Daily Archives: January 24, 2009

What are these bankers thinking?

It appears that former Goldman Sachs executive John Thain forgot the lessons of teamwork and humility that were a part of the Goldman culture when he moved to Merrill Lynch. With the allegations that he spent $1.2 million on re-furbishing his personal office, he looks more like the felon Dennis Kozlowski of Tyco fame who once spent thousands of shareholders money on a dog-shaped umbrella stand!

With taxpayers spending hundreds of billions to rescue the banking system, outrage is surely justified.

But outrage is not policy….and it is policy that this crisis needs. It is becoming increasingly clear that we need to nationalize the banks to insure that the necessary reforms take place under the scrutiny of the public. In fact, that may be the only way to avoid the collapse of the system: if we try to buy the bad bank assets then it could cause a re-pricing downward of remaining assets. It also means the government gets the lemons while the banks keep the profitable assets.

Nationalization is only the first step – the second has to be a new system of governance including public trustees placed on the boards of our key banks so that we can insure that savings are allocated safely to those areas of the economy that need the money and can invest it wisely to create jobs and develop new useful technologies.

While discussion of nationalization has now surfaced in the pages of the Financial Times and today in the New York Times, one fears that the Geithner/Volker/Summers team will move too slowly to discard failed models.