23 August 2010

Blankfein to Paulson: OK Now What?

Thanks to Janet Tavakoli for a great takeoff on Milligan's classic laugh.

It’s September 2008. Goldman and AIG are trading in the markets, and Goldman notices that AIG seems to be having very severe liquidity problems. AIG needs to renew repo agreements after investing the trades’ cash in plunging mortgage collateral bought from investment banks, and asks around for various other sources of funding.

Recognizing an emergency, Blankfein whips out his cell phone and calls Hank Paulson. He gasps to the Treasury Secretary and former Goldman CEO: "AIG, one of my biggest trading partners is going under! This will cause a market meltdown! What should we do?"

Paulson, in a calm comforting voice says: "Take a deep breath and pull yourself together. I can help. First, let's make sure AIG is really going under."

There is a long pause, during which Blankfein checks the status of his credit default protection and other hedges against an AIG failure, yanks AIG’s credit lines, and presses AIG with calls for collateral on credit default swap agreements on plummeting CDOs.

Blankfein’s voice finally comes back on the line. He says: "OK, now what?"

Spike Milligan's Original

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, "My friend is dead! What can I do?".

The operator says "Calm down. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead."

There is a silence, then a shot is heard.

Back on the phone, the guy says "OK, now what?"