October 17, 2008



Who’s who in the bailout game
by Jim Hightower

With bankruptcies, bailouts and forced mergers roiling Wall Street’s financial institutions, it’s hard to tell the players without a scorecard. So here’s today's lineup of some of the biggest players, measured by the only way that Wall Street keeps score: money.

Leading off is Richard Fuld, CEO of the now-dissolved Lehman Brothers. In his eight years as honcho, he was paid nearly $500 million dollars, including $70 million he got last year as his company was collapsing. He now says he feels “horrible” about the whole mess — but I’m sure his feelings are soothed by those millions he collected, along with the four luxury homes he continues to enjoy.

Next up is Goldman Sachs. This venerable investment bank had to restructure itself in September in order to gain access to federal funds. The tax money was needed, in part, because three of Goldman’s executives scored big last year, drawing around $56 million each.

Another scrappy player was AIG, the insurance behemoth that struck out in the ninth inning, costing us taxpayers $85 billion in bailout funds. Even as the company was going down, however, the richly paid CEO had the foresight to get AIG’s board of directors to waive pay guidelines so top executives could grab an extra $5 million in bonus money. To add to the fun, AIG’s top sales executives treated themselves to a one-week retreat at St. Regis Resort right after the bailout was approved, running up a tab of $440,000 — courtesy of you and me.

Batting cleanup is none other than “Hammering Hank” Paulson. Yes, he’s George W’s Treasury Secretary, the guy who designed the Wall Street bailout! Where did he come from? Why, Wall Street of course. Hank was CEO of Goldman Sachs for four years, during which he pocketed $111 million in pay. He definitely knows how the game is played.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work — and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown— visit www.jimhightower.com


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