Where Did the Money Go?

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Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has resisted calls from Congress that he release the names of the banks that were recipients of the bailout money the Fed gave to AIG to prevent it from collapsing. AIG insured its counterparties against losses from mortgage-backed derivatives. The Fed poured $85 billion into AIG, which paid out $37.3 billion of that money to counterparties that had purchased a certain type of derivative-based protection from AIG, called multi-sector credit default swaps.

The counterparties have never been disclosed but the Wall Street Journal reported that they included Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, UBS and Deutsche Bank.

AIG and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York have unwound many of these contracts. To do this, they offered to buy the CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) that were originally insured by those agreements. The counterparties sold these assets at a discount, but were compensated in full in return for allowing AIG to extricate itself from the obligations. The counterparties also got to keep the $37.3 billion in collateral, according to the Wall Street Journal.

While Bear Stearns was collapsing, Goldman Sachs boasted that it had insulated itself by buying insurance against the mortgage-backed derivatives. As it turns out, it was, in fact, rescued by the Fed when it bailed out AIG. In 2007, Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs’ CEO, received $70 million in compensation, including bonuses, $27 million in cash. A Democrat, he contributed $7,000 to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. At the time the New York Fed came to AIG’s assistance, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner was its head. Blankfein is still drawing down millions in compensation. The rationale for his compensation is the alleged profitability of Goldman Sachs, which raked in over $9 billion in 2006. It should also be noted that the bailout stopped Goldman stock from plummeting, thereby protecting not only Blankfein’s fortune, but that of Hank Paulson, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs, who was Secretary of the Treasury under George W. Bush. This is perhaps the greatest financial scandal in American history but most Americans are totally ignorant of it.

On top of this, the AIG bailout enabled John Thain to pay out billions in bonuses while he headed Merrill Lynch, just prior to its sale to Bank of America, a recipient of billions of bailout money, this while the unemployment rate is headed towards ten percent and the market collapse has caused losses in the trillions. Were the names of the banks made officially public, there would be cries of outrage so loud as to be deafening, making any further bailouts dubious for political reasons. And while Bernanke has said that he would not permit the big banks to fail, the looting of America by some of the richest and most powerful people, such as Blankfein and Thain, goes on, with no end in sight. Pandit the bandit now says Citigroup is profitable, enabling its stock to rise above a dollar, generating a temporary euphoria in the market. The cheers going up on CNBC can be heard all the way to Warren Buffett’s coffers. And American tax payers are not only bailing out the American banks, they are also bailing out Europe. What suckers!

Richard Cummings [send him mail] taught international law at the Haile Selassie I University and before that, was Attorney-Advisor with the Office of General Counsel of the Near East South Asia region of U.S.A.I.D, where he was responsible for the legal work pertaining to the aid program in Israel, Jordan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is the author of a new novel, The Immortalists, as well as The Pied Piper — Allard K. Lowenstein and the Liberal Dream, and the comedy, Soccer Moms From Hell. He holds a Ph.D. in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University and is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers. He is writing a new book, The Road To Baghdad — The Money Trail Behind The War In Iraq. He is a contributing editor for The American Conservative.

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