The Hank Paulson memo

From testimony Mr. Paulson gave before the Senate Banking Committee in February 2000. The key paragraph is buried in the third to last paragraph — but it’s there. Here’s what Mr. Paulson [then CEO of Goldman Sachs, now Secretary of the Treasury] said at the time:

. . . we and other global firms have, for many years, urged the SEC to reform its net capital rule to allow for more efficient use of capital. This is the single most important factor in driving significant parts of our business offshore, so that our firms can remain competitive with our foreign competitors risk-based capital standards must become the norm. The SEC has made it clear that risk-based capital rules can be implemented only when the Commission is confident that firms employing value-at-risk models have robust credit and risk management policies in place.


Translated into English, this testimony from back in 2000 was from someone asking that major brokerage firms be permitted to increase leverage subject to oversight of their wondrous mathematical risk models. The request was agreed to four years later, in 2004, and it helped lead to the meltdown in independent brokers this year.