NY Times to Goldman Sachs: Pay up to cut public debt

NEW YORK Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:52am EST

1 of 2. A man walks past the Goldman Sachs headquarters building in the financial district of New York May 8, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York Times editorial slammed Goldman Sachs for its role in the financial crisis and said that instead of paying big bonuses to its employees it should make a multibillion-dollar gift to help reduce the U.S. national debt.

The editorial, dated November 21 on the Times' website and published in the Sunday, November 22, print edition, attacked Goldman for everything from its top executive's failure to apologize properly for his investment bank's part in creating the crisis as well as Goldman's awarding of bonuses related to profits that the paper said were boosted by a government bailout.

The Times sniffed at Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein's acknowledgment last week that his bank "participated in things that were clearly wrong," saying that he was not specific about what the company had done wrong and his remarks did not "come close to an apology."

It cited the company's ability to set aside $16.7 billion for bonuses this year as it was able to post "blowout profits" after receiving a $10 billion government bailout and $12.9 billion in payments and collateral in relation to the government bailout of American International Group.

The paper described Goldman's pledge earlier this week of $500 million over five years to help small businesses as "crumbs from its table," saying it should do much more.

"The money will be welcomed by recipients, but if Goldman wants to make a meaningful contribution, it would have to be in the billions and aimed more directly at taxpayers," the Times said.

It noted, for example, that the federal Bureau of the Public Debt accepts tax-deductible donations to reduce the national debt and urged Goldman to participate.

The paper said that a multibillion-dollar donation from Goldman could be made in such a way that it does not harm shareholders, noting that the related tax savings could help finance the company's small-business initiative.

A contribution could also help Goldman ward off "serious calls for a windfall tax on bonuses, which would be justified since the profits they are based on are in a large part the result of government efforts," the editorial said.

In another story published in the Times on Saturday, Gretchen Morgenson quotes Janet Tavakoli, an expert in derivatives at consulting firm Tavakoli Structured Finance, who urged Goldman to repay money from the AIG bailout, saying Goldman should be forced to take back toxic collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, which had been insured with AIG.

"The prices of the collateralized debt obligations against which Goldman bought protection from AIG were in sickening freefall, and the cost of replacing AIG's protection would have been sky-high," she said. "Goldman must have known this, because it underwrote some of those value-destroying CDOs."

Goldman should do this before it gives bonuses to "taxpayer-protected employees," Tavakoli said in the Times report.

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