Monday, August 6, 2012

TARP Continues To Be A Mess

If you were doubtful about the wisdom of the government bailing out the banks, then a new book suggests you were right.  Neil Barofsky, who worked in the program, points out its shortcomings (all $70 billion of them, the amount the government is expected to lose on the $700 billion invested) in his book Bailout: An Inside Account Of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street.

Not surprisingly, his book has proven to be controversial.  The New York Times, of course, defends Wall Street a bit in its review.

I haven't read the book yet, but when I saw the name "Herbert Allison" in the Times review, I have little doubt that Barofsky's version of events is probably the truth.

I have encountered Mr. Allison before.

I haven't been impressed with him.

An employer of mine threw me into TIAA-CREF's retirement plans.

That was nice of them.

I refused to put in any of my own money though after I started reading what ridiculous amounts TIAA-CREF pays its executives.

All Wall Street appears to be insane in terms of salaries and bonuses, but with TIAA-CREF the excessive compensation is especially galling since the company claims to be a non-profit organization, nobly investing  the pension funds of teachers and professors.  In 2008, Allison retired as CEO of TIAA-CREF.  He worked until April of that year and for that he was paid around $13 million dollars.  He also made sure to line up a host of retirement benefits, including an office from TIAA-CREF.  His retirement compensation is described in Wall Streetese, but it looks as if he gets at least a million dollars a year in retirement.  Not bad for a few years of work, eh?

Well!  TIAA-CREF certainly did a great job in helping Allison retire in comfort.  I don't know if the same can be said for me or any of its other average investors (Allison's compensation has to come from somewhere--guess where?).  But Allison's ability to provide for himself at TIAA-CREF has always been noted, even from the beginning of his tenure with the company.

Apparently, the way it works at TIAA-CREF is that the Board of Trustees get paid more a year than I (and probably you as well) do to work what is probably a few days a year and in return they hand out excessive salaries to the executives.

I lost track of Mr. Allison after he left TIAA-CREF, but apparently he unretired and went to work for the government.

He headed up Fannie Mae, and he was in charge of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the program the government used to bail out the banks after the financial crisis of 2008.

Now let me be charitable:  perhaps Mr. Allison felt he could afford to do some public service, and he certainly has a skill-set that would allow him to deal with large financial organizations, but I wouldn't trust him to sit my cat.

I couldn't afford him anyway.

By contrast, Bush and Obama trusted him with billions of dollars.

Wall Street and Washington really are other worlds.

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