October 3, 2008

STORIES THE MEDIA DIDN'T TELL YOU: HANK PAULSON'S BACKGROUND

Tom Ely, World Socialist - In 1970, fresh from the Masters program of the Harvard Business School, Paulson entered the Nixon administration, working first as staff assistant to the assistant secretary of defense. In 1972-73, Paulson worked as office assistant to John Erlichman, assistant to the president for domestic affairs. Erlichman was one of the key figures involved in organizing President Richard Nixon's notorious "plumbers" unit that carried out illegal covert operations against the president's political opponents, including espionage, blackmail, and revenge. Ehlichman resigned in 1973, and in 1975 he was convicted of obstruction of justice, perjury, and conspiracy, and was imprisoned for 18 months.

Utilizing his connections, Paulson went to work for Goldman Sachs in 1974. In a 2007 feature, the British newspaper the Guardian wrote, "Not only was he well connected enough to get the job [in the Nixon White House], but well connected enough to resign in the thick of the Watergate scandal without ever getting caught up in the fallout. He went straight to Goldman back home in Illinois."

Paulson rose through the ranks of Goldman Sachs, becoming a partner in 1982, co-head of investment banking in 1990, chief operating officer in 1994. In 1998 he forced out his co-chairman Jon Corzine "in what amounted to a coup," according to New York Times economics correspondent Floyd Norris, and took over the post of CEO.

Goldman Sachs is perhaps the single best-connected Wall Street firm. Its executives routinely go in and out of top government posts. Corzine went on to become US senator from New Jersey and is now the state's governor. Corzine's predecessor, Stephen Friedman, served in the Bush administration as assistant to the president for economic policy and as chairman of the National Economic Council. Friedman's predecessor as Goldman Sachs CEO, Robert Rubin, served as chairman of the NEC and later treasury secretary under Bill Clinton.

Agence France Press, in a 2006 article on Paulson's appointment, "Has Goldman Sachs Taken Over the Bush Administration?" noted that, in addition to Paulson, "the president's chief of staff, Josh Bolten, and the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Jeffery Reuben, are Goldman alumni."

"But the flow goes both ways," the article continued, "Goldman recently hired Robert Zoellick, who stepped down as the US deputy secretary of state, and Faryar Shirzad, who worked as one of Bush's national security advisors.". . .

Paulson, according to a celebratory 2006 Business Week article entitled "Mr. Risk Goes to Washington," was "one of the key architects of a more daring Wall Street, where securities firms are taking greater and greater chances in their pursuit of profits." Under Paulson's watch, that meant "taking on more debt: $100 billion in long-term debt in 2005, compared with about $20 billion in 1999. It means placing big bets on all sorts of exotic derivatives and other securities."

According to the International Herald Tribune, Paulson "was one of the first Wall Street leaders to recognize how drastically investment banks could enhance their profitability by betting with their own capital instead of acting as mere intermediaries." Paulson "stubbornly [asserted] Goldman's right to invest in, advise on and finance deals, regardless of potential conflicts.". . .

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