dear old men who scare us

H. Rodgin Cohen Is a Dear Old Man

Sullivan and Cromwell principal H. Rodgin Cohen comes across as quite a sweet old man in this weekend’s Times: He’s described as five foot two, “100 pounds wet,” and looking “like Mr. Peepers” by his buddy Bob Steel, a board member of Wells Fargo and a former top official at the Treasury Department. He demonstrably doesn’t know how to use his automatic locks on his (modest) Subaru, and has a rescued boxer named Bacall who, according to reporter Alan Feuer, “stood on her hind legs pawing at his lap throughout an hourlong interview in Mr. Cohen’s living room.” He and his wife, Barbara, order identical meals and live in a small, pastel-hued house despite having millions of dollars. “He was one of my kitchen cabinet of advisers,” a former Treasury official says of the lawyer. How homey! We just want to have a cup of milky tea with him, or go bird-watching, or something. But Rodge, as he is known to his high-placed pals, has a dark side.

It was he who negotiated “unconditional” guarantees of support from the U.S. government on behalf of the majority of TARP-receiving financial institutions last year, and who demanded and received exceedingly favorable terms for said institutions that put the taxpayer at risk. His role in those negotiations ultimately forced him to drop a bid for Treasury secretary, and earned him the nickname “overlord and viceroy of all Western capitalism” from Zero Hedge and “evil troll with steel balls” from Above the Law. As the Journal put it succinctly last October:

He helped mold the financial system that is now under assault. He helped draft the rules that led to the emergence of powerful national banks, waged the first hostile bank takeover in the U.S. and lobbied, in the early 1990s, to expand the Federal Reserve’s power to provide the emergency loans now being employed by the government.

Plus, they said, he apparently “harbors a fascination” with Sheryl Crow. We’re just going to let one that speak for itself.

Trauma Surgeon of Wall Street [NYT]
Earlier: A Lawyer for All Wall Street Navigates Tempestuous Times [WSJ]
H. Rodgin Cohen’s (Failed?) Quest To Backstop Every Bank… Ever (And Usurp Geithner’s Throne) [ZeroHedge]

H. Rodgin Cohen Is a Dear Old Man