It has been over six years since I left Goldman Sachs and my position in the executive office where I had the honor of working for you. My how quickly time flies? Although we have not seen each other in person since my last day at the firm, for me it certainly feels like we have. Every since you took the job of Treasury Secretary I see you on TV, on magazine covers, and in the newspapers I read daily. Today I read the very comprehensive piece about you in the Financial Times and felt compelled to write you this note.
Earlier this year, January 18th to be exact, I wrote a piece about you called "The Confidence Man." Just that day I decided I was going to start writing opinion pieces on issues I felt passionately about and I just happened to turn on the TV and heard you tell America that everything was going to be ok if people just kept on spending! That got me a little fired up as I felt strongly that we were in deep trouble and that America better wake up to that fact sooner versus later. You see I had been deeply worried about our economy and the financial markets in general and that was exactly why I decided to start blogging. It was strange as I knew you, personally, and I could not believe that you really felt that way. I asked myself "did you really think that the solution to the troubles plaguing our economy could be fixed by a few trips to the mall?" I sure didn't and felt driven to share that publicly. I went on the record saying that we were already in a recession and I suggested that supplying liquidity to the banking system was a good plan. If only I had your number I would have given you a call.
On January 22nd I wrote another piece called "The Confidence Man Two" and well, I am sorry but I said that I thought you and the administration were, well, out to lunch. I referenced you being quoted as saying that "after taking to knowledgeable people on all parts of the economy... that although our economy was growing slower than expected...I am confident in our long-term economic strength." I guess the long term must have meant years from now, and not for the rest of 2008, 2009, and as many are predicting right now, 2010. That piece was quite strongly worded and in hindsight, too aggressive given the nature of our relationship. I go on to say that I thought the policies of the moment were woefully inadequate and "may well prove a ridiculous suggestion for an economy diseased from extreme over-consumption in part caused by a lack of appropriate financial oversight as well as overly stimulating monetary policy." Now having been proven very right I feel bad, and wish I would have tried to get in touch personally.
In yet another piece back in January called "Quickfixonomics: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," I was also quite critical. Though increasing their loan limits might have helped a little, I was deeply worried about their financial position. You may not remember but I used to run the mortgage trading desk at Goldman, and I can recall saying more than a few times over the years to anyone that would listen that these agencies were government sponsored hedge funds and were heading straight towards the cliff. I blame myself for not speaking up more about this but mind you, that was over six years ago.
Anyways, I am sorry that your time serving our great country was not more of a rewarding experience for you. As the Financial Times article points out, you were most certainly given a tough hand of cards and it is questionable which ones were even in the deck. I winced a little when they said that "the past year and a half has been a sobering experience" for you as I hadreferenced the program of Alcoholics Anonymous as one the government should consult when looking for help solving the credit addiction that plagues this country. That day, January 22nd, the S&P hit a high of 1350, and we certainly are a long way from that now.
On a more positive note I did write a very nice piece about Goldman's 10,000 Women Initiative, which when you have time, I hope you read. You must be so proud that Goldman launched such an incredible program despite the market conditions. Their belief that by investing in women you can make the world a better place is one I hold near and dear to my heart. In fact, Investing in Women is a subject I hope to write and speak a lot more about in 2009. Although the stock price is not pretty at the moment I believe that Goldman's commitment to initiatives such as these really will pay off in the long-term.
When the history books are written about this year, and there will be many, I truly hope that you are given the credit you deserve. As I wrote earlier in the year, "I find you a very thoughtful and honest man." There is no doubt in my mind that you did your very best. It was an honor to work for you for so many years at Goldman Sachs, and I would have welcomed the opportunity to have worked with you again in your new role, or at least just stayed in touch. You will be happy to know that a group of us from Goldman recently met with some government folks to share some ideas we had to make things better, and we hope that dialogue to continue. Sadly, as you know, the residential mortgage foreclosure problem is not an easy one to fix.
Though I know you are not the kind of person that takes things too personally, I just wanted to write to say that although I was critical of some of the decisions that were made; I always have, and always will have tremendous respect for you. Instead of taking your millions, buying some big fancy houses, and spending your time playing golf and eating candy you chose to take what proved to be one of the most challenging jobs ever in the history of the financial markets. You chose to serve this country and for that I, we, owe you many thanks. I believe that we all have to do more to help make this world a better place and please know I am trying to do my part. In this piece I wrote in November, I call on every single person to do just a little more as well. My favorite saying is this one by Theodore Roosevelt: "do what you can, where you are, with what you have," and you most certainly did that this year.
Enjoy a much deserved vacation and I truly hope I see you again. Happy New Year Hank.
Former Goldman Sachs Partner