Thursday, August 6, 2009

August 6,2009/1

Now, inevitably, comes the argument as to how badly off Goldman Sachs was last fall when it converted to bank status and took TARP funds. You can read one view here.
The other side of the debate is articulated by Heidi N.Moore on Twitter passim. (@moorehn).
The odd part is that the "wasn't in straits" argument is based on statements coming from within GS. So was TARP forced on them or not? Knowing something of Goldman's moral history and traditions, and the firm's almost supernatural ability to plumb for and cost out regulatory loopholes and preferences, my money's on the "not in trouble" side. Taking TARP money opened up the discount window without obliging GS to undertake bothersome conventional banking practices. If you factor in what appear to be celestial returns on capital since last fall, the blended cost of TARP plus Fed/FDIC "free money" looks quite bearable. Same for the Buffett deal, which also put America's beloved financier, even if the largest stockholder of one of the principal enablers of "financial weapons of mass destruction" (Moody's), in the GS camp. It'll be interesting to see how WB deals with the GS investment in his next letter to stockholders. In the last one, he barely mentioned Moody's.
Since highly-placed people at GS now deny the firm was "near death" (see here) the government agencies involved with GS at the time will presumably come forward to confirm or deny "the Goldman Version." This should be a centerpiece of any investigation of the bailout. Paulson should be subpoenaed.

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