Blankfein. Steel. Thain. Paulson. Kashkari. See a pattern? The Goldman Sachs “conspiracy” to take over the U.S. financial system.
The Conspiracy, Exposed
by Matthew Malone
From the A.I.G. bailout to the ban on short selling, how Goldman Sachs figures have played a role in Wall Street's biggest stories of 2008. Read More
Wall Street bankers who’ve spent any time in the business often find they suffer from “Goldman Sachs envy”—a bitter mix of resentment and begrudging admiration for the firm’s seemingly endless list of triumphs. It thrived while others struggled, and even if competitors were succeeding, Goldman always one-upped them. It sealed bigger deals, showered its executives with more money, and placed its powerful alumni in higher levels of government.
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.
When we asked the participants about their roles in the alleged conspiracy, some didn’t appreciate the joke. Goldman said that such claims are ludicrous. In fact, a spokesman said that the firm is at a disadvantage, since its alums must go out of their way to avoid the appearance of favoritism. Geithner, Paulson, the S.E.C., and others also dismissed the theories.
But for those who believe in smoky back rooms and secret handshakes, here’s what your fellow theorists are whispering. Read with the lights on.
ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- Two mind-numbing fast-paced dramas. Two parallel worlds. One real, one fiction, both deadly. Jack Bauer, mythic hero of "24." Dying from a deadly bio-pathogen leaked from weapons developed by Starkwood, a rogue mercenary army attacking the presidency, hell-bent on taking over America.
The other drama in play: "Hank the Hammer" Paulson, iconic Wall Street hero, a Trojan Horse placed inside Washington by Goldman Sachs as Treasury Secretary in control of America's $15 trillion economy. Goldman, a modern dynasty with vast financial powers much like those once used by the de' Medici, Rothschilds and Morgans to control nations.
Video: Is a correction imminent?
One of the confounding aspects of bear market rallies is that the longer they last, the more likely investors are to expect a correction, says Barron's Bob O'Brien.Both dramas play high-stakes games with financial WMDs that have lethal consequences. Jack compresses thrills, kills and chills into 24 hours. Hank, Goldman and their army of Wall Street mercenaries move with equally blinding speed, heart-pounding action.
Drama? You bet. Six short months ago Hank 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.
Scene 2. Huge conflicts motivating Wall Street's 'Trojan Horse'
And just in case you think any emphasis on The Hammer's conflict of interest was invented purely to increase drama, please remember that he worked at Goldman for three decades after serving under Nixon. He got $38 million his last year as CEO in 2006 before becoming Treasury Secretary.
Then during the market meltdown six months ago the $700 million personal fortune he built at Goldman was threatened by Goldman's huge $20 billion derivatives exposure at AIG: Suddenly his responsibilities at Treasury merged with a strong self-interest in protecting his personal fortune. AIG was "saved."
Scene 3. Wall Street's 'quiet coup' also runs world's banking system
There's another equally disturbing expose in "The Quiet Coup," Simon Johnson's great article in Atlantic magazine. A former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, Johnson also warns that America's "financial industry has effectively captured our government" and is "blocking essential reform."
Worse, he says that unless we break Wall Street's stranglehold (unlikely in the new Washington) we will be unable "to prevent a true depression," warning that "we're running out of time," echoing many of our predictions of the "Great Depression II" coming soon. See previous Paul B. Farrell.
Scene 4. Wall Street used the meltdown to take over America's government
Matt Taibbi, author of "The Great Derangement," captured this drama in a Rolling Stone piece, "The Big Takeover, how Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution." A must-read: "As complex as all the finances are, the politics aren't hard to follow. By creating a crisis that can only be solved by those fluent in a language too complex for ordinary people to understand, the Wall Street crowd has turned the vast majority of Americans into non-participants in their own political future. ... in the age of CDS and CBO, most of us are financial illiterates."
Wall Street "used the crisis to effect a historic, revolutionary change in our political system -- transforming a democracy into a two-tiered state, one with plugged-in financial bureaucrats above and clueless customers below."
Scene 5. How Obama is keeping alive Bush's 'disaster capitalism'
Back in 2007 at the start of the meltdown, Hank was misleading us in Fortune: "This is far and away the strongest global economy I've seen in my business lifetime." In the real world, Naomi Klein, author of "The Shock Doctrine: Rise of Disaster Capitalism," was warning us that "during boom times it's profitable to preach laissez faire, because an absentee government allows speculative bubbles."
But "when those bubbles burst, the ideology becomes a hindrance and goes dormant while big government rides to the rescue." Then, free-market "ideology will come roaring back when the bailouts are done. The massive debts the public is accumulating to bail out the speculators will then become part of a global budget crisis." TARP paybacks: Obama has a new "disaster capitalism."
Scene 6. Wall Street's CEOs rule like dictators in a banana republic
Seriously, here's how bad Taibbi sees it: "Paulson and his cronies turned the federal government into one gigantic half-opaque holding company, one whose balance sheet includes the world's most appallingly large and risky hedge fund, a controlling interest in a dying insurance giant, huge investments in a group of teetering megabanks, and shares here and there in various auto-finance companies, student loans, and other failing business."
And let's include $5.5 trillion in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Wall Street's greed and stupidity resembles the self-destructive reigns of banana republic dictators.
Scene 7. Wall Street makes an un-American bet on 'disaster capitalism'
Today as you ponder buying some Goldman stock, remember, you're really betting that "disaster capitalism" is back, strong, tightening its stranglehold on Washington and on the American taxpayers, who will guarantee all Wall Street's future failures. Yes, this is un-American, but so what?
The "Goldman Conspiracy" is still probably a good short-term buy ... if you're interested in betting on America's new "democracy of capitalists, by capitalists, and for capitalists," with "The Conspiracy" leading the joint chiefs of this new mercenary army ... and it only took six short months for their "Quiet Coup!"
Scene 8. Banks recycle TARP money, pump earnings, cheat America
Here's how it worked: The Hammer conned a clueless Congress, then shelled out $350 billion of our taxpayer money (Helicopter Ben Bernanke helped by upping the ante with a couple trillion side-bet), buying toxic debt to save his ol' Wall Street buddies. They stopped lending and used the dough to doctor their balance sheets.
So no surprise that Goldman, Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan Chase are now reporting "blockbuster" first-quarter earnings, says the New York Times, while just months ago "many of the nation's biggest banks were on life support."
Get it? They screwed taxpayers and borrowers so they can repay TARP with (you guessed it) our recycled TARP money. Now it's back to business-as-usual, with no restrictions on CEO pay and bonuses ... no thank-yous ... no admissions of guilt ... while some even arrogantly deny that they ever needed TARP money.
Scene 9. Wall Street's already set the stage for new disaster
Right after the election in November, at the peak of the banking crisis, when Hank, Goldman and the Wall Street mercenary armies were divvying up the $350 billion TARP money, we detailed 30 reasons for the "Great Depression II" likely coming around 2011. We quoted John Whitehead, former Goldman Sachs chairman, former chairman of the New York Fed, former Reagan deputy secretary of state. He warned America's problems will take years, burn trillions, result in massive deficits:
"This is a road to disaster," he said. "I've always been a positive person and optimistic, but I don't see a solution here." He did see a depression at the end of that road, one you can call the "Great Depression II."
Scene 10. Obama turned 'The Goldman Conspiracy' into a superpower
Do you see the parallels: Jack and Starkwood, Hank and Goldman? Jack's a great mythic hero. We need to believe a hero will defend the little guy, stand between us and total annihilation. But Jack Bauer's "dead." Yes, dead. Jack's not real. Never was "alive." Jack's a fiction, a figment of Main Street America's vivid imagination, the symbol of "hope" for a populist revolution. Hope that Jack, Barack or some other new hero will emerge, take power back from Wall Street and return it to the people.
Unfortunately that won't happen, folks. Yes, on TV Jack will come back from near-death, again. But in real life, Hank, Goldman and Wall Street's mercenaries are winning the war. Read and weep Portfolio's chilling finale: "Obama's victory and Geithner's appointment are the completion of Goldman's meticulously crafted plan to become a superpower. The firm now has the clout to impose its will on the financial markets, and the world."
GOP or Dems? Conservatives or liberals? It doesn't matter. We'll all controlled by "The Conspiracy." So why not surrender, let them have the power? The truth is, through their lobbyists and surrogates in Washington, they already rule America. Surrender is a mere formality.
Accept reality. Hold them accountable later. After the next crisis. After the next meltdown of disaster capitalism -- if there's anything left after the "Great Depression II" sweeps like a pandemic across the planet, consuming all economies, for a long time. But for now, Goldman and other banks may well be short-term buys. Just be ready to dump them in the near future ... a scenario that will be here sooner than you think.