From the WSJ 28 APR 2009:
Mr. Lewis has told investigators for New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo that in December Mr. Paulson threatened him not to cancel a deal to buy Merrill Lynch. BofA had discovered billions of dollars in undisclosed Merrill losses, and Mr. Lewis was considering invoking his rights under a material adverse condition clause to kill the merger. But Washington decided that America's financial system couldn't withstand a Merrill failure, and that BofA had to risk its own solvency to save it. So then-Treasury Secretary Paulson, who says he was acting at the direction of Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke, told Mr. Lewis that the feds would fire him and his board if they didn't complete the deal.
Mr. Paulson told Mr. Lewis that the government would provide cash from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to help BofA swallow Merrill. But since the government didn't want to reveal this new federal investment until after the merger closed, Messrs. Paulson and Bernanke rejected Mr. Lewis's request to get their commitment in writing.
"We do not want a disclosable event," Mr. Lewis says Mr. Paulson told him. "We do not want a public disclosure." Imagine what would happen to a CEO who said that.
After getting the approval of his board, Mr. Lewis executed the Paulson-Bernanke order without informing his shareholders of the material events taking place at Merrill. The merger closed on January 1. But investors and taxpayers had to wait weeks to learn that the government had invested another $20 billion plus loan portfolio insurance in BofA, and that Merrill had lost a staggering $15 billion in the last three months of 2008.
This was the second time in three months that Washington had forced Bank of America to take federal money. In his testimony to the New York AG's office, Mr. Lewis noted that an earlier TARP investment in his bank had a "dilutive effect" on existing shareholders and was not requested by BofA. "We had not sought any funds. We were taking 15 [billion dollars] at the request of Hank [Paulson] and others," Mr. Lewis testified.
The government strong-armed Bank of America with threats, intimidation and then wanted that held secret from the public so that Bank of America would absorb the insolvent and money-losing Merrill organization. By what authority did Paulson and Bernanke have to do that? It is NOT an area where the Constitution gives any power to Congress or the President. Not one single word on forcing private institutions taking government funds with threats if they don't.
And that wasn't even the first time that happened.
The article ends with:
The political class has spent the last few months blaming bankers for everything that has gone wrong in the financial system, and no doubt many banks have earned public scorn. But Washington has been complicit every step of the way, from the Fed's easy money to the nurturing of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and since last autumn with regulatory and Congressional panic that is making financial repair that much harder. The men who nearly ruined Bank of America have some explaining to do.
Then there is this from Larry Kudlow at National Review Online, 27 APR 2009:
What is going on in this country? The government is about to take over GM in a plan that completely screws private bondholders and favors the unions. Get this: The GM bondholders own $27 billion and they’re getting 10 percent of the common stock in an expected exchange. And the UAW owns $10 billion of the bonds and they’re getting 40 percent of the stock. Huh? Did I miss something here? And Uncle Sam will have a controlling share of the stock with something close to 50 percent ownership. And no bankruptcy judge. So this is a political restructuring run by the White House, not a rule-of-law bankruptcy-court reorganization.
Meanwhile, top Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett opened the door wide on CNN yesterday to bank nationalization and CEO firings. Unfortunately, my take that the economic stress tests are a political stalking horse for more government ownership, more government control of the banks, and more government disruption of shareholder rights and normal corporate governance looks to be coming true.
Then there’s today’s huge New York Times story about Tim Geithner. It starts on the front page and goes on and on for thousands of words. Yes, he missed early signs of the crisis. But he was altogether too cozy with the New York banks, especially Citibank — and Robert Rubin along with Sandy Weill. In fact, at one point Weill asked Geithner to be Citi’s new CEO. And Geithner joined the board of a Weill-run non-profit to help inner-city high-school students. There were numerous lunches and dinners with Rubin and Weill and other Wall Street luminaries.
No, the Times article doesn’t mention Geithner’s failure to pay back taxes until just before he was nominated for Treasury secretary. But it seems that at this point in history we need a strong, credible, and independent TARP and bank regulator.
Actually, at this point, I don't want any government involvement in the banks AT ALL. See that Bank of America problem? Now imagine that the government DOES nationalize it and a few others... and decides that secret meetings are the way to go. Just like they have ALREADY done with public funds.
Over at Bloomberg on 27 APR 2009, Jonathan Weil sums up the banking insanity with the following:
It would be nice to think that SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro might call for a sincere, thorough investigation. But there’s nothing in her professional background that suggests she has the spine or the nerve to take on a major financial institution, much less a former Treasury secretary or the sitting Fed chairman.
We probably won’t get any searching inquiries out of the banking industry’s elected overseers in Congress. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd took V.I.P. loans from Countrywide Financial Corp., now a subsidiary of Bank of America. His counterpart in the House, Barney Frank, declared last July that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were “not in danger of going under,” about two months before they did.
That leaves you and me, the American public, with the uncomfortable realization that we are slipping toward a state of lawlessness in this country, all in the name of saving our financial system by creating even bigger banks out of combinations of banks that were dangerously too big already. This doesn’t inspire confidence. It destroys it.
We can have our freedom. Or we can have our systemically failure-prone financial institutions. We probably can’t have both.
Yes, Chris Dodd's old friends at Countrywide got to be part of Bank of America, not that he had any interest in them due to the special interest loans he has gotten from them. Heaven forbid that he be seen as CORRUPT from taking loans that you and I couldn't get from a bank that is part of his OVERSIGHT duties.
And Barney Frank is famous at the top of the housing bubble saying that its not a bubble and that everything will be peachy, really, and that economics will always prop up loans to people who can't repay them... just like the legislation he fostered said it would do. And that Fannie and Freddie weren't giving ENOUGH money backed by the federal government out. Which is OUR money backing them. Don't mind all the lovely lobbying and money donated to his campaigns by these government authorized institutions... no don't mind the possibility for corruption there, where brown-nosing sycophants to politicians get plumb jobs for lots of money as payback for past support. That could never look BAD, now, could it?
No, that just couldn't ever happen.
I mean those Hamiltonians are really upset that such 'limited' work of the government turns into State direction of corporations and banks via intimidation, threats and promises of plumb jobs for supporting them. I mean no BAD could ever come of Teddy Roosevelt's 'expansive' view of powers for those in office, now, could it?
Hamilton, himself, always saw the US as needing a restricted monarchy with an aristocratic elite to guide it... yes, he did step away from that, but the warnings were stark and clear at the time of the Founding of the Constitution. It has taken over two centuries to so corrupt the process, so water down the restrictions that our very liberty is now at stake against our government. This will not last long. A government directing businesses will fail. Either internally by lack of support and bearing new citizens into a Nannystate, as seen in modern Europe, or via corruption on a massive scale, as seen in the USSR, or by slow decohesion of government and attempting to prop up 'preferred' businesses by bad loans as seen in Japan, South Korea, and now China and the USA.
The authoritarian and, indeed, despotic stances taken by those in 'regulatory' positions is clear: they are anti-democratic, anti-liberty and seek to suppress vital information that the public demands for open and above-board operations in its government. State secrets to protect the Nation flow out like water, and we are now far less protected than before. Information that shows support for expansive government control is kept secret, thus extending that control. And with that the corruption spreads further as politicians feast upon the public treasury for their own supporters and then require more payments to feed their appetites as an aristocracy always does.
What is it called when government tells businesses what to do, decides if you get to have any private property or any information at all when government is at work?
That is very simple, and yet so many have loaded this concept down that few dare speak it.
It is called: Fascism.
Plain and simple... not with a little moustache. And everything done to centralize power, be it health care or some 'mandatory volunteerism' or a 'civilian protection force' that will be the size of DoD or deciding how much of GDP should be put into R&D... these are not hallmarks of a Free Land. Just the opposite.
Americans are founded against such despotism, have fought against it and instinctively recognize the poison, no matter how much sugar surrounds it.