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3/15/24: Hedge Fund Titan John Paulson Made $1 Billion in an Illegal Goldman Sachs Deal; Trump Is Now Floating Him for Treasury Secretary

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By Pam Martens and Russ Martens:

Hedge Fund Titan, John Paulson

According to headlines at Bloomberg News and Reuters this morning, Donald Trump is floating the notorious hedge fund billionaire, John Paulson, to be his next Treasury Secretary. Paulson has, apparently, earned consideration for the post the same way Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s former Treasury Secretary, got the job: by raising a lot of money for the Trump political campaign. Paulson has hosted multiple fundraising events for Trump in the current election cycle and in Trump’s failed run for reelection in 2020.

Paulson is the founder and President of the hedge fund Paulson & Co. On April 16, 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission had this to say about Paulson’s business morals when it announced formal charges against Goldman Sachs pertaining to the infamous 2007 ABACUS deal: “The SEC alleges that one of the world’s largest hedge funds, Paulson & Co., paid Goldman Sachs to structure a transaction in which Paulson & Co. could take short positions against mortgage securities chosen by Paulson & Co. based on a belief that the securities would experience credit events.” Translation, Paulson helped Goldman select dogs that would default or receive credit downgrades and then made easy bets that they would.

The SEC complaint goes on: “…after participating in the portfolio selection, Paulson & Co. effectively shorted the RMBS [Residential Mortgage Backed Securities] portfolio it helped select by entering into credit default swaps (CDS) with Goldman Sachs to buy protection on specific layers of the ABACUS capital structure. Given that financial short interest, Paulson & Co. had an economic incentive to select RMBS that it expected to experience credit events in the near future. Goldman Sachs did not disclose Paulson & Co.’s short position or its role in the collateral selection process in the term sheet, flip book, offering memorandum, or other marketing materials provided to investors.”

According to the SEC’s complaint, Paulson & Co. paid Goldman Sachs approximately $15 million for structuring and marketing ABACUS. By October 2007, 83 percent of the bonds in the portfolio had been downgraded and 17 percent were on negative watch. By Jan. 29, 2008, 99 percent of the portfolio had been downgraded.

The SEC estimated that investors lost more than $1 billion in the ABACUS deal while Paulson profited by approximately the same amount.

On July 15, 2010, the SEC announced that Goldman Sachs would pay $550 million to settle its ABACUS charges. Fabrice Tourre, a young Goldman investment banker involved in the deal, was the only person to face a civil trial. No one was criminally prosecuted.

Paulson walked free – ostensibly because he didn’t actually sell the product or misrepresent it to investors – he just stacked the deck against investors and, apparently, that’s not a big deal in the eyes of the SEC.

While Paulson’s involvement in the ABACUS deal was the subject of news reporting, NYU’s Stern School of Business announced that it had received a $20 million donation from Paulson and would name “the first floor lobby of Tisch Hall and the School’s auditorium in his honor,” noting further that those areas “are prominent locations for hosting business and policy conferences as well as serve as central community hubs for students and returning alumni.”

If, as Senator Bernie Sanders has correctly surmised, the business model of Wall Street is fraud, and that is now an open secret in America, then it makes eminently good sense to let students aspiring for jobs on Wall Street come and go in a university hub honoring John Paulson.

It also meshes with Donald Trump’s view of American capitalism, where the skill and cunning to commit crimes and avoid prosecution renders you fit for the highest political offices. (What should deeply concern every American, however, is why the national security agencies in the U.S. are tolerating this view.)

Trump’s first Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, had such a challenged history as a foreclosure kingpin that in January 2017 every Democratic Senator on the Senate Finance Committee boycotted the vote on Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary.

Democrats were repulsed by the prospect of Mnuchin as U.S. Treasury Secretary. In a press release, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley said:

“Donald Trump’s choice of Mnuchin is not only a fundamental betrayal of his promise to stand up to Wall Street — it is a punch in the gut to the thousands of American families who were thrown out of their homes by Mnuchin’s bank. The voices of these Americans should be heard loud and clear as the Senate examines his record and considers his nomination.”

Senator Bernie Sanders weighed in with this:

“During the campaign, President-elect Donald Trump told the American people that he was going to change Washington by taking on Wall Street. But now that the election is over, Donald Trump’s choice for Treasury Secretary is the same old, same old Wall Street insider who made a fortune during the financial crisis as millions lost their homes. If confirmed, Steve Mnuchin would be the third Treasury Secretary to come from Goldman Sachs in the last 17 years. That is not the type of change that Donald Trump promised to bring to Washington — that is hypocrisy at its worst. The last thing we need is another Treasury Secretary from Goldman Sachs and another broken promise from Donald Trump.”

It emerged during Mnuchin’s confirmation hearing that the bank he headed, OneWest, had illegally foreclosed on activie duty military and engaged in other illegal foreclosure practices.

Mnuchin was confirmed by a slim margin of votes in the Senate, 53-47, along party lines, with all Republicans voting for him and all Democrats voting against him, except for Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who voted yes.

The power and influence of the U.S. Treasury Secretary is sweeping. Its bureaus include the IRS; the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency which oversees national banks; the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the U.S. Mint that issues the currency and coin of the U.S.; the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) which is supposed to combat money laundering; and numerous other units.

The Treasury Secretary not only sits at the helm of the U.S. Treasury but as a result of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial “reform” legislation, the Treasury Secretary now chairs the Financial Stability Oversight Council (F-SOC), which is responsible for preventing another financial implosion like that of 2008 – where hedge fund guys and Wall Street bankers got bailed out while millions of innocent Americans lost their jobs and their homes to foreclosure.

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