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Monday, April 20, 2009

Great Recession Roundup — April 20, 2009

Items of Interest:

Theo Francis / BusinessWeek:
Barack Obama, Activist Investor-in-Chief -- His Administration has acted more forcefully than some expected or hoped in setting deadlines and overseeing U.S. loans to banks and automakers

With more than $200 billion invested in U.S. banks, another $70 billion earmarked for American International Group (AIG), and $30 billion in credit for automakers and lenders, President Barack Obama may well qualify as the nation's Investor-in-Chief. And he's proving himself about as activist as an investor can get.

Obama as good as fired Rick Wagoner, the now former General Motors (GM) chief executive, and gave the automaker 60 days to shape up or face bankruptcy...

Nina Easton / Fortune: Obama Interview: How to Get Business Going
Franklin Foer & Noam Scheiber / TNR: Obama Deeply Respects Markets
Rage of the Privileged  Class as they lose their privilegesGabriel Sherman / NY Magazine:
The Wail of the 1% -- As the privileged class loses its privileges, a collective moan rises from the canyons of Wall Street.

Shortly after 1:30 on the afternoon of March 18, two dozen traders in AIG’s financial-products division stepped away from their Bloomberg terminals and huddled around televisions to watch their boss, CEO Edward Liddy, testify before Congress. There was much at stake. These were the people who received the greater part of $165 million in “retention bonuses” that had suddenly become, to borrow a phrase, toxic.

As the hue and cry to return the money grew, the traders had thought that Liddy would stand up for them. The ruddy-faced, 63-year-old former Allstate CEO, who had been installed by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson in September, was, if not exactly one of them, at least someone who understood the rules of the game as it had been played—and who understood what they were entitled to under those rules, even if those rules were unspoken. In AIG’s glory years, executives like Joseph Cassano, the former head of financial products, took home more than $300 million. That was the kind of money you couldn’t talk about...
No offense to Middle America, but if someone went to Columbia or Wharton, [even if] their company is a fumbling, mismanaged bank, why should they all of a sudden be paid the same as the guy down the block who delivers restaurant supplies for Sysco out of a huge, shiny truck? -- irate Citigroup executive
Their anger takes many forms: There is rage at Obama for pushing to raise taxes ("The government wants me to be a slave!" says one hedge-fund analyst); rage at the masses who don't understand that Wall Street's high salaries fund New York's budget ...
Felix Salmon / Reuters: On the Plight of the Whiny Overpaid
Ethan Brown / TalkLeft: Short Memories on Wall Street
DownWithTyranny!: Has A Bank Ever Stuck You With Overdraft “Protection?”
Ryan Avent / Portfolio: Not Getting It
Washington Post:
Chrysler Financial Refused Government Loan Over Limits on Executive Pay — Top officials at Chrysler Financial turned away a $750 million government loan because executives didn't want to abide by new federal limits on pay, sources familiar with the matter say...
Rachaelworkman / The Page: Chrysler Financial: Thanks But No Thanks on Loan
Mike Lillis / The Washington Independent: No One's Fault But Their Own
Megan McArdle: Did Chrysler Execs Tank the Company Over Compensation Fears?
Kevin Depew / Minyanville:
Point of Recognition Edges Closer -- People will soon wake up to declining prices, increased savings and reduced consumption, which will only further reinforce the deflationary debt unwind.
"The United States today is in a short-term deflationary phase caused by forced liquidations, de-leveraging, going out of business sales, and other temporary factors." -- National Inflation Association ...
Andrew Jeffrey / Minyanville:
Consumers to Banks: Give Us a Little Credit -- Even the Treasury Department's best attempts at statistical obfuscation can't hide the truth that credit remains off limits for most Americans. Banks -- despite billions in government handouts -- still aren't lending...