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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Goldman Sachs' Excesses Enabled Greek Debt

He who has the gold makes the rules.  I suspect this is the operating mantra at Goldman Sachs even after the bank’s near-death experience (when Solomon Bros stock was taking a hit, Blankfein knew his bank could be next).  As it turns out, the bank was involved in enabling Greece to stealthily spend beyond its means. According to The New York Times, in 2001, just after Greece was admitted to Europe’s monetary union, Goldman helped the government quietly borrow billions, people familiar with the transaction said. That deal, hidden from public view because it was treated as a currency trade rather than a loan, helped Athens to meet Europe’s deficit rules while continuing to spend beyond its means. Additionally, in late November, 2009— three months before Athens became the epicenter of global financial anxiety — a team from Goldman Sachs arrived in the ancient city with a very modern proposition for a government struggling to pay its bills, according to two people who were briefed on the meeting. The bankers, led by Goldman’s president, Gary D. Cohn, held out a financing instrument that would have pushed debt from Greece’s health care system far into the future, much as when strapped homeowners take out second mortgages to pay off their credit cards.

The full essay is in Cases of Unethical Business, available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.com.