Paulson interview: Paulson's Tarp was not his first half-baked plan
As Hank Paulson seeks to resubmit his action plan to save the US financial system, Euromoney considers whether he was ever the right man for the job, asks the questions that he desperately needs to answer, and analyses the mistakes he has made which mean, whether his bill is eventually passed or not, he has failed as Treasury secretary.
Q: If you’re going to cook up a plan, why not make sure it isn’t half-baked?
Most of the US government’s attempts to bring stability to the market so far have fallen between two stools, perhaps in a vain attempt to maintain a semblance of market normality but at the same time to achieve unprecedented intervention. There’s a simple rule: half-baked does not work.
Take the nationalization of AIG. The AIG bail-out had two separate elements: the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was authorized to lend AIG up to $85 billion. At the same time, the Treasury took control of AIG through an 80% stake (no one has quite explained why it did not take a full 100% stake, as was the case with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae). As Daniel Gros and Stefano Micossi of the Centre for European Policy Studies say: “The Federal Reserve is thus providing finance to the US government. The punitive terms (850 basis points over Libor) agreed for the loan to AIG are irrelevant, as any interest payments would merely go from the left to the right hand pocket of the government.” Just a few days later, as the mounting total of commitments weighed on the Fed the realization that its own solvency was in some doubt, the central bank asked for a recapitalization from the Treasury.