There is nothing like the release of secret tape recordings to clarify an inconclusive debate. I recall that happening with Nixon back in the day. Even as a Washington apprentice I could see that he was a ruthless, power hungry abuser of his office, but much of official Washington just denied it. Then came the tapes. Soon there was no doubt. In short order Nixon was gone.
So now comes the Goldman tapes – -46 hours of recordings by an embedded New York Fed regulator at Goldman Sachs who got fired for attempting to, well, regulate. Would that the Carmen Segarra affair generates a Nixonian result – -that is, exposure that ‘regulatory capture’ is an endemic, potent and inextricable evil that can’t be remediated in situ.
Never mind that what Ms. Segarra was attempting to regulate – whether Goldman had a conflict of interest policy with respect to its M&A clients – -was actually none of the state’s business in the first place. If in the instant case GS was giving squinty eyed advise to its client, El Paso Corporation, because it owned a $4 billion position in the other party to the transaction, Kinder Morgan, so be it. Either the conflict was harmless or eventually Goldman’s M&A business would have been punished by the marketplace – – even stupid executives and boards wouldn’t pay huge fees to be taken to the cleaners for long.
This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on September 29, 2014.