While the Wikileaks dump of secret diplomatic got more publicity, the Federal Reserve’s reluctance release of data on details of what it was up to in the bailout is actually the bigger story.
It’s a giant step towards the direction of democracy in a financial system that hasn’t had any.
What are we finding out? For one thing, just how much dishonesty is built into our knowledge of the financial system. Because corporate leaders never expected the data to be released, they lied, mischaracterized or downplayed their reliance on the Fed’s largesse.
“In some cases,” Elstein writes, “the actions taken by companies jarringly contrast with their executives’ public comments about the bailout program.”
Along with the stunning secrecy that has surrounded the process and the dishonesty of the corporate recipients of the taxpayers’ generosity, a couple of other main themes emerged from scrutiny of the Fed data.
First, not only did U.S. taxpayers come to the aid of large European banks, they also gave emergency loans to many of the biggest U.S. businesses, like GE, Verizon and even Harley-Davidson. All of these institutions were deemed too big to fail, or even suffer more than a some sleepless nights’ worth of economic distress in the financial meltdown. About the only entities not deemed worthy of saving in the meltdown were many of the taxpayers themselves who foot the bill for the whole extravaganza. The institutions that dreamed up the toxic loans got a bailout the taxpayers should have read the fine print more carefully, dammit!
Second, the Fed’s $3.3 trillion rescue scheme was rife with conflicts of interests. Members of regional Fed boards sat in on decisions to help out their own institutions, and corporations like BlackRock acted as paid advisers to the process and also bought securities on behalf of clients as part of the Fed’s efforts.
To put what’s happening in perspective, Matt Stoller, former senior policy adviser to former Rep Alan Grayson, the fiery Florida Democrat who recently lost his re-election bid, wrote this fine piece in Naked Capitalism.