A brutal report issued Monday by a government watchdog holds Timothy Geithner — then the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and now the nation’s Treasury Secretary — responsible for overpayments that put billions of extra tax dollars in the coffers of major Wall Street firms, most notably Goldman Sachs.
The authoritative new narrative describes how, while bailing out insurance giant AIG last fall, a team led by Geithner failed nearly every step of the way.
Instead of bargaining with AIG’s numerous counterparties to resolve its billions of dollars in souring derivatives contracts, Geithner’s team ended up paying top dollar for toxic assets — "an amount far above their market value at the time," the report notes.
"There is no question that the effect of FRBNY’s decisions — indeed, the very design of the federal assistance to AIG — was that tens of billions of dollars of Government money was funneled inexorably and directly to AIG’s counterparties," the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said.
Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Wachovia got full value for their derivatives contracts with AIG, and taxpayers got the bill. In total, $27.1 billion of public money was transferred to companies that did business with AIG…
As Goldman Sachs put it in a press release last March, the bank had "no material direct economic exposure" to AIG.
Well, it depends on what you mean by "material direct economic exposure."
In a report issued earlier this week, TARP special inspector general Neil Barofsky took a shot at Goldman’s claim that it was insulated against AIG’s demise. While, the report’s language is arcane, the message is simple: if AIG had gone under, Goldman Sachs would have had significant difficulty trying to collect on the the derivatives bets it placed with other banks in order to offset potential AIG losses.