Andrew Hamlin 11 a.m., March 14
Geithner Caves in to Blackmail; Participants in Financial Rescue Package Won't Have Pay Limits
Sunday evening (March 22), President Obama uttered some intelligent words: Wall Street was overpaid, he said, noting that 25 years ago, Wall Streeters made 20 times what teachers make, and now it's 200 times (an understatement, but who's counting?Then the administration laid out its plans for getting rid of trillions of dollars of toxic assets held by banks. (One way is to change the name from "toxic" assets to "legacy" assets, but that's another story.) The administration bragged, falsely, that private sector participants such as hedge funds and private equity groups would take risk when they bought such assets. Nope. Because of the government's non-recourse loans, private sector investors would pick up only 15 percent of the risk. The stock market roared upward today; one analyst called it a "free money rally." Amen. But here's the blackmail: as soon as Treasury Secretary Geithner revealed the program, Wall Street firms said they wouldn't participate unless the government guaranteed that it would not set compensation limits on the firms. That is, the Wall Street moguls want to continue making $50 million to $1 billion a year. Geithner capitulated today and said any participants in the program would not be subject to pay limits, unless they were already subject to such limitations as recipients of TARP funds .But how many participants of TARP funds would be buying others' toxic assets anyway? They're trying to get rid of their own. Bottom line, the private sector participants in this program take no risk with the money they put up, and can keep bringing home obscene pay. Hopefully, there will be a populist outrage to this deal that dwarfs the indignation over A.I.G. bonuses.