F. Scott Fitzgerald once said the rich are different. Hemingway added, "Yes. They have more money." This comes to mind as I read about the residents of an exclusive enclave in Montana who are suing Credit Suisse Bank because the bank loaned them too much money.
Then, there's the despicable behavior of Goldman Sachs who was selling mortgage securities short (betting that they would drop in value) while selling them to institutional customers.
At the Yellowstone Club, near Big Sky, Mont., the story has it that neighbors such as Bill Gates, Dan Quayle and 3,000 aggrieved property owners are filing a lawsuit against a bank that loaned $375 million to the resort to buy lodges, golf courses, ski lifts and other appurtenances of the good life. Now the bank is foreclosing, so the racketeering charges and financial bile has raised the lawsuit to $25 billion. Apparently, the bank deliberately loaned too much money so that the properties would all go into foreclosure.
These wealthy people are pretty smart to have come up with such a novel concept. I hope it's not too late for the rest of America's foreclosure victims to organize in a giant, class-action suit. Banding together like the Yellowstone 3,000, several million Americans should file suit against all the banks that loaned them money on what turned out to be "real estate with deliberately inflated values made possible by the excessive bank loans."
Then, there is Goldman Sachs. This is a company that we taxpayers brought back from the dead. We allowed them to turn into a bank in the 11th hour to generate taxpayer support, and we propped up AIG, which was insuring much of what Goldman Sachs owned. Without support from U.S. citizens, Goldman Sachs would be history today. What we also know, from an extensive New York Times article, is that Goldman Sachs was constructing mortgage securities and selling them to institutional customers - representing them as great investments. At the same time, the firm was selling the same securities short.
In other words, they made money when the securities dropped in value. Some of these securities were imploding within three months of having been sold.
Goldman Sachs claims that all of their customers knew that short sales were happening. I find that hard to believe. What I do find credible is that the customers are so ashamed at having been taken that they want the whole issue to just go away. Trying to sue Goldman would just call attention to the buyers' own greed and stupidity. If Goldman was smart enough at the outset to factor this outcome into their immensely profitable behavior, I have to give them credit.
I'm still waiting for financial reform to find a way to tax firms that benefited from our bailout of AIG. In Goldman's case, I think the number was $18 billion. That's within a few billion of what they are about to pay in bonuses. Great Britain doesn't seem to have a problem accomplishing this claw-back tax. Why? Because Britain's election cycle is, by law, just a few weeks and there are strict limitations on campaign fundraising.
In a different context involving the Arab world, Thomas Friedman points out, "We need to inspire the village to shame those who betray our common values." Fine. A dose of shame might do some good for Goldman Sachs, but a punitive tax would really drive the point home and give about 300 million Americans some smug satisfaction.