Matt Taibbi Asks Why The Fed Gave $220 Million In Bailout Money To The Wives Of Two Morgan Stanley "Bigwigs"
Matt Taibbi has resurfaced with another stunner of Wall Street impropriety which will lead to merely more silence, even more unanswered questions and be quickly buried by the kleptocratic oligarchy.
The Real Housewives of Wall Street: Look Who's Cashing In On the Bailout
Why is the Federal Reserve forking over $220 million in bailout money to the wives of two Morgan Stanley bigwigs?
From Rolling Stone Magazine
In August 2009, John Mack,
at the time still the CEO of Morgan Stanley, made an interesting life
decision. Despite the fact that he was earning the comparatively low
salary of just $800,000, and had refused to give himself a bonus in the
midst of the financial crisis, Mack decided to buy himself a gorgeous
piece of property — a 107-year-old limestone carriage house on the Upper
BeerEast Side of New York, complete with an indoor 12-car garage, that
had just been sold by the prestigious Mellon family for $13.5 million.
Either Mack had plenty of cash on hand to close the deal, or he got some
help from his wife, Christy, who apparently bought the house with him.
The Macks make for an interesting couple. John, a Lebanese-American
nicknamed "Mack the Knife" for his legendary passion for firing people,
has one of the most recognizable faces on Wall Street, physically
resembling a crumpled, half-burned baked potato with a pair of
overturned furry horseshoes for eyebrows. Christy is thin, blond and
rich — a sort of still-awake Sunny von Bulow with hobbies. Her major
philanthropic passion is endowments for alternative medicine, and she
has attained the level of master at Reiki, the Japanese practice of
"palm healing." The only other notable fact on her public résumé is that
her sister was married to Charlie Rose.
It's hard to imagine a pair of people you would less want to
hand a giant welfare check to — yet that's exactly what the Fed did.
Just two months before the Macks bought their fancy carriage house in
Manhattan, Christy and her pal Susan launched their investment
initiative called Waterfall TALF. Neither seems to have any experience
whatsoever in finance, beyond Susan's penchant for dabbling in
thoroughbred racehorses. But with an upfront investment of $15 million,
they quickly received $220 million in cash from the Fed, most of which
they used to purchase student loans and commercial mortgages. The loans
were set up so that Christy and Susan would keep 100 percent of any
gains on the deals, while the Fed and the Treasury (read: the taxpayer)
would eat 90 percent of the losses. Given out as part of a bailout
program ostensibly designed to help ordinary people by kick-starting
consumer lending, the deals were a classic heads-I-win, tails-you-lose
So how did the government come to address a financial crisis caused
by the collapse of a residential-mortgage bubble by giving the wives of a
couple of Morgan Stanley bigwigs free money to make essentially
risk-free investments in student loans and commercial real estate? The
answer is: by degrees. The history of the bailout era reads like one of
those awful stories about what happens when a long-dormant criminal
compulsion goes unchecked. The Peeping Tom next door stares through a
few bathroom windows, doesn't get caught, and decides to break in and
steal a pair of panties. Next thing you know, he's upgraded to homemade
dungeons, tri-state serial rampages and throwing cheerleaders into a
The impetus for this sudden manic expansion of the bailouts was a
masterful bluff by Wall Street executives. Once the money started
flowing from the Federal Reserve, the executives began moaning to their
buddies at the Fed, claiming that they were suddenly afraid of investing
in anything — student loans, car notes, you name it — unless
their profits were guaranteed by the state. "You ever watch soccer,
where the guy rolls six times to get a yellow card?" says William Black,
a former federal bank regulator who teaches economics and law at the
University of Missouri. "That's what this is. If you have power and
connections, they will give you a freebie deal — if you're good at
This is where TALF fits into the bailout picture. Created just after
Barack Obama's election in November 2008, the program's ostensible
justification was to spur more consumer lending, which had dried up in
the midst of the financial crisis. But instead of lending directly to
car buyers and credit-card holders and students — that would have been
socialism! — the Fed handed out a trillion dollars to banks and hedge
funds, almost interest-free. In other words, the government lent
taxpayer money to the same assholes who caused the crisis, so that they
could then lend that money back out on the market virtually risk-free,
at an enormous profit.
Cue your Billy Mays voice, because wait, there's more! A key aspect of TALF is that the Fed doles out the money through what are known as non-recourse loans.
Essentially, this means that if you don't pay the Fed back, it's no big
deal. The mechanism works like this: Hedge Fund Goon borrows, say, $100
million from the Fed to buy crappy loans, which are then transferred to
the Fed as collateral. If Hedge Fund Goon decides not to repay that
$100 million, the Fed simply keeps its pile of crappy securities and
calls everything even.
This is the deal of a lifetime. Think about it: You borrow millions, buy
a bunch of crap securities and stash them on the Fed's books. If the
securities lose money, you leave them on the Fed's lap and the public
eats the loss. But if they make money, you take them back, cash them in
and repay the funds you borrowed from the Fed. "Remember that crazy guy
in the commercials who ran around covered in dollar bills shouting, 'The
government is giving out free money!' " says Black. "As crazy as he
was, this is making it real."
read the full article here