Why Was Goldman Invited to the AIG Bailout Party?

Recently by Matt Taibbi: The Best Goldman Apology Yet

During the week of the A.I.G. bailout alone, Mr. Paulson and Mr. Blankfein spoke two dozen times, the calendars show, far more frequently than Mr. Paulson did with other Wall Street executives.

On Sept. 17, the day Mr. Paulson secured his waivers, he and Mr. Blankfein spoke five times. Two of the calls occurred before Mr. Paulson’s waivers were granted.

via During Crisis, Paulson’s Calls to Goldman Posed Ethics Test — NYTimes.com.

I spoke with someone who was in the Fed offices the whole weekend prior to the AIG bailout, a government official, and he poses an interesting question. Aside from the Fed, the Treasury, and the New York State Department of Insurance, the main players involved in the AIG bailout that weekend were AIG (obviously), JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs. There were swarms of bankers from the latter three banks there that weekend, poring over AIG’s books, trying to figure out if AIG could be rescued without government help.

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Now, we know why AIG was there, obviously. Morgan Stanley was there representing the Treasury (it had been hired to advise the Treasury on the bailouts by Paulson during the Fannie/Freddie mess, with the rumor being that it was the only bank willing to give up market positions that would have left it too conflicted to do the work). JP Morgan we know was there because AIG had hired them weeks before to come in and try to clean up its messes. Only Goldman Sachs did not have an official role at these proceedings.

So why was Goldman there? And why was Paulson calling Goldman two dozen times that week? This is one of the other problems with Gasparino’s account (u201Cof course” Blankfein was there that weekend, he says, not telling us why this is so obvious). I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an official explanation for why Goldman was there that weekend; the ostensible explanation that most people seem to accept is that Goldman naturally was there because it was such a large counterparty to AIG.

But I suspect we’re going to find that Paulson was not on the phone two dozen times with executives from Deutsche Bank or Societe Generale or Barclays or Calyon, all of whom were significant counterparties to AIG as well. Goldman was not even AIG’s largest counterparty in the sec-lending wing of its business (Deutsche Bank was, and would eventually receive $7 billion via the bailout as a result), and yet as far as I know there were no Deutsche reps there that weekend at all. So what made Goldman special?

This is a good question, I think.

This article originally appeared on True/Slant and is reprinted with permission.

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