Hank Paulson is getting antsy. He’s been in DC for almost a year now and the old boy doesn’t have much to show for it. When Paulson left Goldman Sachs, he planned on using his Hammer-like deal-making skills to get stuff (Social Security, Doha global trade talks, China) done. But, according the Wall Street Journal, the same qualities that made Paulson an efficient higher up at Goldman, and allowed him to outs Jon Corzine from the company (while JSC was away with his family for Christmas in Colorado)–impatience, forcefulness, an insistence on interrupting people and monopolizing conversations–just make him a dick at the Treasury, and a frustrated one at that.
Back when he was running things over at Goldman Sachs, Hank Paulson came under fire from a group of conservative shareholder activists who claimed he was sacrificing profits in order to pursue his own personal environmentalist agenda. And when George Bush nominated him for the Treasury Secretary post, many conservatives wondered aloud whether Paulson was too “green” for the job.
But just because Republican activists don’t trust you, doesn’t mean the environmentalist extremists are singing your praises. Recently we stumbled upon a posting by what seem to be Portland based animal rights activists who find it best to put their arguments into what looks to be poetic form. Here, for instance, is a short item arguing that Paulson didn’t do such a good job juggling his responsibilities as Chairman of the Nature Conservancy and head of Goldman Sachs. (We added the line-breaks because it seemed to read clearer like that.)
Goldman Sachs Secretary of Treasury
turned Nature Shrines into Cattle Concentration Camps
Henry Paulson, the Bush nominated Secretary of the Treasury,
was formerly CEO of Goldman Sachs
as well as President of Nature Conservancy.
Wearing 2 hats, he introduced cattle
to the NC wilderness shrines. Josh Bolton,
Bush’s chief of staff is also from Goldman Sachs.
We were getting a bit worried that the apparent silence coming from US officials in the face of calls by various Europeans for international hedge fund regulation was a sign of acquiescence to the terrible idea. Fortunately, Henry Paulson swatted down the talk of hedge funds and private equity as “locusts” in need of international regulations and policing.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson made clear on Saturday that he thinks any risks posed by lightly regulated hedge funds can be handled through market discipline without adding heavy government regulators.
“Market discipline, focusing on the risk management of regulated counterparties, is the most effective way to address potential systemic risk concerns,” Paulson told a news conference at the close of a two-day Group of Seven finance minister’s meeting in the German industrial city of Essen.
He said a thriving global hedge fund industry “is in the U.S. interest” and adds liquidity to financial markets.
Paulson tells G7 let markets regulate hedge funds [Reuters via Washington Post]
DealBreaker Of The Year
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We’re starting off with what might be an obvious choice—Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Believe it or not, Paulson started the year under fire. While he was still Goldman Sach’s chief executive, a group of Goldman shareholders calling themselves the Free Enterprise Action Fund put forth a shareholder proposal claiming that Paulson was pushing the nefarious tree-hugging agenda of the Nature Conservacy, whose board he chaired, at the expense of shareholder value. Paulson, a Christian Scientist, refused the strong-medicine the FEAF wanted to administer, of course.
You might not think that an avowed environmentalist under fire from a conservative advocacy group would have much pull with the White House. But that’s why you’re not Hank Paulson, and he is. Because the next thing that happened was that Paulson was nominated to be George Bush’s Treasury Secretary. After spending sometime in prayer, consulting with his family and lots and lots of time on the phone, Paulson accepted the nomination and sailed through the Senate confirmation. Government ethical requirement to disgorge his interests in Goldman Sachs only served to make Paulson even wealthier at a time when Goldman Sachs share price was flying high (and perhaps giving him an excuse to liquidate that position before a possible 2007 downturn). Now Paulson is leading the charge on trade policy, particularly with regards to China.
Probably no other figure qualifies as the face of American capitalism, particularly American finance, as Henry Paulson does. And that is why he’s a candidate for DealBreaker of the Year.
Value Added: Paulson is reportedly very well-respected in the White House, and is said to wield considerable power in the administration. Capitol Hill’s anti-trade protectionists and anti-China lobby seem to have retreated in the face of Paulson’s support for free trade. He’s all the stronger for his lack of political or financial motivation—no one on Capitol Hill understands how to deal with someone who isn’t out to win higher office or make a few bucks from the government. Paulson’s the first important economic leader of the twenty-first century.
Risk Factors: Paulson is faced with a perhaps impossible task—making the Bush economic agenda seem credible. He’ll probably be lucky if he even succeeds in giving the impression that the Bush administration has an economic agenda. There’s also the lagging suspicion that Paulson is something of a post-national cosmopolitan—more interested in bird-watching and trading with China than the economic fate of his fellow Americans.
Should Hank Paulson be the DealBreaker of the Year? Well, he’s the first candidate we’ve named so this might be premature. But we invite you to let loose with your inner-most feelings in the comments section below. And if you have other candidates, please feel free to email us at [email protected] (If you can use the format we’ve laid out above, all the better. If it’s a hassle, we’ll take ‘em as we get ‘em.) If we use your nomination, you’ll get a free copy of Winning: The Answers: Confronting 74 of the Toughest Questions in Business Today.
More on Henry Paulson:
DealBreaker’s Paulson Archive [DealBreaker]
WIkipedia Entry [WIdipedia]
Treasury Secretary: Designate Jr. Paulson ‘Likes to Hold Snakes [New York Observer]
Hank Paulson’s secret life [Fortune via Wall Street Week]
That’s sort of the impression we got reading Fortune magazine’s interview with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. When he’s asked to describe plans on working with the Democratic majority coming into the House and Senate, Paulson sounds totally optimistic.
Take, for instance, this exchange on Charlie Rangel:
Mr. Secretary, yesterday the President designated you the point man on entitlement reform. Are you going to surprise Washington by partnering with incoming Ways and Means chairman Charles Rangel on this issue?
The big issues will take bipartisan support. Retirement security will take cooperation with leadership on both sides, Republicans and Democrats. I like Charlie a lot personally, and I look forward to working with him. He’s going to come in for lunch next week.
Okay, Hank. We know you were great at this whole ‘client relations’ buisness at Goldman. And we’re sure Charlie’s a great guy. But the next two years for the Demmocrats on Capitol Hill are not going to be about any sort of “cooperation” that will possibly deliver the Republican administration anything that will look like a major achievement.
They are going to be about making the Republican administration look dangerous, incompetent and unable to get things done. Watch a couple of episodes of this season’s The Wire if you want to know in advance how this lunch is going to go down. You can like Charlie all you want but the man is not your friend. Not as long as you are working for George Bush. If you want a friend in Washington, Hank, you buy a dog. If you want to get barked at and bitten, well…good luck with that lunch thing.
Mr. Paulson goes to Washington [Fortune]
The word is that the first Paulson signed bills are rolling out into the streets soon.
So, we’re going to have a contest. The first person who sends in a picture of himself or herself holding a Paulson twenty l wins drinks with DealBreaker’s Bess Levin. The catch: the drinks have to be Manhattans. And we’re pretty sure that after a couple of rounds, Bess will dish all the dirt she has on Paulson from her time working for Jon Corzine.
New Name on the Money: Henry, Not Hank [Forbes]