Two stories in the NY Times:
Sixteen years ago, two economists published a research paper with a delightfully simple title: “Looting.”
The economists were George Akerlof, who would later win a Nobel Prize, and Paul Romer, the renowned expert on economic growth. In the paper, they argued that several financial crises in the 1980s, like the Texas real estate bust, had been the result of private investors taking advantage of the government. The investors had borrowed huge amounts of money, made big profits when times were good and then left the government holding the bag for their eventual (and predictable) losses.
In a word, the investors looted. Someone trying to make an honest profit, Professors Akerlof and Romer said, would have operated in a completely different manner. The investors displayed a “total disregard for even the most basic principles of lending,” failing to verify standard information about their borrowers or, in some cases, even to ask for that information.
The investors “acted as if future losses were somebody else’s problem,” the economists wrote. “They were right.”***
Mr. Akerlof and Mr. Romer finished writing their paper in the early 1990s, when the economy was still suffering a hangover from the excesses of the 1980s. But Mr. Akerlof told Mr. Romer — a skeptical Mr. Romer, as he acknowledged with a laugh on Tuesday — that the next candidate for looting already seemed to be taking shape.
It was an obscure little market called credit derivatives.
In the other piece, we learn that maybe the banks aren’t that bad off, after all:
On Tuesday, Signature Bank of New York announced that because of new executive pay restrictions in the economic stimulus package, it notified the Treasury that it intended to return the $120 million it had received from the government only three months ago.
What would be the point in taking part in the heist if you aren’t allowed to give the masterminds a cut?
Has anyone written the definitive story tracking down if banks were forced to take the cash, and if so, which ones and why? I have seen it referred to and there were bits and pieces here and there, but no big story.