Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The BailOut Begins

The scene: a dignified mansion in the hills of Connecticut 62

October weather had turned the color of all the tall trees along the long curving drive. The guards and the security gate of the place had been left far behind as the Rolls limousine slid silently into the covered entry way. Its privileged passenger jumped out, rushing in to meet his comrades, a boisterously grinning group of middle aged executives.

“Jerry! Come on! The meeting’s just about to start. Want a drink?” one of the well suited but already disheveled gentlemen in the massive atrium asked.

“Is Paulson already here? And, Jack. Is Jack going to be in the meeting?” the limo’s passenger asked of the laughing crowd as he joined the happy procession to the meeting room.

“Oh, yeah! Everyone’s here. We were waiting for you. Did you get those last positions posted in the market?” someone in the crowd asked.

You betcha!” he answered jokingly. Everyone else began to laugh even more raucously. “I’m all set to go. I wanted in a couple of tasty little banks and some commodities stuff before we prime this market for the big one! Heh, heh.”

Outside a chilled autumn drizzle had begun, misting over the two dozen or so gleaming limousines in the side driveway. Chauffeurs, abandoning their automobiles, had begun to congregate in the caterer’s tent. A few of the younger ones took furtive glances at the girls who had just arrived in the caterer’s bus.

Inside, the meeting was starting. Treasury Secretary Paulson, flanked on either side by a couple of Wall Street giants, was chuckling at a quiet joke shared between them. Behind the Secretary a ceiling high panel lit up. On it were a cascade of the most recent inside trader information from the market. The attendees grew silent.

Bernake sat solemnly at the other end of the great conference table. Dignified servants rushed to fill every coffee cup and drink, pausing only to slightly rearrange the incredible bouquets. Paulson swept his hand to the side. All the staff quickly hurried out of the room, closing the door. Two Blackwater guards took their silent positions on either side of the doorway. Husky and intimidating, neither of those two faces reflected a sense of any of the events in the meeting room.

Paulson began, still chuckling. “Okay guys. Who would like a chance to participate in the, ah, saving of the economy? A show of hands, please.”

All those now seated around the table quickly raised their hands, smiling but attempting to feign a serious, concerned look.

“Very well,” Paulson continued, also pretending seriousness, “I want each of you to take your pencil and the little slip of paper in front of you and jot down what you think your fair share of this should be. Be sure to write down your name so we can be sure you get the, uh, financial help you’ll need to, uh, well, you know, save the economy.”

Again, the room filled with laughter. The stock market moguls began to write, all the while looking suspiciously at each other. Most of them held their hand to block any possible view of their papers by those sitting next to them. Almost all at once, everyone present folded the little slips and placed them in a basket being passed around.

Bernanke rose, tapping his water glass as if to propose a toast. “Some of you may have noticed that I have five extra slips here at my chair.” All eyes greedily shot toward the Federal Reserve Chairman. “Hank and I have a special surprise. We all know that the drama of our credit tantrum is what made this possible, and, right now, Hank and I would like to express our special thanks to a few of you who really got involved with our dog and pony show.”

The Federal Reserve boss droned on, “We know that you could have refused all those nasty little interviews with the media hacks. We also know that those of you who actually submitted yourselves to those ugly questions could have just lumbered through it. Well, in some cases those interviews were truly works of art! All those troubled “deer in the headlights” looks, the smiles of desperate optimism and the loosened ties were sheer mastery. You guys terrified the whole world with your performance! Bravo! Bravo!”

“For you, we have a extra bonus! Right now, I am writing down your names and yet another amount of bail out cash in addition to what you’ve already asked for. Everyone! Everyone! How about a big round of applause for the actors in our midst?” the Reserve Chairman beamed.

“You know who you are! Barry, Steve -- stand up! Josh, Bill, Mikey! These are the boys who drove this baby home! Big round of applause! Big round of applause!” the Chairman continued, folding the extra five slips of paper and ceremoniously dropping them into the basket.

One of the honored interjected his own praise. “Hank, annihilating your old Goldman Sachs foe at Lehman was a stroke of genius! That scared the crap out of anyone who might have seen through our other antics. A big hand for Hank! A big hand!

Paulson, bowing and still clapping, made his way to Bernanke’s end of the table. Taking the basket, he went to a small door at the side of the room. “We’ll have the results of our, uh, work here in a few minutes. My Treasury people are issuing the credit vouchers right now.”

Returning to his seat, he glanced over his shoulder at the trading board behind him. The cascade of stock prices had already grown a hint of positive trends. A moment later all the bail out issues had been posted. He rose again, this time turning to look at the results. “Okay. We still have four-hundred- twenty-seven billion of the original seven-hundred.” Every face at the table was now locked onto the Treasury Secretary. “So,” he continued, pausing for effect, “let’s have some fun!”

Paulson and everyone else roared with laughter. “We, ahem, still have to decide the ‘quick and the dead’ out there among all those little banks. Anybody got any scores to settle?”

Instantly, all those at the table rushed to raise their hands. One particular man was frantically waving his arm back and forth.

“Okay, Larry. You look like you’re ready to go. I assume you would like to make a call to Quicksilver National in Cleveland. Go ahead! Get even with that little ingrate!

Larry was already punching in the numbers on the elaborate telephone at his seat. He toggled to the speaker phone. A pleasant woman’s voice answered. “Quicksilver National. How may I direct your call?”

Larry, struggling to control his glee, answered quietly. “The bank president, please.”

The receptionist answered politely. “I’ll transfer you to his office. Thank you for calling Quicksilver.”

The Treasury Secretary quietly held his finger to his lips. “Quiet everyone. Quiet.”

Another woman’s pleasant voice answered. “President’s office. This is Ms. Mayhew. How may I help you?”

Larry, now almost out of control, stumbled ahead. “This is Lawrence Kashbague from Kashbague and Scrape. I need to speak with Mr. Tumblethorpe.”

The voice responded, “Mr. Tumblethorpe is in a meeting at the moment. Can I relay a message to him or, perhaps direct your call to someone else?”

“No, I need to speak with Tumblethorpe himself. This is an urgent call. Please slip him a note and tell him I’m on the line. Tell him I’ve got some important news for him.”

The crowd around the table struggled to swallow their guffaws.

After a few moments, the bank president was on the line. “Yes? Mr. Kashbague?”

Larry attacked. “Tumblethorpe! How’s your begging coming along? Did you manage to swindle anyone out of any cash or is Quicksilver still only a couple of hours from collapsing?”

The voice on the line was surprised. “I didn’t expect to hear from you, Kashbague. What do you want?”

“I want to buy your bank, asshole! I’m sitting in a, ah, special meeting with the bail out on a trading board in front of me. I’m offering you a hundred-seventy-six million for Quicksilver. Is that enough to bail it out?” Larry laughed.

Tumblethorpe, obviously shocked, stammered for a moment, then answered. “Well, we’ve been asking three hundred-forty-five million, but no one has any money. A hundred-seventy-six is awfully low. I’m not sure we can do that.”

Larry shot back, “Okay. Just ride the bastard all the way down, then! This is the last chance you’ll get. That’s a fact! Heh. Heh. You can take that to the bank, you son-of-a-bitch.”

“Where did you get that kind of money, Kashbague?” Tumblethorpe asked.

“Doesn’t matter, loser.” Larry fired back. “It’s a hundred-seventy-six or nothin’. Take it or leave it.” The others attending the meeting could barely contain themselves. “Make up your mind. You want it or not?”

After a pause in the conversation, Tumblethorpe’s shaky voice returned. “I, uh, guess I’ll take it. I mean my shareholders will, ah, ...”

Larry shot back. “Done! There is one other small matter, Tumblethorpe. That hot teenage daughter of yours. She’s got to marry my boy.” The efforts to maintain silence at the conference table now fell apart.

Tumblethorpe’s voice, now thoroughly shaken, finally returned. “You’re crazy! Who else is there? I hear voices.”

“Yes or no. What do you want? You think that daughter of yours will have a nice life with a washed out ex-con for a bankrupt father?” Larry continued to press.

“Oh God. What am I doing?” Tumblethorpe struggled. Stammering, he continued. “Okay. You’ve got me, Kashbague. Take it. Take it all! Take Melinda!”

“We’ll be talking.” Kashbague added ominously, chuckling. He hung up. The entire table exploded with violent, hysterical laughter and back slapping.

When the roar subsided, Paulson again rose, asking, “Okay, who wants to go next?”

1 comment:

  1. hi chad...It'z Johnny, I want to say this one is grate, I wish I could've been there