Sunday, November 15, 2009


There's yet another fawning profile of a Master of the Universe in today's Times -- this time of uber-Wall Street lawyer H. Rodgin "Rodge" Cohen. The first thing we learn about him is that he's really just an ordinary chap:

He drives a Subaru, a humble ride for a man who earned millions last year arranging shotgun weddings for the busted firms of Wall Street, and standing next to [his wife] Barbara in the darkness, Rodge Cohen, a titan of the banking bar, struggled with his automated key, initially unable to -- woop woop woop -- release the lock.

It was a typical, and typically disarming, moment with Mr. Cohen....

Yes, the temporary failure of his key is a sign of his character ... somehow. This gosh-darn ordinariness thoroughly "disarms" everybody, so we're not supposed to feel in any way squeamish or disgusted by the way he makes his living:

All told, from March 2008, when Bear Stearns was purchased for a song by JPMorgan Chase (both Sullivan & Cromwell clients), to mid-September, when A.I.G. (another client) was handed several billion by the government, Mr. Cohen, 65, took part in a breathtaking 17 financial deals, often hurrying among negotiations like a surgeon running between O.R.'s.

Not that there aren't a few cranks:

... For those of a populist bent -- those, that is, who saw last fall as a potentially disastrous shift of risk from Wall Street to the taxpayer --

... Yes, those silly know-nothing populists who have the bizarre notion that all profits have been shifted to the plutocrats and all losses to the rest of us schmucks....

there is certainly an urge to discern two horns and a tail on Mr. Cohen, whom the blog Zero Hedge recently referred to as the "overlord and viceroy of all Western capitalism." He is ... a Man Behind the Curtain who, by way of billable hours, earned his keep on the near financial ruin of the country.

Oh and:

... some of the deals that he advised on, like Wachovia's purchase of the mortgage lender Golden West, turned very sour and may have helped contribute to the meltdown.

But it would just be gauche to hold that against the man:

Still, it can be difficult to drum up rage against a man who is so mild, courtly and uncommonly unassuming.

Yes, who cares that he's helping Wall Street rob America blind? He's just so darn courteous.


Indeed, in dozens of interviews with clients, competitors and government officials, it was difficult to scare up a critical word about him.

His clients, whom he helps make zillions of dollars, say good things about him -- imagine! As do officials in our thoroughly bought and paid-for government -- who'da thunk? And competitors? Well, on Wall Street it seems to me that competitors are like competitors in, say, pro football -- they compete as part of their job, but really, people on Wall Street, like people in the NFL, sense a shared bond -- they have more in common with one another than with those of us who aren't on the field. They don't really want to destroy one another. Us, they care less about, as long as we keep shelling out the money that maintains their lifestyles.

Oh, as for those government officials who won't say a bad thing about him:

Mr. Cohen is perhaps unique among lawyers of his stature in having what a New York investment banker, Gary W. Parr, called "trusted relationships with people in government." Those relationships are, in fact, so strong that the former Treasury official in charge of financial institutions during the bailout often called Mr. Cohen to ask, "So O.K., Rodge, how do we make this work?"

... the former official, David G. Nason ... said, "he was always available as a sounding board."

Mr. Cohen's role as a sounding board could not, of course, be divorced from his representation of the very banks that stood to gain from the federal programs he advised on...

Yes, but not to worry:

Mr. Nason said that these conflicts of interest were managed with both openness and trust.

"When you're dealing with a Rodge Cohen, you begin by saying, 'This is sensitive information, and you're not going to use it for your own personal benefit,'" Mr. Nason explained. "If they do use it for personal or client gain, they're not going to be part of the discussion anymore -- and they like being part of the mix."

Oh yes, I'm sure everything these guys do is on the up-and-up.

The aforementioned "populist" blog Zero Hedge explains here that Cohen made sure in fall '08 that nine big bailout beneficiaries would "have immediate recourse to essentially unlimited FDIC funding at practically no cost to them for ever and ever." It's complicated, but it's as bad as you'd imagine. And Cohen almost became the #2 guy at the Treasury Department in the Obama administration, until he withdrew for reasons that have never been fully explained. (On that subject, there's possibly the only worthwhile NewsBusters post ever.)

There's your "liberal" New York Times -- and "liberal" Democratic Party )this guy is a Democrat, and gives big money to Democratic officeholders) and "liberal" Obama administration.

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