WASHINGTON — In 2006 and 2007, Goldman Sachs Group peddled more than $40 billion in securities backed by at least 200,000 risky home mortgages, but never told the buyers it was secretly betting that a sharp drop in U.S. housing prices would send the value of those securities plummeting.You should read the whole story, but if you just can't quite find the time, this, from later in the article, should serve as an effective summary (emphasis mine):
Goldman's sales and its clandestine wagers, completed at the brink of the housing market meltdown, enabled the nation's premier investment bank to pass most of its potential losses to others before a flood of mortgage defaults staggered the U.S. and global economies.
McClatchy's inquiry found that Goldman Sachs:
- Bought and converted into high-yield bonds tens of thousands of mortgages from subprime lenders that became the subjects of FBI investigations into whether they'd misled borrowers or exaggerated applicants' incomes to justify making hefty loans.
- Used offshore tax havens to shuffle its mortgage-backed securities to institutions worldwide, including European and Asian banks, often in secret deals run through the Cayman Islands, a British territory in the Caribbean that companies use to bypass U.S. disclosure requirements.
- Has dispatched lawyers across the country to repossess homes from bankrupt or financially struggling individuals, many of whom lacked sufficient credit or income but got subprime mortgages anyway because Wall Street made it easy for them to qualify.
- Was buoyed last fall by key federal bailout decisions, at least two of which involved then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a former Goldman chief executive whose staff at Treasury included several other Goldman alumni.The firm benefited when Paulson elected not to save rival Lehman Brothers from collapse, and when he organized a massive rescue of tottering global insurer American International Group while in constant telephone contact with Goldman chief Blankfein. With the Federal Reserve Board's blessing, AIG later used $12.9 billion in taxpayers' dollars to pay off every penny it owed Goldman.
These decisions preserved billions of dollars in value for Goldman's executives and shareholders. For example, Blankfein held 1.6 million shares in the company in September 2008, and he could have lost more than $150 million if his firm had gone bankrupt.
With the help of more than $23 billion in direct and indirect federal aid, Goldman appears to have emerged intact from the economic implosion, limiting its subprime losses to $1.5 billion. By repaying $10 billion in direct federal bailout money — a 23 percent taxpayer return that exceeded federal officials' demand — the firm has escaped tough federal limits on 2009 bonuses to executives of firms that received bailout money.
Goldman announced record earnings in July, and the firm is on course to surpass $50 billion in revenue in 2009 and to pay its employees more than $20 billion in year-end bonuses.
That $20 billion in year-end bonuses? You (and I) quite literally helped pay for that. And not symbolically. Actual dollars you paid as taxes are ending up as bonuses for those Goldman execs.
Maybe it would feel better to think of it as part of the holiday season's spirit of giving.
I know it's becoming something of a tiresome mantra here, but these are the people who own our government (and, by extension, our country). It's getting to the point where they're not even bothering to try to hide it. Keep that in mind when we eventually see what health care "reform" will actually consist of.