For his decision to bail out Wall Street in order to avert economic calamity during the financial crisis, Hank Paulson earned himself a few enemies. Chief among them was blogger Barry Ritholtz. In the years since Paulson has left office, The Big Picture author has had nothing but disdain for the former Treasury Secretary, described on TBP as "a god-awful jackass who oversaw the greatest theft in history, transferring trillions from taxpayers to incompetent bankers," and who Ritholtz felt such disgust for that he would instinctively spit after uttering his name. Which is why you might want to sit down before reading about an utterly shocking reversal of opinion entitled, "My Newfound Respect For Hank Paulson." Seriously, brace yourselves:
I cannot go into the details, as the entire conversation was off the record — with an adversary of Hank Paulson’s. However, I can tell you that, despite disagreeing with the bailouts & TARP that was put into place under his regime at Treasury, Hank Paulson may actually be a decent guy. When you look at the rest of the parade of folks who helped contribute to the crisis — from the people at Treasury (Paulson, Geithner, Summers, Rubin) to the Fed (Greenspan, Bernanke) to Senate (Gramm, Leach, Bliley, Schumer), there certainly is plenty of blame to spread around a bunch of unsavory characters. Greenspan deserves much more blame than Bernanke (I also believe Bernanke is a decent man). But Paulson did a few things that are not known, and probably wont be publicly revealed until the end of this year — if at all. His subsequent actions since leaving Treasury have actually surprised me. This actually comes from an adversary of his. I will reveal all when I get permission, or when the book comes out, if ever — and if not, well, you just have to trust my judgment on this.
While one should be content to hold out hope that, some day, the genesis of his change of heart will be revealed, or simply rest assured that the details of what went down are not important, and one need only know that Uncle Barry would now have no problem inviting Hank over for a beer, most of you are likely dying to know more. Though it seems like he's pretty serious about remaining mum for the time being, perhaps Ritholtz will let us know if any of the following would constitute us "getting warmer" re: the surprisingly respectable "things" Paulson did after leaving Treasury:
* He's been paying to have the grass cut at the foreclosed houses in his neighborhood
* He stepped in as the DIP financer for Dippin' Dots
* He's flying a flock of his beloved birds down south in a private jet so they can migrate for the winter in style
* Not only did he decide to climb his next mountain (being his own boss as a Mary Kay national sales director) but beat his goals by hitting $500,000 in production and being named Queen of Recruiting for the Emerald Seminar
* He diligently showed up to the Larchmont house Tim Geithner (who BR is "more negative on than ever") was desperately trying to sell sporting a Hitler stache and a confederacy bandanna on his head to tell prospective buyers "You're going to love this block, everyone recycles."