Things Hank Paulson and Lloyd Blankfein Talked About on the Phone Last September

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"Call me every five minutes!"
"Call me every five minutes!" Photo: Everett Bogue; Photo: Getty Images

During the week of September 15, 2008, the week the federal government decided to bail out insurance giant AIG, then– Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson spoke to the CEO of his former firm Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, more than 24 times, the Times has found. This gives Goldman Sachs conspiracy theorists, as well as those who posit AIG was rescued in order to prop up Goldman, something to chew on — and raises ethical questions about Paulson's involvement with the firm he worked at for 32 years. But what if Paulson and Blankfein were not masterminding some grand plan?

For instance, what if, on Wednesday, September 17, after Paulson received an ethics waiver enabling him to directly work with his old firm ...

• Lloyd just called to say "Hey."
• Paulson later called him back to discuss their fantasy-football league.
• Paulson, after deciding to put restrictions on short-sellers, then had a quick convo with Lloyd during which they discussed how The Women, the movie, was not as good as the play, and why had Meg Ryan done that to her face, and if she wasn't careful she was going to start looking like Nancy Pelosi.
• Lloyd called Paulson after he e-mailed him the Dramatic Hamster video and they just giggled for a while. Lloyd said it reminded him of this guy he knew, Neel Kashkari.
• Paulson called back a few minutes later. Wait, he said, I forgot to tell you this one thing: Former Goldman alum and Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain has been calling, I haven't returned the calls yet, he's probably freaking out, how long do you think can I make him wait before calling back? Lloyd advised making Thain stew for a day, "It will make him nuts, you know how particular he is."
• Paulson draws up his three-page TARP plan. Calls Lloyd to wonder whether people in the future, conveniently blanking out the fact that Société Générale and Deutsche Bank were more/just as exposed to AIG, would look upon records of these phone calls as evidence of a possible conspiracy, and how concerned should they be about that? After which Lloyd sang the first few bars of that Bonnie Raitt song and then they laughed and hung up.

Paulson’s Calls to Goldman Tested Ethics [NYT]