Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kerry Three Putts

Sunday afternoon I viewed the exciting finish of the Northern Trust Open on TV. During the week before I had, on behalf of a new client, been working with Northern Trust people here in Miami. I therefore knew what an important event this tournament was for the bank, because the bank people with whom I spoke on the new matter were talking about it. (I don't represent Northern Trust, and I have never represented them in its individual capacity. In fact, in the last three decades that bank and I have often been at loggerheads.)

The WSJ this morning comments on John Kerry being "angry at Northern Trust" over its sponsorship of the event, because the bank had accepted $1.6 billion in TARP funds last year. Senator Kerry's office announced that the Senator would answer Northern's "idiotic" decision to sponsor this event by introducing a bill to prevent "any recipient of TARP funds from hosting, sponsoring, or paying for conferences, holiday parties and entertainment events." The bill will include penalties, fines and forced reimbursement of TARP funds, unless the recipient gets a "waiver" from some sort of entertainment czar that the government would set up.

Last fall a client of mine was interviewing various banks and investment firms to determine who should manage his wealth. Among them was Northern Trust. During the vetting process, the Northern Trust people told us that the bank had accepted TARP funds, but that it was not out of any need for them. They said, essentially, that it was politically expedient to accept TARP funds, because the government made it clear that it expected the bank to take the money. As the WSJ editorial states, "Northern Trust could pay back the TARP funds tomorrow if the terms of that investment [which I was to understand the government virtually forced upon the bank] didn't make it onerous to do so before three years have elapsed."

(Lest anyone think that this is a slam against the President, I would, as a Blue Dog Democrat, take note that these funds were forced upon Northern during the late Republican administration. This is a slam against government.)

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