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How Wall Street, In Broad Daylight, Took Over The US Government

By now it is common knowledge that the primary way by which Goldman has taken over the world of central banking is by seeding places such as the New York Fed (or the ECB or the BOE) with its "former" employees, in the process converting them to benign colonies of the vampire squid (as explained first in 2010) while making sure the "independent" financial media which is supposed to expose and reveal such travesties is anything but (see "On The New York Fed's Editorial Influence Over The WSJ"). For a quick refresher read "How Goldman Controls The New York Fed: 47.5 Hours Of "The Secret Goldman Sachs Tapes" Explain."

Of course, what Goldman has done is hardly groundbreaking: as the following chart from Bloomberg shows, Wall Street's "revolving door" tradition has been working in overdrive to make sure that all American regulators are staffed with former (and future) Wall Street employees.

This epic pile up of conflicts of interest assures that the great bezzle - the robbery of the middle class by the 0.1% - can continue without any interruption, a great case in point being today's latest HSBC Swiss bank account scandal.

But while Wall Street can play dumb and try to ascribe what is clearly a premeditated attempt of literal "regulatory capture" to chance, where things get scary is that Wall Street is now actively enforcing behavior that facilitates even further Wall Street incursion into government positions.

As New Republic reports, "Citigroup is one of three Wall Street banks attempting to keep hidden their practice of paying executives multimillion-dollar awards for entering government service. In letters delivered to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the last month, Citi, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley seek exemption from a shareholder proposal, filed by the AFL-CIO labor coalition, which would force them to identify all executives eligible for these financial rewards, and the specific dollar amounts at stake. Critics argue these “golden parachutes” ensure more financial insiders in policy positions and favorable treatment toward Wall Street."

This is what the labor coalition asked:

“As shareholders of these banks, we want to know how much money we have promised to give away to senior executives if they take government jobs,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a statement. “It’s a simple question, but the banks don’t want to answer it. What are they trying to hide?”

What has since been revealed is nothing short of a management-funded (and for recently insolvent banks it really means taxpayer-funded) takeover of government. Enter Usual Suspect A - Goldman Sachs:

These payments are routine at major banks, several of which have explicit policies, found in filings with the SEC, outlining automatic awards for executives who rotate into government. Goldman Sachs offers “a lump sum cash payment” for government service, for example.

And of course let's not forget the epic tax breaks that former Goldmanites receive when joining government. Case in point: Hank Paulson, who avoivded tens if not hundreds of millions in capital gains taxes when he rushed to leave Goldman to become Treasury secretary in 2006, just before it all came crashing down, in the process benefiting from the biggest capital allocation loophole in US history:

The $183,500 salary for the Treasury Secretary post may not mean much to nominee Henry Paulson, Jr., who's used to earning closer to $40 million. But thanks to a provision in the tax code, the exiting Goldman Sachs CEO will get a financial break for moving to D.C. that could add up to millions.

 

Paulson, who is expected to get the nod from the Senate Finance Committee as early as Tuesday, owns about $480 million worth of Goldman Sachs stock, which the White House said he would sell to avoid conflicts of interest, according to published reports.

Yes, we laughed too.

When executive branch officials are forced to sell assets, they are allowed to defer paying the capital gains tax owed if they buy "permitted property" within 60 days of the sale.

 

Permitted property includes Treasury securities and a "diversified investment fund," such as a stock mutual fund if approved by the Office of Government Ethics.

 

Paulson will have to pay a tax on his gains eventually, but one advantage of the forced sale for any executive branch official - not just Paulson - is the same as it is with any tax-deferred vehicle, like 401(k)s: the longer you put off taxes, the larger the balance that remains invested and the faster your money can compound.

 

And for someone like Paulson, whose wealth is heavily tied to Goldman Sachs, it's a free way to diversify one's holdings.

In other words, on one hand Goldman pays its employees massive bonuses, then pays them more when they join the government, and then the government, pardon - the taxpayer - makes sure they are "avoid" paying taxes on their vast equity holdings when they become part of the same government... that will sooner or later demand a bailout for Goldman... and every other bank.

It's all downhill from there. Back to New Republic.

Other banks’ policies are subtler. Banks often defer certain types of compensation in order to retain talent. When an executive terminates employment, unvested stock options and other forms of deferred compensation are usually forfeited. But several companies let executives’ equity options continue to vest if they leave for a government position, or allow them to keep retention bonuses that would otherwise be returned to the firm. A 2004 tax law banned accelerated payments but made an exemption for employees who leave for government service. Critics wonder whether the gifts are intended to fill the government with friendly faces who will act in their former employer’s interests. 

 

“It fuels the revolving door between banks and the government,” said Michael Smallberg, an investigator for the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), whose 2013 report detailed these types of compensation agreements. The average executive branch salary is substantially less than these millions in awards, so the bonuses effectively supplement the lower pay, raising questions about who the government officials actually work for.

The answer, by now, should be clear to absolutely everyone. Sadly, nobody cares, because that great distraction - the stock market - is at all time manipulated highs, central banks are on pace to buy more government bonds in 2015 than will be issued, the music is playing, everyone is dancing, and even the confidence of Joe Sixpack has rarely been higher.

And then one day the rug is pulled from under the house of cards, households lose trillions, crushing yet another generation of Americans even deeper into indentured servitude, and destroying what little is left of the middle class. But not the banks. Because at first opportunity, the "government's" workers will do what they have to, to make sure that the banks - their true employers - are taken care off: after all it is the banks that control government, not some quaint, anachronistic concept that it is a government "by the people, for the people."

Which means another round of bank bailouts. And then the Wall Street take over of its regulators, and of government in general can resume, until the two are indistinguishable.

And all of this takes place in broad daylight, in front of the entire American population, which is too bored, too lazy, and far too distracted by collecting the government handout equivalent of plastic beads, spending on 99 cent apps and watching the Grammys to care.