Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) once asked Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner why BlackRock Inc., a securities firm, received no-bid contracts for work with the federal government. Geithner answered, “They come with a world-class reputation.”
The question is: given that reputation, why aren’t U.S. taxpayers more concerned about BlackRock’s activities with the Bush and Obama Administrations. Now, according to Time magazine, the Treasury Department has selected nine large firms to operate funds to buy toxic securities from troubled financial institutions. BlackRock is one of those firms.
And here’s where the dubious rep comes in. BlackRock’s CEO Laurence Fink is credited with being one of the first to trade mortgage-backed securities, which are widely viewed as key contributors to the market crash of 2008. Apparently, following the same logic that has the chicken farmer hiring the fox to identify the best way to protect the hen house, Fink is viewed as the go-to guy for the Obama Administration to fix the mortgage-backed security mess.
BlackRock claims to manage “hundreds of billions (of dollars) for governments,” but Fink and other senior executives at the firm will not disclose the governments for which BlackRock does business.
Fink’s rise to prominence resulted from his previous work with First Boston where he sold Freddie Mac on the idea of buying $1 billion in collateralized-mortgage obligations, e.g., slicing and pooling mortgages and selling them as bonds. While Fink was paid $21,000,000 in 2007 and $26,400,000 in 2008, entities dealing with him have suffered huge losses.
Rounding out his résumé, Fink was also a large fundraiser for Barack Obama. Given all of this, one has to wonder why Obama couldn’t just do American investors and taxpayers a break and give Fink an ambassadorship or something that gets him out of the economy instead of giving him a role in the economy.