Friday, October 31, 2008

Mr. Secretary, this analysis is not rocket science. Just twenty days before Goldman announced that it would “accept” Treasury’s investment, Warren Buffett invested $5 billion into Goldman Sachs and acquired the very same type of security – preferred stock – with the very same form of “upside” – warrants to purchase common stock. For some reason, however, per dollar invested, Mr. Buffett received at least seven and perhaps up to fourteen times more warrants than Treasury did and his warrants have more favorable terms. In addition, Mr. Buffett’s preferred stock has a higher dividend rate and can only be bought away from him at a premium, while Treasury’s investment of taxpayers’ money pays a lower dividend and can be repurchased at par.

Now I know that you have a lot on your plate, but I am sure that someone at Treasury saw the terms of Buffett’s investment. In fact, my suspicion is that you studied it pretty closely and knew exactly what you were doing. The 50-50 deal – 50% invested and 50% as a gift – is quite consistent with the Republican version of the “spread-the-wealth-around” philosophy that seems so much in vogue.

If the result of our analysis is applied to the deals that you made at the other eight institutions – which on average most would view as being less well positioned than Goldman and therefore requiring an even greater rate of return – you paid $125 billion for securities for which a disinterested party would have paid $62.5 billion. This means that you gifted the other $62.5 billion to the shareholders of these nine institutions.

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