while I got a real chuckle out of the approach, I’m just not sure that it will pass Constitutional muster, or that even if it does that it is the best approach to the problem. I’m really more interested in appropriately re-regulating the finance sector and dismembering these "too big to fail" abominations.
@Miriam: Actually a lot of these guys pay 15% because they’ve managed to argue that their fees come from someone else’s capital, so it should be subject to capital gains tax rates.
33% is actually a tax increase. In fact, I wonder if all they are doing is closing the capital gains tax rate loop hole.
That’s curious. Maybe they are trying to cover their asses by passing something, but watering it down so low for a bargaining chip in conference to get it compromised down well below the 90% the house levied. Or maybe they’ve simply gone insane.
Because we desperately need some good news, Bernanke is at least saying some of the right things:
Perhaps the main reason AIG became such a debacle was because there was no legal framework in place between let them fail and prop them up; and since the first meant the end of the financial world as we knew it, we were suddenly stuck with paying off all the bad bets AIG had made. So this would definitely be a step in the right direction. The only other option I see is simply outlawing firms that are too big too fail.
I have reached the point where I want the government to stop pouring trillions into these companies and to instead devote whatever funding it takes to make sure that we’re taken care of. The fuckers who cooked up the deals can eat each other up. If they’re still hungry they can eat all of those financial instruments they created. The remaining banks can just be banks, the remaining insurance companies can just be insurance companies. The Masters of the Universe can just go to hell.
Not first time ever. Not even the first time from Dilbert:
Of course he missed the obvious joke by not running it on 3-14.
It must be true because it’s pie.
There’s a cherry tree that over hangs my steps leading down to the street. It’s in full bloom right now with white flowers that will turn pale pink. As the days go by, it begins releasing its petals and they flutter down like confetti.
When I pass underneath the shower of petals I feel like royalty. Utterly delightful. I can’t wait.
Oh wait…guess I’m off on a tangent here. Never mind.
Did you see Nate Silver’s comment on this? There was a lot that was legal conjecture, but the meat of it was that we tend to interpret positive outcomes as earned and negative outcomes as attributable to bad luck, and so when the market was going up and any fool could have made oodles of theoretical money in it, it was because the fools were so good at what they did, but now that it’s down it’s not the same fools’ fault at all. He said that he was skeptical that they really deserve the opprobrium they’re getting now, but he was even more skeptical that they deserved the payouts they were getting before.
Which is in sync with my own observation: pay scale is somewhat correlative with performance within a job description, but it’s even more correlative among job descriptions with proximity to the actual revenue numbers. The more you know about how much a company is making off of what you do, the more you make doing it.
Not that I know anything about this, but isn’t this what banks are supposed to do? Hedging against AIG is inherently the same thing as betting against AIG, otherwise it wouldn’t be a hedge. I thought the problem was that banks weren’t paying enough attention to counterparty risk. Now we’re criticizing banks for taking steps to mitigate counterparty risk?
would that be a Ford, a GM, or a Chrysler clown car, John?
All this depressing talk has me reaching for my Maui Wowie Girl Scout cookies.
@Miriam @ 24
I suggest you Go Galt.
@Comrade Stuck: The 35% is actually a tax on top of the standard income tax, so bonuses would be taxed at ~70%.
But that’s the thing. This is GOOD. This is SMART. This is exactly how you should expect the Masters of the Universe to handle their money. You’ll notice that BoA and Citigroup stock are hovering in the single digits while Goldman Sachs sits high and dry at nearly $100 / share BECAUSE the investors at Sachs knew how to hedge their bets and cover their loses.
Were that every bank as savvy as Goldman, we wouldn’t be forced to bail them all out. The problem with Merrill and Bear Sterns and Citi and Countrywide and the rest was that they assumed they’d found the goose that laid golden eggs in their little CDO schemes and that the money would never ever ever run out. So, given an unlimited stream of income with absolutely zero risk, they did what any sensible investor would do and invested long on it all like crazy. They didn’t hedge their bets. They didn’t ask "What happens if AIG can’t cover all the insurance claims?" They didn’t think passed the next paycheck.
Goldman might be poised to turn a substantial profit even in the face of a continuously down economy, but that’s not something to complain about so long as they plan on getting off the government teet. Given that this is exactly what they plan to do http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/04/goldman-sachs-tarp-markets-equity-0204_repayment_46.html I have a hard time complaining.
OT, but HELL YEEEAHS DAYTON FLYERS! Woot!!
Also OT, but it seems another Republican has apologized to Rush. Jim Tedisco’s campaign is amusing.
– and the perps then insist that you drive them to the airport, buy their plane ticket, carry their luggage to the check-in, and substitute for them through the metal detectors and other passenger screening areas. Just before the plane takes off they call you to remind you to feed their cat, water their plants and please pay their rent, light and phone bills. While overseas they are going to bill their luxury hotel suite to your personal credit card to the extent that you will not have any credit left. When they get back you will be broke and homeless and they will deny you a loan since you have irresponsibly over-extended yourself.
hy has the Senate reduced the bonus tax to 33%? That is less than what these people would be paying for that income in their regular taxes. Am I missing something?
weren’t you earlier telling everybody bonuses aren’t the isssue?
insist on a movie and dinner first.
Except it seems that it’s only because the government bailed out AIG that Goldman’s move was a smart one.
If AIG had failed, Goldman would be as bad off – if not worse – as Citibank and the others.
Which makes it look really, really bad for Henry Paulson, who was at Goldman when this network of idiocy was put together in the first place and just happened to also be the person who determined that AIG was "too big to fail" when he’d just decided that one of Goldman’s competitors should fail just a week before. It sure smells fishy, though I doubt given how our laws are written that he did anything that crossed from "unethical" into "illegal".
I don’t know why, but I’m getting almost a World War I vibe off this global financial mess. Something about the complex network of documentation and relationships that, in the end, pulls every fucking nation in the planet into a gigantic mess because someone assassinated the leader of a podunk Duchy off in Eastern Europe. Except here instead of an assassination, it’s the sudden discovery that a whole lot of real estate isn’t actually worth what people thought it was. Craziness.
We have something, jackass. It’s called antitrust laws. That way they never get too-big-to-fail. There shouldn’t ever be a single systemically important firm other than one owned by the US government. Still missing the plot…
The Moar You Know
@Corner Stone: I tried that. They replaced me within an hour.
They did say they’d miss how I made coffee, though. Take that, communists!
And then you put a .44 Magnum to their head and blow them away.
@Zifnab: On what alternate universe is this good? They are only going to be “fine” because we dumped hundreds of billions through TARP and other bailouts and untold trillions through the Fed.
And I am supposed to get a hard-on for their rock solid business model? Jesus christ.
something you don’t hear from media or republicans: any pressure or questioning on bernanke about when he knew about the scheduled bonuses or what he did about it. the aig ceo admitted the fed knew all about the bonuses. it’s the fed whose had oversight from the start.
We’re giving them money not just directly; we’re giving them billions through AIG. If they’re going to pay that back then I agree, there’s little to complain about.
I have been feeling this way for a couple of months. Its also similar in that many "smart" people insisted that things would never end up as bad as it has (of course Kaiser, we will finish off the French in no time and then on to conquer Russia!).
Although, in fairness, Franz Ferdinand was the Crown-Prince of Austro-Hungary, not "the leader of a podunk Duchy off in Eastern Europe."
i guess they were feeling lucky and we were the punks.
Matt Taibbi on Hardball now.
That makes some sense. On the one hand, if your bet is right, you make money. On the other hand, if your bet is wrong you’ve got it covered by a bank you know will have money.
The Great Wink and Nod Caper.
@TenguPhule: Who can afford that kind of ammo in this economy. We’ll be lucky if we can afford the stones to do the job.
Leelee for Obama
The man in the WH at the time had been taught from birth that f___ing up was a sign of privilege, and he would be bailed out at every instance. Therefore, that is how the government was run.
Another episode of "simple answers to really difficult questions."
It is good because if they did it right (who is to say) then even if AIG collapsed, the investments that GS had with them would have been covered by other parties. IOW, in the case of GS rather than taxpayers funneling them money via AIG, money would have gone to them from whoever they had hedged with – other banks, insurers, etc.
The hitch is that whoever GS was using to back up their AIG exposure themselves were probably exposed to AIG and to each other, so there’s the possibility that rather than bailing out AIG, we’d just be bailing out other players when it was all said and done. The reality is that there just aren’t enough strong players *on the planet* to cover all of the possible liabilities floating around out there, which of course is the problem that the speculative CDS market created. And this is the real failure of regulation: What happens when the bookie gets the odds wrong and commits to paying out more money than he brought in? In the case of CDS, the bookie not only committed to more money than he brought in, but more money than exists on the planet. There was nobody charged with looking at this situation and saying "Hey, you know, this might become a problem…" and the market will never do that because of the law of last man out. No matter how rickety the market may be, so long as you get out right before it collapses, it’s not your problem.
That’s actually the hitch in the plan. Not knowing who GS hedged with, the bank may not have had the money after all. But it was a better plan than most if we take them at their word. (I don’t, for the record)
@Rick Taylor: We’re supposed to get that back through AIG. And given that AIG’s non-hedge fund branches continued to perform reasonably well, that’s not beyond the realm of belief.
@John Cole: Goldman Sachs was bad off, but not so bad off that Warren Buffet didn’t think it wise to sweep in and buy them up. The money we lent Goldman will almost certainly be paid back. And the money they received on their AIG insurance policies which was received via TARP dollars should be paid back when the non-insane branches of AIG’s business can recover from the insane loses.
But if we hadn’t put forward financial rescue packages like the TARP and the Bear Sterns bailout, Goldman wouldn’t have been the only bank to crater. BoA would have collapsed. JPMorgan would have been mortally wounded. Wells Fargo would have taken massive loses. The FDIC would have been on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars. The LIBOR would have gone through the roof and international trade would have come to a screeching halt.
The bailout (theoretically) saved thousands of businesses big and small because it preserved the financial sector as a whole. Saying that Goldman would have been dead in the water without a bailout is somewhat hollow. Millions of jobs were on the hook. Goldman just happened to be closer to the center of ground zero.
The fact that they were properly hedged and invested should give you a bit of wood. They’ve maintained market value and preserved their little corner of the economy by properly gauging the risk that AIG was taking on. Had AIG itself been as far thinking as Goldman, maybe it wouldn’t be in the shithole it finds itself.
I mean, what are you saying? "Gee, I wish Goldman Sachs HADN’T been hedged and had taken and even bigger financial hit so we’d be required to shovel billions more into yet another catastrophically collapsing business." Would you have preferred they join in the "We’re too big to fail" chorus line?
@Zifnab: No, I’m saying that no matter what, we still had to spend trillions to rescue the whole shitpile.
I don’t understand. If AIG paid Goldman Sachs because of the loss of value of securities that were insured, why would they eventually return it?
He turns up on the street in a garbage bag a few days later. In several pieces.
@John Cole: Save that for a better occasion.
Yes, because the only people who are hardworking is in the financial sector.
Yeah, really – the last thing I want to think about is JC’s package.
What I don’t understand, though, is if Goldman was covered by their bets against AIG, why did Paulson and Co make it imperative that AIG get bailed out? Was it just to transfer wealth from the taxpayers to Goldman instead of from Goldman’s counter party to Goldman?
@Rome Again: Ehhh, its an abstract concept without roots in any real image.
OTOH, I could post the link to the picture of Dig Cheney’s junk again.
"Save that for a better occasion." ~ JL
Christ. Do you think one of the front pagers could snap out of their stupors and post a Friday night/Tourney open thread of some sort? My Trojans are playing!
I heard some asshole from Goldman today on NPR trying to say that we should be happy it got the $13B via AIG, because the Govt. loaned it money too, and it was important that Goldman be healthy so that it could pay the money back to the Feds. Oh, and it’s also good for Goldman’s shareholders (not to mention management). Gee whiz, a fuckin ‘ "win-win strategy" for all of us!
The top tier of our financial system should be broken up and Balkanized so that these bastards are never able to exercise such control again. Think Nazi Germany after WWII.
What Goldman did was called "knitting". You buy your insurance low and then sell it at a higher rate to another third party. The idea was this stuff is AAA rated anyway and it can’t fail, but no matter what you have your bets covered and make millions for nothing. If the unthinkable happens you have your counterparty to take the damage.
I’ve heard it described like mountain climbers tying themselves together so if one falls he gets saved by the others. This is at the heart of understanding all this bullshit. That’s why this had to be done. They had created this nest where if you pull the wrong string the whole thing unravels. When the credit market seized it was because everyone was trying to figure out who was actually on the hook for all this and it’s such a complicated mess with counterparties going out in every direction no one wanted to move.
In the olden days, folks rose within the ranks. Now a days the best and brightest become the head of a major corporation without any knowledge of the business and write up a contract that if they fail they can walk away with 200 million. (think of Nardelli with Home Depot. Actually more egregious was his HR person who was allowed to leave the company with an extra 50 million if Nardelli was let go )
The best and brightest have become the poker players that you can watch on late night TV.
@JL: WTF I did not write about sh***oes or so.c.i.a.l.i.sm why am I in moderation…
That article is fantastic, but God what a mess.
Everybody involved in the bailout is compromised. Head of TARP? Goldman. Treasury sec? Goldman. AIG head? Goldman. All good buddies. They all need to fired and replaced with more impartial actors. Could the bailout be staffed from academia?
Wouldn’t Krugman step up?
Yeah, it’s like car thieves complaining cause they hafta work nights.