Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Tired of the Status Quo. Tim Geithner Must Go.

Well over a year after the federal government weighed in with trillions of dollars to "rescue" our economy from the financial crisis, nothing has really changed. If anything, the issues that helped to collapse the economy are bigger than ever, and the only people prospering right now are the same people who caused this catastrophe, while the rest of us continue to suffer from their actions. We can no longer afford to let tax-dodging, Goldman Sachs/Wall Street insiders (the predator class) to take the financial helm and drive this country and world into another disaster, possibly much worse than September 2008.

It's time for Tim Geithner to go. He was still president of the New York Fed in the fall of 2008 when it rescued AIG with public money (now totaling $180 billion) and the facts are starting to catch up with him now, and those facts seriously raise doubts about his competence and his public integrity.

Perhaps the most explosive revelation is that Geithner's subordinates at the New York Fed instructed AIG executives to evade securities law and conceal from the public the $62 billion the insurance company paid out on contracts with the largest investment houses and banks. AIG was already bankrupt and 80 percent owned by the government, kept afloat solely with the billions being injected by the central bank. Yet the Fed told the company to pay off the bankers at full value—100 percent on the dollar—without negotiating a better deal for the public. The bankers would not have collected a dime if the government hadn't come to the rescue.

The Fed, other words, gave the largest, most prestigious banks a very sweet deal—much sweeter than anything the banks or the federal government will offer to homeowners facing mortgage foreclosure. The central bank, in effect, was operating a backdoor bank bailout that nobody could see. The public billions devoted to AIG went in one door at the insurance company and came out another door to the private banks. Goldman Sachs alone collected $13 billion.

Failure to disclose is a big no-no in corporate finance. People can go to jail if they willfully withhold material information from shareholders and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), or they may be sued for investor fraud. Yet that is what the New York Fed told AIG to do. The company officers wanted to report fully to the SEC. Their Fed overseers told them to take out the disclosure out of their report to the SEC (the facts were ultimately not disclosed until five months later). The Fed, remember, is the government's principal banking regulator. It is supposed to enforce the laws, not tell regulated firms to break them.

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